Short-Term Mission in a Shifting Global Landscape: Genealogies of Hope and Ambivalence Open Access

Campbell, Letitia M. (2017)

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In this dissertation, I argue that Christian short-term mission has been an important practice through which American Protestants have wrestled with changing understandings of the world and their place within it during a period in which both the US and the world were radically reshaped, first by processes of decolonization, and subsequently by intensified processes of globalization and neoliberalism. These global shifts, reflected in structural and institutional changes both within the US and internationally, reflect corresponding subjective and social shifts in culture, worldview, and self-understanding. In following this theme, I sketch broadly the development of Christian short-term mission practices over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, describing the emergence and innovations in the form and understanding of the practice, and situating these practical innovations in the context of broader political, economic, and cultural shifts. I begin by examining Operation Crossroads Africa (Chapter 2) and the Frontier Internship in Mission (Chapter 3), two short-term mission programs that emerged within the ecumenical Protestant left during the late 1950s and early 1960s. I argue that these programs drew on inherited missionary and ecumenical ideas, networks, and practices to pioneer new forms of short-term, transnational engagement responsive to the challenges of a new era. I then trace the development of short-term mission practices in the Evangelical world, first discussing their emergence from Pentecostal networks beginning in the late 1950s (Chapter 4), and then following the diffusion and diversification of the practice through evangelical networks over the next several decades (Chapter 5). Finally, I explore the diffusion of short-term mission practices within ecumenical and mainline Protestant networks and institutions, and the emergence of a broad range of short-term practices of travel, education, and service in both religious and now secular contexts at the end of the century (Chapter 6). By tracing key themes across a range of Evangelical, ecumenical, and mainline Protestant institutions, I provide historical perspectives that can illuminate and inform contemporary debates about short-term Christian mission practice.

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