2 March 2024

Repent of colonialism, missionary conference told

Wendy Quay spoke to the Summer Under the Son conference at Syndal Baptist. Picture: supplied 

By Stephen Cauchi

15 January 2022

Missionaries need to be aware of the effects of “big empire” colonialism, a Church Missionary Society conference has been told. 

Summer Under the Son speaker Wendy Quay urged Christians to repent of colonialism, and say sorry to their First Nations brothers and sisters. 

Ms Quay also said bigger was not always better, speaking about the book of Revelation. She said two types of bigger were described here, one good and one bad. 

An advisor with evangelical InterVarsity Graduate and Faculty ministries in Palo Alto California, Ms Quay spoke to the Summer Under the Son conference held in mid-January, 

“In Revelation seven we see the multitude that no one can count worshipping Jesus. In Revelation 17 we see Babylon and all the kings of the earth – the ‘bigger’ of power, wealth, empire,” Ms Quay said. 

“As missionaries from the West, as representatives of the church in Australia, the US, and Europe – we must listen very carefully to the call to us that Revelation is making. 

“Because we had our relationship with Babylon in our history: the Babylon of colonialism.” 

Ms Quay said Australia had been part of the British Empire, where it held an elevated place compared to other colonies such as Malaysia, India or Ghana. 

She said as missionaries from the West, Australians carried that weight and that baggage, which affected their ministries. 

Ms Quay told the conference that she came to Christ in Malaysia through the ministry of American missionaries. Later she moved to Australia and practised law in Melbourne for 10 years before completing a masters degree in theology in the UK and moving to the US. 

She said the Intervarsity ministries in America was itself wrestling with the issue of colonialism and racism. 

“More young people of colour said they were open to overseas missions than white young people. But these young people are concerned about missions’ past,” she said. 

“They’re asking, ‘Can young brown or black people be part of a missions organisation and do things their way?’” 

Ms Quay said that one of the most confronting things she learned in her studies was the story of America’s First Nations Peoples. She said both Catholic and Protestant missions to these people had been devastating, in a similar way to Australia’s stolen generations. 

She said Christians should repent of the impact of colonialism, and say sorry to their First Nations brothers and sisters. 

She gave the example of her own denomination, the Evangelical Covenant Church, which had passed a resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery, which had legitimised the taking of land by colonial nations from indigenous peoples. 

Ms Quay said a few months later her small group had invited an indigenous staff member to speak, and asked whether such a resolution had made a difference. 

Her answer was “Yes! Absolutely yes!”, Ms Quay said. 

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