Abstract: Growth in Christianity has spurred the appearance of the subfield of world Christianity, whose assumptions increasingly shape scholarship on Christianity. What I term the world-Christian turn, which is often linked to mission studies, yields more comprehensive approaches to the Christian past, connecting local histories of Christian communities to larger-scale historical movements and producing innovative comparative perspectives on Christianity past and present. In Catholic theology, this turn has encouraged new comparative and contextual theologies. Yet support for Christian mission and the world-Christian turn need not go together. Two cases in point: comparative theology tends to eschew mission while the work of Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is suspicious of some impulses behind the world-Christian turn and their potential for undermining Christian mission. Such cases notwithstanding, I argue that missiology is a promising resource for the field of world Christianity.
Abstract: The social sciences contribute in important ways to our understanding of current Christian realities, especially ‘newer’ or ‘emerging’ Christianities. Recent research by social scientists on contemporary Christian groups – in historical anthropology and more recently in the anthropology of Christianity – has yielded important insights into modes of Christian agency and identity. Those interested in the spread of Christianity today – including missiologists – should familiarize themselves with such anthropological and sociological research. For their part, those engaged in social-scientific research on newer Christianities should attend more closely to Christianity in its historical and communal dimensions by developing an historical sociology.
Abstract: This article considers how well Martin Riesebrodt’s practice-centered theory of religion addresses religious change among Catholics in eastern Africa. Two arguments are advanced using a generational change scheme. First, Riesebrodt’s focus on religious practices assists in understanding many changes that African Catholics and their communities have experienced over time. It acknowledges believers’ perspectives and the impact of missionaries, and it generates comparative insights across different cases. However, Riesebrodt’s approach has limitations when developing a comparative perspective on historical transformation in these communities. Therefore, his focus on the objective meaning of interventionist religious practices needs supplementing: (1) capturing religious change within a given religion requires attention both to practices and their subjective appropriation by believers, and (2) in the forging of collective identities, theological reflection by elites helped connect Catholic practices to preexisting worldviews and Catholic practices marked generational change by distinguishing Catholics from other African Christians.