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Edinburgh 2010: Witnessing to Christ Today

In our lives there are some defining moments in which we realize in a very unique way that we are uniting in Christ’s dream of uniting with one another. To be part of the Edinburgh 2010 Centenary Celebrations of World Missionary Conference was such a unique occasion. It was unfortunate that there were no Orthodox participants at Edinburgh 1910; the conference received only a letter from Archbishop (now Saint) Nicolai Katsatkin of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission in Tokyo. Therefore it’s a great privilege to be the only delegate to represent from Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and present two papers on Study Theme Eight Parallel Sessions Mission and Unity: Ecclesiology and Mission of Transversals (1) Reconciliation & Healing (2) Youth & Mission.

Edinburgh 2010 reflected on the theme “Witnessing to Christ Today” and welcomed 300 Christians to Edinburgh, Scotland from a variety of church traditions: Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Evangelical and Pentecostal. It was been an occasion to review the history of faith over the past century and to look toward the future of world Christianity. It is said that in June 1910 the city of Edinburgh hosted one of the most defining gatherings in the entire history of Christianity. The 1910 World Missionary Conference was a unique event of the 19th century ecumenical movement which to initiate ecumenical movement and facilitate greater unity amongst the various strands of Christian witnesses. Edinburgh was a crucial attempt made for a global gathering in order to facilitate cooperation across denominational barriers. The issues of mission and unity have always been intertwined throughout the history of the modern Ecumenical movement, of which the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh 1910 has become the symbolic beginning. It is remarkable to note that the issue of mission and unity was the very concern out of which Edinburgh 1910 took its form. The parallelisms, competitions, conflicts and divisions on what was then called ‘the mission field’ gravely undermined the credibility of the witness of the love of Christ. This was painfully felt by those committing their lives to mission in different contexts.

Although attempts were made to settle these conflicts on local and regional levels, it was still felt that there was a need for Christian mission to be harmonized globally, thus Edinburgh 1910 was born. Intercultural situations on the mission field also led to unprecedented personal experiences of loyalty, even friendship, among Christians that transcended denominational and organizational divides. It is sad to note that today many ‘movements’ have become ‘monuments’, however the 1910 world Missionary Conference which was a starting point of the modern ecumenical movement has made remarkable progress quantitatively and qualitatively, extensively and intensively. Ecumenism and Mission activities have now moved away from the mere fringes of proselytizing to greater and noble areas of work and study, thanks due to the engagement of many creative thinkers, enthusiastic ecumenically minded missionaries. The Centenary Celebration of Edinburgh World Mission Conference becomes a unique occasion to celebrate ecumenical unity, mapping mission mandate, understand the challenges and opportunities faced by the Churches and Ecumenical Movements in the contemporary world.

The uniqueness of Edinburgh 2010 was the Study Process. The study process has been centered on nine main themes, which are complemented by seven transversal topics, and supplemented by regional, confessional and other study processes. Studies and consultations have taken place in all continents and the process is as inclusive as possible of churches and Christian mission networks. Each of the groups working on the nine study themes has produced a report. These, together with contributions on the transversals relating to women and the Bible, form the raw material for discussion at the conference.

Part I: Study Themes:

1. Foundations for mission 2. Christian mission among other faiths 3. Mission and post-modernity 4. Mission and power 5. Forms of missionary engagement 6. Theological education and formation 7. Christian communities in contemporary contexts 8. Mission and unity – ecclesiology and mission 9. Mission spirituality and authentic discipleship

The study groups are globally diverse, and each includes people of many different Christian traditions and representing a variety of institutions and organizations. Each is tasked with identifying some key questions, highlighting developments since 1910, giving case studies, identifying key priorities for Christian mission, and making strategic recommendations. Groups have worked to integrate the work on each theme from around the world for a pre-conference publication and for discussion at the Edinburgh 2010 conference itself. Each study group was also disseminating its work in other ways appropriate to its process and finding creative ways of communicating to the grassroots.

Part II: Transversal topics

Also in 2005-2006 it was recognized that a number of ‘transversals’ are needed, i.e. important themes which will run like a thread across all the main study themes. From 2009 onwards the transversals are being developed and integrated with the main study themes. The following ‘transversals’ have been identified.

1. Youth and mission 2. Women and mission 3. Healing and reconciliation 4. Bible and mission – mission in the Bible 5. Contextualization, enculturation and dialogue of worldviews 6. Subaltern voices 7. Ecological perspectives on mission

Part III: Regional and confessional study processes

Recognizing the worldwide character of the Church today, institutions, networks, agencies and Churches in different parts of the world are contributing to the Edinburgh 2010 study process in whatever way is best suited to their particular circumstances. Some groups are participating by bringing a regional or confessional perspective to the Edinburgh 2010 mission themes. The research Coordinator is collecting the outcomes of these different study processes from around the world.

Dr. Dana Robert, Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission, Boston University School of Theology, gave a keynote address, which was followed by several complementary perspectives recognizing different histories and current contexts. This session illuminated the conference theme in the light of one hundred years of ecumenical mission since 1910. Pope Benedict XVI has sent a formal greeting to delegates, visitors and staff attending the Edinburgh 2010 anniversary event commemorating the World Missionary Conference held at Edinburgh in June 1910. The Catholic delegation to Edinburgh 2010 was led by Bishop Brian Farrell of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The Delegates had a formal reception in the Scottish Parliament on 3 June 2010. In the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, the historic venue of the 1910 World Missionary Conference on Sunday afternoon delegates and local and international visitors gathered to the final celebration. The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, was the guest preacher at this event.

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Fr. Vineeth Koshy was assigned for Edinburgh 2010 Study Theme Eight Parallel Sessions as Resource Person — Mission and Unity: Ecclesiology and Mission: Transversals (1) Reconciliation & Healing (2) Youth & Mission at Centenary Celebration of Edinburgh 1910 World Missionary Conference. Fr.Vineeth Koshy
is currently working as the Executive Secretary – Commission on Youth of National Council of Churches in India