Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Glenn Schwartz Releases Book on Dependency

One of the most significant changes that The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada has gone through in the past decade has been our commitment to deliberately seeking not to create dependency on outside (usually western) aid amoung our persecuted brothers and sisters. This has impacted what kinds of programs that we have initiated and caused us to shut down others. It has made some of our partners upset and built up our reputation amoung others. More importantly, it has helped us to assist our brothers and sisters far more effectively as we have sought to adopt a "long-term" approach to ministry as we ask questions like, "What impact will this program have on the church 10 years from now?"

One of the men whose writings and research influenced this change here at VOMC was World Mission Associates founder and Executive Director, Glenn Schwartz. Glenn served as a missionary in Africa in the 1960s and later as an administrator in the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. WMA was begun in 1983 in support of his ministry to church and mission leaders primarily to East, Central and Southern Africa. Soon the emphasis of the ministry became sustainability in the Christian movement with particular reference to issues of dependency and self-reliance among mission-established churches. Over the years, he has written a number of articles on the subject of dependency which I have found very helpful, especially when VOMC was wrestling with this issue in the late 1990's. I was fortunate enough to have met him three years ago at a conference and since then, we have kept in contact.

About a year ago Glenn mentioned to me that he was considering publishing a book on the subject of dependency from a missions perspective, as there is no such book presently available that I am aware of. I encouraged him to do so, as I believe that such a book is desperately needed. Later I received a prepublication version to preview and I knew that this would be a valuable and unique resource.

I was delighted to find out last week from the WMA website that Glenn's book has been completed and is now available. I have ordered three copies for myself and two of our staff already. Entitled "When Charity Destroys Dignity" the book's stated purpose is to assist the reader to "avoid or overcome unhealthy practices in cross-cultural missions."

According to the WMA website, the book contains "a description of the dependency syndrome, its historical development and how to overcome it. Though unhealthy dependency is widespread, the basic premise of this book is that it does not need to be considered an incurable illness. The reader will be introduced to churches that were once victims of unhealthy dependency but learned how to overcome it. There are many practical illustrations and suggestions for those in Christian service who face the challenge of avoiding or overcoming unhealthy dependency."

If you or your church is involved in financially partnering with churches, missions or ministries that work in the developing world, I would urge you to purchase a copy of this book from WMA. I am expecting that in the next few months that we will also make it available here at VOMC. But don't wait for that. Contact WMA today and get a copy of "When Charity Destroys Dignity."


Glenn Penner said...

BTW, I got my copy in the mail today and will try to give you all some of my comments about the book in the days to come

terri said...

I understand the premise about this, but still am not sure. How can I, who live in such a wealthy nation,and even on my modest budget am more wealthy than msot people in the third world, withhold blessing them financially.

When faced with such great needs how can we refuse to give?

I understand the negative aspects of it, but I don't know if I could sleep at night.

How do we deal with the dilemma?

Glenn Penner said...

If your gift keeps them in dependency, then I would argue you are not blessing them financially; you are enslaving them. The solution is to assist them with projects that allow them to meet their own needs rather than remain dependent on others. I could not sleep at night if all I can do was hand out money. This is no solution, ultimately

terri said...


How do poor, native churches respond to this? Does it hurt their relations with the global body of Christ? Do they feel abandoned if we refuse to help them financially?

I ask out of curiosity, not accusation.

Glenn Penner said...

We really have found that this has not been a problem. In fact, most key church leaders that I talk to understand how dependency is actually hurting their churches rather than helping.

However, it seems that you are misunderstanding this. The issue is not supporting; we are supporting the church there. The issue is HOW do we support? The problem is that we in the West are convinced that money and more of it is the solution to most problems. The issue is how do we use money to best help the church. And the answer is not just handing out a $100 bill to buy food for a month

terri said...

I have more detailed questions to ask, but maybe I should just get the book! :-)

Glenn Penner said...

I would certainly recommend it, if this is a subject that you have an interest in (and more should, in my opinion).