The Drumbeat African Public Theology of Mwaambi G Mbûûi

The Drumbeat African Public Theology of Mwaambi G Mbûûi December 16, 2021

A distinctively African public theology that rises out of a specifically African context?

     Let’s ask: what does public theology look like when pursued in an African context by Africans? The non-African world can thank Sunday Bobai Agang along with Diaon A. Forster and H. Jurgens Hendriks for editing and publishing the dramatic collection of essays,  African Public Theology (Carlisle UK: Langham Publishing, Hippo Books, 2020). (Photo: Mwaambi G Mbûûi)
     Readers of this Patheos column on “Public Theology”  will recall how I recommend that the theologian engage the wider public through discourse clarification and worldview construction. Discourse clarification with a prophetic thrust is a matter of urgency in today’s Africa, where a Christianized culture is already influential yet political leadership is corrupt. “What best characterizes an African corporate church in action,” contends Tanzanian theologian Alfred us’Imana Sebahene, is its witness in the public square. The church “should speak out against the continent’s darkest problems of bad governance, corruption, socio-economic injustice, religious competition, tribal and ethnic conflicts and political domination.” [Alfred us”Imana Sebahene, “Mobilizing the Church in Africa, “The Need for Public Theology in Africa,” African Public Theology, 379-390, at 382..]

I would like Pathos readers to meet leaders from different contexts around our planet engaged in the mission of the public theologian. We’ve already met Noreen Herzfeld, Karen Bloomquist, the Black Pastor, and Katie Day. Now let’s meet Mwaambi G Mbûûi, or Mbûûi (pronounced M-bouy) for short.

Meet Mwaambi G Mbûûi

Meet  Mwaambi G Mbûûi, an energetic and passionate Kenyan now pursuing doctoral studies in Berkeley, California, at the Graduate Theological Union and the Star King School for Ministry. Almost Doctor Mbûûi has just finished teaching a seminar on Drumbeat African Public Theology.  Mbûûi, like so many other African leaders, looks forward to a post-colonial Africa ordered by justice, prosperity, and human dignity. I thought this would be a good time for me to ask him some questions about his vision of African Public Theology.

  1. What is distinctive about African Public Theology (APT)? Mbûûi : I would begin by offering that the distinctiveness of African Public Theology (APT) stems from the setting within which it is formulated, reflected upon and executed. Hence, it is the critically urgent concerns around the myriad challenges prevalent in the African continent that bequeath APT it’s core thrust, and rationale. In my estimation, therefore, APT is uniquely context-specific, with a clearly defined mandate that demands resolute attention.
  2. The term, “drumbeat,” connotes that APT rises up from what is native, indigenous, autochthonous. Is this right?   Mbûûi :In close connection, the Drumbeat Theo-ethical framework that I propose is decidedly a Public Theology. It keeps open a keen eye on contextual “public” concerns across Africa, while also equally applicable to the global “terrain.” The DB theo-ethical approach takes as its defining character a readiness to identify, amplify and incorporate African indeginious philosophical “ingredients” into the task of theological reflection and praxis, with a sole goal to ensuring the restoration of the fullest scope of the Africans’ dignity–holistically.
  3.   You’ve just completed a successful semester of teaching pastors and religious leaders: Drumbeat Theology and Liberative Ethics. How has this gone? Mbûûi: Throughout this just concluded semester, I have been immensely inspired by the deep interest my students have showed in their quest to intently interrogate the diverse contours of a Drumbeat theo-ethics. Such an inestimable source of hugely positive affirmation for sure, especially considering that it is the first opportunity that I have had to tease out the various DB  components that I had been reflecting on for quite some while, this time within the context of a deeply engaged community. A repeatedly vocalized assessment all through our time together is the way in which the “African Drumbeat Theology and Liberative Ethics” course afforded an opportunity to “try out something different,” in the words of one of my students, after having attempted same methodologies over and over again, without much promise of any radical outcomes. In addition, the safe space that the students found in boldly yet respectively exploring diverse voices was definitely so earnestly appreciated.
  4. What are your key concerns as a public theologian? Mbûûi: A key issue of concern for the African Drumbeat/Public Theologian would be the dearth of an empathetic leadership. We desperately need leadership that takes seriously the wholesome liberation and thriving of those that are led. Who needs this leading? The African populace, especially those with their “backs pushed against the wall(s)” of multifaceted oppressions (Howard Thurman). This effectively informs the focus of my doctoral project: what caliber of leadership does the African continent need in order for widespread, holistic flourishing to be realizable, within a realistic timeframe?

From Discourse Clarification to Worldview Construction

Mwaambi G Mbûûi, as well as many of the contributors to African Public Theology are passionate about social , economic, and racial justice. Prophetic discourse clarification includes a clarion call for new leadership characterized by integrity, trust, and competence.
     What about worldview construction? Mbûûi already hints that he’d like to see a post-colonial Africa undergo its own holistic healing and then offer liberative healing to those beyond the continent.
     One of my continuing concerns is that the best of science as well as the best of theology be stitched together into a holistic worldview. I ask that the public theologian develop a theology of nature informed by science. That Africa has nature to be revered and protected is commonplace knowledge. Can science help?
     A major difficulty with science and its sister, technology, is that these twins have bullied the global neighborhood during the centuries of colonialism. How can Africans come to own science right along with Christianity without continued bullying from Europe?
     “When we advocate for the sciences in Africa,” warns Danie Veldsman at the University of Pretoria, “we will have to do so with open eyes and hearts, seeing both the value of engaging with the sciences and the problematic implications and entrenched dangers of Western models of science and rationality that make unfounded claims to be universally valid.” Worldview construction on the part of the African public theologian must be built on a biblical foundation with an African superstructure but with windows open to nature as understood by science. [Danie Veldsman, “Science,” African Public Theology, 175-188, at 178.]

Hope for Africa’s Future

There is hope in Africa. I like futurists. We can celebrate that Africa has its futurists.
     The African Union lifts up a Pan African Vision of An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens, representing a dynamic force in the international arena. And Agenda 2063 is the concrete manifestation of how the continent intends to achieve this vision within a 50 year period from 2013 to 2063. The African public theologian, at least according to Nairobi theologian Nathan Hussaini Chiroma, should “contribute to our achieving the goals of Agenda 2063.” [Nathan Hussaini Chiroma, “Intergenerational Issues, “The Need for Public Theology in Africa,” African Public Theology, 353-364, at 364.]
     I trust we will be listening to ‘Mwaambi G Mbûûi’s drumbeat in 2063.

Ted Peters is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus seminary professor. His one volume systematic theology is now in its 3rd edition, God—The World’s Future (Fortress 2015). He has undertaken a thorough examination of the sin-and-grace dialectic in two works, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society (Eerdmans 1994) and Sin Boldly! (Fortress 2015). Watch for his forthcoming, The Voice of Public Christian Theology (ATF 2022). See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com.

 

 

About Ted Peters
Ted Peters is a Lutheran pastor and emeritus seminary professor. His one volume systematic theology is now in its 3rd edition, God—The World’s Future (Fortress 2015). He has undertaken a thorough examination of the sin-and-grace dialectic in two works, Sin: Radical Evil in Soul and Society (Eerdmans 1994) and Sin Boldly! (Fortress 2015). Watch for his forthcoming, The Voice of Public Christian Theology (ATF 2022). See his website: TedsTimelyTake.com. You can read more about the author here.

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