by Arthur M. Climenhaga
Mission agencies and the church face a major question with respect to the national churches that are emerging as a result of missionary evangelism. The question is no longer one of establishing indigenous churches at some future date.
Mission agencies and the church face a major question with respect to the national churches that are emerging as a result of missionary evangelism. The question is no longer one of establishing indigenous churches at some future date. The strong realities of the new nationalism, the resultant birth of new nations, and the anticolonial temper of the times have all hastened the development of the indigenous church in some instances in crash programs. As a consequence any mission group, large or small, that presumes to continue total mission administration over a national church fellowship without a timetable for turnover is not only out of context with the temper of the times; such a mission faces expulsion sooner rather than later.
However, even though on every hand emergent church control on national levels is the order of the day, an area of concern still exists and needs definitive consideration by mission administrators. This is the issue of the continuing relationship of a mission organization with the emerging national church.
Where there are national churches in full swing with no need for subsidies or foreign worker assistance, presumably there is no question. The case is clear cut. The missionary of yesterday is no longer needed and has long since gone home. Or if he is still in the national church program, it will be largely on the basis of his own commitment to the national church on a personal level rather than a sent one basis.
So far so good! But problems arise at the point (a) where the emerging church is still in the process of taking over its own program from the parent mission body; (b) where the emerging church having taken full administrative control still desires the aid of missionaries or fraternal workers, or (c) where the emerging church has been given the full control of church administration while the mission for various reasons has retained at least an element of control of enterprises such as education and medicine. The issue here is sharply defined then as to what the posture and the administrative relationship of the mission and its missionaries are to be to the emerging church with which it is associated.
In all three cases the problem comes in varying degrees as to whether the missionaries should be members of the emerging church only, members of home churches only, or hold dual membership both home and abroad? Again, in the case of the continuing existence of both the mission and the church, should the administration be completely merged into one under the church regardless, or should there be dual and distinct administrations? Or would a combination of the two be advisable and possible? Especially in the third situation, who is to own the old misson properties, the church or the mission? These are but three of a host of similar issues.
Let us recognize that in attempting to speak to the problem of the mission and the emerging church we shall have to deal largely with broad principles, not specific answers to specific problems. We cannot give final dicta to certain problems that may have to be answered in different ways depending upon locale, economic considerations, sociological or political factors, et al. What may pertain to Africa south may be out of context for the rest of Africa. That which is pertinent to South America may not be feasible in the Far East. And so on. We still live in a very heterogeneous world. Homogeneity is still far from being the order of the day!
And yet, we believe there are broad principles that can be enunciated for all areas and applied in varied and detailed ways to individual circumstances.
A statement of the problem and a resulting stance are expressed in the following quotation from a speech delivered at a conference in Limuru, Kenya, in 1962. While the address was given in an African setting, the reference to relatedexperience in India shows that the problem stated and the general philosophy expressed represent the broad attitude in most regions where the emerging church is found. The speaker stated:
In Africa we find the missions in varying stages of integration with the respective churches. It is still a real issue and must be worked out vigorously and realistically as quickly as possible. Our experiences in India follow very closely the patterns that are developing here in Africa. They are some of the very same principles, fears, problems expressed here in Africa the past two weeks. For many years there had been a struggle between the mission and church. The mission wanted to bring the church into the mission in one way or another, or wanted the mission and missionaries to be completely integrated into the church. By 1952, the church won out and the mission integrated into the church.
What is it that the young churches want? Not indigenization in the older sense that we missionaries used to use it. They do not want a selfsupporting, self-governing, self-propagating type of church that separates mission and church, missionaries and nationals.
At an African luncheon meeting sponsored by the Africa Committee, Division of Foreign Missions, National Council of Churches, at San Francisco, California, December 7, 1960, Bishop Lesslie Newbigin clearly gave the African viewpoint. This was just after his study tour of Africa. Young missionaries were saying, "We are the temporary people. We are here to help the African to stand on his own feet, then we shall go … We are merely the scaffolding. You are the building. We are temporary. You are permanent." But African leaders said, "If this is the understanding of your task, it is better that you go now rather than later. We are not interested in an African Church. We are interested in a Christian church in Africa, and we regard you as part of the church … We want the missionary who will come here, live with us, work with us, die with us, and lay his bones here in Africa."
