Former Senior Professor of Contextualized Theology and African Studies Passes Feb. 17
Dean Gilliland, former
senior professor of contextualized theology and African studies at Fuller
Theological Seminary, passed away on Sunday, February 17, 2013, at the age of
84. Gilliland dedicated 25 years to Fuller as a teacher and supervisor of
doctoral students from all over the world.
“Dean Gilliland was a
scholar, practitioner, and skilled administrator,” said Richard J. Mouw,
president of Fuller. “His contributions to missiology and the School of
Intercultural Studies helped make Fuller the right choice for hundreds of
veteran and trainee mission workers over the years.”
In a personal reflection,
Dr. Mouw said: “He had a marvelous tenor
voice, which he loved to use to glorify the Lord! One of my fondest memories of this talent was
his singing—at my request—“The Stranger of Galilee" at my inauguration as president of Fuller in 1993.
Gilliland contributed 22 years of experience on the field in Nigeria to the seminary’s mission
department. While there, he trained lay ministers and leaders on the field and
studied how to make theology applicable within a cross-cultural context. He was
also founder of the West African Association of Theological Studies and spent
several years ministering to Muslims in Africa prior to joining the Fuller
faculty in 1977.
One of the several courses
Gilliland taught at Fuller, “Pauline Theology of Mission,” used the apostle
Paul’s writings—and Gilliland’s own experiences in Nigeria of training new
Christians in theology—to flesh out how to contextualize the gospel in the real
world. This concept of contextualization
was a critical contribution to the thinking within the School of Intercultural
Studies at Fuller; in his courses Gilliland provided a theoretical basis for
this then-groundbreaking practice of intentionally presenting the gospel in
terms that are accessible to the local community.
Gilliland’s deep love for
God and vast experience won him an appreciative following among the diverse international
student body. James Kantiok (PhD ’00), a Nigerian native who is now professor
of philosophy and peace studies in the School of Education at Azusa Pacific
University, credits Dr. Gilliland with encouraging him toward Islamic
studies—an urging that Kantiok said changed the direction of his life.
“It was those studies that
turned me upside down,” Kantiok said in an interview for Fuller’s Alumni and
Church Relation’s online publication.
Because of Gilliland’s influence, Kantiok conducted research for the PEW
Foundation on Muslim-Christian understanding, and helped his future work as
founder of a nonprofit organization that helps equip Muslim converts to reach
out to their communities in Nigeria.
In addition to his
teaching role, Gilliland was the first faculty member to direct Fuller’s
Cross-Cultural Studies program for pre-field students, building the program to
a higher level of academic and practical prominence. He also authored numerous books and articles
within the field of contextualization, including Pauline Theology and
Mission Practice (1983), African Religion Meets Islam (1985), “First
Conversion and Second Conversion in Nigeria” (1991), “Modeling the Incarnation
for Muslim Peoples” (2000), and “For Missionaries and Leaders: Paul’s Farewell
to the Ephesian Elders” (2004). Appropriate
Christianity (edited by Charles Kraft, 2005), to which Gilliland
contributed a chapter, was dedicated to him.
Gilliland continued to lend
his expertise and scholastic aptitude to the seminary until his retirement in
Gilliland held a BA from
Houghton College and a BD from Evangelical Theological Seminary. He earned a
ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary after his many years of service in
Africa and a PhD from Hartford Seminary Foundation.
He is survived by his wife
of 61 years, Lois, and their five children: Dean, David, Dale, Barbara Jo, and
Douglas, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be
held at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California, on Saturday, March 9, at 3:30 p.m., with
a reception following.