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Missiology in its Relation to Intercultural Theology and Religious Studies

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May 03, 2016

missiologyREFLECTION - The debate as to whether it is still relevant to continue the use of the traditional subject title “Missiology” (Mission Studies) to cover the emerging issues in missiological science as a theological discipline has continued to gain more interest and reactions from many circles. Religious studies and intercultural theology have direct or indirect relation with mission studies. For this, some are suggesting that the term “intercultural theology” be added to the traditional subject title “Missiology or Mission Studies” to reflect the emerging concerns in missiological science. Some also suggest that the term “intercultural theology” should replace the traditional subject title “Mission Studies.” An association of German missiologists has come up with some suggestions as a way forward in resolving this issue. The document by the section “Religious Studies and Mission Studies” of the Academic Association for Theology (WGTh) and the Administrative Board of the German Association for Mission Studies (DGMW), has suggested that the explanatory term “intercultural theology” be added to the traditional term “Mission Studies.” The document argues that this is feasible because the association between Mission Studies or Intercultural Theology and Religious Studies as is customary in theological faculties and most of the German-speaking universities, “has proven to be fruitful and therefore should certainly be continued.” My intention in the present article is not to agree or to disagree with the suggestions already offered as the reasons for the search for additional name or adjective for the traditional subject title “Mission Studies.” (Though I prefer to continue with the use of the more correct and traditional title of the subject: “Missiology”). The aim is rather to show how the new concerns in mission studies are already part of the subject matter of the discipline and therefore do not call for a change of name or additional adjective to the traditional title: “Mission Studies” (or “Missiology”). The present article wants to underline the fact that what is needed today in our mission studies is to develop an organic program of studies and course content that will preserve the traditional subject title of the discipline and indicate its role in theological education. Secondly, it argues that what the new emphasis on intercultural and inter-religious studies is bringing to our mission studies is the need for change of attitude and style in the way we discuss and relate with people of other cultural and religious traditions in our missiological research and education. It is the issue of theological language which does not necessarily mean a search for another subject title for “Mission Studies” or “Missiology” as a theological discipline. Thus, the article underlines the fact that enlarging the course content or program of studies in missiology — that pays special attention to the issues of intercultural theology and religious pluralism could be a better way of resolving the impasse.

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