Wanted: Talking Strangers.

At the center of contemporary Western missiology (or missional theology/ecclesiology) is the voice of Bishop Lesslie Newbigin, a British missionary theologian who spent some thirty years working in India. When he returned to England in the mid-70s, he was shocked to see that the Christian Britain that had sent him to India in the 30s had become secular, and to his surprise, the British Christians seemed not to recognize this. Thirty years of missionary work in India had turned him into a stranger in his country of origin, and it was this stranger’s perspective that allowed him to see that mission field that Britain had become. Newbigin himself knew this. He thought there is great advantage in engaging the voices of strangers. In Foolishness to the Greeks (1986, 147), he said of non-Western Christians, ” We need their witness to correct ours, as indeed they need ours to correct theirs. At this moment our need is greater, for they have been far more aware of the danger of syncretism, of an illegitimate alliance with the false elements in their culture, than we have been. But . . . we imperatively need one another if we are to be faithful witnesses to Christ.” In Malawi, we say mlendo ndiuyo abwera ndi kalumo kakuthwa, meaning a stranger’s perspective maybe the long-awaited solution to a community’s problem. A fresh set of eyes usually has the privilege of a critical distance to see things that are not seen by others.

This blog is set up with the sole intention of facilitating such a conversation where Western and non-Western Christians and mission thinkers can engage one another as we think about the theme that was central to Newbigin’s work: to convert the West. It seeks to encourage strangers to talk to one another. It wants to sustain the voice of the stranger in the missional conversations in the West. 

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