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02 December 2009

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on behalf of Dr Peter Phan

My sincere thanks to David Kerrigan for his reflections on my essay on Asian Christianity reprinted in Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity (Orbis Books 2009). His review is accurate and gracious. He rightly notes that my piece was a reaction to Philip Jenkins’s thesis about the “New Christendom,” especially Christianity of the Global South, and was written from the Roman Catholic perspective. This is the context as well as the limitations of my essay. David correctly points out that some of the points I am making about Asian Christianity are not new to Baptist missionaries. Also, this Roman Catholic perspective allows me to see compatibility between the fundamental equality of all Christians and the existence of the hierarchy, which in Baptist eyes seems to be an oxymoron. This does not mean at all that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has always respected, much less promoted, the dignity and rights of the laity. But at least theologically the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences and many Asian theologians have tried mightily to affirm the fundamental equality of all Christians based on baptism together with the necessity of hierarchy in the church.

I have found the two sets of questions David raised at the end of his review extremely important and helpful. (1) How do we Christians, irrespective of denominational differences, promote the presence of God’s reign? Does it require refocusing our areas of mission, e.g., from work among Christians to Muslim-Christian relations? (2) How do we know that we are promoting God’s reign in our work without increasing church membership? What is the precise relation between God’s reign and the church? As a reaction to past proselytizing efforts, have we shied away from conversion and limited ourselves to works of justice and reconciliation and dialogue?

I do not profess to have answers to these questions, but as we celebrate the centenary of the Edinburgh World Missionary Conference, they have become more than urgent than ever. Thanks, David, for bringing them to our attention.

Peter

David Kerrigan

See http://karnaphuli.typepad.com/thinking-mission/2010/03/simple-pleasures.html

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