Friday, July 29, 2022

Recommended Reading: 100 Years of Methodism in East Congo

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Methodist missionaries in Tunda in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was the beginning of Methodism in what is now the East Congo Episcopal Area. Earlier this month, the East Congo Episcopal Area hosted a centenary celebration, with all four Congolese bishops as well as many other guests attending. For more on that celebration and the history of Methodism in East Congo, see this article (in German) from the Swiss United Methodist website and the videos posted to the East Congo Episcopal Area Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Thomas Kuhn, Missiology, and World Christianity, Part III

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

Over the past two weeks, I have described the emergence of the current dominant paradigm within the academic field of missiology, its relationship to the field of World Christianity, and some reasons why there may be a paradigm shift on the way in missiology, in part because of developments within World Christianity. In this post, I will reflect on what it would mean for missiology to undergo a paradigm shift.

First, a paradigm shift represents a time of crisis for an academic field, but not necessarily the end of that field. When the colonial mission paradigm collapsed, it threatened to discredit the field of missiology as a whole, and indeed the field lost a good deal of prestige, funding, and positions. But missiology adopted a new paradigm and reemerged into another very productive period of scholarship, helping give birth to World Christianity. Thus, it is important to make a distinction between a field and its reigning paradigm, though there are of course tight connections between the two.

If it is true that missiology is facing a paradigm shift, some might wonder what comes next? Honestly, I do not know. I have yet to see anything that is a clear contender for a new paradigm for missiology. I can think of some possibilities, but I have no confidence that any of these would achieve a level of dominance within the field.

The first such possibility is that a new paradigm of missiology would emerge not from the Western academy but from the Majority World. While the inculturation paradigm was developed and advanced in part by missiologists from the developing world (such as Lamin Sanneh), it had its roots in responding to crises in Western Christianity related to the collapse of the colonial paradigm. Perhaps a new way of thinking about mission that responds primarily to the needs and self-understanding of the church in the Global South will become dominant in the Global North as well.

Another possibility is that new technology or new research techniques will open up new possibilities for missiological research, leading to a new paradigm. If this comes to pass, the Boston University Center for Global Christianity and Mission China Historical Christian Database might be a representation of the sorts of big data computing approaches that would allow for new types of research addressing new questions and yielding new assumptions about missiology. It is important to distinguish between new tools and new assumptions about the field, but the former can influence the latter.

A third possibility is that the increasingly severe environmental crisis caused by global climate change will force a significant re-thinking of Christian mission and its study. In this possibility, a new paradigm of missiology would emerge that sought to distance itself from eco-recklessness and instead centered care for God’s creation (human and non-human). This would parallel the breakdown of the colonial mission paradigm, which was unable to reckon with the historic harm caused by colonialism, and the emergence of the inculturation paradigm, which crafted a vision for Christian mission that affirmed all cultures.

Moreover, there is also the possibility that no new paradigm will emerge, or at least no single dominant paradigm. While missiology is a relatively small discipline, large disciplines like anthropology and history have room within them for multiple intellectual paradigms.

There is also the possibility of the withering of the field of missiology in the face of challenges to its current paradigm. Areas of human knowledge and academic disciplines are not guaranteed to continue.

In the English-speaking world, the field of philology has largely (though not entirely) been supplanted by linguistics, which continues some of the insights of philology but goes beyond them as well and has become a much larger field within academia. It is possible that World Christianity could supplant missiology in the same way.

Another analogy might be the field of geography, which continues, but in a diminished state from the level of attention, prestige, funding, and positions it enjoyed in the early 20th century. Missiology could similarly continue, but with less general interest in its work.

Ultimately, questions about the future of missiology and its dominant paradigm come down to two:

First, does the field continue to generate interesting conversations?

Continuing a paradigm involves both fidelity to core assumptions and the ability to apply those assumptions in new, interesting, and innovative ways. At the ASM conference this year, a friend remarked of a presentation, “That’s the same old thing I’ve been hearing for 30 years.” Normal science is productive when it extends the insights of an intellectual paradigm and applies them to help make sense of more phenomena. A sense that a paradigm is “played out” would diminish it.

Boredom is one threat to a paradigm. Confusion is another. According to Thomas Kuhn, paradigms break down when they no longer effectively serve as framing devices to make sense of the data. In this way, missiology would no longer generate interesting conversations if the assumptions of its dominant paradigm could no longer make sufficient sense of what Christians experience of the church, the world, and the relation between the two. That is essentially what happened at the end of the colonial paradigm, and that collapse threatened the field of missiology as a whole. Such confusion makes interesting conversations difficult.

Second, are there the resources to sustain the people and places (physical and intellectual) committed to having conversations enabled by the paradigm?

That cast of people may change, the places they work may shift, and as the past two and a half years have shown us, even how they have conversations may take new forms. But conversations don’t happen without people and a way to connect them.

For an academic field to be vibrant, it needs a critical mass of people to carry it forward. Those people need employment in positions related to the field. Such positions might extend beyond the academy, as is especially true in missiology, but it is hard to have a vibrant academic field of hobbyists. The people engaged in that field also need conferences, publications, lecture series, and the like to exchange ideas and research funding, libraries, and other resources to generate new ideas.

Of course, it is easy to catastrophize and to see in every change tremors of an on-coming disaster. But changes do matter, and changes in the world, in the church, and in the academy do impact disciplines such as missiology and their reigning intellectual paradigms. Asking where the field is going and how to keep it healthy are a useful exercise for academic disciplines.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Jonathan McCurley: FoodLife - Life and Food at the Asian Rural Institute in Japan, Part I

Today's post is by Rev. Jonathan McCurley. Rev. McCurley is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church serving through Global Ministries as a missionary in the community life of the Asian Rural Institute in Nasushiobara, Japan. This post is part of an occasional series on food and mission.

“Kids, it`s time to eat! Get dried off and come in here!”

Those were words I fondly remember my nana saying when my siblings and I would stay with her and my grandfather in the summer as children. Coming in from the backyard pool, a table spread with her wonderful cooking would be prepared there on the back porch.

I also remember that behind the pool, there was always a small garden that my nana kept up and would even ask for help in weeding or harvesting. I remember picking the tomatoes or cucumbers together with my nana and felt such pride at the harvest.

Little did I know as a child that my nana was teaching me about much more than delicious tomatoes or the importance of eating together. As an adult I have come to know that actually, in her own way, she was teaching my siblings and I about the importance of food to our lives.

Food is something that brings people together and creates a time for us to share with one another. We do not only share the fruit of the harvest though, sharing food also often becomes the means for us to share about our life with one another.

Fast forward twenty some years to Japan and a young couple getting married and moving to Nasushiobara, a small city found right outside of the outskirts of metropolitan Tokyo. Here I found myself at the Asian Rural Institute.

The Asian Rural Institute (ARI) is legally a technical school located in Eastern Japan, about 100 miles outside of Tokyo in Tochigi prefecture, but in reality, it is much more than that. It is a vision, it is a process, it is a work of repentance and reconciliation, and it is a community. Founded in response to requests from Christians in Asia, ARI brings people from around the world together to live and work together, seeking to build a world where all may live together.[1]

At the center of the life of ARI is God, the giver of life, and the creation that He so graciously gives. People at ARI learn that living together is not human centered, but at the core living together is about relationships. It is about our relationship with God, our relationship with other humans and our relationship with all created things.

At ARI, this is called the three loves and is the focus of all that happens.[2] Much of the process of ARI is learning how to share love. In a practical sense, it is how to create food that will give life and how to live within and with the creation that God has put all around us.

To understand the process of creating food that sustains life, ARI has a unique understanding, that is a term coined as “foodlife.” The process of foodlife then is not called agriculture or farming, but foodlife work.

“Foodlife is a special word used at ARI to express the reality that food and life cannot be separated; both depend upon each other. God has given us the gift of creation so that we can sustain our lives by making food. Human beings cannot survive without food, so we work to sustain life through a healthy relationship with nature. At ARI people make an effort to create foodlife in which the soil becomes richer as food is produced and human relationships become more beautiful.

“In fact, it is a joyful experience for community members when they can produce food through their labor in the morning and evening. They also gather to receive the food, giving thanks to God and to the people who labor to produce and prepare the food. Foodlife believes that when we enjoy a meal together of the food we produced and prepared, then we can experience the blessings of God and the heart of the community.”[3]

What does this look like? At ARI, the food we eat is the food we grow on the farm. Over 90% of the food we eat together, we grow together, meaning that we value a high rate of food self-sufficiency. To do this, over 60 varieties of crops and vegetables are planted, and the community keeps livestock - primarily pigs, chickens and goats.

Our foodlife is about cooking, processing and preparing meals as much as it is about growing crops or raising livestock. In fact, members of the ARI community spend one hour of foodlife work every morning and evening, dividing themselves into several groups.

Daily morning and evening foodlife work is managed by all members of ARI including participants, staff, volunteers and even visitors on a rotational basis. Waking up at 6:30 every morning, foodlife work happens before breakfast, facilitated by the leadership of the Participants of the Rural Leaders Training Program. Some go to the farm to cultivate land, some harvest vegetables, some feed livestock, while some cook breakfast.

All of this work is hard, but it is spiritually rewarding because it is all for the sake of the entire community to live healthily and peacefully.

The basic philosophy of foodlife at ARI is the full utilization of space and resources that we have. It also involves the integration of all parts of foodlife. For example, we utilize pig manure as an energy source and fertilizer, dry leaves for nursery beds and leaf compost, kitchen garbage for animal feed and compost.

We regard the forest as an important part of foodlife as well. While the forest protects land from landslides, soil erosion, typhoons and earthquakes, it provides us with fuel, dry leaves, natural pesticides, microorganisms, wild vegetables, and timber as well as increasing the biodiversity in nature. This is essential to create a balanced eco-system. This is the philosophy behind foodlife.

Actively participating in foodlife, the whole cycle of food production and consumption, helps to understand the philosophy, practical skills, and knowledge of what many would call organic farming, as well as the importance of food and food self-sufficiency, and the dignity of labor.

But more, it gives the community of ARI a sense of wholeness. The cycle of preparing soil, sowing seeds, saving seeds, caring for, harvesting, eating, sharing, and recycling clearly shows us where we are from, how life is sustained and where it will end. This gives a sense of security and a meaningful existence on this earth.

As I think back to my childhood, I realize that helping in the garden and eating together the food we harvested was not just a job to do or a habit that was important. Actually, I can now see how my nana was teaching me and my siblings about foodlife and what it means to be part of God’s creation and in relationship with others. I am thankful now more than ever for those experiences and the meaning found in them.

[1] More information about the founding of ARI can be found on page 2 and 3 of 40 Years of Walking with Grassroots Leaders

[2] The three love movement is said to have originated with Kristen Kold (1816-1870) of Denmark and spread throughout Japan through the Ainokai (love farming group). An explanation in English of one version of the three loves and be found here:

[3] This is the explanation offered in section B, Curriculum, of the Training Handbook of the Asian Rural Institute, which is used to orient members of the community as they arrive and begin their stay. A copy can be requested from the Asian Rural Institute by contacting

Friday, July 22, 2022

Recommended Reading: Africa Initiative Calls for Episcopal Elections

Following a meeting in Nairobi in May, the Africa Initiative released a statement last month that, among other things, calls for episcopal elections to be held this year. The several page document, which reflects discussions held at its Nairobi meeting, reiterates its opposition to any form of accommodation with those accepting of homosexuality, reiterates its disappointment in the further postponement of General Conference to 2024, and explains its invitation of leaders of the Global Methodist Church to present to the group as a form of open information sharing. It also reiterates support of the Protocol, though there are separate indications ([1], [2]) that there is some dissension within the Africa Initiative about the strategy of waiting for the Protocol to pass in 2024.

The most significant new development within the Africa Initiative statement is a call at the end to hold episcopal elections in the three African central conferences by the end of the year. The statement asserts that not holding such elections "would be considered by us as marginalization; and a gross denial of the rights of the UMC in Africa to exercise its spiritual democracy by electing its new episcopal leaders as will the jurisdictions in the United States."

The Africa Initiative's point about equality among the regions of the globe is certainly well taken. The episcopacy and episcopal elections do not function the same everywhere in the world, raising the question of whether that represents contextualization, inequality, or both.

There may, however, be additional motives for the Africa Initiative to push for episcopal elections. Three out of the four bishops set to retire in Africa are criticized within the Africa Initiative document for alleged mistreatment of African United Methodists aligned with US Traditionalists. Thus, pushing for episcopal elections may also be a way for the Africa Initiative to try to elect episcopal leadership that will treat its members more favorably.

The decision about whether to call episcopal elections in Africa ultimately rests with the central conference, in conversation with the African bishops themselves and international partners who typically support the meeting of African central conferences.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Thomas Kuhn, Missiology, and World Christianity, Part II

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

In my last post, I described the emergence of the current dominant paradigm within missiology, which I called the inculturation paradigm, and the ways in which it has been tied to the rise of World Christianity as a field of studies, with inculturation paradigm missiology serving as both midwife and beneficiary of the rise of World Christianity.

In this post, I would like to explore four reasons why change may be welling up within missiology and World Christianity. I will reflect on the significance of these four reasons in a future post.

Generational change
It has now been a half century since the emergence of the inculturation paradigm within missiology and a third of a century since the emergence of World Christianity as a field of study. Academics often have long work lives, but given the amount of time that has passed, it is perhaps not surprising that many of the founding figures in these movements have died or retired, several within just the last few years.

This year’s Yale-Edinburgh Conference made special note of the recent deaths of Lamin Sanneh and Andrew Walls, founders of that conference. It felt tragically significant that the president of ASM this past year, Sister Madge Karecki, passed away just a couple weeks after the annual conference.

Looking to publications, the volume Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity came out in 2009, and a quarter of the authors included had already died at that time. In the 13 years since, all but a couple of the authors included have retired and/or died, several of them hitting those milestones in just the past two years.

Generational change does not necessarily mean a paradigm shift. Normal science can continue with members of younger generations and often does. Still, each new generation poses new questions. New generations of scholars will not have had the same intellectual and life experiences that shaped the perspectives of previous scholars. And younger scholars have the luxury of taking for granted insights that had to be hard won by previous generations. All these factors can set the ground for a paradigm shift.

Change in global social context
If there have been changes in personnel, there have also been changes in the broader historical contexts in which missiological and World Christianity scholarship proceeds. The inculturation paradigm of missiology was deeply shaped by the rise of postcolonialism in the 1960s. World Christianity burst onto the scene at a time when secular interest in globalization and connections across difference was high. Both these scholarly paradigms bear the mark of the era in which they were born.

While the world is still shaped by the legacies of colonialism and still operates in many ways on the infrastructure of globalization, the global context has also changed. It is hard to say where exactly the world is heading, but the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism in many contexts over the past decade, the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ever-growing existential threat of climate disaster make this historical moment unique from that of 30 or 60 years ago.

I do not pretend to have insight into how exactly these developments will shape the future of World Christianity studies or missiology, but it would be surprising if they did not do so in significant ways.

Evolutions within World Christianity
When World Christianity first arose as a field, available information was limited on Christianity in non-Western contexts. This made it relatively easy for early scholars in the field to compile surveys of Christianity around the world or to work across contexts, since the amount of available information to do so could be digested by a single person.

As World Christianity has grown as a field, however, the amount of available information on Christianity in specific contexts has increased significantly to the point where it is quite difficult for a single scholar to be well-versed in even the major scholarly works on Christianity in multiple contexts. Robert Frykenberg has opined that the histories of Christianity just in India alone are too complex and varied to address comprehensively in one book.

In light of this profusion of scholarship, the tendency in recent years has been for World Christianity to function increasingly as a collection of Christian area studies. Chinese Christianity studies is one such significant example, as noted at the Yale-Edinburgh conference this year. The study of Chinese Christianity is both connected to World Christianity and also an increasingly distinct field in its own right.

This trend towards area studies creates a tension, though. World Christianity has always had a comparative element do it. The scholars originating the field were committed to the notion that there are commonalities of the Christian tradition across contexts worth investigating and speaking of, that there is still such a thing as Christianity and not just discrete Christianities.

As scholarship on individual contexts proliferates, what is the coherence of World Christianity as a discipline that operates across contexts? This question was raised more than once at the Yale-Edinburgh Conference this year.

While such questions get at fundamental commitments within the field of World Christianity, I think they represent the normal development and maturing of an academic field, though that process of maturation may give rise to new paradigms of thinking about the study of World Christianity.

Yet as the field seeks to understand itself anew, it raises the question: Does World Christianity need missiology anymore? World Christianity got its start through the commitments of missiologists to both Christian universality and cultural particularity. If those two commitments are balanced in new configurations in the field of World Christianity, what implications will that have for missiology? And what is missiology if it is no longer midwife to and beneficiary of World Christianity?

Challenges in the organizational ecology of missiology
Academic fields and paradigms within those fields flourish when they have the resources (including positions, funds, and publication opportunities) to produce a vibrant amount of scholarship. They decline in tandem with a decline in such resources.

In this regard, the general decline of Christianity in North American portends poorly for the future of North American missiology as an academic field rooted in the church. Fewer North American Christians means fewer resources for the study of missiology, whether that’s because there are fewer seminary positions decided to missiology, fewer persons working in mission and also conducting academic research, or a smaller audience for missiological work.

Academic publishing across the board has become more difficult in many ways, but that applies also to publishing within missiology. There are expanded publication opportunities with newer presses such as Wipf and Stock or William Carey, but some established presses such as Orbis are not doing nearly the number of books related to missiology they were 20 years ago. While the total number of books across publishers might be the same, there are implications for the prestige of the field and therefore the ability of scholars working within it to get tenure.

Examining the American Society of Missiology’s membership gives another perspective on this trend. While the total membership of ASM is up relative to what it was a decade ago, that masks shifts within its membership. The number of independent Protestant (e.g., evangelical) members is up, but the number of Catholic participants has dwindled significantly, and the number of conciliar (e.g., mainline) Protestants is flat at best. Catholic and mainline missiology did not collapse in the 1970s and 80s, but that collapse may only have been delayed.

Even within the world of evangelicalism, there are signs of a reduced organizational ecology to support missiology. There are declining enrollments, even in some evangelical seminaries, or at least in their programs related to missiology. Programs, even at flagship schools, have been renamed or reshuffled, some of which reflects the ever-changing nature of higher education administration, and some of which represents declining or at least shifting interest among students.

The question of student interest hearkens back to the first point about generational change: Are new generations continuing to find the current paradigm and discipline of missiology a fruitful approach to satisfy their questions about the world?

Monday, July 18, 2022

Recommended Reading: Global Visa Inequality

When the Commission on General Conference announced the further postponement of General Conference to 2024, access to visas was a major reason they cited for the postponement. This United Methodist experience with visa troubles makes a recent NPR article about the challenges of obtaining visas for global health experts from the Global South to attend professional conferences therefore relevant. Read in light of the UMC's experiences, the article highlights several lessons that the UMC would do well to consider long-term:

First, issues with visas are a constant challenge from people from developing countries, not just during the pandemic.

Second, issues with visas are systematic, not just limited to The United Methodist Church. While the UMC can do a better or worse job of supporting visa-seekers, obtaining visas to the United States will always be hard.

Third, issues with visas for people from developing countries apply not only to entry into the United States but to entry into most wealthy nations. 

Fourth, having conference outside of rich countries can be a real route to better representation.

The article notes, "When [Dr. Ulrick Sidney] Kanmounye and a research team from Harvard University's Program in Global Surgery and Social Change looked at publicly available data, they found that conferences hosted in low- and middle-income countries were more likely to have diverse participants. In addition, 'hosting a conference in Latin America, Africa or Asia significantly increased participation of researchers from the region and minimally impacted high-income country attendance,' he says."

Organizers are already working on securing a spot for General Conference in 2024, and it may be too late to change that location. But this article is a reminder that the location of General Conference matters. Especially as the UMC becomes more internationally diverse, choosing a location that ensures the fullest participation of delegates from all countries will be increasingly important, even if that location is no longer in the United States.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Recommended Viewing: Bishop Everald Galbraith Interview

Bishop Everald Galbraith, Connexional President of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and Americas, was recently in Ireland at the Conference meeting of the Methodist Church in Ireland. While he was there, Heather Morris of the MCI interviewed him for the MCI's "Living Wholeheartedly" podcast. The podcast is available in video format. Over the course of the interview, Bishop Galbraith touched upon several things that may be of interest to readers of this blog: the international connections that exist between the MCCA, MCI, and Methodist Church in Britain, his cross-cultural experiences as a young adult living in Ireland, the challenges that the MCCA is facing, and his hopes for the future of Methodism in the Caribbean and Americas. The interview is approximately a half hour in length.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Thomas Kuhn, Missiology, and World Christianity, Part I

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries.

I had the pleasure to attend both the American Society of Missiology and (virtually) the Yale-Edinburgh Conference last month. Not only were both events good chances to reconnect with colleagues and learn more about topics in the field, they were also chances to reflect on the fields of missiology and World Christianity as a whole. Indeed, the theme for the Yale-Edinburgh Conference was “World Christianity: Legacy and State of the Field.”

Both conferences helped confirm for me the sense I have that these intertwined academic fields may be on the precipice of a paradigm shift.

The term paradigm shift comes from Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In the book, Kuhn argues that scientific knowledge alternates between periods of paradigm shifts, where new insights significantly reconfigure how people think about an area of human knowledge, and periods of normal science, where researchers work to extend the insights that have been established in the most recent paradigm shift. Most of the time, scientific work occurs under conditions of normal science.

Kuhn’s work has been endlessly debated and discussed, and his application of these insights to the hard sciences has been critiqued, but Kuhn’s arguments have had staying power as a helpful description of how knowledge production in many fields occurs.

In order to think about whether the fields of missiology and/or World Christianity may be on the precipice of a paradigm shift, it will be helpful to briefly review the history of those fields and recent developments within them.

For the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Christian mission was firmly grounded in what might be called the colonial paradigm. The colonial paradigm had its roots in the patronato/padroado system for Catholics and in the system of voluntary missionary societies for Protestants, most notably as proclaimed by William Carey.

In this colonial paradigm, the spread of Christianity, the propagation of European civilization, and the extension of European political influence or control were seen as mutually supportive developments. While individual missionaries held a variety of attitudes towards colonialism and civilizing mission, and while there were certainly tensions among these three strands, in general, the three coincided more often than not.

There were also other, minority paradigms that existed alongside the colonial paradigm (one might talk of the Riccian paradigm of cultural accommodation, perhaps), but the colonial paradigm was the dominant one for Christian mission for centuries.

When missiology as the study of mission emerged, the mission it was studying was largely this colonial model of mission. Thus, while many missiologists were more critical of colonial and civilizing forces than missionaries were, because the mission they were studying was colonial mission, early missiology may fairly be thought of as colonial missiology.

By the middle of the twentieth century, though, the colonial paradigm of mission and missiology had run into the same problems as colonialism as a whole: increasing pushback from the Majority World and increasing critique from within North Atlantic societies. The colonial paradigm of mission also faced the additional challenge of declining support from increasingly less religious home bases, though this was more a challenge in Europe than in the United States.

These challenges were particularly acute for mainline Protestants and Catholics, among whom missiology as a whole faced the prospects of a full-on collapse. For a variety of reasons, these challenges were less a threat to evangelical Protestants. Evangelical Protestants were less vulnerable to critiques not only because they were less receptive but also because some evangelicals’ practices of mission differed from mainline Protestants and Catholics in ways that made postcolonial critiques of the paradigm less applicable.

By the early 1970s, though, there was an emerging alternative to the colonial paradigm of missiology: the inculturation model of missiology. This model of missiology rejects the notion that conversion to Christian necessarily entailed adopting European cultural habits and instead affirms the value of non-European cultures as homes for the gospel. This model of missiology is very interested in questions surrounding the relationship between the Christian message and various human cultures. Moreover, it acknowledges the contributions to the spread and development of Christianity by non-Western Christians. It also acknowledges that Western cultures are not fully Christian and is open to seeing the West as a mission field. This model values evangelism, especially cross-cultural evangelism, as a significant form of mission, but also largely understands mission in holistic terms as involving aspects beyond direct verbal proclamation.

For most of the 1970s and 80s, those putting forward this model were a small group that had to resist both those who were still committed to the colonial model of mission and those who thought that mission necessarily implied the colonial model and therefore should die completely. Yet groups like the American Society of Missiology and the International Association of Mission Studies and nodes like the Overseas Ministry Study Center fostered the growth of this new paradigm.

By the late 1980s and early 1990s, this paradigm of missiology was the established model in academic missiology circles and among many mission practitioners. It was embraced ecumenically across mainline or conciliar Protestants, Catholics, and evangelical or independent Protestants. The American Society of Missiology was characterized by careful balancing of these three groups, all of whom bought into the model. Given other theological disagreements among these groups, the level of agreement around missiology is a significant testament to the power of this new paradigm.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, scholars working within this inculturation paradigm of missiology helped give birth to the field of World Christianity. The affirmation of various cultures as proper homes of Christianity that was fundamental to this paradigm led to an increasing awareness of the significance of various forms of Christian expression around the world. World (or Global) Christianity emerged as a field of enquiry directed at studying Christianity in various contexts around the world, not just in terms of its spread to that context or other forms of mission, but in terms of the totality of the Christian life and experience in that context.

The birth of World Christianity as a field energized missiology, which served as midwife to the new field. Developing and extending the field of World Christianity because a major concern for those operating within missiology. There was significant overlap in terms of scholars and networks. While World Christianity has since encompassed scholars who do not consider themselves missiologists, almost all missiologists in the past generation would also say that they have an interest in World Christianity.

Not only were there obvious intellectual connections between the inculturation paradigm of mission and the field of World Christianity, the emergence of World Christianity re-injected legitimacy, funds, and academic positions into the field of missiology and allowed it to recover from the crash of the colonial paradigm. New opportunities for research, publication, and academic careers made World Christianity a growth field, and missiology rode World Christianity’s coattails towards renewed legitimacy and academic vibrancy.

