THE FIFTH CONTINENTAL CONFERENCE OF THE NETWORK ON AICS AND MISSIONS ABOKOBI, GHANA, 11-17 JULY 2001,

Report by Stan Nussbaum

Contents

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Purpose of the conference

To strengthen the working relationships between expatriates and AICs and to enhance the ministries of both.

Participants (see appendix A for complete list and addresses) Total 36 full-time (plus 4-6 visitors for one day or less) Countries from which people came 12 (10 African plus UK and USA) AIC leaders 16, partners of AICs 14, other expatriate participants 6 Men 28, Women 8

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Major papers presented

Some of the papers are available for reading on this site:

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Program involvements described

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Other recurring concerns about AIC involvements

  1. Are Bible institute programs that were established to help the older AICs actually turning out to help mostly the new, more Western AICs, and if so, what are the implications for AIC partners? This came mostly from Benin and Ghana, where neo-Pentecostal AICs are flocking into Bible institute programs. The neo-Pentecostals are often openly critical of the older AICs, and the larger their numbers, the less welcome the older AICs will feel in the program.

  2. Does the trickle-down theory of Bible training and leadership development need to be challenged and some different approaches tried? This concern came from Botswana. Teachers are wondering whether the material taught to "leaders" in Bible classes is actually getting spread into the church in general, and whether a mentoring approach might not have greater practical impact.

  3. How can we get more network involvement from people who work with AICs but are not Mennonite? (75% of the participants were either Mennonites or AICs who work with Mennonites; in previous conferences that was usually 50% or less). The Mennonites at the conference were just as concerned about this as others were. The Nairobi OAIC office was not represented at this meeting, which left a major gap.

  4. How do AIC partners decide how long to stay in Africa, and how do their organizations decide whether or how to replace them? This is most pressing in southern Africa where several veteran AIC partners are expecting to complete their African service at about the same time in 2003, but it is also a serious issue right now for at least two non-Mennonite expatriates elsewhere. Displays and greetings

Photos, printed materials and other exhibits were presented in a display area throughout the week. Greetings were received from Network members Steve Hayes (South Africa), Erwin and Lorraine Spruth (ex-Ghana), and David and Wilma Shank (ex Cote d'Ivoire).

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Hosts & committee

Institutional host: Good News Theological College and Seminary, one campus tour provided

Conference committee

Venue: Presbyterian Women's Conference Centre, Abokobi (30 minutes outside Accra)

Tours and church visits

Saturday tour options were Elmina Castle (historic slave trading center) or the National Museum and craft market in Accra

Sunday services: five options, each representing a different point on the AIC spectrum

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Decisions & plans

Southern Africa regional meeting in 2003. Organizers Danie Van Zyl (S. Africa) and Isaac Moshoeshoe (Lesotho).

West Africa regional meeting in 2003. Initial contact Steve Wiebe-Johnson. Continental meeting in 2005 in southern Africa. The regional meeting in 2003 will set up a committee for the 2005 planning.

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Background information on the Network on AICs and Missions

Publication: The Review of AICs: A Practitioner's Newsletter, Stan Nussbaum, editor, stan@gmi.org, GMI, 15435 Gleneagle Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921, USA.

Previous conferences: Abidjan 1986, Kinshasa 1989, Johannesburg 1993, Nairobi 1998.

Membership/mailing list as of 9/01: Total 133. 25 partners of AICs, 22 AIC leaders, 18 mission administrators, 18 researchers, 28 former partners of AICs, and 22 other interested persons

.

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A:list of participans

WEST AFRICA (21)

Ghana: Thomas Oduro, Clifton Clarke, Emmanuel Nartey (all from Good News), Helena Hooper (OAIC-West Africa Region), Innocent Ukamba (Christ Holy Church), Brian Jennings (Ghana Christian College and Seminary). Cote d'Ivoire: Steve Wiebe-Johnson (MBM), Codjo Antoine, Bangbade Francois Benin: Nancy Frey, Bruce Yoder (both MBM), Codjo Antoine, Bangbade Igue Francois, Marcellin Danhoundo (all from Institute Biblique du Benin) Burkina Faso: Greg Brandenbarg, Hulene Montgomery, Michael Graham (all from MCC West Africa office), Jon Schellenberg, Phil Bergen (both AIMM) Nigeria: Chris Oshun (Christ Apostolic Church), Nicholas Udemba (Christ Holy Church)

SOUTHERN AFRICA (10)

