Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Towards and beyond Edinburgh 2010: A Historical Survey of Ecumenical Missiological Developments since 1910

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Towards and beyond Edinburgh 2010: A Historical Survey of Ecumenical Missiological Developments since 1910

Article excerpt


This article provides a brief history of mission theology of the global church since Edinburgh 1910, highlighting the seismological shifts and major developments in missiological thinking and praxis over the years and through various world mission conferences, specifically from the perspective of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). It argues that, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the centenary mission conference in Edinburgh in June 2010, mission theology has moved from its early stage of colonial, Eurocentric expressions to post-colonial and polyphonic articulations of missiology. For the CIF/ME, though, the missiological journey continues even beyond 2010. This article argues that, amongst many important missiological themes that CWME needs to address within the overarching theme of "Ecumenism in Mission", the themes CWME has identified as its major focus for the coming years--viz. ecclesiology and mission, mission as healing, and mission as contestation--are of crucial pertinence. In the changing global Christian landscape where the centre of gravity of Christianity has moved to the global South, and in a context where new forms of

being ecclesial communities are tried out, 'The Nature and Mission of the Church" needs to take a "from below" approach, going beyond the traditional frameworks of mainline churches. Mission as healing would provide a comprehensive and more integral perspective to the salvific purpose of God for this world, especially as "healing" is a common strand within many religious, ecclesial and spiritual traditions, offering a dialogical perspective. Mission as contestation is equally significant in today's world where the gospel imperative of confronting satanic forces that express themselves in the form of globalization, neo-imperialism, patriarchy, racism, casteism and eco-violence is of cardinal importance.


Much has changed in the arena of ecumenical mission thinking and praxis since Edinburgh 1910. The founders of the modern ecumenical movement that had its genesis in Edinburgh 1910 would not have anticipated the kind of sea changes in the global Christian landscape that we have witnessed over the years. Crisis in Western civilization, disintegration and collapse of colonial imperialism, emergence of new forms of colonialism (economic and cultural globalization) and war (on terrorism), the phenomenal rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements, novel ways of being church, growing secularization, challenges of postmodernity and so on are just a few aspects of the ever changing global Christian landscape. How has ecumenical mission understanding evolved and developed since 1910? Where do we stand today in terms of our missiological thinking and practice, as we prepare to commemorate the centenary of Edinburgh 1910 at the very place where it all began?

Ecumenical mission thinking: An historical overview

Edinburgh 1910

The Edinburgh 1910 World Mission Conference is widely considered the birth place of the modern ecumenical movement. The origin of what we today term "ecumenical missiology" could be traced back to Edinburgh 1910. The thematic slogan of the 1910 Edinburgh conference was "evangelization of the world in this generation". And as the theme itself indicates, the predominant mood of the conference was characterized by a "zeal for evangelization", albeit understood largely in Western colonial terms. The context of Western colonial expansion and imperialism was the dominant backdrop of the first ever modern institutionalized world mission conference.

In several ways, the 1910 Edinburgh conference could be deemed an ecumenical watershed. Of course, one could argue that the conference was not representative enough, both geographically and ecclesiastically: the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics were not present at the conference, the global South was hardly represented, those present from the North themselves did not quite represent churches, but mission bodies. …

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