We have just passed the centenary of the first meeting of the International Missionary Council, held at Lake Mohonk, New York, in 1921. Not an occasion that has captured many media headlines but one of no little importance for the global profile of Christianity.
We have lived through a remarkable time when a recession of Christian faith in its longtime Western homeland has coincided with an astonishing growth of Christianity in Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is difficult to explain what has happened without at least some reference to the missionary movement that introduced the faith to many contexts in the Global South over the past two centuries.
The missionary movement tends to get a bad press, implicated as it is in post-colonial guilt. No bad thing that it should be subject to critique and that exposure of its blindspots and shortcomings should offer learning points for the future. At the same time, there is need for a balanced critique that acknowledges the impact of the movement on world history as well as its transformative effect in many local contexts.
In its early period the missionary movement was rather a freelance affair and highly fragmented. The formation of the International Missionary Council in 1921 was the first major attempt to work together on a global basis. It prepared the ground for the later emergence of the World Council of Churches.
The WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (successor body of the IMC) is holding an online commemorative conference from Tuesday 16 November to Thursday 18 November 2021 at which people from all over the world will take account of what the IMC has meant in their context. I am part of a small team that is coordinating the conference in Geneva so I am experiencing an abrupt change of temperature after leaving the hot season in Zomba.
The conference includes three public sessions at – on Geneva time – 1345 on Tuesday, 1530 on Wednesday, and 1630 on Thursday. The following link will enable access to all three public sessions: