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Grassroots Asian theology: intersections with Africa

Chan relates some of his theology around ancestors and priesthood to African theology as well:

“Sometimes dysfunctional pastors are simply tolerated rather than asked to leave for fear of “touching the Lord’s anointed.” Many African Initiated Churches seem to have similar views about their leaders. They reflect the pervasiveness of priestly mediation in traditional African religions.”

“This deeply felt need for priestly mediation is often not adequately addressed in Protestantism. The Protestant doctrine of the priesthood of all believers has led ironically to the neglect not only of the priestly ministry of the the pastor but the post-ascension priestly ministry of Jesus as well. If Jesus is thought of as priest, it is in relation to his sacrifice at the cross. But when everyone is a priest, then no one is effectively a priest. If the Asian or African Protestant pastor serves as a de facto priest of the people, we need to rethink theology of the priesthood. The laicization of priesthood in Protestantism may have suited the Western egalitarian mindset but in hierarchically ordered societies in Asia and Africa, there is much to be said for maintaining a special order of priests along with the general priesthood of believers.

“Ancestral veneration, like priestly mediation, has a christological basis. Yet, despite the prevalence of ancestral veneration in Asia and the practical issues it engenders, it is seldom addressed in relation to Christology (especially among Protestants). Instead the ancestor problem is usually discussed in relation to New Testament teachings regarding food offerings (1 Cor 10-11), freedom of conscience (Rom 12-14) and idolatry. There is a need to explore the christological foundation of ancestral veneration. In Africa, the deceased ancestors are called the ‘living dead’, a concept that could be given a christological grounding, for Christ is the one ‘who is and who was and who is to come’ (Rev 1:4), the one who was dead and is now alive (Rev 1:18). Those who have died in Christ can be called the living dead. Just as the traditional ancestor is believed to exist in solidarity with the living, the communion of saints includes both saints on earth and saints in heaven united in one church in Christ.”

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

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