Folks, something very, very good is happening in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with potential to impact the Christian Church worldwide. Two articles in a city newspaper explain:
KENTWOOD — Talking amid shelves of books in a warehouse littered with huge boxes of even more books, Kurt Berends offered one perspective on the work of the nonprofit organization he started four years ago: “We’re waste removal.”
Of course, that’s only half the story. The real magic of Theological Book Network comes in turning academic trash from U.S. libraries into treasure for under-resourced areas in other parts of the world.
The small but growing operation takes unwanted books from U.S. schools and ships them to schools in Africa, southeast Asia and eastern Europe. Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged Africa, Asia, Books, Calvin College, Eastern Europe, Grand Rapids Michigan, Kurt Berends, Latin America, libraries, Middle East, Theological Book Network, Theology
Today is the annual Collegiality Day of the Minnesota Consortium of Theological Schools. Luther Seminary‘s Paul S. Chung will present a reflection on changes in missions since the Edinburgh conference a century ago (“Mission today in light of the 1910 Edinburgh Conference.”) A number of folks will respond, including me. Though it will likely be trimmed a bit, my response will look something like this:
The successive “openings” of mission since Edinburgh
I hear in Dr. Chung’s paper a series of “openings” of world missions activity and thought since Mott and the 1910 meeting at Edinburgh. I want to review these briefly and then, as I am a historian, to illustrate them with a brief story from recent Christian history in the global south.
By the time of the 1952 Willingen missions conference, Karl Barth had sparked an opening or broadening from Edinburgh’s “pragmatic, purposeful, activist, impatient, self-confident, single-minded, and triumphalist” accent—in other words, its accent on human initiative—to a theological insistence that mission comes at the initiative of the Trinity. It is God who sends, and we who follow. Continue reading
Posted in Resources for Radical Living
Tagged Africa, Edinburgh, Ghana, global Christianity, Karl Barth, Kintampo, Lamin Sanneh, Lesslie Newbigin, Luther Seminary, missio dei, missions
How and why did Christianity explode on the African continent in the 20th century? The following is an interview I did with the late Dr. Ogbu Kalu of McCormick Seminary for Christian History & Biography’s “African Apostles” issue:
Anatomy of an Explosion
It’s an indelible image: the white missionary venturing into deepset Africa. But the real story is what happened when African converts relayed the gospel message in their own words.
an interview with Dr. Ogbu Kalu
Taking a close look at the explosion of Christianity in twentieth-century Africa, we meet a remarkable group of colonial-era (roughly 1890 to World War II) apostles who were born, grew up, and ministered in sub-Saharan Africa. We have been inspired and challenged by their stories. We hope you will be, too.
While the story of Christianity’s spread in Africa is nothing less than awesome, it is also nothing more than the work of God, who always uses the foolish things of a sin-scarred world as the building material for his body.
Western missions in colonial Africa proceeded by slow, painful steps. The missionaries’ best efforts were often hindered by cultural misunderstandings, economic abuses, political agendas, and racist presuppositions. While missionaries were picking their tortuous way through the colonial period, indigenous African evangelists and teachers exploded onto the scene like dynamite. Yes, they worked on the same confused, conflicted landscape as the missionaries. Nonetheless, something happened when the gospel was proclaimed under African sponsorship. It revolutionized the continent. Continue reading
We Westerners usually think about African Christianity (if we think about it at all) as something “over there”–pretty much irrelevant to our daily doings. A few years back that all changed, as Western Anglican was forced to reckon with this new force to be reckoned with:
Christian History Corner: The African Lion Roars in the Western Church
Anglican liberals are fretting, conservatives rejoicing, and all are scrambling to their history books: whence this new evangelical force on the world scene?
Eleven summers ago, the lion of African Anglicanism roared. Five years later, it bared its claws.
The summer of 1998 saw the every-ten-years Lambeth Conference of the worldwide Anglican communion absorbed with issues of human sexuality. At its meetings, African Anglicans led a campaign against the liberalizing of the church’s teachings on homosexuality. Continue reading
From issue #79 of Christian History & Biography, The African Apostles: Black Evangelists in Africa, this is the introductory bit:
The African Apostles: Did You Know?
The rapidity of Africa’s twentieth-century baptism was stunning. There’s no better place to see the future of the global church.
by Chris Armstrong and Collin Hansen
As of 1880, the vast majority of Africa remained mysterious, elusive, and untouched by the West. But by the turn of the century, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium, and Italy had carved up nearly every one of Africa’s 10 million square miles and divided a population of 110 million Africans, many of whom had no idea they were now “ruled” by ambassadors from another continent.
In 1900, there were 8 to 10 million Christians in Africa, which amounted to 8 to 10 percent of the total population. Today, there are 360 million—nearly 50 percent of the continent. Continue reading
Issue 79 of Christian History & Biography, titled The African Apostles: Black Evangelists in Africa, was one of the most challenging and rewarding for me to work on. As always, it immersed me in the literature of this topic. Here Collin Hansen and I share some of the best culled from the pile. If you get nothing else from this list, you owe it to yourself to click through to the first resource mentioned–the Dictionary of African Christian Biography. What an amazing set of accounts this is, of the little-known (in the West) pioneers of African Christianity, some of whom are still alive today:
Resources: Go Tell It!
Many are telling the continuing story of the African church. Here are some of the best renditions.
Collin Hansen & Chris Armstrong
When we study the history of the church in twentieth-century Africa, we come face to face with that most exciting, fluid, and sometimes confusing thing: history in the making. Many of the stories of African Christianity in this period are just now being told—or have yet to be told. That is why the first resource we are recommending in this issue is not a book but a website; the Dictionary of African Christian Biography, at http://www.dacb.org/. There you will find the stories of many Christian leaders from throughout African history, browsable by country or alphabetically. These are written by scholars, missionaries, and eyewitnesses. An occasionally uneven writing style does not diminish the importance of this record of the lives of Africa’s apostles, nor the fascination of the stories themselves. Continue reading
With charismatic gifts and miracles come abuse. It’s just like every other aspect of church life: Christians are still sinful, fleshly people, prone to use the things of God to forward their own agendas. In 2004, Nigerian authorities saw abuses within prominent television ministries in their country and moved to shut them down. What should we think about the high incidence of the miraculous in African countries? Should we dismiss it all as charlatanry? Or is God really doing physical miracles there?
Christian History Corner: Do Nigerian Miracle Ministries Discredit the Faith?
The spiritual dynamism of West African Christianity is now well known even in the West. Do credulity-stretching, highly publicized miracles discredit what God is doing in that region?
By Chris Armstrong
Recently Nigeria’s National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) issued a ban on the television broadcasting of miracles—specifically, those not “provable and believable” (though the NBC failed to provide guidelines for establishing proof). The ban is aimed at the many Pentecostal ministries in that country who air video of healing miracles to draw people to their meetings and to Christ.
My response to this sort of “news of the miraculous” in Africa is mixed. First, I get a small thrill—a little, inner voice saying “Yay!”—when I am reminded of how powerfully God has touched that continent, so that miracles of healing would become standard television fare. Second, I share in the skepticism that suspects some charismatic ministers broadcast such events—without adequately checking the genuineness of the “miracles”—to aggrandize their ministries and gain followers. Third, I am angry (with, I hope, a holy sort of anger) that the Devil continues, as he always has, to discredit by any means possible the work of the Holy Spirit—in this case, through exploiting the base motives of some leaders. Continue reading