Consultations sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World at the University of Edinburgh, Yale Divinity School, and the Overseas Ministries Study Center
"I dreamt I saw a cassowary
On the plains of Timbuktoo
Eating of a missionary,
Hat, and coat and hymnbook too."
Bishop Wilberforce's dinner table jeu d'ésprit conjures up a vivid image of the Victorian missionary - or at least, an image of the image, a mélange of ideas about mission life (including the ravening beast or cannibal feast) current in the England of his day. Similarly, David Livingstone once summed up the contemporary image of the missionary as that of "a dumpy sort of man with a Bible under his arm." It seems a good time to turn our thoughts to representations and misrepresentations of the missionary movement.
The title (as in the famous case of Transforming Mission) is deliberately ambiguous, to cover both representations made by missionaries and representations made about them. The proponents of Christian mission had to represent to a variety of audiences what they were seeking to do. The Church at home, the wide home public, sometimes government, sometimes commercial, philanthropic or other interests, and above all the people and societies to whom the mission was directed (a vast, multilayered constituency) all needed to get a picture of their aims and activities and the environments in which they were working. But equally, each of these audiences formed their own representations - enthusiastic, commendatory, hostile, suspicious, neutral or simply jocular - of missions, and of missionaries, and the Christian faith itself. On all sides there was also plenty of room for misrepresentation.
We warmly invite you to join us in considering a range of these representations and misrepresentations, and to submit brief papers (relating to any period of Christian mission) which illustrate them. A formal call for papers will be sent out in March 2000.