"Calling of the church to mission and to unity”: Bishop Lesslie Newbigin and the integration of the International Missionary Council with the World Council of Churches
Laing, Mark Thomas Bowie
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The post-colonial quest to reorganise and restructure missions became focused on the question of how the International Missionary Council (IMC) should relate to the World Council of Churches (WCC), as international symbols of a recovered relationship between mission and church. The desire to rehabilitate missions led to the more fundamental questioning of how mission should be redefined. This thesis demonstrates, through a study of Newbigin‘s involvement in the integration of the IMC with the WCC, how, after Tambaram (1938), church-centric missiology was redefined. The thesis seeks to ascertain what Newbigin contributed to integration; and secondly, how the process of integration affected Newbigin‘s theological reflection on the nature of mission. The study takes seriously the fact that Newbigin was a task theologian, and, through the use of extensive archives, seeks to bridge the gap between Newbigin‘s theological construction and the organisational embodiment of his convictions in integration. The thesis demonstrates how Newbigin‘s early experiences, in the Student Christian Movement, and as a missionary in south India, imbued him with convictions on the missionary nature of the church, which influenced his leadership of integration. The theological foundation for integration that Newbigin provided at Rolle (1951) and Willingen (1952) is assessed, as is Newbigin‘s tenure as general secretary of the IMC. The relationship between mission and church in Newbigin‘s theologizing is examined. The thesis demonstrates the process of how Newbigin made the significant shift from addressing the structures of mission to exploring the substance of mission, constructing a trinitarian foundation. Newbigin‘s emphasis, to facilitate integration between mission and church at the level of the local congregation, is evaluated, as is his response to the challenges posed by secularization. The outcome of integration is considered, in particular the role of mission within the WCC and the ongoing dichotomy between ecumenicals and evangelicals.