Communiqué of the Sixth Annual School of Theology 2nd & 3rd August 2006
We, the delegates of the Sixth Annual School of Theology of the African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research (AICMAR) Butere, Kenya, met in Chadwick Library to grapple with issues arising from our theme:
‘The Gospel and the Contemporary Challenges of African Cultural Heritage’
Rev. Professor Kwame Bediako, one of Africa’s leading Christian interpreters of African Christianity and Founder Director of Akrofi Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture, Ghana presented two papers. Other speakers were Rev. Dr. Dickson Chilongani, Principal of Msalato Theological College, Tanzania, Dr. Margaret Gecaga of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Kenyatta University, Rev. Zablon B. Mutongu of St. Paul’s University (designate) Rev. Ben Shikwati Keya (Bible Expositions) Academic Co-ordinator, AICMAR.
The Bible is more than a text: it is our life
We underscore that all Christians in every place and time do have a pre-Christian past connecting them with the present. We maintain that no significant and enduring theology in the history of Christian thought has ever proceeded on the basis of a religious vacuum. What constitutes the pre-Christian preparation for the Gospel will vary in different cultural settings. We reject the early missionary and armchair anthropological conclusions of some Western scholars that African religion and philosophy had nothing significant to offer. Such skewed thoughts may explain the seeming lack of a Christian theology in Africa until recently. The Living God, as known and hallowed in many African pre-Christian indigenous traditions, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ named in many vernacular translations of the Bible. It is possible therefore, to make a case for the indigenous ancestry of African Christian experience.
We recognise a valid pre-Christian preparation for the Gospel in African religious and cultural traditions. Within them, we find an authentic transmission of the Gospel in Africa and hear Christ’s call to Africans. It is what Africans do with Jesus Christ that matters - that is, how Africans respond to Jesus Christ in the complexities of contemporary life and society. This is the most vital theological challenge facing African Christians and African churches today. The rest of the world will learn from the African response.
‘Prosperity gospel’ is a lie
The so called ‘prosperity gospel’ is a misrepresentation of the Gospel and an alien import to Africa. Drawing from the example of Job, we maintain that suffering and poverty are not necessarily the result of sin, ignorance and lack of faith and that righteousness, understanding and faith do not necessarily lead to good health and prosperity. The ‘Prosperity gospel’ leads to a false sense of wellness, security and, ultimately, false hope. It is exploitation and often adds pain to the sufferer. In African culture, prosperity was linked to work ethic and communal co-existence.
Values for economic recovery
We realize that although Africa is endowed with numerous natural resources, many civilians die of hunger and disease as a result of conflicts over poor management of these resources. This creates a contradictory state - the African people’s hope to share and benefit from their natural resources and their despair and despondency in the face of famine, illness and war which excludes them from the ‘banquet of the kingdom’ (Mt. 22:1-14, Lk. 14:15-24). We need to go back to the traditional values of sharing and solidarity and build new relationships rooted in Christ and expressed in this cultural vitality.
Christ is also African
We recognize that Christ is African as he is Jewish or European. He is the Alpha and the Omega. In our reading and application of the Holy Scriptures we do well to be confident in the knowledge that Christ meets us in our culture. Christ speaks and understands our languages because he is one of us. He transforms us and calls us into a new relationship with him within our cultural experience. Our love for Christ ought to inspire us to love our neighbours as we live out this faith together.
The Annual School of Theology lasted two days. Attending were forty Christian leaders and scholars (15 women, 25 men) from Ghana, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya who represented various institutions including Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture, Uganda Christian University, Msalato Theological College, Tanzania, Kenyatta University, Moi University, St. Paul’s University (designate) Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology, Kima International School of Theology and ANITEPAM.
Rev. Prof. Kwame Bediako, Rt. Rev. Michael J. Sande
Keynote Speaker Treasurer, AICMAR Trustees
List of papers presented:
Rev. Professor Kwame Bediako
1 ‘Their past is also our present.’ Why all Christians have need of ancestors: making a case for Africa.
2 ‘Missionaries did not bring Christ to Africa, Christ brought them’. Why Africans need Jesus Christ.
Rev. Dr. Dickson Chilongani
‘Prosperity Gospel’ in Africa: A Response from the Book of Job
Dr. Margaret Gecaga (read by Dr. Zacharia Wanchacha Samita)
The Gospel symbol of the banquet of the kingdom and African traditional values of hospitality and sharing:
A response to the problems of famine in Africa
Rev. Benjamin Shikwati Keya
An African Reading and Application of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
Rev. Zablon Bundi Mutongu
The Cultural Power of African Functionality Christology in Communicating Christ to Africans as demonstrated by
Christ as Liberator, Chief, Healer and Ancestor.
Edited versions of the above papers will be contained in our academic journal the AICMAR Bulletin
Vol. 6 • 2007 expected to be published mid-2007. If you are interested in subscribing, please
contact the Managing Editor at the address below:
African Institute for Contemporary Mission and Research
Chadwick Library incorporating the Festo Olang' Resource Centre (FORC)
P.O. Box 338, BUTERE 50101, Kenya
Tel. 00 254 (0)56 620407 firstname.lastname@example.org