This collection of essays from people engaged in mission in a variety of contexts around the world shows that there isn’t just one, but many and various, narratives of mission. It is especially in the context of cultural pluralism that the editors invited the contributors to write. What emerges is a rich variety of theoretical and practical vistas on the Christian mission.
219 pp. Published by Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd. to purchase this book online, go to www.dltbooks.com.
Foreword - Rowan Williams
Introduction: Taonga - Cathy Ross
SECTION ONE: THE FIVE MARKS OF MISSION
1. To Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom - i) Ken Gnanakan ii) D. Zac Niringiye
2. To Teach, Baptise, and Nurture New Believers – i) Emmanuel Egbunu ii) Ande Titre
3. To Respond to Human Need by Loving Service – i) Melba Maggay ii) Haami Chapman
4. To Seek to Transform Unjust Structures of Society - i) Valdir Raul Steuernagel ii) Bev Haddad
5. To Strive to Safeguard the Integrity of Creation and Sustain and Renew the Life of the Earth - i) Calvin B. deWitt ii) Dave Bookless
SECTION TWO: ISSUES IN MISSION
1. ‘Whose Religion is Christianity?’ Reflections on Opportunities and Challenges in Christian Theological Scholarship: The African Dimension – Kwame Bediako
2. Migration and Mission: The Religious Significance of the North-South Divide – Jehu J. Handles
3. The Church and its Missionary Vocation: The Islamic Frontline in a Post-Christian West – Lamin Sanneh
4. Reading the Bible in the Non-Western Church: An Asian Dimension – Moonjang Lee
5. Worship is Nothing but Mission: A Reflection on Some Japanese Experiences - Ken Christoph Miyamoto
6. Education as Mission: Perspectives on Some New Opportunities - Gerald J. Pillay
7. Discipleship: Marked for Mission – Tim Dakin
Afterword: Christian Mission in a Five-hundred-year Context – Andrew F. Walls
There is a sense in which the classical missionary movement, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, was bound up with what more than one of the contributors to this book calls the great ‘migration’ of Europeans to other regions of the world (and saying that reminds us of the difference between early Christian mission and the movements of the more recent past). It would be wrong to pass the simple judgement that this was such a deeply compromised phenomenon that we can write off its achievements: far from it, as these pages fully acknowledge. But the world is no longer the sort of place where you can take it for granted that there is a natural centre, or a natural ‘flow’ of resource and information and wisdom from one part to another. The old adage of the most far-sighted of mission thinkers has come true: mission must now be from all and to all.
If we are to think about migration today, and it is a recurring theme here, we have to recognise that the ‘West’ is the destination, not the point of origin. And if this is so, we are not in a position to say that this or that Western trend or assumption is self-evidently the path of the future. Even when the old colonialisms have vanished, we in the Western world are still prone to think as if there were one narrative for Christianity, in which we continue to set the pace. But this can no longer be assumed. In some ways, this is profoundly encouraging - there is no fixed and foreordained narrative of decline or secularisation, whatever may be true of the ‘European exception’, as it has been called. In other ways, it will be uncomfortable: what has been assumed as the steady progress of Christian thinking towards certain broadly ‘liberal’ conclusions (about ethics or society, intellectual pluralism or interfaith relations, for example) can’t be taken as inevitable and unchallengeable. If anyone wants to defend these conclusions, they have to argue from basic theological principle, not simply by appeal, explicit or implicit, to the march of history.
But the greatest positive thing in all this, as several of these essays point out, is that we are being called to recognise that we (we in the ‘developed’ world) have not by any means finished reading the Bible - or, to put it more strongly, the Bible hasn’t finished with us. Read afresh in new contexts, it delivers more of God’s challenge and promise. Read to us and with us by those who are now ‘migrating’ in our direction, it becomes new for us too. And it is sound theology to say that there are things we shall never know about Jesus Christ and the written Word unless we hear and see what they do in ever-new contexts. Mission is not only the carrying of good news; it is the willingness to hear good news as the Word goes abroad and is embedded in culture after culture. We see more and more of its depths as we see more and more of what it does in diverse lives and worlds. If, as St Paul says in 2 Corinthians, we give what we have been given so that those to whom we give may become givers to us, the new pattern of theological and missional migration is exactly in accord with what Scripture might encourage us to hope for.
