Emerging African Theologians in Britain

As I continue to reflect on the nature and development of African Christianity in Britain, I began asking myself the question. Now that we have thousands of African Churches in Britain who are the theologians reflecting, critiquing and most importantly writing about African Christianity in Britain? In essence, who are the theologians of the African Church Movement in Britain? This is not an easy task because while we have so many African pastors with some having Masters in Theology and others having Doctoral degrees in Theology, there are very few African pastors and scholars writing. There are several reasons why African pastors are not writing or should I say not writing theological text books, because there are many African pastors writing motivational and inspirational books which appeals more and are targeted at an average believer than theological students. So why are African pastors not writing theological textbooks or books that demonstrate they are reflecting on their church and history?

Firstly, is still the perception that studying theology is either not relevant or could lead to one losing his or her faith. Some have experienced theological institutions and were not pleased at how impractical some of their studies were. Some African pastors who went to study theology at one of the British theological institution mention to me that if they were to preach the way they were taught to preach, then no one from their congregation will return the next Sunday! This sounds very shocking, but what they were alluding to was the fact of being taught by someone with highly qualified theological degree in preaching and hermeneutics but perhaps lacks the pastoral experience. Added to this is the ignorance of the dynamics and context of an African Church. Is this statement justified? On the one hand, we need more African pastors to have theological training so as to be prepared to minister in a post modern British society, but on the other hand we also need theological tutors who have current and relevant pastoral and ministerial experience who will be able to combined head and heart in a theological class room. Having theological instructors whose pastoral experience and ministries were in the 1960s/70s is not good enough! In addition, we need more than just white British theological educators in our theological institution because the face of the church in Britain is now multi-ethnic.

A second reason why I think African pastors are not writing theological text books is the way and nature of academic and traditional publishing system. Academic publishing is obviously based on academic qualifications or being attached to a theological institution or centre. This means if you do not have a chair in a theological institution or at least attached to a college or University, you are likely not going to be considered. For traditional publishing, you have to know people that matters in the world of Christian celebrities or have a good reference from someone inside the publishing house. This is partly why some African pastors and churches have established their own publishing companies to print their inspirational books.

Lastly, is the practical need of writing which many African pastors have adopted. African pastors seem to prefer to write about how to solve your financial problems than to write about the history of African Pentecostal Churches in Britain. This is partly driven by the needs in some of these churches which ranges from immigration issues, visa restrictions, marital problems, financial problems. But it has to be said that while some of these motivational books are written with the practical and urgent needs of people in mind, some of the writings are done by pastors who have their own agenda of preaching Prosperity! The more books you write on success, the more people buy them, the more money you make! African pastors must take the time to reflect on the nature of our churches, its doctrines and practices and write to help educate and disciple its followers.

Having considered few reasons why African pastors are not writing theological text books, it is important to mention the few in Britain that are writing and reflecting on the African Church Movement as it is unfolding. This is not an exhaustive list so please do forgive me if you do not see your name!

Dr Afe Adogame: Afe is possibly one of the best known African scholars not only in Britain but in Europe, North America and Africa. He has written, contributed, edited more books and articles than any African scholar I am aware of in Britain. His bibliography is impressive authoring around 10 books and written countless articles in edited books and academic journals on African Christianity in Diaspora. Afe is lecturer in World Christianity and Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. For his impressive bibliography follow this link http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/divinity/staff/search?uun=aadogame&search=&params=&cw_xml=publications.php

Rev Dr Kate Coleman: Kate Coleman is a Baptist minister and theologian who is actively involved in developing strategic leaders. She is a Womanist Theologian who reflects on the issues that affect women in leadership with a particular focus on black women in leadership. She has written a book, 7 Deadly Sins of Women in Leadership , Birmingham, Next Leadership Publishing, 2010, and contributed in academic journals and book chapters. Kate also teaches at various theological institutions one of which is Cliff College. Kate is the director of Next Leadership a cutting egde organisation that is involved in training and equipping leaders.

Rev Dr Chigor Chike: Chigor Chike is an ordained Anglican minister in East London and has written 2 books on African Christianity in Britain: The first being, African Christianity in Britain, Milton Keynes, Author House, 2007. This book surveyed the doctrines and practices of African Christians in Britain. The second is Voices from Slavery: Life and Beliefs of African Slaves in Britain, Milton Keynes, Author House, 2007. This book considers the life of 4 African Christian slaves in Britain drawing on their theological significance.

Rev Joe Kapolyo: Joe Kapolyo is a Baptist minister and scholar whose academic credentials combines Theology and Social Anthropology. Joe has the experience of leading theological institutions both in Africa and Britain. He has also worked with a lot of mission organisations. Joe has written books and has contributed book chapters as well as journal articles. Joe was one of the contributors of the African Bible Commentary and Dictionary of Mission Theology.

Dr Babatunde Adedibu: One of the emerging African missiologist in Britain is Babatunde Adedibu who is one of the pastors of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). Babatunde as the research and ecumenical officer of RCCG can be regarded as the RCCG Theologian. Babatunde has written 2 books up to date and has contributed both in academic journals and book volumes. His two books are: Storytelling: An Effective Communication Appeal in Preaching, London, Wisdom Summit, 2009 and Coat of Many Colours, London, Wisdom Summit, 2012. Coat of Many Colours documents the history, mission and theology of Black Majority Churches (BMCs). Babatunde is a research fellow at University of Roehampton.

