John Mbiti (1931–2019)

John Mbiti, a pioneer of both modern African theology and the study of religion in Anglophone Africa has died at the age of 88.

Mbiti was part of the pan-African intellectual movement that influenced nationalist discourse as African countries gained independence from colonial rule.  His books, like African Religion and Philosophy (1969), New Testament Eschatology in an African Background (1971), Introduction of African Religion (1975) and Bible and Theology (1986), became best sellers. Mbiti critiqued the international disregard for African religion and demonstrated the religious literacy of Africans. In his cross-continental surveys and his classifications of proverbs and religious practice, Mbiti identified a praeparatio evangelica of Christianity in the African past, with a universal deity at its centre.  For Mbiti the mingling of Christianity and indigenous religion enriched the lives of African people. He was not without his critics. Okot p’Bitek, his colleague at Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda in the 1960s, railed against the making of African spiritual beings into a God with Christian attributes. For Bitek this diminished and destroyed indigenous practices.  In later life, Mbiti continued to work from his home in Switzerland – translating the NT from Greek into his native Kikamba (Kenya). This project allowed him to reflect further on the intrusion of western concepts into biblical translations. His thought continues to have a profound influence on the work of African scholars and church leaders.

Scottish Christianity and the World – Call for Papers

The Scottish Church History Society’s autumn conference will be on the theme of ‘Scottish Christianity and the World’ and will take place in the Edinburgh Theological Seminary on Saturday 2 November 2019. We are delighted to have secured keynote papers from two leading scholars in the field. Boston University’s Professor Dana Robert will speak on “Fulfilment Theory and Friendship: Scottish Missionary Engagement with India, c. 1910-”, while the University of Edinburgh’s Professor Brian Stanley’s paper is entitled “From James Legge to Evangeline Edwards: The Role of Scottish and Other Missionaries in the Formation of Sinology in Britain”.

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Studies in World Christianity, Issue 25.2

Scripture, prayer and worship are three key elements of the internal life of Christians across the world. Corporately or individually, Christians hear, read, enact and inhabit the bible. They pray alone, in twos and threes, and in large gatherings. They pray aloud or in silence. They pray spontaneously or following a common form of words. Christians sing songs and make music. They perform and recite liturgies. Such is the ubiquity of these elements that it seems surprising that it was not until 2018 that the Yale-Edinburgh Conference chose ‘Scripture, Prayer and Worship in the History of Missions and World Christianity’ as its theme. This special issue of Studies in World Christianity brings together six of the excellent papers that were presented at the conference. Together they offer a time frame of about two hundred years and an impressive global range – New Zealand, Argentina, India, USA and China. Although they only focus upon Protestant practice, the articles demonstrate how rich that practice has become.

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