Section Two 'Dealing with life and death'
by Doug Tindall
The work of Section Two--Called to Live and Proclaim the Good News--may involve matters of life and death to young people, says a youth ministry consultant. Professor Dean Borgman, who teaches youth ministry at Gordon Conwell Theological College in Boston (U.S.), told the section on Tuesday: "If we are to find youth today we're going to have to search for them. Only if we find them and then really listen to them can we develop with them a relevant youth ministry."
He said youth ministry is hindered because "everyone gives verbal assent to youth ministry, but almost everywhere it gets lost in other concerns. Second, there is a fear of what would happen if we really let the youth loose in the Church.'' Professor Lamin Sanneh, who teaches world mission and Christianity at Yale University, said his study of Christianity in Africa, where the number of Christians has grown from fewer than 60 million in 1960 to more than 330 million today, convinced him "the structures of the Church are irrelevant to what is happening on the ground.
"If I could show you on a map you'd see that where the Christian impact is greatest, there also indigenous religions are at their strongest and people remember their traditional name for God." Also, he said, Christian impact is greatest where the impact of western education is weakest.
The Rev Dr Vinay Samuel, Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (England), said one impact of the western world is the "universal narrative" of the free market. People use narrative to make sense of their lives, he said, and "the universal narrative that today claims to explain contemporary reality is the free market economy. It is not merely symbols, such as Coke and Nike; it is also a way of understanding reality that effects us all, especially youth."
One result, he said, is a sweeping loss of hope in society, "a lack of confidence in every system, particularly political." How does evangelism work in an environment where people don't feel they can trust anything? The Rev Kathy Galloway, a Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) minister and member of the Iona Community, began by teaching an Iona chant. "It's fair to say that over the past 60 years Iona has had missionary impact far out of proportion to its size," she said. "This comes from its twofold passion: worship and witnessing for justice and peace.The two are indivisible.
"Many people have become aware of the music resources produced by the Iona Community. Not many know we started writing music so we would have new songs to sing outside the nuclear base where we were demonstrating. It's this combination of worship and witness, brought down to earth, that seems to speak most strongly to people." Dr Sebastian Soares, Principal of the Anglican seminary in Recife, Brazil, said "mission is an action of God who sends us. In our doing, what is happening is the action of God. Mission is always missio dei." There is no dichotomy between mission and evangelism, he added, if we understand evangelism correctly. "Jesus' whole life was to proclaim the reign of God. So the reign of the Church is to proclaim the reign of God in deed and word. Service is not something added; it is a method of evangelisation."
The Rev Colin Chapman, Director of Faith to Faith, a consultancy that aims to educate Christians about other faiths, told several stories from his personal involvement with people of other faiths. He asked: "How will we live with the tension between the stories we hear of what is happening on the ground, and the teaching of scholars and theologians in our colleges and seminaries?
"The stories we hear are mostly about persecutions and conversions. The theologians, it seems, are saying either there is no need to evangelise at all or it must be done softly, softly. "Focussing on interfaith aspects, he said section members might also ask: "Are there any limits to what Anglicans can believe about other faiths?" And,"Is there something distinctive about
how Anglicans approach other faiths?"