By Fr. GERALD MAHON
Superior General of the Mill Hill Missionaries Social History and Christian Mission by Canon Max Warren. (SCM Press, 27s. 6d.)
THE EXPERIENCE of other Christian churches in the mission field has a threefold importance for the Catholic missionary: firstly, the present-day socio-cultural pattern of the developing nations can often be fully understood only if the influence of Protestant missionary activity is taken into account. Secondly, other Christians experience of mission contains insights which are particularly valuable today when our own missionary activity is being examined in the light of Vatican H and in the new, challenging conditions of the young nations of the mission world. Thirdly, the ecumenical aspect of the mission task demands deeper knowledge of our fellow Christians than has hitherto been common in Catholic missionary circles.
Canon Warren's book is well worth reading on all three counts. He was for twenty years secretary of the Church Missionary Society and has not only a wide personal knowledge of the modem missionary movement, but the historian's ability to analyse the factors involved. Of the eight lectures that make up the book the first seven study the effects of the religious, social
and economic ethos of the nineteenth century England on British Protestant missionary activity in the last century and in this. A final chapter studies the idea of "community" in Asian and African cultures and its importance for the missionary.
The book contains much to make us think. The discussion of the place socio-economic activities should have in missionary work is particularly relevant today in the light of the papal teaching on the Christian idea of development" in Populorum Progressio.
Again, when we are examining the role the layman can play in the Church's mission activity the experience of other Christians is particularly noteworthy since so many Protestant missionaries are not ordained ministers but committed laymen and women— "godly mechanics," as the nineteenth century often termed them. Many missionary bishops are asking themselves how to integrate lay missionaries into their pastoral plans: a study of what their Protestant neighbours are doing would often be enlightening.
In the training of the ministers and the catechists of the local church Protestant missions have followed a very different path from ours. Can we learn something here too?
Vatican II has instructed every missionary society to re-examine its methods and programmes. Books like Canon Warren's are valuable stimuli in this process of self-criticism.