Pope Francis Africa Visit: Reflections for NPCCs in Africa

Pope Francis emphases on his first visit to Africa in November 2015 are significant for World Christianity discourse on in at least two ways. The first is that it signals the importance of the next generation in the future growth of the church. Secondly it brings to the front burner the question of inter religious dialogue in the context of an increasingly religiously diverse global stage.PopeVisit2

In his visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African republic, Pope Francis made it a point to meet with and address young catholics and their leaders, both lay and clergy.i This was, in some ways, an acknowledgement that the future of the Catholic church depends on these young people. Some recent statistics support this. For instance, according to the “Catholic Church statistics” document, the number of catholics grew in Africa by 7 million in 2013.ii This constituted about 30% of total growth of catholics in the world in that year. This growth emerges from a continent that has, as its majority, young people.iii

Given this kind of growth of Catholicism in the world, and in Africa in particular, could we conclude that there is a catholic renewal underway on the continent? Before we answer this we make an observation from the statistics document. The number of catholics per priest reduced by 506 in Africa.iv Here we see that for the growth of the catholic church reflected in Africa, there has been a matching increase in the number of priests to cater for this growth, and even reduce the ratio. In this way, the Catholic movement is both growing in terms of its numbers, and in its leadership.

This document does not explain the reason for this growth in the numbers of catholics and their leaders. We would have to look elsewhere for clues to offer explanations for this. One possibility may be the Evangelical Renewal Movements [ERM] theory.v This theory proposes that religious renewal emerges out of an effort to resolve a problem with a new paradigm. The renewal movement develops mechanisms of transferring power to a new constituency of leaders who, through the new paradigms, carry the movement forward.vi ERM theory could be one framework that may explain the growth of numbers of Catholic priests in Africa.

PopeVisit1The growth of Catholicism in Africa has spurred on the increase in priests to whom the leadership role is transferred. While this not necessarily be the only explanation, it may well account for the improvement in the congregation to priest ratio, if we take Catholicism to be in renewal mode in Africa. Pope Francis’ emphasis on the youth is an acknowledgement of their role in the growth of the church. It is also a step towards securing the future of the church especially if it inspires engagement of the youth in lay and clergy leadership. The catholic church’s approach as a single focussed entity carries the advantage of galvanising the development and communication of a sustained agenda to remain relevant to the youth.

Pope Francis engaged in inter-religious dialogue in all the three countries he visited. His call was for peace and hope for the continent. The reality of religious pluralism in Africa has seen multiple flash-points of violence and societal upheaval in different parts of the continent. The Central African Republic recently experienced bloodshed and political unrest with a populace divided along religious lines. The Pope’s visit and his reception tangibly demonstrated the commitment of the Catholic church to inter-religious dialogue for the sake of peace and hope for the continent. His visit to a Mosque in CAR, for example, and the ensuing dialogue was a bold step in a new direction setting aside religious and theological differences to be present and available for dialogue.

Africa’s relationship with both Christianity and Islam is long and complex dating back to the very inception of both faiths. Anyone wishing to understand the relationship between Christianity and Islam in Africa must take into account historical, political, economic and cultural elements at play in different ways, in different parts of the continent. The more recent economic and political partitioning of Africa 150 years ago only served to increase these complexities. The relationship between South Sudan and Sudan, for instance, is not simply political or religious, it has interesting nuances of both. The now famous Boko Haram presence in Northern Nigeria and the surrounding region has religious, political and economic implications. Central African Republic’s unrest has both political and religious overtones. The war against Al Shabaab in Somalia involving Kenya and the horn of Africa region isn’t just religious, but also about political and cultural control. The Pope’s visit did not delve into the complexities but seemed to have been aimed at providing an avenue for dialogue through which these complexities can be addressed and hope for the continent reawakened.

Christianity in Africa is currently experiencing growth and renewal. While growth is being experienced in the Catholic church, researchers record and anticipate even more growth in the Newer Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches (NPCCs).vii The Pope’s emphasis on youth and inter-religious dialogue carries important points of reflection for these renewal movements.

Newer Pentecostal and Charismatic churches find their greatest growth potential in their appeal to the youth.viii In Africa, which is a young continent, a visit to any growing church will reveal a vibrant youth constituency who are highly engaged and motivated. NPCCs are often independent with loose affiliations, if any, with other similar churches. Can a coordinated, sustained agenda for youth be developed to safeguard the future of church in general? Is the independence and entrepreneurial nature of the NPCC an advantage in enabling the movement to remain relevant to the youth or is it a threat to the future? The Pope’s emphasis provides a unique place to continue dialogue and reflection on this.

The Catholic church’s ability to develop and deploy leaders for the movement is commendable. Data is not available on the rate of development and deployment of leaders in NPCCs. What we do know is that the theological institutions as centers for the recruitment, training and deployment of clergy among NPCCs are not multiplying leaders commensurate to the growth of these churches, if NPCC renewal is to be sustained over the long haul. There isn’t much evidence of significant resources set aside for this process. In this regard there is much to learn from the Catholic church.PopeVisit3

Much of the inter-religious dialogue within the evangelical circles has revolved around witness to the non-Christians.ix Peace building initiatives abound within the movements but by and large the formal discourse has centred around how the Gospel is incarnated within the context of relationship with a view to conversion.x Pope Francis visit highlighted the role of Christian active presence and the value of the Gospel for the pan-human values of peace and hope. While witness and evangelism are important, it seems like the Vatican’s emphasis had a broader agenda.xi

The fissile character of NPCCs may militate against a unified approach to inter-religious dialogue. What is required is a rediscovery of the power of a unified approach which, while affirming the centrality of evangelism, appreciates the need to address inter-religious conflict and its impact on Africa today. In this regard national, regional and continental associations that bring together NPCCs can begin to play an even more significant role in education and mobilization of such initiatives.

  1. Francis in Uganda: Truth, Justice Reconciliation,” Official Vatican Network, November 2015, http://www.news.va/en/news/francis-in-uganda-despite-our-different-beliefs-we; “Pope Francis’ Image Positive in Much of World,” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, November 2015, http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/12/11/pope-francis-image-positive-in-much-of-world/.
  2. Catholic Church Statistics” (Agenzia Fides, October 18, 2015), http://www.fides.org/eng/attachments/view/file/STATISTICHE_2015_englok.doc. This document was issued in October 2015, on the occasion of the annual World Mission Day celebrated on October 18, 2015.
  3. Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Ibrahim Forum 2013: Africa Ahead: The Next 50 Years (Addis Ababa: Mo Ibrahim Foundation, 2013); “UN World Youth Report,” United Nations World Youth Report, 2011, http://unworldyouthreport.org/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=10:conclusions&Itemid=131; “New Report Outlines Priorities to Address Africa’s Youth Employment Challenge,” Text/HTML, World Bank, accessed December 22, 2015, http://www.worldbank.org/en/region/afr/publication/new-report- outlines-priorities-to-address-africa-s-youth-employment-challenge; “Africa’s Youth: A ‘Ticking Time Bomb’ or an Opportunity?,” Africa Renewal Online: UN, accessed December 22, 2015, http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/may-2013/africa%E2%80%99s-youth-%E2%80%9Cticking- time-bomb%E2%80%9D-or-opportunity.
  4. Catholic Church Statistics.”
  5. Mark Shaw, Global Awakening: How 20th-Century Revivals Triggered a Christian Revolution (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2010), 17–28.
  6. Shaw, Global Awakening, 17–28.
  7. Todd Johnson, “The Global Demographics of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal,” Symposium: Global Perspectives on Pentecostalism 46, no. 6 (November 2009): 479–83, doi:10.1007/s12115-009- 9255-0; Todd Johnson and Peter F. Crossing, “Christianity 2013: Renewalists and Faith and Migration,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 37, no. 1 (2013): 32–33.
  8. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, “‘Born of Water and Spirit’: Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity in Africa,” in African Christianity: An African Story, ed. Ogbu Kalu (Pretoria: University of Pretoria, 2005), 401; Ogbu Kalu, African Pentecostalism: An Introduction (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 119ff; J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, “Of Faith and Visual Alertness: The Message of ‘Mediatized’ Religion in an African Pentecostal Context,” Material Religion 1, no. 3 (November 2005): 336–56.
  9. LOP 13 – Christian Witness to Muslims,” Lausanne Movement, accessed December 7, 2015, https://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-13; “LOP 14 – Christian Witness to Hindus,” Lausanne Movement, accessed December 7, 2015, https://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-14; “LOP 15 – Christian Witness to Buddhists,” Lausanne Movement, accessed December 7, 2015, https://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-15.
  10. LOP 31 The Uniqueness of Christ in a Postmodern World and the Challenge of World Religions,” Lausanne Movement, 2004, http://www.lausanne.org/content/lop/lop-31.
  11. Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue,”accessed December7,2015, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/interelg/index.htm.

Prof Bonk visits CWC to talk about DACB

The Centre for World Christianity, AIU, had the privilege of hosting Prof Jonathan Bonk from the Boston University on December 3rd, 2015. This visit came ahead of the annual advisory council meeting of the Dictionary of African Christian Bibliography (DACB), to be held this year at the Resurrection Gardens in Karen. Present at the CWC gathering was a contingent of Doctoral students and candidates from the University of Nairobi’s religious studies department, led by Prof J.N.K. Mugambi. During his visit, Prof Bonk shared the story of the DACB with the small group. The group engaged in a stimulating discussion about the project and possibilities for the future. Prof Bonk concluded the brief visit with a presentation of the latest up to date version of the project to the AIU Library for uploading to the online resources portal.
The DACB is a project to digitally document the biographies of the major creative and innovative figures in African christianity throughout history to the present. The project began in 1995 and is celebrating its 20th year in existence. The unique feature of this dictionary, which is its strength, lies in its emphasis on encouraging local data gathering and input. The material is generated locally and made available for free digitally online through its website – dacb.org.


News from the CWC: Kyama Mugambi

Kyama Mugambi is a PhD candidate at AIU at the Center for World Christianity, researching leadership in progressive pentecostal churches. He and his wife, Wambui, a lawyer, have three young girls. He was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya. Though he had an Anglican upbringing, he was not engaged in church until his college years. In his first year of undergraduate studies, he was introduced to the Nairobi chapel where he became involved with the music ministry in the early 1990’s. He says “This was when I found a community of faith that provided an opportunity to be involved and to grow in my faith.” After completing his undergraduate degree in Management he worked in business and as a music teacher before he joined the Nairobi Chapel as a full time staff member. He went on to undertake post-graduate studies in management and biblical studies. It was during this time God clarified his call and passion for young adults through church planting. Of this call he says, “I have seen many come to faith, new churches established and many leaders who have also been trained, empowered and deployed. I have a passion to see the next generation inspired towards hope and transformation, a big part of which will come through the planting of vibrant, relevant churches in urban centers.” In the last 11 years Kyama has been involved with church planting initiatives in 10 countries in Africa, as well as initiatives in Europe and North America. He has been serving as the Executive Pastor of Expansion at Mavuno Church where he was responsible for the training, deployment and oversight for church planting teams in 10 cities in Eastern and Southern Africa. “The need in my city, country and continent is for good churches led by good leaders – working to make Christ’s message accessible to all our people,” he says regarding his research topic. Kyama sees the Center for World Christianity as providing a vital link between the study of renewal movements and the churches themselves. He would like to see the story of the Church in Africa researched, and told by African pastors and scholars. He says, “The CWC at AIU provides a table around which scholars and church leaders will exchange their stories and ideas, as they consider what God is doing in Africa and around the world.” About his involvement with the CWC Kyama says “I’m excited about being a part of CWC because of the opportunity to engage my passion for church planting as I interact with and learn from two groups of people I love – academics and church leaders.”




Africa Instituted Churches in 21st Century

On Nov 11 2013, CWC hosted Rev Nicta Lubaale, the Secretary General of OAIC. He gave a Public Lecture on the relevance of AIC churches in 21st century Africa.
In November, CWC invited Rev Nicta Lubaale, Secretary General of OAIC to give a Public Lecture to the AIU community. He talked about the relevance of AIC churches in 21st century Africa.

A few weeks ago, the government of Kenya initiated a polio vaccination campaign after an outbreak was reported in one part of the country. One those evenings, media broadcast an encounter between health officers and members of Kanisa la Mungu (Church of God) in Nakuru county, an encounter of spirited resistance to the vaccination exercise. They claimed it is not God’s will for them or their children to take medicine. They rely on prayer and faith for divine protection against sickness. A newspaper also featured a more ominous account of Kavonokya movement where a number of children died from curable ailments. Their parents would not take them to hospital because their religious beliefs prohibit them. Who are these churches? Are they a stain on the landscape of the thriving African Christianity? What place do they have in the 21st century?

The “white garment or brightly colored churches” are among the least understood churches. They appear as a rather eccentric sight on Sunday mornings as they dance to the beat of drums in white, purple, blue or some other bright garb. Some set base at any open ground and hold a worship service. Their decrepit church structures are a more common sight in informal settlements. Kalu notes that there is a huge variety of them throughout Africa, but the familiar names are Aladura in Yoruba, meaning “the praying people”, the Abaroho in East Africa, meaning “people of the Spirit”, Zionists in South Africa, Sunsum Sore in Ghana, meaning “spirit worshipers”. “AICs”, representing “African Indigenous or Initiated or Instituted Churches” has become their descriptive term. What distinguishes them from other Christianities is embrace of certain elements of African culture, ritual practices, prophecy, apparent possession by the [Holy] Spirit and use of symbols; much of this is based on a privileged reading of the Old Testament.

