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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499


GATHOGO, Julius. John Mbiti's Ubuntu Theology: Was it Rooted in his African heritage?. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2022, vol.48, n.2, pp.1-22. ISSN 2412-4265.

This research article sets out on the premise that African theology, as was propounded by the likes of John Mbiti (1931-2019), is historically seen as synonymous with African ubuntu (cultural-sensitive, humane and community-focused) theology. Mbiti is undoubtedly the father of Africa's indigenous theology that puts much emphasis on societal concerns rather than individual concerns. He is a scholar who contextualised it as an academic discipline right from its formative stages to its current status in our theo-paradigmatic market. In his ubuntu (humane) theological articulation, he employs an inclusive model that demonstrates the three-fold approaches in African theology: oral, written, and symbolic theology. He also vouches for a symbiotic relationship between the gospel and culture, in an endless rhythm for their respective survival. While urging that Africa's ubuntu theology cannot be excluded from the catholicity of the church, as it is kerygmatically universal but theologically provincial, one wonders whether he compromised the originality of the former. Through the use of historical-analytical design, this article attempts to retrace Mbiti's contribution as it strives to understand his methodological considerations. Was it rooted in the Ibadan Conferences of 1958 and 1966, or is it a mere progression from the earlier initiatives by the works of Kenyatta (1938) and Tempels (1945)? In appearing dismissive of the Black theology of South Africa and other liberation theologies, did he miss out on his otherwise inclusive (ubuntu) approach? The material in this presentation was gathered through a critical review of Mbiti's selected works and from interviews that were conducted with some people who came from Mbiti's Mulago village, Kitui County, Kenya.

Keywords : Mbiti's theology; African theology; Africa's ubuntu theology; African heritage.

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