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Kimberly P. Yow

Kimberly P. Yow

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Kwame Bediako Still Defines the Debate on African Culture and Christianity

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Seven leaders weigh in on the late Ghanaian scholar’s provocative legacy 20 years after his best-known book.

What Luther and Calvin are for evangelical Christians globally, Kwame Bediako is for many African evangelicals. From his dramatic conversion in 1970 to his death in 2008, Bediako was the primary architect of and inspiration for theological work that grappled with the realities of African culture.

On this 20th anniversary of the publication (by Orbis Books) of some of Bediako’s most influential essays in Jesus and the Gospel in Africa: History and Experience, his memory still reverberates across the continent, as indicated by the seven reflections collected below on his ongoing influence.

Born and raised in Ghana, Bediako was a professing atheist studying existentialist literature as a doctoral student in Bordeaux, France, when an awareness of Christ as the truth powerfully overwhelmed him while he was showering. He finished his degree in French literature but turned his powerful mind to the Bible and theology, later completing a second doctorate in Aberdeen, Scotland, under missiologist Andrew Walls, who called Bediako “the outstanding African theologian of his generation.”

Bediako attended the First International Congress on World Evangelization in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974, meeting other prominent Majority World evangelicals including René Padilla, Samuel Escobar, and Vinay Samuel. At that time, he conceived the idea of a research center on the relation between the gospel and African culture. With support from his denomination, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, that vision was realized as the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture (ACI) in 1987.

While self-consciously evangelical, Bediako sought connections between the gospel and African traditional …

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