From Paternalism to Partnership

Protestant Mission Partnerships in the History of the Netherlands Missionary Council (1900-1999)

by Wilbert van Saane (Author)
©2019 Thesis 426 Pages


Partnership is a controversial concept in Protestant mission. This historical and missiological study traces the relations between Dutch and Indonesian churches from the colonial through the postcolonial era in the history of the Netherlands Missionary Council, the International Missionary Council and the World Council of Churches. Based on his research in missionary and ecumenical archives, the author sheds light on equality, mutuality and reciprocity in Dutch-Indonesian mission partnerships. He also discusses the changing role of missionaries in the twentieth century.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Abbreviations
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Outline of the research question
  • 1.2 Time frame and periodisation
  • 1.3 Position of this research in the field of missiology
  • 1.4 Sources
  • 1.5 Methodology
  • 1.6 Structure
  • 1.7 A note on terminology
  • 2 An introduction to the history of the Netherlands Missionary Council (NZR)
  • 2.1 Introduction
  • 2.2 Events leading up to the establishment of the NZR
  • 2.2.1 The Protestant missionary societies and the Dutch churches
  • 2.2.2 The missionary societies and the growth of Protestantism in the Netherlands Indies
  • 2.2.3 Early ecumenical initiatives among the Dutch missionary societies
  • 2.2.4 The role of J.W. Gunning and the Netherlands Bible Society
  • 2.2.5 The Missionary Consulate and its Advisory Board
  • 2.3 The NZR from its establishment until World War II
  • 2.3.1 The establishment of the NZR in 1929
  • 2.3.2 The NZR and the Missionary Consulate in the 1930s
  • 2.3.3 The NZR and the Missionary Consulate during World War II
  • 2.4 The NZR in the era of the decolonisation of Indonesia
  • 2.4.1 The NZR and the Missionary Consulate after World War II
  • 2.4.2 The NZR and mission in Indonesia after World War II
  • 2.4.3 The integration of the missionary societies into the churches
  • 2.4.4 The establishment of the Dewan Geredja-geredja di Indonesia (DGI)
  • 2.4.5 The dismantling of the Missionary Consulate
  • 2.4.6 The Sociological Documentation Centre
  • 2.5 The NZR in a postcolonial era
  • 2.5.1 The institutional development of the NZR after 1963
  • 2.5.2 The rise of evangelical mission agencies
  • 2.5.3 The rise of specialised agencies for diakonia and development
  • 2.5.4 ICCO, government funding and development work
  • 2.5.5 Service Abroad and practical service to developing countries
  • 2.5.6 Church Overseas and lay people in mission
  • 2.5.7 Ecumenical cooperation in missiology: IIMO and a new missiological journal
  • 2.5.8 The debate on the Programme to Combat Racism
  • 2.5.9 Cooperation with migrant Christian communities
  • 2.6 Conclusion
  • 3 Partnership in the IMC in a colonial era, 1900–1945
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 Edinburgh 1910: ‘That most perplexing of all stages, the stage of adolescence’
  • 3.2.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 3.2.2 Events leading up to the Edinburgh conference
  • 3.2.3 Edinburgh’s geographic approach to mission
  • 3.2.4 Missionaries and indigenous Christians
  • 3.2.5 Missionaries and colonial politics
  • 3.3 Lake Mohonk 1921 and Oxford 1923: ‘The old relationship of the child to the parent impossible’
  • 3.3.1 The Continuation Committee and the colonial governments
  • 3.3.2 The relations between missionary societies and indigenous churches
  • 3.3.3 Nationalism and race
  • 3.4 Jerusalem 1928: ‘Passing from paternalism to partnership’
  • 3.4.1 Location, representation and vocabulary of the meeting
  • 3.4.2 A call for church-to-church relations
  • 3.4.3 Financial support by missionary societies to churches
  • 3.4.4 The role of missionaries
  • 3.4.5 Indigenous churches with indigenous theologies
