Tove Lind Iversen,
Hvad har mission at gøre med magt? Hvordan og hvorfor er kristen mission uundgåeligt knyttet til magtstrukturer: religion, kultur, kolonimagt, økonomi og køn? Og er disse magtmanifestationer i modstrid med og ødelæggende for Evangeliets værdier?
Det er nogle af de emner, bogen ”Mission and Power” tager fat på. Bogen er redigeret af Danmissions generalsekretær dr. Jørgen Skov Sørensen sammen med dr. Atola Lonkumer, the Leonard Theological College, Indien og dr. Michael Biehl, Hamburg Universitet.
Herunder kan man læse uddrag af artiklen: “Polycentric Christian Mission in a Post-Colonial World: A Lutheran Perspective” fra “Mission and Power. History, Relevance and Perils.” Regnum Centenary Series.
Bogen kan købes her
Jørgen Skov Sørensen
Constructive bits in the lutheran tradition
However, digging into one’s own tradition and theological history, we may also find elements by which we are given tools to grasp and work with our new plural situation today. Celebrating the 500th anniversary of the reformation in 2017, as a Lutheran speaking on mission, where could I pinpoint constructive bits and pieces coming out of my particular Christian tradition? Where could Lutheran thought add to a contemporary and not least theologically legitimized understanding of Christian, theological plurality?
Divorce between lutheran theology and lutheran missiology?
Let us start by referring to the American Lutheran Richard Bliese who – in his article ‘Lutheran Missiology: Struggling to Move from Reactive Reform to Innovative Initiative’ – questions a distinctive Lutheran missiology as such, demonstrating the fact of ‘a divorce between Lutheran theology and Lutheran missiology’, leading to Lutherans ‘borrowing mission theology from other traditions’.24 Bliese is here indicating that maybe we should not expect to gain too much in missiological thinking by turning towards our Lutheran heritage.
‘The priesthood of all believers’ as a theological tool,
Still, may I suggest – possibly moving from stagnant ‘reactive’ to emerging ‘innovative’ as part of the Lutheran struggle suggested by Bliese above – that Martin Luther’s idea of ‘the priesthood of all believers’ may turn out as a theological tool, potentially capable of adding to our understanding of the new plurality of theologies that is the very condition of any missiological endeavour today? The theological concept of ‘the priesthood of all believers’ has become central to Lutheran theology. Let me be clear, however, that I cannot entirely subscribe to the popular interpretation of ‘the priesthood of all believers’. That Luther should have wanted and theologically argued that all believers have the same authority as interpreters of the biblical texts and administrators of the sacraments is a plain misunderstanding.
Not showdown with pastoral leadership
What Luther taught on the issue was part of a larger political context – as was so much of reformation theology. This has been rather clearly demonstrated by Timothy J. Wengert in his monograph, Priesthood, Pastors, Bishops, where he reveals how the concept of the priesthood of all believers is rather to be seen as a pious myth than a dictum by the reformer himself. ‘The priesthood of all believers’ is not a final showdown with pastoral or priestly leadership in the church. Neither is it authority given to all believers in the sense that all are believers are spiritually powerful individuals.
One body of Christ and individually servants to each other
On the contrary, Wengert lays bare, through his meticulous working through Luther’s writings, that a more authentic reading of Luther would suggest that the idea of the reformer was not that ‘anyone can act as a pastor’, but rather that he means that ‘all of us are members of the one body of Christ and individually servants to each other in our respective offices’. I venture experimentally in this elaboration to suggest that, by this interpretation of Luther’s intention behind that which has popularly come to be termed as ‘the priesthood of all believers’, we see some initial steps in a move from authority to authenticity in our understanding of the church.
The body of Christ: A global entity
The body of Christ has expanded and become a global entity with authentic and autonomous churches and strong church leaders on every continent. This is the new situation and one that constitutes the major difference between Edinburgh 1910 and Edinburgh 2010. To many people who adhere to the ‘old Christendom’ paradigm, i.e. a Christianity dominated by European and modernity’s paradigms of perceiving and understanding the world and all that comes with it, this constitutes both a joy and a challenge. New churches emerge: Joy.! Christianity is changing its face as it grows into the world, the West hereby losing control: Concern.! Now, what would Luther have done in a situation like this?
Open up for not having one uniform, or relatively uniform, church tradition
Being a committed reformer who managed to convince larger parts of Europe to follow him and not the Pope, Luther would have been concerned, too, by losing control. His agenda was for the prevailing church hierarchy, the papal church, to lose control, and for him and his followers to gain it. But we can still apply his ‘priesthood of all believers’ idea to the current situation, especially if we work under the interpretation suggested by Wengert. By applying the idea of ‘the priesthood of all believers’, we do not necessarily say that everything is equally good or equally qualified. This was not Luther’s intention either. We do, however, open up for a splintering process, leaving behind the certainty that lies within having one uniform, or relatively uniform, church tradition.
A reformer with early traces of post-colonialism within his thoughts
Speaking of ‘the priesthood of all believers’ is rather a reaction against all authorities of the global church. Luther reacted against the unequal powers and principalities of his own church, which ultimately led to the questioning of concepts like control and universality. In that sense, one can talk about Luther as a reformer with early traces of post-colonialism within his thoughts. Or at least – even though the reformer hardly anticipated such – one can say that the consequences of the Reformation prepared the ground for the multiplicity of theologies which are a reality of the global church today. Seen in this perspective, that very same multiplicity is to some extent that for which post-colonial theologians in various ‘reformation-like ways’ are struggling to gain recognition.