Not long ago I was talking with a pastor about the upcoming Walking Together conference here. We’ve been working on this one since last fall, and are really looking forward to hosting Terry leblanc, Cheryl Bear, Ray Aldred and others. But inevitably, not everyone sees the issues from the same frame.
So some worry, will these indigenous leaders address the contextualization issues properly? In other words, there is fear of syncretism. So I asked this brother, does he feel we have adequately avoided syncretism in every area of culture and theology here in the West? That is, when we Europeans have done theology, have we always done it cleanly and done it well, with full awareness of the original context and of the distortions we have grown accustomed to?
This led to a few minutes of healthy dialogue. But unfortunately, I didn’t persuade my friend that it is well beyond time that we allowed our indigenous Christian brothers and sisters to decide for themselves what needs transforming, and what can be embraced. They will have the best sense of when they are in danger of syncretism. And not only that, if we listen carefully, they might help us discern our own ongoing issues in this area!
Frankly, they have much to teach us about dialogue, about listening, about humility and grace. They have much to teach us about power and its abuses. Only people who have lived so long on the margins really understand how power is abused.
The image above is by Fr. John Giuliani – The Trinity. See this PAGE for much more of his incredible work.