Church and Mission Engaging Plurality

Edited by

Viggo Mortensen & Andreas Østerlund Nielsen

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.

© 2010 William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company All rights reserved Published 2010 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 2140 Oak Industrial Drive N.E., Grand Rapids, Michigan 49505 / P.O. Box 163, Cambridge CB3 9PU U.K. Printed in the United States of America 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Walk humbly with the Lord: church and mission engaging plurality / edited by Viggo Mortensen & Andreas Østerlund Nielsen. p. cm. Proceedings of a conference held in Jan. 2010 in Aarhus, Denmark. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 978-0-8028-6630-1 (pbk.: alk. paper) 1. Missions — History — Congresses. 2. Religious pluralism — Christianity — Congresses. 3. Christianity and other religions — Congresses. I. Mortensen, Viggo. II. Nielsen, Andreas Østerlund, 1971BV2100.W254 2010 266.001 — dc22 2010044291



Acknowledgments Church and Mission Engaging Plurality: Edinburgh 1910–Aarhus 2010 Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen

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I. History and Future of the Missionary Movement
The World Missionary Conference, Edinburgh 1910: Sifting History from Myth Brian Stanley Mapping Ecclesiology and Mission: Trends Revealed by the Atlas of Global Christianity Kenneth R. Ross 1910-2010: From Foreign Missions to the Home Policies of a World Religion Werner Ustorf Strategic Reflections Coming Out of the Present Predicament for Christian Mission Birger Nygaard 43 35 27 15



II. Christianity in Contexts of Plurality
Beyond the Boundaries: The Church Is Mission Stanley Hauerwas Mission: Invitation to Community Jan-Olav Henriksen The Fluid Mission of the Church Niels Henrik Gregersen The Church in a Multireligious Europe Friedrich W. Graf On Good Manners and Hospitality: Protestant Liberalism and a Multireligious Europe Arne Rasmusson 97 85 74 70 53

III. Ecclesiologies of Mission — Considerations in Context
The Ecclesiality of Mission in the Context of Empire Bryan Stone Emerging from the Dark Age Ahead: The Canadian Church in the Third Millennium Charles J. Fensham Transforming Ecclesiologies in a Multireligious World F. LeRon Shults Resisting McDonaldization: Will “Fresh Expressions” of Church Inevitably Go Stale? John Drane The Missional Church and “Homo Areligiosus” Martin Reppenhagen A Minority Community of Equality and Difference Helene Egnell 184 167 150 135 113 105


Contents Pro me in the Age of Authenticity: The Missiological Significance of “Christ in Us” and “We in Christ” Hans Raun Iversen The Mission of the Church: To Be a Christian Minority in Muslim Lands, Wishing for an Embrace Munawar K. Rumalshah 205


IV. The Future of Missiology
The Future of Missiologies Mika Vähäkangas Missiology as Vocation Andrew F. Walls Mission: Understanding Reality Ulrich Dehn Missional Spirituality in the Contemporary World Jacques Matthey Out of the Abundance of the Heart: A Missiology for the Future Viggo Mortensen The Futures of Missiology: Imaginative Practices and the Transformation of Rupture Darrell Jackson Attending to Local and Diverse Communities: Toward a Theological Learning Community for a Missional Era Patricia Taylor Ellison and Patrick R. Keifert Theological Formation for Missional Practice Darrell L. Guder Contributors 313 307 300 278 265 247 238 230 217



Our thanks go to all who have contributed to this book for their timely and well-thought-out analysis and proposals on how to negotiate the present predicament for the Christian church and mission. When we in Aarhus invited them to the first academic and scholarly celebration of the jubilee for Edinburgh 1910, Church and Mission in a Multireligious Third Millennium, our proposal was met with enthusiastic support, not only from the participants in the conference in January 2010 but also from a wider public and from our sponsors. We want to thank the Research Foundation of the University of Aarhus, the Theological Faculty represented by Dean Carsten Riis, the Danish Research Council for the Humanities (FKK), the Foundation Areopagos, and the dioceses Aarhus and Haderslev of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark for their support. We want to thank the many people who contributed to the successful completion of the conference — first of all Marlene Jessen, who coordinated all the organizational details together with members of the organizing committee: Peter Lodberg, Marie Ramsdal Thomsen, Peter Fischer-Nielsen, Jens Linderoth, and Jeppe Bach Nikolajsen. Finally our thanks go to the highly professional editorial team of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and to President Bill Eerdmans, Jr. personally, for once more bestowing trust on the Danes and accepting this voluminous book for publication. Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen viii

