Theological Leadership in the Context of Islam
We are deeply concerned for the church as it ministers among Muslims and in Muslim-Majority settings, and for theological education as it prepares the church for its roles. With that in mind, we have been exploring this area for several years, learning while we have made and encouraged a few strategic investments.
The Faculty Development Initiative led to one of those investments: formation of the Centre for Islamic Studies at the South Asia Institute for Advanced Christian Studies (SAIACS, Bangalore). Conversations in India have continued, including exploration of potential linkage between SAIACS and the Henry Martyn Center in Hyderabad. Building on that positive experience, we organized and partially funded a 2013 consultation at Oxford that involved a number of leading specialists focused on Islam in the Majority World. That consultation led to our participation in the 2014 Lausanne Consultation on the Gospel and Islam, led by John Azumah in Accra. We enabled participation by a few key academic leaders at that Consultation. In these efforts we have worked in partnership with colleagues at Overseas Council.
From these experiences we have learned that not many Christian scholars of Islam are based in the Majority World, and of those only a portion have a widely-respected scholarly voice that exhibits both an intense focus on theological truth and love for both the church and for Muslims. From work thus far, four evangelical voices stand out: Martin Accad (ABTS Beirut), John Azumah (Columbia, soon Accra), Wageeh Mikhail (ETSC Cairo), and Gordon Nickel (SAIACS Bangalore). Martin, John, Wageeh and Gordon each strongly endorse this specific proposal and wish to be personally involved.
Each of these highly capable leaders is a one-man band. They work in disparate locations and are not well connected. They have too few opportunities to share with, encourage and challenge one another – to thereby add to their expertise and increase their individual and collective productivity on behalf of the church.
A few Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians work at the same level, but this list is limited to Evangelical voices. We will explore the possibility of including a Roman Catholic and/or Orthodox participant.
This is not to discount scholars based in the West (e.g., Lamin Sanneh, Ida Glaser, Evelyne Reisacher, Moussa Bongoyok, Peter Riddell), but our focus here is on those based in largely Muslim settings, connected to the church in a Muslim-Majority context.
We conclude that evangelical leadership and more generally Christian intellectual leadership in the field of Islam is highly concentrated, and that the church is not well resourced in its ministry among Muslims and in Muslim-Majority settings. We see opportunities to contextualize Biblical, systematic and historical theology, and to thereby increase the relevance and effectiveness of church leaders. And we wonder – more importantly, from conversations with these leaders, they wonder – how capacity might be added to and for the church.
Sponsoring and Facilitating Institution
The Core Question
What must be done to prepare the church intellectually for its ministry among Muslims and in Muslim-Majority settings in the Majority World?
The four Project Objectives
- Ascertain the current state of Islamic studies and contextualization of theological studies, for the church in the Majority World, based on the experience of 8-10 leading scholars.
- Identify key issues facing the church in each context and provide a sense for church priorities among them. Consider the extent to which the church and its theological leaders are prepared to address these priorities. Identify primary gaps in preparation.
- Identify key areas to explore, including curriculum and faculty development for contexts substantially influenced by Islam, collaboration among schools of theology, and ecumenical cooperation.
- Recommend a strategy to prepare the church intellectually to address the highest priority issues. Initiate exploratory discussions in the most promising areas.
- Lynn Simons (Moderator from ScholarLeaders International)
- Ayman S. Ibrahim
- Chul-Soo Caleb Kim
- Farhana A. Nazir
- Farida Saidi
- Gordon Nickel
- John Azumah
- John Sharp
- Magsood Kamil
- Martin Accad
- Paul Sanders
- Wageeh Mikhail
- Moussa Serge Traore