Researching World Christianity on a Global Scale: Dr Wanjiru M. Gitau

Wanjiru M. Gitau was one of the three first doctorates to graduate from our pioneering PhD in World Christianity.

“I was raised in the rolling hills of Murang’a in central Kenya. I was deeply shaped by the discipline of my Catholic high school experience. I also came to appreciate the charismatic activism of the student movement of FOCUS (Fellowship of Christian Unions) while I was studying Linguistics and Literature at the University of Nairobi,” says Gitau. She considered for a time, being a missionary to France and even took lessons in French towards that goal. Says Gitau, “It was through the influence of Pastor Oscar Muriu of Nairobi Chapel that I joined the Nairobi Chapel’s leadership development program.” She ended up taking various leadership roles at Nairobi Chapel and its plant, the Mavuno Church, over a period of twelve years. During that time she earned a graduate degree in Missiology.

One of her more unusual assignments in that season was to serve for four years as the pastor of a Chinese congregation which met at a church in Nairobi. This led to a short term stint in China, at which time she also considered long-term mission work in China. In 2011, she joined the first PhD cohort at the Centre for World Christianity. She graduated in 2015 alongside Dr. Pirworth Atido, who is now president of Shalom de Bunia, in DRC, and Dr. Zipporah Wambua currently leading significant leadership initiatives with the Makueni county government in Eastern Kenya.

While she was doing her doctorate here at AIU, Gitau helped run the Center for World Christianity directed by Prof Mark Shaw. In 2013 the center organized a conference on urban Christian revitalization in East Africa. In addition to hosting the conference, she wrote one of the case studies, which eventually became a chapter in the book “African Urban Christian Identity.” After this she was invited onto a global team researching world Christian revitalization. The project, planned and supported through Asbury Theological Seminary and funded by the Luce Foundation, investigated renewal movements in East Africa, India, Philippines, and Latin America.

After graduating with her PhD from AIU in July of 2015, she left in September to spend an academic year at Asbury Theological Seminary, helping the World Christian Revitalization research team to conclude the global project. In January of the following year she was a keynote speaker in the concluding conference in Costa Rica. During the second half of 2016 through 2017, she was an independent scholar at the Fuller Theological Seminary, where she focussed on writing her book on megachurches, a resource for church leaders and scholars. The book is currently under review with Intervarsity Press, and is expected to be published in the months ahead. She is also working on additional publications.

In August 2017, Gitau joined the Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC) at University of Southern California (USC). The Center for Religion and Civic Culture (CRCC) houses a team of scholars pioneering research on matters of religion and civic engagement. The center studies, documents and helps communities understand the changes that shape religious cultures in America and across the globe. Through its dynamic research output in books, journals and popular media and community engagement, the center is a significant mover in conversations shaping how people think, and respond to religious changes in our times. “I consider it a great honor to become a part of this dynamic research community. It is a great match for my passion to document contemporary transformations in world Christianity and help leaders and their communities respond in ways that lead to greater flourishing of humanity,” says Dr Gitau. USC-CRCC’s work is funded by partners that believe in the value of research in shaping public opinion, policy and community response to religious transformations.

In collaboration with other scholars, Gitau won a grant from the John Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF). They were commissioned to design an even larger multi-year global research project on contemporary religious changes. Gitau is a widely traveled, connected and experienced researcher. The affiliation with USC-CRCC under the Templeton grant is a recognition of her intellectual acumen and accelerates her scholarship to a whole new next level. We at CWC are excited to keep tabs with her growing portfolio in as a global scholar. You can connect with her here https://crcc.usc.edu/people/wanjiru-m-gitau/

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