  • 3.5 Tambaram 1938: ‘The grace of mindfulness to the things of others’
  • 3.5.1 Setting and theme of the meeting
  • 3.5.2 Independent churches and a shifting ecumenical discourse
  • 3.5.3 Self-governance of ‘younger’ churches
  • 3.5.4 Financial dependence of ‘younger’ churches
  • 3.5.5 The role of missionaries
  • 3.6 The Orphaned Missions Fund
  • 3.7 Conclusion
  • 4 Partnership in the NZR in a colonial era, 1900–1945
  • 4.1 Introduction
  • 4.2 Protestant mission in a time of ethical policy and theology
  • 4.2.1 The ethical policy in Dutch colonialism
  • 4.2.2 Ethical theology and mission
  • 4.3 The missionary discourse on colonialism
  • 4.3.1 The civilising subsidies
  • 4.3.2 Government involvement in education
  • 4.3.3 The racial stratification of the Netherlands Indies
  • 4.3.4 Cultural protectionism contested
  • 4.3.5 The rise of nationalist movements
  • 4.4 The missionary discourse on self-determination and devolution
  • 4.4.1 The missionary societies and the indigenous Christians
  • 4.4.2 The independence of the Indonesian churches
  • 4.4.3 The devolution of educational and medical institutions
  • 4.4.4 The independence of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands Indies
  • 4.4.5 The time factor in devolution
  • 4.5 The role of missionaries
  • 4.5.1 The continuing presence of the missionaries
  • 4.5.2 The changing role of the missionaries
  • 4.5.3 The ethical discourse on missionaries scrutinised
  • 4.6 Conclusion
  • 5 Partnership in the IMC in an era of decolonisation, 1945–1962
  • 5.1 Introduction
  • 5.2 Whitby 1947: ‘the grace of receiving as well as the grace of giving’
  • 5.2.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 5.2.2 Partnership and the unity of the church
  • 5.2.3 The dual belonging of missionaries
  • 5.2.4 Money and power
  • 5.2.5 Administration and power
  • 5.3 Willingen 1952: ‘Partnership is not enough’
  • 5.3.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 5.3.2 Mission as missio Dei
  • 5.3.3 A revision of missionary terminology
  • 5.3.4 Missionaries: withdrawal or new role?
  • 5.3.5 Devolution and financial support
  • 5.3.6 Discussions on the relation between mission and church
  • 5.4 Achimota 1958: ‘Not called, only sent’
  • 5.4.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 5.4.2 The legitimacy of foreign missionaries
  • 5.4.3 Transforming missionary societies into associations for inter-church aid?
  • 5.4.4 Old and new terminology
  • 5.4.5 The debate on the integration of IMC and WCC
  • 5.5 New Delhi 1961: ‘Christian mission has a worldwide base’
  • 5.6 Conclusion
  • 6 Partnership in the NZR in an era of decolonisation, 1945–1962
  • 6.1 Introduction
  • 6.2 Protestant mission and the decolonisation of Indonesia
  • 6.2.1 The Indonesian revolution
  • 6.2.2 The conflict over Papua
  • 6.2.3 The mission of the NHK and the GKN and the Indonesian revolution
  • 6.2.4 The NZR and the Indonesian revolution
  • 6.2.5 The NZR and the conflict over Papua
  • 6.3 Decolonisation, devolution and changing relations
  • 6.3.1 The reduction of missionary personnel and the transfer of mission properties
  • 6.3.2 The ecumenical conferences at Malino and Kwitang
  • 6.3.3 Devolution and the presence of missionary personnel
  • 6.3.4 Supporting education and literature projects
  • 6.3.5 Decolonisation and the witness of the Indonesian churches
  • 6.3.6 Devolution, identity and trust
  • 6.4 The role of missionaries
  • 6.4.1 The continuing presence of the missionaries
  • 6.4.2 The changing role of missionaries
  • 6.4.3 The quest for new mission fields
  • 6.5 Changing terminology
  • 6.5.1 Partnership
  • 6.5.2 ‘Older’ and ‘younger’ churches
  • 6.6 Conclusion
  • 7 Partnership in the CWME in a postcolonial era, 1963–1999
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Mexico City 1963: ‘the whole church, bringing the whole gospel to the whole world’
