“But they are our children”: The Crucial Role of Women in Development

I’ve been reading Ron Sider’s new book on non-violent action (see my review here), and in it Sider provides a beautiful quote that perfectly captures the essence of development and community building. This statement well captures what we do in Africa and why the local church is so crucial, primarily because a local church focus maximises and values the insights of local peoples. The following quote is by Leymah Gbowee, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her work toward ending the civil war in Liberia primarily through the empowerment of women. Gbowee writes:

Organizations like the UN do a lot of good…but there are certain basic realities they never seem to grasp…Maybe the most important truth that eludes these organizations is that it’s insulting when outsiders come in and tell a traumatized people what it will take for them to heal. You cannot go to another country and make a plan for it. The cultural context is so different from what you know that you will not understand much of what you see. I would never come to the US and claim to understand what’s going on, even in the African American culture. People who live through a terrible conflict may be hungry and desperate, but they are not stupid. They often have very good ideas about how peace can evolve, and they need to be asked.

That includes women. Most especially women. When it comes to preventing conflict or building peace, there’s a way in which women are the experts…we know our communities. We know our history. We know the people. We know hot to talk to an ex-combatant and get his cooperation, because we know where he comes from. To outsiders like the UN, these soldiers were a problem to be managed. But they were our children.

1. See Ron Sider, Nonviolent Action (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2014), 114; and Gbowee, Mighty Be Our Powers, 171-172.


“African Traditional Religion and Pentecostal Churches in Lusaka, Zambia: An Assessment”

A summary article of my MA thesis appears in the latest issue of the Journal of Pentecostal Theology. The essay addresses African Traditional Relgion and Pentecostal churches in Zambia. I welcome your thoughts, comments and critiques.  PENT_021_02_06Ireland

Reflecting on the Massai Creed

The Massai Creed is a great example of why the western Church needs to listen to the churches of the global south. As Pentecostals especially we tend to aspire to “creedless Christianity,” as is evident in the AG’s Statement of Fundamental Truths. But, as the AG would learn shortly after its founding, doctrinal, creedal statements serve a vital function in the Church, especially when it comes to heterodox teachings.

Beyond that though, our creedal statements also have a lot to say about our cultural setting. All theology is a matter of interpreting the content of Christianity within a cultural framework. The Massai Creed is a great way to understand this. After recently stumbling across the Massai Creed in Jaraslov Pelikan’s excellent Credo, I find myself fascinated by the differences in this creed and most doctrinal statements produced in the west. I’ve put in bold lettering those parts that I think are particularly interesting and telling regarding how other cultures see the content of Christianity. The Massai, more than the churches of the west, emphasize God’s love, the importance of community, the poverty of Christ, and the missionary nature of Christ’s redemptive work.

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created Man and wanted Man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the Earth. We have known this High God in darkness, and now we know Him in the light. God promised in the book of His word, the Bible, that He would save the world and all the nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good His promise by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left His home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He lay buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, He rose from the grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through Him. All who have faith in Him must be sorry for their sins, be baptised in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love and share the bread together in love, to announce the Good News to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for Him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

What else do you see in this creed that seems especially non-western?