Global Hubs

“Flexibly study what you do, while you do it, wherever you are.”

Redcliffe’s MA programmes are designed to equip and empower people for mission and ministry wherever they are in the world. We aim to train reflective practitioners so we encourage students to relate their studies always to their current role and context.

Another of our key goals is to enable people to study without having to take significant time out of their normal work or ministry. We also aim to keep our training as affordable as possible. These are some of the reasons why we have launched our international hubs, bringing Redcliffe’s unique MAs to various parts of the world.

In addition to our original “home” hub in Gloucester, England, we also now offer our programmes in Oceania (alternating years between Australia and New Zealand) and from 2019 in Asia with a hub in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The Oceania hub has its intensives for two weeks in January-February each year, and the Asia hub for two weeks in October each year.

Asia Teaser

The Gloucester Summer School will continue to run for three weeks every July. This gives a great amount of flexibility for people not only to study at the hub nearest to them, but also at the time of year best suited to them. To give further possibilities, we are working on a London-based hub as well which will run purely by weekend mode rather than requiring a two or three-week intensive.

The Oceania hub is based in two wonderful locations: in Sydney we are hosted by Morling College, and make a trip part way through to the beautiful Tahlee Centre for Creation Care (A Rocha) to think about environmental mission, whilst in New Zealand we use as our venue Eastwest College near Hamilton.

At the Gloucester hub students can take our full range of programmes: either the MA in Leadership in a Complex World, the MA in Member Care, or the MA in Contemporary Missiology, which has several possible streams including Justice, Advocacy and Reconciliation; European Mission; Bible and Mission.

Students can do a general Contemporary Missiology degree where they choose from our many other optional modules, shaping it to their particular interest: these include Life and Work in Muslim Contexts; Gender and Mission; Vulnerable Children; or an Independent Study Module where someone writes on another subject of interest to them with the help of a supervisor.

We are offering a slightly pared-down version of this at the international hubs, delivering our Leadership and Member Care programmes and the two foundational Missiology Modules.

This means students can do a full Masters in Member Care or Leadership by attending either Oceania or Asia, but if they wish to do a full Contemporary Missiology degree, they can take two missiology modules in their nearest hub, and then attend the Gloucester hub another year to take two further options. We even have one student who is considering taking a module at each of our three current hubs!

As well as bringing the delivery of the teaching nearer to our students, our Masters programmes also benefit greatly from the resulting exposure to life and Christian witness in the different parts of the world. We are always seeking to broaden our reading lists and bring global voices to bear on the missional issues and areas we cover.

Drawing on scholarship and bringing in visiting lecturers in the locations of our hubs is a good way to do this. In New Zealand for example we had some sessions with a Maori couple who had done mission work in Eurasia for several years. We visited their local marai (meeting place) and heard from them both about their experience of doing missions as Maori, and about contextualizing Christianity in Maori culture.

At the same time we acquired the recent book Huia Come Home (2017) by Jay Ruka, Huia Come Homewhich reflects on the history of Christianity in New Zealand and how the gospel is enhanced by seeing it through a Maori lens – a great example to bring into our teaching on contextualisation. As missiologists we are excited to bring our MAs to different parts of the world and to learn from the people we encounter there ourselves.

You can find out more about our MA programmes, course content, dates and fees by going to https://www.redcliffe.ac.uk – and for further information contact the College Administrator on study@redcliffe.ac.uk.

Main Photo Credit: Juliana Kozoski

Ms. Amelia Bloomer

When convictions and culture clash

Chairs scrape on the floor as several men abruptly get up and leave the room, while others listen uncomfortably…

It’s a warm, dusky evening on a school campus in rural Zambia, and a small group of about thirty men and women are gathered in a simple whitewashed building. The windows and door are closed against the mosquitoes which are already starting to gather as the sun is going down. When someone arrives, in wafts the warm air as well, along with a loud croaking and chirruping of crickets and frogs. The group consists of Zambian schoolteachers and nurses, and some American and British missionaries. There are guests tonight, a couple visiting from overseas. We meet every Sunday night for our mission fellowship. The preaching and leading is always done by men; not only because of the traditional culture, but also because the Christianity here is conservative: only men may lead and speak from the front.

Tonight, when it comes time for the preaching, both members of the visiting couple stand up. The man begins by introducing himself and his wife – and then his wife takes over: “I know” she says heartily and loudly, “that Paul says women should not speak in church, but I have never taken any notice of those verses. The subject I am speaking about tonight is…” and she launches into her sermon. This is when some immediately rise and exit without saying anything, and the rest listen, slightly sideways on, out of typical Zambian courtesy.

It still rankles with me when I think about it twenty years later. So much in this story is wrong.

I have every sympathy with a woman who feels that she should be allowed to preach and teach the Bible, if she has that gift. It is annoying and frustrating that those all-too-well-known words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34 have been used to keep women quiet in many Christian quarters for two thousand years. I grew up in a conservative Christian tradition, where preaching was held up as the greatest gift. I was taught that everyone who remotely could, should preach the word – but only men might preach to other men, whilst women could preach to women and children. So the highest gift, the most important calling, is really only fully available for men? I disagree with this. I believe women and men are equally qualified and able to preach and teach God’s word.

But on that day, I was extremely uncomfortable about the visitors’ disregard for cultural sensitivity. As guests they rode roughshod over the convictions of the people they were visiting. I would think more harm than good was done to their view of women and our abilities. In that setting, I would have felt the priority was honouring the host culture. Further, there was no explanation or justification given, but the speaker openly stated that she planned to ignore that part of Paul’s writing – whilst teaching on another part of it. The whole incident just made everyone look bad.

However, Scot McKnight opens his book The Blue Parakeet by illustrating that as evangelicals, even with our high view of scripture, we do not take every word of the Bible literally. We all pick and choose, and adapt the Bible to our cultural setting. Even if we don’t like the sound of this, it is what we do. He gives examples of the Sabbath and tithing to demonstrate this. And who among us has given away all of our possessions? But McKnight doesn’t intend to encourage us to do what we like. On the contrary, he wants us to think about what we pick and why – to face up to this question rather than just ignore it – to think it through rather than brazenly doing it whilst claiming at the same time to hold to scripture.

The outstanding reason for not taking 1 Cor 14:34 as a universal rule is that it is countered by the numerous times in scripture where women are seen in positions of authority, leading and teaching. Marg Mowczko lists seven women in the Bible designated prophetesses, who ministered to men and were honoured for it (HT Ian Paul, who brought this to my attention). They include Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, and Anna. Paul himself worked alongside and acknowledged women leaders such as Phoebe and Priscilla. Even within the same Corinthian letter he refers to women praying and prophesying in church (11:5). So it does not seem credible that he meant to impose a general ban on women speaking in church.

A common explanation given for the silence instruction to the Corinthian women is that by that stage in the early church women converts were not educated as the men were, and Paul was trying to prevent them from interrupting the teaching by asking their questions in church: they should rather wait and ask for explanations back at home. McKnight favours this view and says that therefore it is a temporary instruction, not a general one.

Lucy Peppiatt argues in her book Women and Worship at Corinth, that as also in the head-covering passage, the reason Paul seems to contradict himself is that he is using a rhetorical technique, where he quotes what the Corinthians have said as being “the law”, but then refutes it. So in 14:34-36 he is conveying that contrary to the Corinthians’ claim that women should be silent (quoted in v34, 35) he is saying No, this is not right. I find that Peppiatt’s arguments are convincing and make sense of otherwise very confusing passages.

So what about the preaching faux pas in Zambia? Was it more important on that day for a woman to demonstrate her freedom to preach, or for visitors to show sensitivity and grace toward the culture of the people hosting them? But could it be argued that culture sometimes become a “god” in itself that we worship and obey at any cost? It is my opinion that we must challenge our own cultures and bring them under the scrutiny of the gospel but that in most cases, pointing the finger at another culture is ugly and out of place. Change comes slowly, and from within, as the Spirit works.

I would be very interested to hear what others think about any of this. Feel free to comment below! This and similar topics were discussed in our Gender and Mission module which ran last July. We will be offering it again July 2019.

Rosie Button Jan 2018.


Picture Caption: Susan B. Anthony meeting partner-in-crime Elizabeth Cady Stanton via mutual friend Ms. Amelia Bloomer in Seneca Falls, NY. Creative Commons. Taken from Flicr Account Suzieblue8



What Does it Mean to be Human? Blade Runner, Babylon, and the Bible

Thirty-five years ago the Sci-Fi Classic, Blade Runner, hit our screens and probed the question of what it means to be human. In Blade Runner 2049, Denis Villeneuve’s mesmerising sequel, we are confronted again with the ‘human’ question, albeit in new ways.

Impressive though Villeneuve’s vision may be, Hollywood’s exploration of human nature and identity is, of course, nothing new. For the Church, though, films like Blade Runner 2049 provide us with a ready opportunity to tell a different story about what it means to be human.

