"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Christianity is African.

You may have heard the thesis: The "center of gravity" in Christianity is moving South. Stories abound of Africans in the Anglican denomination resisting the liberalization in the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion. In the public mind, this thesis gained popularity in the works of Philip Jenkins, namely his work The Next Christendom, and his newer work New Faces of Christianity. One of my favorite stories from the later book tells of an African and American bishop sitting down for a Bible study over the issue of homosexuality. Finally the African bishop exclaimed in disbelief: "If you don't believe the Bible, why did you bring it to us?!"

The statement above displays a common misconception of African Christianity, even by some products of Western missions. Lesser known scholar Andrew Walls fills in some gaps. He was recently interviewed by Christianity Today as the "most important person you don't know." His work is not limited to the strange contemporary events, but the long history of African Christianity. From the story of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts, Africa has not just played a secondary role in the grand Christian narrative, but, Walls argues, a primary part. Walls, an Oxford grad and professor, in a series of lectures delivered at DTS in 2003, lays out how all roads in the Christian narrative do not lead to Rome, and how African Christianity was the mind of early Christianity, the arms of the missionary movement throughout history, and, perhaps, the soul of future Christianity when "Envoys will come out of Egypt; [and] Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God"[Ps 68:31] Give a listen:

Part 1: Two Thousand Years in African Christian History

Part 2: A Tale of Three Continents

Part 3: Tales of the Unexpected

Part 4: Africa as Leader in World Missions

No comments: