4. Mission and power


Dr. Jonathan Bonk, Overseas Ministries Study Center, USA
Lori Ransom, Presbyterian Church of Canada

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Aims and objectives

This study theme recognises that mission is practised in a world shaped by various forms of power: spiritual, political, military, financial and international; raising issues of culture change, human rights, ecological sustainability and inequalities in the production, distribution and consumption of resources.

The study group has been considering tensions and asymmetries resulting from the exercise of power and how these affect the sharing and communication of the Gospel message and life. It has assessed the function of both power and weakness in our understanding and practice of Christian mission.

Key issues and questions

1.  Power within the church; power between churches; power between mission bodies and churches. Can mission be a form of manipulation? What strategies are needed to guard against exploitation?
2.  Power between church and state: in the different contexts in which we find ourselves how can Christians ensure that their relationship to the state does not compromise loyalty to their faith? Is state protection for missionaries justifiable?
3.  Idolatry of the market: how does the ´idolatry´ of the modern market economy affect Christian faith and mission?
4.  Internalisation of power structures: how can we guard against unexamined presuppositions, blinkered thinking, cultural conditioning and adverse spiritual powers? How can we be remade in God´s image?
5.  Reconstruction of power: can political reconstruction foster democratic processes? How does structural and political violence affect the witness of the Gospel?
6.  Creative power: is there a positive and creative use of power in mission? How can missions avoid being subverted by the human will to power? What is the role of vulnerability in mission?
7.  Indigenous peoples: how can we proclaim the Gospel without destroying indigenous cultures?

Study group reports and publications

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