This whole question involves identification. An African spoke to Newbigin about identification. He said there are two kinds. "One is the anthropological conception of identification; the other is identification in Christ. It is the second in which we are interested."
Is the view of younger churches valid? Yes! This principle of interaction and interrelationship must be used in all human relationships if there is to be peace and progress. Separation of people is wrong. Walls dividing people into black and white, rich and poor, East and West are unchristian. This is sin. It is pride and selfishness that makes us want to keep aloof from people.
We hear about India for the Indians, China for the Chinese, Africa for the Africans, England for the English. This is no more valid than for America to say, America for the Europeans. Separation of people into races and classes breeds hatred and war.
Problems involved in integration of mission and church are very great indeed. There are deep feelings of mistrust, jealousy, and resentments to be overcome. Both missionaries and nationals have problems in working out integration. Let me suggest that a key word in working it out is forgiveness. Newbigin says, "Forgiveness is a very costly and difficult process." Church?mission problems must be worked out by sitting down together in Bible study and prayer. The problems of chureb?mission are more spiritual than they are organizational, and therefore must be worked out in spiritual fellowship.1
As we understand it, the practical development from this philosophy would be that the national church must be given the full administration of both church and mission functions. The missionaries who are prepared to remain under the program will be so identified with the emerging church as to be subject to the direction of national church administration in their own mission activities. This may even include payment (and even setting) of living subsidies for missionaries through the central church treasury ? although presumably this is one point at which certain missions draw the line. Be that as it may, all other controls including receipt and disposition of foreign funds would be in the hands of the national church.
We cannot disagree at all with the sense of urgency expressed by the speaker above. The need for action stated then certainly is so much the more urgent two years later. However, we raise the questions about the conclusions as to the direction for mission?emerging church relations, especially in that gray zone period when missionaries are still needed or desired for whatever reason.
If the general positions as stated are followed, then I feel the following issues pertain:
1. To what extent can a mission body corporately, or its missionary agent individually, subject itself or himself to the structures that such national control could impose? For example, if the national church loses the vision for evangelism of the regions beyond, would not total administrative control by the emerging church conceivably hamstring the evangelistic outreach of the parent missionary body or its workers?
2. If the term missionary connotes a sent one, one who goes under the calling of the Great Commission in the spirit of evangelism to the regions beyond, when such a one becomes a fraternal worker, can he any longer be called a missionary? We do not stand in judgment on persons becoming fraternal workers, but we do question their right to be named missionaries. (One of the side issues that cannot be discussed but which must be noted is the attempt to change the concept of missions to mission. The attempt involves a change from individual witness to corporate ecclesiastical or societal control. Biblically and theologically, we must disagree with this!)
3. Does a mission body become recreant to the Great Commission when it forgoes the right to control and send missionaries in accordance with the dictates of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 13:1?3) by turning over these prerogatives to the emerging church?
4. To what extent can a mission continue subsidizing the emerging church and mission (or fraternal) workers for that church and remain ethically responsible for sound biblical stewardship of the Lord’s money? The spirit of "he who pays the piper calls the tune" is subject to abuse, wrong motivation, and many other untoward attitudes. But this does not negate the responsibility for wise stewardship.
On the basis of the biblical pattern of missions and the fulfillment of the Great Commission, I believe there is less danger of misunderstanding where a mission sets forth a clearcut statement of lines of authority, areas of control, and spheres of cooperation between the mission and the emerging church. In light of the incisiveness of the questions above, I just cannot go along with the concept of a complete turnover without reasonable safeguards.
However, if we are to avoid hitting the Scylla of a complete turnover, we must take care lest we run into the Charybdis of a dual programproducing a dichotomy between missions and the emerging church.
To illustrate the point 2 take the case of a mission body with a field executive committee composed entirely of missionaries. National leaders participate in the deliberations of the executive only in matters pertaining to indigenous church life. Practically all of the other administrative functions are performed by mission committees and superintendents.