Botswana: Archbishop T.M. Kepaletswe (Revelation Blessed Peace Church), Saziso Kamanga (Spiritual Healing Church), Bryan Born (AIMM), Sharon Dirks (AIMM) South Africa: S.P. Ndlungwane (St. Patrick Reformed Christian Apostolic Church), Lynell Bergen (AIMM), Danie Van Zyl (Dutch Reformed Church and Sokhanya Bible School) Swaziland: Raymond Mnisi (Faith Bible School), Martha Thomsen (MCC) Lesotho: Archbishop Isaac Moshoeshoe (African Apostolic Brethren Church)

EAST AFRICA (1)

Kenya: Jim Harries (Yala Theological Centre)

USA & EUROPE (4)

USA: Stan Nussbaum (GMI), James and Elisabeth Krabill (MBM) UK: Ralph Woodhall (U. of Birmingham)

SENT REGRETS (9)

Allan Anderson (UK), Steve Hayes (S. Africa), Nicta Lubaale (Uganda), John Padwick (Kenya), Philomena Mwaura (Kenya), John Kivuli (Kenya), Hennie Pretorius (S. Africa), Garry Prieb (USA), Jack Thompson (UK)

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Summary of major papers

Thomas Oduro, Ghana, Theological Education and Training of AICs

Thomas is the principal of Good News Theological College and Seminary in Accra. He is now entering the second year of a four-year leave to do a Ph.D. in Theology at Luther Seminary in Minneapolis. He is concerned that a great deal of theological education in Africa is irrelevant and that AICs are unjustly looked down on by other Christians because they cannot articulate their theological contributions very well to the wider Christian community.

Thomas provided an overview of the methods, strengths and weaknesses of three types of education which he called the "Elijah & Elisha" type (personal discipling), TEE and residential programs. The aim of education is to develop people who can serve well (not be lords) in a targeted society. To this end, two useful lists of suggestions were given, one for AICs and one for non-AICs. For example, AICs were encouraged to tap church founders to teach spirituality in Bible institutes even if those founders were illiterate. AICs were encouraged to train their own CE writers and historians as well as educate the lay people for economic improvement. The non-AICs were encouraged to assist with training more AIC intellectuals, set up AIC research centers in Africa and subsidize Bible reference books, etc.

James Krabill, ex-Cote d'Ivoire, What Western Churches Can Learn from AICs (David Shank's paper)

James Krabill and David Shank both worked with the Harrist Church in Cote d'Ivoire and studied it in great depth. They share the conviction that AICs embody Christian spiritual life in some ways that is sorely needed by the church in the West.

James presented David's paper with six main points: 1) the faith of the powerful is irrelevant to helping people be the People of God, 2) the gospel (not politics) is the source of liberating power, 3) faith is a combat in a real, spiritual dimension of life, 4) the Western interpretation of Scripture is not final, 5) God is experienced as a mystery, 6) spiritual leadership is not merely or primarily a professional occupation.

Lynell Bergen-Dyck, South Africa, Women in the Bible and the AICs

Click on the title to see the full version of the paper

Lynell is a Mennonite Bible teacher with the AIC program under the auspices of the Eastern Cape Council of Churches in South Africa.

Her paper reflected on the AIC response to some biblical material on the role of women in the church which she and her husband Bryan Dyck developed at the request of the AIC association. A chart was used which showed apparently conflicting Bible verses in parallel columns, one column leaning toward the subordination of women and the other toward equality. When this was presented in five AIC leader seminars with 20-25 people in each, some AICs were startled by the unfamiliar texts in the equality column, some were enthusiastic and many were puzzled. On the whole the AICs had a much higher level of acceptance for the ideas than Lynell had expected, perhaps because of widespread family disintegration in recent decades and women outnumbering men in Transkeian AICs by about eight to one.

Prophet Miritaiah Jonah Jehu-Appiah Akaboha III, Ghana, History and Practice of the Musama Disco Christo Church.

Prophet Jehu-Appiah is the grandson of the founder of the largest AIC in Ghana and has led the church for the past 29 years. He chairs the board of Good News Theological College and Seminary. He is concerned that his church has often been misrepresented and unjustly criticized as syncretistic.

The church name means "The Army (musama) of the Cross (disco) of Christ," and its battle is against all idols and ungodliness. The church was founded by a catechist put out of the Methodist Church in 1919 because his prophecy and prayer group did not fit the church's pattern. It is still developing and changing, for example, it now uses organs and pianos as well as drums and other traditional instruments. A key part of the church's history has been the affirmation of African culture against the attacks of foreign missionaries. Rituals, sacrifices and revering of ancestors have been key areas where the church has tried to develop meaningful practices that are both African and Christian. Now some churches including the Methodist Church are adopting some of these practices, such as healing camps.

