Participants at the first meeting of a co-ordinating group for the “Season of Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-making” have expressed excitement and optimism about the ideas that are starting to take shape.
The group met this week at a retreat centre in England. Countries represented included Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malaysia, South Africa, Canada and Argentina. The group has been put together by the Secretary General in response to a resolution at ACC16 to effect a “Season of Intentional Discipleship” and the call for “every province, diocese and parish in the Anglican Communion to adopt a clear focus on intentional discipleship and to produce resources to equip and enable the whole church to be effective in making new disciples of Jesus Christ.”
The retreat involved brainstorming, sharing ideas, prayer and discussion and work will now continue separately until the group comes together again next year. Archbishop Ng Moon Hing, the chair of group, explained how the thinking developed: “We were deliberating for the first day on the idea of living and sharing a Jesus-shaped life. This became our theme - what does it look like to live out and to share a Jesus-shaped life? It needs to cover the Five Marks of Mission – : care for creation, caring about justice and social needs, as well as Bible reading and prayer. ......discipleship can mean different things in different parts of the Communion.”
The Archbishop acknowledged that there was already good work happening around the Communion: “There are a lot of exciting initiatives on discipleship. Our aim is not to re-invent the wheel. We want to encourage people and groups to share those initiatives with other provinces,” he said.
Director for Mission at the Anglican Communion, the Revd Canon John Kafwanka, explained further what the concept means:
“The broad theme is a desire that we get to the point as a Communion where the culture and language of discipleship gets embedded in the culture and life of the church – and how that faith in Jesus has a transformative impact in our workplaces, social, professional and family life. Also that our faith becomes central to who we are - not something we pick up as and when it is convenient.”
The Rt Revd Nick Drayson, Bishop of Northern Argentina, welcomed the work of the group as a step in shaping people’s involvement and role in the church.
“For the future, I hope the Season of Intentional Discipleship will change the culture of the Anglican church in my province and in our dioceses. For too long in my part of the world the church has not created disciples. People don’t put the pieces together. A Jesus-shaped life means people expect that going to church actually changes their lives.”
The Revd Tatiana Ribeiro, National Youth Co-ordinator in Brazil (Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil) was equally enthusiastic: “This is so important for the church in Brazil. For us to be recognised as part of the Anglican Communion. Being here has been like Pentecost – hearing all these different languages! But the same faith, the same hope – and the same challenges. “My hope is that through the Season of Intentional Discipleship lay members of the church will be more involved in church life. Discipling is for all people – and all people are disciples. “