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Long Road to Obsolescence: A North American Mission to Brazil.

Long Road to Obsolescence: A North American Mission to Brazil.

By Frank L. Arnold. Bloomington, Ind.: Xlibris, 2009. Pp. 232. Paperback $19.99.

Frank Arnold, the last general secretary of the Presbyterian Mission in Brazil, served with his wife, Hope, for thirty-three years as Presbyterian mission workers. He offers a case study of the mission structures of Presbyterian denominations from the United States over a period of 126 years, beginning with the arrival of Ashbel Green Simonton on August 12,1859, until the formal dissolution of the mission on December 31,1985. It is a valuable, concise account.

In his book Arnold wishes to raise critical missiological, cross-cultural questions about structures and relationships: How does one define maturity? Was the obsolescence of foreign mission structures truly an intentional goal of the missionaries? Was an autonomous parallel structure the right option over against (partial) integration? Could and should the dissolution have happened sooner? He even tackles the issue of manifest destiny and the degree to which it affected the pioneer missionaries.

Arnold's answers are based on primary documents and personal participation in the final negotiations of the dismantling of the mission structures, as well as secondary documents. I laud my colleague for wrestling with these issues with openness and transparency and for admitting the influence of the cultural baggage of manifest destiny. Personally, I believe that it subtly continued to be present throughout the 126 years of the mission, especially seen in the resistance to more integration. I agree that, in the light of hindsight and of new missiological perspectives, Arnold's study reveals clear mistakes made and lessons to be learned.

This book is a treasure for all of us whose stories are intertwined with the history of Brazilian Presbyterianism. It elucidates the dynamics and tensions of the former "northern" and "southern" streams and the reunited PC(USA) and of the three Presbyterian denominations in Brazil with whom we have worked. Furthermore, it shows how partnerships have now replaced parallel structures as a way of doing mission together.--Sherron K. George

Sherron K. George is Liaison and Theological Education Consultant for South America for the Presbyterian Church (USA). She has resided in Brazil as a mission worker since 1972.
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Author:George, Sherron K.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2009
Words:368
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