In this new work, the authors—a missiologist and a celebrated historian of theology—undertake the daunting task of narrating and evaluating two millennia of mission practice and thought in a single volume. Following Gonzalez’s previous practice, the authors pursue a historiography that does not separate mission history from church history (pp. 6-7). Further, Cardoza-Orlandi and Gonzalez succeed in narrating mission history as a global history that has had ever shifting centers of missionary sending.
In terms of strengths, the book is well organized along chronological and geographical lines, especially as the authors navigate the significant expansion of Christianity in the Pacific, Africa, and Latin American in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (chaps. 7, 9, 10). Second, though the second half of the book largely addresses Protestant missionary efforts, some space is given for Catholic and Orthodox missions. Finally, the authors are especially keen to note how missionary networks and partnerships have developed historically, which seems to reveal their hope for the church moving forward.
By way of constructive feedback, the book would have been strengthened if it had given more space than the two chapters allotted (chaps. 3-4) to mission in the early and medieval church. Second, chapter 8 (Middle East and Muslim Majority Countries) was rather incomplete given what we know about mission efforts among Muslim peoples, particularly in the nineteenth and twenties centuries. Third, I was disappointed that the final chapter (From All Nations: Mission in as Post-Modern and Post-Colonial World) did not discuss more the narrative of missionary movements from the non-western world, especially from the late twentieth to the present. Further, the closing chapter did not seem to cohere that well with the rest of the work or bring it to a concluding summary. Finally, I think the book would have been strengthened by more documentation aiding the reader to go directly to the source of some of the author’s claims.
In sum, Cardoza-Orlandi and Gonzalez have produced a readable introductory survey of mission history that would serve well as a primary textbook for a history of mission survey course.
Posted by Ed