Monday, December 09, 2013

A ministry shaped by mission

A wee cracker is Paul Avis, A Ministry Shaped by Mission. It’s 120 pages of great clarity and careful thinking about the place of ministry today. Three chapters: one on mission that shapes ministry, a second on ministry shaped by mission, a third on ordination to a ministry shaped by mission.

“Our individual callings are simply notes in a vast symphony.” 69

Avis believes that an egalitarian, socially holistic interpretation of ordination is possible. This involves a careful exploration of the New Testament, in which he sees “an apostolic ministry set within an equally apostolic community.” This allows for communities in mission, who discern leaders in mission, for the sake of the church in mission.

For Avis, ministry is missiological through and through. This had added poignancy personally, attended as Principal an ordination over the weekend. In what ways does theological training work toward ensuring ministry is missiological? In what way do lecturers (since faith is caught not taught), field placements, assignments, formation conversations, prioritise missio dei?

There’s some challenges for the Uniting Church. One is the section on deacons, in which Paul looks at recent scholarship that argues the usual Deacon framework – we’re called to serve, is actually an inaccurate understanding. Another is the consideration of the variety of patterns of representation. They can be communal, collegial and personal. Avis explores how all churches have this, but to varying degrees. Then he argues that in today’s world, mission leadership requires a personal focus, a way of speaking to the world and of providing focus for a system. Of course, Anglican systems have this with their Bishops. But it got the thinking about Uniting ethos, in which we emphasize parity of ministers, but where do we give space for the mission leader? Our moderators embody half of this function, speaking to the world. But who is the person invited to represent mission within the church.

There are some challenges for the Baptist church. These involve the lack of clarity around the communal, collegial and personal as they involve the wider church, beyond the local gathered community.

In identifying these challenges, can I stress they are my applications of Avis. As a General Secretary for the Council for Christian Unity for the Church of England, the book is a wonderful model of wide reading and sensitive engagement with diverse Christian heritages.

Reading this gave me hope, that our existing systems might have be broke, but might have in them the “refounding” needed for today’s challenges. I’m thinking of making this book a compulsory reading in my Church, Ministry, Sacraments class, if not one of the totems given to candidates at Uniting College.

Posted by steve at 07:35 AM | Comments (2)


  1. Of course, this shape varies between Synods in the UCA. One of the advantages of having Presbytery Ministers as well as a Moderator is that the Presbytery ministers have the task of encouraging the congregations in their region in mission (at least they do in Queensland). It is interesting to see how another Synod actually appoints multiple Presbytery ministers and one of those positions in each presbytery is devoted to mission. Of course, it could well be argued that both of these systems replicate the structure of the episcopate while maintaining the UCA emphasis on collegiate ministry (and I would say that this includes both ordained and lay).

    How do the mission networks function in SA?

    Comment by David Ferguson — December 9, 2013 @ 11:38 am

  2. Mission its one of those words that is overused or underused or what the heck does it mean words – can’t we have different words to help clarify what the word means? Whatever the word means I feel that there are some parts of “mission” that are best done by the wider church or together eg responding to disasters, cross cultural engagement, relating with churches overseas……and as the traditional church gets smaller and has less resources……the temptation is to focus inward and devote less resources to “mission”…..

    Comment by Jenny Brisbane — December 11, 2013 @ 10:36 pm

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