Mis­sion as Min­istry of Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Robert Schre­iter and Knud Jor­gensen Reg­num Books, hb, £30.99

The Church of England - - RE­VIEWS -

These two vol­umes ap­pear in the Reg­num Ed­in­burgh Cen­te­nary Se­ries, which was launched af­ter the cel­e­bra­tions in 2010 of the cen­te­nary of the fa­mous Ed­in­burgh Mis­sion­ary Con­fer­ence in 1910. Although both col­lec­tions of es­says might seem pri­mar­ily of in­ter­est to mis­si­ol­o­gists they have much of im­por­tance to say to any­one con­cerned about the mis­sion of the church, not least those con­cerned about mis­sion here in Bri­tain. The past 100 years have been a rich pe­riod for Catholic mis­sion­ary the­ol­ogy and those out­side the Ro­man Catholic Church will find much of value in the ex­cel­lent col­lec­tion of es­says put to­gether by Stephan Be­vans. Vat­i­can II was of de­ci­sive im­por­tance but sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ments were un­der­way be­fore the coun­cil and mo­men­tous changes have taken place since the end of the coun­cil. Look­ing at pa­pal en­cycli­cals be­fore 1959, James Kroeger com­ments that Vat­i­can II’s de­cree on mis­sion­ary ac­tiv­ity was in many re­spects a log­i­cal devel­op­ment of what had gone be­fore. Even so the coun­cil had a huge im­pact on the Catholic ap­proach to mis­sion. Its in­flu­ence was not con­fined to the de­cree on mis­sion­ary ac­tiv­ity, ‘Ad Gentes’, but also flowed from other doc­u­ments. Af­ter the coun­cil it was im­pos­si­ble to re­peat the old mantra that ‘er­ror had no rights’ and this opened the way to both ec­u­meni­cal and in­ter­faith di­a­logue. It also ruled out the old ‘in­te­gral­ist’ ap­proach to church-state re­la­tions that claimed a spe­cial place for the Catholic Church. Ec­u­meni­cal co­op­er­a­tion in mis­sion has been more ad­vanced in some parts of the world than oth­ers. In the Pa­cific the Catholic Church has co­op­er­ated with other Churches in run­ning news­pa­pers and an im­por­tant cen­tre for so­cial and pas­toral re­search, the Me­lane­sian In­sti­tute in Goroka. Al­most ev­ery­where the Catholic Church has taken a lead in in­ter­faith di­a­logue, a devel­op­ment that was en­cour­aged by Pope John Paul II and sur­vived even the Re­gens­burg Ad­dress of Bene­dict XVI. Vat­i­can II gave a pow­er­ful im­pulse to in­cul­tur­a­tion. One con­trib­u­tor to his book refers to Chris­tian­ity as a faith that is at home ev­ery­where but never fully at home any­where and that gets the bal­ance right. In­cul­tur­a­tion should mean that the Chris­tian­ity is more ef­fec­tive in chal­leng­ing and trans­form­ing cul­tures not that it is ready to ac­cept el­e­ments that con­tra­dict the gospel. As Jose M de la Mesa points out, a num­ber of Vat­i­can II doc­u­ments in­flu­enced Catholic thought on in­cul­tur­a­tion. Since Vat­i­can II a num­ber of new themes have emerged in Catholic think­ing about mis­sion. There has been a grow­ing realisation that mis­sion is not di­rected from the West to the Rest but, as Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali has put it, is from ‘ev­ery­where to ev­ery­where’. Mi­gra­tion has come to be un­der­stood as a ma­jor fac­tor in mis­sion, not only in the sense that mi­grants may need pas­toral care and at­ten­tion but also be­cause they can act as mis­sion­ar­ies and bear­ers of the gospel them­selves. In a world of con­flict and vi­o­lence rec­on­cil­i­a­tion is now seen as a very im­por­tant as­pect of mis­sion. Robert Schre­iter con­trib­utes a chap­ter on this sub­ject to the vol­ume edited by Stephen Be­vans but he has also co­op­er­ated with Knud Jor­gen­son on a vol­ume of es­says de­voted to this very sub­ject. His dis­cus­sion of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion as a model for mis­sion and of the dif­fer­ent el­e­ments it must con­tain is ex­tremely valu­able. Eco­log­i­cal con­cerns have also sur­faced in mis­sion, a devel­op­ment dis­cussed by De­nis Ed­wards. Inevitably there are loose ends and un­re­solved is­sues in Catholic think­ing about mis­sion. As in Protes­tant mis­sion­ary think­ing there has been a ten­sion be­tween a stress on pro­mot­ing in­te­gral hu­man devel­op­ment and an em­pha­sis on the pri­or­ity of evan­ge­lism. The word ‘lib­er­a­tion’ first ap­peared in a pa­pal doc­u­ment from Paul VI and Paul also talked about the ‘evan­ge­li­sa­tion of cul­tures’. John Paul II did not re­pu­di­ate what his pre­de­ces­sor said but he be­came con­cerned that not enough em­pha­sis was be­ing given to Christ and the Church and the im­por­tance of in­di­vid­ual con­ver­sion. There has also been a ten­sion be­tween di­a­logue and procla­ma­tion, as mis­sion­ar­ies have tried to keep a bal­ance be­tween be­ing open to lis­ten and learn from oth­ers while still be­ing ready to share the gospel with them. A new em­pha­sis on the im­por­tance of ecol­ogy and mis­sion cre­ation has raised ques­tions about how the church should en­gage in po­lit­i­cal de­bates and cam­paigns for jus­tice, peace and the in­tegrity of cre­ation – an is­sue about which there are di­vi­sions among all Chris­tians.

Paul Richard­son

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