Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Communities of Advent hope"

Here's a really nice post at catholicity and covenant: "Communities of Advent hope: +Sheffield and the priority of 'forming and shaping disciples'"

+Steven Croft (Bishop of Sheffield) has an excellent blog post urging the Church to be authentically shaped by the Advent hope.  Amidst the complexities of "the deep shifting of the tectonic plates of our society", it is all-too easy for the Church to embrace what he terms "the failure narrative".  The response to this is not to be a complacent, lazy acceptance of the social and cultural status quo (secularisation).  Rather, "our vocation is to be a people of hope".  

To be communities of Advent hope, churches are called "to steadily shift our resources to the process of forming and shaping disciples":

This means recovering, encouraging and in
some case discovering afresh the great classical intellectual disciplines and pastoral practices which the Church has always needed in such moments of cultural change.

These include:
  • Apologetics: defending and commending the faith through philosophy, the sciences, the arts and popular culture
  • Contextual mission: the ability to go beyond the church in loving service and careful listening, to pioneer new ecclesial communities as part of the wider church
  • Initial proclamation: the loving and careful communication of the gospel to those who have not heard it before
  • Catechetics: the intentional nurture and formation of disciples who are well grounded in faith and able to live counterculturally.

These disciplines will be the engine room of the Church in the next generation.  Any church which wants to move forwards (and by church I mean local church or diocese or denomination) must steadily shift resources and creativity and energy towards these four great disciplines.  They need to be at the heart of ministerial training and ministerial practice and at the core of our theological endeavor.

It is a superb summary of what we are called to do and be in the social and cultural context experienced by North Atlantic Anglicanism early in the 21st century.  This four-fold agenda - apologetics, contextual mission, initial proclamation, catechetics - could easily be adopted by any parish, diocese, seminary, fresh expression, or House of Bishops within North Atlantic Anglicanism to shape its mission and witness.  Indeed, we might go as far as to say that any diocese, seminary or House of Bishops not seriously reflecting on this agenda has very serious questions to ask itself.

That it is a bishop from the catholic Anglican tradition who is urging this should also be noted.  After catholic Anglicans being caught up in Anglicanism's culture wars over the past generation, the pressing need to lift our eyes (and - as +Steven Croft reminds us - our hearts) is very evident.  Our energies and enthusiasms have been absorbed in debates and divisions rather than in the making and nurturing of disciples.  +Sheffield points us back to what should be central to a catholic Anglican witness.
It is all about hope - "not something we feel but something we practise".  To be shaped by the Advent hope in the midst of globalisation and secularisation is not to hanker after a past (and mythical) ecclesial and cultural golden age.  Nor is it to become the bland, inoffensive spiritual expression of the contemporary zeitgeist.  It is, rather, to more convincingly and authentically relate, live out and share the evangelium and traditio in the midst of the city in which we find ourselves.  And this requires of us a fresh recovery of apologetics, contextual mission, initial proclamation and catechetics.

No comments: