African Christianity, Beliefs and Practices

Developing a Contemporary African Christian Response to some current beliefs, customs
and practices that surround death, funerals and burials: The case of the Luyia Ethnic
group in Western Kenya


Our project aims to understand the apparent failure of the Christian churches to come to terms
with the confusion and “cognitive dissonance” evident in the way issues of death and dying,
funerals and burials are handled by members of Christian churches. Church teaching and
daily practices are in disharmony, Christian churches and ministers seem to be
unquestioningly giving support and encouragement to these practices that in the long run
appear to violate and undermine the foundations of Christian belief. Our project aims to
produce fresh contemporary and relevant theological and philosophical thinking on a way
forward that will have value to local African communities. To achieve this, we propose to
engage in a close study of beliefs, practices and implications of everyday spirituality around
death and dying, funerals and burials among a local Kenyan ethnic group, examine how the
local churches in those settings engage with these issues, and draw out theological and
philosophical reflections on ways forward on this empirical base. We will ask why the
church, particularly in its mission-founded forms, has not come to terms with the African
realities on death and dying, why the church has not been able to integrate the traditional
beliefs around death with its teaching on the resurrection, and why there appears to be a
difference between church teaching and the realities of local Christians. But  we will also
enquire as to why and how churches that were founded or instituted locally seem to have been
able to integrate traditional customs relating to death, dying and misfortune more successfully
than the mainline missionary founded churches.

Principal Investigator: Esther Mombo, Faculty of Theology, St. Paul’s University, Limuru,
Kenya

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