About Brian Stanley

Brian Stanley read history at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and stayed on in Cambridge for his PhD on the place of missionary enthusiasm in Victorian religion. He has taught in theological colleges and universities in London, Bristol, and Cambridge, and from 1996 to 2001 was Director of the Currents in World Christianity Project in the University of Cambridge. He was a Fellow of St Edmund’s Collge, Cambridge, from 1996 to 2008, and joined the University of Edinburgh in January 2009.

Review: From Christ to Confucius

This review was originally posted here.

Recent historical scholarship on modern Christian missions to China, as to the non-European world as a whole, has been bedeviled by two weaknesses. First, historians have written about Protestant missions to China, or less frequently about Catholic ones, but very rarely about the two together within a single monograph. Second, Anglo-American scholars have tended for obvious linguistic reasons to confine themselves to the study of British or American missions, to the general neglect of those from continental Europe. Not the least of the virtues of Albert Monshan Wu’s book is that it transcends both of these limitations at once. By selecting as his two case studies in missions to China the Protestant Berlin Missionary Society (BMS) and the Catholic Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Wu is able to illuminate both commonalties and dissimilarities across the confessional divide. Continue reading

In Memory of Dr T. Jack Thompson

Professor Brian Stanley remembers Dr T. Jack Thompson (1943–2017), former director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World

It is with great sadness that the School announces the death on 10 August 2017 of Dr T. Jack Thompson. Jack came to New College as Lecturer in Mission Studies in 1993 from the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham.  He remained on the staff until December 2008, becoming Senior Lecturer in African Christianity. He served as Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World (now the Centre for the Study of World Christianity) from 2005 to 2008, and fulfilled a number of key roles in the School, including that of Director of Postgraduate Studies. He was a devoted supervisor of many PhD students in world Christianity. Continue reading

New Appointment: Dr Emma Wild-Wood

The Centre for the Study of World Christianity is delighted to announce the appointment of Dr Emma Wild-Wood as our new Senior Lecturer in African Christianity and African Indigenous Religions, with effect from 1 January 2018.

Emma comes to us from Cambridge, where she has been the Director of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide and more recently has filled the post of Lecturer in World Christianities in the University’s Faculty of Divinity while the current post-holder has been on a two-year research leave. She also taught in DR Congo and in Uganda for a number of years. Emma did her PhD in the Centre here in Edinburgh under Dr Jack Thompson, so she is returning to familiar territory. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 22.2

Beyond the Binary of East and West

Studies in World Christianity

However hard it tries, scholarship in world Christianity does not find it easy to escape the grip of the long-standing historical binary of East and West. The Christianities of Asia, Africa, and even Latin America are still often labelled as ‘non-Western’, as if their multiple identities consist primarily in their shared departure from the implicit default setting of European or North American Christianity. The four articles in this issue of Studies in World Christianity analyse aspects of Asian Christianity Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 22.1

Missionary Eyes and Indigenous Eyes

Studies in World ChristianityFrom the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, Catholic and Protestant missionaries were the eyes through which Europe viewed the religious and cultural systems of the non-European world. Merchants, soldiers and diplomats sometimes fulfilled the same function, but they were birds of passage who rarely had the necessity or inclination to observe the ritual practices of indigenous peoples at close hand. Missionaries, by contrast, were in for the long haul. The objective of conversion required careful and patient observation of local traditions, the slow learning of language, the gradual attuning of the mind to the finer points of ceremonial observance, totem or taboo. Missionaries compared and contrasted what they saw with what they had seen elsewhere, or with what was familiar to them in European Christendom. As they did so, they began to order the miscellany of phenomena they encountered into divisions, categories, even systems. Continue reading

Founding the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World

In the festschrift prepared in honour of Prof Andrew F. Walls, Brian Stanley writes the history of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World (the former name of the current Centre for the Study of World Christianity). A pre-publication version of the article can be downloaded below.

Founding the Centre Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 21.2

Biblical and Non-Biblical Sources of Popular Religiosity in World Christianity

Studies in World ChristianityChristianity, as our first contributor to this issue of Studies in World Christianity reminds us, is supremely a religion of the Book. The narratives, symbols and doctrinal content of the biblical writings supply the constituent texture of the religion. Nevertheless, as the same contributor, Ole Jakob Løland, points out, for much of Christian history the great majority of Christian believers did not have direct access to the text of the bible: its teaching was mediated and refracted through their participation in, or observation of, a non-vernacular liturgy, and through religious art, music, drama and the communal observance of pilgrimages and festivals in honour of the saints. Continue reading

Nationalism: Christianity’s Illegitimate Child

Christian BritainThe United Kingdom is now in the final stages of an election campaign in which two avowedly nationalist political parties – the Scottish National Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party – seem set to re-configure the map of British politics. They will attract numerous Christian votes, but nationalism and Christian principle are uneasy bedfellows. Continue reading

Studies in World Christianity, Issue 21.1

Gender and Family in the History of Christian Missions

Studies in World ChristianityThis issue of Studies in World Christianity is devoted to five papers selected from a total of nearly sixty presented at the twenty-fourth meeting of the Yale–Edinburgh Group on the history of missions and world Christianity, held at New College, Edinburgh, from 24 to 26 June 2014. The theme of the conference was ‘Gender and Family in the History of Missions and World Christianity’. The popularity of the theme can be deduced from the record number both of participants in the conference (almost one hundred) and of papers presented. Gender and family are hot topics in contemporary historical research into Christian missions (as they are more generally in social history), and it is perhaps surprising that the Yale–Edinburgh Group has never tackled the theme before in any of its meetings since its inception in 1992. As may be predicted, the vast majority of the papers given were about women or children, with only a sprinkling devoted to the role of men or questions of Christian masculinity: the default setting for historical research remains obstinately male in its orientation, with the result that any meeting advertised under the theme of gender is normally assumed to be an intended corrective to the default setting and hence to be primarily or even exclusively about the role of women. Continue reading