Sunday, January 14, 2007

Overseas Mission ... in New Haven

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, the novice class is back on the road, heading up I-95 some 300 miles to New Haven, CT to participate in a week long conference/seminar/class at the Overseas Ministry Studies Center, which, according to this brochure (warning: PDF link) is a kind of non-denominational Protestant mission training center -- "to provide the best in residential programs for the renewal of missionaries and international church leaders, advancement of mission scholarships through research and publication and continuing education in cross-cultural Christian ministries."

The entire month of Janurary there are number of workshops on overseas mission, "Constrained by Jesus' Love: Christian Mission Today". We are going to participate in week three, which focuses on "Culture, Values and Worldview: Anthropology for Mission Practice." The week long seminars are lead by Dr. Darrell L. Whiteman, of The Mission Society (A World Wesleyan Partnership, based in Norcross GA), who "will help us understand both the 'Other' and ourselves as we encounter unexpected insights gained in cross-cultural mission." Some of the workshops in earlier weeks looked really interesting (For instance, "The Ministry of Reconciliation in Muslim Contexts", "Prophetic Dialogue: One Roman Catholic Approach to Mission Today" and "Mission in the Orthodox Tradition: Lessons from Albania.") -- however, I guess we're going to learn something about cross-cultural dialogue/exchange/mission. Paulists are missionaries -- to North America.

I'm actually quite looking forward to this -- I've had opportunities to talk with several (mainly evangelical Protestant) missionaries one-on-one. I'm quite excited about being in a milieu, which, at least on paper, seems ecumenically sensitive and serious about the Great Commission.

(Of course, last year, according to one of my seminarian brothers, they encountered a young lady who was on her way to bring Christ to Poland ... Hmm.)

(I just noticed that there is a pretty extensive reading list in the conference brochure. I haven't heard of any of these books ... oh well. I think I'll prepare by reading Ad Gentes again.)

(Some more parenthitical thoughts: it will be also interesting to be among people who might not quite share the same sense of the "eternal fate" of the unbaptized as the Catholic Church -- at least in the light of Nostra Aetate. I'm looking forward to some fruitful conversations and dilogue!)

Just to get a flavor for things, here's a selection from the editorial from the last issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, a publication of the OMSC,
Several of the articles in this issue relate directly to the extraordinary World Missionary Conference convened in Edinburgh from June 14 to 23, 1910. At that time, Europe’s global hegemony was unrivaled, and old Christendom’s self-assurance had reached its peak. That the nations whose professed religion was Christianity should have come to dominate the world seemed not at all surprising, since Western civilization’s inner élan was thought to be Christianity itself.

The Great War of 1914–18 soon plunged the “Christian” nations into one of the bloodiest and most meaningless paroxysms of state-sanctioned murder in humankind’s history of pathological addiction to violence and genocide. At least for European missionaries, the war exposed the naïveté of missionary apologetics. Missionaries were unable to offer any credible rejoinder to the charge that the West neither believed nor practiced what the Bible actually taught.

Christopher Anderson’s article on the 1919 Methodist Missionary Fair is a reminder that although old Christendom’s claim to moral superiority had been exposed as a farce, it would take some time before U.S. missionaries began to reach similar conclusions about their own nation. But within the fifty years following the Second World War, profound uncertainty arose concerning the moral legitimacy of America’s global economic and military modus operandi, fueled by the nation’s ethically indefensible and militarily disastrous escapades in Central America, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Only now, when it may be too late, have Christians on this continent—for long seeing nothing amiss in the unholy union between personal piety and blind nationalism—begun to sense the nation’s precarious position. U.S. Christians, at least in some quarters, seem increasingly troubled by the thought that their nation may be on its way to joining the long list of expired empires, each blinded by hubris, deluded by self-absorption, addicted to exploitation, and—if need be—determined to wreak destruction on those who stand in its way.
Ok, I'm officially psyched about this now! :-)

Next week, incidentally, is also the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Please keep us, and this meeting in your prayers as well.

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