Wednesday, February 02, 2011

hard questions about Christian mission

Every generation has challenges. One of the challenges for our generation is how we respond to the injustice of the past. Last Wednesday was Australia Day, which is a celebration of a nation with a history of dispossession of indigenous people. Sunday in New Zealand is Waitangi Day and the subsequent failure by settlers to honour that treaty.

This has implications for being Christian. We talk of a God of reconciliation who heals the past. How do such claims make sense for this generation?

In recent days I have been reading Remembering Jamestown: Hard Questions About Christian Mission, which explores how the church in North America might live in the face of historic injustice and mistreatment of indigenous people.

The final chapter is by Amos Yong, a theologian, Malaysian born, now working at Regent University, USA.  I have engaged in this blog previously his extraordinary book on Theology and Down Syndrome: Reimagining Disability in Late Modernity and also his excellent Hospitality and the Other: Pentecost, Christian Practices, and the Neighbor).

Yong argues that “it is important for us not to quickly forget the offenses that were part and parcel of the missiology” of the past. (163). He advocates a post-colonial theology of mission based on the many tongues of the Pentecost narrative.

  1. “As many tongues were empowered by the Spirit to speak about God’s deeds of power … so also are many languages required to bear witness to the glory of God today.” (164)
  2. This requires us to listen to many voices as a first move in mission.
  3. The expectation is that the encounter with those different than us will lead to “mutual transformation” of both parties (166).
  4. The many tongues of Pentecost assume a multiplicity of missionary modes of engagement, a diversity of approaches to being Christ today. “We need to creatively participate in the work of the Spirit to develop many more liturgical forms and other social practices that facilitate the healing and salvation needed to respond” to the past (166). (Anyone else hear echoes of the call to fresh expressions!)
  5. It expects a theology of hospitality in which Christians become not hosts, but guests. (Anyone else hear echoes of Luke 10? – for more on this go here and here and here and here and here and here)

Thought provoking stuff for all those who care about mission in Australia and New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 06:24 AM