January/Febuary Issue #50
Take a look at www.afammissionmanifesto.org
Inside this Issue
Highlights of 2007
"Christian triumphalism--not as pride in large numbers, but as publicized self- congratulation--is rampant in most churches, agencies, ministries. Some 250 of the 300 largest international Christian organizations mislead the public by publishing incorrect or falsified progress statistics."1 "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2, NIV). In the next verses Paul confessed that he couldn't accurately evaluate himself, despite a clear conscience, but deferred to God's evaluation, which encompasses motives. Paul commended his ministry to every man's conscience (2 Cor. 4:2). We do this by listing what God has allowed us to accomplish, and outlining His financial provision. In that spirit, a detailed summary of ministry in 2007 is at the site under Reconciliation Report Archives.
Here are highpoints of God's goodness: We had a good team of US and Sudanese co-workers in Southern Sudan last June, and so far six are planning to return in June 2008, and four to India in September.
Above left is a screenshot of the African American Missions Manifesto site that RMNI developed. We have excellent web assistance in William Wade and Walt Robertson. A followup to the 2007 Missions Strategy Seminar is one focusing upon racial/ethnic reconciliation leading to global missions, January 17-19, 2008. RMNI was involved in planning this conference during 2007 and will have input into three conference sessions.
James Wilson is raising support to join RMNI as Assistant Director, and our Board has developed guidelines by which others can join us. We had three new inner city volunteers last year, who plan to continue ministry at the Westside. They already have entered into the lives of friends there.
Two African American missionaries are assisting in a census of African American missionaries--a major goal in 2008. One is Richard Coleman, and the other is anonymous, due to her ministry. Our primary role is to assist African American missions mobilizers with timely researched resources. We just revised our African American missions seminar, including global missions stats for 2008, available for download on the RMNi website.
I have new appreciation for God's gift of excellent longtime friends. I'm overwhelmed at God's grace evident throughout 2007. One resolve is more prayer as we enter the opportunities of 2008, with a very good Board of Directors. Thank you for gifts, prayers, cards, encouragement, and for walking with us!
African Americans have served in white mission organizations for at least 170 years. The Methodist Church began using African American missionaries by 1835, the Protestant Episcopal Church and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions by 1836, and the Southern Baptist Convention by 1855.1 African American mission societies have existed since at least 1897, with Baptists founding the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention.2
Since New Testament times, Christians have been tainted by ethnic pride and prejudice, carrying dominant cultural attitudes into their mission work. Racial problems have surfaced when blacks serve in white organizations. Issues of candidate qualifications, leadership on the field, and, historically, potential intermarriage have strained relationships. Conversely, few if any whites have served in black foreign mission organizations.
If our application of the Gospel does not reconcile ethnic Christians on this side of the ocean, it won't work on the other side, and we shouldn't export it. However, when blacks and whites show up together, obviously love one another and serve in harmony, that Gospel is difficult to refute, particularly against the backdrop of racially motivated hate crimes worldwide. These have been committed almost daily in Russia, Germany, the Balkans or the US, and more widely in Rwanda, Darfur and Kenya.
Dr. Michael Johnson is an African American missionary with World Gospel Mission, which is predominately white. He is a catalyst for ethnic unity in missions and wrote in Making the Lame Man Blind (p. 158):
The challenge for white mission agencies is how to incorporate people of other cultures into their programs. How can they possibly minister to other cultures in a more effective way than they are doing? My answer is to start understanding and accepting other cultures right in their own back yard (that is, if they haven't moved from the "changing" neighborhood).
This challenge is addressed in a unique partnership between the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship Association (FBFA) and the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE)--groups partnering in the US for missions overseas. Racial reconciliation in missions is also a focus of an African American Missions Strategy Seminar January 17-19, 2008 at Columbia International University.
It takes history to overcome history. According to EC Haskell, Executive Administrator of Missions Relations at ABWE, several at that mission have known a member of FBFA for years, Frank Gainer, a scientist.3 ABWE president Dr. Michael Loftis and EC Haskell got to know FBFA president Dr. Allen McFarland. Cooperative mission began with personal relationships.
