Chancellor Chris Hall recently finished his work on a 28-volume book series which led to a discovery about the origins of Christianity.
“Christianity has roots deep in African perspectives, not only in European perspectives,” Hall said. This discovery led to the desire to create the Center for Early African Christianity.
“The purpose [of the center] is to take ancient Christian literature and make it available in an accessible form across the African continent,” Hall said.
The center will have ancient Christian texts available online as well as in hard copy. The people involved with the center will teach, host seminars and work with universities in Africa.
While working on the 28-volume book series entitled Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture with Thomas Oden, Hall’s mentor from his doctorial studies at Drew University, Oden and Hall became aware of how ancient Christianity is grounded in African sources. The series, which they began working on in 1996, is a commentary on ancient church fathers and theologians.
Hall and Oden were excited by their discovery and decided to present their findings and the idea for the Center for Early African Christianity to a board in Africa.
Two years ago, Hall, Oden and two others helping with the project, Joel Elowsky, executive director of the Center for Early African Christianity, and Michael Glerup, the project director, traveled to Ethiopia.
They presented their idea for the center to a board of about 40 African scholars including Copts, Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans and Evangelicals. At first there was some reserve among the group about the idea, but after two and a half days, “there was a unanimous consensus,” Hall said.
Aside from its African headquarters, the center will also have a location in the United States. Six to eight universities were considered as possible locations and the choice has been narrowed down to Yale or Eastern.
Hall is confident that Eastern will be chosen. If he is right, Eastern will have to find space to store all the resources for the center and Elowsky and Glerup will move to the area to work with the center.
The center was given a $1.2 million grant, so if Eastern is chosen to house the center there will be minimal costs for the university.
“It will help to communicate to the rest of the world that Eastern is blossoming,” Hall said.
In July, Hall will travel to Dakar and Senegal to discuss the progress and plans for the Center for Early African Christianity with the same board of African scholars.
“Christianity is not just a European faith,” Hall said. “It’s a history that Africans need to be aware of and rejoice in.”