World Christianity

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Yoido Full Gospel Church
Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in South Korea and in the world

World Christianity or global Christianity is a term that attempts to convey the global nature of the Christian religion. However, the term often focuses on "non-Western Christianity" which "comprises (usually the exotic) instances of Christian faith in 'the global South', in Asia, Africa and Latin America."[1] It also includes indigenous or diasporic forms in Western Europe and North America.[2]

History of the term[edit]

The term world Christianity can first be found in the writings of Francis John McConnell in 1929 and Henry P. Van Dusen in 1947.[3][4] Van Dusen was also instrumental in establishing the Henry W. Luce Visiting Professorship in World Christianity at Union Seminary in 1945, with Francis C. M. Wei invited as its first incumbent.[5] The term would likewise be used by the mission historian Kenneth Scott Latourette to speak of the "World Christian Fellowship" and "World Christian Community".[6][7] For these individuals, world Christianity was meant to promote the idea of Christian missions and ecumenical unity. However, after the end of World War II, as Christian missions ended in many countries such as North Korea and China and parts of Asia and Africa shifted due to decolonization and national independence, these aspects of world Christianity were largely lost.[8]

The current usage of the term puts much less emphasis in missions and ecumenism.[8] A number of historians have noted a twentieth-century "global shift" in Christianity, from a religion largely found in Europe and the Americas to one which is found in the global south.[9][10][11] Hence, world Christianity has more recently been used to describe the diversity and the multiplicity of Christianity across its two-thousand-year history.[8]

Another term that is often used as analogous to world Christianity is the term global Christianity. However, scholars such as Lamin Sanneh have argued that global Christianity refers to a Eurocentric understanding of Christianity that emphasizes the replication of Christian forms and patterns in Europe, whereas world Christianity refers to the multiplicity of indigenous responses to the Christian gospel.[12]

Notable figures[edit]

Andrew Walls, a key pioneer in the field of World Christianity

Some notable figures in the academic study of world Christianity include Andrew Walls,[13] Lamin Sanneh,[14] and Brian Stanley,[15] all three of whom are associated with the "Yale-Edinburgh Group on the History of the Missionary Movement and World Christianity".[16] More recently, Klaus Koschorke and the “Munich School” of World Christianity has been highlighted for its contribution in understanding the polycentric nature of world Christianity.[17]

In contrast to these historians, there is a growing number of theologians who have been engaging the field of world Christianity from the discipline of systematic theology. Some examples of this include the Pentecostal Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen and the Catholic Peter C. Phan.[18][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kim, Sebastian; Kim, Kirsteen (2008). Christianity as a World Religion. London: Continuum. p. 2.
  2. ^ Jehu Hanciles (2008). Beyond Christendom: Globalization, African Migration, and the Transformation of the West. Orbis Books. ISBN 978-1-60833-103-1.
  3. ^ McConnell, Francis John (1929). Human needs and world Christianity. New York: Friendship Press.
  4. ^ Van Dusen, Henry P. (1947). World Christianity: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press.
  5. ^ Robert, Dana L. "Historiographic Foundations". In Burrows, William R.; Gornik, Mark R.; McLean, Janice A. (eds.). Understanding World Christianity: The Vision and Work of Andrew F. Walls. Orbis Books. pp. 148–. ISBN 978-1-60833-021-8.
  6. ^ Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1938). Toward a world Christian fellowship. New York: Association Press.
  7. ^ Latourette, Kenneth Scott (1949). The Emergence of a World Christian Community. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  8. ^ a b c Phan, Peter C. (2012). "World Christianity: Its Implications for History, Religious Studies, and Theology". Horizons. 39 (2): 171–188. doi:10.1017/S0360966900010665. ISSN 2050-8557.
  9. ^ Walls, Andrew F. (1996). Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith. Orbis Books. ISBN 978-1-60833-106-2.
  10. ^ Robert, Dana L. (April 2000). "Shifting Southward: Global Christianity Since 1945" (PDF). International Bulletin of Missionary Research. 24 (2): 50–58.
  11. ^ Jenkins, Philip (2011). The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199767465.
  12. ^ Lamin Sanneh (9 October 2003). Whose Religion Is Christianity?: The Gospel Beyond the West. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 22–23. ISBN 978-0-8028-2164-5.
  13. ^ Burrows, William R.; Gornik, Mark R.; McLean, Janice A., eds. (2011). Understanding World Christianity: The Vision and Work of Andrew F. Walls. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
  14. ^ Akinade, Akintunde E., ed. (2010). A New Day: Essays on World Christianity in Honor of Lamin Sanneh. New York: Peter Lang.
  15. ^ "Professor Brian Stanley". School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 29 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Yale-Edinburgh Group". Yale Divinity Library. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  17. ^ Hermann, Adrian; Burlacioiu, Ciprian (2016). "Introduction: Klaus Koschorke and the "Munich School" Perspective on the History of World Christianity". Journal of World Christianity. 6 (1): 4–27. doi:10.5325/jworlchri.6.1.0004. JSTOR 10.5325/jworlchri.6.1.0004.
  18. ^ Yong, Amos (2015). "Whither Evangelical Theology? The Work of Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen as a Case Study of Contemporary Trajectories". The Dialogical Spirit: Christian Reason and Theological Method in the Third Millennium. Cambridge: James Clark and Co. pp. 121–148.
  19. ^ Phan, Peter C. (2008). "Doing Theology in World Christianity: Different Resources and New Methods". Journal of World Christianity. 1 (1): 27–53. doi:10.5325/jworlchri.1.1.0027. JSTOR 10.5325/jworlchri.1.1.0027.