Participants in the June 22 Toronto symposium on mission and discipleship sing a hymn during opening prayers.

Symposium draws lessons on mission and discipleship

International members of Anglican Witness’s core group joined Canadian clergy on Monday, June 22, for an all-day symposium at St. Paul’s Bloor Street Church in the diocese of Toronto. Offering lessons on mission and discipleship, the event drew upon the experiences of speakers from across the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Bishop Patrick Yu, area bishop for the York-Scarborough Episcopal Area and former core group chair, helped organize the Toronto symposium, which followed a three-day meeting at the Roman Catholic Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont.

An initiative of bishops attending the 2008 Lambeth Conference,Anglican Witness seeks to foster church growth, evangelism and discipleship through the Anglican Communion. The core group plays a leading role in the initiative, and its members include representatives from each of the communion’s nine regions.

Bishop Yu’s newly named successor as chair, Bishop Moon Hing Ng, was the first of four speakers at the symposium, discussing the direction of the Anglican Communion based on his experience as the current Anglican bishop of West Malaysia.

Bishop Ng described a 10-year intentional discipleship program as a key upcoming initiative. The core group is currently drafting a paper in advance of the 2016 Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, Zambia, where a vote on the initiative will take place.

Focusing on ministry in the Global South (Africa, Latin America, Asia) Bishop Ng noted that a discipleship program in Malaysia started in 2009 has resulted in significant growth and improved finances for parishes. Their successful approach to discipleship centred on five elements: articulating the Gospel, “feeding” people through Bible reading, teaching them to pray, training them for volunteer work, and encouraging mission trips to different countries.

“If we can do [those five things]…we believe discipleship is on the way,” Bishop Ng said.

Youth ministry was the subject of a presentation by Fr. Robert Sihubwa from the Church of the Province of Central Africa, which encompasses Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Botswana.

Outlining work done by the core group to promote youth discipleship and networking, Fr. Sihubwa highlighted the planned introduction of a Youth and Children Ministry Award, to be offered in two categories: Emerging Promising Initiative (amounting to £10,000), and Success or Achievement (amounting to £5,000).

The Rev. Canon Mark Oxbrow, international director of Faith2Share—a global network of mission agencies across six continents, with most of its presence in the Global South—spoke next, discussing work by the organization over the past five years.

Among the lessons learned during that time, Canon Oxbrow pointed to the importance of Spirit-driven hermeneutics (allowing people to interpret the Bible for themselves), character formation through mentoring, local agenda setting, and developing and enhancing local resources.

Rounding out the speakers was Archbishop Colin Johnson, who offered a presentation on recent initiatives in the diocese of Toronto.

Arguing for a sustainable and strategic ministry policy, Archbishop Johnson noted that church organizations must be able to articulate and demonstrate vital mission and ministry appropriate to their context, while having the necessary resources (people, buildings, spiritual health, funds) to carry out the mission.

Following a lunch break, symposium participants broke into conversation groups before reconvening to discuss what they had learned.

They identified discipleship as a constant across the Anglican Communion, noting that “effective mission rests on effective discipleship.” They also cited the importance of engaging with non-church structures and organizations.

To achieve these goals, participants highlighted several needs: to take deliberate strategic action, to reframe theology and consistent apply it, to use living traditions as a resource, to change vocabulary when necessary, and to have advocates for discipleship at every level of the church.

The symposium ended with closing prayers and a guided tour of St. Paul’s, the largest Anglican parish church in Canada and the largest historical parish church in the world.

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