The aim of the founding of the DGMW in 1918 was to critically analyze the history and theory of Christian mission and to promote its practice through new ideas. It was to coordinate scholarly as well as general mission-related literary work, to maintain the high standard of linguistic research, and to support emerging research in mission studies. It was also seen as competing with the Catholic Institute for Missiology Research in Münster, which had already been founded seven years earlier.
The founding fathers of the DGMW included primarily Carl Mirbt, Julius Richter, Martin Schlunk and Johannes Warneck. However, representatives of missionary societies were also present at the founding meeting. From the beginning, the founding partners included the Deutsche Evangelische Missions-Ausschuss, the Deutsche Evangelische Missionshilfe and the Verband der Deutschen Evangelischen Missionskonferenzen.
While twenty-nine people had already appeared at the founding meeting in Berlin, another 84 people were admitted to the Society in 1919 and 1920, eleven of them Dutch and Scandinavian. In 1926, Americans and three Britons were also among the members. In 1954, D.T. Niles from Sri Lanka was the first representative of an overseas partner church to appear in the membership roster, and others soon followed. Women were welcome in the Society from the beginning, even if their number was initially very small.
The Society consists of founders, sponsors and elected members. Elected members are individuals who can be expected to promote the academic work of the Society. The DGMW currently has about three hundred individual members, forty of whom are women, and eight institutions. About forty members come from other European countries and over sixty from other parts of the world.
The structures of the DGMW are the annual general meeting and the governing board with twelve members. From among these members four are elected to the board of directors as the 1st and 2nd chairperson, secretary, and treasurer. The governing board carries out the resolutions of the general assembly, decides on the allocation of grants for academic publications and is responsible for the publication of the DGMW’s own series and journal (see below). In addition the governing board occasionally subsidizes research projects or the organization of academic conferences or conference participation. All tasks are carried out on an honorary basis. The DGMW is a member of the International Association for Mission Studies (IAMS), whose foundation was initiated by the DGMW.
The DGMW holds an annual academic conference. It advocates for the inclusion of intercultural theology, religious and missiology studies and ecumenism in the theological faculties and departments and its inclusion in theological exams as well as for a sufficient quota of hours in the training curricula.
Since 1995, the DGMW has published the series “Missionswissenschaftliche Forschungen. Neue Folge” with the Erlanger publishing house. So far thirty-two volumes have been published. The old series, from 1968, was published by Gütersloher publishing house with twenty-six volumes.
The DGMW has published the “Zeitschrift für Mission” (ZMiss) together with the Basel Mission since 1975. This united the “Evangelische Missionszeitschrift” founded by Walter Freytag in 1940 with the Basel “Evangelische Missions-Magazin” which has existed since 1816. In 2008, ZMiss was renamed “Interkulturelle Theologie. Zeitschrift für Missionswissenschaft.” The renaming also reflects the ongoing efforts to consolidate and raise the profile of the subject of intercultural theology at the university level. Since 2020, Interkulturelle Theologie has been published twice a year in comprehensive thematic volumes, replacing the four-times-a-year thematically unbound version. The thematic focus aims at a broader recognizability; moreover, the journal increasingly includes English-language contributions, i.e. it is becoming more international. All contributions go through a peer-review process. Each issue continues to offer essays that diverge in content from the overall theme, as well as a broad review section.
On top of that, the DGMW wants to highlight the future importance of the social changes occurring in Germany. Since the membership of the churches is steadily shrinking, the question of the survival of the church is connected to the recovery of the missionary dimension and the strengthening of religious-theological and ecumenical dimensions. In the area of asylum and migration policy, the DGMW is called to participate in shaping the socio-political discourse. In addition to strengthening the connection between religion and migration, the DGMW promotes interreligious competence and intercultural-theological assessment of transnationally networked (mega-)churches, which are unmistakably anchored in the religious landscape here and also partially challenge new ecumenical patterns of relationship. It is especially in these areas that joint projects at the European level are desirable.
German Society for Mission Studies (DGMW)
Prof. Dr. Andreas Heuser (1. Vorsitzender)
Tel.: +41 61 207 17 30