In one of my recent blogs titled, “The Emergence of African Theologians in Britain” I started reflecting on African scholars in Britain who are writing about the phenomenon of African Christianity in Britain. As a continuation of that reflection, I offer these reviews of books written by two of those scholars. The first is Sent Forth: African Missionary Work in the West (2014) published by Orbis Books and written by Dr Harvey Kwiyani and the second is The Holy Spirit in African Christianity: An Empirical Study (2015) published by Paternoster (an imprint of Authentic Media) written by Rev Dr Chigor Chike.
The two books are theological reflections on African Christianity in the West as it is unfolding. Kwiyani’s book focusing more on the context in the United States is a missiological study, while Chike’s book looking at the British context is a study on Pneumatology (Person and Work of the Holy Spirit). Both books demonstrate that African Christianity in the West is now flourishing and needs mature theological discourses. Kwiyani’s book combined current understanding of the Missional Church looking at the works of mission theologians such as Leslie Newbigin, Andrew Walls and Darrell Guder with works of current African Theologians such as Afe Adogame, Jehu Hanciles and Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu. This unique reflection advances scholarpship on African missionary work in the West. A thesis that Kwiyani worked with throughout the book is the idea of the “Blessed Reflex” which developed with the modern missionary movement and continued through the Edinburgh missionary conference in 1910 that the younger churches (African , Latin American and Asian Churches) will one day be a blessing to the West. This is the idea of reverse mission that many African pastors in Britain are now working with. Kwiyani, prefering the terms Blessed Reflex, African missionary work in the West and mulicultural missionary movement instead of reverse mission highlighted some of the challenges that African pastors and missionaries are facing in the West and how they can overcome by working in partnership with the Western Church.
Chike on the other hand surveyed previous works on African Christianity and located a gap. This gap is the lack of study on the theology of African Churches in Britain. Chike’s previous work, African Christianity in Britain: Diaspora, Doctrines and Dialogue (2007) examined what African Christians now living in Britain do believe about God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, and the Bible, however in the current work, he focused on their belief in the Holy Spirit. This Pneumatological study becomes significant in the light of the understanding that African Pentecostal Churches are taking the lead in planting churches in Britain. While Chike’s work examine the belief of African Pentecostal Churches in Britain, the study was not however limited to Pentecostal churches as he examined what African Churches within Historic Churches also believe about the Spirit. The case studies were drawn from the Church of England, Methodist church, Pentecostal church and an African Initiated Church (AIC) making a rich diverse views on the Holy Spirit. Chike identified five factors that affects the African Christian’s view of the Holy Spirit. They are personal and communal experience of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, the African worldview, African Traditional concepts of God and the worldwide Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.
I want to recommend these two books written by friends of mine as a way of understanding the theology of African Christians in the West.