Our new book goes to the press this week. Rather boldly, its title claims that it will present the prospects for theology in Malawi in the 2020s. It represents the collaborative work of 15 theologians drawn from a broad spectrum of ecclesial and institutional life. In a sense, they themselves are the “prospects” – scholars who are ready to attempt some original work in theology.
The book owes its origins to an inspirational event – the national theology conference that was held at Nkhoma University last September (hence Nkhoma Mountain appearing on the cover). Not all but a good number of the papers presented on that occasion have been revised and edited for inclusion in the book.
The conference worked on the basis of an open call for papers – presenters could focus on any topic on which they were working. This was one way to take the measure of current theological engagement. The papers that were offered arranged themselves very easily into three areas: biblical studies, faith and culture, and faith and society. As a quick straw poll, it allows us to see where Malawian Christian theology currently finds its concentration.
The book is one outcome of the Nkhoma Conference. Another is the Theological Society, which is being created in order to have a permanent instrument of collaboration at national level. Currently it is at the stage of going through the hoops required for legal registration and looks set to attract widespread support and participation. Let’s hope it can make its mark in the 2020s.
Next step on the journey will be the 2021 national conference, to be hosted by the University of Livingstonia. Of course, all planning at the moment is provisional as we do not know how we will be placed in relation to the coronavirus. But we have to keep our dreams alive and find creative ways to move forward if Plan A does not work out. The Theological Society has not been born in the easiest of circumstances but the baby is growing.