Monday, January 23, 2023

The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism

Today’s blog post is adapted from the introduction of The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism: Emerging Trends from Everywhere to Everywhere, edited by David W. Scott and Darryl W. Stephens. The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism, initially published by Routledge in 2021, is newly out in a more affordable paperback version.

Why do we need another book about Methodist mission? Methodist and Wesleyan understandings and experiences of global mission have undergone significant changes in the past decade. We live in a world context much different than previously imagined. Much has shifted, with increased migration and nationalism, a growing recognition of impending environmental catastrophe, increased secularism in the West, and the continued growth of the church in the Majority World. These factors have reshaped the church and the world in which it is in mission.

The Practice of Mission in Global Methodism: Emerging Trends from Everywhere to Everywhere contributes to the ongoing development of Methodist mission by offering global perspectives on the theology and practice of mission and evangelism within a changing world context. A contemporary missiology must engage these new conditions in the world. There is a great need for new scholarship on mission and evangelism that brings together Methodist and Wesleyan voices from around the world to address pressing current topics in mission that transcend national borders.

This is an ambitious title for one volume. The word “practice” signals attention to the activities involved in mission, not just the theories behind it. Yet there are many forms of mission, from evangelism to health care, women’s empowerment to creation care, theological inculturation to education, and beyond. The term “global Methodism” signals a similarly wide purview. Methodism is present in some form on all six inhabited continents and across dozens of countries, cultures, and languages. This emphasis is reinforced by the phrase “from everywhere to everywhere” in the book’s subtitle. A frequently-used slogan at Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church, this phrase indicates that missionaries can come from any context and any context can be a site of mission. Significantly, the qualifier “emerging” signals the constructive, forward-looking orientation of this volume.

This book explores emerging trends within Methodist mission practice in four areas: global relationships, contextual engagement, education and formation, and discernment about the future of Methodist mission. These four areas structure the book into four sections, while overarching themes such as decolonization, the growth of Christianity in the global South, holistic mission, Wesleyan theology, evangelism, culture’s impact on theology, and the significance of collaborative relationships are addressed throughout. Other topics are present in two or three essays, such as women’s mission work, migration, creation care, peace, justice, health and healing, ecumenism, economic development, political engagement, and students and youth.

This volume begins with Part I, Cultivating Global Relationships. Among mission leaders and practitioners from the global South and East, mission scholars around the world, and mission practitioners in the global North, relationships are characterized by both collaborations and tensions. Global connections make new forms and levels of mission collaboration possible across countries, cultures, and denominations. Increasing divisions within global connectivity pull global mission relationships in different directions. Several chapters address economic, cultural, theological, political, and economic divisions impacting the practice of Methodist mission and attempts to work together across these differences.

The nature of global relationships raises a host of questions regarding the nature of mission partnerships among Methodists around the world. How is it possible to foster mutuality in mission? How can Methodists from the global West and North use their resources to support and not to dominate partners from the global South and East? How can partners from the global South and East and those from the global West and North learn from and appreciate the gifts of the others and not overly value their own? How can these (and other) groups best work together to further the mission of God?

Part II, Practicing Contextual Engagement, is the largest section of the book. Scholars and practitioners address how Methodists around the world practice mission in its many forms and many contexts, including those shaped by colonial legacies. In the colonial era, Methodist evangelistic mission often went hand-in-hand with the construction of schools, hospitals, and clinics. These missional practices of evangelism, healing, and education remain as popular as ever among Methodists around the world. Moreover, practices such as social service, justice seeking, peace building, and economic development that have more recent pedigrees—dating perhaps to the past century or so—have also continued to be important practices of Methodist mission in the twenty-first century. Therefore, it is important to understand mission holistically and to be able to identify the connections between these various forms of mission work.

Part III, Educating for Missional Formation, combines intellectual formation with spiritual formation, skills development, and organizational planning. Methodists educate each other about mission through theological, spiritual, and practical preparation, including evangelism as a form of mission. How should Methodists pastors, seminarians, lay people, and youth educate themselves to live into a faithful vision of Methodist mission? How can they be encouraged to see the interconnections between different forms of mission as parts forming a holistic understanding? How can they learn from the resources of the faith and learn about the world in which mission occurs?

The final section is Part IV, Discerning the Future of Mission Together. God’s word abides even as our understandings of mission, the contexts in which we practice mission, and the people involved in mission are always changing. These changes call for the exercise of Christian discernment in mission practice. How is God calling us to articulate the gospel anew so as to connect with the world as it is and as it is becoming? How can we encourage new people, especially youth, to listen carefully to God’s calling to mission? How can we better understand God’s calling by listening to the voices of those different from us? The collective work of discernment is an essential component of mission practice.

This book aspires to enable faithful and effective Methodist mission in the twenty-first century. The authors open creative avenues for dialogue and engagement, furthering the conversation that is our collective responsibility as scholars and reflective practitioners of mission. Challenges facing Methodist mission arise from a desire for mutuality amidst the reality of global inequities; local expression of Methodism confronting lingering, systemic patterns of colonialism; and reciprocal learning despite xenophobic and tribalistic tendencies. How shall Methodists in mission promote partnership across cultures, rootedness within cultures, and exchange among cultures that are themselves in flux? Each contributor to this volume brings a distinctive viewpoint on these issues as they offer descriptions of and prescriptions for the practice of mission in global Methodism.

This book is designed for students, scholars, and practitioners of mission, both within Methodism and ecumenically. It is written for practitioners, scholars, and students in the fields of missiology, evangelism, world Christianity, and Methodist studies and will be of particular interest to those studying contemporary global Methodism and its understandings of mission and evangelism. Readers of many disciplinary backgrounds, including theology, ethics, history, and the social sciences, will find a rich, multidisciplinary conversation in these pages.

We hope the conversation included in this book will give rise to many more conversations among scholars and practitioners, as together we continue to improvise and innovate in the practice of Methodist mission.

The volume includes contributions from the following:
Hendrik R. Pieterse
Taylor Walters Denyer
David W. Scott
Carmen C. Manalac-Scheuerman and Akanisi Tarabe
K. Kale Yu
Nelson Kalombo Ngoy
Stephen J. H. Hendricks
Andrea Reily Rocha Soares
Sheryl Marks-Williams
Mark R. Teasdale
Darryl W. Stephens
Jenny Phillips
Elmira Sellu, Flory Atieno, Sara Jalloh, Jaka Joice, Rose Musooko, and Evelyn Ann Ouma
Jeffrey A. Conklin-Miller
Sam Kim
Mande Muyombo
Stephen Skuce
Joy Eva Bohol

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