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Andrew Walls (1928-2021) and World Christianity

Andrew Walls, one of the greatest scholars of world Christianity and missiology, has passed away at the age of 93. During his career he taught at colleges and universities in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, England, and Scotland, and was the founder of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, now housed at the University of Edinburgh. He also served as a lay Methodist preacher. Mark Noll has said that “no one has written with greater wisdom about what it means for the Western Christian religion to become the global Christian religion.”

Walls was the author of many articles on missions and world Christianity, but is probably best known for his book The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (1996).

Here’s a brief excerpt from one of Walls’s articles, “World Christianity, Theological Education and Scholarship” (2011), making points about world Christianity and Christian scholarship that seem even more pertinent a decade later:

In the past half-century, the theological map of the world has been transformed. We have seen the Christian populations of Africa, Asia Pacific and Latin America significantly outnumbering the combined Christian populations of Europe and North America; and patterns of growth and decline that make it possible that in the foreseeable future two-thirds of the world’s Christians could belong to the southern and eastern continents. The Christian Church is now multicentric, its centres of energy widely dispersed across the world, so that major initiatives in mission – whether that mission be expressed in evangelism, social action, theological reflection or radical spirituality – may arise in any part of the world and be directed to any other part of it.

This is a useful point with which to begin our thinking about global theological education, for churchly habits of mind, and the weight of tradition, and the structures of theological institutions all tend to obscure the fact of that redrawing of the theological map. The redrawing has huge consequences, not only for theological education, but for the theological scholarship which both informs theological education and is developed through it…

As I look at the Western academy today, I see much slavery to Mammon. The greatest kudos now attaches to projects which will bring in the largest research grants. The corporate world has taken over the management of universities and is steadily corrupting them…The Western academy is in peril. It may again be time for Christians to save the academy. And it may be that salvation will come from the non-Western world; that in Africa and Asia and Latin America the scholarly ideal will be re-ignited, and scholarship seen as a vocation…and in theological scholarship, this will mean scholarly communities that maintain a life of worship and are in active relation to Christian mission.

See also Mark R. Gornik, “Profile: Andrew Walls and the Transformation of Christianity”

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