Responding well in times of crisis

The new Chair of CTE's Mission Research Network, Heather Major, explains how they are confronting the isolationist and elitist tendencies of academic culture.

Members of CTE’s Mission Research Network (MRN) have met to discuss our calling, aims and objectives as a network of academics and practitioners. The conversation was a direct response to a well-deserved challenge from Dr Harvey Kwiyani who asked us to consider our commitment to justice and academic integrity.

As a network, we took this as an opportunity to ponder more deeply questions of racial justice and ask for wisdom and guidance from those of our members who are best placed to teach us from their experiences. Rev Dr Israel Oluwole Olofinjana invited us to reflect on the calling to feel each other’s pain as the body of Christ and recognise the tension and sorrow felt by people of colour when white leaders remain silent in the face of injustice.  We have publicly declared our commitment to decolonising mission, but this means a deep, sustained relational obligation to one another – with a responsibility to pursue deepening the relationship between racial justice and mission while addressing and undoing the presumption of western and white hegemony.

Our discussion highlighted many of the challenges faced by individual academics and practitioners within the field of mission as we wrestled with questions of exclusion, marginalisation and condescension. We concluded that we, as the MRN, have an opportunity to confront the isolationist and elitist tendencies of academic culture by taking a clear stand on the necessity of relational networking and collaboration, learning from one another and investing in dialogue across perceived boundaries. This includes welcoming academic critique with humility while defending one another in solidarity against attacks based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, economics, class or personal background.

We have now published a set of statements concerning our calling and identity as the MRN. As we continue to work together, encouraging each other in the communal pursuit of excellence in academic research and writing, we invite Member Churches, Bodies in Association and theological colleges to partner with us, pray for us and support ecumenical missiological reflection in their own contexts.