|Re: Rehabilitate missionary (pub. Sept. 8, 2008)|
|Written by James Cogswell|
|Wednesday, 22 October 2008 15:37|
It is evident that the article … by David Dawson re: rehabilitating the word missionary has opened up a timely debate. The response of John Kuckuk (see OUTLOOK letters, Oct. 6 issue) … calls for a further response.
The surge toward independence that swept through the nations of the Third World in the 1960s and 70s forced all mission-sending agencies to re-examine the way that they carried out Christian mission. Many of the challenges ,,, initiated were very appropriate and effective. However, there were cases where such changes were adopted by mission boards far from the scene and were superimposed on Third World churches (that) were not prepared for such changes. The results at times were unfortunate and indeed disastrous. The change in the title missionary to fraternal worker was only one such change for which many Third World churches were ill prepared. While it may have sounded good to us, for the partner churches it connoted a confusion of roles and a dulling of the thrust of mission.
Far more serious were such changes as the following:
· The dumping of responsibility for all educational and medical work on the partner churches, which were ill prepared to accept and undertake such responsibility.
· The sudden decrease in mission involvement in those nations where the Protestant Christian witness had been carried out primarily by American Presbyterians. Those partner churches came to feel that they had been abandoned by their Presbyterian partners.
· The disillusionment of those who had spent their careers in mission service and were suddenly terminated without due cause, thus creating a negative response to mission in the home church.
Needless to say, we have learned much as we have sought to apply new policies and strategies to the new era of genuine “partnership in mission.” However, I think that we need to be realistic as we study mission history over the past several decades to see that some of the changes made at that critical turning point … may not have been wise and in turn need to be re-examined.
Black Mountain, N.C.