In Memory of Richard Twiss
I had been around him a few times during the past several years, but doubt very seriously that he would have known who I was. We were both a part of the United States delegation at Cape Town for the third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization. I remember Twiss then begin associated with some other world Christian leaders who were striving to hold the Lausanne leadership's feet to the fire on diversity issues. My impression of Twiss was that he was ever a prophetic voice to the Church, seeking to ensure that ethnic minorities and majority world voices were not silenced by those who are used to being in charge.
I also have a faint recollection of Twiss leading a too-brief time of prayer and worship at an American Society of Missiology gathering several years ago. As I said, it was far too brief and the context was extremely limiting. However I remember feeling like this was a man who was a friend to the kinds of things that were only just beginning to stir in my heart regarding indigenous art forms, contextualizaiton, and the like.
What stands out most in my mind, strangely enough, is that I've thought for some time that Richard Twiss made more sense than anyone else on the issue of syncretism. I believe firmly that a definition that Twiss wrote back in 2005 deserves to be the standard definition of the term in all missiological conversation on the matter. In fact, I've been using as such for a while now. Wrote Twiss:
“Syncretism can be described as a way of thinking that says by performing or participating in a particular religious ceremony or practice, you can alter the essential human spiritual condition in the same way that Jesus does, through His death on the cross, burial, and resurrection from the dead, because they are parallel truths.”
So, my thinking in writing today is that this was a man who made a positive impact on my life for Christ's sake. It is up to those who knew him well to truly eulogize him. [Red Letter Christians has a couple great examples here and here.]. For my part, I simply wanted to say that while I'm certain Twiss and I wouldn't have seen eye-to-eye on every issue, I nevertheless feel blessed to have encountered him. I rejoice that he leaves behind a legacy of writings that I can continue to work through. And I am sad that he has died. I heard first from Dr. Soong-Chan Rah and had no hesitation in retweeting something that I couldn't help agreeing with:
RT @profrah: Christianity lost a spiritual giant today. Please pray for the family of Richard Twiss.
Farewell, Richard Twiss. You are someone that I had hoped to get the chance to know and interact with more in-depth. Lord willing, I will get some coffee with you one day when I also get home.