Global Missiology English, Vol 3, No 13 (2016)

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To Compromise on Missionary Vulnerability in Africa? - A Response to Critics of 'Vulnerable Mission'

Jim Harries


This article is a response to perceived criticisms of VM (vulnerable mission). After defining VM, the author acknowledges that some Western mission activities to Africa cannot easily be ‘vulnerable’. Vulnerability is largely an either/or quality. The aim of VM is not to ‘slightly increase’ one’s vulnerability. VM is not ‘extremist’, because what is being proposed is that some and not necessarily all missionaries follow it. It enables a missionary to be a pioneer, rather than a cog in a (largely Western) machine. It is needed in response to past missionary ‘abuses’. It is a way for a missionary to build a reputation other than on the back of access to outside resources. VM needs to be promoted in its ‘radical form’ so as to be clearly communicated to challenge those wanting an ‘easy way out’ in mission. It is a way of challenging the indigenous African ‘patron-client’ system. It is a way of leveling the playing field between Africans and missionaries. It is a way of avoiding traps – particularly those of creating dependency. VM is not just another recipe for the ‘polite humility’ of missionaries. Because it is designed to tackle power issues in a carefully thought out way, it should be implemented and not ‘compromised’.