"Perhaps the crucial missionary task today is communist China," observed The Right Rev. J. E. Lesslie Newbigin during the final William Belden Noble lecture last night in Memorial Church.
Contrary to some popular belief, there is an operating Christian Church in China. But there has been a great breach between the missions of the China mainland and the West. Newbigin hoped that an attempt will be made to heal this breach, rather than to send more missionaries from the West to impress Western viewpoints upon China.
The Chinese missionary situation is only one of a multiplicity of problems confronting the Christian world mission effort, Newbigin continued. The biggest present difficulty of the mission is a kind of evolutionary dislocation of the effort's effectiveness, since the sources of distribution and wealth have changed without compensation.
"Colony of Heaven"
In the last of five lectures on the subject A Faith for Our World, Newbigin related the China problem to Arnold Toynbee's criticisms of the Church. Newbigin agreed with one point of Toynbee's: That Christianity, it it is to become such a world faith, must lose its western "provincialness" of appeal, and must show Christendom to be a "colony of heaven, not of the white race."
The next missionary step, Newbigin declared, is a centralization of the Christian Church councils on a world-wide basis, a pooling of resources, and assistance in a system of U.N.-like cooperation.
"Cooperation is the necessary starting point, but it cannot be considered the goal," Newbigin continued. The Christian unity, the "binding in Christ," makes manifest a total commitment that makes it impossible to evade the question of full Church unity throughout the world. Newbigin strongly asserted the imminence of the problem and the importance of its solution. "The issue of Church unity," Newbigin concluded, "must be treated as an issue not for tomorrow, but for today."