International mission practitioners, researchers and theologians from four different continents met last week in North Adelaide, hosted by the LCANZ’s New and Renewing Churches department at Australian Lutheran College.
The International Consultation on Ecclesial Futures (ICEF, formerly known as the IRC, International Research Consortium) is a yearly get-together of mission scholars and practitioners that is hosted across four continents on a rotating basis. Originally planned for June 2020, and twice postponed due to COVID, the LCANZ was privileged to host the 2022 gathering in Adelaide.
Guests from various denominations attended from South Africa, the USA, Australia, the UK and Denmark. Fifteen people attended in person and others joined in and presented online through Zoom. Each day of the week-long conference featured presentations and discussions of missional papers from various ICEF members. The tone of the conference is of generous reception and constructive critique of research arising from the members’ local contexts. The times of fellowship and sharing of life and experience across different cultural contexts are also a vital and energising part of the gathering.
The theme of the conference and open day held on 29 June was ‘Riding the Waves of Change.’ Presentation and discussion topics included ‘Exploring exile as a theological narrative for churches emerging from COVID lockdown’, ‘Christian spiritual formation that guards resilience’, ‘Developing a Trinitarian theology of leadership’ and ‘Lessons from 30 years of NCLS surveys in Australia’.
The open day was Adelaide West Uniting Church. This gave attendees the chance to hear presentations from missional scholars from four different continents and to discuss the implications and actions arising from these presentations with focus on their own local church’s mission and action.
The day was a wonderful opportunity for more than 60 attendees to receive and reflect on missional approaches from many different perspectives. Although originally planned as a fully in-person event, one of the presenters tested positive for COVID and one could not travel from the UK because of a COVID diagnosis, and so they gave presentations on Zoom – a perfect illustration of the waves of change that all of us have faced in the last two and a half years! The presenters took us through a post-war history of the mission of the church in Australia; New Testament approaches to spiritual formation; assessing whether your local church is ready for change, and the dynamics of the change process in local churches.
The open day sessions have been recorded and after being edited will be made available for viewing via the New and Renewing Churches website at www.newandrenewingchurches.org.au
The IRC/ICEF conference and open day was made possible by a grant from the LLL. Thanks go to Local Mission staff who did a huge amount of work in the background to prepare both so they could run as smoothly as possible.
What a wonderful blessing and privilege to get to know, and hear from, mission practitioners and researchers from all over the world during this week!
Pastor Nathan Hedt – Manager, LCANZ New and Renewing Churches Department