  • 7.2.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 7.2.2 Common witness of the whole church, bringing the whole gospel to the whole world
  • 7.2.3 New structures for missionary cooperation
  • 7.2.4 A shifting image of the missionary
  • 7.2.5 Evangelical critique of Mexico City
  • 7.3 Uppsala 1968: ‘solidarity with the whole of mankind in witness and service’
  • 7.3.1 Setting of the assembly
  • 7.3.2 Mission as humanisation
  • 7.3.3 Ecumenical structures for missionary cooperation assessed
  • 7.3.4 Ecumenical Sharing of Personnel
  • 7.3.5 Missionary societies under critique
  • 7.4 Bangkok 1973: ‘to liberate the powerless and the oppressed’
  • 7.4.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 7.4.2 The debate on salvation
  • 7.4.3 Power imbalance and restructuring
  • 7.4.4 Moratorium and partnership
  • 7.4.5 Reception of the moratorium idea
  • 7.5 Melbourne 1980: ‘the discipline of the powerless Christ’
  • 7.5.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 7.5.2 God’s preference for the poor
  • 7.5.3 Ecumenical sharing and partnership
  • 7.5.4 Exchange of people between churches
  • 7.5.5 Continued restructuring
  • 7.6 San Antonio 1989: ‘from the marginalized sectors… upwards to the domes of power’
  • 7.6.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 7.6.2 Mission as subversive action and resistance
  • 7.6.3 The church as a sharing community
  • 7.6.4 The limitations of restructuring
  • 7.6.5 Partnerships between mission agencies and local churches
  • 7.6.6 Missionaries as ecumenical ambassadors
  • 7.7 Salvador 1996: ‘common witness in an ecumenical spirit of mutual respect’
  • 7.7.1 Setting and theme of the conference
  • 7.7.2 Mission from within cultures
  • 7.7.3 Common witness and proselytism
  • 7.7.4 Beyond restructuring
  • 7.8 Conclusion
  • 8 Partnership in the NZR in a postcolonial era, 1963–1999
  • 8.1 Introduction
  • 8.2 Protestant mission in the Netherlands and Indonesia in a postcolonial era
  • 8.2.1 Political developments in Indonesia and the Netherlands
  • 8.2.2 The Moluccan community in the Netherlands and the Dutch churches
  • 8.2.3 The Indonesian churches and their mission in postcolonial Indonesia
  • 8.2.4 The Dutch turn to other ‘mission fields’
  • 8.3 Multilateral relations, moratorium and mutual assistance in mission
  • 8.3.1 The theoretical unity of mission, service and development work
  • 8.3.2 Multilateral relations, the DGI and the KKKMI
  • 8.3.3 Supporting Christian literature for Indonesia
  • 8.3.4 Supporting higher education in Indonesia
  • 8.3.5 A critical appraisal of mutual assistance
  • 8.3.6 The moratorium debate in the NZR
  • 8.3.7 Mission, money and multilateralism
  • 8.3.8 The conferences of Tangmentoe and Bali
  • 8.4 Protestant missionaries and partnership in a postcolonial era
  • 8.4.1 The theology of the apostolate and missionaries
  • 8.4.2 The role of Dutch fraternal workers in Indonesia
  • 8.4.3 Mission in the Netherlands: a project
  • 8.4.4 The role of Indonesian fraternal workers in the Netherlands
  • 8.4.5 Exchange visits between congregations
  • 8.5 Conclusion
  • 9 Conclusion
  • 9.1 Restatement of the research question
  • 9.2 Equality
  • 9.3 Mutuality
  • 9.4 Reciprocity
  • 9.5 The changing role of people in mission
  • 9.6 Fields of further research
  • Appendix 1: Founding Members and Objectives of the Netherlands Missionary Council
  • Appendix 2: Missionary Consuls and NZR General Secretaries (1906–2000)
  • Bibliography
  • I Primary sources
  • a. Archival material
  • b. Official reports of meetings of the World Missionary Conference, the International Missionary Council, the World Council of Churches and the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (in chronological order)
  • c. Periodicals
  • d. Articles in the International Review of Mission
  • e. Articles in Mededeelingen, De Opwekker, De Heerbaan, Wereld en Zending and Allerwegen
  • f. Interviews
  • g. Correspondence
  • h. Websites
  • II Secondary sources
  • Index

1 Introduction

1.1 Outline of the research question

This is a study in the history of Christian mission and missiology. It traces the relations between Dutch and Indonesian Protestant Christians in the twentieth century. More specifically, it offers a description of the development of the concept and praxis of partnership in Dutch-Indonesian ecumenical relations. While engaging with the sources, I have worked with the hypothesis that partnerships – understood as equal, mutual and reciprocal relations – have increased in both quantity and quality throughout the twentieth century.

Partnership is a multivalent term. In the context of personal relations, it may refer to an officially registered civil union between two people, as an alternative to matrimony. In a business setting, the word ‘partnership’ is applied to the cooperation between two or more enterprises in a project. In the realm of sports, firms that sponsor athletic events are often called partners. Partnership is even applied to the cooperation between governments and international organisations.

In the context of Christian churches and mission agencies, the notion of partnership is also frequently used. In ecclesiastical settings, it is an equally ambiguous or, in the words of missiologist Jonathan Bonk, a ‘deceptively simple’1 term. It may refer to the arrangement between an individual worker and a church or an organisation; it is also used as a synonym for sponsorship of projects and organisations; but more often, it denotes a relationship between two or more churches or Christian organisations. Partnership in this latter, ecumenical sense is the topic of this study. Halfway the twentieth century, this understanding of partnership was used to redefine the relations between western churches and mission agencies and churches from other parts of the world. Even in this specific understanding of partnership, the term has taken on multiple meanings depending on the context and, in every context, requires careful consideration and analysis. One of the questions scholars of Christian mission history have reflected on is whether partnership is merely a high ideal or may actually be implemented and practised in inter-church relations.2

This study works with a definition of partnership that entails more than a loose commitment to a common project; it is even more than a close cooperation. ←21 | 22→Partnership is defined as an equal, mutual and reciprocal relationship that affects all parties involved and does not leave them unchanged. This definition of partnership builds on the writings of Max Warren and Lothar Bauerochse, whose works are discussed in some detail below. It follows Warren’s threefold definition of partnership as involvement, acceptance of responsibility and acceptance of all the liabilities,3 while using adjectives that conform to Bauerochse’s work.

This study also assumes that the idea of partnership as developed and practised in Christian churches and mission agencies is embedded in Christian theology. As Warren argues, the idea of partnership is congenial to the Christian understanding of the nature of God as expressed in the doctrine of the Trinity.4 From the doctrine of the Trinity, Warren moves on to say that partnership is also rooted in the New Testament idea of divine-human cooperation and interhuman fellowship; the New Testament uses the word koinonia for both relations.5 As will be demonstrated, these theological anchorages are crucial to Warren’s understanding of partnership.

In my definition, the adjective ‘equal’ refers to a level playing field, the absence of hierarchy and power difference between the partners; ‘mutual’ indicates that all partners may initiate the partnership and host their partners; the term ‘reciprocal’ points to the element of sharing, which is the basic meaning of the word ‘partner’: partnership is a relationship of giving and receiving, of exchange. In this understanding of partnership, the identities of the partners are at stake. Therefore, it is necessary to pay close attention to the political and socio-economic contexts, power relations, terminology, and human and material resources involved in partnerships.

Partnership as an equal, mutual and reciprocal relation is the lens through which I view the historical material discussed in this study. I am aware that I am using an early twenty-first century, European understanding of the term to analyse documents from the twentieth century that do not necessarily use it in the same way. The term partnership itself was scarcely used in mission documents of the first half of the twentieth century and, after it rose to prominence in the 1940s, was used in a variety of ways during the second half of the century. Nevertheless, the qualities that constitute my definition of partnership – equality, mutuality and reciprocity – were certainly part of the discussion from the outset ←22 | 23→of the century. Thus, this study attempts to trace a ‘genealogy’ of partnership in inter-church relations throughout the twentieth century.

The relations between Dutch and Indonesians have been the subject of much historical scholarship in Indonesia, the Netherlands and beyond. The Dutch first came to Indonesia for commercial purposes, but from the beginning religion also played a role. Within the wider field of Dutch-Indonesian religious interaction, I have chosen to study the interactions between Dutch and Indonesian Protestants. By and large, the Dutch Protestants who engaged with Indonesian Protestants were missionaries and members of mission boards who belonged to voluntary missionary societies established in the nineteenth century. In the final decades of the nineteenth century, these missionary societies developed some very loose forms of cooperation, both in the Netherlands and in the Netherlands Indies. In the early twentieth century, serious efforts to coordinate the missionary work were launched, especially in the form of the so-called Missionary Consulate, an institution endorsed and utilised by most missionary societies. From 1929 onward, the missionary societies had an ecumenical body for coordination, cooperation and study called the Netherlands Missionary Council (Nederlandse Zendingsraad, NZR). In this study, the history of the Missionary Consulate and the NZR serves as a window on the development of the concept and praxis of Dutch-Indonesian partnerships.

The history of an ecumenical-missionary organisation like the NZR provides an admittedly limited perspective on such a wide-ranging theme as Dutch-Indonesian inter-church relations. A comprehensive image needs to take into account how partnerships have been viewed and practised in other religious institutions, especially the Roman Catholic Church. More importantly, the historical views of Indonesian Christians are indispensable for a balanced treatment of the topic. A study on the theory and praxis of partnership in the Indonesian ecumenical movement would be an important complement to this study. In order to preserve focus, this study will stay within the bounds of the history of the NZR and not tread the vast fields beyond it, although occasional glimpses of Indonesian perspectives that entered the NZR’s discourse will provide much-needed depth.

From its inception, the enhancement of cooperation and partnership was a chief concern of the NZR, if not its very raison d’être. Hence, the question that occupied me during my research – how the idea and the practice of partnership have developed in the history of the NZR – promised to yield significant returns when I first formulated it. While mining the NZR archives, I was not disappointed. Throughout its history the issue of partnership was repeatedly addressed, implicitly and explicitly. It is the aim of this study to describe the ←23 | 24→changing contexts and the shifting meanings of partnership as they occur in the history of the NZR.

The NZR was closely related to the International Missionary Council (IMC) and, after 1961, the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME) of the World Council of Churches (WCC).6 Being an international ecumenical-missionary body, the IMC/CWME also devoted much effort and time to partnerships and can be credited for introducing the theme and the term into ecumenical parlance. Hence, the discourse of the IMC/CWME on partnership is also studied. It will serve as context for the discourse of the NZR and help demonstrate which issues were particular to the NZR and which conformed to the wider ecumenical discussions. Thus, this study juxtaposes, compares and correlates the discourses of the IMC/CWME and the NZR.

In the early twentieth century, an amalgam of factors resulted in the creation of self-governing Indonesian Protestant churches, which prompted changes in the relations with the Dutch missionaries. A prominent subset of questions of this study relates, therefore, to the autonomy of the Indonesian churches and its effect on the relations between Dutch and Indonesian Protestants and the understanding of partnership within these relations. It is significant that Indonesian ecclesiastical autonomy preceded the political decolonisation and the declaration of independence by at least a decade. The existence of autonomous Protestant churches at the time of the Indonesian struggle for independence influenced the political views of many Indonesian and Dutch Protestants and secured the continuity of ecumenical relations between them.

The relevance of tracing Dutch-Indonesian ecumenical-missionary relations, and especially partnerships, is demonstrated by recent publications that revisit ←24 | 25→the colonial history of the Netherlands in Indonesia. The war crimes committed by Dutch troops during the Indonesian war of independence, in the Netherlands euphemistically known as ‘police actions’, are but one of the topics that reveal the wounds of the colonial era. In 2016, the Dutch government finally agreed to fund a comprehensive research project on the Dutch war crimes, after a succession of historians argued that Dutch military action in 1945–1949 was not just tainted by incidental but by systematic excessive violence. 7 Another issue that relates to the colonial heritage is the status of Indonesian communities in the Netherlands and especially the Moluccan community, whose presence in the Netherlands is a result of historical factors that include the manner of colonial governance of the archipelago, missionary work and the unyielding Dutch diplomacy during the war of independence. Historical ecumenical-missionary partnerships may shed light on the diversity and complexity of the colonial past and perhaps point to constructive ways forward in Indonesian-Dutch relations.

The research question of this study thus focuses on the development of the relations between Indonesian and Dutch Protestant churches and mission agencies in their various stages – colonial, decolonisation and postcolonial. To what extent can these relations be characterised as partnerships in the sense that they reflected equality, mutuality and reciprocity? What about the balance between these three aspects of partnership? What meanings were ascribed to the partnerships by leading Dutch mission scholars and mission leaders? How were Dutch-Indonesian partnerships represented in the discourse of the NZR? And how did the discussions about Dutch-Indonesian partnerships relate to the ideas and debates that evolved in the international ecumenical movement, especially the IMC and the CWME?

1.2 Time frame and periodisation

In this study, I have attempted to cover a century of mission and church history, which was a daunting task. The wide time frame of the research forced me to ←25 | 26→make some difficult choices as to what material to include and what to exclude. I have chosen to base my reconstruction of the international ecumenical discourse primarily on the minutes, reports, publications and correspondence of the IMC/CWME, using the international missionary conferences as signposts. The discussions on inter-church relations and mission as they were conducted at the international conferences of the Faith and Order and Life and Work movements and the assemblies of the WCC have, for instance, not been included, although I acknowledge their importance for the concept of partnership. The NZR interfaced primarily with the IMC/CWME and the Faith and Order, Life and Work, and WCC material is vast and merits individual studies. Exceptions were made for the WCC assemblies at New Delhi in 1961 and Uppsala 1968, because both gatherings were pivotal for the history of ecumenical missiology.

The archives of the NZR, though richly stacked, are less expansive and more easily navigable than those of the IMC/CWME. From its publications, minutes, conference reports and sizeable correspondence, as well as the publications of its secretaries, I have selected those that are relevant to ecumenical-missionary partnerships in general, and Dutch-Indonesian relations in particular. While sacrificing the advantages of a more detailed analysis in a smaller time bracket, the advantage of a long-term view is that it makes developments and trends discernible.

In order to attain a grip on the material, the twentieth century has been divided into three periods: the colonial era (1900–1945), decolonisation (1945–1962) and the postcolonial era (1963–1999).8 My narrative begins in the year 1900, because this year marked the start of the implementation of the Dutch government’s ‘ethical policy’ in the Netherlands Indies and because it was the year in which mission director Jan Willem Gunning travelled across the Indonesian archipelago and conceived the plan for the Missionary Consulate, an ecumenical body for missionary cooperation that became closely linked to the NZR and whose advisory board was the direct precursor of the NZR. The summer of 1945 was evidently the beginning of a new era for the Netherlands and Indonesia: World War ←26 | 27→II came to an end, and on 17 August 1945, the Republic of Indonesia declared its independence. That year thus marks the transition from the colonial period to the decolonisation. Shortly after the end of the war, in 1946, the NZR was restructured and entered a new phase of its existence. The decolonisation of Indonesia was completed in the fall of 1962 when the Netherlands was forced to cede power over Netherlands New Guinea to Indonesia. A postcolonial era dawned in the relations between Dutch and Indonesian Protestants. The year after that, in 1963, the CWME conference in Mexico City heralded a new epoch in mission with the famous slogan ‘mission in six continents’. In 1998, the New Order of President Suharto came to an end and Indonesian politics entered a new phase. In 1999, significant shifts took place among Dutch Protestant mission, service and relief agencies and with that the role of the NZR changed. Hence, 2000 is an appropriate terminus ad quem for this study.

