Alexander Duff Lectureship

Alexander Duff Lectureship

Alexander Duff (1806–1878)

Alexander Duff was the first official missionary of the Church of Scotland, sailing for Calcutta in 1829. He put his focus on higher education and had great influence in Bengal and throughout India, not only among those who became Christians but in the development of the whole educational system. Along with all but one of the missionaries of the Church of Scotland in Bengal, he adhered with the new Free Church in 1843 and built a parallel structure in Calcutta, but continued to work cooperatively with the new Church of Scotland colleagues sent out to serve in Calcutta after the split. He returned to Scotland in 1849 to take up what has been described as the first Chair of Missiology to be established anywhere in the world – at New College in Edinburgh. 

After his death in 1878, using the proceeds of his personal property which he had instructed to be used for this purpose, his son, William Pirie Duff, and daughter, Rebecca Jane (Duff) Watson, established in his memory this series of lectures and were active in choosing the lecturers to continue their father’s interests and to ensure ‘full justice was done to his very strong and earnestly held Evangelical sentiments’ (Trust Deed, 30 June, 1879).  

Originally it functioned rather like a visiting professorship with the lecturer in residence for several months over a four-year period, repeating the lectures in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Trust Deed allows for a broad range of interests with the lecturer at liberty to choose their own topic, ‘such subject being within the range of Foreign Missions and cognate subjects.’ 

For some reason the lectureship stopped in 1966, and it was not until 1987 that the series was reorganised, with the Church of Scotland working in association with the Centre for Christianity in the Non-Western World, now the Centre for the Study of World Christianity. Kwame Bediako of Ghana was the first lecturer under the new arrangements, which has consisted of one lecture, delivered in Edinburgh and sometimes in Glasgow, with the aspiration that it would be published subsequently. 

There has been a distinguished series of lecturers over the years, e.g. A. T. Pierson, James Stewart, R. E. Speer, J. H. Oldham, V. S. Azariah, A. G. Hogg, Stephen Neill, James S. Stewart, M. M. Thomas up until 1966, and since the re-organisation, Kwame Bediako, Jyoti Sahi (plus a 24-canvas exhibition), Naim Ateek, Vinoth Ramachandra, Tinyiko Maluleke, Dana Roberts, James Tengatenga, Kwok Pui Lan and Ruth Padilla DeBorst.

Ian W Alexander, Church of Scotland


YearNameCountryTitle of Lecture
1880Thomas SmithScotland/IndiaMediæval Missions
1887William Fleming StevensonScotlandThe Dawn of the Modern Mission
1889Monier Monier-WilliamsIndia/EnglandBuddhism
1894A. T. PiersonUSAThe New Acts of the Apostles
1897John Marshall LangScotlandThe Expansion of the Christian Life
1903James StewartSouth Africa/ScotlandDawn in the Dark Continent
1905John Murray MitchellIndia/ScotlandThe Great Religions of India
1910Robert E. SpeerUSAChristianity and the Nations
1930Charles H. BrentCanada/USA/PhilippinesThe Commonwealth: Its Foundations and Pillars
1924James Nicoll OgilvieScotlandOur Empire’s Debt to Missions
1926Patrick Johnson MacLagan Chinese Religious Ideas
1933J. H. OldhamEnglandThe Christian Message in the New Era (Unpublished)
1937Diedrich WestermannGermanyAfrica and Christianity
1940V. S. AzariahIndia(Undelivered due to World War II)
1947A. G. HoggIndia/ScotlandThe Christian Message to the Hindu
1949Arthur Mitchell Chirgwin The Decisive Decade
1956James S. StewartScotlandThine is the Kingdom
1959Stephen NeillIndia/ScotlandCreative Tensions
1963James W. C. DougallScotlandChristians in the African Revolution
1966M. M. ThomasIndiaThe Christian Response to the Asian Revolution
1988Kwame BediakoGhanaChristianity as a non-western religion
1993Jyoti SahiIndiaArt and Mission in the Indian Context: Sources of conflict and also creative dialogue (Plus a 24-canvas exhibition)
2000Naim AteekJerusalemPalestinian Christians: Between Politics, Fundamentalism, and Justice
2004Vinoth RamachandraIndiaGlobal Religious Transformations, Political Vision and Christian Integrity
2006Tinyiko MalulekeSouth AfricaOf Lions and Rabbits: The Role of The Church in Reconciliation in South Africa
2010Dana RobertsUSACross-Cultural Friendship in the Creation of Twentieth-Century World Christianity
2013James TengatengaMalawiBicentenary of the birth of David Livingstone
2017Kwok Pui LanUSA/Hong KongWomen, Mission, and World Christianity
2021Ruth Padilla DeBorstCosta RicaFleeing the hot spots: Climate change, migration and mission
2023Stan Chu IloUSA/NigeriaCosmic Flourishing: An Ubuntu Ethics of Creation, Collective Ownership and Responsibility; Ecological Conversion as Missionary Conversion: A Spirituality of Stewardship for Cosmic Flourishing

Recent Posts

Studies in World Christianity 30.1

Creation and Climate Change

The June 2023 meeting of the Yale—Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission was held in Edinburgh with hybrid hubs in Nairobi, Singapore and São Paulo. The topic for the conference, ‘Creation, Climate Change, and World Christianity’, brought together a dynamic conversation which had a surprisingly strong theological and ethical tone around the two keywords: creation and climate change. The first is a theological concept, since it assumes that something or someone enacted the work of creating. Hence, many Christians declare in the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed a belief in a God who is ‘Creator of Heaven and Earth’. Yet, these same Christians often appear to focus more on the heavenly realm than on the earthly realm. Furthermore, the popularity of theologies of domination over creation have led some to agree with Lynn White’s assessment that ‘Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.’ It cannot be overstated how essential any discussion about creation must consider the rapid climate change that challenges and disrupts the lives of humans and all other creatures which call this planet home. This demands a historical account of how we arrived at this crisis and asks what we can or should do about the situation – a matter of ethics.

Continue reading
  1. Yale-Edinburgh 2024 – Call for Papers Leave a Reply
  2. Research Seminars, 2024–2025 (Semester 2) Leave a Reply
  3. The Life and Death of Eric Liddell and the Rebirth of Chinese Christianity Leave a Reply