‘Mission from below’ great equalizer for North, South

MWC leader addresses shifting global realities

Mar 17, 2014 by

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CHICAGO — Cesar García wonders what would happen if multicultural mission teams took vows of poverty like monastic orders do.



He posed the question Jan. 22 at the annual consultation of the Council of International Anabaptist Ministries.

The question focused one of his proposals for how North American mission agencies might respond to shifting global realities.

“Some attempts at a cooperative model between North American agencies and south agencies have failed because of huge financial disparities among members of the same team,” said García, of Bogotá, Colombia, general secretary of Mennonite World Conference.

“An Anabaptist emphasis on simplicity as a requirement for each member of the team regardless of the country of origin could help us to avoid many problems.”

This call for a new style of missionary presence — “mission from below” — capped several presentations by García.

The consultation was held in part as preparation for the next MWC assembly, July 21-26, 2015, in Harrisburg, Pa.

Global realities

García described a number of realities for the global Anabaptist community of about 1.7 million members.

A theological reality is the influence of Pentecostalism.

García expressed concern “about romantic views in North America which equate Global South Pentecostalism with Anabaptism” and overlook problems created by strong, divisive leaders who emphasize a “prosperity gospel” rather than a gospel of peace and justice and Christ crucified.

“We need to avoid both ‘char­ismania’ and ‘charisphobia,’ ” he said, referring to two extremes: excessive excitement about and fear of charismatic expressions of faith. “We need both Anabaptist and Pentecostal values and commitment.”

An ecclesiastical reality is that many emerging churches still have relationships with mission agencies rather than directly with other churches. García emphasized the importance of church-to-church relationships.

To highlight geographical realities, García presented maps that show the majority of mission workers being sent outside of their own country are from the Global North.

The maps also show the growth of mission activity in the Global South, where churches have fewer resources and where the mission reach tends to be local rather than global.


García called for more interdependence among agencies and a commitment to holistic mission.

“The implicitly received message in the South in the past has been that service and mission agencies can’t work together,” he said.

He concluded with the proposal to take a fresh look at the missional monastic roots of Anabaptism.

“Anabaptist agencies have followed Protestant patterns of missions for many years,” he said. “Could this be a time to turn to monastic patterns to learn from them on issues such as administration, multicultural teams, holistic ministries and mission from below?”

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