Christianity and African Culture

By Oduyoye, Mercy Amba | International Review of Mission, January-April 1995 | Go to article overview

Christianity and African Culture

Oduyoye, Mercy Amba, International Review of Mission

As we African Christian intellectuals continue to meet to discuss Christianity and African culture, other African Christians are in the process daily of shaping a Christianity that will be at home in Africa and in which Africans will be at home. Very few African Christian theologians have found a way of being part of what I would like to name "the making of an African Christianity." One African Christian scholar, the late Prof. Bolaji Idowu, began such a process in the Methodist Church of Nigeria (see his Selfhood in the Church). In spite of the problems created by his personal style, the fact remains that the move he made to try to make Nigerian Methodists at home in their Christian life by an intensification of the element of celebration and popular participation in liturgy had overwhelming positive approval. It was seen as reviving the process that resulted in the creation of Christian versions of the rites of naming, marriage and burial. While we discuss methodology of Christian theology in Africa and how to name what is happening or should happen to Christianity in Africa, others are instituting forms of Christian churches in which the religious find a sustenance for their spirituality. Very early in the Christian enterprise those in Africa who instituted churches parallel to the western churches and missions reckoned that attempts to Africanize western Christianity would be futile. It was better to start afresh, letting the gospel speak in and to Africa and to create space for Africa to shape moulds to hold the essentials of the "Religion of Jesus Christ." We have no name for this two-way process.(1)

Meanwhile, it seems to me that for some Africans both Christianity and African culture are irrelevant to the contemporary challenges that Africans face. The University of Ibadan was once in the late '70s the venue for an epoch-making conference on "Women and Development." Papers were solicited on every aspect of life except religion. Is religion irrelevant in the discussion of "Women and Development" in Africa? In a pre-meeting of the 1977 Festival of African Arts and Culture, a symposium was held to highlight the intellectual heritage. I offered a paper on "The Value of African Beliefs and Practices for Christianity in Africa." I had no response from the organizers. Was Christianity the stumbling block or was the problem deeper, because Prof. E. Mveng gave a paper on "Black African Art as Cosmic Liturgy and Religious Language"? Was the mention "African Beliefs and Practices" itself an offence, or was it my suggestion that there is something that these can offer to make Christianity a truly African religion? I decided to test the hypothesis on a group of African Christians.

The opportunity came with the meeting of Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) in Ghana. Extracts summarizing the thesis were published in African Theology en Route.(2) I had no idea that this was going to earn me the image of the woman who advocates syncretism. In 1986 I was invited to speak at an American college on "The Role of African Traditional Religion in the Development of Christian Theology." The paper bore that title, but when later the speech found its way into the International Christian Digest, it bore the title "Ways to Confront Africa's Primal Religions." I wrote a protest, which was published, suggesting that it was clarifying my position. For me it was clear enough, but then it continued my fear, that whereas it was acceptable to have Christianity transform Africa and Africans, it was difficult to allow the possibility of Africans having something to offer to transform Christianity in Africa, not to speak of world Christianity.

To make this presentation I read carefully 472 pages containing forty-seven contributions by Africans and beating the title "Culture, Religion and Liberation."(3) The focus of these papers was the liberation-domination parameter. The contributors argued the use and misuse of religion and culture in the struggle for human liberation. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Christianity and African Culture


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.