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‘Applying the Five Marks of Mission’: The Archbishop of Armagh’s Presidential Address at the Armagh Diocesan Synod 2016

The Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, delivers the Presidential Synod Address.
The Archbishop of Armagh, The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, delivers the Presidential Synod Address.

The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, delivered his Presidential Synod Address at the 2016 Armagh Diocesan Synod in the Alexander Synod Hall, Church House, Armagh on Tuesday 18th October 2016. He spoke on the themes of applying the ‘five marks of mission’ identified by the Anglican Communion: to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom; to teach, baptise and nurture new believers; to respond to human need by loving service; to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation; and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth. Archbishop Clarke said: ‘Every part of the worldwide Church has to work through them, work out the implications for their own setting, and then put them into practice,’ and continued: ‘Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom does not mean handing people a package, it means encouraging them to join with us on a journey … We are asking people to become, not “people like us”, but to become what we all strive to be, children of the Kingdom of God.’

Archbishop Clarke also said that caring about and responding to the needs of others ‘are not optional extras’ and that we must ‘do all in our power to speak and act against the injustice that causes their pain and need’. He said: ‘Injustice may be the violence that our countries are fuelling through the encouragement of unjust regimes and the sale of weapons, it may be our purchase of cheap goods that have been manufactured by something akin to slave labour, or it may be in the selfishness that does not care if our countries will not accept those who have fled for their lives from terror. It may be the 1,000 unaccompanied children in a refugee camp ion Calais.’

Extracts from the address below:

2016 ARMAGH DIOCESAN PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS EXTRACTS

As many of you will know, in April of this year I was – at rather short notice –   parachuted, fortunately only metaphorically, into the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. It was in many ways an exciting experience, and I have mentioned aspects of it over the few months since the meeting, but there is one particular area I would like to highlight at this synod, as I believe it might have a very important application for the diocese and, more particularly, for our individual parishes.

This was a major emphasis at the meeting in Lusaka on what is called the Five Marks of Mission. These Five Marks are an Anglican summary of what “mission” (in some ways a somewhat jaded word in the Christian vocabulary) might and should mean in every part of the world–wide Anglican Communion. I was certainly well aware of the existence and content of these Five Marks (which actually have their origins back in the 1980s). I knew also that some local dioceses, both here in the Church of Ireland, and also among our Anglican neighbours in England, Scotland and Wales, were placing serious emphasis on the concept, but it was the meeting in Lusaka that made me realise in a new way that the Five Marks of Mission really do have a universal application for Anglicans, in the very different contexts and cultures in which we may live. So what are they?

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  3. To respond to human need by loving service
  4. To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

It is clear that they all relate to the first of these five marks, which is central to all else – proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. You might ask what is special about these Five Marks and, at one level, they are indeed stating fairly obvious aspects of Christian discipleship and witness. What I found fascinating in Lusaka was the way in which they each had a different character in the many different Christian contexts represented at that ACC meeting. Every part of the worldwide Church has to work through them, work out the implications for their own setting, and then put them into practice.

A suggestion I want to make to this diocese is that, over the next year, parishes might do their own “internal audit” on which marks of mission they truly reflect and which they need to start taking more and then, as a parish, ask how they might be more effective in fulfilling their calling, their mission.

Looking at them, very briefly in turn.

Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom does not mean handing people a package, it means encouraging them to join with us on a journey. “The Kingdom of God” – so much part of Our Lord’s teaching in the Gospels – does not mean something we can claim a monopoly on, or ownership of. It is God’s, and what is meant by the Kingdom in Christ’s teaching is the realm of God, that place where God’s rule may be found. We can never dare claim that we have ownership of that. It is the place we seek, the place of which we wish to be part, the place where we may sometimes fall and falter, but sometimes are wonderfully and luminously aware of God’s presence. The recent visit of the Anglican–Orthodox International Commission for Theological Dialogue was a reminder of this. Many of our visitors were captivated by the spirituality they could feel, by the heritage of Saint Patrick and the warmth of our fellowship here. We should never take granted the spiritual riches that we do have, but can so often overlook. So, when we talk about proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom, it is something far more vibrant and exciting than merely handing people directions on how to live, almost as though we don’t need directions and corrections for ourselves. We are asking people to become, not “people like us”, but to become what we all strive to be, children of the Kingdom of God.

Proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom does not mean handing people a package, it means encouraging them to join with us on a journey

Teaching, baptising and nurturing. Three different things, but three essentials. Teaching is something we all need to receive, whether ordained or not.  It needs to be done with care and with thoughtfulness and with energy, for every one of us needs to learn and to grow. Baptism is something we also need to take far more seriously, not by refusing to baptise people if they do not measure up to our self–selected standards, but rather by encouraging people at any age to take that first step into faith and then by following up, giving opportunities and encouragement to be nurtured in Christian discipleship. Nurturing and strait–jacketing are not the same thing. Let us allow God some space in the proceedings.

The following three Marks remind us that a real and active Christian faith relates also to the way we live our lives and in how we relate to the world around us, in terms both of people and their needs, but also the creation itself. It is the Letter of James that tells us very bluntly that faith without works is as lifeless as a corpse. The third of the Five Marks is about those in need – responding to human need by loving service.

Those in need are here around us every day in Armagh Diocese – the needs of food banks being only one simple and obvious example – and also in the desperate privations of those who live in fear and hunger, even starvation.

If I said the name “Omran Daqneesh”, it would probably mean very little to most of us. If I said that he was the five year boy sitting silently in an ambulance in Aleppo on an orange seat, having been pulled out of his home that had been destroyed by a bombing in which his brother was killed – the picture or video most of us saw in late August on television screens or on–line – you would probably know exactly whom I meant. I will be honest and say that probably the only reason that I can summon up that name and that image so immediately is that something about him bore a striking resemblance to my own five–year old grandson. I might well have forgotten him otherwise.

It is very easy for the desperate plight of others, whether through violence or through physical or psychological deprivation, becomes a statistic, an occasion to say how sad it all is or something to forget as soon as we can. The third and fourth of those Marks of Mission – that we care about the needs of others and that we will do all in our power to speak and act against the injustice that causes their pain and need – are not optional extras. They are precisely what our Lord was talking about in Matthew 25 with his parable of the separation at the judgement between those who cared about the suffering of others and those who did not. Injustice may be the violence that our countries are fuelling through the encouragement of unjust regimes and the sale of weapons, it may be our purchase of cheap goods that have been manufactured by something akin to slave labour, or it may be in the selfishness that does not care if our countries will not accept those who have fled for their lives from terror. It may be the 1,000 unaccompanied children in a refugee camp ion Calais.

The fifth of the Marks of Mission, our care of the creation and our responsibility for it, was something that became very real to me in Lusaka, where I heard of formerly inhabited islands in the dioceses of the southern Pacific that have disappeared beneath the ocean because of global warming, and of formerly fertile farm land in parts of eastern Africa that have either become desert through the drying up of rivers or have become polluted beyond use by cynical exploitation of foreign industry. In whatever way we can, we have to take responsibility for our use of creation, not simply for future generations here in this country but also for present generations in other parts of God’s world today. We can make a difference, in simple ways but also with the way we order our lives.

… we have to take responsibility for our use of creation, not simply for future generations here in this country but also for present generations in other parts of God’s world today

This has been very much a brief sketch but I do now throw out the challenge, to us all, myself included. Can we – as parishes or as individuals – do that “audit” and measure ourselves against the Five Marks of Mission? All of them are thoroughly biblical. And if we are truly concerned with the mission of the Church, none of them is simply a possible option that we may neglect if we wish.

Let us see how we would truly score. And let us ask God to enable us to play our part in fulfilling more effectively His mission in His world.

  • Synod Service in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh
  • Members of Synod gathering in the Alexander Synod Hall, Armagh
  • Presidential Address by The Most Revd Dr Richard Clarke, Archbishop of Armagh
  • Mr David Ritchie, Chief Officer and Secretary General, Representative Church Body, and Archbishop Richard Clarke

A further selection of photos is available on the Church of Ireland’s flickr website

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