East-West Church & Ministry Report
Vol. 9, No. 3, Summer 2001, Covering the Former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe

Letters to the Editor

I read with interest Anne-Marie Kool's article, "Are Western Ministries Serious About Partnership with Hungary's Historic Churches?" [East-West Church & Ministry Report 8 (Fall 2000)]. Having arrived in Hungary at about the same time as Dr. Kool in 1989, I can only admire her restraint and generosity in describing the approach taken by many mission groups in Hungary and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. I found myself nodding in agreement with Dr. Kool's assessment of the mission strategy and practice of North American and other Western agencies operating in the region. It has been a trend of many mission groups to not want to "waste time" in incarnational mission, which would require their personnel to learn the language, understand the culture, and learn what Hungarian and other Central and East European churches are already doing to witness and disciple people in their own countries. It is simpler, though far less effective and even damaging, for these groups to dump their "pre-packaged programs" on the established Protestant churches, or even to totally ignore the national churches and their leaders, writing them off as ignorant, ineffective, or as Dr. Kool suggests, "dead." In their zeal to unload what they do understand from their own cultures, these newly arrived missionaries just do not make a serious effort to learn about and understand the historic Protestant churches and their existing or projected ministries.

Often in vain I tried to encourage recently arrived missionaries, not only from parachurch groups but from denominational agencies as well, to spend time getting to know Hungarian Christians and their churches before deciding for them what they needed. So many of the strategies and programs designed in North America and other Western countries just do not meet the greatest spiritual needs of the people in Central and Eastern Europe. Mission personnel must first be accepted and trusted by the nationals with whom they serve before they earn the right to help them grow indigenous churches. There are no shortcuts. Mission personnel must be willing to pay the price of cultural adaptation and acceptance before becoming legitimate change agents. Planting and developing churches can be done by missionaries with the Lord's guidance, but it is done most effectively by those willing to plant their lives and learn the language, the culture, and the way witness, evangelism, and discipleship are done in the context of the host society. Too many want to work "in parallel with" (another way of saying "we'll do our thing and you do yours"), but not "in partnership with" the historic Hungarian churches. And that, in my opinion, is a serious missiological error and a great tragedy we are seeing in many countries today. So I would like to thank Dr. Kool for her article. I can only hope that mission agency leadership and personnel will take note of her concerns and advocate and practice a mission strategy based on an incarnational approach to doing mission.

O. Errol Simmons, D.Min., Th.D.
Former president of the International Baptist Lay Academy, Budapest, Hungary. He now resides in Hattiesburg, MS.

I have been an East-West Church & Ministry Report subscriber for the last five years or so. It's an excellent periodical, indispensable for cutting edge ministry in this region of the world. I am also an administrator and faculty member of the Church Ministries Institute in Odessa. We have an upcoming board meeting for which I would like to ask permission to reprint several articles from the latest edition related to theological education. I found these articles to be very helpful in crystallizing some of the major issues in theological education here and would really like to be able to dialogue with other board members about them, after they have had an opportunity to read them.

Scott Carter
Church Ministries Institute
Odessa, Ukraine

Editor's Note: Permission granted.

"Letters to the Editor," East-West Church & Ministry Report 9 (Summer 2001), 10, 14.

Written permission is required for reprinting or electronic distribution of any portion of the East-West Church & Ministry Report.

© 2001 East-West Church and Ministry Report
ISSN 1069-5664

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