Over the past eighteen months a regular and always welcome feature of my life has been the meetings of the steering group for a study process marking the centenary of the founding of the International Missionary Council (IMC) in 1921. Under the conditions we faced during the covid pandemic almost all of our meetings have been online but this week four of us were able to be together in Oxford.
Risto Jukko, our chair, Marina Behera, our host in Oxford, Michael Biehl from Germany and I could be together in Oxford while Jinqin Gu joined us online from China and Tito Paredes online from Peru. Also online were representatives of the centres in different parts of the world that have participated in the study process.
The IMC was an attempt to create greater mutual understanding and practical cooperation among those seeking to serve Christ’s mission. In its time it was the fulfilment of a dream that there would be an international instrument that could foster collaboration at all levels among churches and missionary societies. The study process has found that, one hundred years later, there is once again a longing for greater collaboration among those called to serve the mission of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps today it will find expression more organically and eclectically but the desire to reach across divisions and boundaries so as to make common cause appears to be evident in many different contexts around the world. The division and alienation experienced through pandemics and conflicts perhaps deepens the longing for the unity for which Christ prayed. Fragmentation and confrontation define our times but, if the discernment exercised by the study process is accurate, this will be met in the future by a drive to connect and collaborate.
The firstfruits of the study process are two books to be launched at the World Council of Churches Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, in September. More books will follow – watch this space.