Tuesday, 26 June 2012

No more 'Propagation'

The Anglican mission society, U.S.P.G. (The United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel - website here),  is to change its name. Once upon a time in the Anglican world, catholic parishes supported the more sacramental and ecclesial  (U)SPG, while evangelicals or low churchmen tended to channel their funds to C.M.S. Those days are, of course, as with so much else, long gone, as the following report illustrates: 

"Our new name, Us, is directly derived from USPG, so it speaks to our heritage, but it also speaks about inclusivity. There is no “them”; we are all “us”. Our work – in partnership with the churches of the Anglican Communion – is for the benefit of the whole community, regardless of ethnicity, culture, gender, sexuality, age or faith. No-one is excluded.’ The new strapline for the charity is ‘Every person. Every community. A full life.’ This is designed to underscore the concept of inclusion and point to a vision of the future, where the words of Jesus in John 10:10 become a reality - the experience of life in all its fullness."
Canon Linda Ali, chair of USPG’s Trustees, explained: ‘We are very proud of our heritage and take seriously our remit to work through Anglican Churches to help global communities tackle poverty.‘We were founded in 1701. To put this into historical context, in 1701 the composers Bach and Handel were still young men! The original title given to us by our founder, the Revd Thomas Bray, was The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, which was later abbreviated to SPG.‘No doubt this name worked well in its day, but words like “propagation” are simply out-dated in the twenty-first century. So it was time for a change. [ACNS here]

So the word 'propagation' is outdated - they're not gardeners then. 
Or, perhaps, musicians - Bach and Handel don't seem to have lost any of their immediacy or popularity, even to those who accept the potent myth of linear historical progress. [Although musically speaking, I've always been something of a fogey - even if not, in this case, Gaga enough) 
And if I were tempted to, as some I'm sure might think, make a rather cheap shot, one doesn't need to be particularly eagle-eyed to notice that in the change of acronym the word 'Gospel' has also gone AWOL.
But let;s not single out USPG or 'Us'  for any undue criticism - it has a long and proud record of missionary endeavour and continues to do much good work throughout the developing world.
As with so many other bodies, Its current fashionable stance only reflects the contemporary face of the Communion it serves.

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