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Walking other people’s roads

by
03 July 2015

Peter Price considers two symposia dealing with world theology

Mission on the Road to Emmaus: Constants, context and prophetic dialogue
Cathy Ross and Stephen B. Bevans, editors
SCM Press £25
(978-0-334-04909-8)
Church Times Bookshop special price £22.50

 

Jesus without Borders: Christology in the majority world
Gene L. Green, Stephen T. Pardue and K. K. Yeo, editors
Eerdmans £12.99
(978-0-8028-7082-7)

 

IT IS an all-too-rare experience to have two significant books on mission appearing at the same time. Mission on the Road to Emmaus and Jesus without Borders complement each other.

Described as "aimed at scholars and students of missiology", Mission on the Road to Emmaus is perhaps the most accessible of the two, and should interest, and, I hope, inspire a wider group than those for whom it is specifically intended. The range of scholarship is worldwide and broad in its theological outlook, incorporating writing from teachers of Pioneer Leaders from the UK, Jonny Baker and Cathy Ross, as well as contextual Roman Catholic theologians, Stephen Bevans and Robert Schreiter.

The core theme of the book is mission as prophetic dialogue, using the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus as the template for the succeeding essay on the significance of Jesus in various contexts. The first three chapters imaginatively re-state the "constants" in Christology, with a notable contribution from Kirsteen Kim on Jesus, mission, and the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts.

In the second section, which seeks to address "Ecclesiology: Mission of the Church as Prophetic Dialogue", there is a timely contribution on the issue of migration, where people for various reasons "leave our homelands or our places of comfort and pass over into people's cultures, languages, economic standards." Such movement, the author, Emma Wild-Wood, argues, "has the potential to offer a prophetic challenge to the Church in the destination country, which may not be easy to receive", Cathy Ross offers a salutary reminder of the significance of hospitality to the stranger as what the incarnation exemplifies, offers, and requests.

The much disputed, though little discussed, doctrine of eschatology is addressed in the third section, with contributions on the significance of ecojustice to the Church's mission, and the continuing challenge of understanding "the hotly contested areas of justice with which Christian mission has to engage".

"Soteriology: Salvation as Prophetic Dialogue" is the theme of the fourth section. Here the issues of reconciliation and woundedness find powerful advocates in the two contributions by Robert Schreiter and S. Mark Heim.

The penultimate section, "Anthropology: Mission as what it means to be human", begins with a helpful survey of contemporary women's contributions to prophetic dialogue in mission, by Frances Adeney. Maria Cimperman offers a significant reflection on hope, and this is powerfully illustrated with stories of justice, love, and peacemaking, while reminding readers that, for many, "Hope is the thin air." A more critical assessment of the Church in Africa by Joe Kapolyo ends this section with a critique of the core values on the establishment of the Church, and his perception that of the failure of African Christianity to root itself culturally.

Finally, part six offers three essays on "Culture: Mission and culture in prophetic dialogue". Key to this section is the final chapter by Stephen B. Bevans on contextual theology and prophetic dialogue. His work in this area has been monumental, and forms the basis and shaping of the whole book.

This is a brave book, not least because it seeks to place alongside one another exercises in missiology from different ecclesial, cultural, and theological perspectives. Occasionally, I felt a certain grinding of gears, but perhaps it is all the better for that. This symposium is essential reading for all who would seek a broader understanding of the implications of doing mission today.

Jesus without Borders: Christology in the majority world is the first work in the emerging Majority World Theology series. Biblical scholars from various parts of the world discuss the significance of Jesus in their various contexts. Immediately, this work does not have the overall appeal of the Mission on the Road to Emmaus. Its subject-matter is more defined. This is about Christology from a variety of perspectives, from Europe and North America to Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

The opening chapters offer a series of theological engagements on the nature and meaning of Christology in different contexts, based on the Chalcedonian Confession. Each essay explores in context what T. F. Torrance described as the task of Christology, "to yield the obedience of our mind to what is given, which is God's self-revelation in the objective reality, Jesus Christ". The second section, on biblical explorations, offers some outstanding commentary on St John's Gospel through Palestinian eyes, and 1 Peter from a Kenyan perspective.

Though more specialised, this book offers not only readability, but imaginative and prophetic biblical explorations. If it is a sign of things to come in this series, there is much to be eagerly welcomed.

 

The Rt Revd Peter Price is a former Bishop of Bath & Wells.

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