But in research and writing I was disappointed to find out that I'm not the first person saying this. Others before me have pointed out that as more and more of the world's Christians live in places outside of the West, more and more of the world's Christian leaders will also live in places outside the West. William Dyrness, who will be giving a keynote address at the University of Chicago's 5th student ministry conference (see the facebook page to attend for free!), wrote this in his book Learning About Theology from the Third World:
"If theology is to be rooted in the actaul lives of Christians today, increasingly it will have to be from the poor to the poor, in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. And theology done in the West, if it is not to become increasingly provincial, will have to be done in dialogue with the theological leaders in the Third World."
Dyrness is echoing here the words of Andrew Walls who wrote in an article years earlier that if Christian theology is supposed to be the theology of the world's actual Christians then
"theology in the Third World is now the only theology worth caring about."
But why am I disappointed that others have written down these observations before me? Pride and vanity? No. I'm bummed out because Dyrness was writing in 1988 and Walls in 1976 - 20 and 30 years ago and nothing has changed! "Third World Theology" is still not "theology proper" but instead a sub-field of totally different disciplines like anthropology or missiology!
In the meantime, Christians of the West are becoming increasingly out of touch with the majority of the world's Christians. The Anglican Communion - historically a denomination that prized unity above doctrine! - is now breaking apart. Christians in Africa and Asia are facing and responding to the presence of other world religions in unique ways, way foreign to the Western ideal of "let's just get along." And, to highlight one of the biggest concerns that has animated the theology of the Global South, poverty is a reality of the human person in a way totally foreign to many in the West, and one result of this is very different understandings of private property, consumption, personal identity and social commitment than Western Christians have.
I am not suggesting that Christians of the Global South understand theology better (or worse). I am only pointing out that they are more and more becoming the new Christianity - embodying what Christianity is in the 21st century - and they understand Christian faith in some significantly different ways than Western Christians do. All theologians today - and not just those who are "interested in that topic" - must take this into account if it is to have any credibility at all as theology.