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The gospel of reconciliation.

In today's world, so fraught with mistrust, terrorism, ignorance, and suspicion of people different from ourselves, many are searching for ways to bring about lasting peace--especially between Muslims and Christians. Various strategies have been tried and found wanting. Could music, often touted as a universal language, offer a path toward intercultural understanding and peacemaking, an avenue for interfaith dialogue and (even!) fruitful Muslim-Christian relationships? Yes, answers ethnomusicologist Roberta King, who explores this possibility by noting specific examples of how music has contributed to peacemaking and breaking down barriers of prejudice, much like the summer music camps that have brought Israeli and Palestinian youth together. King advances a creative model of mission, drawing heavily from music and aesthetic elements, which fully engage with affective dimensions of communication while simultaneously fostering shifts from our more rigid left-brain thinking.

Other articles in this issue of the International Bulletin of Mission Research address somewhat related concerns by highlighting research on (1) church growth in Europe, (2) differences between pastors and mission leaders in understanding and promoting mission, and (3) the changing attitudes of evangelicals in the mid-1900s toward world religions. First, Stefan Paas and Alrik Vos investigate the often-repeated claim that church planting is the most effective strategy for church growth. After surveying a number of European studies that refute that position, they report on their own research in the Netherlands between older and newer churches and the respective degree to which church planting contributed to their growth. This insightful article lays bare the challenges of preparing trustworthy statistics on why some European churches grow and others do not.

Next, Charity Reeb, Charles Hermans, and Christina Simmers report on their study of how US Assemblies of God pastors and mission leaders understand "mission." One might imagine that, coming from the same denomination and sharing a theological framework, these two sets of church leaders would display broad agreement. In fact, they disagree sharply on the definition and implementation of Christian mission.

Then, Amber Thomas reports on her study of American evangelicals after World War II and their changing views of other religions, as seen in what became known as the Urbana Student Missionary Conventions. Examining the eight meetings held between 1946 and 1967, the author highlights changes in evangelicals' attitudes and approaches to adherents of non-Christian world religions.


This issue also features a Legacy article by Mary Shepard Wong, who documents the many years of Luella Miner's educational ministry in China (1887-1935), where she was the founder and president of that nation's first women's college. Her lifetime devotion to education and scholarship in China was driven by her conviction that Christ was the answer for the social, political, and spiritual needs of China.

Finally, Robin Boyd's article "My Pilgrimage in Mission" reflects concerns noted in our first paragraph above. Boyd details his lifelong commitment to ecumenism and interfaith dialogue in a variety of ministries that began in Ireland and took him to India and Australia.

The Gospel of reconciliation is integral to the Gospel of redemption and is possible only with God's help enabling us to bridge the religious, cultural, political, and gender chasms that too frequently divide us. Paul addresses this perennial problem of conflict between peoples in his letter to the Ephesians, affirming that "Christ has made peace between Jews and Gentiles, and he has united us by breaking down the wall of hatred that separated us" (2:14 CEV). Peacemaking, intercultural dialogue, and racial reconciliation can all take a cue from Paul's teaching that "you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners"; rather, "you are citizens with everyone else who belongs to the family of God" (Eph. 2:19 CEV). I pray that the articles assembled in this issue will encourage your efforts to bring about reconciliation and peace with the people in your own circles.

DOI: 10.1177/2396939316655739

Darrell Whiteman

whiteman@omsc. org
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Author:Whiteman, Darrell
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Date:Jul 1, 2016
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