The Church in Africa Post-1600

Cradles of Christian Civilization

Christians praying in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Photo credit:  Steve Evans, Wikimedia Commons.  The time period around 1600 AD is significant because:  In the West, the Songhai Empire collapsed in 1591 and the Mali Empire was divided in 1610; in Central Africa, Idris Alooma, ruler of the Kanem-Bornu Empire, died in 1603; in the East, Portugal and the Catholic Church were expelled from Ethiopia in 1632; and on the coasts, accelerated conflict with European colonizers and slave traders.  The Pew Center writes, “if demography is destiny, then Christianity’s future lies in Africa. By 2060, a plurality of Christians – more than four-in-ten – will call sub-Saharan Africa home, up from 26% in 2015.”


the church in africa post-1600: cradles of christian civilization

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel.

Messages and Essays on the Church in Africa Post-1600 AD

The Role of Jesus in Revolution and the Pursuit of Justice This is an evangelistic message that highlights the Christian-led and Christian-influenced non-violent resistance movements throughout the world in the 20th century.  They show the connections and spiritual vitality of Christian faith under empire or empire-like oppression.  Highlights the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda.

Other Books and Articles on the Church in Africa Post-1600

Lamin Sanneh, West African Christianity (Amazon book, Oct 1983)

Martin Prozesky, Christianity Amidst Apartheid: Selected Perspectives on the Church in South Africa (Amazon book, 1990) and pdf book explores both white and black South African theologies and practices

Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution, Volume 1: Christianity, Colonialism, and Consciousness in South Africa (Amazon book, 1991) and pdf book analyzes perceptions and discourses, as well as the deployment of Christian language

Kwame Bediako, Christianity in Africa: The Renewal of Non-Western Religion (Amazon book, 1996)

John L. Comaroff and Jean Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution, Volume 2: The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier (Amazon book, 1997) and pdf book analyzes mutual cultural changes between British and Tswana peoples

Paul Gifford, African Christianity: Its Public Role (Amazon book, 1998)

Paul Freston, Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America (Amazon book, 2001, 2003) and pdf book

Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith (Amazon book, Feb 6, 2002) contains notable chapters on Christianity in Africa

Emmanuel Katongole, African Theology Today (Amazon book, 2002)

Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel beyond the West (Amazon book, Aug 31, 2003)

Lamin Sanneh, Abolitionists Abroad: American Blacks and the Making of Modern West Africa (Amazon book, Oct 9, 2003)

Lamin Sanneh and Joel A. Carpenter, The Changing Face of Christianity: Africa, the West, and the World (Amazon book, Mar 10, 2005)

Jane E. Soothill, Gender, Social Change and Spiritual Power: Charismatic Christianity in Ghana (Amazon book, 2007) and pdf book

John Coffey, The Abolition of the Slave Trade: Christian Conscience and Political Action (Jubilee Centre, 2007)

Alemayehu Wassie Eshete, Ethiopian Orthodox Church Forests: Opportunities and Challenges for Restoration (Amazon book, Jun 26, 2008).  See also Lori Robinson, How Churches Are the Gatekeepers of Ethiopia's Forests (Africa Geographic Stories, Apr 24, 2015).  See also Addison Nugent, Ethiopia's Sacred Forests Are Shrinking. Can He Save Them? (Ozy, Oct 15, 2017).  For a scientific article, see also Lori Abiyou Tilahun, Hailu Terefe, Teshome Soromessa, The Contribution of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church in Forest Management and Its Best Practices to be Scaled up in North Shewa Zone of Amhara Region, Ethiopia (Science Publishing Group, Jun 2015).   

Terence O. Ranger, Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa (Amazon book, 2008) and pdf book 

Matthew Frost, Religion in Africa: 'The Church Fills the Gap When States Fail the Poor' (The Guardian, Oct 17, 2008)

Emmanuel Katongole and Chris Rice, Reconciling All Things: A Christian Vision for Justice, Peace and Healing (Amazon book, Nov 10, 2008)

Matthew Parris, As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God (The Sunday Times (The Times UK, Dec 27, 2008) despite the patronizing posture and the historical ignorance of early Christianity in Africa, this article focuses on the need to create stable, transparent institutions where public officials are publicly accountable, and asks the important question from where the relevant ethics will come; I coped this article before it went behind a firewall (click here). 

D. Willis James, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (Amazon book, Jan 1, 2009)

Emmanuel M. Katongole and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Mirror to the Church: Resurrecting Faith after Genocide in Rwanda (Amazon book, Jan 28, 2009)

Emmanuel M. Katongole, The Sacrifice of Africa: A Political Theology for Africa (Amazon book, Dec 16, 2010)

Afe Adogame, Roswith Gerloff, and Klaus Hock, Christianity in Africa and the African Diaspora: The Appropriation of a Scattered Heritage (Amazon book, May 12, 2011)

Andrew Harding, Central African Republic Crisis:  The Church Sheltering Muslims (BBC News, Feb 13, 2014)

Tim Townsend, Forgiving the Unforgivable in Rwanda (CNN, Apr 13, 2014) and Pieter Hugo and Susan Dominus, Portraits of Reconciliation: 20 Years After the Rwandan Genocide (NY Times Magazine, Apr 6, 2014) and Kari Costanza, Rwanda: 20 Years Later (WorldVision Magazine, 2014)

Seraphim Danckaert, BBC Documentary on Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (Orthodox Christian Network, Jun 25, 2014)

Bruce Wydick, The Taste of Many Mountains (Amazon book, Aug 2014) about the global coffee trade and Christians working for change

Mawuna Remarque Koutonin, 100 African Cities Destroyed By Europeans: WHY There Are Seldom Historical Buildings and Monuments in Sub-Saharan Africa! (Silicon Africa, Nov 1, 2014)

Robert A. Dowd, Christianity, Islam, and Liberal Democracy: Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa (Amazon book, 2015) and pdf book

Mark Woods, Brother of Slain Coptic Christians Thanks ISIS For Including Their Words of Faith in Murder Video (Christian Today, Feb 18, 2015)

Robbie Couch, Nun in Uganda Has Educated 2,000 Girls Victimized by Joseph Kony (Huffington Post, Apr 22, 2015)

21 Christian Books by African Authors You Should Read (Theology in Africa blog, Mar 31, 2017) a great book list

Sunday Bobai Agang, The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us (Christianity Today, Apr 21, 2017) by a leading Nigerian theologian

Paul Schemm, Africa's Real Wakanda and the Struggle to Stay Uncolonized (Washington Post, Feb 27, 2018) 

Ruth Gledhill, Coptic Christians Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize (The Tablet International Catholic News Weekly, Oct 2, 2018) 

Kate Shellnut, Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Christian Doctor Who Heals Rape Victims (Christianity Today, Oct 5, 2018) Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who treats victims of rape

Harrison Smith, Lamin Sanneh, Pioneering Historian Who Studied Christianity’s Spread, Dies at 76 (Washington Post, Jan 13, 2019)

Johan Tredoux, Apartheid at 9pm (Uncommon Community, May 15, 2019) highlights the role of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Dutch Afrikaaners resisting slave abolition by the British Empire, another Christian effort

the church in africa: cradles of christian civilization

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics