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The Frontiers of Mission

Perspectives on Early Modern Missionary Catholicism


Edited by Alison Forrestal and Seán Alexander Smith

In exploring the shifting realities of missionary experience during the course of imperialist ventures and the Catholic Reformation, The Frontiers of Mission: Perspectives on Early Modern Missionary Catholicism provides a fresh assessment of the challenges that the Catholic church encountered at the frontiers of mission in the early modern era. Bringing together leading international scholars, the volume tests the assumption that uniformity and co-ordination governed early modern missionary enterprise, and examines the effects of distance and de-centering on a variety of missionaries and religious orders. Its essays focus squarely on the experiences of the missionaries themselves to offer a nuanced consideration of the meaning of ‘missionary Catholicism’, and its evolving relationship with newly discovered cultures and political and ecclesiastical authorities.


Richard J. Serina

Scholarship has recognized fifteenth-century speculative thinker Nicholas of Cusa for his early contributions to conciliar theory, but not his later ecclesiastical career as cardinal, residential bishop, preacher, and reformer. Richard Serina shows that, as bishop in the Tyrolese diocese of Brixen from 1452 to 1458, and later as resident cardinal in Rome, Nicolas of Cusa left a testament to his view of reform in the sermons he preached to monks, clergy, and laity. These 171 sermons, in addition to his Reformatio generalis of 1459, reflect an intellectual coming to terms with the challenge of reform in the late medieval church, and in response creatively incorporating metaphysics, mystical theology, ecclesiology, and personal renewal into his preaching of reform.

Exploring Jesuit Distinctiveness

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Ways of Proceeding within the Society of Jesus


Edited by Robert Aleksander Maryks

The volume theme is the distinctiveness of Jesuits and their ministries that was discussed at the first International Symposium on Jesuit Studies held at Boston College’s Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies in June 2015. It explores the quidditas Jesuitica, or the specifically Jesuit way(s) of proceeding in which Jesuits and their colleagues operated from historical, geographical, social, and cultural perspectives. The collection poses a question whether there was an essential core of distinctive elements that characterized the way in which Jesuits lived their religious vocation and conducted their various works and how these ways of proceeding were lived out in the various epochs and cultures in which Jesuits worked over four and a half centuries; what changed and adapted itself to different times and situations, and what remained constant, transcending time and place, infusing the apostolic works and lives of Jesuits with the charism at the source of the Society of Jesus’s foundation and development.

Thanks to generous support of the Institute for Advanced Jesuit Studies at Boston College, this volume is available in Open Access.

Defining Heresy

Inquisition, Theology, and Papal Policy in the Time of Jacques Fournier


Irene Bueno

In Defining Heresy, Irene Bueno investigates the theories and practices of anti-heretical repression in the first half of the fourteenth century, focusing on the figure of Jacques Fournier/Benedict XII (c.1284-1342). Throughout his career as a bishop-inquisitor in Languedoc, theologian, and, eventually, pope at Avignon, Fournier made a multi-faceted contribution to the fight against religious dissent. Making use of judicial, theological, and diplomatic sources, the book sheds light on the multiplicity of methods, discourses, and textual practices mobilized to define the bounds of heresy at the end of the Middle Ages. The integration of these commonly unrelated areas of evidence reveals the intellectual and political pressures that inflected the repression of heretics and dissidents in the peculiar context of the Avignon papacy.

Envoys of a Human God

The Jesuit Mission to Christian Ethiopia, 1557-1632


Andreu Martínez d'Alòs-Moner

In Envoys of A Human God Andreu Martínez offers a comprehensive study of the religious mission led by the Society of Jesus in Christian Ethiopia. The mission to Ethiopia was one of the most challenging undertakings carried out by the Catholic Church in early modern times.
The book examines the period of early Portuguese contacts with the Ethiopian monarchy, the mission’s main developments and its aftermath, with the expulsion of the Jesuit missionaries. The study profits from both an intense reading of the historical record and the fruits of recent archaeological research. Long-held historiographical assumptions are challenged and the importance of cultural and socio-political factors in the attraction and ultimate estrangement between European Catholics and Ethiopian Christians is highlighted.


John Flannery

In The Mission of the Portuguese Augustinians to Persia and Beyond (1602-1747), John M. Flannery describes the establishment and activities of the Portuguese Augustinian mission in Persia. Hopes of converting the Safavid ruler of the Shi’a Muslim state would come to naught, as would the attempts of Shah ‘Abbas I to use the services of the missionaries, as representatives of the Spanish Habsburgs, to forge an anti-Ottoman alliance with the papacy and the Christian rulers of Europe. Prevented from converting Muslims, the Augustinians turned their attention to Armenian and Syriac Christians in Isfahan, later also establishing new missions among Christians in Georgia and the Mandaeans of the Basra region, all of which are described herein. The history of the Augustinian Order is generally under-represented by contrast with other Orders, and this study breaks new ground in existing scholarship.

Various Authors & Editors

World Council of Churches
Archives of the General Secretaries

Until now, the World Council of Churches (WCC) had six general secretaries: Dr. Willem Adolf Visser ’t Hooft (1948-1966), Eugene Carson Blake (1966-1972), Philip Alford Potter (1972-1984), Emilio Castro (1985-1992), Konrad Raiser (1993-2003), and Samuel Kobia (since 2004).
The General Secretary is elected by the Central Committee for five years. He is the chief executive officer of the WCC. As such he is the head of the staff. He organizes WCC governing body meetings, directs the activities of the Council according to the mandates and policies of the governing bodies and conducts analysis of trends affecting the ecumenical movement. He also provides and initiates reflection on emerging issues in the ecumenical movement and in the world, projects and promotes the image of the ecumenical movement, represents and interprets the Council to member churches, ecumenical partners, secular bodies and authorities. He finally identifies and defines long-range and evolving strategic directions of WCC.

The archives of the ecumenical movement are housed in the WCC’s Library & Archives, in Geneva. They are divided into many different sections, reflecting the various bodies that were active in the ecumenical scene during the 20th century.
The records of the International Missionary Council, the Programme to Combat Racism and the Dialogue with People of Living Faith – all previously published on microform by IDC Publishers – are examples of such sections.
The present collection makes available on microform another section of the ecumenical archives, dealing with the first four WCC General Secretaries personal archives in the period 1920-1992. The documents in the archives consist of articles, manuscripts, personal notes, speeches and works.

1st WCC General Secretary: Willem A. Visser ’t Hooft (1948-1966)
(*1900 Haarlem, Netherlands; †1985 Geneva, Switzerland) Netherlands Reformed Church/National Protestant Church, Geneva
Visser ’t Hooft was the first general secretary of the WCC, 1938/1948-1966, and from 1968 onward its honorary president. He was active in the student Christian Movement in the Netherlands, became secretary of the World's YMCA in Geneva in 1924, and was the youngest participant in the Stockholm Life and Work conference in 1925. The doctoral dissertation that he presented to the University of Leiden in 1982 was entitled "The Background of the Social Gospel in America". In 1931 Visser 't Hooft became secretary, in 1933 general secretary and in 1936 president of the World Student Christian Federation. He was actively engaged in the preparation of the conferences in Oxford and Edinburgh in 1937, and appointed as general secretary of the WCC in process of formation at the meeting of the provisional committee in Utrecht in 1938. As WCC general secretary he visited many countries around the world making a vast number of personal contacts, lecturing on behalf of the Council and attending meetings. The bibliography of his literary output contains over 1300 titles. He was honoured by several Festschriften, numerous honorary degrees and awards. He published his Memoirs in 1973 and was from 1948 onward the editor of the Ecumenical Review, which was well-planned and of outstanding theological quality.
Paul Abrecht wrote after his death that without Visser 't Hooft "combination of gifts the WCC might never have existed. No other person in the leadership of those days possessed the acumen, imagination, statesmanship experience, daring, energy and languages necessary to bring it into being".
In 1987 the WCC central committee adopted a proposal to set up a "Visser 't Hooft endowment fund for ecumenical leadership development" and commended this endeavour and its success to the churches and the public for the strengthening of the ecumenical movement and its future.

2nd WCC General Secretary: Eugene Carson Blake (1966-1972)
(*1906 St. Louis, Missouri, USA; †1985, Stamford, Connecticut, USA) United Presbyterian Church in the USA
Eugene Carson Blake served as WCC general secretary from 1966-1972. After studying theology at Princeton Theological seminary, Blake became pastor of a large parish in Pasadena, California. In 1951 he was elected stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in the USA). In a sermon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in 1960, he made a proposal for church union of several churches in the USA, which developed into the Consultation on Church Union. He was president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, 1954-1957, and continued as a member of the general board until 1966. Blake was elected second general secretary of the WCC 1966-1972, while he was earlier member of its central and executives committees, 1954-1961, and chairman of the Division of Inter Church Aid, refugee and World Service, 1961-1966. He was instrumental in increasing Roman Catholic participation in the ecumenical movement, received Paul VI in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva in 1969, and was personally involved in setting up the Program to Combat Racism. He had considerable skills and guided the WCC in a period of expansion and reconstruction.

3rd WCC General Secretary: Philip A. Potter (1972-1984)
(*1921 Roseau, West Indies) Methodist Church
Philip A. Potter, a Methodist pastor, missionary and youth leader from Dominica in the West Indies served as WCC general secretary from 1972-1984. Besides 24 years on the WCC staff, he was a missionary to poor and mostly Creole -speaking people in Haiti, president of the World Student Christian Federation and a staff member of the Methodist Missionary Society in London.
A central committee resolution honouring Potter on his retirement identified some main thrusts the WCC owed to his leadership: "the insistence on the fundamental unity of Christian witness and Christian service which the gospel commands and makes possible, the correlation of faith and action, the inseparable connection between the personal spiritual life of Christian believers and their obedient action in the world".
An eloquent and forceful speaker and leader of Bible studies, Potter received numerous honorary degrees and awards.

4th WCC General Secretary: Emilio Castro (1985-1992)
(*1927, Uruguay) Evangelical Methodist Church of Uruguay
Emilio Castro, a Methodist pastor and theologian from Uruguay was the WCC general secretary from 1985-1992. He had previously served as director of the WCC commission on World Mission and Evangelism from 1973-1983. He studied at Union Theological Seminary, Buenos Aires, 1944-50, and was ordained in the Evangelical Methodist Church of Uruguay in 1948. Under a WCC scholarship, he pursued post-graduate work in Basel in 1953-54 under the guidance of Karl Barth. Returning to Latin America, he was pastor of Methodist churches in La Paz, Bolivia (1954-56, and in Montevideo, Uruguay, 1957-65). His church and ecumenical activities in Latin America have been numerous. Elsewhere, his ecumenical activities have been with the Christian Peace Conference and with the Agency for Christian Literature development. He received a doctoral degree from the University of Lausanne in 1984. His attendance at many conferences has included the WCC assemblies of 1961 and 1968, the Life and Mission Conference of the World Student Christian Federation in Strasbourg, and the 1966 Church and Society conference in Geneva.

Various Authors & Editors

World Council of Churches
Christian Medical Commission

June 1968: in Geneva, a little group of people gathers, called together by the World Council of Churches (WCC). The Christian Medical Commission (CMC), under its first director, James McGilvray, has been charged with the responsibility to promote the coordination of national church-related medical programmes, and to engage in study and research into the most appropriate ways in which the churches might express their concern for total health care. The young CMC was born out of a long history of Christian involvement in health care. For over a hundred years, medical work had provided one of the main focuses for Christian missionary work, the others being education and church planting. As a result, there were more than 1,200 Christian hospitals in the world relating to member churches of WCC alone.
The first consultation – taking place in 1963 at DIFÄM (German Institute for Medical Mission) – came to be known as Tübingen I. Having reached the conclusion that health care was more than mission hospitals, it set in motion a process aimed at establishing what, in a post-colonialist world, the role of “medical mission” might be. The report that emerged from this meeting was called The Healing Church (WCC 1965). From the regional consultations that followed the first Tübingen meeting, and from the surveys commissioned by WCC and LWF in 1963, came the evidence that set the agenda for the second Tübingen meeting in 1967, and ultimately for the CMC itself.

The first meeting of the CMC took place, in Geneva, in September 1968. CMC had an initial five year mandate. In effect, it was to be both prophet and broker. It had first to identify and communicate the vision, and then to enable it to happen. Its tasks were:
a. to help the churches in their search for a Christian understanding of health and healing
b. to promote innovative approaches to health care
c. to encourage church-related health care programmes to collaborate with each other.