Church and Mission Engaging Plurality: Edinburgh 1910–Aarhus 2010
Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen

The pluralization of reality and the world is exuberant and overwhelming. The sense of an enormous growth in plurality is the single most important feature that sticks out when we want to describe the global development between 1910 and 2010. This pluralization has also influenced the missionary movement from Edinburgh 1910 until today. In a world immersed in a process of pluralization the Christian church can only proclaim Jesus Christ by following his example by walking humbly with the Lord. It is time for a new beginning; confidence must be regained and our theology of mission reconsidered. It is the aim of this book to contribute to this by presenting a number of innovative contributions to the formation of the present missiological field, essays on church and mission engaging plurality. This book is organized into four sections. In what follows we will begin by providing a short introduction to each part, followed by a fuller description.

Approaching the Scene — Realizing Plurality
part i — history and future of the missionary movement Even though Edinburgh 1910 may not have been all that is now mythologically ascribed to it, it today stands as a monument for the mission movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that spread the seeds of current worldwide Christianity. With the — at times forgotten — exception of the 10/40 window (the area of the world, 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator, that con-


Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen tains the largest population of non-Christians), mission has now become “home policies of a world religion.” But this situation was not reached without detrimental failure, which renders the call to academics to contribute to uniting sound theology and dynamic vision in strategic thinking of future mission all the more pressing. When some church leaders coming out of the Student Christian Movement in 1910 convened the epoch-making World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh, Christianity was very much tied to the Western Hemisphere. Europe was still the powerhouse of Christianity. Of the 1,215 delegates, only twenty came from outside Europe: nine from India, four from Japan, three from China, one from Burma, and one from Korea. And only one single delegate from Africa. The young African churches were represented through their white missionaries. In 2010, when a similar crowd of people interested in the mission of the Christian church came together in Edinburgh in commemoration of the centenary it was quite different. Mirroring the existing global church, it was the intent of the organizers that the majority of delegates should come from the South, and should be nonwhite and women. Because that is what happened in the twentieth century: Christianity, originally so immersed in the Western culture and civilization and thus allied with the imperial colonization, gradually lost this position. Because it developed the vernacular it inspired sentiments of national identity and in this indirect manner contributed to decolonization and made the way for a colossal indigenous Christian growth. So the history of the twentieth century is a history of Christianity becoming a global religion and moving south. Were the delegates of the Edinburgh conference 1910 thus wrong when they proposed and believed in “the world’s evangelization in this generation”? Yes and no! The world’s evangelization or Christianization did not happen. Christianity has barely — measured in numbers — been able to keep up with the population growth. But in another way they were right when they predicted a grand future in the world at large, because Christianity became a truly global religion. When Christianity goes global and moves to the South it changes. The form of Christianity that grows in the South is another form than the Western one, which means that the present Christianity is a much more diverse religion than it used to be; and it is not easy to say where the center is. The ultimate growth movement of the twentieth century is the Pentecostal/charismatic movement. Around 1900 there were not more than a million adherents and now there are more than half a billion; growth 2

Church and Mission Engaging Plurality is predicted to hit one billion around 2030. So 1910 was the last time the Western missionary movement could claim center stage: “The most visionary of missionary statesmen had not the vaguest intimation that they were at a historical fault line and that Christianity would soon embark on its course to become a more widespread and diverse religion than at any other time in its history. It would be the era of unprecedented missionary surge.”1 Edinburgh 1910 gave birth to an influential trend in the twentieth century, the modern ecumenical movement that tried to bring together the different churches and church families under the catchword “visible unity.” After a grand beginning, a series of World Missionary Conferences was also held during the century. Many times it was attempted to coordinate the missionary movement and the ecumenical movement, which had a common origin in the missionary field. The missionary movement was annexed as the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism and later, at the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in New Delhi 1961, it was structurally incorporated into the WCC. Both movements were children of modernity; when modernity itself experienced a crisis in the second half of the century, they experienced a similar crisis. Consequently there was much talk of “crisis” and “winter.” Voices were raised calling for a paradigm shift. The fluid character of modernity and the fragmentation of postmodernity finally also hit the missional movement. Will the twenty-first century witness a new beginning? In 2010 there was not only a jubilee conference in Edinburgh; there were a lot of other events celebrating and reviewing the development since Edinburgh 1910. At the University of Aarhus the Center for Contemporary Religion convened a conference, Church and Mission in a Multireligious Third Millennium, in an attempt to look ahead. The essays in this book were all presented at this conference. In the invitation to the conference the situation and the new agenda were described:
It has been documented in several recent studies of religious diversity that globalization, secularization, and the return of religion lead to pluralization of the religious landscape, the result of which is the reigning multireligiousness so dominant in Western and other societies. This multireligiousness has changed the way religions live their lives and operate. Many different religions are in mission; and mission is eventually from everywhere to everywhere. This situation has given a totally new
1. Lamin Sanneh, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 272.


Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen
dynamic as to how religions spread and interact. Especially the Christian churches have been challenged to adapt to the new situation. A rethinking of the relationship between mission and ecclesiology has here proved to be crucial. Because the concept of mission has also come under scrutiny from postcolonial studies, and because the study of mission has been renewed in the direction of intercultural studies or studies in global theology and world Christianity, the academic study of mission is entering a new era. This happens as we celebrate the one-hundred-year anniversary of the World Mission Conference in Edinburgh 1910. The evangelization of the world was not achieved “in this generation” and will not be in the next. Although the vision of Edinburgh was never realized, the commitment for a church in mission still stands. The conference will focus on the actual and future challenges for the Christian church and mission in an era of multireligiousness and will highlight the following themes: • Ecclesiology and Mission • Church Renewal for the Third Millennium • Church in Cyberspace • The Future of Missiology

Setting the Stage — Facing Plurality
part ii — christianity in contexts of plurality How will the mission of God contextualize in the Western world in (post)postcolonial and multireligious times? One important and inevitable choice will be between a particularistic ecclesiology like that of Stanley Hauerwas and protestant liberalism as presented in this volume by Friedrich Wilhelm Graf. Hauerwas and Graf agree on the public and political art of the matter. Either Christianity can seek to be appreciated as a sensitive contributor to peaceful, liberal societies or establish the church as an alternative, pacifist public. Mission can accordingly be grounded in the universality of individualized humanity (theologically: in creation) or the particularity of the catholic church (theologically: in Christology). The means are either to permeate plurality or establish an alternative to plurality. This raises the question: What kinds of churches will that take?

Christianity has of course always been immersed in multicultural environments, but now this is the situation also in the heartland of Europe, followed 4

Church and Mission Engaging Plurality by a colossal decrease in knowledge and practice of the Christian tradition. The driving forces behind this development toward diversity and plurality can among others be identified as: Globalization followed by localization Urban industrialization and other macro-structural tendencies Secularization followed by de-secularization or the return of religion Mediatization and marketization and other mid-range structural tendencies • Individualization and hybridization and other micro-social changes • • • • Plurality is a given fact also in the religious field. Plurality means that there is a variety — in this case a variety of religions, confessions, and worldviews; convictions are therefore experienced as a matter of choice. The ultimate questions asked by people today often relate to the issue of identity. Questions such as Who am I? What can I believe? How should I live? are on people’s minds, and the answer is seldom just to adapt to the heritage of their fathers and mothers. However, modernization and secularization did not lead to the replacement of religion but to its revival — and in many different forms. Multireligiousness manifests itself, first, as a competition between distinct historical religions and their claim to possess the truth and, second, as a syncretistic bricolage of different understandings of faith and, finally, in the revival of all kinds of quasi-religious phenomena. The culture may agree with Nietzsche that “God is dead,” but in return we have received an army of gods and divine manifestations. Religious diversity is reflected in society in many ways, and plurality shows itself in different forms. There is first the external plurality that comes as a consequence of the decisive idea in modernity, the idea of freedom of religion. The moment there is freedom of thought, belief, and speech, people will use this freedom, and the way is paved for religious plurality and plurality in worldviews. It will take some time before the full consequences are known and pluralism flourishes. The growth of plurality during the past fifty years is due to development in the fields of mission, migration, and media. Freedom of religion liberates the missionary efforts of the different religious communities. Migration involves a large degree of movement of people, and people on the move are often in vulnerable situations where religious feelings and conduct become more important. Modern media, TV, the Internet, and mobile telephony mean that a wide variety of religious offers are available everywhere at the same time. This is the 5

Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen simple definition of globalization: everything is available at the same time everywhere. The second factor is internal plurality, a “pluralism of the mind.” This is in the spirit of the times and affects us all for better or for worse. It belongs to modernity and in a sense can be said to be the condition for democracy. Plurality is basically good and not at all unfamiliar for Christianity. Christianity is a religion welcoming diversity. There is one God and one savior; but there are several narratives about this savior. The Gospels and the biblical writings documenting the salvation that Christians believe in were all written by different people, who made individual records of what they heard. Because of this genesis of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, Christianity is a truly pluralistic religion. This can also be seen from the way Christianity expands. In a way, it could be said that Christianity is not at all a religion, but a translation movement. In the words of Lamin Sanneh: “Christianity is a translated religion without a revealed language . . . without translation there would be no Christianity or Christians. Translation is the church’s birthmark as well as its missionary benchmark: the church would be unrecognizable or unsustainable without it.”2 In order to introduce Christianity to a new nation, the Bible must first be translated. Everybody concerned with translation knows about the problems encountered in such a process. The conclusion is often that, to convey the proper meaning of a text, a literal translation must be complemented by the insight that Christianity necessarily must assume new forms in the new context to be able to authentically serve its followers. Contextualization — which everyone agrees is the most important issue for Christianity in gaining a foothold in new areas and cultures — necessarily leads to plurality. Thus plurality is the order of the day — plurality inside Christianity and among the religions. Uniformity cannot be the ideal, and it is unlikely that there will ever be one normative stream of Christianity at the global level. Christianity will experience very different futures in its various global manifestations. The religious encounter happens everywhere and every day. This is a position not very different from the situation in which Christianity found itself at the very beginning. This development revitalizes “theology of religions” as a discipline. How are Christians and Christian churches to encounter the religious “other”? Christianity is challenged to provide good reasons for choosing the Christian God. The greatest challenge faced within the inter2. Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion Is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), p. 97.


Church and Mission Engaging Plurality religious encounter is to give a renewed witness and a trustworthy testimony validating the Christian conviction and confession. Other religions also do intense missionary work, and this challenges Christians and the Christian churches to be well prepared and ready to give account for their conviction.

Reinventing the Drama — Playing Plurality
part iii — ecclesiologies of mission — considerations in context Church is mission or mission is church. In any case ecclesiology is intertwined with missiology. The missio Dei and the use of it in the Missional Church movement might lead to an “instrumentalization of the church.” An undue focus on the ecclesiasticalness of mission might neglect the search for an authentic — i.e., individual — relation to God, “pro me.” In light of mission both ecclesia and ecclesiology are no doubt to be contextually transformed and transforming, and all kinds of philosophical and theological questions arise as a result. Instructed by the failures of past mission endeavors and the fall of Christendom, many recent proposals in ecclesiology and missiology are clearly marked by the humility and sensibility characteristic of the notion missio Dei. Where Christians are a minority they are forced to take part in mission by simply “wishing for an embrace.” In post-Christendom settings the church is better advised to seek self-imposed self-limitation in order to avoid use of power and coercion. In a context of plurality, difference and otherness become crucial matters. These can either be recognized as a difference between church and world essential for the ability of the church to witness to the story of God, or appreciated as a diversity in and surrounding the church, and fostering an attitude of listening and dialogue.

Globally we are witnessing some ecclesiological megatrends. • The traditional confessional churches are in decline, sometimes dramatically. • Individual congregations that very consciously put all their efforts and money in one direction can experience a moderate success. • There is an overwhelming worldwide dominance of independent churches, often buying in to a prosperity gospel. • The most important megatrend is growth — not in agreement, as they expected in the ecumenical movement — but in syncretism between different Christian as well as other religious traditions. 7

Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen These megatrends are the results of transformations of which the most important is that Christianity is, as already mentioned, moving to the South. As this becomes true, it is natural to ask: What will happen to Christianity in the North? What makes the development in Europe quite dramatic is the enormous loss of knowledge and practice of Christian tradition during the past fifty years. Whereas religious/Christian commitment was previously found in many places, in the church, in the school, in society, and in the home, a consequence of secularization is that religion has become a private matter and Christianity merely a church matter. The development can be seen as a movement • • • • • • • • from orthodoxy to orthopraxy from division of confessions to division of religions from defense of secularization to defense of faith from absoluteness to universality to particularity from “fixed” forms of religion to “loose” spirituality from official and professional thinking to authenticity and presence from conversion and re-Christianization to a comeback of the witness from habit to choice

In a pluralistic society the traditional communities break down and the individual is left quite alone and unprotected. As the segmentation continues, individualization becomes more pronounced, and thus it is more difficult to outline the commonalities that can function as bridge builders. Christian mission therefore has two options for addressing this new situation constructively: to offer community as a critical alternative to individualism or to strengthen and equip the individual to be better able to cope with a still more complex reality. This empowerment might in the end help individuals unite with other people and enable them to create new communities. One cannot imagine a future for humankind without community and communion. Options for ecclesial reaction to the current developments seem to include: • arguing from Christianity’s historical role and cultural influence in order to preserve and revive what remains • offering to be the civic religious actor by lowering the traditional dogmatic identity markers in order to continue to embrace the nation 8

