The latest issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research is now out. The theme is ‘Mission and the Care of the Environment’ and features a number of articles on the subject (see contents below).
As well as those, the issue also has two articles on missional hermeneutics and orality. Here are some details:
‘The Biblical Narrative of the Missio Dei: Analysis of the Interpretive Framework of David Bosch’s Missional Hermeneutic’ by Girma Bekele
This article examines David Bosch’s missional hermeneutic, using it as an entry point into his understanding of the biblical foundation of mission. Until his tragic death in 1992 in a car accident, Bosch was chair of the Department of Missiology at the University of South Africa. He studied New Testament under Oscar Cullman at the University of Basel. The development of his theological thought was also shaped by his experience as an Afrikaner, as an ordained minister of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), and as a missionary in the Transkei. The sociopolitical and theological setting of South Africa during apartheid was, as it were, the anvil against which he hammered out his ideas of the vocation of the church within the world. His vision of missionary self-understanding and of the church as the “alternative community” is rooted in a strong conviction that the New Testament must be read as a missionary document.
Bosch follows the same general outline in both Witness to the World (1980) and Transforming Mission (1991): first, a discussion of mission crisis (this section is brief in the latter work), followed by a scriptural foundation of mission, an overview of historical perspectives on mission, a presentation of the emerging missionary paradigm, and development of a relevant theology of mission. A certain understanding, interpretation, and application of the Scriptures characterize each paradigm of Christian missionary history as it engages with its own particular context. Bosch is convinced that the task of each generation is to unlock, as if with its own time-conditioned key, the biblical foundation of mission and the biblical narrative of the missio Dei. He insists that, since the New Testament is “essentially a missionary document . . . it is incumbent upon us to reclaim it as such.”
‘Orality: The Not-So-Silent Issue in Mission Theology’ by Randall Prior
I recently had a student from Indonesia in my class. He had completed theological studies and was an ordained minister before migrating to Melbourne with his family. He had settled into a newly formed ethnic Indonesian congregation and accepted the role as their leader. His task was to build up the congregation and to help immigrant relatives of the members to find their feet on Australian soil. Limited financial resources in the congregation meant that he was paid only a small amount of money for this ministry, and so he supplemented his income by driving a school bus in the mornings and afternoons. His love for the Gospel, his dedication to his community over a period of time, and the quality of his leadership all led to his church congregation growing impressively. As a result, he sought to become formally recognized as an ordained minister within the Australian church context, which meant that he needed to complete further studies.
From the very first day of class he impressed me as a man devoted to the Christian faith, with a strong sense of vocation to a ministry of leadership. It soon became clear, however, that if I were to impose upon him the same requirements as for the remainder of the class—namely, written pieces of critical and analytic discourse—then he would fail the course. While he was perfectly capable of handling the work, had a zeal for the class material, and impressed his class colleagues, his cultural background was oral. After some consultation with a faculty colleague, an arrangement was made for him to do his assignments orally. As a consequence, he gained a “credit” grade for the course. Soon afterward he was formally inducted as the minister of the Indonesian congregation and continues to give inspiring leadership to his people.
This anecdote raises issues and questions beyond the field of the delivery of formal theological education. With the relative decline of the church within the Western world and the rapid increase in the membership of the church in areas of the world where oral cultures dominate, a question is raised about the very shape of theology itself. Let me illustrate what I mean by way of experience and observation over a generation of involvement in the South Pacific.
IBMR are to be commended for making their journal available for free (though a log-in is required). It is a tremendous resource.