NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) — What can the complexities of Christianity in South Africa teach us about the future of mission? That's the question at the heart of a special live episode of MissionWary?. Originally broadcast over Zoom, the episode centers around a conversation with Mziwandile Nkutha, coordinator of Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA), and Andrew Suderman, director of global partnerships with Mennonite Mission Network.
Raised in South Africa, Nkutha described that his lived experience of Christianity bears a "colonial wound;" born through a missiology laced with colonialism that was brought from Europe.
"The word 'force' is key in this idea," Nkutha explained. "It signifies that the kind of Christianity that has been introduced to those who have been colonized is A:) a foreign kind of Christianity and B:) in some ways it has been forced [upon them]."
"I have this in me a kind of Christianity that is impacted by a story of colonization. What does that mean for someone like me in South Africa who has been shaped by a Christianity informed by coloniality? It means that there's a level of woundedness in my Christian imagination. In psychoanalysis, these are these primal seeds, this is the wound that I carry, and what do I do with this wound? Do I continue to appropriate and reappropriate it to make sense of discipleship and witnessing in my context? Or do I then take a few steps back and re-evaluate this and say, "what does this mean?""
Today, many church organizations have deemphasized certain wording or vocabulary when addressing missions and evangelism, due to the colonial associations the words carry with them. In their place, new words have been used to describe outreach, including 'ministry' and 'partnership.'
Nkutha cautioned that without deeply examining the power structures behind both the old and new words being used to describe Christian missions, the toxic pairing of mission and colonialism will continue to be perpetuated.
"I'm interested in saying, what does partnership mean in terms of making new modes of relationality, new modes of knowing each other, new modes of getting along and working alongside as we imagine God's world together, rather than [people] coming in under these new grammars of [words like] 'partnership,' but what they're really doing is continuing with this legacy of Christianity that is informed by colonization in many ways."
"There is no such thing as Christianity in a singular sense," Nkutha said. "There are Christianities in a plural sense. There is a version of Christianity from North America. There is a version of Christianity from Latin America, from Asia, from Africa — and in Africa it's broad, we have 52 countries — so that Christianity must be diverse. It must be colored by different lived experiences, languages and so forth and that's what makes it much more beautiful.
So I'm yearning for that, and that for me is a process of decolonization. And decolonization, by the way, is an invitation to dialogue. It's not a way of saying, "away with this," but it is pointing out limitations and problems. But also saying, how do we then begin to imagine and dream together?"
MissionWary? is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube and everywhere you listen to podcasts. Learn about the complex bond between service and mission, where the call to mission comes from and how stories of mission become the history of mission. To view the complete episode list, click here.