The Atlantic ran an article on the challenge of being a global church. In an interview with CGCM Director, Dana Robert, the magazine explored the complexity of holding together a diverse body with an essentially democratic polity. Currently, the United Methodist Church is struggling with the question of whether gay and lesbian people can be ordained in the church, and whether or not pastors can marry same-sex couples. The questions threaten to divide the church. Yet, Robert saw the current debate as hopeful: “You don’t see Catholic bishops debating these issues with the laity. Their position is set. You don’t see fundamentalists debating this issue with the laity. Their position is set.” But for Methodists, if “you believe in the unity of the church … struggle is part of the process.”
At the United Methodist General Conference, Glen Messer–the first faculty associate of the CGCM, and now an executive in the Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships–announced that the UMC was forming two new ecumenical relationships. One was with the Moravian Church and the other with the Uniting Church in Sweden.
In his new book, Perfecting Unity, Glen Alton Messer II–the first faculty associate of the Center for Global Christianity & Mission–aids Christ’s disciples in discernment in the midst of this present moment of time; in our world and context. The book is also written for those who wish to understand Christians and the things with which they wrestle as they do their best to live faithfully in the world. It is not a book that gives answers. Indeed, it is a book that challenges answers formulated previously by other faithful Christians in different moments and different contexts. It is not a repudiation of what came before; but a reminder that the practice of courage in people of faith necessitates the testing of previous worldviews and the formulation of new best attempts to incarnate the love of God in us and around us.
The book is being published one chapter at a time, with a new chapter appearing every Wednesday until October. The material is digitally accessible now, and later will be available for purchase through Amazon.
In her recent article, “Buddhist Monks and Christian Friars: Religious and Cultural Exchange in the Making of Buddhism,” Eva Pascal (PhD Candidate) demonstrated that the idea of Buddhism as a common religion across much of Asia, did not emerge in the 19th century as has been widely assumed. Instead, it was Spanish Franciscan Friars in the 16th century who, in their interactions with Buddhist monks in Thailand, China, and Japan recognized a common core. The Franciscans not only perceived a single founder behind the various names used for the Buddha in Asia, they also recognized the features of “religion.” In other words, Franciscans concluded that Buddhist monks were not merely superstitious–the label associated with heathen ideas. Instead, they began to use the term “religion” for Buddhist beliefs and practices, because the Franciscans recognized monks as their counterparts. Buddhist monks lived in monastic communities, adhered to a life of voluntary poverty, took vows of chastity, preached obedience to commandments, and the like. The parallels led the Franciscan missionaries to introduce Buddhism to the West as a religion, a total system comparable to Christianity.
At the 75th annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies, CGCM Associate Director, Daryl Ireland participated in a panel on “Chinese Christianity Revisited: The John Sung Papers and Chinese Evangelistic Materials.” The panel was organized by the Council on East Asian Libraries, and highlighted Yale Divinity School’s recent acquisition of the journals of John Sung, the preeminent Chinese evangelist of the 20th century. Three librarians spoke about what it means to have access to rare primary materials, particularly from a figure like John Sung. These are the necessary building blocks for scholars to piece together the dramatic story of Chinese Christianity over the last 100 years. Dr. Ireland was then featured as someone who has used the new materials, and he demonstrated how a close reading of one of Sung’s revivals can go a long way in reconstructing the class composition of the people who eagerly gathered to hear Sung preach.
On April 2, Laura Chevalier, Doctoral Fellow at the CGCM, presented a paper at the Northeast meeting of the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) in Flushing, NY. In her paper entitled “Midwives and Mamas of the Local Church: Historical Case Studies of Women in Mission,” Chevalier looked at the life writing of two twentieth century evangelical missionaries: Lillian Trasher and Dr. Helen Roseveare. She drew out five themes regarding the local church and mission in their writings and concluded by discussing what these women’s lives and writings bring to bear on evangelical mission today. The conference brought together a broad spectrum of people in the evangelical community including mission scholars and practitioners, pastors, and many lay leaders from a wide variety of denominations. Concurrent paper sessions offered in both Chinese and Spanish during the afternoon session highlights the attention to diversity by conference organizers and the diverse backgrounds of participants.
On March 30th, Dana Robert delivered the annual Donald A. Yerxa Lecture in History at Eastern Nazarene College. She probed the role of “Cross-Cultural Christian Friendships in the Age of Nationalist Revolution, 1950s-1970s,” asserting that these close connections were costly in the midst of shifting political arrangements, but that they were important reminders that Christianity was a multi-ethnic, global religion. Christian friendships that did not collapse under the extraordinary pressure and violence of nationalism underscored the reality of world Christianity.
The lecture also pointed to another type of enduring friendship. Dana Robert has been the reader for four dissertations written by Nazarene scholars. All four were able to attend the lecture and are pictured below.
Sunday, March 20th, Father Vincent Machozi, A.A. was murdered for his work in documenting the human rights abuses that were happening in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Machozi had been a ThD student in Mission Studies and Ethics, but returned to Congo before completing the degree in hopes that he could speak out agains the atrocities that were being committed in eastern Congo.
A memorial service will be held at Boston University. For fuller coverage of the story, BU Today, Crux, and the Assumptionists have each published accounts of the heroic life and tragic death of Rev. Machozi.
Dana L. Robert, Director of the Center for Global Christianity & Mission, was selected a Luce Fellow for 2016-2017 by the Association of Theological Schools and the Henry Luce Foundation. Selected on the basis of the strength of her proposal to conduct creative and innovative theological research, Professor Robert will conduct yearlong research on “Transnational Friendships and Fellowship in the Making of World Christianity.” At the conclusion of her research, she will meet with the other Fellows to present her work, before moving it to publication.
The BBC has produced an article about a unique book published in 1942. A Tibetan scholar stumbled across Sue in Tibet in a second-hand book store. To have a female character as the central character in a book in the 1940s was unique, but even more fascinating with the historical accuracy of the tale. The scholar found the story so intriguing that she ended up tracking down the history of the author, Dorris Shelton Still, a missionary kid.
Not long ago, Visiting CGCM Researcher Cathy Corman found herself in a similar situation. Introduced to Barbara (Barry) Beach Alter, Dr. Corman became curious about her life as a missionary in India. The stories she heard were so compelling that she helped Barry construct an audio autobiography, In the Midst. The result is a multimedia presentation, and another small advance in uncovering the stories of women who have served in missions.