An afterword from Paul Thaxter, CMS Director of International Mission

Anvil journal of theology and mission

An afterword from Paul Thaxter, CMS Director of International Mission

I have been engaged in Christian mission ever since I accepted the call of Jesus to follow him in South East London over 40 years ago.

I was part of a church which had people from multiple cultures and diverse backgrounds. Later in Pakistan I was part of the Diocese of Karachi, Church of Pakistan, as a CMS mission partner. In my work as CMS international mission director I have been granted the huge privilege of meeting brothers and sisters from around the world. In each of these contexts questions, ambivalence and ambiguities about the mission enterprise abound.

Yet it was the death of George Floyd and the actions and messages of the Black Lives Matter movement that was personally revelatory – indicating my own passive complicity with systemic racism and injustice. In the following weeks I read Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, which was brilliantly argued, relentlessly uncompromising and passionately principled. I decided to listen more, understand more, discuss more, lament and repent, and take positive actions in the light of this.

As for CMS, these reflections cut to the heart of our storytelling and mission praxis where we have at times preferenced our anti-slavery and liberating narratives rather than those that show our colonial collusion and culturally compromised mission ventures. As Harvey Kwiyani writes, “Until racism is totally discredited, God’s mission in the world will depend on colonialism.” In the glare of this light, CMS needs to take the time and make the effort to adjust, reflect, repent and act. We are in the midst of this, and are being helped greatly by our brothers and sisters in Asia-CMS and CMS-Africa as well as our friends from minority backgrounds in the UK. Their voices deserve to be heard and amplified, which is one reason this edition of Anvil was produced. I draw hope from Lusa Ngoy’s words in his article “Hope Re-imagined – making the world that ought to be” wherein he says the past can be redeemed today. With our partners from around the world we can not only radically rethink history but as Lusa exhorts us, we can join in “an imaginative effort to build the true, the good, and the beautiful”.


About the author

Born in London, bred in Blackpool, and reborn in London, Paul was an economist in the City in the early 1980s, then a church planter in south-east London in the mid-1980s, before helping lead a drug rehabilitation project in the 1990s in Karachi, Pakistan. 

Since 2001 [until 2021], he has worked for Church Mission Society, encouraging mission worldwide – from everywhere to everywhere – including emerging mission in Britain and wider Europe with an emphasis on biblical and cross-cultural training. He is a believer in the importance of living and sharing Christ, and motivated by the transformation that this can bring about. 

More from this issue

Book review: The Cross and the Lynching Tree

Jonny Baker gets educated by James Cone

Book review: The Forgotten Creed

Paul Thaxter is impressed by an argument that “us and them” thinking was ruled out by an early Christian creed.

Colonialism, missions and the imagination

A critical overview of the legacy of CMS’s mission with a particular focus on Ugandan experience.