In this issue, two articles present historical perspectives on pivotal aspects of mission history in the Stone-Campbell Movement, and two articles address important missiological issues from broader perspectives. The combination invites reflection on the nature of the dialogue in which Missio Dei is increasingly engaged.
The journal began with the stated purpose of “exploring the rich tradition and ongoing practice of participation in the mission of God among churches of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement, particularly Churches of Christ/Christian Churches and Churches of Christ (a cappella), in an open dialogue with Christian missiology.”1 The need for a medium that both represents particularly Stone-Campbell voices and places them alongside others persists, and we happily host an eclectic array of articles. This issue, as much as any preceding it, captures our intention to generate dialogical reflection.
Through the years, the ambition of open dialogue has found fulfillment in a variety of essays.2 Now, the submissions of two leading evangelical missiologists, Edward L. Smither and J. Nelson Jennings, invite Missio Dei readers to consider the practices and manifestations of Christian mission in global contexts perhaps unfamiliar to many Stone-Campbell churches.
What, for example, has the “low church” tradition of typical Restorationist readers to do with Smither’s reflections on the Book of Common Prayer? While there is a sort of liturgical awakening afoot among some Stone-Campbell congregations—I’m thinking especially of urban Churches of Christ making use of the traditional liturgical calendar and even the BCP—this is a challenging question. Further, how these practices relate to the contextual exigencies of God’s mission at home and abroad is of vital interest!
At the same time, the rise of influential Majority World expressions of faith presents new challenges to Stone-Campbell churches attentive to questions of missional witness and partnership. In this regard, Jennings’s article offers a model of careful archival work and critical reflection. Where is the comparable work among Stone-Campbell missiologists? The challenge is worthy of serious consideration.
Alongside these important contributions, the historical work of Shawn Daggett and Travis Bookout and John Young is suggestive, not least by placing the paradigmatic stories of early Stone-Campbell influences in relief. Daggett’s article raises questions about the heritage of the tradition’s mission work. The thorny issues of race relations, colonialism, and missionary preparation and care have been with us since the beginning. We honor the sacrifices of our forebears—and Alexander Cross is worthy of honor!—while asking hard questions about the meaning of their stories.
In turn, Bookout and Young’s research highlights one strand of the theological DNA of Stone-Campbell churches, particularly those in the lineage of David Lipscomb. What does Lipsbomb’s eschatological vision have to do with the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in 2022? How might (or should) it shape our participation in God’s mission today? Such questions are a blessing, even if their answers are difficult to conceive in our local contexts and current political climate.
So what is the nature of the dialogue that arises from reading these articles together, as their publication in a single journal issue invites? Here, dialogue means something unconventional. The authors are not engaged with one another; the dialogical work is solely the reader’s. Of course, each piece stands on its own, and readers may enter into profitable dialogue with the authors without regard for the shared digital space that Missio Dei 13, no. 1 delineates. Every researcher rightly cherry-picks relevant journal articles without a second thought for others in a given issue. Every casual periodical reader skims article titles for matters of interest, ignoring the rest. Yet, hearing these voices together presents an opportunity worth entertaining (at least from the perspective of the journal’s purpose!): to explore the unlikely but mutually enriching juxtaposition of perspectives from diverse corners and time periods in world Christianity. In short: what happens if we read the journal issue as a whole?
For example, reading the story of Alexander Cross with the endeavors of Onnuri Church in mind raises fascinating questions. The two approaches to mission stand worlds apart. Still, perennial questions about colonialist ambition, cultural contextualization, and unintended consequences arise from both articles. Likewise, considering the implications of David Lipscomb’s political eschatology alongside the struggle for both orthodoxy and indigeneity that marks the BCP’s use in mission invites reflection on catholicity, formative practice, and local witness.
Does this count as dialogue? I believe so, if only in a limited sense. Still, the thought of Missio Dei’s readership growing and diversifying as we read and reflect together is hopeful. And the thought of Stone-Campbell missiology staking out a tent big enough to match the movement’s initial inclusivity is all the more so.
Soli Deo gloria.
1 “About the Journal,” https://missiodeijournal.com/about.
2 E.g., Jim Harries, “Talking For Money: The Donor Industry as Fulfillment of Ancient African Religious Ideals,” MDJ 2, no. 2 (2011): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-2-2/authors/md-2-2-harries; David Leong, “Reading the City: Cultural Texts and Urban Community,” MDJ 3, no. 2 (2012): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-3-2/authors/md-3-2-leong; Soong-Chan Rah, “Incarnational Ministry in the Urban Context,” MDJ 3, no. 2 (2012): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-3-2/authors/md-3-2-rah; Paul Yonggap Jeong, “‘Mission in Weakness and Vulnerability’ in Selected Writings: From Lesslie Newbigin’s and David Bosch’s Missiological Books,” MDJ 4, no. 1 (2013): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-4-1/authors/md-4-1-jeong; Jean Johnson, “What Is That In Your Hand?: Mobilizing Local Resources,” MDJ 4, no. 1 (2013): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-4-1/authors/md-4-1-johnson; Mark Kinzer, “Postmissionary Messianic Judaism and Its Implications for Christian-Jewish Engagement,” MDJ 4, no. 2 (2013): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-4-2/authors/md-4-2-kinzer; Ched Myers, “Reinhabiting the River of Life (Rev 22:1–2): Rehydration, Redemption and Watershed Discipleship,” MDJ 5, no. 2 (2014): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-5-2/authors/md-5-2-myers; Michael Chung, “The Redeeming Repast,” MDJ 7 (2016): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-7/authors/md-7-chung; Charles E. Moore, “Radical, Communal, Bearing Witness: The Church as God’s Mission in Bruderhof Perspective and Practice,” MDJ 9, no. 2 (2018): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-9-2/authors/md-9-2-moore; David Williams, “Toward a Worldwide Theology of Vulnerable Mission,” MDJ 10, no. 2 (2019): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-10-2/authors/md-10-2-williams; Werner Mischke, “An Honor-Bearing Gospel for Shame-Fueled Crises,” MDJ 11 (2020): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-11/authors/md-11-mischke; Jackson Wu, “From One Honor-Shame Culture to Another: A Proposal for Training Chinese Missionaries to Serve in Muslim Contexts,” MDJ 11 (2020): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-11/authors/md-11-wu; David Milne and Darren Cronshaw, “Formation, Continuity, and Multiplication of Churches within Australian Church Planting Movement (CPM) Paradigms,” MDJ 12, no. 1 (2021): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-12-1/authors/md-12-1-milne-cronshaw; Henry Vermont and Johannes Malherbe, “A Phased-Hybrid Training Approach for Missionaries,” MDJ 12, no. 1 (2021): https://missiodeijournal.com/issues/md-12-1/authors/md-12-1-vermont-malherbe.