The academic field of World Christianity, as we know it today, owes no small debt to the Yale–Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission (formerly known as the Yale–Edinburgh Group in the History of Missions and World Christianity). The term ‘World Christianity’ itself has much earlier vintage. It arose from within the ecumenical movement of the first half of the twentieth century and, as such, reflected the twin imperatives of unity and mission. However, the term fell out of use until the 1990s. It was at the inaugural Yale–Edinburgh Conference in 1992 when the term ‘World Christianity’ was again deployed, this time as the conference theme, ‘From Christendom to World Christianity’. That first meeting was held on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America. As Dana Robert recalls, it signified ‘a postcolonial stance of moving beyond European Christendom of the old [Kenneth Scott] Latourette approach to mission history’ that focused on the geographic expansion of Christianity, ‘to that of indigenous initiative and Christianity as a multicultural religion not tied to one hemisphere’. Started by former colleagues Andrew F. Walls and Lamin Sanneh, holding meetings at their respective institutions, the Yale–Edinburgh Group became a seminal discursive space for a postcolonial approach to mission history. It also brought to light the importance of documenting and preserving historical archival collections associated with Christianity as a worldwide phenomenon.
The history of the missions is complex and fraught. Though modern missions began with European colonialism, the outcome was a largely non-Western global Christianity. Highly esteemed scholar Andrew Walls explores every facet of the movement, including its history, theory, and future.
Walls locates the birth of the Protestant missionary movement in the West with the Puritans and Pietists and their efforts to convert the Native Americans they displaced. Tracing the movement into the twentieth century, Walls shows how colonialism and missionary work turned out to be essentially incompatible. Missionaries must live on another culture’s terms, and their goal—the establishment of churches of every nation—depends on accepting new, indigenous Christians as equals. Now that Christianity has become primarily an African, Latin American, and Asian religion rather than a European one, the dynamics of the church’s mission have transformed. Sensitive to this shift, Walls indicates new areas of listening to and learning from this new center of Christianity and speculates on the theological contributions from a truly global church.
Throughout his long and fruitful career, Walls told the story of missions as a dedicated Christian scholar, teacher, and mentor. Prior to his passing in 2021, he entrusted the editing of his lectures to his friends and students. The result of this labor of love, The Missionary Movement from the West is a must-read for scholars of missiology, world Christianity, and church history.
Women in World Christianity: Navigating Identities
Edited by Nuam Hatzaw and Jessie Fubara-Manuel
Leading Ghanaian theologian Mercy Amba Oduyoye describes theology without the inclusion of women as a one-winged bird – hindered and unable to soar to its full potential. In her opening address at the inaugural meeting of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (the Circle) in 1989, she contended that African theology needs to pay proper attention to women’s issues, experiences and theological reflections in order that it might be a two-winged theology that can take full flight. Oduyoye’s comments highlighted the pervasive omission of women’s voices within religious institutions and theological and religious studies literature. Despite women’s important and pivotal roles in these arenas, their contributions, perspectives and needs have gone consistently underplayed, or been otherwise dismissed.
In the new year, we begin our next semester of research seminars. Seminars will be held fortnightly on Tuesday afternoons in the Elizabeth Templeton Room, and hybrid on Zoom. Please direct queries to Alexander.Chow@ed.ac.uk.