The 54th Summer Conference of the Ecclesiastical History Society was held at the University of York in England from July 28-30, 2015. Exploring the theme of “Translating Christianity,” the conference focused on cultural, linguistic, and ritual translation of the Christian faith into different global contexts over the past two millennia. To illustrate the conference theme, a virtual exhibition was put together in collaboration with the Minster Library and the Institute for Public Understanding of the Past, University of York.
In order to make sense of how Christianity has become a world faith as it has crossing geographic, cultural, and social boundaries, many of the papers built on the translatability principle of the Christian message proposed by Lamin Sanneh and Andrew Walls. The creative and complex interplay between the universal Christian message and particular local settings was carefully examined through various case studies in Greek, Latin, Asian, American, and African contexts. CGCM student Daewon Moon presented his paper, “The East African Revival: Transplantation or Indigenization of European Christianity?”
This year, the American Society of Missiology held its conference from June 18 to June 21. The theme was “Missio-logoi: The Many Languages of Mission,” and it focused on the way that words, images, and other forms of human expression relate to Christian mission. CGCM student Laura Chevalier presented her paper, “Mission Spirituality: Trends and Developments Since 1980.”
The CGCM also made a number of contributions at the Yale-Edinburgh Group’s meeting from June 25 to June 27. The theme of the meeting was Religion and Religions in the History of Missions and World Christianity, and several students associated with the CGCM presented papers (Soojin Chung, “Shamanism’s Impact on Korean Christianity”; Michèle Sigg, “The Contribution of Maurice Leenhardt (1878-1954), Missionary-Anthropologist, to the Founding and Growth of French Protestant Missiology”; Stephen Lloyd, “A Bridge to Heathendom? M.L. Daneel, Afrikaans Missiology, and Traditional African Religion”; and Eva Pascal, “Christian Friars and Buddhist Monks: The Making of Buddhism as a Rival ‘Religion'”).
The conference also included a section announcing new resources for the study of missions and world Christianity. Michèle Sigg updated listeners on the “African Dictionary of Christian Biography,” Gina Zurlo announced exciting changes to the forthcoming new edition of the World Christian Encyclopedia, while Eva Pascal and Stephen Lloyd previewed the “Old and New in Shona Religion” web project.
Both the ASM and Yale-Edinburgh meetings provided time for networking among the leading scholars and institutions focused on promoting the academic study of world Christianity and missions. They were successful events that promise to yield a good deal of fruit.
The award winning book, The Making of Korean Christianity: Protestant Encounters with Korean Religions, 1879-1915 was recently reviewed in the Africanas Journal. The publication is doubly significant for the Center for Global Christianity & Mission, as the author of the book, Sung-Deuk Oak, graduated from the Boston University School of Theology in 2002. The review was written by Gun Cheol Kim, a current PhD candidate in Mission Studies at the School of Theology.
Numerous churches have mobilized to respond to the devastation in Nepal. One, in the Boston area, is pastored by an alum of the Boston University School of Theology. In the Boston Globe, the Rev. Dan Pokharel has explained how the local Nepalese community is responding to the crisis.
The CGCM is happy to announce that PhD student Soojin Chung presented her paper “The Role of Female Missionaries in Advancement of Korean Women’s Social Status” at the Evangelical Missiological Society Northeast Regional Conference on Saturday, March 28, 2015. The theme of the conference was “Controversies in Mission.” She discussed the controversial role of female missionaries in educational ministry, pro-Japanese political orientation, and the imperialistic attitude. Full list of presentations can be found here: https://www.emsweb.org/
CGCM student associate and PhD candidate Daewon Moon is now teaching church history and World Christianity at International Leadership University – Burundi (ILU-Burundi) in East Africa. For the next few years, Daewon will be supervising the bachelor’s and master’s programs in the School of Theology at ILU-Burundi. His wife, Jeonghwa, is working as Director of the Leadership Language Institute at ILU-Burundi. Her responsibilities include developing curricula and training instructors to teach academic English to prospective students in a more effective way.
As the only university in the country that offers English-based degree programs, ILU-Burundi has been growing substantially over the past few years. It now has more than 300 students from 10 different countries in Africa and Asia. Recently ILU-Burundi launched two joint graduate programs in partnership with North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa: Master of Theology (MTh) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with three concentrations, 1) Missiology, 2) New Testament, and 3) Practical Theology.
The Eastern Fellowship of the American Society of Missiology held its annual meeting November 7-8, 2014 at the Maryknoll Mission Institute. The subject this year was “Christian Mission in Times of Persecution.” Nina Shea, of the Washington-based Hudson Institute provided a summary of contemporary religious persecution, and Titus Presler reflected on “The Toll on the Soul” of those living amidst oppressive conditions. Boston University was well represented at the event. In addition to alumnus Titus Presler, Professors Dana Robert and Inus Daneel attended, as well as eleven students.
Evangelism and mission are increasingly important aspects of theological education in seminaries. CGCM student associate and PhD candidate Christopher James will soon start a new position teaching and researching in these areas as a faculty instructor in Evangelism and Missional Christianity at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. James is currently working to complete his dissertation tentatively titled is “New Ecclesial Life in a Post-Christian Context: A Practical Ecclesiology.”
This year’s American Society of Missiology Conference on the theme of “Contextualization in the Contemporary World” took place at the University of Northwestern—St. Paul in St. Paul, Minnesota. The thirteen possible tracks, which reflected the anthropological interests of ASM President Dr. Robert Priest, included a symposium on Third Wave Mission, a panel on witch accusations, “Worship and the Arts” (ethnodoxology), a panel on contributions from the Global South, “New Faces of Mission in the 21st Century, and a sponsored track on African leadership. Representing BU were Lisa White as well as Christopher James, Ruth Padilla-DeBorst, and Michèle Miller Sigg who all three presented papers. Ruth Padilla-DeBorst presented a paper entitled “Doing Theology for Life: Radical Evangelical Theological Formation for Integral Mission in Latin America.” Michèle Miller Sigg’s paper entitled “Until Lions Start Writing their Own History: The Challenge of Contextualizing the Research, Writing, and Teaching of African Christian History” was part of the Emerging Ideas and Practices track, facilitated by Padilla-DeBorst.
In the absence of Dr. Dana Robert, student associate Michèle Miller Sigg was invited to attend the African Leadership Study consultation that took place immediately following the ASM. The ALS is a study project led by Bob Priest that started in August 2012 and is funded by Tyndale House Foundation. Between 2012 and 2013, faculty members and graduate students in Africa collected data from over 8,000 Christians from Kenya, Angola, and Central African Republic in an effort to identify influential African leaders and organizations. Some of the outstanding leaders were then interviewed in a follow up phase. The papers presented at the ALS consultation used data from this study to examine various aspects of the influence of these African leaders. The papers will eventually be published in an edited volume.
By Michèle Sigg
Histories of American sociology generally acknowledge, to varying degrees, Christian involvement in the development of the field. Much of this attention, however, underemphasizes two highly influential movements in early-twentieth-century Christian thought, the social gospel movement (1870s–1920s) and the rise of the global ecumenical movement (beginning in 1910). One under-researched, yet particularly revealing example of the impact of these movements is the Institute of Social and Religious Research (“the Institute”; 1921–1934), founded in 1921 under the leadership of global Christian leader John R. Mott and funded by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The Institute was comprised of Christian social scientific researchers who promoted interdenominational cooperation by engaging in scientific inquiry regarding the structure, current status, and functions of religious institutions and life in the United States. The Institute strived to maintain a high level of academic rigor while also retaining a religious motivation that included service to others, a classic struggle in the early history of American sociology.
The publications produced by the Institute were groundbreaking in their applications of social scientific methods to the study of religion in the United States, most notable of which included Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd’s highly generative and controversial Middletown study. In an overview of the largely unexplored tenure of the Institute, this paper brings together important trends in the early twentieth century to provide a unique perspective on the historical and theological contexts for the development of American sociology as an academic discipline.
To learn more, see “The Social Gospel, Ecumenical Movement, and Christian Sociology: The Institute of Social and Religious Research” (June 2014) by Gina Zurlo, a CGCM student associate, in the online version of The American Sociologist. Boston University students can access the journal through JStor and other hosts, and the article will appear in print version in 2015.