In 1986, the USCCB wrote a pastoral letter, To The Ends Of The Earth, that presents a CST reflection on Jesus as a missionary and his church as a mission oriented church.
This document is important because it highlights a Vatican II model of the “church in the world,” focusing on the spiritual and physical well being of communities at the local level. It brings into focus a new ecclesiology—i.e. self-understanding of the church—that is not an authoritarian force for religious conversion, but an apostolic activity engaging with and bringing forth Jesus’ Good News in a pluralistic world.
This document takes into account the mission oriented developments that were taking place in the Latin American, African, and Asian churches. It also foreshadows Pope Francis’ “missionary option”—what Catholic ecclesiologists refer to as a mission ecclesiology. Pope Francis’ papacy has made the case for the institution renewal of the universal church in a spirituality of mission:
“I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II once said to the Bishops of Oceania: ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion.’ (Evangelii Gaudium, par. 27).”
Q. Which candidates are most faithful to a mission oriented church in a pluralistic world that engages with it where it is rather than preaches rules to overcome it? In what ways does a “spirituality of mission” complicate candidates’ political life and relationship to the church? How can the church respond to and make space for a 21st century social justice hungry church in the United States today?