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Appreciating the Multicultural Church

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah of North Park Theological Seminary speaking at chapel of Fuller Theological Seminary on “The Next Evangelicalism: Appreciating the Multicultural Church” (November 7, 2012). Dr. Rah uses the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 as a model for understanding “a world that is becoming increasingly multicultural  and how the church responds to this very dynamic time in our nation’s, as well as our world’s, church history”.

The following is my summary and notes from his lecture.

The question is not whether the world is changing, but how Christian Americans will respond. (Click to Tweet) (more…)

Where to Start with World Christianity

There is a specific book that started me down the path of discovering World Christianity and has led me to engage with global perspectives of theology and contextualization. I bought it for a friend who was also finishing an undergraduate Biblical Studies program. When it arrived from the bookseller, I flipped through the pages and before I knew it, had read the entire first chapter. And the second. And the third.

Theology in the Context of World Christianity , by Timothy Tennent, is the book that I have recommended to several people who have asked me where to start start in bridging their (Western) theological training and emerging non-Western perspectives.

The premise of the book is that (more…)

Jesus Without Borders (Interview)

About Jesus without Borders:

Jesus without Borders

Jesus without Borders

Though the makeup of the church worldwide has undeniably shifted south and east over the past few decades, very few theological resources have taken account of these changes. Jesus without Borders — the first volume in the emerging Majority World Theology series — begins to remedy that lack, bringing together select theologians and biblical scholars from various parts of the world to discuss the significance of Jesus in their respective contexts.

Offering an excellent glimpse of contemporary global, evangelical dialogue on the person and work of Jesus, this volume epitomizes the best Christian thinking from the Majority World in relation to Western Christian tradition and Scripture. The contributors engage throughout with historic Christian confessions — especially the Creed of Chalcedon — and unpack their continuing relevance for Christian teaching about Jesus today.


Allahu Akbar: A Christian Call to Worship

Photo Nadezhda Kevorkova

Photo Nadezhda Kevorkova

Archbishop Sebastia Theodosios (Atallah Hanna), 49, is the only Orthodox Christian archbishop from Palestine stationed in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, while all other bishops of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem are Greeks. The Israeli authorities had detained him several times, or stopped him at the border, and taken away his passport. Among all Jerusalem clergymen he is the only one who has no privilege of passing through the VIP gate in the airport – because of his nationality. “For the Israeli authorities, I am not a bishop, but rather a Palestinian,” explains his Beatitude. When talking on the phone he says a lot of words you would normally hear from a Muslim: “Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah, Masha’Allah”. He speaks Arabic, and the Arabic for ‘god’ is Allah, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim.

In this interview, the Beatitude discusses what it entails to be a Palestinian leader in a volatile political context and the significance of the phrase Allahu Akbar for the Christian community. He also speaks directly to the use of Arabic and the phrase that has gained an Islamic connotation following identification with violent extremists.

Do people say Allahu Akbar in church?

Of course. (more…)

15 Conversations the Church Needs to Have in 2015

Fuller Theological Seminary surveyed faculty across their campuses and departments to find out what conversations the Church should be engaged in during 2015 and provided links to further reading on the subject (books, articles, and blogs) to help inform those perspectives.

Five of the top six presented spoke about conversations related to diversity, equity, and reconciliation!

An edited screengrab of some of the responses from faculty.

An edited screengrab of some of the responses from faculty.

Read the full responses and see the reading recommendations here: 15 Conversations the Church Needs To Have in 2015

Ecumenical Progress: 5 Thoughts on Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration - AP

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, sign the Joint Declaration – AP

Leaders of two major branches of world Christianity joined together on November 30, 2014 to issue a joint statement about the need for shared theological reflection, commitment to common purposes, and dialogue with other religious groups to establish understanding and justice. Special consideration was also given to Christians living in war zones in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Pope Francis and the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world, are pictured here signing the resolution. Below are excerpts from the text (inset), with comments following major sections.

For more on these perspectives, see past posts The Impact of Pope Francis and How the East Sees the West.

1. There is a common lineage and history, even if they have been estranged for centuries. By establishing these models at the outset, the statement invites an atmosphere of familial ties.

We, Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, express our profound gratitude to God for the gift of this new encounter enabling us, in the presence of the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and the faithful of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to celebrate together the feast of Saint Andrew, the first–called and brother of the Apostle Peter. Our remembrance of the Apostles, who proclaimed the good news of the Gospel to the world through their preaching and their witness of martyrdom, strengthens in us the aspiration to continue to walk together in order to overcome, in love and in truth, the obstacles that divide us.

(more…)

World Cup of Theologians: Nigeria – Matthews Ojo

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

OjosMatthews Ojos is Vice-Chancellor of Bowen University in Iwo, Nigeria and the former Professor of Church History in the Department of Religious Studies at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His extensive research and writing have explored the growth of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity, especially in West Africa.

From his article, The Charismatic Movement in Nigeria Today, Ojo begins to describe the similarities and differences between charismatic expressions of Christianity between Western churches and the particular expressions found in Nigeria, writing,

In the Western world the term “charismatic” is generally applied to Christians within Protestant and Roman Catholic churches who testify to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, who experience its accompaniment of speaking in tongues, and who exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit, principally the gift of healing. Charismatic Christians in Nigeria share these features with their Western counterparts.

