Mission World - August 2023


Chapter 36 of The Oxford Handbook of Mission Studies (Oxford University Press, 2022) is entitled “The Protestant World Mission and Race Discourse: Edinburgh 1910–Ghana 1958”, in which Nico Botha and Eugene Baron conclude that while Christian missiologists in the past were hesitant “to call racism what it is” there is no justification for such hesitancy “in mission studies today”. Secondly, even in the past and certainly today, “there were quite solid theological-missiological statements drawing attention to the fact that racism, could not, and cannot withstand the test of Scripture” (pp. 646–647).

Among recent statements of Christian churches speaking out against systemic racism is a document produced by the Council for World Mission, a body established in 1977. Its 32 members include the London Missionary Society (1795) and the Commonwealth Missionary Society (1836). As part of their planning for 2020–2029, they issued a theology statement entitled Rising to Life: Breaking out from Babylon. Section One of this statement has a passage entitled “Patriarchy, racism and chauvinistic nationalisms”. It starts by saying, “These intersecting systems promote division and drive inequality and violence” (p. 6). It concludes with this commitment: “In the face of these idolatries of whiteness, masculinity, heterosexuality, anthropocentric power, privilege and violence, we say, with Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that we will not worship the golden statue that you (Babylon) have set up” (p. 7).

This is only one of numerous significant statements made by churches around the world in recent times. The World Council of Churches has a website entitled “Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia”, in which the Council states that “Confronting racism and fighting for racial justice are and should be our ecumenical contribution to the renewal of the church”.

In 2019, the United States Catholic Mission Association hosted webinars on a pastoral letter issued by the US Catholic Bishops Conference. This pastoral letter against racism, “Open Wide Our Hearts - the Enduring Call to Love”, begins by addressing the question “What is racism?” (pp. 3–8). It points to attitudes of racial superiority and the denial of the truth that we are all equal.

Attitudes engendered by upbringing and culture have resulted in unjust and violent social structures. Yet, despite the changes brought about by the civil rights movements and civil rights legislation, there remains the need for genuine conversion of heart.

In response, the bishops use the text from Micah 6:8 in challenging all peoples of the United States to allow for the emergence of new relationships that hark back to the opening passage of this statement where they say that we are called to love and that this “comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’” (1 Cor 15:28).

As these documents show, racism has become a central issue of concern. It has been a long time coming. But the churches and missionaries can no longer be deaf to the cry of people around the world who continue to experience the impact of systemic racism.

Columban Fr Tom Rouse lives and works in New Zealand.

Mission Intentions

August - For World Youth Day: We pray the World Youth Day in Lisbon will help young people to live and witness the Gospel in their own lives.

Listen to "Mission World - August 2023"

Related links

The Far East - New Subscription

Code : 4



Annual subscription to The Far East magazine, published by St Columbans Mission Society 8 times per year. It features mission articles and photographs by Columban Missionaries from the countries where they work.


See all products