So they've been telling us for the last 50 years or more, so much so that it's almost become a cliche. It's become one of the unquestioned axioms of Western missiology. Mission, we were told, is giving and receiving. We need to be partners in mission. As the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Dublin once put it, "If we once acted as though there were only givers who had nothing to receive and receivers who had nothing to give, the oneness of the missionary task must now make us all both givers and receivers."
The phrase "Partners in Mission" is also used very widely in Western mission; it is used by Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Roman Catholics and the Salvation Army, to name but a few. Among Anglicans, at least, it replaced a much more verbose and cumbersome phrase that meant something similar: Mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ.
Nearly 50 years ago a friend of mine, John Davies, wrote, in a paper entitled Religion versus God
Missionary work is essentially two-way; Christ said, `Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them' (Matthew 7:12). If we took this seriously, we should probably have to pack in half the missionary work of the Church that we are used to, if it meant that blacks would start teaching whites , and doing good to them, and expecting them to be grateful. Our mission is not, in a one-way traffic, to extol the greatness of our religion: it is to hear and know the living God - and just as between God and man, so also between Christian and non-Christian, all real living is meeting. If this is not our way, we misrepresent the God who has sent us out, whose very nature as trinity is one of reciprocal relations.
And now that is beginning to happen, at least in the Anglican Communion. Blacks have begun teaching whites, and the whites don't like it. I've noticed a growing number of Anglican bloggers in the West writing about "the African problem".
But why is it "the African problem"? Why not "the American problem"?
Why do so many people in the West think it's OK for Americans to spread their values, culture, fast food and cluster bombs all over the world, but when Iranians or North Koreans or Africans do any of these things they scream blue murder?
And doesn't this talk of "the African problem" show that noble phrases like "partnership in mission" and mission being a two-way street are just empty rhetoric, and have been all along? Only a few benighted Africans were foolish enough to take it seriously.