According to theologian John Pobee, AICs have represented one of the cutting edge dynamics of the shift in gravity of world Christianity from the global north to the global South. From the middle of the 20th century, AICs attracted spirited research from many quarters. Significant works included Bengt Sundkler’s Bantu Prophet’s in south Africa; John Peel Aladura: A New Religious Movement Among the Yoruba; Harold Turner, The Church of the Lord Aladura among many others. More recently (2001), Allan Anderson has referred to the AICs as an African Reformation in his book by the same title. He sustains an argument that AICs have contributed significantly to the growth Christianity in Africa.

Akorino, an AIC groups in Kenya

Akorino, an AIC group in Kenya

For one, they have the longest history of indigenous innovation. They were the earliest to question missionary Christianity’s depiction of African culture. They sought innovative answers from the Old Testament on matters of ritual cleanliness, polygamy, rites of passage, use of symbols, relationships to ancestors and other issues. Long before theologians talked of inculturation, indigenization or contextualization, AICs affirmed that one could be both an African and a Christian. Kalu argues that AICs and Pentecostals are bedfellows, although the latter tends to criticize the former because of their embrace of aspects of African culture. He sees both movements for their innovative emphasis on the pneumatic dimension of Christianity, at once affirming the African primal worldview and biblical work of the Holy Spirit; it is only their approaches that tend to differ. Their differences notwithstanding, AICs are to Kalu the precursor of the current vibrancy of Pentecostalism.

Although academic research on them has fizzled, they persist as a feature of African Christianity. They are significant for their numbers. At the beginning of the 20th century, Pobee notes they were about 42,000. By 2000, there were 54 million. Current, The Organization of African Initiated Churches (OAIC) estimates that there are about 60 million AIC members throughout Africa. But they are also significant for another reason: They are found among the poorest of the poor in slums and rural areas.

A couple of months ago, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta whose religious roots are Catholic, participated in two noteworthy ceremonies of one of the larger AICs in central Kenya, the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA). One was the inauguration of Spiritual Leader Rev Amos Kabuthu. Flanked by government dignitaries, the President asked the church to complement the work of the government in building peace and unity. The other event was in opening Theological College of the AIPCA church. It sounded a bit like an oxymoron to mention AICs and theological college in the same breath, but AICs are adapting to the needs of the Mission of God in changing times.

OAIC LogoThe OAIC (http://www.oaic.org/) is the umbrella organization that is helping these churches find their footing in 21st century Africa. OAIC seeks to strengthen beliefs that simultaneously affirm Africanness (the vision of the founders), while leading them to develop more mainstream evangelical theology centered on the cross of Christ and deeper engagement with scripture. To this end OAIC networks the churches and also seeks to reduce tensions with other forms of Christianity. They do this through theological training of AIC church leaders. OAIC is also mobilizing AICs to engage sociopolitical realities. They conduct workshop among AIC church communities to raise awareness issues of inequalities and political injustices. One important initiative concerns healthcare, where they train church communities to integrate their beliefs with modern medicine. As their members tend to come from the poorest of the poor, they also equip communities to start projects that can improve livelihoods.

CWC hosted Rev Nicta Lubaale to give a public lecture at on AICs at Africa International University. In his concluding remarks, he called on mainstream Christians and theologians to acknowledge the biases that have evolved around AICs. These have isolated them as “the other”, God’s less favored sibling of African Christianity so to say. There are two choices: we could bemusedly spectate their altercations with the modern world. Or perhaps like the president of Kenya with the AIPCA, it is time to call a truce to our biases,  sit at a round table and open the gifts that each brings to the Mission of God in Africa.


“The Currencies of Contextual Missions”

A Class with Oscar Muriu,  Senior Pastor of Nairobi Chapel in Nairobi, Kenya

Oscar Muriu
In June 2013, Prof Diane Stinton brought five ladies from Regent College in Vancouver to CWC-AIU for a theological exchange class. Besides other experiences, the class met Christian leaders who are on the cutting edge of ministry, one of whom was Oscar Muriu. Oscar is the senior pastor of Nairobi Chapel, a church that grew from 20 people in 1989 to over 3000 people in 2000. In 2005,  Chapel divided into five churches and spread around city and now has a combined membership of more than 14000 people. Besides his leadership at Chapel, Oscar has traveled and spoken widely in churches and conferences around the world. He gave a very rich lesson to Diane’s class which we have decided to share with our CWC networks. His talk was a response to the question, “What must one be aware of to engage in contextual ministry in Africa?”

