World Christianity is a discourse about Christianity as a worldwide reality. It is not merely about the growing numbers of the faithful ‘out there’, juxtaposed against the falling numbers in the West. Part of the demographic changes of Christianity include the migration of peoples from the majority world to my world, next door. In a recent Ph.D. thesis on Christianity in Glasgow, where 126 Church of Scotland churches operate within the presbytery, 110 new churches were established between 2000 and 2016; of those new churches, 65 per cent primarily work with minority populations of African or Asian origins. Scholars may be quick to discuss the implications of the secularisation thesis or the so-called post-secular. But for those Christian communities on the ground, they may be more readily concerned with addressing practical needs related to migration, ‘integration’ into the dominant society, and negotiation of identities. From the first century until today, Christians have been a people on the move. However, another part of the picture is that changes in a given locale often happen irrespective of the Christians who have come or gone. As the four main articles in this issue of Studies in World Christianity demonstrate, such migratory and demographic patterns demonstrate how societies are rarely homogenous, but, in actuality, quite pluralistic.
Studies in World Christianity has been a pioneer in the academic field for over a quarter of a century. Undoubtedly, the journal reflects the idiosyncrasies of its various editors and its associated Centre for the Study of World Christianity. But more importantly, it has become a historical record of some of the major concerns in this important field. To make this easier to explore, we have recently produced a digital index of the journal.
Migration of Christianity, Christianity of Migration
Last week we had the privilege of having Professor Peter Phan, Ignacio Ellacuria Chair of Catholic Social Thought at Georgetown University, deliver the Cunningham Lectures in the School on the topic: Migration of Christianity, Christianity of Migration. The topic of migration is quite timely in today’s political discourse. Whether we speak of Syrian refugees in Europe or Central Americans being stopped at the US-Mexican border, with parents separated from children, it is hard not to encounter news around the so-called ‘migration crisis’. Phan’s lectures, however, argued that migration should not be disregarded as the latest left-wing fad, but deeply essential to Christianity and the Christian message. Continue reading →
Migration has featured as a major topic in contemporary social and political discourse. In Europe and North America, where many have lamented the decline of the church, much of this migration includes the waves of vibrant expressions of Christianity coming from peoples with origins in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Of course, the connection between the development of Christianity and the movement of people is nothing new. The book of Acts, for instance, narrates the early church’s trajectory from Jerusalem as the centre of Judaism to Rome as the centre of the Gentile world – the earliest ‘gravitational shift’ of Christianity. Luke describes the Day of Pentecost as the moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the believers, who were ‘devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem’ (Acts 2: 5, NRSV). These were Jewish believers from the diaspora who had returned and were then living in Jerusalem.
Much of Christian history is a story of the multidirectional movement of the faithful dispersed into new lands and returning to old lands. Continuing this theme, the four main articles in this issue were originally delivered at the 2017 meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on the history of the missionary movement and world Christianity, held at Yale Divinity School from 29 June to 1 July 2017. The theme of the conference was ‘Migration, Exile, and Pilgrimage in the History of Missions and World Christianity’. These papers narrate a story of Christianity as a worldwide phenomenon developed, negotiated and reconfigured through migration, diaspora and return. Continue reading →