10 July 2018

‘Small but Significant’
conversations about
mission on the margins

With the Revd Dr Dr Pervaiz Sultan of Saint Thomas’s Theological College, Karachi, at the USPG conference in High Leigh last week

Patrick Comerford

During the USPG conference in the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire, last week, I chaired one of the afternoon conference sessions at which the speaker was the Revd Dr Pervaiz Sultan, the Principal of Saint Thomas’s Theological College in Karachi, Pakistan.

It was a surprise, then, to find that in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer on Sunday [8 July 2018] we were praying for the Church of Pakistan and the Most Revd Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshawar and Moderator of the Church of Pakistan.

During the USPG conference, Pervaiz Sultan presented me with a new edition of his book, Small but Significant: Pakistan Praxis of Modern Mission. The book was first published in 2010, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh Missionary Conference in 1910, which is regarded as a foundational moment in the modern ecumenical and missionary movements. This is the second edition of his book.

At the conference, we had lunch together and a number of conversations. He has been the Principal of Saint Thomas’s Theological College, the national seminary of the Church of Pakistan, since 1995, and Vice-Principal (1993-1995), and since 1989 Lecturer in Doctrine, Applied Theology, Mission and Ministry, and Biblical Studies.

In these roles, he has trained several hundred men and women for ordained ministry in the Church of Pakistan, and he has been engaged in mission praxis at national and international level. He worked for his PhD in theology with Dr Vinay Samuel and Dr Chris Sugden of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, receiving his doctorate in 1997.

The book includes the author’s presentations at national and international forums, and papers published in journals, magazines and newspapers. He writes about reconciliation as mission, mission and development, holistic evangelism and mission, the Bible and social concerns, and the Christian response to human need.

Dr Sultain says one of his two favourite quotes for mission understanding is from Willem A Visser Hooft, the first general secretary of the World Council of Churches: ‘Christians have more reason than anyone else to be advocates of humanity … They are on the side of all humanity because God is on that side and his Son died for it.’

Muslims make up 97 per cent of the population of Pakistan. But, in the theme chapter, ‘Small but Significant’ (pp 20-26), Dr Sultan argues that although Christians are small in number in Pakistan, their historical role in the creation in Pakistan and their ongoing role in nation-building means to continue to have a significant place and presence in the life of Pakistan.

‘Along with its role of nation building, the Church in Pakistan prays for the rulers of the country and for the well-being of its people and security of the geographical boundaries. This gives the Church in Pakistan strong feelings of a national church,’ he writes.

Dr Sultan’s second favourite quote about mission comes from the South African missiologist, David Bosh: ‘We must reject a Gospel that is ultimately spiritualised to such an extent that it does not touch reality, but also the one that has been secularised to the point that there is no call to repentance and no relationship to God above.’

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