This periodisation signals the shifting contexts of Dutch-Indonesian relations and calls for sensitivity in analysis of the documents from the various periods. The minutes of the NZR, for example, repeatedly state that Dutch Protestant mission agencies ought to serve the Indonesian churches. The interpretation of this phrase needed to be determined by a different set of questions for each of the three periods in light of the changing political and socio-economic contexts. Therefore, many of the guiding questions are closely related to the scheme colonial-decolonisation-postcolonial. This is especially true for the era of decolonisation, when ecumenical relations were deeply affected by political antagonism and military clashes.

1.3 Position of this research in the field of missiology

This work adds to an existing body of missiological literature on partnership. The most influential study of the twentieth century on the topic is the aforementioned book by Max Warren: Partnership: The Study of an Idea (1956). As was already pointed out, Warren, who was the general secretary of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) between 1942 and 1963 and a key figure in the Protestant missiological world, gives a threefold definition of partnership: genuine involvement, the acceptance of responsibility and liability. Warren believes that partnership is at odds with dominating power and egotism.9 It has its roots in the nature of God, Warren argues, and more specifically in the doctrine of the interactions of the three divine persons within the Trinity.10 From the doctrine of the Trinity ←27 | 28→Warren derives the meaning of the word partnership for the Christian community. He also relates it closely to the Greek word koinonia and its derivatives. This word points to fellowship or partnership with God and Christ and also to partnership in the Christian community. This is exemplified in the Eucharist, which signifies communion with God and among human beings.11 When relating this concept of partnership to mission, Warren points to the importance of prayer and understanding in relationships, but also speaks of the importance of overcoming race barriers in Christian mission.12 Most scholars of mission who have written about partnership in subsequent decades have relied on or referred to the work of Warren.

In recent decades, several missiologists have analysed and developed the concept of partnership in light of particular historical situations in the twentieth century. In his book Learning to Live Together (first published in German in 1996, and in English in 2001), Lothar Bauerochse has analysed partnerships between Protestant congregations in Germany and in various African countries.13 Having more historical distance than Warren, Bauerochse is able to give a sharper analysis of the use of the term partnership in the process of the decolonisation. One of his conclusions is that Christian mission borrowed the term ‘partnership’ from mid-twentieth century British colonial policy.14 In British policy the term was used to indicate that colonies were given a measure of autonomy while the British crown retained a measure of control. In inter-church relations, Bauerochse nevertheless argues, the term partnership was used in quite the opposite way, namely to call upon western churches to relinquish control: ‘Positively used, partnership meant the recognition of the autonomy of the other, respect for their independence and their difference.’ He adds that ‘reciprocity was the decisive thing – reciprocal relations.’15 Bauerochse also concludes that, on the level of congregational partnerships, reciprocity is often not achieved; in fact, partnerships are often characterised by structural inequality to the disadvantage of the African partners; partnerships thus do not guarantee intercultural ←28 | 29→and ecumenical learning. Bauerochse nevertheless believes that partnerships are important in inter-church relations and argues that a shared consciousness of the aim of the partnership may help achieve equality and reciprocity. By the practice of ‘ecumenical existence’ or ‘Konvivenz’ partnerships – the latter is a term coined by missiologist Theo Sundermaier – may lead to the renewal of congregations, mutual learning and overcoming of injustice and inequality.16

Bauerochse’s insights on colonial policies and control are important for the analysis of partnership in Dutch-Indonesian relations, because continuing control was also high on the agenda of the Dutch government: even after the Indonesian independence, it hoped for a federation of the Netherlands and Indonesia under the Dutch crown. Issues of control – of programmes, resources and personnel – also played a role in Dutch-Indonesian ecumenical relations, not only in the colonial period, but also after that.

