The workshop would aim to extend the reassessment of Mission Christianity initiated in the early 1990s by recently-retired Professor Terence Ranger of Oxford University.
The workshop is to be held at the University of Western Australia over three days in the first week of February 2002. The workshop would aim to extend the reassessment of Mission Christianity initiated in the early 1990s by recently-retired Professor Terence Ranger of Oxford University.
Ranger pointed out that over time the mainstream denominational churches launched by missionaries in Africa had held the allegiance of the majority of African Christians. Without disputing the importance of the plethora of independent churches which have arisen in the course of the last century, Ranger argued that historians must accept the denominational churches as genuine indigenised institutions. He called for a concerted effort by researchers to explain how and why the change was accomplished.
The phenomenon which Ranger identified is not confined to Africa. Similar processes of religious change and the indigenisation of mission Christianity can be seen at work in Canada, Australia and Oceania. The main object of the symposium will be to bring emerging scholarship into a comparative framework. The universal lament of secular scholars who take an interest in missions has been the neglect of the twentieth century. Documenting and interpret the role of indigenous preachers and evangelists in that century is a matter of pressing importance. Disciplines chiefly concerned are history and anthropology.
To state the principal issue as sharply as possible, the workshop participants will discuss whether it is time, once and for all, to discard the venerable model of missionary Christianity as an externally imposed alien cultural implant? If that is agreed, the next question is to devise strategies for writing new histories which highlight the multifarious processes by which indigenisation occurred. While these issues are global, it will be helpful to concentrate attention on the Australian/Southern Pacific region, which is best known to most of the participants. The presence of significant figures who can provide comparative perspectives – chiefly, but not exclusively, African – will ensure that local peculiarities are not automatically assumed to be universal.