Specialised Themes
Thèmes Spécialisés

7. Christian missions, modernisation, colonisation and decolonisation
7. Missions, modernisation, colonisation et décolonisation

Thursday, 10 August, 9:00-12:00
Jeudi 10 août de 9h à 12h

Building A, Auditorium 2

Andrew Walls, Scotland

Richard Elphick, USA

Young Ick Lew, South Korea


The history of Christian missions has been brought into new perspective by today's rapid advance of Christianity in Asia and Africa, almost entirely through the work of local churches, some of them of anti-Western colour. The general tendency in today's research is towards a more differentiated analysis of the missionary endeavour with an emphasis on interaction rather than dominance and resistance.

Christianity, being an integral part of Western civilisation, was also an integral part of the expansion of that civilisation to the rest of the world. However, this did not come about in the manner of export of a wholesale package. As the attitude of the churches to the general process of modernisation in the West was ambiguous, so the Christian missions brought the same ambiguity with them to the non-European world. The concept of "cultural imperialism" does not capture the nuances of this role. How the identity of local Christian communities and converts should be constructed, in interaction with local culture, became a prominent topic in missionary discourse. Some missionaries became pioneers of linguistic and anthropological research. The general attitude of Christian missions to the process of modernisation set in train by local authorities, whether independent, semi-independent or colonial, depended both on local circumstances and on the European denominational background. - These topics are taken up in the papers by Rebecca Rogers and Jarle Simensen (Africa and America) and by Wong Man Cong (China).

Colonial rule for a while provided the political framework for the process of modernisation in most African and Asian countries. Again the attitude of the Christian missions varied greatly, from defense of local, precolonial states to outright "missionary imperialism". The role of Christian missions in China, a country under pressure from outside and torn by internal strife, presents a particularly complicated story. How, and for how long, colonial rule in Africa and Asia was legitimised by the missions, has been a topical area of research. The internal "decolonisation" of African churches, for principal and practical reasons, in many areas predated political decolonisation. How did the missionary organisations in the West and the missionaries in the field react to the development of local churches and nationalist movements, partly of anti-Western colour? How did non-Western forms of Christianity open new debates about the essential nature of the Christian church? - Such questions are taken up in the papers of Ogbu Kalu and John Stuart (Africa), Wong Man Cong (China), and also in part by the other papers of the panel.

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Specialised Theme 6
Thème Spécialisé 6



Specialised Theme 8
Thème Spécialisé 8