Notes from Rose Dowsett

Author: Rose Dowsett.


In general, I think we all need to keep working at finding writers from the global south, so that we can hear opinions and observations from them. I know this is far easier said than done – I constantly struggle with getting non-western writers for Global Missiology projects I co-ordinate for the WEA Mission Commission. But I think at the moment we say far more about listening to the global south than we actually practise. That may mean encouraging contributions written in a different form and format, or more question and answer conversation type pieces, or translating pieces written in other languages, or…
Topics? Here are some suggestions.
1. We have been talking for a long time about encouraging global south churches to engage in their own theologizing. How about an issue which shows lots of examples of just that, and what it means in specifics? And I’d then explore how contextualized theology does or doesn’t make it harder to have universal agreement on core beliefs and ethics. Even the ancient creeds (Apostles’, Nicene, etc) arose from specific contexts and are expressed in particular forms and language; is that still what we would expect/hope all Christians everywhere would still embrace, or what are the implications of encouraging contextualization? I think the issues here also contribute to the current confusion in the UK as to what we mean by ‘evangelical’. How far are we believing/saying/doing the same things but in different language and ways, and how far are we developing paths leading in fundamentally different directions? Does contextual theology inevitably lead to fragmentation, or is it possible still to have meaningful unity? Given current struggles and arguments within UK evangelicalism, I think this is an area we simply have to grapple with far more openly and honestly than we have done – and there are mighty few fora where we can have an honest debate without somebody or other shouting ‘heresy’. I think confusion here also contributes to many younger Christians concluding that the only kind of mission they can engage in has to be relief or development based.
2. Short-term mission. Probably this is one of my hobby horses, but I do despair that now we spend more money and more energy in getting people doing what I would call baptised tourism than into the slog of long-term mission. I realize that there are some situations where someone can contribute helpfully in a short time, especially in supporting long-termers in some clearly defined way. I also understand that for some people such a trip is life changing, and that most long-termers nowadays have done a short term visit previously. However, I think the balance is completely out of kilter. Moreover, even if most long-termers now have done short term, most short termers don’t go on to become long termers, and research says that after five years a high proportion of short termers have lost all interest. It seems that many short term trips are a variation on an adventure holiday, with a vaguely Christian twist. Vast quantities of Christian money are diverted to support this. Is this right? Also, biblical mission must involve the kind of incarnational lifestyle which by definition cannot be achieved in a short trip. We should make short trips clearly observational and learning trips, and not use the term ‘mission’ in them. We need to help individuals and churches understand that really significant mission still requires long-term investment, learning a language, trying to understand a culture, growing to know and be known and trusted…

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