March 18, 2019
Last month ABM’s Melbourne Committee held a launch for the ABM Lent Appeal with guest speaker the Rev’d Canon Dorothy Lee. The following article was published in the March edition of the Melbourne Anglican newspaper and they have kindly given us permission to share it on our website.
by Mark Brolly
God’s mission has no walls or barbed wire fences or patrols but is open to all, a Melbourne Anglican biblical scholar said at a service marking the launch of the Anglican Board of Mission’s Lenten Appeal.
The Revd Canon Professor Dorothy Lee said God’s mission was about gathering all Creation together and was “much broader than we usually imagine it”.
Professor Lee was speaking at Choral Evensong at Christ Church South Yarra, celebrated in conjunction with St Martin’s Hawksburn, on 17 February – attended for the first time by ABM’s National Executive Director, the Revd John Deane. The new Vicar of Christ Church, the Revd Dr Craig D’Alton, officiated at the service, while the Chair of ABM’s Melbourne Committee, Mr Brett Collins, led prayers.
Preaching on the Parable of the Sheepfold in chapter 10 of the Gospel of St John, Professor Lee – the Stewart Research Professor at Trinity College Theological School in Parkville – said: “God’s mission is about community because God is community, within God’s self, drawing all things into the life of the Trinity and in doing so, it unites us to one another because like the spokes of a wheel, the closer we come to the hub, to the centre, the closer we come to one another.
“There’s no such thing as individualism in God’s mission.”
Professor Lee said God’s mission was equally about justice and reconciliation, about working towards peace, the sharing of resources, caring for creation and hospitality for those who were needy and desperate.
“The borders of God’s mission are not patrolled, no wall is built, no barbed wire fences surround it. It remains open,” she said.
“There is no limit to God’s mission of in-gathering, although we’re very good at inventing limits, and that’s because there is no limit to God’s love, to the love of God that He has revealed in Jesus.”
Professor Lee said the two key roles of the Church given to Christians at baptism were worship and mission – and they were interconnected.
“It’s equally problematical, equally one-sided, if we neglect worship or mission.”
Mr Deane said ABM, which celebrates its 170th anniversary next year, had been established in 1850 by a unanimous decision of the then bishops of the dioceses that would form the Anglican Church in Australia.
“In looking back, it’s true that much has changed,” he said. “Where we work and the way we work is certainly very different. But there are two elements … which I think continue to be important. The first is that the bishops in their day saw very clearly that mission was not an optional extra, that mission needed to be at the heart and centre of what it meant to be the Church.
“And secondly … I think that they had a strong sense of the need to go out … and find those on the margins.”
Those two elements continued to guide everything ABM did, Mr Deane said.
“The work that we do now is done far more in partnership … In my experience with ABM, the journey to the margins and what that means is actually an opportunity to meet and be challenged and enriched by God. ”
Mr Deane said two of the three projects chosen for ABM’s Lenten appeal were in Zambia.
“Now not a lot is known in the Anglican Church of Australia about the Church in Zambia, which is really sad because actually it was missionary work from the Australian Church that was largely responsible for helping to create the Church in Zambia and giving it the institutions that it now continues to ask us to support.”
One such institution was St John’s Seminary. “That seminary remains the main teaching institution for all the dioceses in the Church in Zambia and struggles because it has little if any outside support, other than what comes from ABM.”
The other program ABM was promoting in Zambia was the work of the Zambian Anglican Council on gender, particularly child marriage and domestic violence.
The third program that was part of the Lent appeal was supporting the work of ABM’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mission Fund.
Mr Deane said ABM’s work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people went back to its original mandate in 1850.
“But until fairly recently, it has been ABM or others outside of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community that have dictated where the support goes and what it does … That’s changed and we rely much more on the guidance of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council.”