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Honorary Doctor of Divinity: Professor Andrew Finlay Walls, OBE, MA, BLitt, DD, FSASco

Congratulations to all our students graduating today - and to our latest Honorary graduate.

Professor Andrew Walls

In addition to members of our postgraduate community receiving their awards today, Professor Andrew Finlay Walls was presented with the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity in recognition of his immense contribution to global religious scholarship.

Amongst his many achievements, Professor Walls established the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World in Aberdeen, before it was moved to Edinburgh, where it is now known as the Centre for the Study of World Christianity.

Africa and beyond

In his laureation speech, Professor Brian Stanley, current Director of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, explains:

"In 1959, a new journal of religious studies appeared on the African continent. This was a surprising location at that time for a theological journal. Although Ghana had been granted independence in 1957, Africa was still largely under European colonial rule. Few people supposed that African Christianity or indigenous religion deserved serious scholarly attention. The journal was issued by the Faculty of Theology at Fourah Bay College, the first institution in tropical Africa to offer degree-level education, and was entitled The Sierra Leone Bulletin of Religion. The editor of the new journal was Andrew Walls.

"Andrew Walls studied theology and early church history at Oxford, before joining the staff of Fourah Bay College in 1957 as a lecturer in church history. ‘Church history’, even when taught on African soil, meant the history of European Christianity. Increasingly he drew the conclusion that what he could impart to his African pupils about the patristic period was less significant than what they could teach him about living in a growing second-century Church. Thus began his evolution from a historian of the early Church to what he has now become, someone recognised the world over as the pre-eminent scholar of Christianity and its recent expansion not simply in Africa, but also the non-Western world as a whole.

"From Sierra Leone he moved in 1962 to lead the new Department of Religion at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, and then in 1966 to the University of Aberdeen. In Aberdeen, where he became Professor of Religious Studies, he established in 1982 the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World. The Centre was conceived as a base for the collection of documentation on the growth of non-Western Christianity, but it soon began to attract PhD students to work on its materials. In 1986-7 the Centre moved to the University of Edinburgh, which gave the Centre space at New College. Professor Walls became an Honorary Professor in this University.

"By 1995, when he ‘retired’, he had made Edinburgh into the world’s leading academic centre for the study of non-Western Christianity.

"He is greatly esteemed by his numerous former PhD students, who teach in universities and seminaries in every continent. He has continued to travel the world teaching and lecturing, notably in Ghana. He has also founded a new Centre for the Study of African and Asian Christianity at Liverpool Hope University.

"Professor Walls has not limited his activities to the academy. He has served as an Aberdeen City councillor, and as Chairman of the Council for Museums and Galleries in Scotland. In 1987 he was awarded the OBE for his public service, especially to the arts in Scotland."

Biography

  • 1928: Born in England
  • 1945-51: Studied theology at Exeter College, Oxford, receiving a first-class degree in 1948 
  • 1951-52: Was a Recognised Teacher of Hebrew and Ecclesiastical History and Doctrine, University of Bristol
  • 1952-57: Librarian at Tyndale House, Cambridge
  • 1957-62: Taught at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone
  • 1962–65: Taught at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka
  • 1966: Appointed to a post in Ecclesiastical History at the University of Aberdeen
  • 1970: Became the first head of the Department of Religious studies at Aberdeen
  • 1986: Moved to the University of Edinburgh, becoming Director of the Centre for Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World, 1986-87.

Andrew is currently Professor of the History of Mission at Liverpool Hope University, Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh, Research Professor at Africa International University's Center for World Christianity, and Professor Emeritus at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture.

He established the Journal of Religion in Africa in 1967. A complete listing up to 2011 is given in W R Burrows, M R Gornik and J A McLean (eds), Understanding World Christianity: the vision and work of Andrew F Walls, Maryknoll NY: Orbis 2011, pp 257-277. Works since then include Crossing Cultural Frontiers: Studies in the History of World Christianity (Maryknoll NY: Orbis 2017).

Andrew received the Distinguished Career Award of the American Society of Church History in 2007.

He is married to Dr Ingrid Reneau Walls, a fellow theological scholar.

Links

Centre for the Study of World Christianity