Andrew Finlay Walls, OBE (1928–2021), Honorary Professor of World Christianity, was a pioneering historian of Christian missions and their reception, and in many ways the architect of the field of study now known as world Christianity. Trained as a patristic scholar at the University of Oxford, he went to Sierra Leone in 1957 to teach at Fourah Bay College. There and at the new University of Nsukka in Nigeria (1962–66) he studied the growing churches of Africa and their history.
At the University of Aberdeen where he taught between 1966 and 1986, he became a scholar of international renown, establishing the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World (now known as the Centre for the Study of World Christianity), and supervising many research students who became leaders in both church and academy. The Centre was established as a library and archival resource, documenting the history of missions and the growth of non-western Christianity: the students followed, attracted by the sources.
Matheus Reis é um Brasileiro-Americano, estudante de PhD no Centro para o Estudo do Cristianismo Mundial, Universidade de Edimburgo. Sua pesquisa se concentra no Protestantismo Brasileiro nos Estados Unidos.
Quantas vezes fizemos a pergunta, mas e eu? Em uma conversa recente com meu sobrinho sobre os protestos do Black Lives Matter (As Vidas Negras Importam), que estão ocorrendo em resposta ao assassinato de George Floyd, conversamos sobre o quão difícil essa frase havia se tornado para algumas pessoas, e como a primeira reação delas ao ouvirem alguém dizer “Black lives matter” havia sido se perguntarem: mas e eu? A minha vida não importa? Mas todas as vidas não importam?
Matheus Reis is a Brazilian-American PhD student at the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh. His research focuses on Brazilian Protestantism in the United States.
How many times have we asked the question, but what about me? In a recent conversation with my nephew about the Black Lives Matter protests over the killing of George Floyd, we talked about how difficult this phrase had become to some people, and how their first reaction to hearing someone say Black lives matter was, what about me? Does my life not matter? Don’t all lives matter? I was reminded of a well-known Bible story about the prodigal son, who squandered his father’s inheritance on a life of mistakes, but who also came to his senses, returned home, and received his father’s forgiveness. This story tells us primarily about God’s amazing grace that is able to look past our mistakes, forgive us of our sins, and to restore our lives no matter what we have done. However, inside this story, we find another character whose outlook on life is very similar to many of us, the older brother, and whom we can learn from.
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: