Who are these Majority World and Indigenous Theologians and Practitioners?

by | Dec 15, 2023 | Mission Studies & Intercultural Theology, World Christianity | 0 comments

Here are short biographies of the 100+ Majority World and Indigenous thinkers I engage in the book World Christianity: An Introduction. Many live, serve, and write from Majority World, First Nations, and Indigenous contexts. (This is the bulk of the persons on this list). Others have moved to Western settings.

Those who live in Majority World and Indigenous societies bring invaluable perspectives from their cultural settings. Those who have moved to Western contexts bring the value of hybrid or bi-cultural perspectives. I do not engage each thinker equally. Instead, I deal with them according to their relevance to the particular themes of the chapters of this book.

I could have consulted the work of thousands of thinkers, writers, and practitioners in this book. However, I have limited myself to a sample of those who speak directly to the themes of this book.

These African, Asian, Caribbean, Eastern European, First Nations, Indigenous, Latin American, Middle Eastern, and Oceanian Christian practitioners and theologians inspire us to think in fresh ways about missions, church vitality, theology, and the kingdom of God. They challenge us to renew the worship, community, and mission of Jesus Christ’s church.

Short Biographies

Byung-Mu Ahn (South Korean) – Ahn laid the theological and biblical foundations for minjung theology. He founded The Korean Theological Study Institute.

Rubem Azevedo Alves (Brazilian) – Alves was one of the founders of liberation theology. His particular interests lay in the relationship between liberation and philosophy and education and politics and psychoanalysis.

Michael Amaladoss (Indian) – Amaladoss is a Jesuit theologian. He is especially interested in interreligious and ecumenical dialogue and spirituality and mission.

Simon Kofi Appiah (Ghanaian) – Appiah is a West African priest and moral theologian. He is interested in the relationship between culture and psychology and ethics. He studies how these emerge in processes of inculturation.

Wesley Ariarajah (Sri Lankan) – Ariarajah writes about issues to do with the intersection between church and gospel and culture. He considers peacemaking and reconciliation and interfaith dialogue.

Mortimer Arias (Bolivian) – Arias calls the church to recover the biblical perspective of the kingdom for the mission of the church. This perspective must shape evangelistic witness.

Saphir Athyal (Indian) – Athyal is a retired Indian Orthodox theologian. He works closely with World Vision International in Asia.

Kwame Bediako (Ghanaian) – Bediako was a key figure in the African theology movement. (This movement develops theology characterized by distinct African features).

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis) (Argentinian) – Francis is the first Latin American Pope. He is the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere. He is the first non-European Pope since Gregory III in 741.

Anthony Bloom (Spent his childhood in Russia and Iran, and adult years in France) – Bloom was a spiritual theologian. He wrote on prayer and the Christian life. He was a monk and Metropolitan Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. He is also known as “Anthony of Sourozh.”

Clodovis Boff (Brazilian) – Boff is a liberation theologian. He shares some convictions with his brother Leonardo Boff. But he criticizes the roots and outlook of much liberation theology.

Leonardo Boff (Brazilian) – Boff is interested in liberation theology, politics, ecology, community, justice issues, globalization, ethics, gender, and education. He is a professor of religion and ecology at Rio de Janeiro State University.

José Míguez Bonino (Argentinian) – Bonino was a liberation theologian. He focused on political ethics, justice and liberation for the poor, and the defense of human rights.

Bénézet Bujo (Congolese) – Bujo is a moral theologian. He is interested in African theological ethics and African theology in its social context.

Simon Chan (Singaporean) – Chan is a Pentecostal theologian. He writes about Pentecostal and liturgical and spiritual theologies.

Paul (or David) Yonggi Cho (South Korean) – Cho is senior pastor of one of the world’s largest congregations—Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea. This church has a membership of more than one million.

Jayakumar Christian (Indian) – Christian is National Director of World Vision India. He ministers among the poor in India. He writes on development, economics, politics, and child development.

Shoki Coe (Taiwanese) – Coe grew up in Japanese-occupied Taiwan. He went on to become a champion of Taiwanese freedom and a pioneer of Asian theology. He was an advocate of Christianity in the Global South. He was a pioneer of contextualization.

José Comblin (Born in Belgium, and living most of his life in Brazil) – Comblin was a champion of liberation theology. He was a prominent human rights advocate.

Geevarghese Mor Coorilos (Indian) – Coorilos is the Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan of Niranam, India. Coorilos writes on integral eco-theology and ecumenical approaches to mission and unity. He writes on caring for the poor and marginalized, and responding to HIV, AIDS, and natural disasters.

Orlando E. Costas (Puerto Rican) – Costas was a holistic global theologian. He wrote on the mission of the church, and especially mission beyond Christendom. His writings deal with issues surrounding poverty and justice, and contextual evangelism. He wrote on Hispanic theology, and spirituality and mission in Latin America.

Marthinus L. Daneel (Zimbabwean) – Daneel is a Zimbabwean professor of theology. He is an expert on African Independent Churches. He conducts research among African Christian and traditionalist communities.

Ruth Padilla DeBorst (Born in Colombia, and grew up in Argentina) – Deborst has been involved in leadership training, church and community development, and holistic mission, under the auspices of Christian Reformed World Missions. She serves as Director of Christian Formation and Leadership Development with World Vision International. She lives in Costa Rica.

Saiyuud Diwong (Thai) – Diwong runs a Thai cooking school in the Klong Toey slum, Bangkok, Thailand. She teaches students in the slums to cook and helps them find jobs. She helps slum residents get employment and education and start businesses.

Musa W. Dube (Botswanan) – Dube is a leader in postcolonial feminist theology and gender issues. She develops healing theologies and practices in societies ravaged by HIV and AIDS. She writes about people-centered and compassionate and healing mission. She is a professor at the University of Botswana.

Jean-Marc Ela (Cameroonian) – Ela developed a sub-Saharan African form of liberation theology. His focus was on social science, liberation, contextualization, and community-centered forms of theology.

Samuel Escobar (Peruvian) – Escobar is involved with the Lausanne Movement. He is interested in holistic and integral mission. He is especially interested in integrating social action and justice, evangelism and mission, and holistic human flourishing.

Ajith Fernando (Sri Lankan) – Fernando is the teaching director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka. He writes about the mission of the church, leadership, obedience, suffering, the message of Jesus, spirituality, and missional witness among non-Christian faiths.

Paulo Freire (Brazilian) – Freire was an educator, philosopher, and advocate of critical pedagogy. He promoted an approach to education that leads people toward personal and social freedom. He believed that education could help people pursue the critical transformation of their situations and cultures and world.

Makoto Fujimura (Japanese American) – Fujimura is an artist, speaker, writer, and theologian. He was a Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009. Fujimura’s work is exhibited at galleries around the world.

Mitsuo Fukuda (Japanese) – Fukuda is founder of Rethinking Authentic Christianity Network. This network provides mission strategies and grass-root training systems for churches in Japan and other Asian nations. He also specializes in contextualization, cultural anthropology, Japanese culture, and intercultural studies.

Segundo Galilea (Chilean) – Galilea ministered among the poor and destitute in Latin America. He wrote about liberation theology, Christian spirituality, and prayer. He was interested in the relationship between contemplation and social action.

Alejandro García-Rivera (Cuban) – García-Rivera was a Jesuit theologian. He bridged the disciplines of systematic theology and science. He also wrote about beauty and suffering.

Aruna Gnanadason (Indian) – Gnanadason is involved with the World Council of Churches. Her interests are in justice and peace, poverty and liberation, development and politics, ecology and creation care, and reproductive technologies and gender issues.

Ken R. Gnanakan (Indian) – Gnanakan ministers in slums and villages in India. His ministry helps people rise out of poverty through educational, health, and environmental projects. His academic specializations include leadership, environmental, education, and theology.

Gustavo Gutiérrez (Peruvian) – Gutiérrez is a Dominican priest. He is one of the founders of liberation theology. He serves among the poor and oppressed in Lima, Peru. Gutiérrez writes on liberation theology, literature, poverty, and oppression. He is interested in class, racial, and gender relations. He encourages Christians to live in solidarity with the poor.

Huang Po Ho (Taiwanese) – Ho is a Taiwanese theologian and educator and ecumenical leader. He promotes forms of theological education that facilitate mission and service.

Roger Ibengi (Congolese) – Ibengi writes about the shape of missional leadership. He considers the growth and characteristics of global missiology.

Ada María Isasi-Díaz (Cuban American) – Isasi-Díaz was one of the founders of mujerista theology. Mujerista is a Hispanic womanist theology. She founded the Hispanic Institute of Theology at Drew University.

Uchimura Kanzō (Japanese) – Kanzō was the founder of the Non-Church Movement in Japan. He became influential in Asia and the West because of his theological, scientific, and political views and scholarship.

Emmanuel M. Katongole (Ugandan) – Katongole is a Catholic priest and the child of Rwandan parents—one Hutu and the other Tutsi. Many of his writings focus on peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Grace Ji-Sun Kim (Korean American) – Kim’s writings mainly cover two areas. The first is feminist theology. She considers the experiences and theologies of Asian women in patriarchal societies. The second is post-colonial theology. Kim shows how Chinese and Korean and Japanese philosophies can enrich Christian theology. They can especially enrich our understanding of the Holy Spirit.

Kazō Kitamori (Japanese) – Kitamori is most famous for his theology about the pain of God. Writing during and after the Second World War, Kitamori spoke of the pain of God. He described how God’s pain has a redemptive and healing relationship to human suffering.

Chiang Kok-Weng (Singaporean) – Kok-Weng is an Old Testament scholar. He also produces work on environmental ethics and Ecotheology. He writes about the connections between Confucianism and Christianity.

Kōsuke Koyama (Japanese) – Koyama was concerned to defend a theology that was accessible to the average person in developing Asian contexts. He wrote on liberation theology, the environment, and bridging the gap between Eastern and Western thought.

William Folorunso Kumuyi (Nigerian) – Kumuyi pastors one of the world’s largest churches. In 2013, Foreign Policy Magazine named him one of the “500 most powerful people on the planet.”

Samuel Waje Kunhiyop (Nigerian) – Kunhiyop is a leading voice in the development of African contextual theology and ethics.

Simon S. M. Kwan (Hong Kong Chinese) – Kwan’s research areas include Asian pastoral and practical theology. He studies cultural/socio-political dimensions of practical theology. He advocates a postcolonial rethinking of Asian theological methods and pastoral approaches.

Pui-lan Kwok (Hong Kong Chinese) – Kwok publishes in the areas of Asian feminist theology. She considers spiritual formation, biblical interpretation, and postcolonial criticism. She cofounded the network Pacific, Asian, and North American Asia Women in Theology and Ministry.

Emmanuel Y. Lartey (Ghanaian) – Lartey develops themes around intercultural pastoral theology and mission. He is concerned about issues to do with rapid cultural change, cultural plurality, and caring for the fragile and vulnerable.

Julie C. Ma (South Korean) – Ma teaches at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, where her husband Wonsuk is the Executive Director. She has expertise in Pentecostal church planting and evangelism, cultural anthropology, and gender issues in church and mission.

Wonsuk Ma (South Korean) – Ma is a Pentecostal missiologist. He is a leader in the areas of theological education, evangelism, church planting, and research into Asian Pentecostalism and mission.

Laurenti Magesa (Tanzanian) – Magesa examines African spirituality. He studies moral and ethical themes in African religions. He demonstrates how inculturation is transforming the church in Africa. He shows how Christianity can learn from Sub-Saharan African spirituality.

Melba Padilla Maggay (Filipino) – Maggay writes about how the church can transform society. She also discusses Filipino communication patterns, proposing a culture-specific communication theory. In A Clash of Cultures, Maggay examines “the cross-cultural tensions that surfaced between American Protestantism and Filipino religious consciousness the first three decades of American colonial rule in the country.”

Nelson Mandela (South African) – Mandela shot to global fame as an anti-apartheid activist, recipient of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, and President of South Africa (1994 to 1999).

Vishal Mangalwadi (Indian) – Mangalwadi is an advocate for the rural and urban poor. He challenges the Indian caste system. He encourages local churches to develop and offer tuition-free, Internet based college education. He especially wants this education delivered to the poor and disadvantaged.

John S. Mbiti (Kenyan) – Mbiti has served as a director of the World Council of Churches. He is interested in African and Asian theological themes. He writes about ecumenism, and the interpretation of traditional religions.

Mmutlanyane Stanley Mogoba (South African) – Mogoba is an anti-apartheid activist. He was a Robben Island prisoner. He is well known for his work in politics, peace, justice, and racial reconciliation.

Caesar Molebatsi (South African) – Molebatsi champions social justice and empowerment in South Africa. He is a South African media personality. Molebatsi speaks internationally on issues to do with justice, reconciliation, human rights, economic development, and theology.

Watchman Nee (Chinese) – Nee was a pastor and spiritual theologian and church planter. Many read and love Nee’s books on Christian spirituality and discipleship.

Daniel Thambyrajah Niles (Sri Lankan) – Niles was a Sri Lankan preacher and evangelist who held various national posts. He was a President of the World Council of Churches.

Emilio Antonio Núñez (Salvadoran) – Núñez is concerned with issues of Latin American evangelical missiology. He writes about missional effectiveness, new apostolic movements, and the pastoral challenges of missional growth in Latin America.

Sarah Nuttall (South African) – Nuttall is a theologian, and social commentator and critic. She examines post-apartheid South African culture. She writes about African and diasporic aesthetics.

Ferdinand Nwaigbo (Nigerian) – Nwaigbo writes about a theological inculturation of Mariology. He examines African Christian perspectives on the church as communion. He also considers faith in an age of reason and science.

Mercy Amba Oduyoye (Ghanaian) – Oduyoye is the director of the Institute of African Women in Religion and Culture in Ghana. She writes on Christian theology from an African and womanist perspective. Oduyoye addresses the oppression and exploitation of women in patriarchal cultures and systems.

Izunna Okonkwo (Nigerian) – Okonkwo is a systematic theologian. He teaches ecclesiology and missiology and systematics from an African perspective. He is especially interested in inculturation and ecumenism and African thought and culture.

Oliver Alozie Onwubiko (Nigerian) – Onwubiko develops an African missionary ecclesiology and an African approach to inculturation. He shows how African thought and religion and culture converse with Christianity. Together, these can form an indigenous African Christian faith and mission and church.

Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro (Filipino) – Orevillo-Montenegro is a Filipino theologian. She focuses on ecumenical relations, Asian womanist theology, and peace and justice studies. She leads development programs alongside poor, Asian, urban women and children.

Ofelia Ortega (Cuban) – Ortega is a pioneering theological educator and ecumenical leader. She teaches theology and works with the World Council of Churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. Ortega has served as a public health volunteer in the poorer rural areas of Cuba.

Juan Carlos Ortiz (Argentinian) – Ortiz challenges Christians to pursue discipleship and spiritual formation.

René Padilla (Born Ecuador, raised Colombia, and living in Argentina) – Padilla is involved in integral mission and the Micah Network. He specializes in theological reflection on globalization, justice and mercy issues, and integral mission.

Anne Pattel-Gray (Indigenous Australian) – Pattel-Gray explores indigenous beliefs and spiritualities. She considers gender and race relations. She examines the mission of the church among indigenous cultures.

Elizabeth Petersen (South African) – Petersen is the director of The South African Faith and Family Institute (SAFFI). This institute calls clergy (across all religions) to deal with issues surrounding gender and domestic violence in Africa.

Ivan Petrella (Argentinian) – Petrella is a liberation theologian. He seeks to put the following traditions into conversation: black theology, Latin American liberation theology, womanist theology, and Hispanic theology.

Peter C. Phan (Vietnamese)  – Phan is a Vietnamese theologian now living in the United States. He deals with themes around culture, social thought, mission, Asian perspectives, liturgy and prayer, and church.

John S. Pobee (Ghanaian) – Pobee is an Anglican Bishop in Ghana. He writes on African theology, indigenous African churches, and African biblical interpretation.

Vinoth Ramachandra (Sri Lankan) – Ramachandra is involved in the Micah Network and the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He writes and speaks on the relationship between theology and the public issues that face our world.

Bong Rin Ro (South Korean) – Ro examines evangelical theology and biblical interpretation in Asian contexts. He is a leading thinker in the areas of Asian contextualization and mission and leadership development.

Óscar A. Romero (Salvadoran) – Romero challenged the social and political systems that perpetuated El Salvador’s poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. He called the church to pursue social transformation. He challenged El Salvadorian society to embrace liberty and democracy and justice. He was assassinated in 1980.

Vinay Samuel (Indian) – Together with Chris Sugden, Samuel co-founded the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies. He is a pioneer in the field of holistic and integral mission. He is an expert in the field of Asian theology, micro enterprise development, Christian relief and development, and faith and economics.

Lamin Sanneh (Gambian) – Sanneh studies World Christianity. He has a particular focus on the relationship between Islam and Christianity and secularity.

Fernando F. Segovia (Cuban American) – Segovia specializes in non-Western Christian theologies (especially from Latin American and the Caribbean). He considers minority Christian theologies in the West (especially from U.S. Hispanic Americans). He writes on postcolonial and minority and Diaspora studies.

Juan Luis Segundo (Uruguayan) – Segundo wrote on theology, ideology, faith, hermeneutics, social justice, oppression, suffering, and liberation theology. He wrote about missional approaches to pastoring. He developed theological perspectives on the arts.

Sadhu Sundar Singh (Indian) – Singh was an Indian Christian ascetic and mystic. He devoted himself to the life of a sadhu. A sadhu is an Indian religious ascetic and holy person. He wrote on Christian meditation, contemplation, prayer, and spirituality.

Jon Sobrino (Spanish born, but living in El Salvador) – Sobrino has spent most of his life in El Salvador. He is a leading liberation theologian. He is well known for his work on liberation theology, and on poverty and justice. He writes about the person and work of Christ (from a Latin American perspective). He considers spirituality and solidarity and hope.

Choan-Seng Song (Taiwanese) – Song attacks the Western-centricity of Christian theology. He develops uniquely Asian theological forms and motifs. And he challenges all cultures to develop indigenous and contextual theology.

S. Sugirtharajah (Sri Lankan) – Sugirtharajah teaches biblical hermeneutics at the University of Birmingham. He is concerned for developing contextual and postcolonial mission and hermeneutics.

Thomas Thangaraj (Tamil) – Thangaraj writes hymns in English and Tamil. He develops Indian Christian theological responses to religious pluralism. He constructs India theological responses to global issues.

Thanzauva (Mizo) – Thanzauva studies Indian tribal cultures. He has developed a tribal theology of church and mission and community.

M. Thomas (Naga) – Thomas was a theologian and social activist and politician. He was a former Governor of Nagaland. He wrote on Christian activism. Thomas considered the shape of Indian sub-continental mission and church and theology.

Tite Tiénou (Côte d’Ivoirian) – Tiénou was formerly the president and dean of Faculté de Théologie Evangélique de l’Alliance Chrétienne in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. He now serves as the Co-Provost and Dean of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He writes on African theology, contextualization, mission, and evangelicalism.

George E. Tinker (Native American – Osage) – Tinker is concerned about indigenous cultures and spiritualities. He challenges the church to care for creation. He writes about Native American theology and culture and thought. Tinker highlights the difference between Western and Native American categories of thought (especially individualism vs. community).

Vimal Tirimanna (Sri Lankan) – Tirimanna is a moral theologian. He addresses ethical and moral issues in Sri Lanka and South Asia. Tirimanna writes about violence and war and peace.

Al Tizon (Filipino American) – Tizon is a missiologist. He writes about how urban-suburban partnerships can transform communities. He focuses on empowering churches to empower communities. He is interested in social action and mission. Tizon shows how churches can engage in holistic mission in their communities, especially on behalf of the poor and marginalized.

Desmond Tutu (South African) – Tutu is a prominent opponent of apartheid. He was the first black Archbishop of Cape Town. Tutu promotes reconciliation and forgiveness and justice. He has sought to address global issues through his role with the United Nations. These include poverty, epidemics, unilateralism, gay rights, women’s rights, climate change, and church reform. His writings cover these areas. He also writes about African theology and Christian leadership and spiritual formation and prayer.

Justin S. Ukpong (Nigerian) – Ukpong was a New Testament scholar. He was a pioneering member of the African Biblical Hermeneutics Section of the Society of Biblical Literature. He examined biblical interpretation in the “global village.” He studied approaches to biblical interpretation in Africa. He promoted an “inculturation hermeneutic.” This involves people interpreting scripture in their socio-cultural setting and within their indigenous community.

John Mary Waliggo (Ugandan) – Waliggo considers the meaning and urgency of inculturation, especially in the African context. He believed that liberation meant full self-realization in ten areas of human life. These areas are spiritual, religious, moral, mental, cultural, economic, political, physical, social, and personal. Waliggo also worked for the rights of women and children and the poor and silenced.

Nimi Wariboko (Nigerian) – Wariboko is a Christian ethicist. He publishes and teaches on the theology of money, and on a moral philosophy of finance. He examines pneumatological ethics, economic history, and corporate management. His writings also cover theology and science and social theories.

Randy S. Woodley (Native American – Cherokee) – Woodley writes about indigenous cultures, sustainability, eco-justice, microeconomics, leadership, missiology, reconciliation, societal justice, and contextual theology.

Tetsunao Yamamori (Japanese) – Yamamori was the international director for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He is president emeritus for Food for the Hungry International. He analyzes global Pentecostalism, world missions, and strategies for mission among unreached people groups.

Amos Yong (Malaysian American) – Yong is interested in a theology of the Holy Spirit and mission. He studies global Pentecostal theology. He constructs theologies of disability, politics, science, and love. He is concerned for inter religious dialogue and comparative theology and Pentecostal scholarship.

Koo Dong Yun (Korean American) – Yun studies the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” He does this from Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Dispensational, Pentecostal, and Reformed perspectives. He describes three distinctive features of Pentecostal theology. These are (1) the Lukan orientation, (2) the vitality of experience, and (3) the verifiability of Spirit baptism.

Hwa Yung (Malaysian) – Yung challenges the Asian church to develop an authentic Asian Christian theology. Before his retirement, he served as Bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. He was Director of the Center for the Study of Christianity in Asia, Singapore.

Graham Joseph Hill

Rev. Dr. Graham Joseph Hill serves as Mission Catalyst for New and Renewing Communities with the Uniting Church in Australia. Previously, he was the Principal of Stirling Theological College (Melbourne), the Vice-Principal of Morling Theological College (Sydney), and an Associate Professor at the University of Divinity, Australia. Graham is an ordained and accredited minister with the Baptist Churches of Australia. He has planted and pastored churches and been in ministry since 1988. Graham is the author or editor of 13 books. He also directs The Global Church ProjectGraham writes at grahamjosephhill.com

Graham's qualifications include: Honours Diploma of Ministry (SCD), Bachelor of Theology (SCD), Master of Theology (Notre Dame), and Doctor of Philosophy (Flinders).

See ORCID publication record: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6532-8248


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