By Rev Dr Des van der Water, immediate past CWM General Secretary (2002-2011)

In 2007, CWM celebrated 30 years of Christian mission witness. At that occasion the question was posed: ‘Thirty years after – work in progress or mission accomplished?’ Unsurprisingly, the question provoked other questions. But what became evident was that both ‘mission accomplished’ and ‘work-in-progress’ for CWM were not mutually exclusive. Looking back on my tenure as General Secretary (2002-2010) and Scholar-in-Residence (2011) respectively, this brief reflection leads me along the following missiological musings about the CWM journey:

• It is clear that CWM’s founding principle of partnership in mission has been embedded within the communal psyche of the organization. After 30-plus the partnership in mission paradigm confirms – irrevocably – the decisive break from the trajectories of colonialism, cultural imperialism and paternalism. As a post-colonial mission agency, firmly located within the 20th century era paradigm of world mission, there is no turning back from the path of engaging fully and freely in contextual and contemporary mission.

• Remaining true to its vision – which was articulated in CWM’s founding document – One World Mission, the organization has journeyed steadfastly with its missiological roadmap along three integrated tracks, namely a holistic and multi-faceted understanding of mission, a notion of the multi-dimensional sharing of material and spiritual resources and an emphasis on the local church as primary agent of mission.

• Since its transition from London Mission Society to CWM, change had become part of its DNA. During my tenure it was no different as Council was replaced with Assembly as its primary governance and decision-making body. No wonder that after several decades CWM remains a ‘work-in-progress’, whilst at the same time celebrating significant moments of ‘mission accomplished’.

• On a personal note, I have been abundantly blessed by the rich and robust engagement in mission with leadership and laity from all CWM’s member constituencies. At a corporate level, there were several decisive moments, profound encounters and far-reaching resolutions that I will cherish. One such moment was the adoption of CWM’s Vision, Mission and Values Statement; another was the delivery of the theological piece, Mission in the Context of Empire and yet another was the decision to move the Secretariat to a location within the Global South. Most important, however, is the enduring legacies of a global ecumenical mission body that often ‘punches above its weight’ in its calling to be a transforming agent of God’s mission in the world.

The number four, or its multiples of forty or four hundred, carries a particular significance in the Bible – representing completeness in purpose, form or function. The vision that gave birth to the CWM witness in 1977 and which sustained it for four decades must always find contemporary and contextual expression. It must also generate new impetus, draw fresh inspiration and source untapped energies for the missional task ahead. It is a journey that can only be undertaken with the courage of faith, the fortitude of hope and the humility of love.

Council for World Mission

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