While the charismatic movement in the Western world traces its roots to the Pentecostal movement that arose from the 1906 Asuza Street revival in Los Angeles, the Nigerian movement has an indigenous origin. The pioneers and early leaders were Nigerians without any previous contact with American Pentecostalism. Nigerian charismatics share similar doctrinal emphases and practices like baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and healing. In addition, the mass media, charismatic literature, and the common use of the English language have helped to forge close links between the Western and Nigerian movements. Nevertheless, the Nigerian movement is essentially indigenous, and it has succeeded in adapting the Pentecostal faith to the Nigerian contemporary milieu, thus making it contextually meaningful.

International Bulletin of Missionary Research , Vol. 19, No. 3

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Costa Rica – Sandra Campos

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Sandra Campos is a the president of the Conference of Mennonite Churches in Costa Rica and has been appointed as a Latin American representative to the Mennonite World Conference Executive Committee. As a leader, her influence has been seen in her ability to gather and encourage women from around the world to participate in the expanding ministries of the church. She has been at the center of the Mennonite World Conference’s recognition of women in the church and the development of theological networks (Link to article).

In a 2011 article in The Mennonite, Campos is recognized alongside other leading women from around the world.

As I serve in my various roles, I am given the opportunity to propose and implement changes in the national church through education programs, such as the Bible Institute for Justice and Peace Program. At the regional level, I am helping advance Anabaptist Women Theologians of Central America. This is helping build a greater awareness of our need to train women for greater participation in places that traditionally were shaped exclusively by men.

As women, we feel useful in our service to others and do not settle for being a spectator. We try to be part of work, changes and achievements that are part of building God’s kingdom.

Click here for full article

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Greece – Theophilos III

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

Theolphilos III, the Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, has been the leader of the Orthodox Church in the region since 2005. In a region of such religious, cultural, and political tension, his leadership of a church with longest historical continuity but a smaller physical presence puts him in a unique position to advocate for religious mutuality and co-existence.theophilos

In 2011, Patriarch Theophilos III sat with Anna Koulouris of the Palestine-Israel Journal of Politics, Economics, and Culture for an interview about the role of the Orthodox Church in the region.

How much of a role does the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate play in speaking about Palestinian rights, especially with its close proximity to areas like Silwan? Does the church feel a responsibility to take a political stance on the issue?

We try not to interfere or turn ourselves into politicians, but at the same time this does not mean that we do not have compassion for the suffering and the affliction through which the people are passing here. And this is why the churches here have established a kind of council to discuss issues of common concern. We are addressing issues like the recent shooting in Silwan and others. Our purpose is to try, from our position, to contribute to mutual respect and understanding and to peaceful coexistence and symbiosis. This is the duty of the church. This is why we as churches have officially and repeatedly made statements and expressed our position over the status of Jerusalem.

Our position on Jerusalem is that we want it to be an open city, to be accessible to everybody, and that Jerusalem has enough space to accommodate all religious communities. We say it is enough for us to be allowed to visit and venerate the places that are commonly holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Even if we do not have claims over the site itself, we have claims to the holiness and sanctity of the place. The Temple Mount is an example. Another example is King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion. When we have our holy day of Pentecost, which we celebrate in our monastery and at the school on Mount Zion, after the service we go in our liturgical vestments in a procession to King David’s Tomb, which is a synagogue. There we go for worship, to say our prayers and leave. This is what we want. This is our understanding of the holy places. This is why I have said Jerusalem has enough space to accommodate everybody.

Politically speaking, everybody has claims over Jerusalem and everybody wants Jerusalem to be his or her own capital. But from the religious point of view, Jerusalem is the capital of God. And my personal position is that Jerusalem breathes with three lungs: a Christian lung, a Jewish lung and an Islamic lung. And those lungs, they breathe harmoniously. This is how we see the future of Jerusalem.

Click here for the full article.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

World Cup of Theologians: Chile – Sergio Torres

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

TorresSergio Torres is a Chilean Catholic priest whose leadership and writing has focused on how the Liberation Theology of Latin America can separate itself from the ideologies of Eastern Europe and its Marxist materialist underpinnings and adapt to new contexts. In an interview with Instituto Humanitas Unisinos, he covers a broad range of liberation theology history, including the role of Amerindia in forging a new path for the church of the American continent.

IHU On-line: In 2012, we are also celebrating the 40th anniversary of the publication Gustavo Gutiérrez’s book. Since that inaugural work, what were and are the main contributions of liberation theology in the context of Latin America? What is the meaning of liberation today?

Sergio Torres: The rise of liberation theology represented an important moment in the history of theology in general. Before it, it was thought that there was only one universal theology, along the lines of St. Paul’s expression, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Without in any way denying this fundamental principle, liberation theology opened the contextual perspective. We believe in one Lord, but we do so from our contexts and our own different situations and cultures. The context allows one to delve into some aspects of the single message and make it more credible to people of different cultures. Born in Latin America, liberation theology has spread to Africa and Asia and has also generated experiments in contextual theology in North America and Europe.

The concept of liberation expanded and became richer. At first, they talked about the liberation of the poor, understood as the workers in the industries and factories of the great cities of the continent. Subsequently, the concept of the poor also deepened. The poor are the excluded ones, the marginalized, those who have no voice, are discriminated against, or, as we say today, “the other”. Currently, the concept of liberation expresses the salvation and liberation that Jesus brings, including many terms that refer to the salvation of neglected and oppressed sectors in the current cultural and social situation.

Today, there is not just one liberation theology. There is an open theological pluralism, one that is truer to some of the intuitions and basic principles of the first liberation theology. That theology still has much to give in and of itself. For example, it should continue joining the individual and complementary contributions of academic theologians and grassroots theologians. Moreover, professionals are called on not only to speak ‘for’ the poor but, from [the perspective of] the poor and with them.

Read the full interview – in Englishem portuguêsen español

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

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