Summit ’16 Summary
Evangel – Summer 2016
Which story are you a part of?—the one about securing forgiveness and eternal life for yourself? Or the one about God working to reconcile all things to himself, to bring about a new creation in, and through, his Spirit-filled people?” Dr. Mark Love, Dean of Theology and Ministry at Rochester College, Michigan, posed this question to the sixty-two leaders present at the Western Canadian Leadership Summit in May.
“The Holy Spirit and the Mission of God” was an overdue theme. Following the thread in Luke/Acts of “broadening the bandwidth of what matters to God,” Dr. Love reminded participants that the Holy Spirit is power from on high for God’s people to participate with him in bringing God’s rule near. God wants to reconcile and restore the whole of creation and has provided resources to make it happen. In Luke’s Gospel, the Holy Spirit comes on “unlikely people” (e.g. Mary, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Zachariah) to correct marginalizing power imbalances. Waiting in Jerusalem, in a house, at Pentecost, the prophetic boundary transgressor breaks in as backwoods Galileans declare the mighty works of God in unlearned languages. As signs and agents of the Kingdom, alternative islands of mercy, justice, and peace will form as the Holy Spirit fills.
The Restoration Movement has been uncomfortable talking about the Holy Spirit. Kelly Carter highlighted some of the strange ideas our forefathers held. While some embraced the language of Trinity, others did not out of concern about the divisiveness of speculative theology.
Fearlessly Dr. Love encouraged people to normalize Holy Spirit language and to participate in practices consistent with the Holy Spirit. Missional Moments encouraged attendees as people shared personal stories of serving where they are. Val Lieske’s monologue Leaving Ruin drew attention to the loving Presence that haunts and comforts leaders during difficult seasons.
What did people take away from the Summit? Several noted a greater appreciation for the Spirit’s eagerness to work with us. Others valued the helpful elements present throughout Luke/Acts about being drawn into the life of the Spirit, honoring the Spirit in all, sharing common life and food, giving space for a story that shapes and sharpens, and being devoted to prayer and apostolic authority. Also noted was the obedient waiting to discern what God is doing through individuals close by, and celebrating our unity in the Spirit, though we are diverse. Someone commented that the Summit felt like a reunion with people from all three streams of the Movement, as well as Vision Ministries Canada, present.
Dr. Love called for a refocused attentiveness to the Holy Spirit as the power for the mission of God today. Dave Sarsons (Vulcan Church of Christ) closed the Summit with a Spirit-filled prayer commissioning attendees to be attentive, to engage actively with God in his mission with the Holy Spirit, to cement stories of the Spirit into our common life, and to reflect attentively and intently on the missio Dei, as we walk in the Spirit. One person commented in response to Dave’s call that “more than anything, the Summit did something to me.”
The Summit intends to celebrate and encourage Western Canadian Restoration Movement ministries. We are grateful to the sponsors who make these important conversations possible: The Pension Fund, CCDC, ABC, Lifeline Canada, and an anonymous benefactor.