Dr Harvey Kwiyani: Harvey is another emerging African missiologist in Britain who has experience of the Missional Church Conversation in North America and Britain. This experience is reflected in his new book: Sent Forth: African Missionary Work in the West, New York, Orbis Books, 2014. This book which builds on earlier scholarship brings us up to the date with the African missionary movement in the West. The strength of the book lies in the fact that it attempts to view in holistic terms the missionary work of Africans in the West and the Missional Church Conversation as it is unfolding. Harvey is the brain behind Missio Africanus an initiative designed to help the missionary work of Africans in Britain. This is done through the Missio Africanus conference and journal (work in progress). He teaches missions, leadership, and African studies at Birmingham Christian College and at Church Mission Society (CMS) in Oxford. He is also research fellow at the Cuddesdon Study Centre at Ripon College, Cuddesdon

Israel Olofinjana: Lastly, I have to include my name as I have done a fair amount of writing and reflection on African Christianity, history and mission in Africa and Britain. I have written 3 books: Reverse in Ministry and Missions: Africans in the Dark Continent of Europe, Milton Keynes, Author House, 2010, 20 Pentecostal Pioneers in Nigeria, Bloomington, IN, Xlibiris, 2013 and Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in Britain, London, Instant Apostle/Lion Hudson Publishers. I have also contributed book chapters in academic text books:

Olofinjana, I.O, 2014, Nigerian Pentecostals: Towards Consumerism or Prosperity? In A. Adogame ed. 2014. The Public Face of African New Religious Movements in Diaspora, Surrey, Ashgate Publishing Limited, pp. 233-254.
This chapter explores prosperity Gospel as articulated by Nigerian Pentecostals in Britain comparring the development of prosperity Gospel in the United States, Africa and Britain.

Olofinjana, I.O, 2014, The Significance of Multicultural Churches in Britain: A Case Study of Crofton Park Baptist Church. In R.D. Smith, W. Ackah and A.G. Reddie eds. 2014. Churches, Blackness and Contested Multiculturalism, New York, Palgrave macmillan, pp. 75-86.

Olofinjana, I.O, 2014, Biography of the Revd Dr Mojola Agbebi. In G. Richards, 2014. Text and Story: Prophets for Their Time and Ours, Oxford, Centre for Baptist History and Heritage Oxford, pp. 18-20.
This contribution explores the life and legacy of the African nationalist and Baptist theologian, Dr Mojola Agbebi.

In addition, I am also one of the directors of Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World, an initiative established to train and equip missionaries from the Majority World.

In conclusion, while I have only focused in this article on African pastors and scholars writing in Britain, it is worth mentioning that there are others not African who have reflected and written about African Christianity and Churches in Britain. Some of them are: Dr Anthony Reddie, leading Black Theologian in Britain,  Dr Robert Beckford, leading Black Theologian in Britain, Dr Joe Aldred, Pentecostal and Multicultural Relations, CTE, Mark Sturge, author of Look what the Lord has done and Dr Richard Burgess, lecturer in Ministerial Theology University of Roehampton.

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About israelolofinjana

Rev Israel Oluwole Olofinjana is an ordained and accredited Baptist minister and has pastored Crofton Park Baptist Church (2007-2011) and Catford Community Church (2011-2013). He is currently the pastor of Woolwich Central Baptist Church, a multicultural church in south east London. He is Nigerian coming from a Pentecostal background. He holds a BA (Hons) in Religious Studies from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria and MTh from Carolina University of Theology (CUT). Israel is the editor of “Turning the Tables on Mission: Stories of Christians from the Global South in the UK” and author of “Reverse in Ministry and Missions: Africans in the Dark Continent of Europe” and “20 Pentecostal Pioneers in Nigeria” He has spoken in a number of conferences regarding reverse mission and Black Majority Churches (BMCs) and has also contributed to academic journals and Christian magazines on the subject of Black Majority Churches (BMC) in Britain. He is currently co-opted as a member of the Baptist Union Council. Israel is also one of the Directors of Centre for Missionaries from the Majority World an initiative design to train and equip pastors and missionaries from the South. He is a member of the Global Connections council. When he is not preaching or writing he is playing with Lego! He is happily married to Lucy who works as an administrator and research co-ordinator for the Evangelical Alliance. She is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), earning a BA in Social Anthropology and International Development. Lucy loves baking and watching movies!
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4 Responses to Emerging African Theologians in Britain

  1. Pingback: Emerging African Theologians in Britain « Black and Multicultural Churches Directory

  2. VaSanganyado says:

    Thank you for this insightful post. I am an aspiring Christian writer and one publisher was honest enough to tell me the only problem I had was I was not known by anyone. I did not have a platform, so publishing my work did not make any business sense. Through a personal survey, which I am still conducting, I am convinced that my initial perception that Africans do not read Africans was true. I wrote a post on my blog on that, http://gracemusing.com/2014/12/18/why-writing-a-christian-book-if-you-are-an-african-is-worthless/

    • Thanks for your comments which I do agree with that it is diffult for those of us African writers to publish our own books due to traditional system of publishing. I have had to go through the challenges that you mentioned and in the end self published! I know self publishing is difficult to put your book out there and sometimes very expensive, but I believe and know that I had something to contribute.

      We must encourage African Christians to read beyond self help books. We must encourage them to read theological, historical books written by Africans which there are not so many of them because of some of the things you have mentioned. Lets keep writing!

  3. Rev. Stanley Okeke says:

    Thank you Dr for this article. It gives impetus to some of us emerging scholars to work harder so that our names will be included in such chronology soonest. Dr Afe Adogame you mentioned first is my Lecturer and supervisor in the centre of World Christianity in the University of Edinburgh. Also your work on Garrick Braide gave me some insight while studying African Prophets.

    Thanks.

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