The Center for Christianities in Global Contexts (CCGC) continues to play an active role in the life of the Theological School. Pursuant of its goal of facilitating sustained reflections on global Christianities, the center organized forums on Cross Cultural Travel, as well as a lunchtime conversation with Rev. Dr. Mercy Amba Oduyoye, one of the leading voices on African Theology broadly, and African Women’s Theology in particular.
Cross Cultural Travel and Global Christianities
The purpose of forums on “Cross Cultural Travel and Global Christianities” grows out of the center’s goal of highlighting the complex realities of global Christianities. But the forums also attend to the ongoing curriculum of the Theological School, precisely, its M.Div. Cross Cultural course.
The first of such forums was organized on October 24, 2012, and the focus of the event was on Turkey. The conversation was led by Drew faculty member, Dr. Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre and some of the students who had returned from a trip to Turkey. The presentation and resulting rich conversation examined how the experience of Cross Cultural travel itself brought to sharper focus such important issues as the overlaps between national, religious (Muslim, Christian, Jewish), and cultural identities in Turkey, and the resulting rich array of diversities that are continuously manifested as individuals and communities interact within and outside of educational and religious institutions. Furthermore, the conversation touched on the historical significance of Turkey in the development of early Christianity, intra-and inter-religious dialogues, and practices that shape and nourish diverse forms of Christian practice and embodiment in contemporary Turkey.
As part of the center’s goal of using technology to foster sustained reflection on curriculum and pedagogy, the event was filmed for future use in the Theological School and beyond. To that end, the center collaborated with Jim Ault, award winning cinematographer who has worked on African Christianities, to produce a video of the conversation, now available on the center’s website.
The second event on Cross Cultural Travel was held on February 27, 2013, following trips to El Salvador and Malaysia, led by Dr. Arthur Pressley and Dean Jeffrey Kuan, respectively. Following introductory remarks by the director of the center, Dean Kuan and Dr. Pressley framed the conversation, speaking to the planning and pre-departure preparations leading up to the trip, as well as on the variety of experiences that marked the trips. Both leaders expressed the hope that such travel would spark continued reflection and questions on theological education, as well as on self and social transformation. Both leaders expressed the hope that the encounters with the rich array of lived experiences constitutive of the complexities and tensions that make up the global landscape and global manifestations of Christianities in diverse religious contexts would offer a unique opportunity to reflect on “local” Christianities which make up the changing and complex face of global Christianities.
The conversation was opened to those students who had traveled to El Salvador or Malaysia. As a number of students took turns to articulate the personal, theological and pedagogical impact of the Cross Cultural trip, several issues emerged, including the ways in which global travel opens up new and renewed challenges and opportunities for navigating and engaging issues of race and nationality; group identity during and after travel; how local histories and politics intersect with notions of global Christianities; issues of culture, diaspora and notions of “home”; spiritual nurture and care during travel; contextual understandings of notions of religion and its intersections with politics and culture; and the relationships between majority and minority religious and their adherents. In all, it was a rich conversation that provided an opportunity for the community to learn together with those who had travelled.
Conversation on African Women’s Theology
On April 10, 2013, the center sponsored a lunchtime conversation with one of Africa’s leading voices on women’s theology. Rev. Dr. Mercy Amba Oduyoye, who is the director of the Talitha Qumi Centre at Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana, spoke on her decades-long work on the challenges and triumphs of women doing theology in sub-Saharan Africa.
Inspired by the biblical story of Jesus’ command to Jarius’ daughter to “rise up” (Mark 5:41), Dr. Oduyoye and other women at the center in Ghana have addressed a range of cultural, religious, and epistemological issues affecting women’s lives and ministries in Ghana and across the continent. As a scholar, teacher, and minister whose personal and professional journey has and continues to straddle multiple continents, Dr. Odoyuye used her skills of storytelling to describe the critical, but transformative work she has spearheaded at the center, identifying and challenging forms of oppression (such as sexism and patriarchy) at the local and global levels. The conversation demonstrated how this remarkable leader uses her wide knowledge and humor to navigate and negotiate ways of continually empowering African women to do the kind of liberative and transformative theology that allows them to rise up again and again.
We continue to be grateful to the Luce Foundation for its generous support of our work. And we appreciate the collaboration and active participation of our student fellows, the staff of Drew Theological School, student body, and the faculty who participated in these events, making them a success and an enriching experience for the community.—Kenneth Ngwa, Director, Center for Christianities in Global Contexts and Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible