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Seminars 2007 - Primal Religions as the Substructure of Christianity

Primal Religions as the Substructure of Christianity

Directed by Andrew F. Walls, University of Edinburgh,
Kwame and Gillian M. Bediako,
Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture

July 9-27, 2007

Funds provided by the Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin College

This event is by invitation only.

Seminar Description
Modern traditions of Christian theology, as influenced by Western post-Enlightenment views of transcendence, science, nature, and rationality, take little account of primal religions and world-views, dismissing them as primitive, and their influence on non-Western Christian thought and expression as syncretism. Yet the primal world-view has been shown to have affinity with the biblical world-view and is a major reason for Christian accession throughout the two thousand years of Christian history, and noticeably for the massive accession to Christian faith among peoples of the southern continents in the past hundred years.

Over a period of three weeks, 15 scholars from Africa, Asia and Latin America will respond to prepared papers on the Christian history of peoples whose cultures have been shaped by primal religions and discuss the issues currently arising in church life among these peoples. They will reflect on how pervasive primal perspectives on reality affect the interaction with, and understanding of, the Christian faith and seek to understand how such reflections help illuminate the spirituality in these churches, as well as their theological, pastoral, and broader culture-engaging thought and practice. They will also consider how the interface of "primal" and "Christian" may have implications and significance for contemporary Christian spirituality and culture-engaging thought and practice worldwide.

The meeting will discuss the feasibility of mounting a more extensive project, engaging a number of research and programs centers around the world, and producing a body of fresh research and reflection.

About the Directors

Andrew F. Walls is a graduate of the Universities of Oxford and Aberdeen. He began service in West Africa in 1957, working at Fourah Bay College, the University College of Sierra Leone, and at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he was Head of the Department of Religion. For many years he was Professor of Religious Studies and Riddoch Lecturer in Comparative Religion at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, before becoming founding Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He has lectured in all six continents, and been Visiting Professor of World Christianity at Yale and at Harvard Universities. From 1997 to 2001 he was Guest Professor of Ecumenics and Mission at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, a past President of the British Association for the Study of Religions, a past General Secretary of the International Association of Mission Studies, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Recent publications include The Missionary Movement in Christian History (Orbis 1996), African Christianity in the 1990s (with Christopher Fyfe, Edinburgh 1996) and The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History (Orbis 2002). Currently he serves as Honorary Professor in the University of Edinburgh, Director of the Scottish Institute of Missionary Studies at the University of Aberdeen, and Professor at the Akrofi-Christaller Memorial Centre in Ghana, where he teaches every year.

Kwame Bediako, Fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, is a minister of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana. After secondary education, he read French Honours at the University of Ghana, Legon, and pursued postgraduate studies in French Literature and African Literature in French, in the University of Bordeaux, France.

During his studies in France he came to a deep conviction regarding the spiritual and intellectual coherence of the Christian Faith, and discovered the crucial significance of personal faith in Christ in the pursuit of the intellectual life. Subsequently, he studied Theology at the London School of Theology, England, and later undertook doctoral research in the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

He holds doctorate degrees in French Literature from the University of Bordeaux, and in Divinity from the University of Aberdeen.

From 1984, he served for three years as Resident and Presbyterian Minister at the Ridge Church, Accra, an international, interdenominational English-speaking congregation.

In 1987, he became Director of Akrofi-Christaller Centre for Mission Research and Applied Theology (now Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture) in Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana, an initiative of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana in research and advanced studies in the fields of Christian Faith and Thought and in the relationship of the Christian Church to society. His main task since that time has been to establish the Institute as an academic and pastoral institution serving the churches in Ghana, Africa and further afield through research and Christian scholarship, and to help develop a network of similar institutions elsewhere in Africa through the African Theological Fellowship (ATF), in which he serves as General Secretary.

For twelve years he was Visiting Lecturer in African Theology in the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he lectured and gave postgraduate supervision for a term each year. He is also a member of the Board of the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies (OCMS), Oxford, England. He has lectured also in many theological faculties in Europe, the USA and Africa.

In 1998 he was made an honorary Professor in the School of Theology, University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, in recognition of the postgraduate programmes in African Christianity that ACI runs on behalf of the ATF in conjunction with the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal (as it is now known).

He has written extensively in the fields of Gospel, culture and Christian identity, and in the development of new contextual theologies in Africa. His publications include Theology and Identity—The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa (Regnum Books, 1992, reprinted 1999), Christianity in Africa—The Renewal of a Non-Western Religion (Edinburgh University Press; Orbis Books, 1995; reprinted 1997), and Jesus and the Gospel in Africa, History and Experience (Orbis Books, 2004).

He is married to Dr. Gillian Mary Bediako, who is Documentation and Publications Officer and Editor at the Institute, and they have two young adult sons, Timothy Yaw (23) and Daniel Kwabena (20).

Gillian M. Bediako is the Documentation and Publications Officer of Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture, Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana. Following secondary education at Clitheroe Royal Grammar School for Girls in the north of England, she read Joint Honours in French and German at the University of Durham. She then undertook theological studies in London, England, and later in Aberdeen, Scotland, where she gained MA Honours in Religious Studies in 1980 and PhD in Religious Studies in 1995.

In 1987, she became Documentation and Editorial Officer of Akrofi-Christaller Centre (as it then was). Her main tasks have been to establish and develop the library of the Institute to meet academic and pastoral research needs, to produce and edit Institute publications, including the Centre's own Journal, Journal of African Christian Thought, launched in June 1998. She also lectures on the Institute’s postgraduate degree programmes in the areas of Christian history and thought, with a particular focus on the interface of primal and Christian spiritualities.

In her capacity as the Institute’s Documentation Officer, she participated in the bibliography component of the African Christianity Project, (1992-1998) co-ordinated from the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World in the University of Edinburgh, with Akrofi-Christaller Centre as a major West African link institution.

Since 1995 she has been the Editor of the African Theological Fellowship (ATF) and assists the networking of the Fellowship by building the database of members and producing the Fellowship's own twice-yearly news bulletin in English.

In 1996 she was made Editor of Regnum Africa, the publishing arm of the ATF, and General Editor of Regnum International, the publishing house for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians. (The aim of Regnum, in agreement with Paternoster Press in the UK, is to provide an accessible publishing outlet for creative writing from the Two-Thirds World and to sell at subsidised prices in the Two-Thirds World).

Her publications include Behold the Son of God: Group Bible Studies on the Gospel of Mark (Asempa Publishers, 1993), “‘To capture the modern universe of thought’: Religion of the Semites as an attempt at a Christian comparative religion” in William Johnstone (ed), William Robertson Smith, Essays in reassessment, (The Proceedings of the William Robertson Smith Congress, Aberdeen, 4-9 April 1994), (Sheffield Academic Press, 1995), Primal Religion and the Bible: William Robertson Smith. and his heritage, (her PhD thesis) (Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), and other articles.

Dr. Bediako is married to Rev. Dr. Kwame Bediako, and they have two sons, Timothy Yaw Nkansah Bediako (aged 23) and Daniel Kwabena Dakwa Bediako (aged 20).

Seminars & Workshops 2007

For further information contact:
Seminars in Christian Scholarship
Calvin College
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