What exactly do we mean by the new way?
The Church has existed for 2000 years. We are part of this Universal Church with many sacred traditions. In the recent past many Church organizations use the term New Way of Being Church to describe different concepts they have. me of them are not very clear what they mean by using the term in their programme. Certainly, each one adds something new to it; but then its content could become vague.
The Asian Bishops Conference in Bandung, Indonesia used this term first in 1990. When they used the term A New Way of Being Church their vision was very clear. The Bishops Conference of India has affirmed this vision in their Conference more than once since 1992.
A lot of awareness needs to be created regarding A New Way of Being Church to have a clarity about it in the minds of many pastoral workers. Many look at SCCs as another Association; some of the clergy and religious see it as something for lay people and still others say SCCs means Gospel Sharing. We hear others ask, What is the Old Way then?
1. Jesus initiated the New Way
This new way must be understood against the backdrop of the history of Israel. God chose Israel as his special instrument of salvation. They were to keep the covenant faithfully and be made an instrument of Gods plan (Ex 19:4-6). But Israel took this as a privilege for them selves and became a people divided and oppressive. The priests and prophets abandoned the Word of Yahweh and began teaching their own word. They made religion a source for personal gain, power and pleasure seeking. (Jer.6;13-15). They imposed rules on the people many of which they them selves did not observe. ( Mt 23:4)
Jesus came to renew and perfect the covenant with God, inviting all to a new human order, characterized by love, where all are equals and brothers and sisters. He invited all to a deep inner conversion so as to experience full inner freedom to love God and fellow human beings. He gave us the New Way to live our faith.
2. The call of the Asian Bishops at the Bandung Conference 1990
In the call of the Asian Bishops to follow the new way, the tone is much the same as that of the first Christians. The new way is very much the way Jesus set for us. Christianity is a way of life a way of seeing, accepting and relating to fellow human beings as children of the same God. It is the original spirit of God placed in us at the moment of creation. It is a call to inner conversion leading to break down of all human blocks to enduring love among all human beings and to embrace the spirit of Jesus in living life.
The salient features of the Bandung Statement of the Asian Bishops in 1990 are:
- Brotherhood and Sisterhood of all the children of God.
The Church in Asia will have to be communion of Communities where clergy, laity and religious consider each other as sisters and brothers.
- The Centrality of the Word.They are gathered and united around the Word of God as they share, pray and discuss in discerning Gods will for them in their neighborhood. They support each other in their daily lives.
- A Participatory Church.It is a participatory Church where the gifts and charisms given by the Holy Spirit to all- laity, clergy and religious are recognized and activated to build the Body of Christ, the Church in the neighborhood, to fulfill her mission in that place and time.
- A witnessing and Evangelizing Community. They witness together to the Risen Lord lovingly, reach out to all the needy. They discuss and cooperate with all the people around in order to make the Kingdom of God present.
- A Prophetic sign of the Kingdom in the Neighbourhood.
They become a prophetic sign daring to point beyond the world to the Kingdom of God through their efforts to transform the society in which they live.
- Non-dominating Leadership.
In this Church leadership at all levels is non-dominating, putting on the servant like and self-emptying image of Christ. Leader never seeks to be served but gives his/her life to build the people.
- Spirituality of the New Way.
- This is a community that does not depend on human wisdom for its life, but trusts completely in the Lord to lead the community at all levels, times and places to that authentic spirituality which is nothing more and nothing less than a following of Jesus-in-mission, an authentic discipleship in the context of Asia.
- It emphasizes witnessing as more important than teaching, in living the Gospel. It embraces the Spirit of deep contemplation, renunciation, humility and simplicity which are also Asian religious values.
- It is a spirituality which integrates every aspect of Christian life liturgy, prayer, community living, solidarity with the poor, evangelization, catechesis, dialogue, social commitment, etc.
- It is a spirituality which returns to the Sacred Scriptures and Church Traditions for inspiration and to a dynamic interaction with the aspirations of our people.
- The community embraces the spirit of Yahwehs anawim powerless deep union with God, renunciation, simplicity, compassion and solidarity with all, especially the powerless and marginalized. They work for justice through active, non-violent ways. These values are essential aspects of Asian religions and cultures as much as it is of Christian faith.
- The community moves away from focusing on exterior organization, power and mere secular effectiveness to images of simplicity, humble surrender to God and loving service.
- It is firmly convinced that communities in Asia are called to engage in a dialogue of life with the people of another faith and build a harmonious Society.
- A community working for inter-religious and human harmony.
The Christian Community is challenged to work through its inner tendencies of division and brokenness to enter into deep Communion with the Father and work for integrative harmony in the neighbourhood.