The 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches at Karlsruhe provided the perfect opportunity to launch two new books that have just come out. Over the past two years I have been working closely with a study group of the WCC Commission on World Mission and Evangelism – Risto Jukko (Finland), Marina Ngursangzeli Behera (India), Michael Biehl (Germany), Jingqin Gu (China) and Tito Paredes (Peru).
Our task was to reflect on the centenary of the formation of the International Missionary Council in 1921, which was a highly significant step in the emergence of the modern ecumenical movement. It was also the beginning of a realisation that “mission” is never something in our possession or under our control. For one thing, it is the mission of God, and, for another, it is always something in which we share with many others.
In the popular mind, mission is often regarded as nothing more than the religious wing of colonialism. The reality today is very different as people in many contexts around the world struggle with the call of God to make a positive difference in their situation through their life and witness.
Something of this is captured in the two volumes that were launched at the Assembly. Together in the Mission of God is the flagship book to mark the centenary of the IMC. It finishes with a polyphonic chapter, which I curated – a multi-authored chapter with contributions from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, USA, UK, Romania, Kenya, Zambia and India.
A Hundred Years of Mission Cooperation is even more polyphonic as it brings together the results of a highly international study process, which had active centres in every continent. As the centres have dug deep to better understand the dynamics of mission in their own contexts, they have also listened to each other and learned from each other. Not only does this pay tribute to the ecumenical pioneers who formed the IMC in 1921, it points to the future. Connecting globally is likely to be crucial not only for the integrity of mission but in order to meet the formidable challenges that lie ahead in the 21st century.