Studies in World Christianity, Issue 23.1

Appropriations of Christianity

Studies in World Christianity

The five main articles in this issue have been selected from papers given at the 2016 meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on the history of the missionary movement and world Christianity, held at New College, Edinburgh, from 23 to 25 June 2016. The theme of the conference was ‘Responses to Missions: Appropriations, Revisions, and Rejections’. Perhaps the most significant shift discernible in the historiography of the missionary movement over the last few decades has been the progressive transfer of scholarly attention from the Western missionaries themselves to indigenous hearers, receptors and agents. Responses to missions were almost always multifaceted and only rarely can be described without qualification as either ‘acceptance’ or ‘rejection’. Indigenous peoples responded selectively to both the missionaries’ presence and their message. Sometimes they welcomed the former, for a variety of instrumental reasons, while being obstinately indifferent to the latter. On other occasions – particularly in the twentieth century – they appropriated the gospel itself while being less than enthusiastic about the continued presence and claims to religious authority of those who had first brought it. Where the Christian message was appropriated, it was, necessarily, received and interpreted in dialogue with the host people’s existing categories of spiritual power or sanctity, resulting in myriad translations and revisions of the message as well as transformations of the existing religious frameworks.

Our final two brief articles comprise a response by Jackson Wu to the article by Danny Hsu on ‘Contextualising “Sin” in Chinese Culture’ published in issue 22.2 of this journal, with a rejoinder by Danny Hsu.

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