Nine main priority areas were identified:
- Comprehensive health care
- Community organization
- Cooperation with governments and other agencies
- Inter-church coordination and cooperation
- Planning mechanisms appropriately structured in regional and local organizations
- Re-orientation of personnel
- Need for administrative reorganization
- Data systems
- Facing the problems of population dynamics.

On 22 March 1974, Dr. Halfdan Mahler, Director-General of the World health Organization (WHO), called together senior staff for a joint meeting with all five senior staff of the CMC. As a result of this meeting, a joint committee was set up to explore the possibilities of collaboration and cooperation in "matters of mutual concerns". In spite of the disparity in size, the relationship between the two organizations turned out to be exceptionally fruitful. The most significant result of the CMC/WHO relationship was the formulation by WHO, in 1975, of the principles of primary health care. This marked a radical shift in WHO priorities, with massive implications for health care systems everywhere.

The challenge of HIV/AIDS
In the thirty years of CMC's life, no health issue has received so much public attention as the challenge of HIV/AIDS. For the churches, it has involved soul-searching. Their pastoral calling to minister to the sick and marginalized has drawn many Christian institutions to care for people living with AIDS; but the connections between AIDS and sexuality, and AIDS and paternalistic structures have made it very difficult for churches to face up to the implications of HIV transmission not just for Christians but for the churches themselves. The challenge to the churches was to re-examine the conditions which promoted the pandemic, and to become more conscious of the human implications of broken relationships and unjust structures, and of their own complacency and complicity.
In 1994, the WCC Central Committee meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa mandated the formation of a consultative group to conduct a study on HIV/AIDS. The aim would be to help the ecumenical movement to shape its response in four areas: theology; ethics; pastoral care and the church as a healing community; and, justice and human rights. This consultative process was a major programme of WCC as a whole. While it was coordinated by CMC-Churches’ Action for Health, the participants were drawn from different interest groups within the Council's life. In addition, CMC itself sponsored innovative pieces of work, and held regional meetings in Asia, Latin America, the USA, and Africa and Europe. It also supported the setting up of ICAN, the International Christian AIDS Network. In Africa, encouraged by CMC, the Tanzanian, Ugandan and Zairian Protestant medical agencies set up an experimental Participatory Action Research (PAR) programme. This turned out to be a crucial plank of the AIDS work they supported.
When the WCC set up a CMC, back in 1968, the Commission formed part of the work of Mission and Evangelism. Following the Nairobi Assembly, in 1975, it became part of the Unit on Justice and Service. In 1992, there was a further re-organization and CMC moved back into Unit II, Churches in Mission, Health, Education and Witness: a move which partially reflected the trust of its work during the 1980s, since the Health, Healing and Wholeness study was so closely identified with the core-life of churches and congregations themselves. CMC is now called Health and healing.
From Contact, no 161-162, June-July and August-September 1998

The archives of the ecumenical movement are housed in the WCC’s Library & Archives, in Geneva. They are divided into many different sections, reflecting the various bodies that were active in the ecumenical scene during the 20th century.
The records of the International Missionary Council, the Programme to Combat Racism and the Dialogue with People of Living Faith – all previously published on microform by IDC Publishers – are examples of such sections.
The present collection makes available on microform another section of the ecumenical archives, dealing with the Christian Medical Commission in the period 1962-1999. The documents in the archives consist of correspondence, minutes, personal notes, press cuttings, publications, reports and speeches. Records are divided into eight sections:
0. History of the CMC
1. Meetings, workshops and reports
2. Programmes and projects: AIDS, Pharmaceutical programmes, CMC programmes
3. Country files
4. Travel reports
5. Collaborations: coordinating agencies, other organisations
6. Staff and Finances
7. Publications and film production

Scholarly relevance
The Christian Medical Commission archives are of great interest and are frequently consulted by researchers working on the history of the ecumenical movement. The different sections contain, among others, correspondence with the World Health Organization (WHO), the League of the Red Cross, the World Bank, and Christian Medical Associations. It also contains correspondence and speeches from Nita Barrow, Stuart Kingma, Eric Ram, James McGilvray, and Nicole Fischer.

Various Authors & Editors

World Council of Churches
Relations with the Roman Catholic Church

The initial visible expression of collaboration between the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) was the exchange of officially delegated observers. In 1961 the Vatican Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity (SPCU), delegated five observers to the WCC's third assembly in New Delhi. Then the WCC sent two observers, Dr Nikos Nissiotis and Dr Lukas Vischer, to the four autumn sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65). In November 1964, the 2,200 bishops and Pope Paul VI promulgated the Vatican II Decree on Ecumenism. Anticipating this Decree, SPCU and WCC representatives began in April 1964 to consider future RCC-WCC collaboration. They proposed a joint working group (JWG) with a five-year experimental mandate. In January 1965 the WCC Central Committee, meeting in Enugu, Nigeria, adopted the proposal, as did the RC authorities in February, through SPCU president Cardinal Augustin Bea, during his visit to the WCC centre in Geneva.

The main points of the original mandate of the JWG still function:
1. The JWG has no authority in itself, but is a consultative forum. It initiates, evaluates and sustains collaboration between the WCC and the RCC, and reports to the competent authorities: the WCC Assembly and Central Committee, and the Pontifical Council (prior to 1988 the Secretariat) for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU). The parent bodies may empower the JWG to develop and administer its proposed programmes.
2. The JWG seeks to be flexible in the styles of collaboration. It keeps new structures to a minimum, while concentrating on ad hoc initiatives in proposing new steps and programmes, and carefully setting priorities and using its limited resources in personnel and finances.
3. The JWG does not limit its work to the administrative aspects of collaboration. It tries also to discern the will of God in the contemporary ecumenical situation, and to offer its own reflections in studies.

With eight WCC and six RC members, the JWG had its first meeting in May 1965, at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey. The two co-chairpersons were the WCC general secretary, Dr W.A. Visser't Hooft, and the SPCU secretary, Bishop Johannes Willebrands. The WCC general secretary, Dr Eugene Carson Blake, invited Pope Paul VI to visit the WCC headquarters in Geneva. On 10 June 1969 the pope did so.
In 1968 the WCC and the new Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace (1967) sponsored a large interdisciplinary conference on development (Beirut). The successful conference gave impetus to the JWG proposal for a joint committee on society, development and peace (SODEPAX). Headquartered in Geneva, with generous independent funding, SODEPAX quickly responded to the widespread local and national initiatives by helping them to set up their own SODEPAX groups, and by offering them the results of its own practical and theological studies on social communication, education for development, mobilization for peace and working with peoples of other world faiths. In 1980 its experimental mandate was terminated.

The archives of the ecumenical movement are housed in the WCC’s Library & Archives, in Geneva. They are divided into many different sections, reflecting the various bodies that were active in the ecumenical scene during the 20th century.
The records of the International Missionary Council, the Programme to Combat Racism and the Dialogue with People of Living Faith – all previously published on microform by IDC Publishers – are examples of such sections.

The present collection makes available on microform another section of the ecumenical archives, dealing with the Relation with the Roman Catholic Church in the period 1948-1992. The documents in the archives consist of correspondence, personal notes, press cuttings, reports and unpublished material. Records are divided into five sections:
1. General documentation
2. Roman Catholic Church
3. Council Vatican II
4. Joint Working Group
5. Sodepax

Scholarly relevance
The Relations with the Roman Catholic Church archives are of great interest and are frequently consulted by researchers working on the history of the ecumenical movement.
The different sections contain, among others, correspondence with Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, Cardinal Bea and the Community of Taizé. A few examples of cooperation with the RCC are: jointly sponsored studies on “common witness and proselytism”, “catholicity and apostolicity”, “towards a confession of the common faith”; Roman Catholic membership in the Commission on Faith and Order; the setting up by the RCC of consultative relations with the Commission on world Mission and Evangelism and the Christian Medical Commission; the joint preparation of material for use in the Annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity; the concern for development and peace by the joint Committee on Society, Development and Peace (SODEPAX); the full participation of the RCC in regional, national and local councils of churches. Examples of ecumenical collaboration are: the various bilateral agreements on doctrinal points; the interconfessional translation of the Bible under the joint inspiration and guidance of the United Bible Societies and the World Catholic Federation for the Biblical Apostolate; the development and the understanding of the notion of the unity of the church in terms of conciliar fellowship; the exploration of the possibility of membership thy the RCC in the WCC.