On the 27th of June 2014, some 75 Christian leaders from different parts of the UK met at the legendary Crowther Hall in Selly Oak, Birmingham, for seminar called Missio Africanus. A third of the gathering were (white) British pastors and leaders of missions organisations, and the remaining two thirds were Africans from different denominations and nationalities. The purpose of the meeting–which was the first of a series of think tanks, seminars, and conferences–was to begin to build cross-cultural bridges between British and African mission leaders, or in a general sense, between non-Western and British Christians. The conviction shared by myself and the other organisers of missio Africanus is that mission in the new Western context is only possible if Christians living in the West–with all their different ethnicities–unite in their effort to re-evangelize the West. In the words of Phil Mounstephen, Executive Leader at Church Mission Society (CMS), “the re-evangelisation of the UK and the rest of Europe will only come about through the release of the gifts of the global church in mission in this continent.”
The day was full of energy. The presentations were all insightful. The attendance was perfect. Several missions organisations were in attendance. Some even sponsored the event in one way or another. It was a glorious day when black and white Christians got together in unity. A friend later commented, “… being hosted at the Crowther Hall by the Church of Pentecost (of Ghana) in honour of Ajayi Crowther was a deeply spiritual moment.” And we all witnessed the blessing that was poured forth on us. Racial prejudices and suspicions disappeared as people mingled and shared just like they are all one: no superiority, no inferiority. In the spirit of intercultural mutuality, we chose to celebrate and thank God for the gift of diversity, all in the joy of missio Dei.
As I have reflected on the event, I have taken away three critical observations:
1. This conversation is timely
This is a kairotic moment for such a conversation as this. We can not afford to push it back anymore. Many delegates said that they had been longing–and waiting–for a conversation like this. We must have the conversation now. Missio Africanus intends to help translate all the talk about cross-cultural missional partnering into action. We name the problems for what they are for we believe that honesty is the foundation of authentic relationship. At the end of the day, we seek to answer the question: In the most practical sense possible, how will Africans help re-evangelize the West?
2. This conversation is needed
Most African pastors and leaders seem not to have realised yet that “We are not in Africa anymore.” And it seems they are not learning, neither are they listening. They want to do church and evangelism like they did in Africa–which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing–and yet, they wonder why they get zero response from the British. Local pastors, on the other hand, continue to be skeptical about “these African Pentecostals” who rent their church halls, choosing rather to have mission partners while having little to do with the Africans they meet in their corridors on Sunday. This hypocrisy must stop.
3. This conversation is possible
Cross-cultural partnerships may be the Western church’s only way forward. It is encouraging to see that there are many who are beginning to think this way. Having 75 people in attendance at the Missio Africanus meeting says this conversation is possible. It is possible for African and British pastors, mission leaders, and scholars to come together to talk about potential partnerships. Of course, white churches and black churches are facing similar problems in the same localities. They must engage each other, if for nothing else, for the sake of missio Dei.
The benefits of us all working together across racial lines are greater than the forces that keep us divided.
- The seminar is part of a larger initiative being carried out by the Missional Innovations Institute. The term missio Africanus is a loose translation of the Latin “missio” which means “to send” and “Africanus” loosely to mean “of the Africans.” And thus, missio Africanus is about the sending of the Africans. We joke around that missio Africanus actually means the unleashing of the African missionary movement. However, it must be said that our conversations are dedicated to discussing missio Dei among and through Africans, both in Africa and in the African Diaspora. ↩