Church and Mission Engaging Plurality • developing committed missional communities in order to act as a catalyst for personal discipleship When culture is secularized and the churches marginalized, it is natural to assume that this is the beginning of the end of Christianity. And this assumption seems to be right when talking about established Christianity in its Constantinian shape. But there are signs that this situation can develop into a renewal movement within the church. Such a renewal movement could mean a final farewell to Constantinian Christianity and to the concept that this is the ideal model of the church’s position in society. A static church model like that does not fit well with the fluid modernity and dynamic situation of the church in today’s globalized society. It is therefore necessary to regain an understanding of the church as a missional community, which is constantly on the move, bringing a message that it finds vital to pass on. This includes the never-ending job of dealing with the fundamental issue of what the gospel is and how it is to be preached. What is the aim and practice of the church according to the gospel? How can the church adequately react to the current post-Christian situation? In other words, the cultural captivity that the churches have gotten into must be abandoned, and it must be seriously reconsidered — in the light of the missional experiences of the early Christian congregations — who Jesus truly is, in order to spread the gospel. Just as the reformers claimed that the church should be constantly reformed, the advocates of the missional church claim that the church always needs conversion to do mission. This renewal movement in post-Constantinian/post-Christendom contexts might have to materialize as a church in “exile,” with Christians realizing that they are pilgrims and “resident aliens.” Paramount still, however, is the missio Dei perspective — that we are sent, not in order to save the message and save ourselves until the “end time,” but to the world.

Happy End? — Rationalizing Plurality
part iv — the future of missiology Missiology is a discipline in the making. Its object — mission — has bad press, and there is no consensus about the actual content of this object. Missiology is stretched between two “publics”: the secular academia and the church; furthermore, specialization and diversification threaten to splinter the discipline. At the same time global experiences query the Enlightenment reductionism of


Viggo Mortensen and Andreas Østerlund Nielsen Western missiology. What will the future bring? As the trend to do missiology as historical and empirical descriptive studies increasingly dissatisfies, it seems that the outcome will be a polarization — following the opposite paths laid out by Graf and Hauerwas in this volume — as the discipline regains its selfconfidence. Either local missiologies will follow a secularistic normativity and evolve into interreligious studies, or they will establish symbiosis with ecclesial mission praxis as missional formation and facilitator of learning communities. However, both will — though separate undertakings with incompatible ends — benefit from mutual criticism, which is the hoped-for outcome of this work. In missiology a multiplicity of reactions to the exploding cultural, political, and religious plurality can be observed. Sometimes “the others” have been considered as either false or subordinate in relation to Christianity’s truth claim; at other times they have been included in the Christian system of thought. The theological typology is unfortunate, as the most used terms — “exclusivism,” “inclusivism,” and “pluralism” — are better used for demeaning others than for describing actual positions. The term “exclusivism” insinuates fundamentalism, “inclusivism” syncretism or imperialism, and “pluralism” relativism. This speaks in favor of some hesitation, taking the time to actually listen to the various positions and to sort out anew the involved issues. Whether this will lead to “Christocentric pluralism,” “universalistic particularism,” or quite different designations is still unsettled. When a society lacks consensus regarding fundamental orientation or organization, each group — and each individual — is called to give account for the convictions on which his or her acts are based. Religion cannot be a purely private matter, but must always be a factor in social discourse. The challenge facing theology now is to develop a theology open to plurality, i.e., a theology that can embrace plurality without indulging in fundamentalism, syncretism, or relativism; a theology able to enter the net of relations characterized by plurality and formulate and speak out of a new identity in order to gain the communicative competence that takes the tension between plurality and particularity seriously, while at the same time making one’s own point of view plausible compared to other points of view. Plurality does not necessarily dispute the unity in Christ. The core of the Christian faith becomes the faithful witness. This testimony is based on the firm conviction that the gospel message is true but that the testimony cannot by itself convince others of this truth. From the perspective of theology, only God can do so. The overall present multireligious situation calls us back to the center. This is also the call that is heard in the current ecumenical endeavors. Theol10

Church and Mission Engaging Plurality ogy must once again return to its sources, which are the Scriptures and Jesus. Now must be the time for rereading the Scriptures and repeating Bonhoeffer’s well-known question: “Who is Christ for us today?” When we are called to the center, Christ, we are at the same time embedded in a story that proclaims a universal hope: that this is meant to be for everybody. That is the point of departure for Christian mission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-19).