Most of the notices and obituaries of Billy Graham, who died on 21 February 2018, have focused on his significance for Christianity in the United States. Dubbed ‘America’s pastor’ by President George H. W. Bush in 2007, Graham seemed to be the quintessential American preacher – handsome, dapper, eloquent, uncompromising in his presentation of the gospel, and apparently quite untroubled by modern questions about the reliability of the Bible. He was on first-name terms with a string of American presidents from Eisenhower to Obama. He was also a typical product of the Bible belt in the American south. At first he accepted racial segregation, even in Christian meetings, as a fact of life and his relationship with the civil rights movement – notably with Martin Luther King – was at times a fractious one. Continue reading
Spirits of Nationalism, Power and Prophecy
The four articles published in this issue cover a wide range of geographical contexts – Manchuria and Korea, the colonial Gold Coast (modern Ghana) and London, Sierra Leone, and Rwanda. They also embrace a variety of themes that occur with some frequency in the story of world Christianity over the last century or more – the disruptive or catalytic impact on Western missions and indigenous churches of nationalism and communism, the historical origins and contested influence within the public sphere of Pentecostal styles of Christianity, the significance of migrant churches, and the ambiguous role of the Church in promoting reconciliation following the disaster of ethnic conflict in which too many Christians remained silent. If there is a common thread linking all four articles together, it is the dynamic power for good or ill wielded by new movements that previous generations of Christians would have struggled to recognise or incorporate within their worlds of understanding. Continue reading
Missionary Eyes and Indigenous Eyes
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 October 2015, the Centre’s Prof. Brian Stanley offered a public lecture at Honam Theological University Seminary, hosted by its president Rev. Dr Young Sang Ro, commemorating the centennial of the death of the important Scottish missionary to Manchuria who produced the first Protestant Bible in Korean, John Ross (1842-1915).