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Nothing For Us Without Us.
This Is Mission In The 21st Century
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
For a few years now, a congregation in my neighbourhood faithfully sends missionaries to Ghana. Every year, three groups of missionaries of various professions go to Ghana to serve numerous people with different kinds of needs. As far as I can tell, this has been a great adventure for them. They get to tick the box—they are participating in God’s mission—while their children have a chance to see for themselves how life works on the other side of the economic divide. While I am deeply grateful for this work, I have observed them ignore a vibrant Ghanaian congregation that meets less than 100 yards from their church. Multiple efforts to let them see the Ghanaians in their neighbourhood here in the UK and the possibilities this would mean for their missionary work in Ghana have proven futile. Of course, this is normal. I have seen it numerous times. Many of us seem generally interested in Majority World Christians while they are in the global south. Once they cross over, they become less interesting. In the case of Africa, one can argue that our general interest is on Christianity in Africa, not African Christianity and definitely not African Christians. As I have wrestled with this, I wonder whether it is because mission is still something Westerners do on other continents, not in the West. Or it may be because what they do when they go to other continents would be difficult to replicate in the UK. It is also possible that the racial/colonial dynamics make it too difficult for our relations to reset to a point where we can all belong together. To my surprise, a new mission agency has been born to evangelise Africans in the diaspora, and they have not thought to include African diaspora Christians among their workers. All this makes it necessary for us to remind each other that the first rule on mission in the 21st century is still “nothing for us without us.” (I do not remember where I heard this, but I totally agree with it). Whether we are going to Ghana, Nepal, or Brazil, or are seeking to evangelise Africans, Asians, or Latin Americans in the diaspora, it is too late for Westerners to go it alone.
2. Resources I am Enjoying
In this podcast, Philip Plyming of Talking Theology hosts Bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani to talk about racial diversity and the Gospel. In her early years, Francis-Dehqani, a Persian Christian (from Iran), saw how being a Christian in her context almost always meant having to make a hard choice between a Christian identity and a national identity—a dichotomy she believes is unnecessary. Here, Francis-Dehqani now reflects more consciously on “what it means to be a Christian disciple regardless of what your race or ethnicity might be.” She believes a multicultural church is possible and pursuable. In fact, ignoring diversity would mean that “we are diminishing what the church is ideally designed and meant to be,” for the theme of diversity is glaring “within the whole vista of the Bible” and the Christian story. Francis-Dehqani is apt to note that when Christ becomes our shared identity, a multicultural church is more achievable. She currently serves as the Bishop of Chelmsford. You can follow her on Twitter here.
3. Quotes I am Pondering
Cultural diversity is not necessarily divisive. When the church recognizes the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers, diversity may indeed provide the tapestry for unity that will enable her fulfil the gospel mandate. —Efe M. Ehioghae
Mission is not just the Church’s activity in another culture local or abroad, but is a frontier of belief, conviction and commitment. —Philomena Njeri Mwaura
The articulation of diversity and how people experience it is often highly charged simmering with all sorts of resentments and half-understandings. These issues of diversity are theologically complicated and contested as they are attached to religious dogma. —Marilyn Naidoo.
I pray that you will be faithful to the mission God has for you this week.