Sent Forth: African Missionary work in the West
by Harvey C. Kwiyani
Orbis Books. 2014.
—Reviewed by Ezekiel O. Ajani, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Immigration continues to generate debates in the U.S. The 1965 Immigration Act and subsequent reforms have enabled millions of immigrants to relocate to the U.S. Many of these are Christians from Africa. What do Christians in the West think about them?
Owing to the global expansion of Christianity, migrations and the decline of Christianity in the West, Harvey Kwiyani theorizes that the contemporary understanding of missions would differ significantly from the past two centuries. One of the implications of this difference in meaning is that the representative identity of a missionary in this century is not likely to be a westerner serving somewhere in remote Africa. Rather, such a missionary could be Mexican, Nigerian, or Korean serving anywhere in the world.
Migration and globalization continue to make Christianity experience diversity in culture, race, theology, and so on. For this reason, the author hints that prior to engaging cultural diversity in the world, there is the need for the Church to negotiate cultural diversity within Christianity itself. Unfortunately, Kwiyani noted that Western Christianity is yet to accept Majority World Christianity in the West, owing to the former labelling the later as syncretic.
In the book of seven chapters, Kwiyani explores the encounter of African Christianity with Western Christianity in the West. Post-colonial African Christianity is said to be unique. Its context, identity, expressions, and theology are different from Western Christianity and this makes it difficult for the two to work together.
In light of this development, the author’s purpose is to “initiate a conversation” to change the present situation by encouraging “a multicultural missionary movement.” Such collaboration is believed to be vital for the identity and mission of the Church. In the phenomenon dubbed “blessed reflex,” the author describes these African churches as instrumental in reinvigorating Christianity in the West since they declare the gospel in the former heartlands of Christianity. As they do this, Kwiyani argues for the need for cooperation from Western Christianity. This is because both Majority World and Western Christians are all “foreigners” on a common mission in Christ.
Kwiyani is to be commended for this epic book based on both personal experiences and scholarship. Also, the audacity to bring to fore discussions concerning the unfriendly relationships between Western and Majority World Christianity in the West is appreciated. He rightly identifies “feelings of superiority,” “race,” and “power” as issues plaguing these groups in the West. He fittingly ends his work by advocating for mutual love between both groups in order to foster God’s mission. In a possible reprint, it would be helpful to delve deeper into practical ways in which African immigrants’ churches and Western churches could cooperate.
EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 4 pp. 461-462. Copyright © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.