Read an Excerpt
An Introduction by Max L. Stackhouse (from pages 1-14)
In some ways it was an odd marriage. But it worked. It proved that contrary bits of folk wisdom sometimes both apply: "Birds of a feather flock together" and "Opposites attract." World Vision (WV) is a nondenominational, relatively young, West Coast, largely Evangelical partnership of Christians which has become the largest Christian development and relief organization in the world. They asked Presbyterian, East Coast, largely Ecumenical Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), one of the oldest academic centers in America for the training of clergy and teachers, to cohost a conference and to aid in the publication of materials intended to help redefine missions for the next century. The Pew Charitable Trusts blessed this liaison with a grant to cover some of the costs.
PTS and WV invited some one hundred leaders in the analysis of world trends, government, law, business, area specialists where global changes are dramatic, theologians, social ethicists, and leaders of church-related service, relief, development, and mission organizations from Evangelical, Ecumenical, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox branches of the Christian tradition as well as from some non-church related service and advocacy organizations. We met in the fall of 1998. We worshiped, discussed, debated, and ate together. Respondents and critics evoked modulation or revisions of perspective and sometimes sharp rejoinders. The editors worked their magic on selected presentations in the summer of 1999. Eerdmans is publishing the results; the Media Center edited the video.
This book and the related audio and video tapes, the first fruits of this agreeable marriage of convenience, are the primary public results intended for use in local churches. What bonds these groups and the chapters of this book together is a commitment to carry out a faithful and useful ministry and mission under the new conditions of "globalization." The conversion of persons, the planting of churches, the care for those struck by disaster, and the building up of educational and medical institutions will continue to be priorities for many mission-oriented bodies, although much of this is increasingly carried out around the world by indigenous churches now growing stronger in numbers, independence, and resources. Nearly all of those invited to our conference have had extensive cross-cultural experience and know very well that church and mission bodies outside the "North" and the "West" are developing their own theologies and strategies for ministry, mission, and service. Some of the perspectives and programs are, in fact, sharply critical of "Northern" or "Western" influences. We also had to recognize the fact that "globalization" is widely viewed with suspicion, for it appears to be another "North" and "West" development that is intruding into their societies, cultures, and churches. Being fully alert to these critiques, we felt it was time to think through, again, how we ought to respond to them under the new conditions we face, build partnerships with promising developments in ways that also serve the needy, promote justice, cultivate the prospects for peace, and contribute in faithful ways to what seems to be the formation of a new global society that will undoubtedly include those committed to other religious traditions.
Surely it is true that the Christian churches face a new global situation, full of both promise and peril. Led by new developments in economics, technology, and media, by wider and more direct contact between the world religions, and by a wider consensus about human rights, ecological dangers, and the costs of war, new institutional and social practices are emerging on all sides. These contribute to an awareness of global interconnectedness and interdependence. However, new forces of fragmentation and domination are also made possible by just these developments. Several reports indicated that the very globalization that draws the world into a cosmopolitan civilization is experienced by many as a disrupting intrusion that they can neither fully resist nor warmly embrace. Following an image suggested by John Mbiti, the noted scholar of African Religions, some called it "the bulldozer effect."
How shall we think of the mission of the church in such a world? What needs modification? What can be modified? Many of the habits of mind that have stamped church policies, missionary practices, and service programs during this last century were fostered not only by profound religious convictions but also by (usually unintended) cultural imperialism and social domination. This was sometimes reinforced by no small amount of anxiety in the face of secularization and the simultaneous rebirth of "New Age" religions (which seemed to be "Old Age" paganism to many). Further, the experience of two World Wars, the Cold War, the wars of liberation, and new waves of ethnic, interreligious, tribal, or nationalist violence that seem to break out on every continent suggests that the rough places of human history have not yet been made plain. Some of the habits of mind and mission policies infected by these developments, and some of the habits and policies born of protest against them, are now obsolete and even debilitating. The churches cannot constructively undertake important changes without a better understanding of the emerging situation, a rethinking of what we have to offer to this kind of a world, and how best to offer it.
The central concern of these essays is the relation of Christian theology and ethics to key areas of global change. New levels of interconnectedness and interdependence can be found in many areas of life, and it is a deepening of faith to see how widely the implications of Christian thought reaches. Many topics that are likely to influence the future deeply are seldom discussed in churches, although they already have begun to affect the lives of believers at home and abroad. When they are discussed by Christians they are not always related to issues of faith or ethics. In the conference and in this book, they are treated from a Christian theological point of view. No one wants to turn congregations into a university course on world development, and no one expects every pastor to become an expert in all these areas. But if the churches are to develop effective missions in the next century, some of these matters are unavoidable.
