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Toronto exploration focuses on legacies of colonization and slavery

Toronto exploration focuses on legacies of colonization and slavery

The “Explorations in Evangelism” meeting participants at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto, Canada, June 2019, Photo: Michael Hudson/WCC

31 July 2019

How should the twin legacies of colonization and enslavement affect the future shape of Christian evangelism?

A recent meeting of international scholars, theologians and clergy in Toronto, Canada, wrestled with the long-term and lingering effects of Christian involvement in colonization on the identities of individuals and communities today.

The meeting, held June 22-28, was the latest in a series of Explorations in Evangelismorganized by the World Council of Churches and the Council for World Mission. The project explores the work in evangelism at the grassroots level in different regions and contexts.

Dr Carol Duncan, a professor in the Department of Religion and Culture at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada, said it was insightful to share stories and reflections with participants from different countries and in the local context of Toronto.

“This exchange has revealed similarities that have furthered analysis of colonial legacies from a global perspective,” said Duncan. “The intersection of life story narratives and the opportunity for immersion in the cultural milieu of the city has been deeply moving.”

A communiqué traced common threads in the exploration. “First, the complicity between evangelism and colonization is a persistent historical and current phenomena,” reads the communique. "It reveals itself in many geographies and ecclesiologies and is rooted in patterns of historic empire as well as the manifestations of global empire today.”

Second, the group affirmed that descendants of enslaved and colonized peoples have survived with authentic notions of self. “The descendants of colonized and enslaved peoples were able to preserve, often in secret and through complex symbolic interaction with Christianity and other religious traditions that they encountered, their spiritual and cultural traditions, languages and worldviews,” said the group.

Third, the group identified ways in which to carry the lessons of history forward in evangelism. “The sharing of our stories allowed us to make global connections between issues of common pain and suffering of people,” reads the communiqué. “We acknowledge the hurts and do not want to repeat the past.”

The group recommended engaging new partners and members in this discussion in a variety of ways, including encouraging churches in their efforts at decolonization, accountability, and witness to human rights.

Rev. Jacqueline Daley - who identifies herself as an African, Caribbean and Canadian woman - was ordained in Anglican Church in the Diocese of Toronto. She described the gathering as “powerful, inspiring, hopeful  and engaging sharing on the shape, challenges and opportunities for evangelism in different contexts.”


Third "Explorations in Evangelism" - Communique on evangelism and the legacies of colonization and enslavement

Learn more about the meeting and the Explorations in Evangelismseries

Read about the work of the Council for World Mission (CWM)