Oral, Print, and Digital Cultures in World Christianity and the History of Mission New College, University of Edinburgh, 25–27 June 2020 Proposals due: March 6, 2020 Registration deadline: March 30, 2020
The next meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission will take place in New College, University of Edinburgh, from 25–27 June 2020. The theme will be Oral, Print, and Digital Cultures in World Christianity and the History of Mission.
Studies in world Christianity and the history of mission have not been afraid to engage the topic of culture. However, they have mostly referred to the encounters of Western Christian cultures with another, whether that be Confucian and Hindu culture, or the indigenous cultures of the Americas, Africa, and Oceania. This year’s theme uses the language of culture to speak about three different mediums in which the Christian message is communicated and the Christian life is practiced. These cultures have developed somewhat chronologically, but they also simultaneously coexist in the contemporary world.
With this issue, the journal Studies in World Christianity completes twenty-five years of existence. Launched at the beginning of 1995 to be an ‘international forum for a dialogue of equals’ on the study of ‘theology and the science of religion’, this journal has pioneered and defined the interdisciplinary subfield of World Christianity. Today World Christianity has established itself as an important discourse that examines Christianity as a world religion, with scholars from across the globe. It also recognises the limitations of the world religion paradigm and uses the studies of Christianity in diverse localities and Christianity melded into other religious traditions to critique the way in which world religions are often viewed.
Last week I was in Atlanta, Georgia, USA to discuss precisely that question. Invited by Jehu Hanciles and hosted by faculty and students of Emory University, 25 scholars grappled with the slippery entity we call ‘World Christianity’. Is it a field, or a lens or even a discipline? Who studies it and why? How did it emerge? Why is it found mainly in Europe and North America? Has it a Protestant bias? What is the relationship between the study of World Christianity and the Christians across the globe who are studied? How do our studies connect with other academic studies like missiology, area studies, demography and anthropology of Christianity? These questions have been asked many times before but I welcomed the opportunity to ruminate collectively with scholars who had carefully prepared and shared papers beforehand. Individual contributions were influenced by the primary discipline of contributors, the areas of the world with which they were most familiar, and how far their institution, post or programme deployed the term ‘World Christianity.’
The team at Emory will distil our papers and conversation for public consumption. In the meantime, I have attempted to articulate my description of the present state of World Christianity. I think that because we deliberately cross boundaries of other disciplines when we study World Christianity, it is similar to other emerging foci of study—Global History, intercultural theology etc. However, perhaps the combination of all the following elements does give World Christianity some distinctiveness beyond a useful ‘hold all’ term: