Studies in World Christianity 29.3

Theological Negotiations in World Christianity

In the last issue, Studies in World Christianity highlighted several papers presented at the 2022 annual conference of the Yale–Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission. The journal took stock of three decades since the group’s first meeting in 1992, which has since been instrumental in ushering into existence the field of ‘World Christianity’. As was noted in that issue’s editorial, this new academic endeavour had at its origins a postcolonial posture which moved away from a Christendom paradigm of expansion and conquest towards a new paradigm of indigenous initiative and Christianity’s polycentric and multicultural manifestations. Hence, World Christianity is not a shorthand for idiosyncratic expressions of Christianity ‘out there’, as is often (mis)understood. Rather, it is the dynamic nature of a worldwide religion that experiences encounter and contestation, continuity and discontinuity, growth and decline.

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Studies in World Christianity 29.2

World Christianity: Retrospect and Prospect

The academic field of World Christianity, as we know it today, owes no small debt to the Yale–Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission (formerly known as the Yale–Edinburgh Group in the History of Missions and World Christianity). The term ‘World Christianity’ itself has much earlier vintage. It arose from within the ecumenical movement of the first half of the twentieth century and, as such, reflected the twin imperatives of unity and mission. However, the term fell out of use until the 1990s. It was at the inaugural Yale–Edinburgh Conference in 1992 when the term ‘World Christianity’ was again deployed, this time as the conference theme, ‘From Christendom to World Christianity’. That first meeting was held on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in America. As Dana Robert recalls, it signified ‘a postcolonial stance of moving beyond European Christendom of the old [Kenneth Scott] Latourette approach to mission history’ that focused on the geographic expansion of Christianity, ‘to that of indigenous initiative and Christianity as a multicultural religion not tied to one hemisphere’. Started by former colleagues Andrew F. Walls and Lamin Sanneh, holding meetings at their respective institutions, the Yale–Edinburgh Group became a seminal discursive space for a postcolonial approach to mission history. It also brought to light the importance of documenting and preserving historical archival collections associated with Christianity as a worldwide phenomenon.

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The Missionary Movement from the West

We are very pleased to announce the posthumous publication of Andrew Walls’s forthcoming work, The Missionary Movement from the West (Eerdmans, October 2023), edited by Brian Stanley.


The history of the missions is complex and fraught. Though modern missions began with European colonialism, the outcome was a largely non-Western global Christianity. Highly esteemed scholar Andrew Walls explores every facet of the movement, including its history, theory, and future.

Walls locates the birth of the Protestant missionary movement in the West with the Puritans and Pietists and their efforts to convert the Native Americans they displaced. Tracing the movement into the twentieth century, Walls shows how colonialism and missionary work turned out to be essentially incompatible. Missionaries must live on another culture’s terms, and their goal—the establishment of churches of every nation—depends on accepting new, indigenous Christians as equals. Now that Christianity has become primarily an African, Latin American, and Asian religion rather than a European one, the dynamics of the church’s mission have transformed. Sensitive to this shift, Walls indicates new areas of listening to and learning from this new center of Christianity and speculates on the theological contributions from a truly global church.

Throughout his long and fruitful career, Walls told the story of missions as a dedicated Christian scholar, teacher, and mentor. Prior to his passing in 2021, he entrusted the editing of his lectures to his friends and students. The result of this labor of love, The Missionary Movement from the West is a must-read for scholars of missiology, world Christianity, and church history.

Lived Theology: Qualitative Data and Theology in World Christianity

On November 10, 2020, the Centre hosted a panel discussion around the intersection of qualitative and theological approaches to the study of world Christianity. We were glad to have with us Dr Easten Law (OMSC), Dr Diane Stinton (Regent College), and Dr Muthuraj Swamy (Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide), and moderated by Dr Alexander Chow (University of Edinburgh). Topics ranged from personal interests in qualitative approaches to the study of theology, the knotty relationship between “elite” and “lived” theologies, and the value of such an approach to the study of the worldwide phenomenon of Christianity.

If you are unable to access the video above from YouTube, you can also try watching it from the University of Edinburgh’s Media Hopper service.