The Future of Missions?
A global gathering affirms new models while developing countries criticize North American approaches.
November 1, 1999
Set on the border between Brazil and Argentina, Iguassu Falls, a two-and-a-half-mile wide waterfall system of 275 cataracts, was the spectacular backdrop for a global gathering of scholars and practitioners of mission in October. The 159 participants in the Iguassu Missiological Consultation came to Foz do Iguassu from 53 countries to examine the way Christian mission is changing at the turn of the millennium.
The rugged terrain around the Iguassu Falls was also where Roberto DeNiro and Jeremy Irons reenacted a bloody incident from Latin America's colonial history for the 1986 motion picture The Mission. The actors played Jesuit missionaries powerless against Portuguese conquerors bent on murdering the native Guarani and stealing their land.
That history of imperialism still lives in the memory of some who attended the consultation. Seattle-based anthropologist Miriam Adeney told the parable of the mouse that danced with the elephant and was squashed—despite the elephant's enormous good will. Dozens of speakers and discussion participants invoked that image to explain their feelings toward North America and its missions organizations.
Yet the English language was used by all, and aspects of American culture permeated the conference. And as participants discussed "globalization," they could see Sri Lankan Bible expositor Ajith Fernando walk by sporting a "Welcome to Windows 98" T-shirt. Fortunately, coffee was served Brazilian style.
Missiology by management: Peruvian missiologist Samuel Escobar, who teaches at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary and who wrote two papers for the Iguassu consultation, was prevented from attending by his wife's illness. Though Escobar was absent, his papers provoked strong reactions: the mouse, ...
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