So this is a book to welcome very warmly, introducing us as it does to the new landscape of global mission, a landscape which even ten years ago it would have been hard to imagine (think only of the accelerating situation of evangelism in China!). It is not a summons to any kind of uncritical submission to a new reverse colonialism, but it is a summons to serious, hopeful, and humble engagement with what God is doing and saying in the growth of faith outside Europe and the North Atlantic, and in the new mobility of populations as boundaries come down. The global economy of our age is by no means a benign thing; yet, like the empires of the ancient world, it is a fact that changes what is possible. And when facts change what is possible, we may expect to see God creating new possibilities at the heart of them. This book will help us to pray intelligently that we may have the courage to respond to them as God wills, for his Kingdom’s sake.
+ Rowan Cantuar:
Taonga is a Maori word that comes from Aotearoa/New Zealand and means a treasured thing – whether tangible or intangible. It is difficult to define a taonga. It is a word associated with wisdom, with something precious and cherished; an heirloom perhaps, land in the family for generations, a beautiful garment, a valued piece of jewellery, a grandparent. To call something or someone a taonga is an accolade. In many ways this book is a taonga. It tells us vivid stories and brings us moving reflections from many different contexts in our world. It brings years of accumulated wisdom, years of pain and suffering, years of faithful service into its pages. It brings story and scholarship, anecdote and contemplation, the burden of history and the hope for the future before our eyes. To be granted a glimpse into how other people follow Jesus in their contexts and to listen and learn from other travellers along the Way – this is indeed a taonga.
This book is also a risky undertaking and calls into question all sorts of assumptions. A disparate set of authors from around the world invited to contribute on selected topics. Who issues the invitations? Who chooses the topics? Who accepts and who refuses? We can immediately see that this is indeed a risky undertaking, but an undertaking ripe with both potential and compromise.
Let me say at the outset that one such compromise is the use of English. English is not the first language of the majority of our contributors and yet we are writing and publishing in English. I cannot emphasise enough the injustice of this. The hegemony of the English language means that the world is a different shape from what it could be. We all know and are diminished by the experience of the globalising and totalising tendencies of one language to rule them all. It is not fair but because of the need for communication we accept this compromise. Such is the way of the world. Or such is the world as we have made it.
Another compromise, and one I feel keenly, is the lack of gender balance – fewer than one third of the articles are by women. I can neither explain nor excuse this. We know that women form the majority and are the backbone of the Christian church but once again, when it comes to conversations like this, in the public arena, men do most of the talking. Such is the world as we have made it. I am tempted to reflect that while men are doing the talking, women are working it out, but I do not think that is completely fair either. Somehow we need to ensure that women’s voices are heard in the public square as well as at home and hearth.
A final compromise is scope and representation. Choices have to be made. Some places are not represented. Some important themes are not discussed. Some voices are not heard – or perhaps just dimly through other speakers. Everything is not yet possible – such is the world as we have made it. But one day all will be possible and we anticipate this day with longing.
May this book be a preview of that in a modest fashion as we hear from these voices from the majority world, for that is the context of most of our contributors. These really are some of the representative voices in mission today. Yes, we as editors are from the West, and perhaps we are like beachcombers, searching the seashore for treasures, presented and delivered in English at present. Yes, there are compromises but let us also celebrate the rich diversity displayed before us in this taonga. Let us be challenged by the stories told and the conversations started – conversations around the ‘Five Marks’ and some contemporary issues in mission.
The Five Marks of Mission
1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2. To teach, baptise, and nurture new believers
3. To respond to human need by loving service
4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth
The Five Marks are neither a perfect nor a complete definition of mission. They do not say everything we might want to say about mission in today’s world. Compromise again. However, they are also rich with potential and they do form a good working basis for a holistic approach to mission.
You will see that the articles on the Five Marks are in pairs. They are intended to be two types of articles and are not privileged or prioritised in any way. They are different sorts of articles to express different approaches. The first article of the pair is a more reflective, theological article, which explores the mark in some depth. The second article is more descriptive and has more of a praxis orientation. So together these articles explore how this particular mark is worked out on the ground in the writers’ particular contexts. In this way we hope to draw out the missiological depth and practical engagement that each mark implies.
