More than 150 scholars from around the globe converged on the Princeton Theological Seminary campus from March 15-18, 2019 for the second annual World Christianity Conference.
A burgeoning field, World Christianity focused on the vibrant and growing religious presence in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Pacific and their diasporas. “Christianity’s actual center of gravity is no longer Europe and America now that 60 percent of Christians live in the Global South,” explains Associate Professor of the History of Religions Richard F. Young. Young co-convened the conference with Professor of Religion and Society Afe Adogame and Assistant Professor of World Christianity Raimundo Barreto, Jr. “This conference, and the field, are about understanding this shift,” Young says.
This year’s conference, in particular, was centered around the theme of “Currents, Perspectives, and Ethnographic Methodologies in World Christianity,” focusing on old/new approaches to studying Christianity in these new places, contexts, and cultures. Participants tackled questions like how to address oral in addition to written sources, from music to poetry. They examined whether ethnographic methods used in the past still work today. And they embraced the interdisciplinary character of this unique field, welcoming international contributions from over 150 scholars in areas like political science, history, religious studies, linguistics, the humanities, social sciences, and more -- a feature that sets this conference and World Christianity itself apart.
The keynote speakers both hailed from disciplines outside World Christianity. James Spickard is a sociologist and anthropologist whose work focuses on religion in contemporary societies and is author of Alternative Sociologies of Religion: Through Non-Western Eyes, and Research Basics: Design to Analysis in Six Steps. Sonja Thomas is a gender scholar and author of Privileged Minorities: Syrian Christianity, Gender, and Minority Rights in Postcolonial India, an ethnographic study of a unique Indian Christian community. In the vein of promoting new voices in the field, the conference featured a doctoral student panel, notable in that it was organized by Princeton Seminary doctoral students for Princeton Seminary doctoral students as well as their peers from different institutions.
“Our vision is for Princeton Seminary to become a global hub for conversations around Christianity, as well as those surrounding World Christianity,” says Adogame. “Princeton’s historic commitments to mission, ecumenics, and the history of religions have made the Seminary an ideal environment where the emergent field of World Christianity now flourishes.”