The impact of ethnicity on the missional strategies within the Presbyterian church of Nigeria

Onwunta, Uma Agwu (Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University, 2006-12)

Thesis (DTh (Practical Theology and Missiology ))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study and dissertation examines the “Impact of ethnicity on the missional strategies within the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.” A historical study of the mission methods and an empirical study of current missionary practices in the church point to the need for a new missional identity of the church. This missional identity requires a reversal of and a change to missionary strategies that should result into reconciliatory missiology. In the process of making this assessment of the Presbyterian mission in Nigeria, it was necessary to re-visit the missionary ecclesiologies that shaped and contributed to the present identity. Thus, the research focused on the missionary impact of the Church of Scotland, Presbyterian Church in Canada, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Netherlands Reformed Church (NRC). Insights from these historical excursions helped in determining not only the blessings that these ecclesiologies brought to bear on Nigerian Presbyterianism but also in discovering the burdens they brought on their trails, especially, regarding the seed of racism which was a precursor to the present ethnocentrism in the PCN. The second segment of this research was the empirical study of the current mission and work of the PCN. Using a focus group approach, sixteen leaders (8 Nigerians, 7 Canadians and 1 American) were interviewed through a structured questionnaire. The responses from these leaders were analysed in this paper and details of the analysis applied in chapter 4. The assumption in the hypothesis that the bane of contemporary PCN mission is ethnocentrism was affirmed. This problem as the research showed, was compounded by lack of adequate theological response both in the educational training and the liturgical activities of the church. Combining the historical data and the empirical research carried out, it was determined that the PCN needs a new theological orientation that can move it from the present institutionalized mode to a missonal frame. It was shown that this process would require a new definition of mission and a rediscovery of missional biblical metaphors that suit a conflict-ridden context of the Church as we have it in Nigeria. Three important metaphors were selected: community, servant and messenger. These metaphors formed the theological foundation for subsequent discussions on a missional frame which is the focus of chapter five. Chapter six outlines the meaning of conflicts and the causes of conflicts in Nigeria arguing for a reconciliatory missiology with a theologically-driven dialogue as its strategy. A theologically –driven dialogue is a strategy that, as is presented, enables the church to be God’s counter-cultural agent in the world, holding in tension the four cardinal points of obedience, critical contextualization, discernment and the anticipation of Christ’s return. It is argued that dialogue is a credible theological option through which the PCN can engage in the process of true reconciliation in the Nigerian society – a reconciliation which is based on the biblical cornerstones of truth, justice, peace and mercy. It is a task and a challenge for reconciliatory missiology - a momentous task the PCN is called upon to pursue in the 21st century. AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie proefskrif ondersoek die “Impak van etnisiteit op die missionale strategieë van die Presbiteriaanse Kerk in Nigerië”. ʼn Historiese blik op die sending metodes en ʼn studie van huidige missionêre praktyke binne die kerk dui daarop dat die kerk ʼn nuwe missionale identiteit benodig. ’n Nuwe missionale identiteit vereis ʼn transformasieproses in die huidige benadering van die Presbiteriaanse Kerk van Nigerië sodat die weg tot ʼn versoenende benadering gevind kan word. Om die huidige situasie te kan evalueer moes die missionêre ekklesiologie wat vorm gegee en bygedra het tot die huidige identiteit geëvalueer word. Gevolglik is die missionêre impak van die Kerk van Skotland, die Presbiteriaanse Kerke van Kanada en Amerika en die Nederlandse Gereformeerde Kerk nagegaan. Hulle het in baie opsigte help vorm aan die huidige identiteit van die Presbiteriaanse kerk in Nigerië. Die positiewe maar ook negatiewe gevolge van hulle werk is beskryf. Een aspek van hul werk was die invloed van die stille rassisme wat destyds geheers het en wat die voorloper was van die huidige etnosentrisme in die Presbiteriaanse Kerk van Nigerië. Die tweede deel van die navorsing ondersoek die huidige missionêre bediening en ingesteldheid van die Presbiteriaanse Kerk van Nigerië. Deur middel van ʼn fokus groep benadering en ’n vraelys, is onderhoude gevoer met 16 kerkleiers (8 Nigeriërs, 7 Kanadese en 1 Amerikaner). Die antwoorde van hierdie kerkleiers is geanaliseer en in hoofstuk 4 bespreek. Die voorveronderstelling in die hipotese dat die PKN etnosentrisme openbaar, is bevestig. Hierdie probleem, soos aangetoon in die navorsing, is versterk deur ʼn gebrek aan voldoende teologiese refleksie in die teologiese onderrig en in die liturgiese aktiwiteite van die kerk. Die historiese data en die empiriese navorsing toon aan dat die PKN ʼn nuwe teologiese oriëntasie benodig en dat dit slegs kan geskied as daar wegbeweeg word vanaf die huidige geïnstitusionaliseerde bedieningspraktyk na ʼn missionale raamwerk. Verder het dit duidelik geword dat ʼn nuwe verstaan van sending en ʼn herontdekking van missionale bybelse metafore nodig is om te spreek tot die konflik geteisterde konteks van die kerk in Nigerië. Drie belangrike metafore is voorgestel: gemeenskap, dienaar en boodskapper. Hierdie metafore voorsien die teologiese fundering vir die bespreking van ’n missionale verwysingsraamwerk vir die kerk se bediening. Hoofstuk 6 lig die betekenis van konflik asook die oorsake van konflik in Nigerië uit en argumenteer vir ʼn versoenende missiologie met ʼn teologies-gemotiveerde dialoog as strategie. ʼn Teologies-gemotiveerde dialoog is ʼn strategie wat, soos voorgelê in die navorsing, die kerk bemagtig om te reageer op die heersende kultuur, waar die vier kardinale aspekte van gehoorsaamheid, kritiese kontekstualisasie, onderskeiding en die afwagting van Christus se wederkoms byeen gebring word. Daar word geargumenteer dat dialoog ʼn waardige teologiese opsie is waardeur die Presbiteriaanse Kerk van Nigerië binne die Nigeriese samelewing kan opereer in ʼn proses van ware versoening – ʼn versoening wat gebaseer is op die bybelse hoekstene van waarheid, geregtigheid, vrede en genade. Die uitdaging van ʼn versoenende missiologie is die uitdaging waartoe die Presbiteriaanse Kerk van Nigerië in die 21ste eeu geroepe is.

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