Are We All Missionaries?

Well, to look at the marquee for the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society “booth” in the Exhibit Hall, we are. Plain as day it says, “We are all Missionaries.”

Well, yes and no. It is too simple to say it, just like that.

There are some odd goings on out there in General Convention land. Resolution A009 would precisely delete the notion that people in the Church constitute the membership of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, which would, I assume also end the notion that we are all, in the DFMS, missionaries. This resolution came from TREC. Apparently the people who do the DFMS real presence in the Exhibition Hall do not speak to the TREC people.

Still, whacked out of the Canons or not, the perception is that “We are all missionaries.”                                 

Here are several questions about this statement:

(i) In the Episcopal Church way of thinking we are all members of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society.  Yes, we are all part of the Society but are we all missionaries? Well, yes and no. If this is really about the presence and work of the baptized, in which we take on the “Mission of the Church,” we are engaged by baptism in the “mission of the church (which is) to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” In that respect, yes, we are all missionaries. No, if you mean by missionary people specifically called to a particular sort of work related to that mission of restoration. Missionaries, in this sense, are people sent specifically and deliberately
     by the Missionary Society to do particular work related to the restoration to unity.

(ii) If we are all missionaries, then has the word has lost its meaning?  Saying we are all missionaries dilutes the sense that being a missionary is a special call within the wider Christian community. In that sense not all of us are missionaries although all of us participate in God’s mission to restore to unity the fallen and broken creation. And yet to say “we are all missionaries” really does affirm that we are all sent to do the restorative work to which we are all called by baptism.

(iii) And of course we need to ask, “We are all missionaries… for what?” Is our work to win  the world for Christ, or make new Christians, or to be the hands and feet of Christ in  the world, to make new Episcopalians or Anglicans? Are we meant to be missionaries  of our church’s agenda, or are we meant to be missionaries for God’s agenda - that is  for the Mission of God? Are the one set of possibilities the same, tangential or simply  different from the other?

The statement, “We are all missionaries”, is OK as a slogan. But what does it really mean?

Mark Harris, Priest


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