Relational Economy as the currency of ministry:  Ministry, as with most business in Africa is all about a relationships. In the West, time and money are the currency on which the economy runs. Choice, individual rights and personal boundaries are valued, and the culture is assertive and direct. To effectively engage in ministry in the African context, the most important thing to understand is the value and nature of relationships. People become involved in projects and make, or don’t make, commitments because of relationships they have built, or burned. Face-to-face leveraging is vital to get things done. Efficiency and productivity are not the primary influences in decision making. Money is not the primary influence in decision making, even in some business transactions. Decisions are made with the necessity of maintaining, building and preserving relationships in mind. The relational economy produces a shame-based culture in which the worst offense one could make would be to shame someone. When someone has taken the time to reach out and share something important with you, to reject it would be to shame that person.

Africans usually take a posture of poverty when in conversation with people from western culture, because the western standard of wealth is money. But don’t let that fool you. African culture still holds great beauty and contains wealth that is difficult to find in the West, such as the emphasis on relationships over time and money. One’s networks of extended family and friends are more valuable to kingdom work that cash because these can be depended on. Acknowledging, respecting and capitalizing on these alternative riches that Africa has to offer is key to effective ministry on the continent. Money is important but has less currency on how things get done here.

Powerlessness embedded in a history of domination: Pastor Oscar believes that Africans don’t speak out against grave injustices in their society and culture because of the pervasive sense of powerlessness that is the legacy of the colonial enterprise. African countries began gaining independence from colonial powers in the 1950s and 1960s. However, a deeply scarred and wounded culture lingers across the continent. The empire mentality of colonialism, compounded by the long-lasting effects of the Atlantic slave trade, left a sense of inferiority in the African psyche that will take time to change. Oscar sees this sense of inferiority as so deeply engrained that many Africans will look down on their own African values or products while they embrace what comes from other cultures outside of Africa, particularly the west. “You hear Kenyans say things like, ‘if you want a job well done, give it to a mzungu, give it to a while man’.”

That said, Oscar puts the dysfunction in African society in perspective by comparing it to the state of affairs in a country such as the USA. Most countries in Africa have only been independent for roughly fifty years, some less. The USA has had two hundred years, and yet it still has lots of issues! It is not fair to compare African countries as they exist today to Western countries. They are not historically at par. In fact, most African countries have done very well by western standards. For instance, the USA took over one hundred and fifty years to officially end racial (ethnic) bias. Even so, race relations are still thorny in America. One should evaluate some of the conflicts in Africa from this perspective. The same applies to other issues, such as economics, politics and so on. If Africa which has just had decades to get itself together is judged based on the state of Western countries, that is not an equal measure. Give us a break.

Acknowledging the history of powerlessness in African society is vital in one’s approach in ministry. A Western Christian arriving in Africa could easily perceive a seemingly inferior attitude as incompetence or unintelligence. Such a one then takes a dominant and authoritative attitude over those he or she is working with. It takes a conscious effort to humble yourself, to avoid accepting the position of superiority and to submit yourself to local leadership.

Generations of Christians

Pastor Oscar identifies three generations of Christians in Africa, who are the legacy of the modern missionary movement in Africa.

The first was the missionary generation, which has now largely passed away, evangelized by missionaries. They were taught to be compliant and to value whatever was presented by the Western Church as ideal. Missionary churches were Western replicas, a sentiment that still lingers in some mainline churches in Africa today though not in all. African expressions of worship were rejected as pagan, and so cultural expressions were exclusively Western.

The next generation, the children of the missionary generation lived in a time of increasing nationalism and great hope for independence. Christians from this generation began incorporating African styles of worship into their faith, and reclaiming their cultural roots. These changes were embraced and nurtured in movements such as the East Africa Revival, but were rejected by the missionary generation which still held onto church leadership positions as fellowships and prayer meetings. Eventually most of them evolved into churches that became thriving Pentecostal churches such as deliverance church in Kenya. At the same time, the more elite class rejected the white missionary and the colonial enterprise; there was a massive departure from the church after countries began gaining independence. Many maintained institutional affiliation but not devotion so everyone will tick on a form that they are Christians but can remember the last time they went to church.

The Uhuru generation was born after independence, and so they have not experienced colonialism firsthand. They have adopted a more moderate view than the previous generation; without wholesale acceptance of the missionaries of the colonial period, they choose to accept much of what the previous generation had turned its back on in its widespread rejection of anything Western. The “Children of Uhuru” have begun to process the history and cultural experiences of the previous generations, and to discern what is valuable and what needs to be rejected as cultural imperialism. They embrace their Africanness and have filled the airwaves with popular African Christian music and movies. Contextualisation has became a hot topic in Christian circles as this generation discerns what needs to be rejected from traditional African culture and what should to be accepted or reclaimed.  There is an upcoming 4th generation which is growing up in the globalized world and less aware of the issues of previous generations and their traditional African realities. Styles of worship are changing to reflect this next generation of Africans is increasingly influenced by the West. This will have a great impact on the church in the years to come.

If one comes to Africa but doesn’t understand the above dynamics they will not be effective. According to Pastor Oscar, there is a problem with how the West is still doing missions, even among major churches and mission boards in the west.  From his experience of engaging missionaries from some of these he laments, “ A lot of western churches don’t have a clue into what is happening globally so mission is still being done the way it was done two hundred years. They don’t realize the train left the station and left them behind”

In his experience, many mission teams coming to Africa still want to call the shots on the ground. They are focused on getting a return on their investment rather than on building long-term relationships. Unaware that the gravity has shifted to the southern hemisphere, they hold onto a triumphalistic mentality. He notes however, that the Anglican and Catholic churches are doing very well in catching up with the changing tides of missions.

Oscar Muriu speaking at Intervasity's Urbana Conference, US

Oscar Muriu speaking at Intervasity’s Urbana Conference, US

The currencies of mission

One key aspect of missions that must change is the currency on which it is run. In Jesus and Paul’s missionary enterprise, the currency of missions was not monetary. Hospitality was the currency of the day. It became very important that the church learn how to be hospitable. You pick that a lot in the gospels and Paul’s letters. Their support of his ministry flows out of a culture of hospitality.

At the fall of the Roman Empire, monasteries took on responsibility of missions. Monks could travel easily, depending on hospitality of strangers as they went. The Celts revitalized world missions by setting out on long journeys with very little to their names and no expectation that they would ever return home.  After the missionary enterprise passed through another dark period, it was the British Empire that took hold of world missions.  Livingstone, Carey and other British missionaries took the baton of mission as a faith enterprise based on what Oscar calls “Pax Britanica”. The colonial expansion of Britain and other European countries opened doors for Western missionaries just as the Pax Romana had for Paul and company.

Oscar notes that throughout history, the center of Christianity shifts as the global situation changes. Likewise, the currency of missions shifts: from hospitality, to Pax romana, to the poverty of monks, to Portuguese trade routes and the colonial railroads. Never before has money been the currency of missions, until the 20th century when mission shifted to Pax Americana. The Pax Americana, which has been adopted by other countries, model is dependent on the green buck, the dollar.  This model depends on functional economies and high levels of disposable income.  This has led to a decline in significance of relationships in the missionary enterprise; it is no longer necessary to depend on hospitality. It is possible to purchase the goods and services that you need, thus creating transactional instead of personal relationships. The faith factor that made the pax britannica missionary movement so successful has also diminished.  Admittedly, the Pax Americana had its place in the world of 20th century, and may yet continue for several more decades. But it is unsustainable because it has priced itself out of the market. For instance, the costs of travel, insurance, of maintaining a missionary family in the field and so on is prohibitive.

Pax Africana and the baton of missions in the 21st century

Oscar says the time has now come for the Pax Africana to lead in world missions. Pax Africana (including Asia and Latin America), coming as it is out of dysfunctional economies is dependent on three things: 1)youthful energy, 2)poverty and 3)African creativity. Africa (as does Latin America and Asia) has a great resource of young people who are ready to be mobilized for missions, within their own countries, around the continent and beyond. Most of these do not have to go as missionaries per se. They go as students, or in alternative professions. Secondly, surviving the hardships of the African context means that an African can thrive almost anywhere in the world without the costly safety nets that westerners require. Thirdly, even though Africans don’t have structures and systems in place, they still get things done. Africans have learned to innovate in any circumstance and this is a resource for mission.

Oscar concludes that as the African church continues to grow and mature, raising up theologians and church leaders eager to transform the continent, they must lay hold of these resources they have in abundance and make the most of them for the cause of missions.


