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Holistic Mission, A Review Essay by Tony Richie Woolnough and Wonsuk Ma, eds., Holistic Mission: God’s Plan for God’s People, Regnum Edinburgh 2010 Series (Oxford, UK: Regnum, 2010), 279 pages, ISBN 9781870345859.

Holistic mission, or integral mission, implies God is concerned with the whole person, the whole community, body, mind and spirit—and, that’s just what this book is about. Specifically, it discusses the meaning of the holistic gospel, how it has developed, and implications for the Church. Holistic Mission takes a global, eclectic approach, with 19 writers, all experienced in and committed to holistic mission. It addresses its theme in a critical and honest manner, arguing that “To be part of God’s plan for God’s people, the church must take holistic mission to the world.” The perspective of this book, and the tradition of the different contributors, are largely from the conservative, evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic wing of the Church. It’s therefore likely of particular interest for scholars and students of missiology from this general background, or those interested in it academically, although it emphasizes both evangelical and ecumenical streams. Furthermore, it is certainly not “merely academic,” being filled with information fit for the most practical-minded practitioners. In fact, a deliberate effort to give a wide-ranging and eclectic overview of holistic mission definitely shows. The editors have brought together perspectives from theologians, church leaders, practitioners, and insights from around the world from the United Kingdom, Asia, Africa and southern and northern America. Their joint insights are both illuminating and inspirational.

The editors are well qualified for this particular task. Brian Woolnough is Research Tutor at Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS) and Emeritus Fellow of St Cross College, Oxford. Having originally trained as a physicist, he spent most of professional life in education as an academic at Oxford University. Woolnough then worked with international team of Tearfund, UK, travelling widely in Asia and Africa, before moving to OCMS. Wonsuk Ma, a Korean academic and missionary, has been the Director of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS) since 2006. Previously he served as Academic Dean of the Asian Theological Seminary in the Philippines. Ma is the founder of the Asian Pentecostal Society and two international journals: The Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies and the Journal of Asian Mission.

The Regnum Edinburgh 2010 Series itself is inspired by the Centenary of the World Missionary Conference of 1910, held in Edinburgh, which was a suggestive and determinative moment for Christian mission in the 21st century. Since 2005, an international group has worked collaboratively to develop an intercontinental and multi-denominational project, known as Edinburgh 2010, and based at New College, University of Edinburgh. This initiative has brought together representatives of twenty different global Christian bodies, representing all major Christian denominations, confessions, and many different strands of mission and church life, to mark the Centenary. Essential to the work of the Edinburgh 1910 Conference, and of abiding value, were the findings of the eight think-tanks or “commissions”. These inspired the idea of a new round of collaborative reflection on Christian mission—and the present volume is one part of that reflection process. Commendably, there has been a concerted effort to assure that the study process has been polycentric, open-ended, and as inclusive as possible of the different genders, regions of the world, and theological and confessional perspectives in today’s Church.

A basic assumption of Holistic Mission is that contemporary Christian missiology is undergoing a recovery of a theology of mission that integrates faith and life, word and deed, proclamation and presence. It suggests this holistic understanding of Christian mission is deeply rooted in the biblical theology of the Judeo-Christian faith. In particular, it notes that in the explosion of Christianity in the global south in the twentieth century the Church has had to contend with sharp socio-political issues of poverty, greed, corruption, health, education, and human sin in all its manifestations. Accordingly, because the Christian gospel of kingdom of God is “universally transformative, strong, and holistic, it challenges the status quo everywhere it is proclaimed.” Holistic Mission is particularly concerned with countering the ill effects of colonialism in which it judges that the gospel of Christ was diminished, and the workings of God’s kingdom in the world not sufficiently understood. Therefore, it challenges the churches today to “authenticate the gospel in contexts where colonialism has left a legacy of structural poverty, economic underdevelopment, and disempowered and marginalized peoples.”

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2012

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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