Much of the last thirty years of scholarship within the fields of missiology and world Christianity have involved working out the fundamental questions and insights of this new inculturation paradigm about the relationships between human contexts and expressions of Christianity, including its spread across contexts, and the roles of Christians from all backgrounds in the development of the faith.

Having reviewed the development of the current paradigm of missiology and the field of World Christianity, in my next post, I’ll look at some of the reasons why there may be fault lines forming in the paradigmatic structures of these areas.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Recent Publications from the Association of Methodist Professors of Mission

This blog is a project of the Association of Methodist Professors of Mission (formerly United Methodist Professors of Mission), and it is important to engage with each other's scholarship. Thus, below is a list (including links where available) of recent missiological publications written by members of the Association of Methodist Professors of Mission. My apologies to anyone whose publications I have inadvertently omitted.

Several members contributed to the edited collection The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism: Emerging Trends From Everywhere to Everywhere, edited by David W. Scott and Darryl S. Stephens. Among those contributing were Taylor Walters Denyer ("Decolonizing Methodist mission partnerships"), Hendrik R. Pieterse ("The challenge of intercultural theology for Methodist theology in a global context"), and David W. Scott ("The economics of international mission"). Dana L. Robert contributed a foreword to the book. Philip Wingeier-Rayo has published a review of the book in the International Bulletin of Mission Research.

Peter J. Bellini published two books, The Cerulean Soul: A Relational Theology of Depression and The X-Manual: Exousia—A Comprehensive Handbook on Deliverance and Exorcism. He also contributed a chapter, "A global movement," to The Next Methodism: Theological, Social, and Missional Foundations for Global Methodism, edited by Kenneth J. Collins and Ryan N. Danker.

Paul W. Chilcote published Fill My Heart with Love: 30 Days of Prayer with Methodist Women. He also contributed a foreword to James A. Harnish's Finding Your Bearings: How Words That Guided Jesus through Crisis Can Guide Us.

Glory Dharmaraj published an article, "Social Change as Mission and Intersectional Sisterhood as Reflexive Influence: A Twin Story of United Methodist Women," in Methodist History.

Benjamin L. Hartley published an article with Robert A. Danielson and James Krabill in Missiology entitled "COVID-19 in missiological and historical perspective." He also published a review of Douglas D. Tzan's William Taylor and the Mapping of the Methodist Missionary Tradition in Methodist History.

Jack Jackson published a chapter, "Evangelism is crucial in the new Methodism," in The Next Methodism: Theological, Social, and Missional Foundations for Global Methodism, edited by Kenneth J. Collins and Ryan N. Danker.

Arun W. Jones published an edited collection, Christian Interculture: Texts and Voices from Colonial and Postcolonial Worlds. He also had a chapter, "The virtues of mission," appear in Methodist Mission at 200: Serving Faithfully Amid the Tensions by David W. Scott and Thomas Kemper.

Luther Oconer published a chapter, "A World Tour of Evangelism: Henry Clay Morrison’s Radical Holiness meets “Global Holiness,” 1909-10," in Holiness and Pentecostal Movements: Intertwined Pasts, Presents, and Futures, edited by David Bundy, Geordan Hammond, and David Sang-Ehil Han.

Hendrik R. Pieterse, in addition to his above-mentioned article in The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism, published a review of Context, Plurality, and Truth: Theology In World Christianities by Mika Vähäkangas in the journal Exchange.

Dana L. Robert published a chapter, "Mission Studies and World Christianity," in The Oxford Handbook of Mission Studies, edited by Kirsteen Kim, Knud Jørgensen, and Alison Fitchett-Climenhaga. She published the chapter "World Christianity as a revitalization movement" in World Christianity: History, Methodologies, Horizons, edited by Jehu Hanciles. Her article "From Missions to Mission to Beyond Missions: The Historiography of American Protestant Foreign Missions Since World War II" was chosen for inclusion in the second volume of Critical Readings in the History of Christian Mission, edited by Martha Frederiks and Dorottya Nagy.

David W. Scott, in addition to his above-mentioned involvement in The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism, published Methodist Mission at 200: Serving Faithfully Amid the Tensions, co-written with Thomas Kemper and including a contribution from Arun Jones. He also co-edited, with Daryl R. Ireland, Grace Y. May and Casely B. Essamuah, Unlikely Friends: How God Uses Boundary-Crossing Friendships to Transform the World, a festschrift in honor of Dana Robert.

Darrell Whiteman published two book reviews, one of Cultural Insights for Christian Leaders: New Directions for Organizations Serving God’s Mission in the International Bulletin of Mission Research and one of Brian Macdonald-Milne's Seeking Peace in the Pacific: The Story of Conflict and Christianity in the Central Solomon Islands in Missiology.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Recomended Reading: Swiss United Methodist gender pay survey

As it is in the United States, the pay differential between women and men in ministry has been a concern in the Swiss United Methodist Church for some time. However, in Switzerland that concern within the church is backed up by secular law. The Swiss Parliament passed a law in 2020 requiring companies with 100 or more employees to survey records and establish that they were providing equal pay for equal work.

