This Meissen Theological Conference in Salisbury is proving too full for me to have done an easy digest as we go along. So, I’ll offer a quick summary of themes here and then try to make time when I get back home to write a resume of content.
Bishop Graham Cray opened up a conversation about Fresh Expressions, looking at ‘Ecclesiology, Culture and Mission’. This led into quite serious debate about how the ‘charismatic’ and adventurous ‘margins’ (Antioch) relate to the ‘centre’ (Jerusalem) and where the accountabilities lie in church life. This was given fascinating treatment on the basis of the Acts of the Apostles in a paper given by Professor Loveday Alexander on‘Mission and Unity in the Acts of the Apostles’.
If you want funny stuff, go to a German Patristics scholar working in a Swiss university. Professor Dr Martin Wallraff came at the ecclesiological questions from left-field by looking at media development in Christian history: ‘Mission and Media – Observations on the Expansion of Christianity in Late Antiquity’. Dr Paul Weston (Cambridge) took us back to and through the thinking of the great Lesslie Newbigin in ‘The Missionary Church in the Theology of Lesslie Newbigin’. This led into papers by (the absent) Professor Dr Michael Weinrich on ‘Missio Dei and the Mission of the Church’ followed by Professor Dr Corinna Dahlgrün on ‘Protestant Theology in a Religious Vacuum’.
Today we are looking at changes in the church’s approach to its mission before going on to how the English and German churches are tackling (practically) their engagement with the cultures and societies in which they are set.
The papers have been immensely stimulating, but the real benefit is in the conversation and debate that follows. It is impossible to do justice to the extent of the material, but a couple of quotes might be suggestive of the direction of travel:
Perhaps we have given too much uncritical emphasis on the church as steward of the inheritance from the past, and too little on the church as an anticipation of the future. (Graham Cray)
The fundamental task of mission is to bear witness to Christ – to be, if you like, ‘fresh expressions’ in the world of God’s living Word. (Not fresh expressions of the church!) (Loveday Alexander)
I’ll try to digest the discussions and papers later when I get the space.