CMS Africa Conference rethinks Sustainability of the Missions work
Church Mission Society held this year’s Africa Conference from 3rd to 5th November at The Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick, and Derbyshire.
The Conference that brings together past and present Mission partners, members of the CMS Community in UK as well as former CMS Missionaries is an annual event with spotlight on Africa.
This year’s Conference theme was developing sustainable missions. This in itself is a reflection of the over 200 years of CMS Missions to the rest of the world as well as putting in place strategies of the coming years. The Leadership of the Africa Conference under Joan Botterill has done a wonderful job over the years, mobilising support for missions work across Africa by keeping a group of former mission people, and CMS supporters interested in Africa, in contact with current happening in Africa.
Participants to this year’s conference were taken through the bible readings were delivered by Jonathan Lamb. Jonathan who works with Keswick Ministries inspired the participants by his reading from Acts 14:21, 2nd Corinthians 10 Joshua 14, and Colossians 1:28ff all of which focussed on anchoring the CMS Christian missions in the word of God. (CMS website)
Even when the disciples of Jesus new that trouble was coming, they kept on teaching the word, preaching with full understating of the need for sustainability: bearing fruit that would last.
The question of sustainability was not just with the apostles but is with us today. According to Jonathan Lamb, the centre of gravity of world’s church has shifted completely. In 1950, 75% of the world’s Christians was in the North and 25% were in the south. But today 80% of the Worlds Christians are in the majority South and 20% and decreasing, is in the North.
This is a story of remarkable movement in the Christian faith but the other side of this story painted uncertainty of the future.
If you ask the church leaders Africa what their greatest problem is, they say "growth without depth."
There is very vulnerable Christianity and missions in the south with no surety of sustainability in coming days. The church is widely spread but is obviously thin. There is no evidence of discipleship, transformation and steadfastness which raises concerns of sustainability, continuity and maturity of Christian missions in Africa.
Also speaking via video link as a conference speaker was the CMS-Africa International Director Rev. Dr. Dennis Tongoi. Rev. Tongoi spoke on business as mission as a model for sustainable missions in Africa. Dennis presented from his doctoral theses which has been written into a book Business as Mission: Can the Righteous Rich Transform Africa?
Rev. Tongoi defined Business as Mission as a venture or person that seeks to advance God’s mission by meeting the needs of individuals and communities through the provision of goods, services or knowledge in a financially sustainable manner, with measurable positive social, spiritual and environmental impact. He cited various examples on how Christian ventures in East Africa can be financially sustainable and not dependent on declining Western resources. His thrust is all those involved in missions work in Africa should go beyond liberation theologies to a theology of reconstruction, which embraces the 'righteous rich' that can undergird the practice of BAM in an increasingly affluent East Africa.
The spotlight on Africa was amplified through presentations from CMS-Africa, Bishop Barham University College, presented by John Ndeta and Rev. Medard respectively.
The work of current Mission partners was also highlighted at the conference. A presentation from the Nicci Maxwell, working at Potters Village in Muhabura Diocese, Kisoro and the dance programme by Hellen Burnham in Kampala, Uganda. “Our goal is to save lives and many children have received hope because of the work going on at the Porters Village,” Dr Nicci Maxwell.
Mission partner Francesca Elloway in Aru diocese in DRC reported of initiating Palliative Care work that has now taken root and is helping many people who could not have done anything to remain active and relevant in the society today.
The Bujumbura Christian University (BCU) is also coming up well with Mission Associate Michael Hunter reporting that the University is operation in spite of the hostilities that abound in the country due to political instability. Also Short termer Wendy Fry sharing on the financial side of BCU
Select Responses from the participants
“I am amazed at the growth of the number of people in Burundi to 11M from 3 in 70s and yet the Poverty levels remain high even today- says Ruth Shillitoe.
Stephen Stordy who has been attending the Conference for years now was excited about the work of CMS-Africa especially the trainings they undertaken. I am thrilled by the targets of 50M by 2050. That is a massive attempt to help transform the growing population in the African continent.
Another participants Robert Arnold who served in Uganda as missionary many years back was glad to see the stories of transformation as a result of the wholistic mission being undertaken by CMS-Africa from east and central region.
Jonathan Ruhumuliza who stays in UK is thrilled by the work of God going on in his home country Rwanda helping the locals, be it in health, education or even church/missions work
Jean Preston was glad that Mission Partners have kept in touch under the banner of Africa Conference for years and are greatly encouraged by the stories of change being undertaken through the current mission partners as well as various dioceses and local partners working to advance Gods Kingdom in their own contexts.
“I am encouraged to see the work of CMS-Africa especially supporting people interested in engaging in business to better their living. CMS-Africa presents a good chance to transform Africa through its wholistic transformation training which is in a way taking Christianity to the next level,” said Christopher Doran
William Challis thanked all those who have remained committed to the purpose and vision of CMS’s Africa Conference which in a way, demonstrates the continuity of the good work started many years in Africa to the glory of God.