Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Some European Notes (1)

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Some European Notes (1)

Article excerpt


What role do theological colleges and faculties play in the way churches understand and give shape to mission, and what may be in need of transformation in the case of western Europe, or more precisely, in the Europe region of the Council for World Mission? These questions raise a prior one: "What constitutes a relevant mission praxis for European churches today for which the theological colleges should be equipping people?' In order to answer this question, the article begins with a short analysis of the mission legacies left by two centuries of western missionary involvement in the South. In particular, since the 1950s the legacies from this era have undergone some changes under the influence of global developments. However, the international mission scene remains dominated by bi-lateral North--South relationships, and this has implications for how mission is understood and practised in both hemispheres. Two contemporary features of the present era are forcing the churches to deal with their mission legacies, and thereby might be stimulating the emergence of a new mission elan and praxis. The first is post-modernity. Its distrust over meta-narratives intensifies the crisis of faith the West is experiencing and, in so doing, highlights the urgent need for a radical reinterpretation of the "What?" of our faith and mission. The second is globalization and the various ways in which economic and ecological degradation, mounting conflicts and demographic changes likewise necessitate mission reinterpretation. Thus, it is argued that aspects of globalization and postmodernity are forcing the churches finally to deal with the unhelpful aspects of their mission legacies, and in this way are unwittingly fostering the emergence of a new mission elan and praxis in Europe. This suggests a two-fold role for theological education for mission. First, it should nurture "a second missional naivity" in theological students, and train them so that they can, in turn, nurture this among congregations. Second, theological education for mission should critically assess and address the extent to which theological schools in Europe are themselves part of oppressive structures inherited from the past and that continue in the present.

   Mission means
   joining that large band of pilgrims
   that is walking towards the beckoning future
   of a world where justice and peace embrace each other,
   daring to look at ourselves,
   our world and our relationships
   in the mirror of that new world and
   addressing the gap between vision and reality
   with all the love, passion, patience and wisdom
   which God is placing at our disposal.

I. Our common story

The sketch of Caribbean struggles as outlined by Roderick Hewitt in his contribution to this consultation rings a bell with Europeans. Phrases like "colonial heritage", "missionary enterprise", "economic globalization" and "new post-modern missionaries" are part of the European story too, albeit from a different point of entry. The fact that our stories interrelate suggests that our efforts at transformation in mission and in theological education for mission might benefit from interconnecting as well. The decision of the Council for World Mission (CWM) to organize an international consultation on this subject was therefore very timely.

Transformation has been at the heart of the CWM venture from its re-birth in 1977, when the old CWM was transformed from a predominantly Western mission organization into an international partnership in mission. Undergirding the restructuring was a vision of mission as the raison d'etre of each church in its own context, and of sharing power and resources within the partnership in such a way that mission in each place is enhanced by all. CWM's education in mission thrust has consistently emphasized the need to explore what such a vision concretely means for each of the member churches. The main questions have been: "How can we become a missional church in context? …

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