Witchcraft Accusations and the Church Conference
Thanks for your prayers. The Witchcraft Accusations and the Church Conference in early March in Nairobi went great! Over 200 scholars, students, and church leaders participated for two days – double the number and time we have had at any previous Africa Society of Evangelical Theology (ASET) meeting. We also plan to produce two books. (ASET is finishing its first book from last year’s conference.)
Steve speaking in the general session of the conference
What does the Bible say on witchcraft?
The first day, various experts, mostly African elders, shared their expertise on the topic. Steve connected the research, the practical situation in the villages, and the Biblical teachings. He really challenged us to trust in God’s power (not fear deceivers and accusers), and to care for the accused (usually widows, orphans, and the vulnerable). Steve’s hard drive crashing that morning made him trust God – and the Holy Spirit REALLY enabled him!
Before the meetings, Bishop Sam Kunhiyop and Steve, with writing expertise from Hannah, discussed the book they are writing on witchcraft accusations for pastors, funded by Tyndale Foundation. Pray for this book to come together. This will be a priority in our sabbatical this next school year.
Church leaders’ working group
Church leaders and researchers go deeper
Then, as a follow-up from our 2013 conference, 20 of us committed to working on this issue met for two days to share in depth what we are learning and doing about witchcraft accusations around Africa, and to make plans to collaborate more. Steve’s mentor Dr. Priest led us.
We discussed some of the things we had been posting on the blog at http://henrycenter.tiu/section/witch-accusations/. For example, how Nigerian movies (from “Nollywood”) are spreading witchcraft beliefs in new forms around Africa (The most recent post by Kunhiyop’s on this had over 10,000 hits.)
From the DR Congo, we heard Rev. Abel Ngolo report how families and some pastors identify children as witches and even torture then to exorcise the witchcraft. However, he is ministering to these children and teaching pastors how to better handle the situation. (In Kinshasa, 70% of 20,000 street kids were chased from their homes for such accusations).
Members of this group conducted and conference and then a survey of 700+ pastors. One result of the survey was that pastors with less theological education were more likely to be accusing children. Because Pentecostal pastors have less training, they are also more likely to be involved. (Training saves lives!)
Jan and the deans leading session on Tanzania village workshops
Reporting on village seminars in TZ
Many were impressed with the training being done by the Pentecostal pastors we work with in Tanzania. The Lake Victoria Christian College (LVCC) deans presented with Janice their approach to this hot issue in 19 seminars to over 1000 villagers. Jan contributed her expertise in adult education to the whole four days. She submitted a post for the blog so you can read more soon..
We enjoyed this conference because we got to introduce our friends to each other: 10 church leaders from Tanzania we have worked with for decades, colleagues and students from AIU and other theological schools, as well as Steve’s mentors from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, who sponsored it with ASET. Above, Steve is with the former Dean Tienou of Trinity International University, Chicago and the LVCC Deans from Tanzania: Revs. Benesta Misana, Raphael Okeyo, and Nestory Lunyilija.
Out of the desire to make a difference we formed a coalition: Light: Christians Addressing Witchcraft and Witch Accusations. Steve was encouraged to lead this group into vision, a mission statement, etc. We formed a board of ten top scholars and church leaders, which includes the heads of three churches based in Nigeria, Ghana, and Malawi totaling more than 14 million Christians. Other members are from Kenya, DR Congo, Burkina Faso, USA, and UK. Please pray for this community of Light to move ahead in bringing light to local communities.
- Thanks, too, for your prayers for Chinyere Priest. She is recovering.
- Jan got ethical review board approval. Pray for the Kenyan government research permit to come quickly and for her interviews.
- Jan and Steve have 3 intensive courses to teach in April as well as Steve finishing his regular semester courses.
- LVCC in Tanzania: Record numbers of students in the one-month intensive terms (53 now studying in Musoma and 59 in Mwanza) have brought great opportunity and challenge.
- Thank you! We appreciate your concern and prayers. God is faithful!