“Mission goes out from God. Mission is God’s way of loving and saving the world.” So declared the Church of England at the 1998 Lambeth Conference. This quotation leads the church’s Mission and Evangelism page on its website, along with a brief exposition of its missiology:
As Christians we follow Jesus who said “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20.21). We are called to serve God’s mission by living and proclaiming the good news.
“It’s not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church”.
For Anglican Christians God’s mission is about transformation – transforming individual lives, transforming communities and transforming the world. As we follow Jesus Christ, we believe that God’s mission is revealed to us by the Holy Spirit in three ways:
- through the Bible
- through the tradition and life of the Church
- through our own listening, praying, thinking and sharing as we respond to our own context.
You’d think, therefore, that all those who are employed by the Church of England to lead its mission would, of necessity, be Christians.
The Diocese of Truro (strapline: “Discovering God’s Kingdom / Growing the Church”) is advertising for a Strategic Programme Manager who will be responsible for “the strategic leadership of the Transforming Mission programme”. This post is not simply managerial, but one of leadership. They specify to potential applicants: “You do not need to be a practising Christian”
Since when did Church of England leaders not need to be practising Christians?
Consider the job specification:
The stated objectives of ‘Transforming Mission’ are:
1) Develop a thriving missional community in the churches across Falmouth;
2) Develop an effective ministry to the student community in Falmouth;
3) Identify, nurture and train future leaders in ministry, lay and ordained, who can be deployed in the Deanery, Diocese and the wider Church;
4) Develop a model of Town Resource Church, which will be replicated across towns in Cornwall and beyond.
5) To develop an interconnected network of resources to be shared across the town to best serve the missional community, including venues, equipment and people.
How may one be a mission leader without hearing the promptings of the Holy Spirit and abiding in the Word of God? How may such an important work of God not be founded and dependent upon the humble and prayerful heart of the sincere Christian? What sort of “effective ministry” may be established to students by a non-believer? Are these young people to be taught that repentance, conversion and transformation are unnecessary to salvation? In what sense is it sufficient for a mission leader to be “sympathetic to the aims and objectives of the Church of England” when part of the task is to “Identify, nurture and train future leaders”? It is one thing to “manage stakeholders” and “develop programmes”, but it is quite another to discern and disciple future prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. How might a sympathetic Muslim develop a thriving missional community in the churches across Falmouth? How could a sympathetic Wiccan nurture and train (ie disciple) future leaders in ministry?
If “Mission goes out from God”, does not the mission leader (at every level) need to get themselves right with Jesus? And by ‘right’, we don’t mean perfect, but discipled into everything that precedes the Great Commission? It’s not enough to be meek and merciful: surely they need to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
If “Mission is God’s way of loving and saving the world”, does not the mission leader (at every level) need not only to be “sympathetic to” that love, but to have tasted it? You might know in your brain that salt is sodium chloride, but until it has touched your tongue you cannot truly know the full meaning of Jesus’ exhortation for believers to be the salt of the earth.
How can an unrepentant, unbelieving, disobedient, unregenerate, un-discipled, unabiding and prayerless mission leader possibly go out into the world and witness to the transforming power of the crucified and risen Christ? Or is that not relevant to the Diocese of Truro? Doesn’t transformation and renewal of the heart precede the call to go out and witness? What Christian fellowship can there be without the Holy Spirit? What spiritual wisdom is there without the Word? What understanding of the Mission of God can come from ‘sympathy’ with a set of aims and objectives? Can a barren tree bear fruit by being compassionate and attentive to fig production?
With all due respect to Bishop of Truro and the Archdeacon of Cornwall, haven’t they got this appointment utterly, utterly arse about face?
And note where they advertise this vacancy: “You do not need to be a practising Christian”, but you do need to read the Guardian.
This unrepentant, unbelieving, prayerless but ‘sympathetic’ mission leader must lean to the left.
Just like the milky Messiah.