Studies in World Christianity 26.1

Diversity and Difference

It perhaps goes without saying that World Christianity is diverse. In large part, this diversity comes from the multiplicity of cultural, religious and socio-political concerns of the majority world, which have raised new questions to pre-existing theologies and practices. Such differences exist not only between North and South, East and West, but also within the same locale – across the progress of time and diversity in visions of mission. Furthermore, these differences have often manifested themselves institutionally, through the proliferation of new church movements, often formed independent of established denominational structures.

This diversity has led some scholars to speak of ‘World Christianity’ in the plural, as World Christianities. Peter Phan has made the helpful observation that, of the nine volumes of The Cambridge History of Christianity, the last two volumes bear a subtitle with the words ‘World Christianities’. Phan notes that, whilst the editors and contributors of the two volumes do not explain what is meant by this formula, it supposedly helps to note the catholicity (‘world’) and diversity (‘Christianities’) represented by the last two centuries of the history of Christianity. Undoubtedly, this catholicity and diversity has been true of Christianity ever since the New Testament church added to its number both Jews and Gentiles. Yet the last two centuries have offered new conditions in the majority world, which have opened up even more possibility of difference.

Of the five articles in this issue on the topic, the first three are revisions of papers delivered at the Yale—Edinburgh conference held at Yale Divinity School in June 2019, entitled ‘Diversity and Difference in Custom, Belief, and Practice in the History of Missions and World Christianity’. Together they demonstrate the strength found in the diversity and difference throughout World Christianity.

Yale–Edinburgh 2019 Articles

Other Articles

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About Alexander Chow

Alexander Chow is a Chinese American, born and raised in Southern California. He completed his PhD in theology at the University of Birmingham, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Renmin University of China, where he was doing research in Chinese Christianity and teaching in the School of Liberal Arts, and joined the University of Edinburgh in September 2013. He is also co-director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity and co-editor of Studies in World Christianity.

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