I have been living this summer in the space between Toronto and Dallas, mentally as well as geographically. They are, for obvious reasons of nationality and culture, quite different. But they also share some things in common. Both are global cities, economically dynamic and rapidly growing. Both worry when the price of oil goes this low! We will miss many friends in the first, but are keen to become fully part of the life of the latter. In my case this is also a shift from life in a seminary to life in a diocese. And while they are different, I want in this article actually to focus on one important way in which they are similar.
If you travelled to Wycliffe in Toronto and wanted to enroll, you would face some choices. Nowadays there are Masters of Divinity to be a parish priest, another if you think you want to go on and be a theologian, another if you want to plant a church, another if you want to work with the urban poor or in a development organization like World Vision. Those students all sit next to each other because we have believed that they had something to say to each other, they were parts of the Christian life that made up a whole.
The buzzword for this in church circles is ‘holistic.’ It goes back to the late 1960’s when evangelicals were debating with Christian social activists: was the heart of the Gospel proclaiming or serving, calling to salvation or helping to further the Kingdom? It is a debate whose evidence can still be seen in the Church. The great Anglican priest and teacher John Stott, the leader of worldwide evangelicalism, spoke forcefully about how such an either/or choice was misconceived. First comes what Christ has done, and then in thanksgiving we are called to do a number of things, which form a seamless garment. We call others into the kingdom He embodies, and we do works of mercy to give the world a sense of what that kingdom is like. Witnessing – serving - celebrating: the Christian life is a whole.
You can see that very thing if you look at the life of the diocese: energetic effort to plant a Church, Alpha, Jubilee, hospitality that leads to a new congregation for a people who have immigrated here. These can’t and shouldn’t be separated. In fact we understand their ‘why’ better when they are held together, and we are challenged to go further in one facet or another that our parish may show less of. Our life together also requires that we think of the Christian mission, our mission as a single holistic response to what Christ has done.
The kind of mission I am talking about already exists in this diocese in remarkable ways. My calling as bishop is to observe and celebrate that fact, and then raise the question, together with your leaders, where we are being led next. I am looking forward to such a ministry greatly.