INCULTURATION AND AFRICAN THEOLOGY
After an evolutionary process of theological dialogue which began during the 1950s, Catholic, Protestant, French and English speaking theologians embraced a term that meant Africans would do theology from their own perspective. "Jesus is seen as the model of incarnation theology and inculturation theology, who incarnated in one particular time and place, and whose life and ministry remain the central paradigm for uncovering and inculturating gospel values of the kingdom into particular contexts."1 In spite of the sociological term which originates form the West, became attractive to Africans because of its "concepts, symbols and a whole new way of thinking and doing things." According to Martey, Justin Ukpong describes the inculturation process as follows:
In this approach, the theologian's task consists in re-thinking and re-expressing the original Christian message in an African cultural milieu. It is the task of confronting the Christian faith and African culture. In the process there is inter-penetration of both. Christian faith enlightens African culture and the basic data of revelation contained in Scriptures and tradition are critically re-examined for the purpose of giving them African cultural expression. Thus there is integration of faith and culture, and from it is born a new theological reflection that is African and Christian. In this approach therefore, African theology means Christian faith attaining African cultural expression.2
It would seem logical to me that at some point an oppressed people in Africa would appropriate the Christian ideology into their own context to challenge the evil and suffering within the land. Yet, sometimes the changes come with a hefty price. So it is with indigenization of Africa's theology.
Martey contends that after the Pan-African Conference, when James Cone challenged African theologians to embrace liberation as part of their theme for doing theology on the Continent, resulted in a big fight at the conference. At this juncture, the line was drawn in the sand with inculturationists on one side and African liberation theologians on the other. Subsequently, the African revolution against colonialism which began in the political arena, gave rise to pan africanism and more African nationalism had many aims and goals.
But, according to Martey, "its ultimate goal was the total liberation of Africa in all areas of human existence-political, social, economic, cultural and religious." Thus, causing the liberation movement to come under the "focus of Christian thought and theological interpretation." Although the church leaders became revolutionary radicals, the African theology which emanated from the political liberation movement, "the theological perspectives did not focus seriously on liberation."3 African women are well aware of this fact and are currently writing and voicing the need for a woman's theology that addresses her cause. However, there is a distinct difference between Black theology in South Africa and African feminist or women's theology among African women. African inculturation theology can be seen in the writings of John Mbiti, Harry Sawyerr, Bolaji Idowu, Kwesi Dickson, Edward Fashole-Luke and others. Mbiti says:
African theology is one of hope that arises out of spontaneous joy in being a Christian. It is a living phenomenon that will continue as long as the Church exists in our continent. African theology is concerned with the relationship between Christianity and African culture, between Church and State, together with innumerable pastoral and liturgical problems.4
Other theologians began to take a liberation approach to position Africa's economic and political struggle within a theological context. This approach can be seen in the writings of Jean-Marc Ela, Englebert Mveng, Laurenti Magesa and others. According to Martey, the inculturationists are mainly from English speaking Africa, while the liberationists are from French speaking countries. Yet, African women theologians arise from Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon in the West, Kenya in the East, and South Africa. Rosemary Edet and Teresa Okure come from Nigeria. Mercy Amba Oduyoye and Elizabeth Amoah are from Ghana. Bette Ekeya and Musimbi Kanyoro reside in Kenya. Therese Souga and Louise Tappa live in Cameroon; Dorothy Ramodibe of South Africa, and Lloyda Fanusie of Sierra Leone.5 All of the above named theologians represent the four streams of theology that are related to four issues in Africa. These four systems are also points of departure within the current debate. For example: "culture (inculturation theology); poverty (African liberation theology); gender (Africa women's theology); and race (Black theology)."6 Yet, all of these streams impact on the life of the African Christian woman.
1Emmanuel Martey, African Theology: Inculturation and Liberation, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1993), 68.
4James H. Cone and Gayraud S. Wilmore, eds., John Mbiti, "An African Views American Black Theology", in Black Theology: A Documentary History, vol. 1. 1966-1979, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1993), 379-384.
5Virginia Fabella, M.M. and Mercy Amba Oduyoye, eds. With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1998), 3-65.
Janet Moore graduated from McCormick Theological
Seminary in Chicago, IL and is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ
where she serves in various ministries.
Watch BlackandChristian.com for the next installment of this article on Ghanaian Christian Women.
>> Read Part One of this article here.
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