It is impossible to summarize here all the contributions made or topics taken up at the conference. Ongoing research is needed in several areas. Some topics seemed more indirectly related to congregational church life, and a few of the materials that were presented have been or will be published elsewhere by the authors. (Audio tapes of all presentations are available from the Educational Media Center of Princeton Theological Seminary.) However, we have selected five clusters of issues that pastors and congregations will find critical as they too think through the mission of the churches in our time.
1. Stewardship, Doing Well, and Doing Good
It would be foolish to try to deal with globalization without reference to the economy. Whether it is viewed as the triumph of capitalism, the spread of the market logic, the commodification of the earth, or the materialistic victory of consumerism, it is the economy that often first comes to mind when people hear the word "globalization."
Although traders have plied their wares by backpack, caravans, and waterways for as long as there is recorded history, most people lived by hunting, fishing, herding, or farming; all were essentially extraction methods in particular places. Commercial activities were centered in the inherited crafts, supplying those who lived by extraction or were connected to the more luxurious lives of political leaders.
A series of developments historically related to Christianity generated a distinctive "work ethic" as a sign of obedience to God. It began in the monasteries where the life of disciplined work was integrated into a life of disciplined prayer, and later became applied to the "priesthood of all believers." Also, the church generated a set of institutions independent of kinship or regime that were to evolve into "the modern corporation," the primary workplace for more and more people who now work in factories, stores, or offices linked to the global economy. From its roots in medieval church law where "corporation" had to do with the rights of religious communities to own property in common, provide services, produce goods, and trade as a body different from the household and the body politic, it gradually shed its "religious order" roots and grew to become the host institution for the industrial revolution and for international trade — as we know not only from old factories, but from the old European companies for trade, banking, and finance.
This new kind of institution was able to operate on a wider basis, over a longer period of time, and with greater economic effectiveness than any economic institution built around the household or managed as a branch of government. It grew in influence over the last few centuries, especially in America, although it was sharply opposed in the twentieth century by various forms of socialism in the name of the workers, and by a number of forms of fascism in the name of national sovereignty. It became the home of technological innovation, and in the process altered ideas of property, work, job, and profession. It brought about changes in family, political, and cultural life.
After the defeat of fascism and the failure of Soviet socialism, corporate influence has exploded across all borders and traditional boundaries, drawing more and more of the world's population and more aspects of social life into a common web of corporate relationships. What we call the "market economy" is increasingly shaped by these relationships. Various large corporations and international banks have made loans to developing countries which have sometimes aided development, sometimes been diverted into the private accounts of political leaders, and sometimes become the occasion for crippling debt repayments if development did not take place well enough to establish a flourishing economy.
There are a number of benefits to the new corporate economy. Most evidence suggests that people are best off where there are higher numbers of corporations per population, and most leaders of poor countries or regions want to get corporations to put up their factories and offices there. Very few want to return to socialism or fascism or to remain in perpetual underdevelopment. Still, many see globalization essentially as a boundless corporate capitalism which may outproduce other systems, but which also demands frenetic work schedules, increased materialism, and the marginalization of all those not in on it. Where corporations encounter traditional economies, attitudes, and patterns of relationship, it introduces a crisis — people want its products, but resist its demands and hate its disruptive effects on social life as they have known it. It appears that mammon has found a new home from which to rule the world. How does spirituality relate to this kind of organization? Can the church and the faith contribute anything to the salvation of a world now shaped by this powerful reality?
It is neither prudent nor possible to leave these matters entirely in the hands of secular specialists. Many of the issues needing attention have moral and spiritual dimensions. Many people who are involved in the churches are also involved in business, labor, transportation, technology, and administration, or are simply interested in the wider church and world affairs. They know that many of the issues we face have been influenced by and have implications for people beyond their own congregation and nation, and are laden with moral and spiritual overtones. However, there is only scattered evidence of moral or spiritual approaches to the critical issues. Indeed, many suggest that it is a time of fragmentation, breakdown, and pending chaos precisely because nomoral and spiritual foundations can be found by these means.
Those who spoke to these issues in the conference were realistic about problems, but they remain convinced that the faith provides resources that are now needed. When the authors of these chapters take up one or another area to clarify what is happening around the world, they also seek to discern what God is doing in the midst of these changes and to chart practical new directions for ministries and missions as we move into the twenty-first century.
