2019 Whitley Lecture
Wednesday 22 May
Bristol Baptist College
Joe Kapolyo is delivering the 2019 Whitley lecture based on this abstract:
It is now an undeniable fact that, demographically speaking, the centre of gravity of Christianity has shifted to the southern continents from its traditional heartlands in Europe and America. This is at least the third time that such a shift has occurred. The first saw the Church base move from the Middle East centred on Jerusalem to Rome in Europe and then from Rome to northern Europe and America. It is anecdotally suggested that the average Christian at the moment is a thirty seven year old Ugandan woman. We celebrate these facts and rejoice in the Lord that the southern continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America will have the privilege of playing host in significant ways to the Christian faith.
The heart of the argument of this paper concerns the need for African (Asian and Latin American) cultures to yield their deposits of grace in the service of the Gospel and theology. We will argue that the traditional distinction between theology (which should rightly be named as European or Enlightenment theology) and its privileged position over against so called contextualised theologies is not only false but dangerous. At best this has been and continues to be an instrument of exclusion; excluding African (Asian and Latin American) cultures from serious theological discourse. At worst it is an act of arrogance and even oppression. But it is also an unnecessary self imposed limitation in that it resists the development of a theological culture that embraces all of God's people on earth - the mosaic that represents every tribe, language and nation. Geologically, people mine precious minerals from the earth.
The miners do not create the deposits of copper, gold or diamonds; they simply exploit them for human benefit. Similarly, there are deposits of grace that God has left in every culture. These must be exposed and exploited in the service of theologies that will reflect the vast spread of humanity on earth, create new disciplines that will strengthen the Church and spur it on to fulfill the commission to go to all the nations of the world and make them disciples of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Joe Kapolyo is the recently retired Lead Minister at Edmonton Baptist Church, London. Previously he has served as Principal of All Nations Christian College; Principal of Theological College of Central Africa (TCCA), Ndola, Zambia; Pastor of Central Baptist Church (Harare, Zimbabwe); Pastor of Ndola Baptist Church (Zambia); Schools worker with Scripture Union Zambia.
He currently chairs on the Board of Ulting Trust Overseas and until August 2018 was a member of both the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the BUGB Trustees. Joe’s publications include ‘The Human Condition, Christian Perspectives through African Eyes’ in the Global Christian Library series, published by IVP and Matthew in the one-volume African Bible Commentary. Joe is married to Anne and they have two grown up daughters, and two grand children.