Archives for Mission in the 21st Century

Acknowledging that if we lose our way to the past we lose our way to the future, the members of the Documentation, Archives and Bibliography Network of the International Association of Mission Studies meeting in Hawaii in August 1992 called for a commitment:

1. Constantly to remind churches, organizations and individuals of the importance of the ongoing documentation of life and faith through the collection, preservation, and distribution of oral, written and media records relating to the history and praxis of mission in the churches of every culture.

2. To assist in developing guidelines as to how this may best be done in ways appropriate to the context and the resources of technology and expertise available in different cultures and situations.

3. To network with individuals and groups with related concerns. To make possible multilateral, ecumenical, inter-cultural and international sharing, questioning and learning concerning the understanding of worldwide Christianity and world-wide mission. To learn from one another's needs and solutions.

4. To facilitate the exchange of Documentation, Archives and Bibliography, for mutual understanding, for security, for the return of history to the subjects of history, for the preservation of our pasts and our faithfulness and obedience in the present and for the future.

5. To help make it possible for Christians everywhere to affirm both their universal community of faith and the particularity of their own history. To enable Christians and Churches to affirm Christ incarnate in their cultural context, and at the same time rise above what is merely cultural in their Christian understanding and obedience.

6. To ensure that passing conflicts in church and state are not forgotten. To provide encouragement for those under persecution with the assurance that their story will be told and will never be forgotten.

7. To allow the faith of the South to bring renewal to the secularism of the North. To allow the North to share in partnership beyond paternalism with the South. To learn together to face the challenges of modernization. To ensure that the lessons of the achievements and failures of previous mission enterprise are available to guide emerging mission from the Third World.

In particular we wish to call attention to the following issues.

1. We remind Churches and Missions that faithfulness for the future requires faithfulness to the past. We are concerned for the financial and physical fragility of mission archives and libraries in many situations. Resources are also needed to upgrade library and archive facilities to enable institutions to gain an appropriate level of academic accreditation.

2. We are concerned at the lack of archives at institutions training people for mission and the study of mission. We are concerned about missiological research which is not sufficiently informed and controlled by access to and critical reflection upon oral and written archives and the use of documentation. The temptation to allow ideology to fill gaps in understanding needs to be avoided.

3. We encourage those who teach mission to assist in the responsibility of documenting mission, and convey to their students a vision of learning from the faith of those who have gone before, catechist and missionary, layperson and religious, minister and priest, women and men, minorities and elites, national and expatriate.

4. We are concerned about the difficulty of gaining access to existing research, the boundaries of translation, publication, distribution, and perspective. There is a problem of First World access to Third World writing and resources, of Third World access to First World sources, of Third World access to Third World sources. We see emerging opportunities and difficulties in the documentation and sharing of records of Christian faith in Eastern and Central Europe.

5. We are concerned about the need for balance between the study of mission in one's own culture and comparative studies in cross-cultural environments which are both positive and critical.

6. Finally we wish to see Documentation Archives and Bibliography used for motivation and information in mission today, as tools for the production of material in a variety of media and at all levels, popular, scholarly, biographical, analytical, critical and affirming.

There are many things to be done in the Church and in the World, but we invite those who share our concerns to make these statements their own and join in fulfilling this task as a service to the Church.

John Roxborogh, Stan Nussbaum  IAMS-DAB Network