The other day, I was teaching on the Bible as a source for missiological reflection on Redcliffe’s MA in Contemporary Missiology programme. We were talking about how the Bible presents a series of encounters between the biblical worldview and the worldviews of neighbouring peoples. And asking what it means to be human is one of those worldview-defining questions.

In the first pages of the Bible we see the writer of Genesis wrestling, among other questions, exactly this issue. In contrast to neighbouring cultures’ origin stories (like those of Babylon and Egypt), the biblical account of creation offers something different – subversive and polemical even. Rather than an afterthought, put on earth to serve the needs of the gods, the biblical story depicts human beings as the completion point of the active part of creation. More than this, we bear the very ‘image of God’ (Gen. 1:26-27).

Scholars differ over what exactly this phrase means. In his latest book, Being Human in God’s World: An Old Testament Theology of Humanity, Prof. Gordon McConville makes a compelling – exciting! – observation about the relational nature of this imaging (pp. 26-27):

Godlikeness is not a status that has been achieved and now merely needs to be enjoyed. Rather, it commits both God and humans to a life together, the story of which will occupy the pages of the Old Testament and the New. It includes the narratives about worship, in which God chooses to dwell among his people Israel and to seek their love and devotion. And it includes those strands of the Old Testament that call the human partner to imitate God in his fundamental orientation toward the world­—that is, in his justice and righteousness, faithfulness, holiness, compassion, and truth.

Being made in God’s image, then, is not a ‘static’ thing to be merely enjoyed or exploited. It is a dynamic to humanity that draws us into life with God and his purposes for creation. It is not merely a sign of our intrinsic worth (though it is that!) but is also a commissioning to take part in God’s mission in the world.

Whatever Blade Runner’s questions and conclusions concerning being human (and I don’t want to give anything away here!), the biblical narrative affords the ‘human question’ the most profound and satisfying answer imaginable. What a remarkable vision of what it means to be human: inherent value, life with our Creator, dignity, purpose, hope. What a tragedy that this relational imaging has been marred by our rebellion. But what a wonderful and glorious thing it is that, in and through Jesus, God is about the work of restoration and reconciliation!

Whether explored by Babylon or Blade Runner, what it means to be human is a fundamental question relevant to everybody and at every time. But when the world is asking it, are we the Church ready with an answer?

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Why don’t we talk about missionaries and mental health?

Traditionally, depression and anxiety have been seen as hard topics to talk about for missionaries and others involved in full-time ministry.

Actually, they are hard topics for any Christian. If a person believes that they have a loving God who is with them all the time, and who has a wonderful future for them in heaven, how can they be depressed, or anxious? And aren’t missionaries those who have even more faith and courage than other Christians? (er…not really!) And surely missionaries and ministers must know the added joy of living out their calling in their everyday lives? (Well yes… but this can actually add extra nasty layers of guilt and self-doubt…)

Because of these kinds of expectations, it has been easier for missionaries to avoid mentioning doubts and leanings towards depression in their prayer letters. How can it be that if a missionary expresses their negative feelings in a supporter update they can be criticised rather than sympathised with? (If you find this surprising, read some of the comments underneath a recent article in which Matt Redman admitted to his inner struggles.)

In the secular world, mental health issues are beginning to be talked about more openly and the traditional stigma is being challenged, not before time. The same needs to happen in the world of mission and ministry.

I was prompted to think about this having just finished an excellent book called Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Funny, sad, revealing, and ultimately positive about human life, it contains vivid descriptions of what depression and anxiety felt like to the author. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand them better. One endorsement on the cover says, “This book could save lives.” That struck me, though, because Haig is not a Christian. He doesn’t talk about any kind of religious faith. I understand that the phrase on the cover was intended to mean, “This book could prevent someone from killing themselves.” And it could, I suppose. But to me, with years of Christian life behind me, language about saving lives has another layer of meaning – it is what the gospel does, and it leads to eternal life, not just a few more years of earthly life in our mortal bodies. Jesus saves lives.

But what are Christians saying to those suffering depression and anxiety? We seem to be saying, “You shouldn’t be depressed, and if you are, you certainly shouldn’t admit to it.” And all the more so if someone is in any kind of leadership or ministry role.

But the truth is that missionaries and those in ministry are just as vulnerable to depression and anxiety as anyone else – and further, there may be particular factors in these kinds of work that cause or exacerbate them. Prevention is obviously the best option; but if they do begin to appear, recognising and responding to them as early as possible is essential  – and this means talking about them.

Some writing has been done about missionaries and depression. Marjorie Foyle’s book Honourably Wounded (Monarch, most recent edition 2009) is a well-known resource for missionaries dealing with such issues, and is very helpful. Foyle’s PhD, written in 1999, was entitled Expatriate Mental Health (PhD Thesis, University of London, 1999). She found that whilst some people who suffered on the field had pre-existing factors, others developed depression due to factors on the field.  Her findings included recommendations for better selection and also better care on the field. But it seems as though the time is ripe for a more current study in this area.

The practice of and research into Member Care (pastoral care for missionaries) has grown a great deal over the twenty or so years since Foyle’s 1999 thesis. Much recent thinking has been done in the area of resilience (commonly defined as the ability to overcome and bounce back from adversity). A part of resilience is the ability to recognise early symptoms of stress or anxiety in oneself, and knowing the steps to take to maintain or restore wellbeing, before a plunge into depression happens. Member Care research has shown that whilst you might think of resilience as an inborn trait, it is also a learned skill. Recent Redcliffe graduate Duncan Watts urged in his dissertation the responsibility of the mission agency to help build resilience in their workers, saying

Mission organisations can no longer ignore the physical, emotional and psychological needs of their staff and trust that all will be well.

Alongside this, there has been a growing realisation of the importance of self-care for missionaries, and Member Care providers see part of their role as making sure their people are practising it. Self-care includes eating healthily, exercising, getting sufficient sleep, knowing how to relax, and taking holidays (again, there may be barriers of expectation in place: as in the old-fashioned view that missionaries shouldn’t need to take costly holidays or regular time off).

Another related area of recent exploration has been into the key role lamentation can play in aiding people to process and express grief, disappointment, or frustration. A healthy outpouring to God of negative emotions (as we see for example in some of the Psalms) is a valid part of prayer.

Finally, when a missionary or person in ministry is experiencing depression or anxiety, there should be avenues for expressing this without any judgment, and a ready willingness among supporters and the mission agency to help, support, and love them, and to provide the means for treatment, rest and recovery. Member Care providers have an important part to play in normalising this.


Former missionary, minister and writer Mark Meynell, has written a book about this topic which promises to be excellent: When Darkness Seems My Closest Friend: reflections on life and ministry with depression, IVP, available May 2018.

Duncan Watts’ MA Thesis Defining, assessing and enhancing resilience in cross-cultural mission workers: lessons member care providers can learn from the wider field of resilience research, Redcliffe College (2016), will also shortly be published: look out for publicity on the Redcliffe social media sites.


Rosie is the Course Facilitator of Redcliffe’s MA in Member Care. This course is designed for you if you’re involved in any way in caring for and supporting mission workers and those in ministry. It is the only course of its kind, helping students develop organisational support structures that help their people to thrive, wherever they are.


The Emmaus Road: mission as ‘going out’ and ‘inviting in’

Recently I was reminded how much I love the story of the disciples on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35).

It is one of the many domestic stories of Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus is invited into someone’s home and sits down to eat with them. Very often, good things happen over a meal in Luke’s writings. Other meaningful encounters prompted by hospitality in Luke-Acts include Mary’s visit to Elizabeth’s home (Lk 1:40), Jesus healing Simon’s mother-in-law in her home (Lk 4:38), the healing of the paralysed man in someone’s house (Lk 5:18), quickly followed by the controversial dinner for Jesus with a dubious crowd at Levi’s house (5:29) – and the list goes on. It continues in Acts: for example, Peter’s visions concerning Gentiles while he was staying at Simon the Tanner’s house, (Acts 9:43ff), and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Gentiles whilst Peter was at Cornelius’ house, (Acts 10:24-48).

Both in the giving and receiving of hospitality divine encounters occur. God appears.

On the Emmaus Road, it is only when the disciples invite Jesus into their home, and share food with him – at the moment when he breaks bread – that they recognise him for who he is. And that changes their world. They had walked and talked with him along that road, where they had been discouraged, downcast. But in the moment of eating together, they understood who he was. Perhaps as some commentaries say, it was because they suddenly recalled Jesus breaking bread at the Last Supper.

We can’t help but remember the famous incident of Abraham welcoming and feeding the mysterious visitors, who turn out to be angels (Gen 18).

In the Gospels, of course, we don’t see Jesus hosting anyone in an earthly home, as he didn’t have one. But he did give the disciples breakfast in another resurrection appearance, on the lakeshore, in John 21:12. And the Last Supper could also be seen as an act of hospitality. It could even surely be said that our presence in this world is one vast act of hospitality on God’s part. John 1:11 says that Jesus, the Word, came into his own – literally, “into his own home” – yet his own did not recognise him.

Hospitality has long been recognised as an important element of mission, and an upcoming edition of Redcliffe’s Encounters Mission Journal is based around this theme.

The Emmaus Road incident reminds me today of two things. The first is, we do not only offer hospitality as a way of reaching out to others, of encouraging them and ministering to them – the blessing goes both ways. As givers of hospitality, we receive God in those we welcome. We might even host angels unawares. The second is, much as we are called in the Great Commission to go out into the world – we are at the same time taught in Scripture to invite people in, into our homes, into our lives, in missional acts of hospitality.

Choluteca Bridge, Honduras

Bridge on the River “Why?”

How willing are we to change – to let go of our structures, our plans and our methods, to respond to the times, and do something new?

Recently I was at GOFest 2017. The GOFest leadership have decided to change their approach completely.  Rather than an annual national conference they now hold their missions festival in a different region each year, and link with local churches there, to encourage them in mission and help them connect with each other.

I heard a striking analogy in one of the keynote addresses, given by John Risbridger, (minister of Above Bar Church, Southampton, and Chair of Keswick Ministries). He showed a picture of a beautiful wide suspension bridge, in the green tropical surroundings of Honduras. The bridge was expertly engineered to withstand any storm or bad weather. The next picture showed the same bridge a few years later. It was still standing, as elegant as ever – but now it was eerily alone: no road attached to it, there was just brown desert on either side; no river ran under it. The roads had been swept away by Hurricane Mitch, and the river course had been completely changed and flowed around the side of the bridge some distance away. The beautiful, expensive, carefully designed bridge was now a folly, with no use or purpose in the world.

Our churches, our mission agencies, our organisations, can be like that. We need to keep checking – is what we are doing still useful? Is there still any point in it? Is it reaching people where they are now? Is it contextual? We can all too easily spend time, money and energy trying to keep our beloved structures going, while everything around them has changed and they have become irrelevant.

Redcliffe College “moved their bridge” when we changed from being a residential, largely pre-field training college, to running mainly intensive MA programmes to offer continuing professional development style training to people already engaged in mission all over the world. The new pop-up hubs are also a way of being able to train people wherever they are.

We may dislike change, but God certainly doesn’t: the Bible is full of references to God doing new things, making new creations, pouring new wine into new wineskins… And see the example of Paul, who was willing to be flexible, who didn’t hold on to set methods or formulas, but adopted different approaches for the different people he went among.

So let’s be willing to look again at our churches, our mission agencies, our strategies and structures and ask the questions: are they still fit for purpose, are they still relevant, or are they carefully constructed, elegant bridges over empty river beds?


Making our Bible Studies Missional

Let me ask you a question: how important has reading and studying the Bible with others been in your discipleship journey? If you’re anything like me you have sat together in a small group to study the Bible on numerous occasions, grappling with the text’s meaning and its implications for your lives.

Let me ask you another question: how overtly ‘missional’ have those studies been? What I mean by this is: how explicitly do we relate our engagement with the biblical text to mission, throughout the study and not just as an addition as part of the application at the end? How can we make our Bible Studies more missional at a fundamental level?

I suppose I am asking “what difference do the developments in our understanding of the missional nature of the Bible make to a mid-week Bible Study group?” This question was addressed by George Hunsberger in an article entitled, Missional Bible Study: Discerning and Following God’s Call.

In it, he declares that

“we will need to learn a new way of placing ourselves in front of the text. Bible study guides and methods that focus on each individual’s relationship to God will not be enough. We will need to learn to read the Bible together as a community that is called and sent by God.” (p.7, my emphasis)

I like the assumption of the ‘sentness’ of the Church in what he says. I also like his point about reading with others. Often we think of approaching the Bible as solely an individual exercise. Perhaps we also think of our involvement in mission as an individual exercise. We need a shift in our approach to studying the Bible that asks ‘us’ questions rather than ‘me’ questions. Otherwise, we are in danger of being a group of sent individuals rather than a sent community.

Asking good questions

The ability to ask good questions is a monumentally underrated skill. Consider the reflections of Isidor Rabi, a Nobel laureate in physics:

“My mother made me a scientist without ever intending it. Every other Jewish mother in Brooklyn would ask her child after school: ‘So? Did you learn anything today?’ But not my mother. She always asked me a different question. ‘Izzy,’ she would say, ‘did you ask a good question today?’ That difference – asking good questions – made me become a scientist!”

A good question is a beautiful and powerful thing. But what kind of questions could we ask in our ‘missional’ Bible Studies? Hunsberger suggests five:

Mission – How does this text send us and equip our witness?

Context – How does this text read us and our world?

Gospel – How does this text evangelise us with good news?

Change – How does this text convert us in personal and corporate life?

Future – How does this text orient us to the coming reign of God?

This isn’t a definitive list, but it is at least a beginning of a journey we could make to ensure that when we study the Bible together we are being more intentionally missional.

If Hunsberger’s five questions seem like a big step, how about this one:

‘In what ways does this passage make a claim for the rule of God in our lives, our churches, our communities and our world?’

Such a question recognises the reign of God (whether we frame it in terms of the Kingship of Yahweh or the Lordship of Christ) and asks us to consider what this reign means for us. It is not just a call to consider the extent to which our lives are aligned with that reign, though it certainly requires that. It is also a challenge to take our contexts seriously and to consider creatively how the reign of God can be discerned and embodied in the world, and how we might participate in that.

What questions would you ask to make your Bible Studies more missional? And which (if any) of the above suggestions might you try to pose the next time your group meets to study the Scriptures?


Tim is the Bible and Mission stream leader, on Redcliffe’s MA in Contemporary Missiology. This course is designed for you if you’re interested in reading the Bible as a missional ‘document’, and using it to transform your mission, ministry or day-to-day discipleship.

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Wake up call – what are we doing about refugees?

The Calais Jungle is gone. The pre-Brexit threat of France opening the border which would move the camp right across the Channel to Dover has fizzled away. The Dubs Amendment which required the UK to take more unaccompanied minors already in Europe has been discontinued. Are the British people, even Christians, breathing the smallest sigh of relief – the flood never quite came our way?

I hope not but I do fear so. Thankfully, there are many organisations, both Christian and otherwise, in Britain and across Europe who are pitching in to give help and welcome to the thousands of refugees who are on the move, looking for a place to settle and call home.

I was recently at a conference in Budapest run by the Refugee Highway Partnership, where I met many such people working with refugees. The keynote speaker, Patrick Johnstone (Operation World author) predicted that this recent flood will be followed by more and more floods over the years to come, and we need to learn, as the church, how to respond. The focus of the whole conference was: if we as Christians don’t welcome and love the refugees, who will? And if we don’t, we have simply forgotten how the God of the Bible loved and shepherded displaced peoples, from the third chapter of Genesis to the end of the New Testament.

One hundred and fifty Christians from all over Europe shared stories of the work they are doing in all sorts of ways with refugees. Some are visiting camps, giving out clothes and phones, some are working with resettlement agencies, giving practical help, or language lessons, some are going into camps equipped with Bible stories in middle eastern languages, sharing the gospel with everybody they meet.

One of many excellent seminars, led by Rachel Uthmann of International Action For Refugees (IAFR) focussed on the ethics of evangelising refugees. Whilst everyone there would agree that we want to share the gospel with refugees – and indeed it has been said over and over that here is actually an opportunity for thousands fleeing from closed countries to hear the gospel – Uthmann raised the question of the power relationship between the refugee and the Christian helper – who offers food, shelter, community at the same time as, and maybe even conditional upon, preaching a gospel message. This could bring us all the way back to the holistic mission discussion. Mission practitioners today have well understood the need to follow Jesus’ example in showing God’s love for the whole person, offering healing, help and acceptance as well as showing the way to salvation. But Uthmann’s point was that we must avoid the trap of unintentionally manipulating people into hearing the gospel – we must find ways that enable the power balance between helper and receiver to be corrected, and then offer the gospel from a more even platform.

People at the conference held differing views on what we should be doing and the ways we should be doing it, leading to interesting conversations over lunches about the rights and wrongs of different approaches.  But the message I came away with was: we should all be doing something!

“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” Jesus told his listeners in Luke 6:31. If I were a refugee, wouldn’t I wish that someone would offer me help, hope and a future?

Redcliffe is running training days for people working with refugees, focussing mainly on the Member Care aspect of building resilience in refugee workers.

Several current Redcliffe students are directly involved in refugee work, and some are writing dissertations in this area. Redcliffe also has a research project on the go, about how churches can be more involved with helping Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).

What do you think about this complex issue? Where does evangelism fit in, and how do we point the way to Jesus in a caring manner, without taking advantage of the vulnerable and displaced? What lessons have you learned throughout this ‘Refugee Crisis,’ and what role would you like to see Christians play in meeting these great needs?

If you want to wrestle with the complex themes of migration, refugee issues, ethics and evangelism, sign up for our MA in Contemporary Missiology. You can even specialise your degree to recognise your skills and passions in Justice, Advocacy and Reconciliation.


Down with the System?

I had an “ah-ha” moment the other day.

I was reading Mark 11 which has a part in it that I have never really understood. In Mark 11, we see Jesus in the triumphal entry, cleansing the temple, cursing the fig tree which is out of season, saying that praying to get rid of a mountain will work, and with a call to forgive people at the end. My ah-ha moment came as two things at once.

The first was that I realised all the sections were about the same thing. The triumphal entry is the coming of the king. The stopping of the temple is a prophetic action declaring that the temple system will stop, and a new regime will come. The cursing of the fig tree (Israel’s signature tree) is saying that the nation will fall. Jesus’ talk about praying that a mountain will fall away is about the temple mount. “This” mountain, the temple mount, will stop and fall. The phrase “whatever we pray for” is in the context of praying to ask God to stop a destructive system. The chapter then ends with Jesus saying that we need to forgive people.

In this, I have often wondered about the fig tree being out of season. Why did Jesus curse it when it couldn’t be expected to have fruit?  I did some digging and found that fig trees will fruit and then come into leaf. Early fruit appears and then they develop their leaves.  This tree had leaves so it should have had fruit. It was saying, “notice me, I have fruit,” when in reality, it didn’t. And, indeed, it was out of season, when it shouldn’t have been acting like that at all. Something was seriously out of sync with that tree.  It was a tree that wrongly promised fruit out of season, but failed miserably. The out-of-season comment shows just how messed up the tree was. Symbolically, something was seriously wrong with the situation there. Out-of-season religious leaders were promising “fruit” and acting like they had access to God, but in reality, they didn’t. It had all gone horribly wrong.

In mission, we often run into systems that are dysfunctional, corrupt, destructive and evil. I’ve seen the rights of minorities, including Christian minorities, being trampled over. This ranges from political disenfranchisement, to land grabs, to outright violence and oppression.  The temple system was fleecing the poor, and Jesus said it would fall.   Similarly, we can be sure that, in the end, evil systems will fall. We can say to them “fall into the sea” and they will.

And this leads me to the second element of my ah-ha moment: the call to forgive at the end. The mountain (temple system) may fall, and the system will come to an end, but we are called to forgive people. In this, I thought of the Berlin Wall. There were many of us who were against communism and recognised the evil there; but for many, there was also a great love for the people caught up in it.

The system was wrong. As were people. We can stop the system but still love and forgive the people involved. Last week I sat with a Romanian who heads a mission which has sixty-one Romanians working in mission abroad. That is almost as many as the British mission agency I work with. They had come to faith through love and were now passing that on. Thinking back to 1989, that is a miracle.

God is about big changes. Changing systems. Bringing in new things. There are many systems out there that promise much but are like diseased trees. We can pray that these fall, but are reminded to also work for forgiveness.

If you want to look deeper into our responsibilities as missional people to stand up against oppressive systems, why not consider an MA in Contemporary Missiology with Redcliffe, and maybe specialise in Justice, Advocacy and Reconciliation? Deeply understand our complex world, and study as you work with part-time blended learning. What’s more, Colin is the course leader! Contact us today to have an initial conversation.

The image above is graffiti found on the Mauerpark section of the Berlin Wall, depicting the interplay between contrasting political and social systems across the globe.

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Gender, Violence and a Missional Response | an interview with Elaine Storkey

Violence against women and girls is not new, but there seems to be a growing awareness of the massive scale of the problem, and a realisation amongst Christians that it demands a missional response.


Storkey, Elaine (2016) Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women, London: SPCK

Gender-based violence is one of the topics we will look at in the new Gender and Mission module at Redcliffe this summer, with Elaine Storkey coming to address it for us in two lectures. Storkey’s recent book, Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence against Women (London: SPCK), explores and analyses ways that gender-based violence occurs across the globe. She points along the way to those who are trying to oppose it, brave people who stand out in the book as beacons of hope. Each chapter looks at one troubling manifestation of gender-based violence, including selective abortion, Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage and honour killings. We meet women who have been raped in war, who have been abused in the home, tricked into prostitution, and watched – or even participated in – the killing of a daughter in a so-called honour-killing.

It is a very tough read. But we need to know these things, we need to be shocked, dismayed, and more than indignant about these stories: we need to be spurred into action. If a key part of the missio Dei is the reconciliation of all that was divided and scattered by the Fall, then surely this issue of the prevalent oppression and abuse of women and girls needs to be addressed and put to an end. It is an injustice on a grand scale. But it is only seen and understood by looking through the eyes of a little 11-year-old girl forced to marry a 40-year-old man, or a woman in labour suffering the effects of FGM as she tries to give birth. Storkey successfully describes the scale of the problem, with impressively researched facts and figures, whilst also revealing the all-too-human and personal implications.

Storkey spends the last third of the book discussing the “Why?” question. I found this section fascinating. She explains and considers the various theories that have been offered as to why violence against women has persisted through the centuries, by evolutionist thinkers, sociologists, feminists, and those who blame the patriarchy found in religions. She ends with her own view, a theological interpretation which leaves room for redemption and change. Thus alongside the call to action is a message of hope, much needed at the end of an often harrowing read.

Elaine kindly agreed to answer some questions I posed to her about Scars Across Humanity:

What were your goals as you wrote this book?


Elaine Storkey

I had three main goals: 1) To help people everywhere to see that violence against women was a global problem, manifest in many different ways in different cultures, but with the same underlying story of women’s lack of value, and the abuse of male power. 2) To encourage the Church to see that addressing this problem is our responsibility also, and to enable Christians to have the information and strategies to make a difference. 3) To counter some of the explanations given for violence against women, and to ask what insights Christian theology might offer.

Was there one story you came across, or one encounter, that made you feel you just had to write?

Yes, my visit to the Congo in 2006, travelling down the North and South Kivu Provinces and seeing rape as a weapon of war. It was the extraordinary Christian witness of Heal Africa – a hospital which stressed integral healing, and treated women victims with enormous care and compassion. A young 17-year-old girl was brought in – a music leader in a local church. She had been gang-raped and was in a terrible state, physically and emotionally. I realized no woman was safe in that climate.

In hindsight, is there anything you would have said differently, or anything you wish you had included?

Oh, lots of things didn’t find their way into the book, and I would love to have been able to give more stories from the many Christian initiatives which are labouring in this area. I did write around but responses came in very late or not at all, and the book had to go to print! I don’t think there is anything I would have said differently. I chose my words carefully!

What kinds of reactions have you received to it?

Mostly shock, consternation, alarm at the extent of the violence, and support from those working in the various fields. Many women have written to tell me of their own experiences, and I have found that very moving. Some men have been tremendously responsive: writing reviews and recommending the book publicly, even creating openings for me to go to their part of the country and speak about it.

Your book is clearly calling out for a response from everyone who reads it: in what ways would you say gender-based violence is a missional issue?

Religion is often blamed for creating the culture in which men can violate women with impunity. All religions have their ‘patriarchal’ edge and history. Gender-based violence is so opposite to a Gospel vision and Christians must be challenged to eradicate it. But it is also certainly a missional issue in that it offers an opportunity to present the truth of the Gospel and call for redemptive change.

What are some things that ordinary Christians can do in response?

They can support the many initiatives already busy in the area, in prayer, financial support and sometimes in active involvement. They can call some of the Christian training agencies, like Spark and Restored into their churches to work on gender-violence awareness, and pastoral response training. They can join or form some advocacy initiatives – like the work that Jill Seward left behind on rape, after her untimely death – or IC Change, set up by a young Christian who caught the vision very early on after I had given a talk, and committed herself to getting the UK to ratify the Istanbul Convention on violence against women. She has brought people together from so many different backgrounds and the campaign has taken off brilliantly. A Member of Parliament got the issue through the third reading of a Private Member’s bill and so it’s looking very good.

Are you already working on another book, and so, what is it going to be?

Yes, I’m writing the biography of Lyn Lusi, who founded Heal Africa along with her husband – Congolese surgeon Kasereka Lusi. We began it when Lyn was alive, but her death left me with many gaps in her story and it has been difficult to fill them in. I hope to finish it this summer. And of course, there is my novel which has been in gestation stage for quite a number of years…..

I’m looking forward to that novel!

Elaine will be one of the speakers in Redcliffe’s new MA module, Gender and Mission, running for the first time this summer. Have a look at the link if you are interested to hear Elaine in person and spend time thinking through a missional Christian response to gender-based violence, gender injustice, and other issues where gender and mission interact.
Find Elaine’s book at: http://spckpublishing.co.uk/product/scars-across-humanity