Yale-Edinburgh Group
on the History of the Missionary Movement
and World Christianity

Consultations sponsored by the Centre for the Study of World Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, Yale Divinity School, and the Overseas Ministries Study Center

Theme for the 2018 Yale-Edinburgh Group Meeting

Scripture, Prayer and Worship in the History of Missions and World Christianity

The next meeting of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on the History of Missions and World Christianity is to take place in New College, University of Edinburgh, from 28-30 June 2018. The theme of the meeting will be Scripture, Prayer and Worship in the History of Missions and World Christianity.

Scripture, prayer and worship have been basic activities in almost all missions and manifestations of World Christianity, which should ensure a plentiful fund of material for reflection, comparison and discussion and give hope of illumination and deeper understanding of our field.

Scripture as a topic invites historical studies of issues relating to translation and interpretation and to its use in oral societies as well as those with an alternative sacred literature. The Bible has also been historically important in the formation and calling of missionaries and in the careers of leaders of churches and religious movements, not to mention its place in debates on mission and church policy. The reading of Scripture beyond church or mission has sometimes had momentous consequences, as in the study of the Gospels by the Bengal Renaissance reformer Ram Mohun Roy, or the effect of the Old Testament prophets on the leaders of the Taiping movement in China – or even the query from a Zulu enquirer that launched Bishop Colenso on his controversial researches.

Prayer has similarly been central to important developments in missions. The question of concerted prayer for the extension of Christ's Kingdom was vital for the emergence of the Protestant missionary movement in North America and Britain. In early missionary literature appeals for prayer are much more noticeable and detailed than those for finance. The nineteenth century critique of mission agencies issuing in the new “faith missions” also turned on the issue of prayer. The intensification of prayer as a corporate activity marked major developments such as the revival movements in North China, Korea and East Africa, the prophet-healing movements in West and Central Africa and the charismatic movement everywhere.

The topic of worship, with its frequent evocations of the worlds of art, music and architecture, and its interplay of iconic and iconoclastic traditions, has been particularly fertile soil for cultural exchange; issues over musical instruments, dancing, prophetic utterance and public confession, for instance, have appeared in various places. In this area the effects of charismatic movements of various kinds have been particularly evident. Liturgy has sometimes offered a field for expressions of indigenous theological development. Occasionally, as with the ecumenical communion at the Kikuyu Conference in 1913, a meeting for worship has assumed importance well beyond its own locality; occasionally too, as with the liturgy of the Church of South India, a form of worship has had effects across the world. Our field even offers some surprising glimpses, as when we watch the formidable sinologist James Legge barefoot (for he stands on holy ground) singing the doxology at the spot where Emperors of China offered sacrifices to the God of Heaven before Israel came out of Egypt.

All in all, our theme offers the prospect of a rich repast for us all, as Group members apply to it their own research and specialist knowledge.

Andrew Walls, Lamin Sanneh, and Brian Stanley, September 2017


For more information contact: Christopher Anderson, Yale-Edinburgh Group coordinator: Yale Divinity Library, 409 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 --- Phone: 203 432-5289 --- Email: christopher.j.anderson@yale.edu