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Joel Carpenter in Africa 2006The Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity makes its entry amidst a growing interest in rising Christian movements and traditions worldwide. The Christian faith now finds its main location in the global south and east--that is, in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Pacific region, and its myriad nonwestern expressions also find their way to Europe and North America. The face of Christianity worldwide is changing rapidly. Those who study religion’s role in human affairs, and indeed those who seek to practice their Christian faith thoughtfully, need to understand these movements and trends.

The Nagel Institute made a quiet start in January of 2006, following two years of dreaming and planning. Its initial director, Joel Carpenter, was finishing his tenth year of provost of Calvin College, and in July 2006 he stepped away from that post in order to devote himself to this new task. Assisting him in the planning of the new institute were Calvin professors Daniel Bays, a historian of China who is an expert on Chinese Christian movements; Paul Freston, a sociologist specializing in Latin American pentecostal movements and the relationships worldwide between evangelicals and globalization; Won Lee, a Korean American Old Testament scholar who publishes and teaches for a wide variety of audiences, ranging from Grand Rapids to Guatemala to China; Joel Navarro, a Filipino conductor and musicologist who studies and performs Asian Christian music; and Barbara Omolade, sociologist and dean of multicultural affairs, who writes and speaks about the Christian thought and witness of African American women.

Out of this group’s knowledge, experience and vision has come the idea of an agency with a rather modest institutional footprint, but whose mission is to accomplish significant work in three areas:

  1. Promoting a deeper understanding of Christian movements from the global south and east;

  2. Partnering with Christian scholars and support Christian thought and cultural engagement in the global south and east; and

  3. Provoking a reorientation of Christian thought and cultural expression in the global north toward the concerns of world Christianity.

Three questions frequently arise when introducing the Nagel Institute: first, why do this at Calvin College, second, where does the “Nagel” name come from, and third, what concretely will the Nagel Institute do? Read more » 

Joel A. Carpenter


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