Lesslie Newbigin
Bishop James Edward Lesslie Newbigin (8 December 1909 – 30 January 1998) was a Church of Scotland missionary serving in the former Madras State (now Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is one of the 28 states of India. Its capital and largest city is Chennai. Tamil Nadu lies in the southernmost part of the Indian Peninsula and is bordered by the union territory of Pondicherry, and the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh...

), India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, who became a Christian theologian
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

 and bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 involved in missiology
Missiology is the area of practical theology that investigates the mandate, message, and mission of the Christian church, especially the nature of missionary work...

, ecumenism
Ecumenism or oecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice...

, and the Gospel and Our Culture Movement.


Born in Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne...

, Newbigin's schooling largely took place in Leighton Park, the Quaker public boarding school in Reading, Berkshire
Reading, Berkshire
Reading is a large town and unitary authority area in England. It is located in the Thames Valley at the confluence of the River Thames and River Kennet, and on both the Great Western Main Line railway and the M4 motorway, some west of London....

. He went to Queens' College, Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

 in 1928. On qualifying, he moved to Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 to work with the Student Christian Movement (SCM) in 1931. He returned to Cambridge in 1933 to train for the ministry at Westminster College
Westminster College, Cambridge
Westminster College in Cambridge is a theological college of the United Reformed Church, formerly the Presbyterian Church of England. Its principal purpose is the training of clergy for ordination, but is also used more widely for training within the denomination...

, and in July 1936 he was ordained by the Presbytery of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

 to work as a Church of Scotland
Church of Scotland
The Church of Scotland, known informally by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is a Presbyterian church, decisively shaped by the Scottish Reformation....

A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism or ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin...

 at the Madras Mission.

He was married to Helen Henderson a month later, and they set off for India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 in September 1936. In time they had one son and three daughters. He also had a sister, Frances, who was a regular worshipper at Jesmond URC (formerly Presbyterian), Newcastle upon Tyne, in the late 1970s and into the 1980s.

In 1947, the fledgling Church of South India
Church of South India
The Church of South India is the successor of the Church of England in India. It came into being in 1947 as a union of Anglican and Protestant churches in South India. With a membership of over 3.8 million, it is India's second largest Christian church after the Roman Catholic Church in India...

, an ecumenical
Ecumenism or oecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice...

 church formed from several Protestant
Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 churches, appointed him as one of their first bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

s in the Diocese
A diocese is the district or see under the supervision of a bishop. It is divided into parishes.An archdiocese is more significant than a diocese. An archdiocese is presided over by an archbishop whose see may have or had importance due to size or historical significance...

 of Madurai
Madurai is the third largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It served as the capital city of the Pandyan Kingdom. It is the administrative headquarters of Madurai District and is famous for its temples built by Pandyan and...

 Ramnad – a surprising career path for a Presbyterian minister. In 1959 he became the General Secretary of the International Missionary Council and oversaw its integration with the World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

, of which he became Associate General Secretary. He remained in Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 until 1965, when he returned to India as Bishop of Madras, where he stayed until he retired in 1974. He and his wife Helen then made their way overland back to the UK using local buses, carrying two suitcases and a rucksack.

They then settled in Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, where Newbigin became a Lecturer in Mission at the Selly Oak Colleges
Selly Oak Colleges
Selly Oak Colleges was a Federation of educational facilities, primarily concerned with theology and social work, in Birmingham, England. The Federation was for many years associated with the University of Birmingham...

 for five years. Of the British denominations linked with the Church of South India, he chose to join the United Reformed Church
United Reformed Church
The United Reformed Church is a Christian church in the United Kingdom. It has approximately 68,000 members in 1,500 congregations with some 700 ministers.-Origins and history:...

 (URC). In retirement he took on the pastorate of Winson Green URC, opposite the gates of HM Prison Birmingham. This small church provided support for people visiting prisoners. He was Moderator of the General Assembly
Moderator of the General Assembly
The Moderator of the General Assembly is the chairperson of a General Assembly, the highest court of a presbyterian or reformed church. Kirk Sessions and Presbyteries may also style the chairperson as moderator....

 of the URC for the year 1978-9. During this time, he preached at Balmoral
Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle is a large estate house in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is located near the village of Crathie, west of Ballater and east of Braemar. Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen Victoria and her...

 and continued the prolific writing career that established him as one of the most respected and significant theologians of the twentieth century.

He is remembered especially for the period of his life when he had returned to England from his long missionary service and travels, and tried to communicate the need for the church to take the Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

 anew to the post-Christian Western culture
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

, which he viewed not as a secular society with no gods but as a pagan society with false gods. Newbigin believed that western cultures had unwisely come to believe they had access to an objective knowledge
Objectivity (philosophy)
Objectivity is a central philosophical concept which has been variously defined by sources. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are met and are "mind-independent"—that is, not met by the judgment of a conscious entity or subject.- Objectivism...

 which did not require faith. As part of this critique, Newbigin challenged the ideas of neutrality and the distinction between facts and values that emerged from the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

. It was during this time that he wrote two of his most important works, Foolishness to the Greeks and The Gospel in a Pluralist Society in which the strong influence of such thinkers as Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair MacIntyre
Alasdair Chalmers MacIntyre is a British philosopher primarily known for his contribution to moral and political philosophy but known also for his work in history of philosophy and theology...

 and Michael Polanyi
Michael Polanyi
Michael Polanyi, FRS was a Hungarian–British polymath, who made important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, economics, and the theory of knowledge...

 is apparent.

In his "theological/intellectual/spiritual biography" of Newbigin, theologian Geoffrey Wainwright
Geoffrey Wainwright
Geoffrey Wainwright is a British Methodist theologian.Born in Monk Bretton, Barnsley, Yorkshire, England, in 1939, Geoffrey Wainwright is an ordained minister of the British Methodist Church. He received his university education in Cambridge, Geneva and Rome. He holds the Dr. Théol. degree from...

 assesses the bishop's influential writing, preaching, teaching, and church guidance, concluding that his stature and range is comparable to the "Fathers of the Church."

He died at Herne Hill
Herne Hill
Herne Hill is located in the London Borough of Lambeth and the London Borough of Southwark in Greater London. There is a road of the same name which continues the A215 north of Norwood Road and was called Herne Hill Road.-History:...

 on 30 January 1998 and was cremated at West Norwood Cemetery
West Norwood Cemetery
West Norwood Cemetery is a cemetery in West Norwood in London, England. It was also known as the South Metropolitan Cemetery.One of the first private landscaped cemeteries in London, it is one of the Magnificent Seven cemeteries of London, and is a site of major historical, architectural and...

. At Newbigin's funeral service on 7 February 1998 his close friend Dr. Dan Beeby said, "Not too long ago, some children in Selly Oak were helped to see the world upside down when the aged bishop stood on his head! Not a single one of his many doctorates or his CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

 fell out of his pockets. His episcopacy was intact."

Major works

  • A South India Diary, SCM, 1951 (revised 1960)
  • The Household of God: Lectures on the Nature of the Church, SCM, 1953 (reprinted Paternoster, 1998, ISBN 978-0-85364-935-9)
  • Sin and Salvation, 1956, SCM
  • Trinitarian Doctrine for Today's Mission, Edinburgh House Press, 1963, (reprinted Paternoster, 1998, ISBN 978-0-85364-797-3)
  • Honest Religion for Secular Man, SCM, 1966
  • The Finality of Christ, SCM, 1969
  • The Good Shepherd, Faith Press, 1977
  • The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission, SPCK/Eerdmans, 1978, ISBN 978-2-8254-0784-4 [2nd Edition, Eerdmans, 1995, ISBN 978-0-8028-0829-8]
  • The Light Has Come, Eerdmans, 1982, ISBN 978-1-871828-31-3
  • The Other Side of 1984, World Council of Churches, 1983, ISBN 978-2-8254-0784-4
  • Foolishness to the Greeks: Gospel and Western Culture, Eerdmans/SPCK, 1986, ISBN 978-0-281-04232-6
  • The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, SPCK/Eerdmans/WCC, 1989, ISBN 978-0-281-04435-1
  • Truth to Tell: The Gospel as Public Truth, SPCK, 1991, ISBN 0-8028-0607-4
  • A Word in Season: Perspectives on Christian World Missions, edited by Eleanor Jackson, Saint Andrew Press/Eerdmans, 1994, ISBN 978-0-7152-0704-8
  • Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship, SPCK, 1995, ISBN 978-0-281-04915-8
  • Truth and Authority in Modernity, Gracewing Publishing, 1996, ISBN 978-1-563-38168-3
  • Signs amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, edited and introduced by Geoffrey Wainwright, Eerdmans, 2003, ISBN 978-0-802809-896

Popular works

  • A Walk Through the Bible, SPCK/Westminster John Knox Press, 2000, ISBN 9781573833578
  • Discovering truth in a changing world, Alpha International, 2003, ISBN 9781904074359
  • Living Hope in a changing world, Alpha International, 2003, ISBN 9781904074366

Secondary literature

  • Bearing the Witness of the Spirit: Lesslie Newbigin's Theology of Cultural Plurality, George R. Hunsberger, Eerdmans, 1998, ISBN 978-0-8028-4369-7
  • Lesslie Newbigin: A Theological Life, Geoffrey Wainwright, Oxford University Press, 2000, ISBN 978-0-19-510171-5
  • "As The Father Has Sent Me, I Am Sending You": J. E. Lesslie Newbigin's Missionary Ecclesiology, Michael W. Goheen, Boekencentrum, 2000, ISBN 978-0239-0976-3
  • Lesslie Newbigin: Missionary Theologian: a Reader, Paul Weston (ed.), SPCK/Eerdmans, 2006 ISBN 978-0802829825 (includes nearly 30 texts by Newbigin)
  • Grasping Truth and Reality: Lesslie Newbigin's Theology of Mission to the Western World, Donald LeRoy Stults, Wipf and Stock, 2008, ISBN 13: 978-1-55635-723-7
  • Christian Mission in Eschatological Perspective: Lesslie Newbigin's Contribution, Jürgen Schuster, VTR Publications, 2009, ISBN 13: 978-3-941750-15-9

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.