Studies in World Christianity 26.3

The COVID-19 Pandemic and World Christianity

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic will, for generations to come, constitute a point of reference for many endeavours, issues and social institutions, including religion. Some of the most public responses to the pandemic have been of a religious nature. The pandemic has also obviously affected our understanding of world Christianity and its contextual expressions and responses, especially in the face of the enigma of evil. Historically speaking, the pandemic has permanently inserted itself into how the Christian life is lived and expressed. It struck at a time on the Christian calendar when Christians worldwide were preparing to celebrate the major landmarks of the faith – Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost.

In non-Western contexts in particular, these historical Christian events occasion major celebrations in various church activities with some of them culminating in social gatherings in the holidays associated with the Crucifixion and the Resurrection in particular. In some parts of Europe where traditional church services are no longer the norm, the Monday after Pentecost is a public holiday. Whether these Christian landmarks were to be celebrated in religious services, Masses or as social gatherings, the coronavirus ensured that in-person meetings had to be aborted. In many cases, media technology of various sorts came to the rescue as churches and their leaders looked for innovative ways in which to stay in touch with the faithful.

We have dedicated this and the next issues of Studies in World Christianity to the study of how select Christian churches and communities from different continental contexts responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly regarding church services. Religion is itself a mediated phenomenon, and modern media technology has evolved as a major means of religious practice. In virtually all the studies relating to the church and the coronavirus scourge, media technology had to play a critical role in religious mediation and communion. The spread of COVID-19 led to the cancellation of events, negatively affected economics, disrupted political and social life and, most importantly for our purposes, religious life as well. When such negativities strike in terms of affliction, people search for answers. The Christian religious context, on account of its promises of salvation and deliverance from evil, became one of the main sources of appeal as people sought to make sense out of the pandemic situation.

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Online Index of Studies in World Christianity

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.

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Studies in World Christianity 25.3

With this issue, the journal Studies in World Christianity completes twenty-five years of existence. Launched at the beginning of 1995 to be an ‘international forum for a dialogue of equals’ on the study of ‘theology and the science of religion’, this journal has pioneered and defined the interdisciplinary subfield of World Christianity. Today World Christianity has established itself as an important discourse that examines Christianity as a world religion, with scholars from across the globe. It also recognises the limitations of the world religion paradigm and uses the studies of Christianity in diverse localities and Christianity melded into other religious traditions to critique the way in which world religions are often viewed.

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Studies in World Christianity 24.2

It is a truism to state that Christianity has spread across the world as a result of cross-cultural communication. Andrew Walls, who has done so much to set the approach, research questions and tone of World Christianity studies, has highlighted how scripture and Christian thought are translated into new languages and thought-forms as Christianity spreads. Walls, who celebrates his ninetieth birthday this year, has encouraged attention to the historical processes at work in communication that are examined in this edition of Studies in World Christianity. Between them, the articles in this edition illustrate the variety of form and effectiveness of cross-cultural communication in the modern history of encounter with Christianity. They also show familiar patterns. All these articles prioritise textual and oral communication. Reading, writing, preaching and proclaiming are the main modes of communication under scrutiny. (Continue reading Emma Wild-Wood’s introduction here.) Continue reading