Willem Saayman, declared at the close of the previous decade (1999) that a deeper study into the relation church and mission has not yet yielded anything new. He states,
… in the 1970s the call for a moratorium on the ending of Western missionaries (originating in the Third World, especially Africa) had burst like an unexpected bombshell, and since then there has never been any significant new development in the debate on missionary ecclesiology and indeed, the debate has basically stalled….
He then continues,
The reason why I consider this to be such an all-important topic is my conviction that we are at the threshold of an exciting new era of importance for mission/Missiology, especially in the South or Third World. Unless the impulses of this important new era are caught up in a total revision of what had hitherto been considered adequate structures of a missionary ecclesiology, we will be missing one of God’s most important missionary kairoi .
Were we, from Southern Africa, able to rise to Saayman’s challenge or are we missing out ‘one of Gods most important missionary kairoi’ with regards to the question on ecclesiology ?
Seemingly, this question have been taken up by proponents of what is known as ‘emerging church’ and ‘missional’ ecclesiology, and it has therefore, also hit the shores of Southern Africa, through various newer forms of church, vigorous debates in Southern African blogs , but also a Partnership for Missional Churches , Amahoro movement and a smaller, yet significant cluster of churches. This discourse, albeit a wide spectrum, often at odds with each other, have also been challenged by some to be too white, too male and probably simply another manifestation of neo-colonial Christianity.
The irony, however is that missiologists who, are widely accepted as the ancestors of this movement, namely David Bosch and Lesslie Newbigin, have cut their theological teeth in the South, i.e. South Africa and India, but also, their ecumenical engagement in the 60s and 70s. It could be argued that their dialogue with local theologies of liberation, may have been the critical factor in shaping their theology and perhaps, in the development of what is now called the emerging and missional church. It remain these critical interlocutors, the poor, yet resilient African, black and Indian peasants, women, children and men, whose ongoing struggles, persist, who challenge new questions, new methdologies, new paradigms, for being a postcolonial church, today and in the next decade.
Questions or possible themes:
1. How relevant are these new ecclesiologies for the Southern African context; is this phenomenon only relevant for the Northern church, grappling with rampant secularization and postmodernism ?
2. What are the theological roots of these missionary ecclesiologies and how do we continue the dialogue with the interlocutors
3. How do we reflect biblically on these ? What are the different wasy in which the Bible is read and interpreted amongt these ? What creative means of reading can be explored ?
4. What stories of hope can we tell from Southern Africa, suggesting a new, or emerging postcolonial expression of being church.
Proposals for papers are invited for this conference, to be submitted before the end of September 2009.
Please take note that the date is set for the conference is 13-15 January 2010, at the University of Freestate
As noted by Nico Botha, a more extensive flyer on the congress in reference to the theme and format will appear in the SAMS journal, Missionalia. Thanks to Genevieve James, the Missionalia editor, who has kindly offered to write us a piece on the January congress and to have it published in the journal.