Just after The Episcopal Church had its General Convention the self styled Global South Anglicans held a conference in Bangkok, Thailand. We must always remember that the GSA crowd is not all the Global South. Some churches have not been invited for years because they are not pure enough.
Several bishops from TEC and a few representatives from ACNA were in attendance, being either pure or more or less so. The Conference and the GSA Bishops both issued communiques, mostly without surprises. The Conference Communique can be found HERE.
I was however quite surprised that the title of the theme of the conference was this: " “Be Transformed by the Renewing of the Mind to Obedience of Faith for Holistic Mission in a Radically Changing Global Landscape” (Rom 12.1- 2; 2 Tim 4.7). The theme seems scriptural on the surface, but is it?
Now just so we all are on the same page. There is what the Holy Scripture (which we are reminded contains all things necessary to salvation) has to say in these two passages:
Romans 12.1- 2
" 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
and 2 Timothy 4.7 reads:
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."
With these as references, how did the leaders of the conference get to
"“Be Transformed by the Renewing of the Mind to Obedience of Faith for Holistic Mission in a Radically Changing Global Landscape” ?
Well, let's see. They picked up "be transformed by the renewing of (the) mind" from Romans 12:2, but the rest of the theme, "to Obedience of Faith for Holistic Mission in a Radically Changing Global Landscape" is a far cry from the other words in Romans 12:1-2 ( to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world ... so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.") What the theme proposes is a mess.
As for 2 Timothy 4:7, "obedience of faith..." is a bit of a stretch from "I have kept the faith," but OK, there it is.
What amazes me is that Romans 12:1-2, which I understand to be Paul's great open door to the use of the mind as an instrument of renewal and discernment, is immediately closed by the phrase "to obedience of Faith" so that what was an encouragement and invitation to not be conforming to the world by renewing of your (our, my) mind becomes not conforming to the world by "obedience of faith," that is by conformity to faith. Goodby mind.
It is no doubt a rich theme for a conference and the discussions that followed may well have been important ones. Even more so, perhaps, with the realization that the theme itself was contrary to the intent of Paul's words.
If one looks at the verbs in the theme it all becomes clear:
transformed, renewing, obedience. This "mission and networking" conference was about coming to one mind (notice the mind - a single entity, not your or mine, or even our, but the), being by that transformation obedient to the faith over against the world which conforms to other ideas and values.
The report of the conference bears this out. The conference seems to have been able to take the theme and make it its own. Apparently there was no challenge to the mangling of scripture.
They report, "Changing globalised patterns of thinking and action are likely to drive much of the activity in the world. We can expect a resurgence of traditional religious-cultural groups on the one hand, and hardened secularism and materialism on the other. These are the serious challenges that the global church is facing."
Much of the communique of the Conference needs to be noted with care. The GSA group did good work understanding the need to address missionary needs in the coming years. Interestingly, they specifically addressed those issues within the nation state system that is the worldwide phenomena of social organization.
"Equipping the Global South churches means that the gospel should be contextualised so that it does not have a foreign but a local face and be effective in the local context. Along with this, we should strengthen an orthodox theology on the Church’s role in nation-building. Our commitment is to a strong society marked by the rise of a civil society, political stability, sustainable economy, reduction of poverty, and the eradication of all forms of violence, endemic diseases and corruption."
This is as clear a statement of the national church ideal. Something very much like this is the driving argument for Anglican churches throughout the world. The problem with the conference, however, is that it proposes to respond to this contextualised way of being the faith in local contexts by talking about a world wide Anglican Church with a single minded obedience package that makes contextualisation almost impossible.
The conference communique is filled with promise, but I wonder if the theme is itself so convoluted that the biblical promise of renewal is lost and never found again.