Thursday, April 22, 2010

++Orombi's address at GSE4: Obstacles and opportunities

Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda identified the obstacles and opportunities for mission in his address to the Global South to South Encounter.
Mission Obstacles

1. State Church mindset.

One of the challenges we face as Anglicans is that our Mother Church in England is a State Church. Yet, for most of us, we are not in that situation in our own countries. But, we have this problem that we think England represents ideal Anglicanism. My friends – the Church of England is declining; it is aging; there are few young people, and less than 1 million attend church on any given Sunday. I’ve read the statistics, and I’ve been there to see for myself that this is true. If you look at other countries that have State Churches, you will see very similar patterns. There are massive church buildings where once there was a thriving congregation. But, not any longer.

We must purge ourselves of the “State Church” mentality that we inherited from our Mother Church in England. I see it all the time in my own Province, where we are often mired in bureaucracy and institutional inertia. For example, our capital city of Kampala is located in two dioceses – Namirembe Diocese and Kampala Diocese. The population of our city is growing rapidly, but we have not kept pace with church planting. Yet, we are paralyzed because of diocesan boundaries. We have churches in Kampala Diocese who could spin off daughter churches and plant them in growing sections of the city. But, those parts of the city are in Namirembe Diocese, and the process to establish cooperative and collaborative relationships is so cumbersome, that we get tired of the bureaucracy and give up. Recently, however, we have renewed our efforts and are formulating a new strategy for inter-diocesan cooperation in order to move forward church planting in our capital city.

We must not equate pure Anglicanism with England and the English way of doing things. A major focus of the English Reformation, to which we are an heir, was to bring the Bible and worship into the language of the people. That value is at the heart of Anglicanism. So, we must not fear to bring the Bible and worship not only into the spoken language of our people, but also into the cultural language of our people.

Ironically, we ourselves are sometimes our biggest obstacle to mission.

2. Secularism through Globalization.

We are experiencing this through the media, mostly television, movies, and radio. We are also bombarded with this message through international NGOs that have set up business in Uganda, and particularly some who masquerade secularism under the guise of human rights and development. Ugandans in particular, and Africans in general, are religious and spiritual people. Secularism is not natural to us, and is quite foreign. Yet, the world view of media is, in general, secular. The current generation is growing up with this foreign influence and their parents and relatives do not understand it…they see only the impact it has on their children. Our institutions of higher learning have professors who have been educated in secular Western institutions and they pass on secularism in the form of “higher education.” Yet, our theological colleges have not kept up with the apologetics task of training our clergy and lay readers in how to respond in compelling ways to the challenge of secularism.

In Uganda, religious education has been mandatory in the schools – either CRE (Christian Religious Education) or IRE (Islamic Religious Education). Our national motto is, “For God and My Country.” The government, however, because of pressure from secularism is considering eliminating religious education from the curriculum. This is a big challenge to us. We have always considered ourselves partners with the schools in providing education, and a group of churches have come together to continue fighting this change.

3. The Prosperity Gospel.

The prosperity gospel is a big problem for us in Uganda. It is nothing but cheap grace and greed that has been baptized. The common false belief of “I am poor” makes this Gospel attractive. But, rather than bringing the blessings from God that it promises, it is wreaking havoc in the lives of families and undermining the true cost of discipleship. It is producing disciples who are like the seed that fell among the thorns. When the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke them,” they wither and die. We need to popularize a Biblical theology of wealth, stewardship, and material possessions. The only people in Prosperity Gospel churches who prosper are the pastors who take money from their members. They do not preach the cross of Christ and the cost of discipleship. This is a betrayal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, for us in Uganda, a betrayal of Archbishop Janani Luwum and our early martyrs who considered it better to die for their faith than compromise.

4. Dependency.

We in Uganda are a self-governing church. We are a self-theologizing church. We are a self-propagating church. But, we are not yet a self-supporting church. We are like a three-legged cow. When a cow breaks its leg, at best it limps. But, usually, we will just slaughter it. We are a limping church because we are so heavily dependent on outside funding. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we have not yet been slaughtered. But, the potential to be slaughtered is a distinct possibility. Our mission in our local contexts and around the world is seriously hampered because of our dependency on others.

5. Regional instability and conflicts.

One of the main reasons the Gospel was able to spread so quickly and so far and wide during the first centuries of the Church was because of the Pax Romana – the peace that existed during the Roman Empire. Not to mention that they had good roads and infrastructure. Our regional conflicts in Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda, and Eastern Congo have made it very difficult for the Church to accomplish its mission, and for people to move in those regions.

6. Multi-Religious Contexts.

We live in a tension. On the one hand, we firmly believe the Gospel where Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” and yet, on the other hand, we live in multi-religious contexts. We must learn to understand one another and develop gracious ways to present the Gospel. The church needs to “wake up”. In 1 Chronicles 12.32, as groups of men from the various tribes went up to Hebron to turn Saul’s Kingdom over to David, it describes the men of Issachar as men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” The church today needs to be like the men of Issachar. We need serious discernment to see what is advancing – to discern the spiritual realities of our various contexts.

