The theme for this issue, “The Mission of God and Global Partnerships,” comes from the January 2018 consultation of the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries (CIM), held in Elkhart, Indiana, at the Mennonite Church USA offices and Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary. A day and a half of the consultation was given over to a plenary session, organized by Alain Epp Weaver (Mennonite Central Committee US) and a planning committee, in which a diverse group of participants shared their views on a range of topics related to global mission partnerships. Although much of the discussion centered on partnerships fostered by mission agencies, attention was also given to international partnerships between conferences and congregations.
Plenary speakers expressed thanksgiving for the past, present, and future of partnerships, lament for colonial legacies that continue to distort partnerships, and hope for practical improvements. Speakers consistently called for partnerships to find their rationale in God’s mission, in which mutual partnership is much more than a technique or strategy—it’s a fundamental goal.
The first section of essays in this issue present a sample of proceedings from the consultation plenary. Alain Epp Weaver provides a helpful summary introduction to the issues and stakes involved in global mission partnership. Next, César García casts a wide theological vision for Anabaptist partnerships. Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi reflects on the potential contributions of North American agencies, and Barbara Nkala questions the “limping alliances” produced when power remains concentrated in Western hands. Anicka Fast’s case for mission as partnership comes from her comments on a panel on young adults and mission partnerships (see her further reflections at www.anabaptistwitness.org; volume 5, issue 2). Two pieces contain remarks from a session on the International Missions Association; the authors are Richard Showalter and Yesaya Abdi and Tilahun Beyene Kidane. Ruth Keidel Clemens names the importance of global partnerships in the work of Mennonite Central Committee. My thanks to Alain Epp Weaver for encouraging CIM plenary speakers to submit material to this issue.
We received a second set of essays on global mission partnerships through our open call for submissions. Anne Thiessen suggests that a mutual hermeneutic of obedience to Christ can help overcome white privilege and other power imbalances that mar partnerships. James Krabill previews a forthcoming book of testimonies about partnerships between African-initiated Churches and North American Mennonites; his contribution includes an overview written by Wilbert Shenk and testimonies from southern and western Africa. Bruce Yoder explores the possibilities, challenges, and ambiguities of global mission partnership through a case study of the historic relationship between Mennonite Church Nigeria and Mennonite Board of Missions. Anicka Fast, writing in French, deepens our sense of the ambiguities of partnership with an examination of the intersections of race, colonialism, and Mennonite Brethren mission in the Belgian Congo. Since Fast received several critical responses to an earlier version of this essay, published in English in the journal Missiology, she has written a clarification of the intentions and scope of the article, available in English and French on our blog (www.anabaptistwitness.org/blog). As usual, book and film reviews close out the issue.
Mission partnerships, like any relationships that matter to us, are difficult. Historical sins such as colonialism, racism, and sexism impede the development of genuinely mutual global partnerships. Time and money are limited, and so are our personalities. Shared theology and church practice can serve as bridges but also become points of conflict. In spite of the difficulties, we remain drawn into partnerships by friendship and mutual need, by overlapping history and vision, and, ultimately, by the Holy Spirit. Partnerships are difficult—but how good and pleasant it is to dwell in unity (Ps 133:1)! My hope is for these articles to serve the Spirit’s work of forming just partnerships for God’s mission in the world.
Jamie Pitts, editor
1) Anicka Fast, “Sacred Children and Colonial Subsidies: The Missionary Performance of Racial Separation in Belgian Congo, 1946–1959,” Missiology: An International Review, vol. 46, no. 2 (2018): 124–36.