Interesting fact about Bonhoeffer and Newbigin both of whom have inspired me tremendously!
Though only three years apart in age, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Feb 4, 1906 – Apr 9, 1945) and Lesslie Newbigin (Dec 8, 1909 – Jan 30, 1998) never did to my knowledge meet one another though the 27 year old Bonhoeffer was in London pastoring a German congregation from 1933-1935 while the 24 year old Newbigin was training for the ministry in Cambridge. Both were very involved in ecumenical affairs and international relationships but Bonhoeffer was active in the 1930’s with the World Alliance, Life and Work, and Faith and Order; and Newbigin was primarily involved in the 1950’s and 60’s in the International Missionary Council, World Council of Churches, and Faith and Order. Though both were highly effective in the international sphere, both ended their lives more optimistic about the local church and somewhat disappointed in the theological compromises of the large ecumenical organizations.
I agree with Vinoth Ramachandra .
Jesus rebuked the church leaders of his day for honouring prophets by building monuments to them but not paying attention to what they actually said. The best way to honour Newbigin is, surely, to pick up and read some of his essays and books.
Interesting insight from one who “had the privilege of working with Lesslie during the last few years of his life.”
The thing that struck me most forcefully about Lesslie when I first began to work with him was his tremendous energy. In the years following his ‘retirement’, he was successively a lecturer in missiology, pastor of an inner-city church, moderator of his denomination and the inspiration for an international movement whose aim is nothing less than a radical revitalization of mission to Western culture. On top of all that, he maintained a busy schedule of national and international speaking engagements and wrote prolifically on missiology.
Many people (including many Christians) who achieve positions of prominence or influence are only too conscious of their own importance – not so, Lesslie. For me he epitomized intellectual humility. He was always very open about the dependence of his ideas on others, always willing to listen seriously to criticism, always ready to encourage younger men and women who were struggling with aspects of the relationship between the gospel and our culture.
A less obvious personal characteristic – but one that became clear as one got to know him – was his gentle sense of humour. At times this could be slightly self-deprecating, e.g. when he commented that old ecumenists are only really at home in airport departure lounges. Or he could be gently ironical. However, his favourite form of humour was the limerick; he admitted that he used to relieve the boredom of ecclesiastical committee meetings by writing limericks about his colleagues.
The energy, humility and sense of humour together serve to obscure another important characteristic, namely, his courage. His autobiography gives scant mention to an accident during his first term in India. That accident led to ten operations on his leg, the very real prospect of amputation and more than a year spent on crutches. When I knew him, half a century later, he was still suffering the after-effects. However, he could say ‘God did indeed turn that accident into a source of manifold blessing for which I cannot cease to give thanks’ (Unfinished Agenda, p. 44). Towards the end of his life he also had to cope with failing eyesight. I think many of those who read his final works would be surprised to discover that by the time he wrote them he was no longer able to read. His humour and his courage come together in a typical remark: ‘You don’t have to be able to see to use a typewriter!’
one more. . with a great line.
As we tell the Jesus story, we draw people to him as a person worthy of allegiance rather than as a proposition to be evaluated.