After an extensive data analysis process, the results came back that the Swiss UMC paid men and women nearly equal - 2.7% less for women than men, which is within standard statistical variance. The Swiss report did not examine whether women and men were equally likely to hold various types of work, just whether they were equally compensation when performing the same type of work.

The Swiss report stands in marked contrast to similar studies in the United States. A General Commission on the Status and Role of Women report found that, in 2020, US clergywomen earned "11% less in salary, 11% less housing allowance, and 9% less parsonage amount than clergymen." The COSROW report found discrepancies across years of service and categories of clergy service, with women earning less as elders and deacons, full and provisional members, and serving in the UMC or another denomination (though the gap was smaller for clergy serving in other denominations). The only category where women earned more was as student local pastors. The gender pay gap also exists across jurisdictions in the United States.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

United Methodist bishops in global perspective

Today's post is by UM & Global blogmaster Dr. David W. Scott, Mission Theologian at the General Board of Global Ministries. The opinions and analysis expressed here are Dr. Scott's own and do not reflect in any way the official position of Global Ministries. This piece originally appeared as a commentary on the United Methodist News Service site and is republished here with permission.

Last month, United Methodists announced plans to hold episcopal elections in both the United States and in the Philippines. But those watching carefully may have noticed some significant differences in the two announcements.

Convening jurisdictional conferences to elect bishops in the United States required a ruling of the Judicial Council and an act of the entire Council of Bishops, and it led to a further Judicial Council ruling. The decision to convene the Philippines Central Conference to elect bishops was made by the Philippines College of Bishops without the involvement of the Judicial Council or the entire Council of Bishops.

Why the difference?

Furthermore, the United States and the Philippines are not the only areas of the world where bishops are slated to retire or past previously announced retirement dates. Why haven’t episcopal elections been called yet in Africa or in Europe?

The answer to these questions is rooted in the origins of the episcopacy in the central conferences and connects to broader issues in global polity in The United Methodist Church.

The history of missionary bishops
Early in the various traditions that now comprise The United Methodist Church, all bishops were “general superintendents” of the church, elected by the General Conference. No bishop had sole responsibility for a specific annual conference or group of annual conferences. Instead, all bishops itinerated among the annual conferences according to a mutually agreed upon schedule.

Liberia, the first area of Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) mission work outside North America, tested this system. Mission work in Liberia started in 1833 and by 1836, Liberia became a “missionary conference,” a new polity creation. The mission continued growing well, with a mix of white missionaries, Black missionaries and unordained local Black preachers leading the conference. Still, episcopal supervision for the mission became a major issue at the General Conference of 1852.

In response, Bishop Levi Scott was dispatched on a fact-finding trip to investigate how the denomination could best support the continued growth of the church in Liberia. It was the first time an American Methodist bishop had exercised episcopal supervision outside the territory of the United States. Among other activities, Bishop Scott ordained several indigenous preachers in Liberia.

One visit by a bishop did not settle the question of episcopal supervision, though, and in 1856, with the encouragement of both Bishop Scott and the Liberia Annual Conference, the Methodist Episcopal General Conference voted to allow the Liberia Annual Conference to elect a bishop whose jurisdiction would be “expressly limited to Africa.”

This decision was a significant departure from previous Methodist polity both in limiting the geographical scope of episcopal powers and in allowing a body other than General Conference to elect a bishop. It required amending the Third Restrictive Rule of the Methodist Episcopal Church Discipline. Some commentators in the church charged that it created a second class of bishops. Others believed it was necessary to provide episcopal supervision in a context that was far from and far different from the United States.

The plan was ratified by the annual conferences, and Liberia proceeded to elect Francis Burns, an African American missionary, as its missionary bishop in 1858 — the first Black Methodist bishop.

As Northern Methodists began to form other mission conferences elsewhere outside the United States in the latter half of the 19th century, they were incorporated into the pattern of itinerant superintendency in the United States. In 1864, the bishops and General Conference of the MEC agreed that a bishop from the United States would regularly travel to preside at sessions of mission conferences held outside the United States, a prospect that became much easier with the advent of steam travel.

The issue of episcopal supervision for missions outside the United States was hotly debated at Methodist Episcopal General Conferences in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1884, the General Conference itself — rather than the Liberia Annual Conference — elected William Taylor as a missionary bishop for Africa. Four years later, it elected James Thoburn missionary bishop for India and Malaysia. The move toward missionary bishops gained steam, and additional missionary bishops were elected by General Conferences through 1916.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, by contrast, would assign one or more of their bishops elected as general superintendents to reside overseas and supervise missionary work. That bishop might then later be re-assigned to supervise a portion of the church in the United States.

Different systems of episcopacy
In the 1920s, the MEC began phasing out the practice of missionary bishops. In 1928, it created an alternative: central conference bishops, elected by the central conferences and limited in episcopal powers to those central conferences. In essence, this was a return to the early form of missionary bishops created for Liberia. It recognized the desire for local autonomy in selecting leadership.

This new system required further amendment of the Third Restrictive Rule. However, the Committee on Judiciary (the predecessor of the Judicial Council) ruled that, with the new amendments, it was constitutional for General Conference to create a system of central conference bishops and further constitutional for central conferences to place additional requirements or limits on their bishops, including term limits, which did not exist for other Methodist Episcopal bishops.

This system of central conference bishops adopted by the MEC fit well with the ethos of episcopal regionalization that characterized the formation of The Methodist Church in 1939.

