As a global religion, Christianity is also an African religion, and increasingly so. During the twentieth century, the number of Christians in Africa rose from an estimated 10 million to 350 million, a dramatic increase from less than 10 percent to nearly 50 percent of the continent's population. Within the predominantly Muslim region of North Africa, ancient Christian communities survive including the Coptic Church, the Ethiopian Church, and the Nubian Church. During the twentieth century, substantial and widespread Christian commitment was generated by new forms of African Christianity that have been variously identified as African independent, indigenous, or initiated churches. Revitalizing traditional African culture, these local innovations in Christianity have also responded to global forces—conquest, colonization, capitalism, and urbanization—while participating actively in the twentieth-century transatlantic expansion of intensely experiential forms of Christianity. This article briefly recalls the history of Christian formations in Africa before focusing on two forces in that history—intercultural translation and economic exchange—that continue to operate in African Christian responses to the challenges of globalization.
Karen McCarthy Brown
The product of an early and involuntary globalization of African culture, Haitian Vodou is arguably the most misunderstood and maligned world religion. The reasons for this are not so much theological as they are historical and political. The historical reasons are rooted in Haiti's revolution. Haitian Vodou was born from the interaction of groups of people brought to Haiti to work as slaves, people who had been taken from several areas in West and Central Africa. Vodou, whether in Haiti or in diaspora communities in New York, Miami, New Orleans, and Montreal, is still characterized, more often than not, as a primitive religion involved in magic. In an attempt to undermine this persisting consensus about the nature of Haitian Vodou, this article examines one of Vodou's most misunderstood aspects, the manufacture of charms, or wanga. It also discusses the charm called mare djol, the function of the wanga in healing practices, the ethics of wanga, and the belief that all healing is about the healing of relationships.
‘God has come Amongst us Slowly and we didn’t Realise it!’ The Transformation of Anglican Missionary Heritage in Sudan
This chapter examines the missionary origins, through the agency of the Church Missionary Society, of the Anglican Church in Sudan (the Episcopal Church of the Sudan) and its transformation during its 100-year history, with special reference to the last fifty years. It is a study of the cultural transformation of missionary heritage in the cauldron of war and devastation. In particular the experience of the Dinka and Azande people is reflected upon. The emergence of a truly vernacular Anglicanism is described, distinctive but also faithful to Anglican principle. The significance of Bible translation, vernacular liturgy, and hymns is assessed, and the role of this new indigenous expression of Christian faith in the emergence of a distinctive South Sudanese identity that would eventually lead to independence and the setting up of a new African state, South Sudan.
Jesuits have commanded scholarly attention in recent years, with Jesuit studies almost becoming an independent academic discipline. However, their involvement in Africa remains largely unstudied, even though they were in parts of the continent for close to two centuries. Moreover, after their restoration in 1814, the Jesuits played a significant role in the evangelization of Africa. This essay is an overview of Jesuit presence in Africa over the centuries. While it gives more prominence to the historical missions of the pre-suppression period in Congo, Angola, Mozambique, and Ethiopia, it also covers more recent presence in Madagascar, southern Africa and Egypt, and concludes with a brief analysis of the state of the Society of Jesus in Africa today. The essay underscores the challenge of locating Jesuit records related to Africa and the importance of understanding early missionary efforts on the African continent for the benefit of similar efforts in our time.
Jacob K. Olupona
The global dimensions of African religion sweep across the plains of the African continent and into the African diaspora. Contemporary “African religion” is itself a product of globalization, for it is less a single tradition than a sociological context in which the elements of a variety of indigenous religious experiences are combined with Islam and Christianity. New religious structures reflect emerging values and the adoption of new practices in a changing social context. In the case of the African religions, this process reflects a growing pluralism among religious institutions in Africa. There are independent churches in Africa, including the Celestial Church of Christ, the Christ Apostolic Church, and Cherubim and Seraphim in West Africa; Zulu Zionist churches in South Africa; and the Simon Kimbanque Church in Zaire. This article also discusses Pentecostal or charismatic churches, mainline mission churches, indigenous traditions and faiths, and civil religion in Africa.
Kofi Asare Opoku
African traditional religion is inextricably linked to the culture of the African people. Religion, culture, politics, and society were part of a seamless whole and no part of it could stand on its own. The absence of a specific word for “religion” in many African languages is an indication of this African holistic understanding of life. Words related to the concept of religion may be translated as “custom,” “tradition,” or “way of life.” Later scholars adopted special terms to designate the religious practices and beliefs found in Africa, all of which combined to show that the perspective of the African practitioners of their ancestral religion was not worth considering. As a result, the African religious traditions became synonymous with the idea of “otherness.” This article discusses the traditional religious society of Africa, focusing on the traditional African worldview, social organization and religion, charter myths, religion and public morality, social change, and religious change.
This chapter is a study of an encounter between the church and the socio-political and cultural milieu of West Africa, with particular focus on Ghana. It closely analyses the relationship between contextualization and the mission of the church by addressing several questions. Does the mission of the Church require contextualization in order to be fully effective? If contextualization is necessary, then how can it best serve and enhance Anglicanism in Ghana so that the Gospel of Jesus Christ can take deep and lasting root in the lives of the people, and become both the organizing principle and unifying factor of their everyday living? This chapter is based on research conducted among various people of different walks of life in the church. It seeks to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the different responses and approaches adopted by them with a view to developing an appropriate Ghanaian response to Anglicanism.
Philomena Njeri Mwaura
This chapter interrogates the interplay between globalization, religion, and women in the East African context, and seeks to respond to the following questions: What aspects of globalization affect the spaces where women operate? How has globalization affected gender and family relations? How can justice-seeking feminist theological discourse respond to the challenges of globalization? The chapter begins by defining East Africa; analysing the religio-cultural context that has been shaped by the indigenous African worldview, Western Christianity, colonialism, and the current globalizing forces; and examining how women and religion have been impacted by these complexities and changes. Thereafter, the experiences of women under globalization are discussed with reference to selected issues such as poverty, economy, employment, environment, health, and education; issues chosen because they are critical to women's well-being. As major victims of globalization, women struggle daily to surmount the challenges it poses. In conclusion, ways of responding to globalization from an African women's theological perspective are discussed.