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.
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 →
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 →
From 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 →
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.
Biblical and Non-Biblical Sources of Popular Religiosity in World Christianity
Christianity, 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 →