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