The World Council of Churches’ Conference on World Mission and Evangelism met in Arusha, Tanzania, in March 2018. From this meeting, the more than 1,000 participants, who were all regularly engaged in mission and evangelism, issued the Arusha Call to Discipleship. At our own national church General Synod in 2019, resolution A-129 was passed that we affirm the Arusha Call; encourage bodies within the General Synod to integrate this call into the guiding principles of baptismal living for the shaping of national ministries; and commend the Arusha Call to dioceses for study and inclusion in their considerations of evangelism, witness and discipleship.
Spiritual Development Team members and others are offering reflections in the New Brunswick Anglican on the 12 points within this call. This is Call # 12, written by Archbishop Davis Edwards. Cathedral Dean Geoffrey Hall previously wrote a reflection on Call #5, Director of Christian Formation Kurt Schmidt wrote a reflection on Call #7, and chair of the Diocesan Spiritual Development Team, Cheryl Jacobs wrote a reflection on Call #11.
We are called to live in the light of the resurrection, which offers hope-filled possibilities for transformation.
In 2018 the World Council of Churches (WCC) issued the Arusha Call to Discipleship, then there was COVID-19. The pandemic has highlighted many of the issues which Arusha raised, but also points to something very important. We are one. It does not matter what the issue is, as residents of this planet we are in this together.
The Arusha call is a call to live in ways that are faithful to the Gospel. The first line is of vital importance, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, both individually and collectively...”. It then goes on to list the 12 points of the call. We learn to be disciples of Jesus as individuals, but also together. In John 17:20 Jesus prays for those who will believe because of the words of the disciples that we may be one with each other and with him and the Father.
This is part of the bigger story. In John 20: 30 -31 the Apostle writes:
“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”
The Gospels are not a random collection of stories with meaning. They are intentional about revealing the purposes of God. One of the ways in which this is done is through living a different life in unity with the resurrected Jesus and each other, to demonstrate what the people of God look like, that others might see and believe.
In essence the final point of the Arusha call is a call to life, that being to live in the light of the resurrection, which offers hope for transformation. This happens on all levels, relationship with God, relationship with others and relationship with creation.
During the past year I have read three very sad and disturbing books. They were written by “successful” Christian leaders from different denominations who have not only turned their backs on church, but also on God.
Individually, they had various reasons for leaving, but one thing was consistent: either they or their congregation members were not living transformed lives. They were not necessarily talking about moral failing, but that following Jesus did not seem to be transformative in the way people looked at the world. The models of the world had been adopted by the Church.
I sometimes ask myself what it is to live life in the light of the resurrection? Although I am sure we could all pick holes in the Arusha Call, its overall trajectory tells us what this is like. It involves looking away from self and towards others, once again on both the personal and collective levels.
This can be something very simple, but there will be a cost. One of our parishes has partnered with a local coffeeshop/restaurant in a pay-it-forward scheme. They bought a number of free coffees for those who cannot afford them. Cards have been stuck to a board and anyone can take one. This has inspired other people to join in paying it forward.
There are also the big things that we are called to and which we do collectively on a large scale, such as the issues surrounding Residential Schools and Indigenous Peoples. This is something we are working on as a national church.
If we look to Jesus, we see the resurrection life being lived. It is not centred on self, but on others. That is the call we are faced with.
As the Arusha document reminds us, this has to be surrounded with prayer.
“This is not a call that we can answer in our own strength, so the call becomes, in the end, a call to prayer: Loving God, we thank you for the gift of life in all its diversity and beauty. Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, we praise you that you came to find the lost, to free the oppressed, to heal the sick, and to convert the self-centred. Holy Spirit, we rejoice that you breathe in the life of the world and are poured out into our hearts. As we live in the Spirit, may we also walk in the Spirit. Grant us faith and courage to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus: becoming pilgrims of justice and peace in our time. For the blessing of your people, the sustaining of the earth, and the glory of your name. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.”