Migration, Diaspora and Return
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