In 2019 I found myself either studying, discussing or presenting on the 5 marks of mission throughout the year…
For those of you who have never heard of them… the 5 marks of mission are;
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earthhttps://www.anglicancommunion.org/mission/marks-of-mission.aspx
They are an agreed list within the global Anglican Communion. ‘They express the Anglican Communion’s common commitment to, and understanding of, God’s holistic and integral mission. The mission of the Church is the mission of Christ.’
The 5 marks can be summarised with a beautifully alliterated list;
Now, bare in mind that I would call myself post-denominational, I do quite like these as a framework for discussing mission. For a start, it gives us a way to grapple with the fact ‘evangelism’ (if that’s even a thing anymore) is only part of the broader picture of mission.
I like the holistic nature of these 5 marks. However, there seems to be a range of opinion on whether there is a hierarchy within the list. The Anglican communion website states that ‘The first Mark of Mission, identified with personal evangelism at the Anglican Consultative Council in 1984 (ACC-6) is a summary of what all mission is about, because it is based on Jesus’ own summary of his mission. This should be the key statement about everything we do in mission’. That’s fine but I’m not clear on the definition of ‘personal evangelism’ and I believe the term evangelism has come to mean something much more specific than ‘proclamation’ might mean. So my first point (I know right, actual proper sounding things I want to discuss…) is that we probably need to re-establish a definition of ‘proclamation’ for our time and our culture. I wonder if having ‘TELL’ at the top of the list is potentially playing into an unhelpful historic president of what’s important? Perhaps there needs to be a re-write which has an introductory sentence about proclamation (through word and deed) as the basis of the 5 marks through Jesus’ example and then use different language around ‘evangelism’?
Secondly (that’s right, I’ve thought of more than one thing), It strikes me that none of the others matter if we no longer have a habitable planet. Given the focus on climate change and everything Greta Thunberg has spoken about this year, I wonder if it might make sense to put ‘TREASURE’ at the top of the list and shift our focus from events in church to saving the planet our children might still need when we’re gone.
As a Franciscan, I’m aware that one of the most quoted things St. Francis may have said was; Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words. St. Francis looked after creation, he tended to the poor (and lived as one of them), he questioned the unjust structures of the day as well as preaching…
So – I wonder if I might make the suggestion that if there is to be a hierarchy within the 5, it might be the following…
Given that I would define proclamation through word and deed, I believe this might change the balance in how we partake in being missional (and how we finance it). In a culture that is ‘spiritual not religious’, I whole heartedly believe that those exploring faith will see Christ (and I hope the Trinity really), through our care of the planet, our care of those in need and our questioning of unjust social structures as we seek to teach through our example and tell through vulnerable and authentic discussion as we partner with people to do the first 3…
As always, your comments are welcome either here on the blog or via the anewloom facebook page…