New ANVIL journal: Thriving in mission
The latest issue looks at sustainability from the viewpoints of theology and mission
Growth, in society and in church, is often assumed to be a good to which we must aim. The idea of growth as a response to decline is almost ubiquitous across the denominations. But as Christians, we need to have a much more complex and theological engagement with these commitments to growth.
By James Butler, editor of the new issue of ANVIL journal of theology and mission
This is what we attempted to do with the 2022 CMS Conversations Day, on which this issue of ANVIL is based.
How can we thrive in mission?
In planning the Conversations Day, the problem faced by the team of Cathy Ross, James Butler, Richard Passmore and Lori Passmore was how to promote it. Such is the societal and cultural commitment to growth that giving an event a title of “sustainability” does not really capture people’s attention. We live in a society that expects things to be dynamic and fast moving rather than sustainable and stable. We landed on the title of “thriving” trying to maintain a sense of the dynamic without it immediately having to relate to growth.
We wanted to ask how we could thrive in pioneering and mission in ways that were sustainable without having to automatically assume that things need to grow and expand. What do healthy and sustainable approaches to growth look like? What are the theologies and practices that might help us as we seek to thrive in sustainable ways?
Throughout the Conversations Day our contributors drew on their practice, thinking and reading to help us to reflect on thriving in sustainable ways.
Relationships, justice and the long view
There were three themes that we particularly want to highlight from the day that are also present in these articles.
The first is relationships; the reflections were about the primacy of relationship and community as the basis for sustainable practices. The articles challenge individualism and offer communal ways of thinking, such as the African concept of ubuntu – I am because we are.
Another key theme was justice; sustainability is deeply interwoven with justice. This is clearly seen in the climate crisis, where the effects will be most keenly experienced by the poor.
The third theme was eschatology. How do we have a longer view that does not just hope for better but seeks a Christian vision of the world renewed through the coming of the kingdom?
The first of our longer articles comes from Israel Olofinjana, who critiques western notions of sustainability and offers a different model for climate justice.
The second, from Alison Webster, offers community organising as a model of challenging and changing our neoliberal society.
In the third, Janet Williams has a conversation with Richard Passmore about her book Seeking the God Beyond and how the apophatic tradition may hold resources that can help us to thrive in sustainable ways.
The shorter articles turn more clearly to practice and the specific concerns of mission practice, pioneer communities and churches.
Tina Hodgett explains why she resists the impulse to measure outcomes in pioneering in the innovator space, while Paul Bradbury explores the proper context of the idea of measurement and claims that measurement should act as a servant and not our master.
Alison Boulton reflects on her own practice and experience of seeking to develop spiritual sustainability within a local community on a new housing estate over the past 14 years.
Caroline Kennedy offers practices that help her to sustain her own personal spirituality and reflects on how to “find the gold” and helps others to find it too.
Finally, Rosie Hopley recounts her own experience of entrepreneurship in social business, seeing how all can thrive: entrepreneurs, employees, trainees and wider community.
We believe that sustainability needs to be a word that we are much happier and able to engage with in mission, and one that needs clearer theological articulation and practices that help us to live sustainably day in, day out.
We hope this edition of ANVIL might contribute some important insights and practices to that ongoing conversation.