The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic (L’Église Évangélique Luthérienne de la République Centrafricaine) is one of our two global companion synods, here in the Gulf Coast Synod. (The other is Peru.) Many of our congregations are setting aside October 18, 2020 to celebrate the ministries of this companion synod and pray for them. If you’re in another synod and reading this, consider using this Sunday to lift up your synod’s global companion!
You can observe this day in several ways:
1. Pray for peace and stability in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic in your prayers of the church on Sunday. Click HERE for prayers.
2. Invite a member of our synod’s CAR Team to speak. Contact CAR Team Chair Carolyn Jacobs for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Take an offering to support the church (for the Gallo Health Clinic, for church roofs, for education and more…).
4. Include the church in your sermon. (See sermon thoughts below.) and here are last year’s 2019 CAR Sunday sermon thoughts.
5. Commit to be an annual partner with the church in the CAR. Check out the card below.
6. Use this BULLETIN INSERT.
7. Show this 3-minute VIDEO.
Colonialism and Christian Mission are intricately woven together. Europe became the dominant global power, extending its truly to colonies around the world. Consider Britain, which had 13 colonies in the U.S. and five in Canada, not to mention the Mosquito Coast, British Honduras and the Bay Islands. Britain had a dozen colonies in the Caribbean, three in South America, 22 in Africa, and over 30 in Asia, including Australia and New Zealand. That’s not a complete list, but it’s enough. And that’s just Britain. Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Austria also had countless colonies around the world. Through colonialism, Europe spread its influence and economic power around the globe, often funneling riches back to the motherland through slavery and theft of natural resources.
The dominant religion of these European countries was Christianity, with its administrative center in Rome. The church owned most of the property in Europe and controlled many aspects of public life, including marriage, children, death and the afterlife. The church coronated kings and queens, aligning itself with the crown. Christian mission was about civilizing and Christianizing the savages. Europeans brought their morality to the world, bringing slaves back to show the fruits of their labor. The mission was glorify, God and gold.
Colonialism is the reason our companion synod in Peru speaks Spanish. Colonialism is the reason our companion synod in the Central African Republic speaks French. And colonialism is the reason we speak English, the language of a small island nation in Europe.
When The resurrected Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” this is not what he had in mind.
The apostle Paul’s missionary work was not domination and exploitation, but preaching Christ crucified and risen from the dead, a savior executed on one of the powerful Roman empire’s crosses, who came as a servant, who lived among the conquered, not the conquered. “Have this mind among you that was in Jesus,” Paul taught, “who though he was in the fit of God, did not exploit, but emptied himself, taking in the form of a slave.” Not slaves who become gods, but gods who become slaves. “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and angels, but have not love I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal… If I have faith to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
As we enter the third decade of the 21st century, how shall we approach global mission? Is it possible to disentangle mission from colonialism? The U.S. is the most powerful empire in the world. When we bring the gospel, it is impossible to leave behind our language, our culture, our wealth and power. They are part of us. Does anyone really think we are civilizing heathens? Do we see ourselves a superior, or do we recognize that global poverty is the birthchild of centuries of colonialism and patriarchy?
How might we view Global Mission today, in a way that levels the playing field? This is harder than it sounds. Because of economic disparity, what we make in a week could feed a family for a year, in a world where half the population lives on $2/day. Charity helps a little bit, for a moment, but it doesn’t change the systemic forces that perpetuate global poverty.
There is the added danger that comes with our thinking that our way of thinking, our way of doing things, our theology, architecture, administration and economic practices are superior. Anyone who dips their toes into the waters of global mission needs training to become self-aware, so that we do not preach the gospel of European superiority, let alone Christian superiority.
If we are to reframe Global Mission, and disentangle it from colonialism, we to flip the script. All around the world, churches are growing at an astronomical rate. They are sending missionaries to us!
Most immigrants to the U.S. are Christian. They come with their vibrant faith and exuberant worship and encounter a tired church dancing to faint Old-World melody. Immigration is renewing the church. When we go to visit our friends in the Central African Republic, we do not go to teach them the Christian faith. Christianity has been in Africa since Peter baptized the Ethiopian in Acts 8, long before Paul stepped foot in Europe. Churches in Ethiopia claim to be some of the oldest churches in the world. We go to renew our faith, and to share of our abundance. We must take care that we do not use our wealth or charity to dominate or gain power. French-speaking Africans know that game all too well. It is baked into their history.
Today we speak of accompaniment. We go as friends, waking together like Jesus and the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. We listen and learn. We go to pray and worship together. We go to read Scripture together and hear how others from different cultures hear, interpret and understand the stories. What do the stories mean from their perspectives? What can we learn?
When we go, people ask us, “What are you going to do?” It’s a hard question to answer. So many churches go to civilize or evangelize the heathen. We go to fellowship with Christians around the world. Yes, we may “do something” if asked, but we are careful. People around the world know how to build houses. They don’t need us to teach them or do it for them. If they need water, and ask, we will give. If they need a medical clinic, and we have resources, how could we hold back? Today we will invite you to give for this very reason. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic, one of the poorest countries in the world, with the highest infant mortality rate in Africa, serves its community by building wells, offering free medical care, teaching cattle ranching, offering scholarships, putting roofs on churches and more. It’s a long way away, and we can’t go there right now, but we can give. You can give.
But even this is not our mission.
We have this relationship to be together. We have it to pray, worship, sing and learn. We have this relationship to share our love of God, our faith in Christ, and our life in the Spirit who binds us together, across cultural, linguistic and economic chasms. We do so with fellow Christians, to build up the body of Christ. We have this relationship because Christ is risen, and frees us from colonialism, economic exploitation, slavery and cultural and historical bondage. We have it because the risen Christ has called us to make disciples of all nations, including the U.S. and the Central African Republic.