“New Cities and New Jerusalems”

A consultation on Emerging Patterns of Christian Identity in Urban East Africa.

July18-21st, Nairobi, Kenya.

Given Christianity’s shift southwards, world Christianity has entered an era of expansion and staggering diversity. The venerable Andrew Walls refers to this as the “Ephesians Moment”.  CWC exists to recognize, announce and extend the Ephesians moment by among other means, networking and partnering with centers that promote the study of World Christianity. We have a significant partnership with the Center for the Study of World Christian Revitalization Movements at Asbury Theological Seminary. In October 2012, we entered into dialogue about holding a consultation on Christian revitalization in urban East Africa.  The consultation included several phases.

Case Studies: At the start of the year, a call for papers was sent to identified researchers to write the stories of five Christian movements around East Africa. These were:

  • George Atido, a PhD candidate at AIU wrote a case on the Living Stone Movement Bunia, DRC.
  • On contingency, Atido wrote a second paper on the vision and mission of Bunia Theological Seminary.
  • Rev David Omona wrote a case on The Ministry of All Saints Cathedral in Kampala, Uganda.
  • Maggie Gitau, also a PhD candidate wrote a case on Mavuno Church in Nairobi.
  • Daniel Karanu wrote on Fellowship of Christian Unions (FOCUS), Nairobi.
Philomena Mwaura addressing the May 27th Luncheon gathering. Mark Shaw in background

Philomena Mwaura addressing the May 27th Luncheon gathering. Mark Shaw in background

Introducing CWC to local Christian leaders: On May 27th 2013, we assembled 22 local pastors, theologians and parachurch leaders for a luncheon at the Serena Hotel. We shared the vision of CWC—to network, empower and resource the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in this context. Professor Philomena Mwaura of Kenyatta university gave a keynote address on emerging patterns of Christian revitalization in Kenya. Guests were then invited to return to Serena on 21st July to continue the conversation.


After many months of joint planning with the team from Asbury, we brought together 35 international and local guests at the Ressurection Garden retreat center for a two day colloquium. The Asbury team was led by Jim Miller, professor of New Testament Theology at Asbury Theological Seminary. Jim has lived and taught in Kenya for many years. We’ll have feature on him in this blog.

 Opening lecture: The eminent Paul Gifford, Professor Emeritus of the Center for Oriental and African Studies at the University of London gave the opening address. Gifford who has researched and written extensively on Christianity in Africa, focused his address on what he calls the “enchanted religious imagination” that pervades much of African Christianity. According to him the engagement with the primal spiritual worldview is the greatest reason for the explosion of Christianity in Africa. He lamented that though pervasive, this reality is not given the attention it deserves in discussions of Christianity in Africa. His talk attracted a vigorous rejoinder from floor as participants both affirmed and refuted his claims on Christian activity in Africa. That address was a good a note as any to start the consultation on a realistic ground of awareness of the dynamism and diversity within Christianity in Africa. Watch this space for a feature on professor Gifford.

Table discussions: The heart of the consultation consisted two days of intensive discussions around small table groups. Professor Orobator, a priest with Jesuits East Africa gave an induction to the pastoral circle method that was used to analyse each case. At its heart, the pastoral circle is an intentional approach to explore “a word too large for any one person’s mouth”. Though the concept has roots in a different theological context, it resonates with the African palaver (Baraza in Swahili). A palaver is led by a council of elders, where the community sits under a tree to listen, to discover, to deliberate and through that process generate communal solutions to issues among them. As a theological tool, the circle takes social location, culture and change processes seriously. It identifies what is happening, assesses why it was happening, confronts the activity through the lenses of scripture and finally seeks to empower that activity with recommendations out of the process. And that is what the table groups sought to do with each of the cases.  Each table handled one of the five cases. A group consisted of the case writer, two activists from the case, and international, interdisciplinary scholars. Based on these discussion, the cases will be revised for possible publication to make them more widely available.

Sharing with local Christian leaders: The final piece of the consultation was a gathering of local pastors and scholars that we had invited to a luncheon earlier. We brought them in for high tea with consultation participants at Serena Hotel in the city. We shared some of the case study findings so to strengthen local ministries and encourage them to learn from each other.

Consultation Group

Consultation Group

We came away from the consultation humbled by the realization that the work of the Holy Spirit in urban East Africa is even greater than the famous East African Revival. It is not the initiative of any one person or a select few. The current move of the Holy Spirit is far more expansive, involves larger segments of the population, includes older churches as well as newer movements. Even though most of the movements and all the christian activity has a lot of room for growth, we believe that this revitalization will have far reaching effect in East Africa, particularly as it opens new possibilities of engagement with the public space.

