Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Missiology of Risk?: Explorations in Mission Theology from a German Feminist Perspective

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Missiology of Risk?: Explorations in Mission Theology from a German Feminist Perspective

Article excerpt

The following explorations derive from a paper delivered at a round table on dialogue in mission at the "Women and Mission" seminar held at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, Switzerland, 4-10 June 2003.

Among the conclusions which can be drawn from the process of the Bossey conference, the most important might be the one that was quite evident from the very beginning of the project. This was to set up a dialogue on mission among women which will enable us to offer something creative to the churches. First of all, this requires us to listen carefully to each other's particular experiences and to the challenges of our specific contexts. Otherwise, we will neither be able to maintain the rich diversity of our traditions and mission understandings, nor find ways of bridging divides and working globally together in a postcolonial world.

The quest of women in mission should not conceal the fact that there are tremendous differences in the ways and forms the witness of women is understood and lived today. These differences must be taken very seriously because even if "women in mission" does not assert the possibility of a universal feminine way of doing mission, it at least seems to imply it. Women who participate in an ecumenical seminar such as the one held at Bossey last June are not a homogeneous group, nor do they have a common essence that makes them and their missionary commitment different from men. On the other hand, we also learnt at Bossey that true dialogue in mission calls for an approach that opens up ways to overcome any tendency to mystify particular, regional of denominational perspectives, as well as social of cultural locations in an essentialist fashion. In this essay the hypothesis is that the concept of postcolonial subjects helps to meet both of these requirements of any dialogue in mission. I shall come back to this concept later.

Introductory remarks

My missiological reflection is shaped by my experience as a feminist Roman Catholic mission theologian working in Germany. To analyse thoroughly the current challenges which this particular context poses to missiological reflection and teaching would go beyond the scope of this essay. Instead, I will illustrate these challenges by sharing two recent experiences:

Eberhard Tiefensee reports on a recent opinion poll conducted among young people at the central railway station in Leipzig. They were asked if they considered themselves to be Christians, religious or non-religious. Those asked reacted with an irritation captured best in one of the answers, "I don't know. I think I am normal". (1) The results of the survey may be explained by the particular situation in East Germany where, according to Tiefensee, "For most people God seems not to be an issue anymore". (2) The results of the poll also show that more and more people are not only remote flora Christian institutions, but they do not even share a common language to talk about their religiosity.

Some time ago, the German Catholic Women's Association invited me to speak on new developments in mission theology. After the presentation we shared our experiences as women in mission. We had a passionate and controversial discussion on the meaning of mission in our lives, with many very touching stories told. What struck me most was the statement of one woman who sadly told me: After a long time of mistreatment and humiliation within the church, thanks to the women's association I have now found a place where I feel accepted and can live my faith. However, I will never be able to pass on this faith to others because this might mean exposing them to the same painful experiences I have gone through in this church.

I would like to claim that the agenda of women searching for a new dialogical paradigm of mission must also be shaped by experiences like these, which are characteristic not only for the German context but also for other modern Western societies. …

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