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World Christianities Pathway in the Theology and Religious Studies MPhil

World Christianities Pathway

The study of World Christianities explores the plurality and vibrancy of Christianity outside of North America and Western Europe as well as its embeddedness in the historical and contemporary power structures of the Christian faith worldwide.

The MPhil in World Christianities at Cambridge is designed to enable research in local and global Christian movements from multiple disciplinary angles. The modules in this pathway offer an intensive engagement with essential themes and theories in the historical and contemporary study of World Christianity. In addition, a series of source-based exercises and the dissertation allow students to develop their research capacity in this area.

For further questions, please contact the World Christianities pathway convener, Dr Jörg Haustein.

Michaelmas Term – Christianity, Identity, and Politics in Modern Africa

Module Coordinators: Dr Jörg Haustein, Professor David Maxwell 

The primary focus of this module is on the renegotiation of African and Christian identities in the past two centuries, from early encounters between missionaries and African societies along the encroaching colonial frontier to African independency movements, decolonisation, the role of African Christianity in the Cold War, and finally the rise of Pentecostalism. A special interest of the module will be in enabling students to de-centre European agency and study how African politics, social change and cultural heritage were mobilised in the Africanisation of Christianity. Main themes for this analysis will be 1) the interplay of missionary, European, and African politics in the colonial remaking of Africa; 2) the place of conversion as a nexus for negotiating the demands of European modernity with changing African social structures; 3) the role of science and translation in the vernacularisation of Christian cosmology; 4) the transformation of African traditional religions through Christian contextualisation movements.

Module Objectives

The aim of this module is to provide an orientation over the history of African Christianity from colonialism to the present through a critical discussion of the most important scholarly debates in the history of Christianity in Africa. Students will be encouraged to develop their understanding of the complexities and variance of the colonial missionary engagement with Africa and the variety of Christian expressions this produced on the continent. In addition, they will be enabled to navigate the interdisciplinary field of the study of Christianity in Africa through critical engagement with how African Christianity and African agency is represented in a variety of scholarly texts.

Seminar Topics

The module will be taught in four seminars in weeks 1–4 in Michaelmas Term. All seminars are based on the discussion of a selection of essential readings on the themes indicated below.

Seminar 1: Approaches to the Study of Christianity

Seminar 2: Christian Missions, Modernity, and Empire

Seminar 3: Missionary-independent Christianity in Africa

Seminar 4: The rise of Pentecostalism in Africa

Assessment

The module is assessed by a 5,000 word research essay on ONE of the seminar themes. Students are encouraged to formulate their own essay topic in consultation with one of the module coordinators. All essay topics must be approved by the degree committee. The following sample questions may provide some guidance:

1       How has the representation of Christian missions and African Christianity changed in historical scholarship since the middle of the 20th century?

2       Compare and contrast two missionary societies and their work in Africa.

3       On the basis of one ‘African independency’ movement, discuss the processes by which Africans appropriated and inculturated Christianity in competition and conflict with missionary agendas.

4       Analyse the arrival and growth of Pentecostalism in a selected African country, from the first missionary or indigenous movements to the present day, paying special attention to historical and cultural factors influencing its trajectory.

Lent Term – Themes in Contemporary World Christianity

Module Coordinators: Dr Jörg Haustein

Two thirds of the global Christian population now live in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and have decidedly changed the face of World Christianity. While this southward shift in the centre of gravity of Christianity is generally acknowledged, many of the debates emerging in the Christian global south are not yet given the prominence and careful attention they deserve. With the future of Christianity likely being determined by the Global South this is a significant gap that this module seeks to address. On the basis of four contentious themes – the relationship between church and state, the so-called Prosperity Gospel, the recognition of homosexual unions, and Christian-Muslim relations – students will be invited to reflect upon the social, political, and cultural complexities of contemporary World Christianity from multiple disciplinary angles. The readings and seminar discussions will therefore provide students with the essential analytical tools and perspectives to analyse the local and global entanglements of contemporary Christianity and to critically accompany these and other contentious debates among Christians around the world.

Module Objectives

This module provides orientation and reflection with regard to some of the most important issues and debates in contemporary Christianity in the global south. The individual sessions will not only provide an opportunity to disentangle various perceptions and conflicts relating to the discussed issues, but will link them up to the relevant critical theory, socio-scientific studies, and theological arguments. As such, the module also serves as a thorough introduction into the interdisciplinary nature of the field of World Christianities.

Teaching Provisions & Seminar Outlines

The module will be taught in four seminars in weeks 1–4 in Lent Term. All seminars are based on the discussion of essential readings on the themes indicated below, combining case studies with theoretical texts.

Seminar 1 – Megachurches and Mobilisation: New Politics of Church and State

Seminar 2 – Social Justice and Prosperity Gospel: Christianity and International Development

Seminar 3 – Decolonizing Christian Ethics: Sexuality and Global Culture Wars

Seminar 4 – Insider Movements and Ritual Transfers: Christian-Muslim Relations Beyond Dialogue

Assessment

The module is assessed by a 5,000 word research essay on ONE of the seminar themes. Students are encouraged to formulate their own essay topic in consultation with the module coordinators. All essay topics must be approved by the degree committee. The following sample questions may provide some guidance:

1       Drawing on a concrete example from the Global South, discuss how the relationship between church and state is being renegotiated through Pentecostal movements.

2       Discuss the merits and limits of Christian Faith-Based Organisations and their contribution to international development by way of one or two case studies.

3       Provide a critical analysis of how the gay rights debate is portrayed in the film ‘God Loves Uganda’ and discuss which additional factors and arguments need to be considered.

4       Study the recent debate around ‘Muslim Insider’ movements in global evangelical theology with respect to their challenges to both exclusivist and pluralist paradigms in the understanding of Christian-Muslim relations.