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One of the set texts we had to read at seminary was Ralph Winter’s ‘The Two Structures of God’s Redemptive Mission,’ published in his opus: Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. In this essay (which was fascinating to an evangelical newbie THEN), Winter points out that evangelicals can learn from the Catholic church with its harmony of modality and sodality. [I commented previously on Winter at Khanya.]
Though not a perfect continuum historically, it has worked since the church was first initiated as a Christian synagogue (modality) and sent off (not ‘out’ – it was no extension of Antioch) Paul and Barnabas as an evangelistic team (sodality), based on the model of the Jewish mission of which, of course, Paul was already part.
In the Roman context, the church became a diocese (modality) while a monastic movement (sodality) developed independently of the evangelistic band. Winter’s point is that the sodality invigorated the modality for 1000 years. Come the Reformation, the Protestants lose the plot by abandoning the sodality – and do not find it again for 300 years, until Carey publishes his famous Means and precipitates the modern Protestant mission movement.
Despite the recovery of the sodality, it is constantly under threat of being subsumed back into modality structures, e.g. denomination boards. (This occurred with my .own denomination in South Africa.) Perhaps as a reaction to this, some Protestants are becoming more radical with a move to actual orders. INNERCHANGE (topic of previous reblog), is one that is represented here in South Africa – birthed, interestingly, via NieuCommunities. Perhaps I can get a local interview!
25 years ago, New Zealander Viv Grigg made a case for identifying Protestant missionary movements with Catholic religious orders. The comparison was based on missionary statesman Ralph Winter’s own article, published the previous decade. On this description, South Africa is flooded with monastics! Seriously, though, the self-understanding of the Moravian church (see Steve Hayes’ comment below), for example, may support this thesis.
Before we entertain such a diversion, what about conventional orders of Protestant monks or nuns? The only community I’m aware of in this country is the Anglican ‘Order of the Holy Cross,’ Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery in Grahamstown. Are there other Protestant intentional communities?