The nationals work in assistant positions but not in top executive posts. With the development of the emerging church, church leaders ask for a greater voice in mission executive councils. The question is referred to the home board, which decides that a dual system of administration sball be developed for church administration and mission administration. For the former, a central authority is established with a preponderance of national leaders over mission leaders in the church executive Membership. Distinctly missions affairs, educational and medical programs as well as the direction of missionaries, are kept under mission executive control.
Here is a dual concept, dichotomous in nature, moving parallel for the time being, but with the strong possibility of a rift causing a major cleavage. The potential of dire misunderstanding between the emerging church leadership and mission personnel is there, with the consequent danger of a divisive outcome.
What is the answer? We propose aposition between the two views expressed above, which if properly controlled will enable both the emerging church and the mission to function effectively as long as there is need for the other: Neither church nor mission should dominate the other, but both should cooperate as equal partners in the task.
Cooperation! The mission and the emerging church pool resources of men, money, wisdom, and consecration to accomplish jointly a task that neither can do alone.
Traditionally the mission is accused of dominating and absorbing the national church until it is a captive church incapable either of self-government or self-support or self-propagation. The mission may be accused of jealously conserving its own independence. It is true that being appointed and supervised by a mission society, and being responsible to that society and its supporting churches for the conduct of their work, missionaries must resist a natural tendency to become sublimely indifferent to the opinions of national Christians and churches. The emerging church with increasingly well?trained national leadership and increasingly mature Christian churches and associations must be recognized as a full partner in carrying on the total mission enterprise.
This cooperation or partnership has several characteristics.
1. It should be total partnership. For the mission to invite certain selected individuals into a cooperative relationship on conditions stipulated by the mission is not a satisfactory mission?church relationship, for the missionary is still predominant. Should a field mission body elect certain individuals to serve in a cooperative capacity in any program, a home board should point out that any true partnership between mission and church would permit the emerging national church to choose its own representatives. Although the shared responsibility may be limited at the outset, the partnership eventually must affect all matters of mission activity including policy, finance, administration, and personnel. It should be a true partnership.
2. Cooperation should develop into equal partnership. While cooperation may be effected between unequals, partnership implies a relationship of equals in a common enterprise. Can national Christian leaders and missionary leaders cooperate as equals? A missionary of a certain society wrote some time ago of national pastors in a mission area: "They are our equals socially and educationally; in fact, they are superior to us as evangelists and pastors because of their language and their understanding of the . . . mind." But one might have added they are not equals financially.
If equal partnership requires that both partners place at the disposal of the partnership equal amounts of the same assets, then equal partnership in missions?emerging church programs is currently impossible. The national d~ts not have an equal amount of what the missionary has, nor does the missionary have an equal amount of what the national has. Both must pool their equally important but diverse resources of men and money and wisdom and consecration. Having shared their differing but equally vital resources, these partners would share equally in responsibility and authority, administering their joint program by joint boards or a joint council.
3. Such equal partnership requires the continuity of each partner within the partnership. Canon Max Warren, esteemed for the keen insights shared in his Church Mission Society Newsletter, delivered the Merrick Lectures of 1955 at Ohio Wesleyan University on the subject, "Partnership: the Study of an Idea." After discussing the three essential factors in partnership: involvement, acceptance of responsibility, and acceptance of liability, Warren added:
Involvement and the acceptance of both responsibility and liability presuppose the continuity within the partnership of each partner. There can be no question of absorption whereby the identity of the partnersis lost. The terms of our definition — involvement, responsibility, liability — are meaningless unless this conscious identity of each partner survives.3
Partnership is conditioned upon the continuity of the identity of each partner. Mission and church should not become amalgamated or fused. Neither should absorb the other. Although related as equal partners, they should retain their distinct identity. Actually there is some divergence in practice. One mission reported that it made nationals members of mission committees, amalgamating the mission and the national staffs, and placing in their hands the administrative program of both church and mission. Experience, however, seems to indicate the wisdom of maintaining the distinction between mission and church. Under this dual arrangement, missionaries can decide those matters that concern themselves alone (as missionary housing, furlough, missionary children’s schooling, and comparable issues); and churches organized on a national basis can decide those matters that concern themselves alone. But mission and national church as equal partners and distinct entities should cooperate in planning and implementing the field program that was once considered the prerogative of the mission alone.
