Akintunde E. Akinade Ambivalent Modalities: Mission, Race, and the African Factor
The subject of race remains a controversial one within the missionary enterprise. It evokes multiple feelings, responses, and sensibilities. The race factor in the story of mission in the African context can be defined as a tale of many paradigms and constellations. In the expansion of the Christian faith in Africa, imperious mandates were tempered by local factors and conditions. Pragmatic sensibilities ultimately trumped the propensities of missionary agents to be dismissive of contextual realities. Imperial hubris inevitably gave way to creative negotiations and interactions. This dynamic process resulted in the four models that I will discuss: rejectionist, accommodationist, revisionist, and adventurist paradigms for understanding the various ways Africans have responded to mission under the banner of race. This paper uses the missionary activities in various contexts in Africa, especially in the 19th century, to tease out these various responses and templates for understanding how the issue of race has shaped the ebb and flow of the Christian faith in Africa. In the 19th century, Africa was a center of religious renewal and revival. In the midst of uncertainty, upheaval, and warfare, African religious leaders and prophets played significant roles in reshaping and redefining the mission of the Christian faith within the African context. This paper will further grapple with how these modalities in the 19th century have been reshaped and reappropriated in contemporary times.
Akintunde E. Akinade is professor of theology at Georgetown University’s Edmund E. Walsh School of Foreign Service in Qatar. He has been published widely, with books he has authored or edited including Christian Responses to Islam in Nigeria: A Contextual Study of Ambivalent Encounters, the award-winning Agitated Mind of God: The Theology of Kosuke Koyama (with Dale T. Irvin), and Creativity and Change in Nigerian Christianity with (David O. Ogungbile). He serves on numerous editorial boards.