Illustrating the pivotal role of repentance in racial reconciliation, Haskell and Loftis became aware at a June 2006 pastor's consultation of a man who had applied to be a missionary with ABWE, but had not gotten a response. He went elsewhere. Loftis met with the man, now in his nineties. Records weren't kept of applicants who didn't join ABWE, so there was no paper trail. However, this minister was called forward at the consultation and Loftis apologized for the failure of ABWE to respond. Some black leaders came forward after the meeting in tears saying significant progress in reconciliation had taken place, and that they felt themselves accepted. According to an ABWE news release, "Dr. Loftis stated that the ABWE leadership is humbled and grateful for FBFA's spirit of forgiveness regarding sins of the past, as some members of the FBFA were denied entrance into ABWE in the 1950s."
Dr. McFarland was later contacted by ABWE about a partnership --then he came with other FBFA leaders to ABWE for three days in December 2006, during which they hammered out a partnership agreement. ABWE leaders had been concerned for over ten years that missions should be promoted among non-white churches. Loftis felt the need partner in missions with African Americans, according to McFarland.
Why did Loftis and McFarland initiate this partnership? McFarland had personal history to overcome. He came to the US, was saved in Washington, DC and took classes at Washington Bible College. He asked himself, If the school was so evangelistic, why didn't they come to my community? Eventually he lost his hatred of whites. He studied at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Today he pastors a rapidly growing church. He wanted more blacks to become involved in mission. At an ABWE missions consultation in October 2006, at which Loftis had asked him to give devotions, Loftis learned more about FBFA, and it was "a no-brainer to join together," according to McFarland.4 ABWE missionaries work with missionaries FBFA knows in Ghana, and FBFA leaders visiting in Africa were impressed with ABWE field staff, further bonding the relationship.
However, misunderstandings had to be overcome. McFarland was concerned that white missionaries were living in compounds and that missionary children (MKs) went to their own schools. He was told that missionaries lived in compounds due to security issues. Through honest interchange McFarland and Loftis developed their friendship. He probably helped ABWE see missions from an African American perspective.
Each organization contributes to the partnership. According to Haskell, ABWE provides fulltime missionary service opportunities and more generally can help give a global vision to FBFA churches, beyond Africa. Missionary qualifications are clear in advance, to prevent misunderstanding if someone doesn't qualify. FBFA can provide a better ethnic representation for ABWE in its constituency, home office, Board, and mission force.
McFarland listed the mutual benefits as:
How could similar partnerships be formed? According to McFarland, the first thing is for white organizations to make it known that they have no color or racial barriers, but instead wish to tear them down.
White organizations exemplify the fact that they don't need African Americans, as demonstrated in brochures and conferences. It's a silent message. The story's being told that African Americans can't be found. When one makes it known publically who we are and all are welcome, and market strategically to African Americans, that's the beginning....
How important is repentance as a foundation for partnership in ministry? It's very important to McFarland.
If one feels that he is slighted, we have to repent and acknowledge it and ask for forgiveness. It's good for FBFA people to see efforts being made for peace and for ABWE to see that the president acknowledged wrongdoing. It's destroying the works of the devil, the hidden things being revealed to work openly and honestly. Helps the world to see that we are one in the church.
Haskell said that ABWE began to call black pastors to involvement with ABWE particularly in the last ten-to-twelve years, and has seen increased benefit with time. ABWE has learned about the concerns and fears and where blacks are coming from. ABWE did its best to try to reconcile attitudes over the years. It started by reaching out and being transparent. "Sometimes we must try to confess sins of fathers." ABWE members have visited Black churches when there was an open Sunday--not to speak, but to show up. They have invited African American pastors into their homes. Any time ABWE has a conference, African Americans have been invited. Once a year a four-day consultation on world evangelization is held, to which both rural and city churches are invited.
It takes a while to catch on. We've had Filipinos and Chinese to come. African Americans have been slower to accept the invitation to come to the campus than have Filipinos and Chinese. The purpose has been not to look for something from them--they are not a cash cow, or a place for more missionaries. But to work with African American churches to see the Great Commission fulfilled. The "real deal" is the Great Commission together. There is no hidden agenda.
Such partnerships are based upon a foundation of repentance, trust, long-term friendship, and respect for gifts and competency on both sides. They can develop from a friendship at the highest level of a mission and church organization, of brothers focused upon a more credible global Gospel proclamation.
Southern Sudan / Uganda Ministry, June 14-28, 2008
Jim Sutherland, Ph.D., Director
Chattanooga, TN 37409-0537
Mobilizing the African American Church for Global Mission