Bossey’s new missiology professor shares world of Africa and Europe
Feb 01, 2017
Rev. Dr Benjamin Simon was born in Germany, but he is also very much a product of Africa.
Since September 2016, he has held the post of Professor of Ecumenical Missiology at the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Ecumenical Institute in Bossey, a post he assumed just in time for the celebrations of 70 years’ serving ecumenism worldwide.
“It was dream coming true to come here and work in Bossey. I feel really blessed to be in a teaching situation and to be able to learn about the ecumenical situation throughout the world here at the same time,” Simon said.
“I had known about the Ecumenical Institute for many years. I have had the chance to bring many groups to Bossey,” said Simon, noting these included ordained students, teachers and lay people. “I realized colleagues changed a lot after coming to Bossey.”
Simon, who spent part of his childhood with his family in Kinshasa in the 1970s, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, completed his undergraduate and doctoral studies at the University of Heidelberg in Germany but always had a hankering for Africa.
From 2005-2008, he was a lecturer in Systematic Theology and Missiology at the Makumira University College near Arusha in Tanzania.
“Nowadays Christianity is very diverse…it comes from different places and contexts. We also have a growing Christianity in the southern hemisphere and this brings different challenges to Christianity,” he said.
Being a child growing up in both the global North and the global South, Simon is acutely aware of the need to constantly forge contacts between the two. “It is fantastic that we have so many students in Bossey coming from southern hemisphere and also from non-WCC churches,” he notes.
“But it is also vital that we do not lose contact with students from churches of the northern hemisphere.”
Before taking up his current post, Simon had been working as Secretary for Mission and Ecumenism in his home church, the Protestant Church in Baden, Germany, and had also served in different congregations.
For him, a speciality of Bossey is that for a teacher the learning process is a two-way street. Faculty and students learn equally from each other, he says, noting that whether they are pastors, or lay people, they always come to the institute armed with a wealth of knowledge and experience.
“We are not only going to lectures here” says Simon, “but we are living life together. Students come here for the community, for the ecumenical living community, and living out ecumenical life where you are asked to put your theology into practice.”
The chair of Ecumenical Missiology at Bossey is supported by the Council for World Mission (CWM), United Evangelical Mission (UEM) and Community of Churches in Mission (CEVAA, Communauté d’Eglises en Mission).