These essays are not intended to be either sleek or slick. Reflective practitioners have taken time out of busy lives to produce these articles – in English – usually their second, third or maybe even fourth language. These essays do have a smell of the earth about them and this is as it should be. These essays are supposed to be grounded and applied. Their voices urge us, disturb us, encourage us and challenge us. The voices are not uniform – some speak in narrative, some in poetry, some in a tight prose, some in an English less familiar to our ears. I believe this is the beauty and the power of the book for this is the reality of our world – the world as we have made it. We live in a world of migrants and strangers, of friends and familiar faces, of the streets and of the academy; and this selection of essays grants us a taste of our world – with all its beauty and potential as well as its despair and compromise.
Listen to their voices and hear their stories. Rejoice with their situations as you read of a street mission in urban Kampala; of a bishop struggling to empower Christians in Congo; of the gift of lace curtains to provide dignity in Aotearoa/NZ; of a Brazilian middle-class pastor falling in love with the God of justice; of a London wasteland being turned into a green space and a place of beauty. Empathise with them as you read of a Nigerian bishop trying to contextualise theological curricula suffering from Western legacies and priorities; of the theology of retribution at work in parts of South Africa that have little understanding of structural injustice and sees HIV/AIDS as a punishment; of a church that endorses an unhealthy and unjust status quo in Brazil and elsewhere; of creation groaning and suffering in the face of powerful people and profits; of ongoing discrimination against Dalits in India. May you revel in the diversity represented here, resonate with the range of issues and stories engaged with under the Five Marks and be strengthened as you engage in God’s mission in your corner of the world – the world not only as we have made it, scarred with compromise, but also the world that belongs to God and is alive with potential –’charged with the grandeur of God’.
The second group of essays reflects on the context in which mission takes place and some of the issues that arise from these various contexts. As we look at this selection of essays we may be tempted to think, where is the thread, what is the motif that is holding this together? There is no thread nor motif. It is not neat and tidy. Perhaps this says something to us about the reality of mission in our world today. Mission is complex; it is multi-faceted; different concerns emerge from different places as we try to follow and present Jesus in our place. However, these different issues will touch us all as we allow new insights from different contexts to enter our perspectives and enlarge our borders.
And so we are confronted with the challenge of just whose religion is Christianity as we see it afresh. We are presented with the need for a larger intellectual framework as we must engage with living theology from the now many centres of Christianity around the world. Migration and its impact on the non-Western missionary movement, which diverges sharply from its Western predecessor, may be one of the consequences of our polycentric Christian world. We read of the church in the West struggling to engage with this new world of an increasingly confident Islam in a post-Christian West. Reading the Bible from an Asian perspective critiques and challenges our Western approach and goals in reading the Bible. The writer’s Asian background offers new insights into how to approach and engage with a sacred text. The subject of worship is considered as vital for all of us as we engage in mission in a way that makes personal encounter with God come alive. This is brought into sharper focus as the contexts for these reflections are not only two highly secularised and post-religious cities in Japan but also the realm of the primal imagination, which immediately understands the transcendent as the normal Christian experience. Education as mission is presented as a new opportunity in our postcolonial world where Christian educational institutions can be alternative communities in their approach to and understanding of learning. The Five Marks are brought into conversation with Bevans and Schroeder’s six constants of the Christian faith in an attempt to add depth and texture to them within the Anglican tradition. Mission doyen, Andrew Walls concludes with an overview of the context and some of the surprises of the last five hundred years of Christian mission, the Spirit blowing where it will. Now we do indeed live in an age of multi-centric Christian mission, which is a feature of this volume.
So we hope that this collection of essays will prove to be a taonga for you as you encounter the Five Marks – whether you are familiar with them or whether they are new to you – and as you mull over the second group of essays. I hope you may feel able to add this book, with all its imperfections and flaws, to your own collection of taonga. A tangible taonga as you hold it between your hands and an intangible taonga as it may spark new thoughts and visions; as it may offer other ways of finding and following Jesus in our daily rhythms of discipleship. Taonga are not perfect; they are treasures of this world – resonating with all the beauty and potential of creation, limited by the finite and the brokenness of this world; but perhaps even more precious as they hint of the possibilities and promises to come – in the new creation charged with the glory and the grandeur of God.