As a board of trustees of Global Connections (GC), we would like to respond to an article, published by Chris Sugden, published in the Church of England Newspaper 29th April 2022 reviewing an edition of Anvil, but in particular focusing on the lead article written by Dr Harvey Kwiyani, our Executive Director. Whilst Harvey’s article, “Mission after George Floyd: on white supremacy, colonialism and world Christianity”, was published in October 2020 before his appointment to GC, we feel that Sugden’s review warrants a formal reply.
We are of a view that some of the criticisms are unfounded, in particular:
- The claim of ignorance of mission theology written by Two Thirds World theologians, especially since Majority World theologians were cited severally in that volume, and in Kwiyani’s article.
- That Kwiyani’s claims were offered without evidence. Kwiyani’s article was replete with examples from contemporary events, historical documentation and personal experience in Europe and North America, and service within a variety of church streams, mission agencies and theology departments.
GC welcomes theologians and mission practitioners from all parts of the world to contribute to missional thinking and practice in the UK. Indeed, we see the need for more personnel representing the Majority World to resource the global ‘from everywhere to everyone’ mission effort. The World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission exists to ‘catalyse a community of global leaders and provide a platform for multi-cultural voices to advance God’s mission’. We are privileged to be part of that.
It is expected that those who serve in one place will apply their experience when they move to serve in another part of God’s mission. Moreover, while the movement of people in many and complex directions is a part of God working out of His purposes, we do not support a call to all Majority World missiologists and others to leave Northern or Western contexts. We particularly reject the inference that our mission partner guests are here to enjoy a more luxurious lifestyle – many have suffered and struggled as they arrive to serve alongside us (see Discipleship, Suffering and Racial Justice – Regnum Books by Israel Olofinjana pp31-32).
Sugden’s main issue with Kwiyani’s article is its condemnation of “most white mission endeavour as colonialist and racist” promoting oppression, countering “missionaries could not be other than themselves… but did not go out as colonialists.” Whilst we agree with him that many missionaries went to work with and serve the marginalised, and some even resisted the colonial government and representatives, we cannot deny the overwhelming evidence where missionaries have also been complicit in colonial and racist actions. Sugden himself acknowledges that many participated in this white supremacist agenda, either knowingly or unknowingly.
However, Kwiyani’s article catalogues how Christians were complicit in the historical displacement of native Americans and enslavement of Africans. His concern is that this colonial and white supremacist mindset is not just historical but continues today. Christians should welcome that following George Floyd’s murder, there is now the beginning of an acknowledgement of the white supremacist systems that continue to oppress black people.
These are issues that we as Christians involved in cross-cultural missions from the West need to wrestle with, and therefore, we support Kwiyani’s call to the Church to listen, reflect, and make practical changes so that we can be a more perfect bride of Christ and partner of God’s mission. In this regard, we agree with Sugden that we are faced with the conundrum of how and why God uses flawed instruments in the mixed legacy of mission.
Global Connections will aim to continue to provide leadership for agencies, churches and colleges in the UK as we wrestle with current and impending mission challenges. This will include assessing the theme of mission and colonialism and how we play a healthy part on the global and multidirectional, indeed polycentric, mission picture of the coming decades.
Global Connections Trustee Board