Due to regional and racial prejudices, the United States was carved into five geographic and one racial jurisdiction, which were given the authority to elect bishops who would then superintend within the boundaries of the jurisdiction that elected them. The MEC model of central conference bishops was continued in The Methodist Church. It was easy to see central conference bishops as analogous to jurisdictional bishops as leaders elected by and serving within a region of the church.

But this seeming analogy covers important distinctions between bishops elected by the jurisdictions and those elected by the central conferences, both historically and today. It took decades until central conference bishops were able to preside at General Conference and to participate regularly in the Council of Bishops. Early on, they were seen as a separate and, in most ways, secondary group of episcopal leaders.

Still today, differences exist between central conferences and jurisdictions when it comes to the timing and process of episcopal elections and the terms of episcopal service.

According to the church’s constitution (¶26), the Council of Bishops as a whole must set the date for jurisdictional conferences to meet and elect bishops. Central conferences can each determine their own date for meeting (¶30). The constitution further stipulates that episcopal elections happen “at such time and place as may be fixed by the General Conference for those elected by the jurisdictions and by each central conference for those elected by such central conference” (¶46).

This explains why the whole Council of Bishops needed to be involved in the call for jurisdictional elections this year, but not elections in the Philippines, and why some central conferences have called episcopal elections this year while others have not.

Once elected, the process for assigning bishops varies across the central conferences and jurisdictions.

The jurisdictions, the Philippines Central Conference and the Congo Central Conference all have multiple bishops who could be assigned anywhere in the region. The Germany Central Conference and Central and Southern Europe Central Conference have a single bishop who serves the entire central conference.

Most complicated are the Africa Central Conference, West Africa Central Conference, and Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conferences, in which bishops are elected by the central conference, but elected from an episcopal area to serve in that episcopal area. There is no rotation of bishops. Thus, many delegates in these central conferences vote on episcopal candidates whom they know will not directly lead them.

There are also variations in the length of terms bishops serve. In the United States and Congo, bishops serve for life. In the Philippines, bishops serve four-year terms and may be reelected for multiple terms. In Europe and the rest of Africa, bishops are elected to an initial term of four or eight years and then reelected, either to serve an additional term or for life. In the Philippines and Europe, it is possible for an elder to serve as bishop for a while and then go back to serving as an elder, no longer being a bishop.

Contemporary implications
These differences in episcopal election, assignment and terms of service among central conferences and between the central conferences and the jurisdictions have implications for both ecclesiology and practical polity.

Theologically speaking, one might ask, for instance, whether a term-limited episcopacy conveys the same ecclesiological understanding of episcopacy as a life-term episcopacy. Such questions are especially relevant in ecumenical conversations. However, since many ecumenical conversations occur on the national level, they often proceed with limited consideration for the variations of episcopacy across The United Methodist Church internationally. One book-length report on U.S. Lutheran-United Methodist dialogue about episcopacy, for instance, made no mention of central conference bishops.

In terms of the practice of polity, the present struggles over episcopal elections show the advantages of contextualization and the dangers of United States presumptions of normativity in polity.

Initially, the central conferences and their bishops had a sort of second-class status in the denomination because they were treated as exceptions to the standard, which was set in the United States. But in the long term, the value of local leadership and local decision-making embodied in the tradition of central conference bishops has proven a boon in the present pandemic conditions. The central conferences have more flexibility because they can make their own decisions about the timing and circumstances of their episcopal elections. In the Philippines and Europe, this local flexibility and local decision-making is frequently employed for other purposes, too.

The United States, however, has long been treated as the norm in United Methodist polity. That means that provisions about jurisdictional episcopal elections, along with many other matters, have been tied directly to the church’s central institutions, including the General Conference and the Council of Bishops. Because the U.S. context was seen as normative, these central institutions could deal with U.S. concerns directly rather than delegating them to a subsidiary authority, as with the central conferences.

The problem in this setup for U.S. United Methodism, though, is that when the central institutions of the church don’t or can’t function — for instance, when General Conference is unable to meet because of a global pandemic — there is no subsidiary authority to make decisions that can be more flexible and respond to unforeseen circumstances.

U.S. United Methodism is hampered by the lack of recognition of its own status as a distinct context requiring regional decision-making on at least some matters.

Currently, this polity weakness is manifesting itself in episcopal elections. That particular problem seems to have been solved for the moment, thanks in large part to the Judicial Council’s willingness to grant flexibility in the context of the pandemic. But the same problem of the lack of a subsidiary authority to make decisions for the U.S. context is likely to lead to further problems down the road.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Recommended Reading: Wespath on Food, Agriculture, and Biodiversity

Ryan McQueeney, Sustainable Investment Stewardship Analyst for Wespath, recently wrote a Wespath blog post entitled, "Why Investors Should Care About Food, Agriculture and Biodiversity." In the post, McQueeney explains the economic significance of the food and agriculture sector and therefore the sector's importance in Wespath's efforts to pursue a missional vision of "an economy that promotes environmental health, long-term prosperity for all and social cohesion." McQueeney then explains what investment strategies and approaches Wespath is taking in the areas of food and agriculture as part of their "impact investing program, which seeks the dual outcomes of market rates of return and measurable positive impact." This post may be of interest to readers who have been following the occasional series on this blog about food and mission.