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Let Us Normalise Theological Cross-pollination
Our Future Depends On It
Welcome to my newsletter, “Global Witness, Globally Reimagined,” where I dream here about mission in a postcolonial world. Every week, I share one thought that has spoken to me in the week, some resources 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
Back in 1974, John Mbiti wrote that “the church is kerygmatically universal, but is still theologically provincial.” Later, in 1991, Andrew Walls lamented “the rule of the palefaces (his words, not mine) remains untroubled even in a world where non-Western Christians far exceed those of the West.” In 2002, he added that “Western theological leadership of a predominantly non-Western church is an incongruity.” Timothy Tennent suggests, “We cannot afford to ignore the theological implications inherent in the demographic reality that Christianity is currently in a precipitous decline in the West and that the vast majority of Christians now live outside the West.” Indeed, the theological implications of the worldwide spread of Christianity in the twentieth century deserve a great deal of attention. Craig Ott identifies the problem to be located in four areas: (1) the West’s “hegemony postulate,” (2) the West’s self-perception that it is “the centre,” (3) the perception of third-world (sic) scholars as “purveyors of exotic, raw intellectual material to people in the North, and (4) the “dialogue of the deaf” between the West and the rest of the world. But there is a way around all this—an intentional cross-cultural theological dialogue between Christians of different cultural heritages, etc. Such conversations enrich us with a better understanding of God — the mosaic of the image of God gets a few more colours in it every time we speak. Of course, we see God better together. To be formed—or informed—by one expression of theology in our day and age is to risk being theologically misinformed (even when we have read the best theologians of our traditions). As a matter of fact, great theologians of our day will be those who have learned to engage the voices of “other” Christians—women, immigrants, children, Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, Europeans and others—not to discredit and dismiss them but to listen and hear what God may be saying through their voices.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
In this episode of the Multiply Network Podcast, we learn from Charles Hermelink of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada mission network. Charles shares interesting insights on how the Canadian church engages with the various cultures that are now shaping both the face of Canada and that of the Christian community in the country. According to Charles, about “30 to 35% of all newcomers to Canada are Christians,” and the host churches are struggling to engage with and effectively minister to the needs of these “newcomers,” who are often of different cultures. In fact, some pastors have confessed their deficiency in cross-cultural ministry, since this was not captured in their ministerial training. So, Charles provides some tips that could help the church, both in Canada, and indeed, any other congregation that seeks to effectively serve today’s multicultural society and remain relevant in God’s multicultural kingdom.
3. Quotes I am Pondering
… mission cannot be reversed if it is of God … mission is a continuum of what God has done in Christ for the oikos throughout the ages, to which humans are privileged participants. — Joseph Bosco Bangura
We cannot share the Gospel without sharing our lives. The gospel is life; it is not just human letters or verbs. — Femi Okunlola
… all have a common humanity with the Incarnate Son, and, among Christians, all are members of his body (1 Cor 12:14-26), each having a valuable contribution to make. — Chigor Chike
I pray that you will be faithful to the mission God has for you this week.