by Brian Stanley, editor
The book makes a valuable contribution by highlighting the involvement of missionaries and national Christians in the demise of colonial powers and the spread of nationalistic independence movements in Asia and Africa.
Wm. B. Eerdmans, 255 Jefferson Ave., S.E., Grand Rapids, MI 49503, 2003, 313 pages, $45.00.
—Reviewed by Alan M. Guenther, Ph.D. candidate, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University.
Can a book that contains papers on subjects as diverse as German Protestant missionaries during the inter-war period, the origins of Apartheid in South Africa, the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in China, Ghandi’s vision of independence for India and the rise of the African Independent Churches really have a coherent and unified theme, let alone say anything useful to evangelical missionaries today? I would say yes to both. Missions, Nationalism, and the End of Empire is another volume in the excellent Studies in the History of Christian Missions series issuing from seminars and consultations organized by the Currents in World Christianity project.
The contributors to this volume use a variety of approaches, making for somewhat uneven reading. The up side, of course, is that the reader is treated to a wider range of historical approaches. The first section explores how missionaries were influenced by their own nationalistic prejudices. The middle section shows how the indigenous churches dealt with nationalism as it swept across their countries in the twentieth century. The final section examines the participation of missionaries and national Christians in the processes that brought an end to European empires, particularly in Africa.
The book makes a valuable contribution by highlighting the involvement of missionaries and national Christians in the demise of colonial powers and the spread of nationalistic independence movements in Asia and Africa. This involvement has been too often ignored by historians and missiologists alike. Historians have tended to look for purely secular causes, while writers on missions have tended to avoid looking at the mutual impact of the state and the church, except when drawing attention to state-sponsored persecution of the church. The studies in this book demonstrate that the history of missions and missionaries is far more complex than we might think. A striking example of this complexity is seen in Daniel H. Bays’ chapter on the life and ministry of Chen Chonggui who both taught in evangelical seminaries and served as a vice-chair of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in China.
While the book will be of primary interest to those who enjoy history, it can be profitably read by all who are concerned about how missionaries should relate to political and ideological movements that capture the vision of their national brothers and sisters in the countries where they serve. It challenges us all to examine how tightly we hold to our own national identities and prejudices. The book does not offer simple solutions or map out unified theories to guide us. Rather it forces us to recognize the complexity of the relationship between the state and the Christian church and its missions enterprise.
Check these titles:
Stanley, Brian, ed. Christian Missions and the Enlightenment. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2001.
Ward, Kevin and Brian Stanley, eds. The Church Mission Society and World Christianity, 1799-1999. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000.
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