In the first set of essays, Professor William Schweiker, a United Methodist theologian from the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, The Right Reverend James H. Ottley, bishop of the Episcopal Church, and Dr. David Befus of World Vision, take us into some of the most critical issues we presently face, religiously and practically, regarding economic globalization. (See the comments on their contributions on pp. 23-25.) They show that through responsible stewardship as taught in the Bible and in the classic theological tradition, the effects of mammon can be constrained. Indeed, they show how some aspects of economic globalization can be rechanneled to help those who are now doing badly do well, and they show how the missionary impulse in every believer can lead us to do some economic good in and for the world.
2. Faith, Learning, and Just Loving
Globalization is not only economic. We shall see in later parts of this book that technology, ecology, the encounter with other faiths, international law, and the perils of war are also global influences. But globalization is not only about things that have happened or do happen or could happen high above and far away from where most people live. It is a feature of globalization that what happens "out there somewhere" has an impact on what happens here —in our schools, homes, and churches. It is called "reflexivity"; what happens there reflects back on here and what happens here reflects back on what happens there. This is one of the key reasons for holding this conference and preparing this material. Local communities need to be prepared for what is happening, and to decide whether to resist or embrace it. Also, the long-range cumulative effect of what people do in local communities will influence the direction and destiny of globalization. This part of the book helps us recognize global reflexivity in Christian education, marriage, and worship.
The church, the family, and the school are central to any viable and enduring civil society. They shape personal conviction. Character is formed, love is nurtured, and understanding is cultivated in them. If people are to be prepared morally, emotionally, and intellectually to shape the global future, and not to be swallowed or devastated by it, they must be equipped to face the global environment in which they will live. That requires an informed mind, a capacity for principled commitment, and a profound faith. Yet, in some ways, the school, the family, and the church often find themselves besieged by influences and forces they do not quite know how to face.
In America, the separation of church and state (for which there are very good theological as well as practical political reasons) has meant that many grow up without knowing much about the religious traditions that have shaped Western civilization generally and the social and political life of the United States in particular. Often, young people know a great deal about neither what the other religions of the world have to offer nor how religion works in other cultures. For that reason, new efforts at Christian education are underway. Some of those engaged in leading these new efforts have recognized that the complex issues of globalization need to be introduced as a dimension of Christian education.
Christianity is a missionary religion, and we need to understand the nature and character of our mission, especially under new conditions. Further, in our public schools, faith is very often presented as but one aspect of culture, with the implied notion that every culture and every religion is equally valid. This may aid tolerance, but it may more often breed insecurity, doubt, and an unwillingness to make deep and informed commitments. Still further, the mobility and migrations of people in our day mean that more people in more communities face one or another kind of pluralism and multiculturalism simply by meeting others in the families of friends, in the neighborhood, at school, and at work. How shall we teach the next generation to cope with the inevitable multiculturalism of the global future without losing faith?
Ideas of pluralism and multiculturalism appear in every area of life. Plural forms of family life and marriage have been much discussed in the last several decades. Issues of divorce, remarriage, blended families, single-parent and same-sex families are hotly debated in many churches. The rise of feminist consciousness, which is partly tied to the changing patterns of work outside the home, and partly to new understandings of justice in the relationships of men and women, has also had a profound effect on the shape of family life in the West, and it is having increasing impact around the world. Indeed, it is now possible to speak of "global feminism" as a movement. Increased exposure to the role of family and faith in other traditions is reshaping our own understandings of marriage and family life in general, sometimes helping to correct efforts to reform family life in ways unlikely to stand the test of time or to nurture a healthy and faithful next generation.
Similarly, we can say that worship is today influenced by plural and multicultural exposure. Missionaries were among the first to report to the Western churches about religious similarities and differences. Many of the early anthropologists were sons and daughters of missionaries. But as the church was planted in many places, the new churches began to selectively adopt and to actively alter what they received. Thus, they began to become full partners in the development of the ongoing Christian traditions, just as Greeks, Romans, Northern Europeans, Slavs, etc., had done historically. An indication of this can be found in the worship resources that are now widely used. Nearly all denominations have revised their hymnal in the last generation, and they have all included materials from around the world. Worship is altered by this reflexivity. This is not the place to reprint international hymns, but it is a good place to illustrate how sermons and meditations written by someone from another culture can deepen our own worship.
Thus, the second set of essays is focused on school, family, and church — all under the title of Faith, Learning, and Family. It includes contributions by United Presbyterian Richard Osmer, a professor of Christian education at Princeton Theological Seminary, the Christian Reformed feminist scholar, Dr. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, lay church leader and professor at Eastern College, and worship meditations by Fr. John Mbiti, already mentioned above as one of the world's leading scholars of African Religions, an Anglican priest from Kenya now serving in Switzerland.
3. The Spirit, Wholeness, and Health
Economic life, plus the reflexive influence of educational, family, and worship life, shape globalization and are shaped by it. The same goes for technology. While it was once thought that science changed the world, it now appears that technology, using science, changes it more radically and is developing more rapidly. Clearly, it is a globalizing force and like others, is laden with promise and peril. In the past such technical innovations as the use of fire, harness, the iron plow, gunpowder, sextant, clock, and printing had worldwide effects, but seemingly over a long period of time. Faithful people could morally and spiritually digest their implications and extend implications of the first principles embedded in biblical and theological perspectives to guide them. But it is not clear that we have done so well with the internal combustion engine, the splitting of the atom, or the host of newer technologies that alter both the internal structure of human existence and the fundamental structure of the environment.
It has been argued that Christianity is heavily responsible for Western technological change, for we have been given the mandate to "have dominion" over the earth and all that is therein. Further, later theological developments argued that because both humans and nature are fallen, it is the duty of believers to use "the mechanical arts" to restore what can be restored, to improve what can be bettered, and to oppose the powers of death and disease. Such arguments indicate that parts of the Christian tradition have been very much related to issues of technology and saw it, rightly used, as a spiritual and moral instrument. Certainly, missionaries over the centuries have been agents of technological transfer wherever they went. Today the connection between moral, theological, and spiritual insights and the technologies shaping globalization is less direct and more difficult to define.
Three areas are especially challenging. First are the biotechnical interventions that change the genetic codes of the human person. Second are the ecologically invasive economic interventions that are changing the biophysical environment. And third are the medical technologies that make interventions possible at the boundaries of life and death.
Striking contributions to the discussion of these issues can be found in Ron Cole-Turner's essay. He is a professor of theology at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and editor of one of the first books published on cloning. Susan Power Bratton, who has written on ecological issues from a theological perspective, offers an intriguing case study in "eco-normative" thinking about one critical issue confronting our oceans. And Dr. Allen Verhey, a noted medical ethicist, takes up the explicit question of the relationship of the Holy Spirit to contemporary understandings of medicine. We gain fresh insight from them into the state of contemporary technology as a global force and ways to think about it in terms of The Spirit, Wholeness, and Health.
4. Christ and Other Religions
The impact of economics, of reflexivity in Christian education, family life, and worship, and of technology influences also the global encounter with other religions and other branches of Christianity. The world religions are no longer "long ago and far away"; they are present in our communities. The rich philosophies of India and of China, especially Hinduism and Confucianism — both extremely complex with many variations — have long proven that they could shape great pluralistic cultures over many centuries. Moral ideals and social patterns adopted from them have made a major impact on the surrounding cultures of their regions. But they are also increasingly present in other societies due to the migration of Indian and Chinese peoples into nearly every country of the world. Something similar could be said about primal religions — tribal and shaman traditions which in times past covered huge areas of the globe and which today persist in the ways that Christianity is practiced in many places when these people are converted.
Historically, missionaries to India and China and tribal regions have been intrigued and perplexed, if sometimes affronted, by the practices of these traditions, and ritual forms of meditation, exercise, and dance have been adopted by non-Hindus, non-Confucians, and non-tribals in many places. Those who came to know the intellectual, spiritual, and moral philosophies behind them often found areas of possible agreement or convergence. Besides, for the most part, neither Hinduism nor Confucianism nor the tribal religions are missionary religions; they do not emphasize conversion or doctrine. One is born and nurtured into these traditions. One learns its practices as one becomes a part of the society. Ethnicity, faith, geography, and social practice are deeply intertwined into a kind of cultural genetic code.
Something of this is surely true of all great religions, but Buddhism, Islam, and the various branches of Christianity are also missionary and doctrinal religions. They seek to have people understand their message as carried in their faith's doctrines, to see its truth, and to convert. In this regard, they are in principle, if not always in fact, more concerned about expressed belief than ethnicity or cultural practice as the marker of faith. They all also seek to convert the whole world, so that they reach beyond any geographic or national boundary. And while they link faith and social life, they seek to do so in ways that subordinate the conventions of society to the principles of faith.
