Asia needs a "mango" Church, missionary says

A British-born Divine Word missiologist has told the Asian Mission Congress that the Church in the world's most populous continent needs to overcome its peripheral local adaptation to become a "mango Church" - yellow inside and outside.

Fr John Mansford Prior, who visited Australia last month, told the Asian Mission Congress in Chiang Mai, Thailand that the Church in Asia must become totally Asian to make Christ's message meaningful for people in the continent, UCA News says.

British-born Fr Prior has worked in Indonesia since 1973 observes that the Church in Asia remains Western with only peripheral local adaptation.

Asia has either a "banana Church," yellow on the outside and white inside, or a "coconut Church," brown on the outside and white inside, Fr Prior said.

But what the Church in Asia needs instead is a "mango Church" that is yellow outside and inside, Fr Prior added.

In a talk punctuated by applause, Fr Prior, who heads the Candraditya Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture on Flores Island in eastern Indonesia, enumerated the strengths and challenges of the Asian Church for the more than 1,000 people attending the 18-22 October congress.

The Church, Fr Prior insisted, should seek "the face of Jesus" in and through "our Asian cultures" starting with the poor, who account for most Asian Christians.

He added that when globalisation threatens to undermine tribal society, which cherishes respect for humans, compassion, honesty and hospitality, the Gospel helps them evolve a "counterculture."

Fr Prior, who is also a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Culture, said he wants the Church to nurture compassion and a "Gospel-based culture of giving" after breaking free of a "prosperous social order" that believes in "crass-consumerism" and "greed-induced capitalism."

Meanwhile, Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, struck a different note following his first visit to China, saying that he believes that in some regions in China the percentage of the population attending church on Sundays is as large or even larger than that in most western European countries.

"The astonishing and quite unpredictable explosion in Christian numbers in recent years is clearly connected to a widespread sense that the equally extraordinary explosion in the economic life has left many huge questions about personal and social values unanswered," said Archbishop Williams at the end of his two-week visit according to an Ecumenical News International report.

Dr Williams concluded that if China was to develop the kind of civil society that will guarantee both stability and harmony, the Church is a vital partner.

'Mango Church' Needed In Asia, Says Inter-Cultural Expert (UCA News, 24/10/06)
Rowan Williams: China churchgoers similar in percentage to Europe (Ecumenical News International, 24/10/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Asian Mission Congress (Thailand Catholic Church)
The Bible at the heart of mission (Fr John Mansford Prior SVD)

Archbishop China tour criticised (BBC News, 24/10/06)
Archbishop of Canterbury Concludes China Tour (China.org.cn, 23/10/06)

25 Oct 2006