Dr Harvey Kwiyani, theologian and missiologist from Malawi, East Africa, to lead a freshly launched master’s program at the Church Mission Society (CMS) that will focus on the “new post-colonial missionary movement “formed by African Christians in Britain.
“I grew up in Africa, so I know what an empowered African church can do,” says Dr. Kwiyani, program manager for the new Masters in Theology, Mission and Ministry, with a focus on the African Christian Diaspora.
CMS Director of Missionary Education Jonny Baker hopes this is just the beginning as plans are already underway for similar study programs in other areas.
“We are truly excited about this new curriculum and the mix of students it will bring. We hope and expect it to change us and equip a wider range of students for a pioneering mission.” , did he declare.
“We dream that in the years to come, we will be able to introduce similar avenues with an Asian and Latin American accent, to create the widest possible cross-cultural conversation about mission today.”
Dr Kwiyani, 45, comes to the post with a wealth of experience in African Christianity and missiology.
He studied for his doctorate in African Christianity at Liverpool Hope University and also taught African theology there.
Recently he was appointed Managing Director of Global Connections, a UK network for global mission, and before that, in 2014, he founded Missio Africanus to help African Christians and other ethnic minorities effectively reach the UK .
Christian Today spoke to Dr Kwiyani about the new masters program and the contribution of African Christians.
CT: How, in practice, do African Christians turn out to be “post-colonial missionaries” in a largely secular UK?
HK: First by their prayers. African Christians in general believe in a powerful spiritual world that answers prayer and therefore prayer is often understood as a lifeline. I haven’t seen an African congregation here in the UK that doesn’t have a prayer vigil at least once a month.
Second, many of them are actively involved in preaching and distributing evangelistic materials in British cities. While this may not be the most effective method of evangelism in Britain, their Christian presence on the streets of our cities makes the gospel accessible to some who would not otherwise have access.
Third, just by their presence in Britain. We know that African Christians support the Christian presence in London where they make up over half of church attendance every Sunday, for example.
Their presence in their workplaces or in their schools is significant especially when one realizes that, more often than not, they will be one of the few, if not the only one, Christians in these circles.
CT: The older Christian denominations in Britain, especially Anglicans and Methodists, are in increasing decline. What are the reasons for this in your opinion?
Hong Kong: Whatever reason we may give for this decline, it must take into account a combination of several complex factors such as the inability or reluctance of faiths to engage in the changing culture around them in a meaningful way. and prophetic; the despiritualization of Christianity, which, of course, is the result of Europe’s post-Enlightenment penchant for science and secularism; the bourgeois captivity of Western Christianity; and their failure to maintain an evangelical presence in their communities.
CT: What do we mean by “African Christian diaspora” in the UK?
HK: When we talk about the African Christian Diaspora we mean the growing number of African Christians living outside the African continent. In the case of our new program at the Church Mission Society, we think of African Christians living in the UK, but also in Europe and other parts of the world.
Here in the UK, African Christians have become a very visible part of the Christian community. In some cities, they form the most visible expression of Christianity. Across the country, majority African churches are the fastest growing part of the church. In London, they are growing fast enough to mean that, overall, Christianity is on the rise in the city.
One in two people who attend church in London are of African descent, even though they represent only 14 percent of London’s population.
CT: What type of students does the new master’s degree aim to attract?
HK: The course is designed to serve students of all kinds with an emphasis on two groups. The first group includes African church leaders – pastors, elders, worship leaders – serving God here in the UK and in other parts of the world. Many of them need to understand the context in which they serve. Many others need theological training to be more effective in their service. This program will be useful to these students.
The second group includes non-African leaders who, by divine providence, find themselves serving or working with African Christians in their churches. These could be vicars, deans, prefects, etc., who find that African Christians are increasing in their congregations. Or it could be vicars who rent church halls to African congregations for their services and are intrigued to learn something about them.
But there is also the group of British / European Christians who serve in Africa, in mission agencies, diplomatic roles and in business, who realize that they need to learn African Christianity to understand the Africa.
CT: What can students learn about intercultural mission in your new course?
HK: In addition to three modules which will be shared with the pioneer students of the Church Mission Society – Leadership, Mission and Research – students on the African Christian Diaspora will have three modules focused on Africa.
The first is the history of the African Church. We are covering this module because our students find it helpful to understand that Christianity has been present in Africa continuously from the beginning, in North Africa – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria – and Ethiopia.
Many of them are encouraged when they learn from African church fathers – Tertullian, Athanasius, Augustine – and are able to learn from their theological works to inform their own identity today.
The second module deals with African Pentecostalism. This module aims to help African Christians, most of whom are Pentecostals, understand their own faith in a way that helps them speak with humble confidence to their neighbors. It also helps our non-African students to better understand their African neighbors. Of course, if any of them have ties to African Christians in their community, they are very likely to be Pentecostals.
The third Africa-focused module explores African religion or, as some would call it, traditional African religion. This module helps both our African and non-African students to understand African life.
It is quite superficial to try to understand Africans without understanding their religiosity because for most Africans, life and religion are inseparable. Certainly, one cannot understand African Pentecostalism without struggling with the African religious heritage in the broad sense.