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Partnership in Christian mission : a history of the Protestant Missionary Movement.

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Despite the fact that partnership has be en a pronounced goal in ecumenical relationships for over eighty years, the realization of mutuality, solidarity, and koinonia has, even until present times, proven to be illusive. This fact raises a number of questions. First, why is this so? What wer e the historical antecedents that led to the concept of partnership? What were the original secular and religious contexts in which the term partnership was used, and how has its meaning been understood and contested over time? And secondly, what can we learn from this history? Are there any problematic issues or themes that repeatedly appear in the narrative, causing churches to continually fall short in these relationships? In seeking to answer these questions, this thesis will trace the history of ecu menical partnerships from its antecedents, found in the beginning of the modern Protestant missionary movement, through to current times, focusing on the relationships between churches historically involved in the International Missionary Council (IMC) and , after 1961 when the IMC integrated with the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME). Importantly, Lamin Sanneh’s typology of churches as either Global (the churches of the North or Western world, also forme rly known as ‘sending’ or ‘older’ churches) or World (the churches of the South and East, formerly known as ‘receiving’ or ‘younger’ churches) will be the lens used to understand these ecumenical relationships. Using this typology, each of the chapters th at form the main body of this research focuses on a different era of history and will follow a similar pattern. The first section of each chapter serves to situate the church’s partnership discourse in its secular setting, paying special attention to issu es pertaining to North/South political and economic power, as well as how power has been contested. The remainder of each chapter will trace the ecumenical history of partnership, focusing especially on the discussions and findings of world ecumenical mis sion meetings, starting with The Ecumenical Conference on Foreign Missions in New York in 1900. While the main emphasis will be on these ecumenical meetings and their findings, attention will also be given to individuals and events that played significant roles in the development of the understanding and practice of partnership. Significantly, at the conclusion of each chapter four prominent themes or issues will be traced which continually reappear in the narrative and make partnership difficult to reali ze. When reviewing this history, it is evident that the term partnership was a product of colonial times and therefore captive to colonial and, later, neocolonial interpretations. However, it is also clear that from the very beginnings of the moder n Protestant missionary movement some church and missionary leaders, from both the Global and World churches, have sought to ground partnership in Biblical, egalitarian, and liberationist understandings. While this can serve to encourage those involved in partnership today, the historical analysis also shows plainly four key themes or issues that continually make the attainment of equitable relationships impossible to realize; namely, the home base , humanitarianism and development , authority , and rhetoric and reality . It is clear that the differences in worldviews, as described by Sanneh’s typology, have had and continue to have detrimental effects on the relationships between the churches of Global and World Christianity. Given this history, it is assert ed in this thesis that for ecumenical partnerships to have any chance of overcoming these issues, the churches of Global Christianity must stop seeing mission as expansion and lose the desire to remake others in their image; in short, they must become, in their worldview and ethos, World churches.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2010.


Missions--History., Ecumenical movement., Theses--Theology., Protestant churches--Missions.