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How To Decolonise Mission
Possible First Steps
Welcome to my newsletter, “Global Witness, Globally Reimagined,” where I dream about mission in a postcolonial world. Every week, I share one thought that has spoken to me in the week, a resource I trust will be helpful to you, and three exciting quotes about mission. I pray one of these will energise you in the coming week.
1. Thought I Can’t Shake Off
I got an email a few weeks ago from a white British professor of African History asking me whether it is actually possible to decolonise mission. “How can you decolonise the very tool that was used to colonise?” I did not know what to say to her, but I understood her misgivings, and I knew that, to a great extent, she was right. “You cannot decolonise mission because, as far as I can tell, it is the first step towards colonisation,” she added. Of course, not all missionaries (knowingly or willingly) took part in the colonial project. But the mission system was colonial, built on Western supremacy— the same ideology that necessitated and justified colonialism. Whether it was David Livingstone’s “we need an English colony in Central Africa” or Leopold II’s “the essential role [of missionaries] is to facilitate the task of administrators and industrials ... to protect [our] interests in that part of the world,” there is enough historical evidence that, in many parts of the world, missionaries were foot-soldiers of western imperialism. Those who want to erase this history are wrong. They want to gaslight us to believe that mission and colonialism never really colluded or justify any such collusion as acceptable because “the missionaries were children of their times, and it was normal for them to serve the colonial agents back then.” Unfortunately for us, mission today is still largely about civilisation, Christianization, and commerce, only that it is done in a 21st-century manner. It is just as colonial as it was 100 years ago. So, where do we start decolonising mission? Admit that mission has this bad colonial legacy. If you are not convinced, chances are you are not sufficiently informed. To begin to get the African story, read some Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Alan Paton, Mongo Beti, and many others. I am sure there are similar Latin American and Asian scholars and authors who also can help as well.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
This episode of the Co-Mission podcast welcomes Alex Brito of the Mosaic Multicultural Church in London. Alex stories the joy, strategies, and challenges of pioneering a multicultural church in a diverse city like London. He begins with a profound reflection on his family and racial background, conversion experience, migration to England, and his ministerial engagements, which, altogether, have culminated in the rollercoaster journey of planting and leading a multicultural church in London. Alex's story is laden with clues and insights for pioneering, engaging with, or transforming into a multicultural church as we carry out God’s mission today.
3. Quotes I am Pondering
First, the integrity of mission is rooted in the nature of the Gospel and the nature of the Church: the Gospel is for everyone (Romans 1:16) and, in the oft quoted words of Emil Brunner, "The Church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning." — Tite Tienou
The African missiologists need in-depth anthropological and theological analyses to understand the variety of cultures in their societies and to contextualize the Gospel. — Auli Vähäkangas
… the purposes of missio Dei [are] the restoration of the imago Dei and the salvation and liberation of humankind. Roy Musasiwa
I pray that you will be faithful to the mission God has for you this week.