Serving Jesus with Integrity: Ethics and Accountability in Mission

by Dwight P. Baker and Douglas Hayward, eds.

William Carey Library, 1605 Elizabeth Street, Pasadena, CA 91104, 403 pages, 2010, $14.99.

Reviewed by Ellen Livingood, president of Catalyst Services.

Ethics is at its base something lived; it is a practice.” Based on that assertion in the book’s introduction, sixteen writers address thorny issues of ethical behavior that range from financial accountability and avoiding Internet porn to appropriate ways to remove leaders and honesty in missionary storytelling. While many of the topics have global application, the majority focus on issues for Western missionaries working in cross-cultural contexts.  
Each writer delves into specific individual and organizational implications with examples and practical suggestions that can be painfully specific. For example, in the chapter on accurately representing other religions, Edwin Zehner points out that Christians often stereotype Islam as a religion lacking a concept of forgiveness, yet many Muslims remind themselves of God’s forgiveness every time they pray. Instead of overemphasizing differences, he challenges readers to acknowledge similarities—communicating respect for those of other faiths.

Both Gabriel B. Tate in the chapter on missionary photography and Curtis A. Wilkinson in the piece on missionary filmmaking illustrate how missionary communicators have “talked about” those depicted, rather than giving them voice in how they are portrayed.

The most recent book in the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) series, Serving Jesus with Integrity addresses subjects with academic depth. David R. Dunaetz’s article on organizational justice introduces this new behavioral science (which studies the cause and effect of the perception of fairness and unfairness within an organization) with an effective integration of theory, research, and practical application.

The final chapter summarizes research conducted by Douglas Hayward and Paul E. Langenwalter II into the existence and accessibility of codes of ethics in some larger U.S.-based mission agencies. While more extensive research and reporting would have been helpful, the results point to the need for a broader adoption of standards similar to what the authors provide as a proposed code of ethics for evangelical missions. While the development and publishing of similar codes by mission organizations is only the first step toward consistent application of high ethical standards, it is a crucial beginning.

EMS has done a great service to agencies, churches, and missionaries, as well as those affected by their actions, by compiling this anthology. However, this book will have limited impact unless mission agency leaders, field teams, and churches wrestle with how they will respond individually and corporately. Discussion questions at the end of each chapter can stimulate productive dialogue, helping to identify ethical dilemmas, establish standards of conduct, and draft policies to deal with failure.  

Check these titles:
Lederleitner, Mary. 2010. Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Missions. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Rob Hay, Valerie Lim, Detlef Blocher, Jaap Ketelaar, and Sarah Hay. 2007. Worth Keeping: Global Perspectives on Best Practice in Missionary Retention. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

The Seven U.S. Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Mission. stmstandards.org/standards/

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