Mission Opportunities

Let me turn now to Mission Opportunities that are before us.

1. Leadership that casts the vision

In my own Province, two years ago at our Provincial Assembly, I called on the Church of Uganda to embrace the next ten years as the Decade of Mission – a comprehensive understanding of mission to embrace every aspect of our life as a church – personal mission, mission through our schools, mission through health care, business as mission, evangelism, church planting, etc. Mission and evangelism must start from the very top leadership of the church. When I make a pastoral visit to the dioceses in my Province, to me it is like I am going for a mission. I preach evangelistic messages and call people to faith in Christ. It is the duty of the church’s leadership to continuously cast the vision of mission and evangelism and to lead by example.

2. Collaboration.

Regional collaboration.We can’t all do everything together. But, we can start with regional collaborations. For example, in East Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda have linked up to partner with several dioceses in Eastern Congo for holistic mission and evangelism.

Global South collaboration. Beyond the level of regional collaboration, we can have provincial exchanges from farther afield in the Global South. For example, Bishop Rennis of Singapore has invited me to preach in his congregation, and I invited him to preach at a major university mission last year.

Interdenominational collaboration. There are many ways we can work together with Christians of other denominations for the purpose of evangelistic outreach. We must not see other denominations as competition or our enemy. Our enemy is the Devil not another denomination. In Uganda, we have very good relationships with such evangelical parachurch ministries as Campus Crusade for Christ (known in Uganda as LIFE Ministry) and the Navigators. Many of our church partners are Presbyterians, but we know we have a common love for our Lord Jesus Christ and live under the authority of Scripture.

3. Unreached/under-reached ethnic groups.

Traditional pastoralists, e.g., Karamajong, Borana, Maasai, Somalis, etc. Globally, I believe, the church has not been very good at reaching the pastoralist communities. One Somali man, when asked why he couldn’t accept Christianity, is reputed to have said, “I can’t carry your religion on the back of my camel.” This is a big challenge for us to think through our strategies and approaches to mission. The church is not a building, and Christian faith is not something that happens only inside a building. It is a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely that can be carried on the back of a camel!

In terms of addressing Uganda’s multi-religious context, we are behind, but at least we’re doing something. We have recently established a new unit in our Mission Department for Christian-Muslim Relations.

We also have unreached ethnic groups in our region who are not originally from Eastern Africa. For example, we have a growing Chinese community because of all the Chinese businessmen. Because of that, we do have some very good Chinese restaurants in Kampala! I am ashamed to say that we have never penetrated the Indian community in Uganda. Again, our problem is our own mindset. We think, “They have their communities, and we have ours.” And, we have forgotten that they are part of the harvest that is ripe. We need to develop intentional mission strategies for the minority ethnic communities in our regions.

4. Professionals.

We certainly have many lay professionals who are doctors, engineers, and teachers who could be linked across Provinces and coordinated for effective mission. Our Sudanese neighbours, for example, have a great need at this particular moment in time, for teachers. In Uganda, we are graduating teachers from Teacher Training Colleges and from universities with Bachelor’s degrees in Education. But, they can’t find jobs. Why couldn’t we create a youth mission corps who would offer themselves as teachers, evangelists, and disciplers to the church schools in Southern Sudan for two years? Why couldn’t a Christian Chinese doctor from Singapore partner with a Diocese in Eastern Congo to establish a health centre?

5. Business community.

Likewise, our businessmen and women are a great resource for mission…and, not just to fund mission. There are many Ugandans who have gone to Sudan to do business. What if they went to Sudan as missioners disguised as businessmen? They would be there not only to do business, but to trade in the Gospel. We wouldn’t have to wait to raise funds to send them as missionaries, because they could support themselves! We need to see even our businesses here as an opportunity for fulfilling God’s mission in the world and for seeking first the Kingdom of God. Not only can Business fund mission, but it can also be the means by which we do mission.

6. Youth.

Youth are not only a target for evangelism, but they are our greatest untapped evangelism resource. In my office, I have created two positions for Youth Interns. Two different youth come for six months at a time. They travel with me when I go for pastoral visits to dioceses, and assist in other ways in the office when I am in town. When it is appropriate, I invite them to share their testimony. They are part of my team, and I want to encourage youth to engage in mission. I spend a week every year at Youth Camp. I will almost always accept any invitation to speak if it is related to Youth – Scripture Union Conventions, Diocesan Youth Conventions, etc. I started ministry as a Youth Pastor, and I always want to encourage the youth to be involved in mission and evangelism in our church today. Our recently retired Chaplain at Makerere University developed a youth mission and outreach programmed called “Back to Jerusalem.” University youth formed evangelism outreach teams based on their regions. When they would go home on holiday, they did evangelism outreaches in the schools in their dioceses. This has been a very successful programme, and many more youth mission teams could be organized and deployed.