There are two corollaries established by such a position: (1) During this period of equal partnership, missionaries should identify themselves organizationally with the mission and not with the national church. The line of a missionary’s responsibility traces back through his field administration and mission society to the home churches. It is obvious that the interests of the foreign mission and the national church can easily conflict. At such times a foreign missionary could hardly fulfill the obligations of membership in a local church on the field, (2) During this period of equal partnership, national leaders should identify themselves organizationally with the national church and not with the foreign mission. They should not be invited to serve as members of mission committees per se. Rather they should be encouraged in the formation of a strong national church administration to which the mission should relate itself in the joint conduct of the work, and to which church body the work can be turned over progressively. A national leader would thus find his normal sphere of service not on a mission committee carrying out the policies and purposes of a foreign mission society and subject to its supervision. Rather he should serve on a committee in the context of his own church organization, but cooperating with the missionary on a joint committee.
The national and the missionary should each continue in his own organizational context of church and mission: the permanent and the temporary factors; one responsible to local churches and the other to a foreign mission society. The mission and church association must be related together as distinct entities and equal partners in their joint work program. When complete nationalization of the work is attained so that the mission organization as such is dissolved, any missionary remaining to serve in any capacity should serve with the national church and under the national church. It would then be altogether in order for him to identify himself with that church by membership and submit himself to its life and discipline.
Certainly there are obvious difficulties in facing equal partnership in the work. A Brazilian leader wrote:
it demands mutual respect and self-respect. For men of different races to cooperate is not easy. To submit oneself to the domination of the majority is a difficult thing in one’s own country, and still more when the majority is of another race and color. To achieve it there become necessary patience, mutual love, confidence, readiness in passing over small differences, in sacrificing minor points of opinion to greater and higher ends, aptness in seeing both sides of questions, and resolute detennination to put aside prejudices and suspicions. Because the missionary claims for himself greater Christian experience and richer, perhaps, it behooves him to more fully manifest those gifts.4
While problems will certainly arise implementing a, program of equal partnership between mission and the emerging church, we must remember that we have had serious problems also in implementing a program of equal partnership with fellow missionaries. Problems must not dissuade us. We cannot fight against history and modern movements. We must be moving in the right direction.
The advantages of such a joint relationship in the work are many:
1. This joint relationship will not only keep national leaders infon?ned but also give them the voice in the program they have asked for repeatedly.
2. Sharing ideas and counseling together will help break any barrier between the national leader and the missionary and teach both to think and work together.
3. Joint study and planning of the work will develop in both the national leader and missionary a concern for the Whole field.
4. National leaders will have the opportunity to obtain experience in self-government and self?propagation, being thus prepared for the eventual time when missionary counsellors are not present. After all, the best preparation for leadership is leadership itself.
5. Missionaries will learn several lessons: (a) They must be willing to accept certain proposals from the national. Our full cooperation in his program may work out better than his noncooperation in our program. (b) The missionary made some mistakes, too, and learned lessons the hard way, just as the national must. (c) If the nationals should stumble a bit now, the missionary is there to help, whereas if they have no opportunity to stumble until the missionary is out of the picture, there may then be no help and counsel available.
6. It may solve problems that have baffled missionaries.
7. It will provide the training program needed where a missionary has a national counterpart who is taking increasing responsibility for some particular phase of the work. Without such preparatory training, nationalization can become a farce and a tragedy. Where nationalization has been effected under these procedures, great churches now exist, witnessing effectually for the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. Edwin 1. Weaver, "The Ministry of Reconciliation in Africa or Bridges of Forgiveness, Love, and Fellowship." Address at the Limuru Study Conference, Limuru, Kenya, March 28-April 1, 1962.
2. The material from this point on is adapted from Chapter 3, Section 1, in Facing Facts in Modern Missions by Arthur M. Climenhaga and Edwin E. Jacques. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1963).
3. Max Warren, Partnership: the Study of an Idea (Chicago: Student Christian Movement Press, 1956), p. 13.
4. Joseph R. Woody, The Brazil Plan of Mission-Church Relations: an Experiment in Partnership (Richmond, Va.: Union Seminary, 1961), pp. 155, 156.
EMQ, Jan. 1965, pp. 3-12. Copyright © 1965 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.