By Titus Presler
“I’m encouraged by the joy we have in our mission relationships,” Janice Price said of the current state of mission in the Church of England and in the Anglican Communion. “That makes a difference. Joy is no incidental thing. It’s at the heart of it. I realized this early on when I saw we needed to change the nature of the mission conversation – from needs and giving to developing friendship.”
Janice was reflecting on her 12 years of ministry as World Mission Adviser to the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England (CofE), service that ended in April of this year. Based at Church House, the London central office of the CofE, Janice advised the church about global mission with reports and recommendations and through coordinating the Partnership for World Mission, the church’s network of agencies and dioceses involved in global mission.
“My priorities were helping people to grow into what it means to be cross-cultural Christians, and realize the importance of listening to our partners,” Janice said. “My attempt was to distill what was being said in the wider mission community and also to push it forward. Someone said to me, ‘You were always pushing us to think about things differently.’ I was glad about that because we all need to be thinking differently.”
I wanted to hear Janice reflect on her work because Anglican world mission originated in the Church of England and because the Partnership for World Mission (PWM) is a network similar to the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) in the Episcopal Church. I’ve been to several of PWM’s annual conferences, along with other GEMN members, and I’ve been impressed by the enthusiasm and insight of the mission activists gathered there.
“I saw as my main job the dismantling of colonialism,” Janice said. “What I found was that colonialism is hugely resilient in the British mindset. A lot of it is about money: the desire people have to give lots of money but leave the relationship there and not to go further with their partners.
“In one diocese all the stories they were telling me were about all the money they had raised and sent to Kenya. So I said to them, ‘So you’ll be visiting them soon?’ ‘No,’ they said, ‘we had no idea that visiting was part of this.’ Their sense was that what people need is our money, not our friendship, that everyone is poor and don’t have enough to eat. ‘You have an arms-length relationship,’ I told them, ‘but you’re giving into a highly relational culture.’ They were surprised, even horrified, that it might be okay to spend money to buy airfare and go and see their friends.’ So colonialism mutates very quickly and is very resilient at its core.”
As world mission adviser to the Archbishops’ Council, Janice’s initial task was to develop a 25-year mission strategy for the CofE. World-Shaped Mission: Reimagining Mission Today, published in 2012, was the outcome. “It was well-received,” said Janice. “Conservatives didn’t find it conservative enough: not enough about Bible. Liberals found it not liberal enough. But in the middle, we got it about right. One of the most difficult issues was the relationship between mission and development. God’s mission is incarnational, so it is both material and spiritual.” This was one of the discussion points in the wide-ranging consultations that led up to the book, which Janice authored.
“You can describe the message of World-Shaped Mission as recognizing the humanity of the other,” Janice said. “Mission is not arms-length. It’s about the humanity of the other, because God’s Spirit is always leading us to recognize the humanity of the other and the sanctity of creation.”
The concept of world-shaped mission was applied to the Partnership for World Mission itself: “When we began looking at the issues of the world, then more people began to come to the PWM conferences, for instance, climate change and Brexit. But we will always be tempted to think of our mission partnerships instead of God’s mission in the big picture that our partnerships are meant to address. We’ll always be tempted to think of the mission of the church rather than God’s mission.”
World-Shaped Mission was adopted by General Synod, the CofE’s equivalent of the Episcopal Church’s General Convention, in July 2012, and it remains the last statement that the CofE has made on world mission. It is available from Church House Publishing and from Amazon.
From Needs to Friendship
Janice’s other major program focus was the research project that resulted in the 24-page report issued in 2017, “The Nature and Extent of Companion Links in the Anglican Communion,” available on the Church of England website. Links such as companion diocese relationships began percolating after the 1963 Anglican Congress that highlighted the theme, Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ (MRI), and they gained momentum with the 1973 Anglican Consultative Council’s emphasis on Partnership in Mission (PIM). But in the intervening 50 years, little research was done about what had become a major expression of global mission around the communion.
Supervised by the late Dr. Janette Davies of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, Janice adopted a case study research approach that focused on three companion links, those between the Diocese of Bath and Wells and the Anglican Church of Zambia, the Diocese of Chelmsford and five dioceses in Kenya, and the Diocese of Liverpool and the Diocese of Virginia. Analysis based on group meetings and interviews with people in each setting developed conclusions centered on discipleship, friendship and finance.
“What links gave dioceses was a sense of relationship,” said Janice. “One of the research conclusions was that links should focus on friendship and relationship. But there were differing concepts of discipleship. And in the area of giving, Western dioceses weren’t allowing African dioceses to give back to them, which resulted in unequal relationships that undermined the dignity of the other partner. Westerners need to learn how to receive.”
The weakness of the common Western understanding of mission as need-based was highlighted during a discussion of the Liverpool-Virginia link: “The Americans were saying,
‘We don’t know why we have the link with Liverpool, because they don’t need anything from us.’ But the mission relationship isn’t about raising money or ‘doing things for them.’ Friendship offers flourishing to all parties and to God’s mission.”
Janice noted that there was tension between the mission agencies and the diocesan companion links over fundraising. “But understanding has developed that recognizes their different roles and looks to build a more symbiotic relationship,” she said. “This is good news for international partners as well as for the agencies and links.”
Focus on Relationship
“What encourages you now about the world mission scene?” I asked. “Relationships are being developed,” Janice replied. “Relationships are becoming much more the focus. There are different narratives that are being expressed. We’ve been moving much more into discerning God’s mission rather than looking at the mission of the church. We’re thinking bigger about God’s mission. In the past, we talked missio Dei [mission of God], but often we were really thinking of the mission of the church.”
“At one time long-term mission meant long-term missionary,” Janice noted, “but what does long-term look like now? It’s friendship in mission. It will involve gifts and giving, but it will go beyond that. Its primary focus will be about friendship for its own sake before God.” As an example, Janice cited a friendship that has developed between herself and an archdeacon in Malawi.
To her work as world mission adviser, Janice brought her experience as executive director for global mission in Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, an ecumenical network, 2005-09. In that context she experienced what had been termed “the effortless arrogance of the Church of England” in relation to other churches, a sense that the CofE emphasized how it was different rather than what it shared in common with other churches. Janice hopes she was successful in changing that approach in the area of global mission.
The Partnership for World Mission was founded in 1978, and it was coordinated successively by James Anderson, the late Bishop Colin Bennetts, John Clarke and Stephen Lyon. The role was expanded beyond PWM to advising the whole CofE in order to pull together the strategic vision that became World-Shaped Mission. Janice’s initial appointment was for three years – but it became 12!
Janice is now focusing on her call to ordained ministry as what the Church of England calls a Distinctive Deacon, which she is pursuing in the Diocese of Southwark, where she will serve in the parish of St. Andrew’s and St. Mark’s, Surbiton. “I’m looking forward to developing a community-based ministry that is all about mission.”
Financial constraints and other priorities have meant that the position of world mission adviser is not being continued, so now there is no world mission position at Church House. As a result, PWM will also not benefit from the position, though Carolyn Gilmore is continuing as coordinator for the PWM conference that will be held later this year. A similar drawdown has occurred at the Anglican Communion Office in London, where the position of mission director has been discontinued with the departure of John Kafwanka, who is now pastoring a parish in England.
These developments highlight the importance of PWM continuing as a freestanding network of mission activist agencies and dioceses in the CofE, much as GEMN has functioned in the Episcopal Church. GEMN anticipates continued communication and collaboration with PWM in the coming months and years.
Missiologist Titus Presler is president of the Global Episcopal Mission Network.