Of course, the various branches of Christianity find areas of common ground with each other and with these great world religions, and all stress tolerance at certain levels. Finally, though, on certain matters of doctrine they simply do not agree, and each would like to convert the others. For this reason, interfaith relationships with Buddhists and Muslims and ecumenical relationships among Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, and between, say, Pentecostal and Liberationist branches of Protestantism and Catholicism, have sometimes been conflictual. Looked at another way, however, some aspects of Buddhism appear to have parallels with the more liberal parts of Christianity, while Islam seems to have parallels with the more conservative parts of Christianity, as these essays show.
A decisive issue for the global future is how these religions are going to understand one another and relate to each other. Our contributors to this part of the volume bring intriguing backgrounds to these questions. Kosuke Koyama, professor of world Christianity Emeritus of Union Theological Seminary in New York, was born and raised in Japan, where he was converted to Christianity. Later, he became a missionary to Thailand and became, in a new way, acquainted with Buddhism and an interpreter of that tradition to Christians as well as an interpreter of Christianity to Buddhists. Lamin Sanneh, professor of missions at Yale Divinity School, was born into a leading Muslim family in West Africa, and converted to Christianity, first to Methodism and more recently to Roman Catholicism, as he pursued his intellectual and spiritual journey. Working with a number of ecumenical and interfaith bodies, he became a key interpreter of Islam to Christians and Christianity to Muslims and an innovative interpreter of the missionary process in general.
We end this portion of the book with an essay by Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., an evangelical professor of missions at Fuller Theological Seminary. One of the leading Roman Catholic scholars of missions and globalization, Fr. Robert Schreiter, has written a widely quoted book on "the new catholicity." Although he was unable to come to the conference to dialogue with Professor Robeck, something of the flavor of dialogue is captured in Robeck's essay on "the new ecumenism" that concludes this section.
5. Conflict, Violence, and Mission
The issues of conflict in the global situation must be faced by a genuinely catholic, genuinely evangelical, and genuinely ecumenical spirit. It is unlikely that all conflict and violence will be eliminated from human history, for it is one of the deepest truths of the Christian tradition that sin plagues our personal and social lives from beginning to end. One might even suggest that the ancient pagan god Mars continues to lurk under the mantle of civilization and is constantly threatening to break free. But it is also part of the theological and ethical mission of Christians to reduce conflict and constrain violence. The means to do that take us into areas that also have been deeply shaped by Christian history in the past, but which now seem to operate without overt connection to the faith or the church. I refer specifically to law and politics.
It is one of the most difficult features of globalization that it has no legal or political boundaries or government. Living in a constitutional democracy, we know that when a civil liberty is challenged we can say "it's a free country." And when something dangerous is at hand, we can say "there ought to be a law." In either case, we can appeal to the legally guaranteed rights to preserve our freedoms or to mobilize an action committee, advocacy group, or political movement to get a new law passed. Historically, the formation of our constitutional democracy was deeply stamped by Christian influences and shaped by profound ideas of just law and compassionate mercy.
But in the global society into which we are moving, no constitution governs and no democratic institutions are in place. It is true that more international law has been passed in the last quarter of a century than in any century previously, indicating that some, albeit vague, notions of justice are in play; and it is true that more countries have adopted democratic constitutions during that period than ever before in history. But a certain anarchy continues to exist in international relationships. The United Nations, of course, has become effective in some areas of international cooperation, and its "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" is a marvelous achievement to which many aspire; but it seems unlikely and probably not desirable to have the UN develop into a single world government. How then can and should we respond to the sporadic violence and conflict that pops up now and again in every corner of the globe? What is the Christian mission in such a situation?
John Witte, Jr., director of the Law and Religion Program at the Law School of Emory University, has coordinated a series of scholarly and practical programs dealing with interfaith and cross-cultural perspectives on human rights and democracy. With the help of Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission, who did on-the-ground investigations of the conflicts in Rwanda for the UN, Witte presented us with an overview of the factors that lead to and potentially help contain interreligious conflict. We begin this section with it. Donald W. Shriver, Jr., until recently president of Union Theological Seminary and a past president of the Society of Christian Ethics, has written and lectured widely on the problem of reconciliation between hostile groups and nations. He explicitly treats the distinctive contribution that Christians can make in this area. And we conclude this section, and the book, with an essay by Ian T. Douglas, a professor of theology and Missions at Episcopal Divinity School, who reviews not only these specific issues, but many of the themes touched on in the entire volume, and brings the implications back to the possibilities and responsibilities for mission in the local church.