Alexander Duff Lectureship

Alexander Duff Lectureship

Alexander Duff (1806–1878)

Alexander Duff was the first official missionary of the Church of Scotland, sailing for Calcutta in 1829. He put his focus on higher education and had great influence in Bengal and throughout India, not only among those who became Christians but in the development of the whole educational system. Along with all but one of the missionaries of the Church of Scotland in Bengal, he adhered with the new Free Church in 1843 and built a parallel structure in Calcutta, but continued to work cooperatively with the new Church of Scotland colleagues sent out to serve in Calcutta after the split. He returned to Scotland in 1849 to take up what has been described as the first Chair of Missiology to be established anywhere in the world – at New College in Edinburgh. 

After his death in 1878, using the proceeds of his personal property which he had instructed to be used for this purpose, his son, William Pirie Duff, and daughter, Rebecca Jane (Duff) Watson, established in his memory this series of lectures and were active in choosing the lecturers to continue their father’s interests and to ensure ‘full justice was done to his very strong and earnestly held Evangelical sentiments’ (Trust Deed, 30 June, 1879).  

Originally it functioned rather like a visiting professorship with the lecturer in residence for several months over a four-year period, repeating the lectures in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Trust Deed allows for a broad range of interests with the lecturer at liberty to choose their own topic, ‘such subject being within the range of Foreign Missions and cognate subjects.’ 

For some reason the lectureship stopped in 1966, and it was not until 1987 that the series was reorganised, with the Church of Scotland working in association with the Centre for Christianity in the Non-Western World, now the Centre for the Study of World Christianity. Kwame Bediako of Ghana was the first lecturer under the new arrangements, which has consisted of one lecture, delivered in Edinburgh and sometimes in Glasgow, with the aspiration that it would be published subsequently. 

There has been a distinguished series of lecturers over the years, e.g. A. T. Pierson, James Stewart, R. E. Speer, J. H. Oldham, V. S. Azariah, A. G. Hogg, Stephen Neill, James S. Stewart, M. M. Thomas up until 1966, and since the re-organisation, Kwame Bediako, Jyoti Sahi (plus a 24-canvas exhibition), Naim Ateek, Vinoth Ramachandra, Tinyiko Maluleke, Dana Roberts, James Tengatenga, Kwok Pui Lan and Ruth Padilla DeBorst.

Ian W Alexander, Church of Scotland


YearNameCountryTitle of Lecture
1880Thomas SmithScotland/IndiaMediæval Missions
1887William Fleming StevensonScotlandThe Dawn of the Modern Mission
1889Monier Monier-WilliamsIndia/EnglandBuddhism
1894A. T. PiersonUSAThe New Acts of the Apostles
1897John Marshall LangScotlandThe Expansion of the Christian Life
1903James StewartSouth Africa/ScotlandDawn in the Dark Continent
1905John Murray MitchellIndia/ScotlandThe Great Religions of India
1910Robert E. SpeerUSAChristianity and the Nations
1930Charles H. BrentCanada/USA/PhilippinesThe Commonwealth: Its Foundations and Pillars
1924James Nicoll OgilvieScotlandOur Empire’s Debt to Missions
1926Patrick Johnson MacLagan Chinese Religious Ideas
1933J. H. OldhamEnglandThe Christian Message in the New Era (Unpublished)
1937Diedrich WestermannGermanyAfrica and Christianity
1940V. S. AzariahIndia(Undelivered due to World War II)
1947A. G. HoggIndia/ScotlandThe Christian Message to the Hindu
1949Arthur Mitchell Chirgwin The Decisive Decade
1956James S. StewartScotlandThine is the Kingdom
1959Stephen NeillIndia/ScotlandCreative Tensions
1963James W. C. DougallScotlandChristians in the African Revolution
1966M. M. ThomasIndiaThe Christian Response to the Asian Revolution
1988Kwame BediakoGhanaChristianity as a non-western religion
1993Jyoti SahiIndiaArt and Mission in the Indian Context: Sources of conflict and also creative dialogue (Plus a 24-canvas exhibition)
2000Naim AteekJerusalemPalestinian Christians: Between Politics, Fundamentalism, and Justice
2004Vinoth RamachandraIndiaGlobal Religious Transformations, Political Vision and Christian Integrity
2006Tinyiko MalulekeSouth AfricaOf Lions and Rabbits: The Role of The Church in Reconciliation in South Africa
2010Dana RobertsUSACross-Cultural Friendship in the Creation of Twentieth-Century World Christianity
2013James TengatengaMalawiBicentenary of the birth of David Livingstone
2017Kwok Pui LanUSA/Hong KongWomen, Mission, and World Christianity
2021Ruth Padilla DeBorstCosta RicaFleeing the hot spots: Climate change, migration and mission
2023Stan Chu IloUSA/NigeriaCosmic Flourishing: An Ubuntu Ethics of Creation, Collective Ownership and Responsibility; Ecological Conversion as Missionary Conversion: A Spirituality of Stewardship for Cosmic Flourishing

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Yale-Edinburgh 2024 – Call for Papers

Spirit and the Spiritual:
Ancestors, Deities and the Holy Spirit in Church, and Mission
26th-28th June 2024 ‧ Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT ‧ #YaleEdin2024
Proposals due 15th February 2024

Yale-Edinburgh Group

Missions from the West brought Christianity into worlds with a wide array of cosmologies. Recipient cultures embraced Christian faith while negotiating differing perspectives of spiritual realities. The subsequent transition from missionary Christianity to indigenous faith produced a range of responses to the notion of ‘spiritual beings.’ Through mission, Christianity encountered traditional religions which venerated ancestors, revered spiritual beings, and navigated intricate relationships between deities in a world far more complex than the typical Western experience. From Korea to Brazil, Nigeria to Samoa, France to India – these multifaceted cosmologies continue to animate the Christian experience producing dynamic expressions of the faith. Movements of the Holy Spirit represent another dimension of Christianity. A wide range of pneumatic Christianities populate the long history of Christian expansion around the world.

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