Jim Harries, Kenya, Power and Ignorance in Mission

Jim Harries has lived as a single man in a Kenyan village household for several years, pioneering Yala Theological Centre as a grassroots AIC educational program. He is concerned that the relationships between Kenyans are expatriates are so often dominated by economic interests related to Western lifestyles.

Jim listed five ways that the apparent "powers" of a foreigner, such as the English language, gifts, salaries, and the apparent success of programs, actually undermine his or her ability to understand the local situation and communicate the gospel into it. He then suggested and described his own experience with six "rules of thumb" for expatriates: 1) use local languages, 2) do not use money to get things done your way, 3) live deliberately with a dual identity (one local and one Western), 4) adjust to local ways of operating, 5) be slow to condemn anything, and 6) teach by example.

Personal reflections by participants

1. Lynell Bergen-Dyck, South Africa, newsletter of August 2001

There were a number of significant learning points for me. The first had to do with the issue of long term planning. AIC teaching can take many different shapes, but one thing that they all need to have in common is a sense of purpose or vision: Why are we teaching? To whom? How? What do we want our students to know, and what do we hope they will do with what they have learned?

Brian and I feel that the program here is at a significant point as we as teachers begin to move away from the "getting a handle on things" mode to making plans for the future of this ministry. We have already had some preliminary discussions with our leaders about what shape our program needs to take in the future, and are hoping to spend some more focussed time working on this within the next six months, to shape a vision and goals for our program. Thus a fair bit of my time in Ghana was spent talking to other teachers, to see what sort of shape their program took, and what they wanted to see for the future.

Other important discussions involved around the future of African missions in the midst of many structural changes in the Mennonite church in North America. As missionaries, we have been feeling some anxiety about the changes that are happening back home, which affect our programs and their future, and are feeling that we have not always been given a significant place in all these discussions. It was therefore helpful for us to sit down as missionaries and mission staff people, to share some of what we are feeling, and to hear some commitment from the mission board about the future of our programs.

2. Brian Jennings, Ghana, newsletter of August 2001

Brian, a new member of our Network, is sent from the UK to Ghana by the Fellowship of Churches of Christ. He serves as a lecturer at Ghana Christian College, quite close to Good News Theological College and Seminary outside Accra. This academic year he is in Birmingham writing his doctoral thesis on theological ethics in a Ghanaian context.

Immediately after Graduation [at Ghana Christian College] I had the opportunity to participate in the final days of the fifth all-Africa conference on African Initiated Churches. This was a small gathering of those who work in partnership with African Initiated Churches in different places on the continent. . . Many of the Churches that send students to GCCS fall into this category and so it was important for the College to be represented so that we could keep abreast of developments. AICs are also among my academic interests and so I had a double reason to be present.

However, the conference was more a time of Christian fellowship and encouragement than a dry academic exercise. I came away refreshed with a renewed perspective of the importance of the work of our college and having made new friends. Please pray for the leaders of these Christian movements and for the missionaries who work along side them (many from the Mennonite Churches) as they seek to gave African expressions of the Christian faith and take their place in the Universal Church.

3. Bryan Born, Botswana, report of 31 July 2001

As for the consultation itself, I believe it was a very useful event. As it turned out, there was a large contingent of Mennonites from throughout Africa. If I have any complaint it was that I wish we could have had more interaction with people working with AICs who are not Mennonite. It was resolved that our Network will work at trying to identify these individuals in the coming years so that they might participate in the next consultation.

Saturday was spent on various outings with most of us from southern Africa choosing to visit the Elmina Castle (about a 4 hour trip from Accra) - a rather infamous outpost for the slave trade. This was a rather sobering experience for us all, both African and expatriate. It's truly amazing (and humbling) to see how the gospel has spread throughout Africa when one considers that this was the way the church was introduced to much of the continent - the first church on west African soil was erected within the walls of the Castle (built in 1482). . .

The afternoon presentations were also of great interest. Sharon Dirks and Saziso Kamanga gave a report on the efforts of the Tshepong Counselling Network and there was good discussion afterwards concerning how AICs can get involved in AIDS ministry. I also gave a report on the Mahalapye consultation (in 2000) and discussed Stan's model of "coaching a core of Bible promoters." I was also encouraged by the discussion which followed that presentation and felt encouraged to be more deliberate in pursuing this model upon our return next year.

Of course one of the primary benefits of meetings like these is the discussion and interaction that goes on outside of the official meetings. Since some of the Burkina AIMMers were there, we were able to get a much better picture of what their ministry involves and how it both does and does not relate to our context in southern Africa. Meeting with the MBM people from Benin and Ivory Coast was interesting in order to see the model of ministry that they have chosen (more institutional in nature). We also had some good discussion about the consequences for AIMM of the merger of the General Conference and Mennonite Churches. Beyond the discussions with other Mennonites, it was great to have input from Jim Harries of Kenya, Danie van Zyl from Cape Town and various people from the Good News Training College and Seminary.

I believe the consultation was worthwhile not only for the issues discussed but for the relationships formed. I feel like I have a better relationship with Bishop Kepaletswe [from Botswana], and that we will be able to work together on developing training programs specifically geared to his church. It's also good to step out of one's ministry context, and take a look at how others are doing ministry and to reflect on it with them.

4. Ralph Woodhall

I have always found meeting with Mennonite missionaries very heartening. I feel we share a sense of openness to all possibilities in Christian mission -- the mystery of unity in Christ.

I wish we could meet more often. Possibly I might survive for the next meeting in South Africa??

[Ed. Note: By my reckoning Ralph is about 80, but I think survival need not be among his concerns. According to my Catholic sources, "Old Jesuits never die, they don't even fade away." We will thank God if Ralph does not fade from our Network any time soon.]

5. Sharon Dirks, prayer letter of 8 August 2001

You have gathered from the other reports that there was a very positive feeling about the meetings and the interactions which happened between people in Ghana. It was very helpful to hear Stan Nussbaum report at the end that each consultation over the years has had a different flavour - sometimes more academic, sometimes more personal and report-oriented. This one seemed to have a mix of both.

From my point-of-view, not being an academic myself, I was thrilled to be able to go to such a conference anyway. I am not one of the Bible teachers in Botswana although I am thoroughly involved in other aspects of the AIC work here. This conference was beneficial for a practitioner like myself and my AIC colleague who is a volunteer counsellor and a

nurse.

For Sazzy [Saziso Kamanga] and I, our horizons were broadened by our interactions with other Africans and other AIC workers. We came with our vision of how God is working in Botswana in the midst of the AIDS crisis and we learned that our situation is often different from many other countries. Our approach, while it has great value for this region and can have great value for other regions, must be different where there are also other pressing concerns to take into account as the gospel is spread within AIC work. This is true in parts of West Africa where violence and poverty mask the effects of AIDS. The common theme is that there is a need and hunger for teaching on healthy relationships and godly marriages.

The papers and reports were varied, interesting, and challenging. The devotional times and prayer times together were meaningful and bonding for us, especially when we met in smaller groups to share concerns and pray together. I enjoyed listening to Thomas Oduro's testimony at one of those times where he shared how his family moved from a mainline church to an AIC when he was still a child because of the powerful prayer and healing ministry in that church which had ministered to his family at a critical time.

Sazzy and I had a good time getting to know each other better. But I must share what the conference meant to her. She told me during one of our late-night conversations in our room that the experience of getting to know the Mennonites in her work setting, in our counselling ministry and now in this conference have been turning points in her walk with God. She has had a Christian faith for many years but recently has seen these events as shaping her spiritual vision in a new way. Sazzy is convinced that God wants to use her life in some way now and is open to listening to his leading. She feels encouraged about her place in an AIC (the Spiritual Healing Church), and that God can use her there. I was so encouraged and wanted to be sure to share that with my mission agencies back home.

These conferences are excellent. Often we learn a lot and are challenged in our work and ministries, but when there is a clear moving of God's Spirit in peoples' lives because we have been meeting together in His name, they are worth far more than we could have dreamed. I credit the committee members for helping to set such an atmosphere where learning and spiritual growth can both take place.

Finally, I personally am thrilled about the excitement I saw in people about being involved in AIC ministries. We are still such a small minority of people who are involved in a work which does not plant monuments to our denominational names. There is still so much to be done throughout Africa by working with AIC's The challenge is for us is to continue to share the vision (to Western Christians) of what God can do through these unique churches of Africa we are walking alongside of.

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West African regional consultation in 2003

Consultation participants from West Africa caucused on July 17th and set the following directions:

We are planning for a regional meeting in July, August or Sept. 2003.

Committee: Steve Wiebe-Johnson will initially give some direction.
Place: Invitation to Benin.

What will the focus be? What are the issues? What are the goals? One of the main goals is information sharing. Issues:

Weavers [pioneer AIC workers in Ghana and Nigeria in the 60s and 70s] identified three things that mission agencies can do in relation to AICs- 6. Bible teaching, building relations between AICs, and then between AICs and other denominations.

It was also suggested that we invite a greater number of AIC leaders.


This report and the papers from the Ghana Conference on AICs are hosted on the web pages of the Southern African Missiological Society (SAMS).

Use the links belpw to visit other pages on the SAMS site


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Started: 7 January 2002
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