Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

What about Partnership?

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

What about Partnership?

Article excerpt

Partnership. This deceptively simple term masks a complex reality. It commonly refers to some kind of formal or informal contractual arrangement between two or more persons or organizations carrying on a joint venture with a view to benefit of some kind, each incurring liability for failure and the right to share in the fruits of success. Partners may be persons, groups, organizations, or nations. Partnerships might be codified by civil or common law, or they may simply be informal, time-delimited arrangements for accomplishing a common cause.

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Two of the essays in this issue focus directly on partnership. In her article Cathy Ross looks at a theology of partnership, exploring the implications for mission of something integral to all identities and agendas, divine and human. Leon Spencer, writing from his years of close association with Anglican theological education around the world, observes how haphazardly--and exasperatingly--"partnership" has been understood and practiced since its first appearance in missiological parlance in a document entitled "Partners in Obedience" presented at the Whitby (Canada) International Missionary Council of 1947.

Since Max Warren's famous Partnership: The Study of an Idea (SCM, 1956), which begins with the surprising comment that "partnership is an idea whose time has not yet fully come" (p. 11), the subject has been a mainstay of missiological discourse. Of course we know what is meant. Economic inequity in close social proximity has always engendered severe, even intractable, challenges for both churches and missions. At the deepest level of the Western psyche is the surety that he who pays the fiddler calls the tune. And so Westerners, who have traditionally provided the lion's share of mammon in many partnerships, have exercised the lion's prerogative in dictating the terms of their partnerships.

Compounding the material and cultural asymmetries that make partnership so difficult is the increasing awareness that, as William Burrows notes, formerly missionary-exporting lands are today in greater need of evangelization than formerly missionaryreceiving lands. This reality raises questions not only about many of the deepest assumptions underlying the organizing, financing, recruiting, and training of missionaries in the West, but also about the nature and purposes of missions-related, task-orientated partnerships, which until recently have been largely defined and dominated by Western ecclesiastical entities, Catholic, Protestant, and Independent alike. …

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