Another study on partnership is Graham A. Duncan’s Partnership in Mission (a Ph.D. dissertation from 2007, published in 2008).17 This study provides an analysis of the relations of the World Mission Council of the Church of Scotland with its partner churches, mostly focusing on the policies of the former. Duncan makes use of Riane Eisler’s theory of cultural transformation, which contrasts the dominator model with the partnership model.18 He applies these categories to the relations of the World Mission Council. Duncan affirms the claim of Bauerochse that the term partnership was borrowed from British colonial politics. He also follows Bauerochse in saying that, in the ecumenical context, the term was redefined. Just like Bauerochse, Duncan defines partnership in terms of equality, interdependency, reciprocity, cooperation, trust and respect for the others in their differences.19 He concludes that the twentieth century missionary-ecumenical movement has achieved a degree of partnership in both theory and practice.20 To him, ‘partnership is not an unattainable dream.’21 In this sense, Duncan goes beyond Warren and Bauerochse, who both seem to view partnership as an unrealised ideal. However, Duncan warns that groups or churches ←29 | 30→that are exposed to vulnerability and insecurity, such as falling membership and reduced financial resources, can easily return to the dominator model in their relationships with others. The dominator attitude that they return to is characterised by one-sided decision-making, control of resources and a master/servant relation. Fear, caution, a lack of purpose and of knowing how to empower are the main reasons for a return to the dominator paradigm, Duncan argues. According to him, this is what happened to the World Mission Council by the end of the twentieth century to the detriment of its partnerships.22

The development of the concept of partnership in the IMC, CWME and the WCC at large has been traced in detail by Jonathan S. Barnes in his book Power and Partnership (2013).23 Barnes does not analyse an individual denomination or ecumenical organisation, but focuses on the international ecumenical scene. An original aspect of his work is that he does not only look at inter-church relations, but also at the implications of the concept of partnership for development work. Barnes follows Lamin Sanneh’s distinction between Global and World Christianity, arguing that Global Christianity is basically western Protestant Christianity which has expanded and replicated itself worldwide. World Christianity is a variety of indigenous responses to the Christian message, is less bureaucratic and more prone to embracing diversity. Barnes uses this binary division between Global and World Christianity and their characteristics in his analysis of the partnership discourse of the ecumenical-missionary movement in the twentieth century.24

Like Duncan, Barnes concedes Bauerochse’s claim that the term partnership originated in British colonial discourse. However, he makes a case for deeper roots of partnerships between Global and World Churches, tracing the concept (not the term) partnership back to the nineteenth century and especially to the work of nineteenth century mission leaders Henry Venn (Church Missionary Society) and Rufus Anderson (American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions). Venn and Anderson both called for self-support, self-governance and self-propagation of the churches in the ‘mission fields’ as the aims of Protestant mission.25 Based on the idea of the three selves, Barnes upholds a specifically ←30 | 31→Christian meaning of the term partnership – sisterhood and brotherhood, united by the love of God26 – a meaning that has recurred at many ecumenical conferences throughout the twentieth century. Barnes observes that Global Christianity, however, often fails to live up to this specific Christian meaning of partnership and still needs to be convinced that the home base of mission is not merely in the west, but everywhere in the world. According to Barnes, partnership is mostly rhetoric rather than reality; it is often obstructed by unilateral control of resources and power as well as paternalistic attitudes.27


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (February)
missionaries Indonesia ecumenical movement colonialism decolonisation Netherlands Indies
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 424 pp.

Biographical notes

Wilbert van Saane (Author)

Wilbert van Saane is campus minister and lecturer in religion at Haigazian University in Beirut. He also serves as a part-time lecturer at the Near East School of Theology. He is an ordained minister in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands.


Title: From Paternalism to Partnership
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428 pages