In coming weeks we will post some personal perspectives from some participants at the consultation.  A number of collaborative projects among the participants will also be forthcoming in the months and years ahead. Watch this space.


CWC (AIU)-Regent College Theology Exchange Class

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The “Kenya Girls.”  Imagine the potential of student exchanges to renew theological education on both sides of the Atlantic. It is possible.

The Kenya Girls “Imagine” Experience

This ended season, CWC played host to an exchange class from Regent College in Vancouver, Canada. The exchange was an initiative of Diane Stinton, associate professor of Mission Studies at Regent. She is also one of our adjunct professors here at CWC. Diane has lived and taught in Kenya for many years, at Daystar University and Africa International University. When the Lord called her to Regent, she saw this as an opportunity to build partnerships  between theological educators and Christian practitioners across the Atlantic.

In June 2013, Diane brought five ladies, fondly “The Kenya Girls” to join several of our PhD students for two weeks of classes and immersion into contextual ministry.  Being very resourceful and widely networked, Diane marshaled theological educators of note as guest lecturers, including Professors Jesse Mugambi of University of Nairobi, Philomena Mwaura of Kenyatta University, Laurenti Magesa from Tanzania among others.

Jaki & Tina with children from Beacon of Hope, a HIV/AIDs ministry affiliated to Nairobi Chapel

Diversity out of class

The experience was enriched by encounter with ministry practitioners from around Nairobi. Oscar Muriu, senior Pastor of Nairobi Chapel invited the group for a two hour session at his church office. Muriu spoke of contextual sensitivity that should guide ministry between western and Africans Christians. The students attended worship at Chapel and had an opportunity to volunteer among children. Chapel also treated the girls to a sumptuous welcome luncheon.

Another dynamic personality who gave an eye opening talk to the students was Rev Nicta Lubaale, head of Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC). AIC constituents are largely among the marginalized of society. Initially started as movements of protest, Lubaale pointed out that AICs have moved towards more mainstream (evangelical) theology; some resemble contemporary Pentecostals. Also significant is that AICs are running projects for civic education, poverty alleviation and sensitization on gender and HIV/AIDs.

With Professor Bator, Jesuit Priest from Nigeria serving the society of Jesus in East Africa

With Prof Bator of Jesuits East Africa

Jesuit Priest and Catholic scholar E. Orobator talked about integrating his African heritage into his catholic faith and ministry. Bator shared how he is at home with the images and icons, church hierarchies, sacraments and celebrations among other historic practices of the Catholic Church because they correlate significantly with his Africa background.  That talk pointed to the relevance of inculturation theology; in some African contexts, Christianity will only make sense if it connects with cultural realities.

The class had a lesson with Cosma Gateere, a market-place Christian who has led a number of successful positions in the corporate world for many years. He now works for a government parastatal. He gave a talked on how he applies his faith in the secular corporate space. Over the years Cosma has trained himself to have a holistic sense of professional calling and excellence. He reads widely both in his professional field and in Christian literature that guides him to combine God’s word, God’s work and the needs of the world into his daily work. This has enabled him to be witness and earn favor with his employers and corporate colleagues.

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Suki and Brie in class with Evan Hunter (left) of ScholarLeader International. Evan attended this session as a guest.

The girls also visited with churches, community centers, bookshops and publishers and even fit in a city tour. After the exchange, they stayed a few more weeks for independent immersion and volunteer experiences.

The students went away challenged by the encounter. Their perceptions of Africa are no longer those of a poverty stricken, conflict ridden and needy continent. Regardless of the challenges, they experienced an Africa determined to define a beautiful destiny for its people; Christians are leading the way in that renewal.  As a center seeking to understand and give voice to what God is doing here, we came away from the experience deeply encouraged by the diversity of the work of the Holy Spirit here. It spills over into all kinds of spaces–in para church organizations, in the academy, in slums ministries, in middle-class churches, in government parastatals, everywhere. It is clear that God is working to establish his Shalom in 21st century Africa. Indeed, the giant sleeps no more, for the day is here, when “Princes shall come out of Egypt (Africa) bearing gifts unto our God, when Ethiopia (Africa) stretches out her hands unto God in prayer, saying, ‘Sing unto God, you kingdoms of the earth, sing praises to the Lord’”  (Psalm 68: 3).


February 2016
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