Malawi, Theology in

Subject Area African Christian Thought
Author(s)Kenneth R. Ross, Joyce Mlenga
Published29 September 2022
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Malawi has a rich and developing theological literature. The published work, however, rests on a theological endeavour that is largely unwritten. As Malawian individuals, families and communities have been reflecting theologically on their experience of Christianity over the past century and a half, the vast majority have not offered anything in written form. Their engagement with theological questions has found expression in symbol, ritual, music and the living of life.

Academic theology has been on a modest scale in relation to the overall scope of Malawian Christianity (for more on this subject see the related article Christianity in Malawi). Nevertheless, the vital engagement of African life and Christian faith provides a wealth of data with which theologians can work as they develop scholarly analysis. Inviting points of engagement include: the interface between Christianity and traditional culture, the use of the Bible at popular level, the relevance of Christianity to current social issues, Christian-Muslim relations in a context of religious plurality, the variety of forms of expression taken by Christianity in the Malawian context, church-state relations in the context of a young democracy, and the spirituality of the people. These are all areas that have proved to be generative for theological scholarship. Much has been published locally, particularly through the Kachere Series, based at the University of Malawi, and Mzuni Press, based at Mzuzu University. Malawian and expatriate scholars have also published theological articles in international journals, both in Africa and elsewhere. While Malawi’s theologians have been engaged with the world of international scholarship, much of their writing has been contextual in nature. They have sought to use the tools of their trade to interrogate and address realities and issues that present themselves in the Malawian context. This endeavour has already yielded a significant body of literature that is distinctive yet has much in common with the wider field of African theology.

General Overviews

Much of the academic theology in Malawi has originated in the work of postgraduate students who have completed master’s or doctorate degrees. It therefore tends to focus on a narrowly defined topic rather than ranging broadly across the field. Comprehensive general introductory texts remain to be developed. Those seeking to find their way into the subject might derive value from two earlier bibliographic ventures with much relevance to theology in Malawi (Chakanza and Ross 1998 and Ross 1998). Also listed below are a valuable introductory article and a historical volume that provides a systematic historical introduction to Christianity in Malawi (Phiri, Kapuma and Harawa 2016 and Ross and Fiedler 2020). A more specific focus on theological production in Malawi is found in the final selected volume, which provides a taste of recent theological research and an indication of future direction (Ross and Mvula 2021).

Chakanza, J. C., and Kenneth R. Ross. Religion in Malawi: An Annotated Bibliography. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 1998. Export Item

The first fully comprehensive bibliographic survey of religion in Malawi, which builds on earlier bibliographic work at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. It has sections on African Traditional Religion, Islam, Christianity: General, Christianity: Anglican, Christianity: Presbyterian, Christianity: Roman Catholic, Christianity: Baptist, Evangelical, Seventh-day Adventist, Pentecostal, Christianity: African Instituted Churches, and Religion in General. Each entry has a short annotation.

Phiri, Isabel Apawo, Gertrude Kapuma, and Chimwemwe Harawa. “Christianity in Malawi.” In Anthology of African Christianity, edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri and Dietrich Werner, 634–40. Oxford: Regnum, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A brief survey of Christianity in Malawi that discusses the founding of the historical churches, the impact of Christianity on development, ecumenism and five major challenges for Christianity in Malawi.

Ross, Kenneth R. “The Study of Religion in Malawi: A Select Critical Bibliography.” Missionalia 26, no. 2 (August 1998): 186–209. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This article, written by a Professor of Theology at the University of Malawi, surveys the major publications on religion in Malawi that had appeared by the end of the twentieth century. While the survey extends to the study of religion in all its aspects, it includes the theological works that had been published by that time.

Ross, Kenneth R., and Klaus Fiedler. A Malawi Church History 1860-2020. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The first attempt to comprehend the whole of Malawi’s church history in a single volume. Written by two veteran church historians, it unfolds the history by examining four periods: 1860-1910, 1910-1960, 1960-90 and 1990-2020. It considers every expression of Christianity and aims to take account of its every dimension. It is arranged in twenty-eight chapters with a view to being used in the two fourteen-week teaching periods of a normal academic year.

Ross, Kenneth R., and Mzee Hermann Y. Mvula, eds. Theology in Malawi: Prospects for the 2020s. Zomba: Kachere, 2021. Export Item

This book is the product of a National Theology Conference that convened at Nkhoma University from 24 to 26 September 2020. Its 15 chapters seek to assess the progress of theological studies in Malawi at the start of the 2020s, with special attention to biblical studies, faith and culture, and faith and society. It includes a conference report and the constitution of the Theological Society that was formed as a result of the conference.


Publication of journals has been a challenging sphere in the Malawian context. There are very few journals that have appeared on a regular and uninterrupted basis. More commonly, there are sporadic issues, sometimes with lengthy gaps. Until now there has not been any journal devoted exclusively to Christian theology. Religion in Malawi, the journal of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, regularly includes theological articles. Given the salience of religion in Malawian life and culture, relevant articles also appear in several journals that have a wider frame of reference. With the current proliferation of theological programmes being offered by institutions of higher learning it is hoped that more theological journals will not only start but be sustained.

Journal of Humanities, 1987. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The Faculty of Humanities at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, produces the Journal of Humanities, which began in 1987, with the celebrated poet Jack Mapanje as its founding editor. It produced twenty-one print issues until 2008, when it went online. Its wide range of interest includes theology, and it has published some valuable theological articles.

The Lamp, 1993. Export Item

On the basis that it is, “better to light a lamp than curse the darkness,” this bi-monthly magazine has brought a Christian critique to bear on national life since 1993. Produced by the Roman Catholic Montfort Mission, it is ecumenical in approach and ranges widely across current affairs in Malawi. It has been a key vehicle in allowing some Malawian theologians to address public issues.

MAGU Ethne Journal, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

At the time of writing, a new journal based at the Malawi Assemblies of God University is at the inception stage. It aims to major in Theology and Religious Studies but with a strong interdisciplinary orientation.

Religion and Culture, 2013. Export Item

The journal of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Mzuzu University, Religion and Culture, is somewhat modelled on Religion in Malawi. Launched in 2013, it has so far produced only two issues, so its potential is yet to be fulfilled. It aims to foster an interdisciplinary approach.

Religion in Malawi, 1987. Export Item

Having published its first issue in 1987 and having produced nineteen issues by 2020, Religion in Malawi has established itself as the leading journal in its field. Its founding editor, J. C. Chakanza, was an inspirational figure and the journal had a solid institutional base in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. Taking primarily a “religious studies” approach, it nonetheless includes many articles of relevance to the study of theology and some that are explicitly theological.

Primary Resources Online

So far in Malawi relatively little has been done to make resources relevant to theological study available online. Malawians have enthusiastically embraced social media platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, but little work has been done on the development of substantial websites housing data that can inform theological research. As internet access increases and scholars become accustomed to online ways of working, such development can be expected.

Facebook. “Theological Society of Malawi.” Accessed September 30, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The official Facebook page of the Theological Society of Malawi, which was formed as a result of a National Theological Conference that convened at Nkhoma University in September 2020. Officially launched by the President of Malawi, Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, at Bingu International Conference Centre on 1 September 2022, it seeks to advance theological discourse in Malawi by holding conferences, promoting academic exchange and publishing books.

Phiri, Isabel A. Ecumenical Leadership and a Holistic Approach to Social Justice – David Goodbourn Annual Lecture. Lecture Video, 1:25:53. Given online on 1 November, 2021. Posted 2 November, 2021. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A good example of a lecture by a leading Malawian woman theologian and Deputy General Secretary of the World Council of Churches. It dwells on the importance of an ecumenical and holistic approach to overcome racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia.

Public Affairs Committee. Accessed August 31, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The Public Affairs Committee is a key civil society organization in the field of human rights, mediation, advocacy, HIV/AIDS, Gender based Violence, religious co-existence, electoral processes and peace and security. It comprises representatives from different religious organisations. The site provides information about its roles and activities in campaigning for good governance in Malawi.

YouTube. “Zomba Theological College.” Accessed September 30, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The official YouTube channel of Zomba Theological University. Created on 30 September 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic, the channel provides videos of research seminars and other academic lectures on various theological and religious issues.

Beginnings of Malawian Theology: Classic Texts

As regards the construction of academic theology, Malawi has some remarkable forerunners. Long before there were opportunities for Malawians to be highly trained in the skills of critical theological thinking, there were some who found their own way to construct penetrating theological critique. Livingstonia Mission was renowned at the turn of the twentieth century for the high level of education that it was offering. This allowed some of its graduates to express themselves forthrightly and theologically in the English language. One of the first to do so was Charles Domingo who was an outstanding student at Livingstonia’s Overtoun Institution and appeared destined to become the mission’s first African ordained minister. As ordination was delayed, Domingo grew frustrated with what he saw as the racism and paternalism of the mission, eventually breaking away to lead the Seventh Day Baptists as they offered an alternative expression of Christianity in the area where, until then, Livingstonia had stood alone. As he did so, he was thinking theologically about both church and state, as is evident from a series of letters that he wrote from 1911. A fellow student of Domingo’s was Yesaya Zerenji Mwasi, another brilliant leader, who did go on to be one of the first Africans to be ordained to the ministry in Livingstonia Mission in 1914. He too, however, grew disillusioned with the racism and colonialism that he detected in the mission and finally broke away when he formed the Blackman’s Church which is in Tongaland in 1933. Informing his decision was a far-reaching theological vision of the indigenization of Christianity in Africa. The theology of people like Domingo and Mwasi has come down to us in fragments, but they were prophetic figures, far ahead of their time in terms of theological imagination.

Chilembwe, John. “The Voice of African Natives in the Present War.” In Christianity in Malawi: A Source Book, edited by Kenneth R. Ross, Rev. ed., 246–49. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The terrible loss of life and suffering experienced by Malawian troops in the First World War prompted Baptist pastor John Chilembwe to write a letter of protest to the Nyasaland Times newspaper. Though suppressed at the time, the letter represents an underlying cause of the rising led by Chilembwe a few months later and can be read as expressing a remarkably early Malawian liberation theology.

Domingo, Charles. “The Letters of Charles Domingo.” In Christianity in Malawi: A Source Book, edited by Kenneth R. Ross, Rev. ed., 173–87. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Seventh Day Baptist pastor Charles Domingo led a network of churches and schools in northern Malawi that were independent of European control and carried an implicit theological critique of colonial rule. A series of letters that he wrote to Joseph Booth from 1911, include criticism of the collusion of the “Three Combined Bodies” – missionaries, government and companies – on the basis that they are “too cheaty, too thefty, too mockery.”

Matecheta, Harry Kambwiri. Blantyre Mission: Stories of Its Beginning. Edited by Thokozani Chilembwe and Todd Statham. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2020. Export Item

Originally published in Chinyanja in 1951, this is the first account by an African author of the early history of the Presbyterian Blantyre Mission, in the south of Malawi. The editors of the 2020 English translation describe it as a “re-righting” of history as Matecheta tells the African side of the story. It includes his own vivid memories of eventful times and a shrewd historical and theological assessment.

Msiska, Stephen Kauta. Golden Buttons: Christianity and Traditional Religion among the Tumbuka. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Presbyterian pastor and theologian Kauta Msiska made an early theological assessment of the relation between African Traditional Religion and Christianity. His thesis is that the African tradition is a dirty old coat to be discarded but includes “golden buttons” that must be retained. He offers theological reflection on fear, disease, traditional customs, death and the future – one of the first Malawian attempts at inculturation theology.

Mwasi, Yesaya Zerenji. My Essential and Paramount Reasons for Working Independently. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 1999. Export Item

Yesaya Zerenji Mwasi set out his reasons for breaking away from the Livingstonia Mission to found the Blackman’s Church which is in Tongaland. These reveal his exasperation with the racism, paternalism and injustice that he detected in the life of the mission but go further to criticise the exotic faith that it represented and plead for a truly African Christianity, anticipating the theological agenda of generations to come. This edition is a reprint of Mwasi’s original 1933 manuscript.

Biblical Studies

Biblical Studies has long been central to the theological curriculum in Malawi, particularly since Bible Knowledge is a secondary school subject and therefore many trainee teachers opt to take a course in Bible. Such courses are mainly informed by international biblical scholarship, but a number of highly trained Malawian biblical scholars have begun to examine the biblical text in relation to the Malawian context.

Chitsulo, Takuze Saul G. “Internal and External Imperial Dynamics in Habakkuk: A Contextual Study of the Book of Habakkuk from a Malawian Socio-Economic and Political Viewpoint.” PhD diss., University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2015. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Chitsulo, who is Vice-Chancellor of Zomba Theological University, employs the African biblical hermeneutics model to read the Book of Habakkuk in light of the Malawian context. He uses the question of economies of extraction to explore economic issues underlying both the biblical text and the contemporary Malawian context. Using the methods of liberation and postcolonial biblical hermeneutics, he chooses the context of the poor and marginalized to be the subject of interpretation.

Mijoga, Hilary B. P. Separate but Same Gospel: Preaching in African Instituted Churches in Southern Malawi. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 2000. Export Item

A careful study of sermons preached in African Independent Churches in southern Malawi by a lecturer in New Testament at the University of Malawi. Mijoga concludes that there is no difference between the AICs and the “mainstream” churches when it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible. The book contributes to our understanding of popular biblical interpretation and questions the claim that AICs are much closer to African culture than their mainstream counterparts.

Mijoga, Hilary B. P. “The Bible in Malawi: A Brief Survey of Its Impact on Society.” In The Bible in Africa: Transactions, Trajectories, and Trends, edited by Gerald O. West and Musa W. Dube, 374–83. Leiden: Brill, 2000. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Mijoga explores the way in which the translation and appropriation of the biblical text has had a transformative impact in Malawian society. He examines several decisive episodes in Malawi’s history, with a particular focus on the political transition of 1992-94.

Mvula, Mzee Hermann Y. The Theory, Praxis and Pursuit of Constitutionalism in Democratic Malawi: An Old Testament Ethical Perspective. Zomba: Kachere, 2020. Export Item

A study by the Secretary of Malawi’s Theological Society that discusses ten critical Old Testament ethical principles and demonstrates why and how they can be used to entrench constitutionalism in Malawi. The author argues that the Old Testament provides a sound theological basis for limited government, separation of powers, rule of law, human rights and accountability. He shows how biblical ethics can play a critical role in social transformation in Malawi.

Nkhoma, Jonathan S. Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Essays: Biblical and Early Christianity Studies from Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2013. Export Item

Drawing on an insightful understanding of the thinking of the Qumran Covenanters, as revealed in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Nkhoma, who teaches Biblical Studies at Mzuzu University, sheds fresh light on features of the Gospel narratives such as ritual washing and eating together. He goes on to examine a variety of New Testament themes, including the challenging question of martyrdom.

Nkhoma, Jonathan S. The Use of Fulfilment Quotations in the Gospel According to Matthew. Zomba: Kachere, 2006. Export Item

Taking an exegetical literary approach, Nkhoma argues that Matthew’s use of Old Testament quotations reflects his concern with the meaning of the Christ event. It is this that governs his theological reconstruction, rather than any dependence on Mark’s Gospel or on the Matthean community. Nkhoma concludes that Matthew was working directly with the Old Testament text as he pursued his theological project of portraying Jesus as the promised Messiah.

Creative and Contextual Theology

As regards formal theological production, some notable pioneers have set the pace. Drawing on the Bible and Christian theology to address cultural and social questions in the Malawian context, a number of scholars have offered original contributions that have helped to set the agenda for Malawian theology.

Amanze, James, F. Nkomazana, and Obed N. Kealotswe, eds. Biblical Studies, Theology, Religion, and Philosophy: An Introduction for African Universities. Eldoret: Zapf Chancery, 2010. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Led by Malawian theologian James Amanze, this book is intended as a textbook for students in African universities. It offers African perspectives on a wide range of subjects, including “Reading and Understanding the Bible as an African,” “African Theology,” “Christianity in Africa,” and “African Philosophy.”

Kalilombe, Patrick A. Doing Theology at the Grassroots: Theological Essays from Malawi. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Probably Malawi’s most erudite theologian to date, Kalilombe, who was the Catholic Bishop of Lilongwe in the 1970s, has been a pioneer of contextual theology. Some of the key themes of his work are represented in the collection of essays: his missionary vocation, the critical role of the “grassroots” in theological construction, the integrity of Chewa traditional beliefs, prophetic engagement with social and political issues, and the combination of Catholic commitment with radical openness to all religious and cultural traditions.

Majawa, Clement Chinkambako Abenguni. Integrated Approach to African Christian Theology of Inculturation. Nairobi: Catholic University of East Africa, 2005. Export Item

Writing from a Roman Catholic perspective and grounding his work on the inculturation thinking inspired by Vatican II, Majawa argues for the authentic integration of the Christian experience into the totality of the life of a people. The book is comprehensive in range, exploring the implications of inculturation across many different dimensions of social and ecclesial life.

Mawerenga, Jones Hamburu. Systematic Theology. Zomba: Kachere, 2019. Export Item

This textbook, based on the author’s experience of teaching at the University of Malawi, is designed to support the teaching of a course in Systematic Theology. It includes chapters on Introduction to Theology, Historical Development of Christian Theology, Theology, Christology, Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Theology in a Pluralistic World and Eschatology. As well as introducing the traditional themes of Christian theology, it aims to equip students to engage critically and constructively with their own contexts.

Musopole, Augustine Chingwala. Umunthu Theology: An Introduction. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2021. URL: Link Access: Export Item

From the nineties, Musopole championed the concept of uMunthu (personhood or humanness) as the key to understanding Christianity in a Malawian way. In this comprehensive introduction, he draws on Malawi’s cultures and languages, the biblical text and the evangelical faith, to cast a transformative theological vision. Affirmative of traditional culture, it offers a theological challenge to many current social and political trends.

Nyika, Felix Chimera, Mzee Hermann Y. Mvula, and Kenneth R. Ross, eds. Decolonizing the Theological Curriculum in an Online Age. Zomba: TSM Press, 2022. Export Item

Though Malawi has been an independent country for fifty-eight years, this book argues that coloniality still stalks the land and calls on theologians to take a lead in decolonization, while navigating the educational task in an online age. It is the first book to be published by TSM Press, the publishing arm of the Theological Society of Malawi.

Ross, Kenneth R. Here Comes Your King! Christ, Church and Nation in Malawi. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A collection of essays ranging across Christology, ecclesiology and questions of church and state, with a particular focus on national identity in the Malawi context and the role of the Christian faith in shaping it. The author combines historical research with theological creativity to prophetically address the Malawian context of the nineties.

Statham, Todd. “‘Like Jairus I Call You...’: Two Theological Attempts to Recover the Malawian Past.” In Christianity in Malawi: A Reader, edited by Klaus Fiedler and Kenneth R. Ross, 465–93. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2021. Export Item

Originally published in the Journal of African Christian Thought, this article focuses on the work of Stephen Kauta Msiska and Patrick Kalilombe as two pioneering Malawian theologians active in the 1960s and 1970s. The Catholic Bishop and the Presbyterian Moderator do not appear to have interacted, yet both were profoundly concerned to account theologically for the African past.

Malawian Women’s Theology

Theological education was a male preserve in Malawi until the late twentieth century when women found opportunities to train as theologians. This has led to new themes being engaged as theology has been undertaken from a women’s perspective. Malawian women theologians have played a prominent role in the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, which has provided a continent-wide focal point for this theological awakening.

Banda, Rachel NyaGondwe. Women of Bible and Culture: Baptist Convention Women in Southern Malawi. Zomba: Kachere, 2006. Export Item

Rachel NyaGondwe Banda, a scholar of religion and gender who teaches at Mzuzu University, traces the history of Baptist women in southern Malawi and argues that the Baptist denomination promotes the empowerment of women and the expansion of their cultural sphere. She pays particular attention to women’s roles in baptism and marriage.

Chifungo, Phoebe Faith. “Women in the CCAP Nkhoma Synod: A Practical Theological Study of Their Leadership Roles.” PhD diss., Stellenbosch University, 2014. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This dissertation, by a lecturer at the University of Livingstonia, notes that women have been denied the opportunity to take up leadership positions in the Presbyterian Synod of Nkhoma for historical, cultural and biblical reasons. Through a re-reading of the Bible using literary, social-historical and theological-rhetorical methods, Chifungo, aims to provoke fresh consideration of the question of women taking leadership roles in church life.

Fiedler, Rachel Nyagondwe, Johannes W. Hofmeyr, and Klaus Fiedler. African Feminist Hermeneutics: An Evangelical Reflection. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2016. Export Item

Over the centuries the Bible has been read and interpreted mainly from a European male perspective. This book provides a view of Bible and Culture that is African, female and Evangelical and is informed by the theology of the Circle of African Women Theologians.

Henderson, Clara E. “Dance Discourse in the Music and Lives of Presbyterian Mvano Women in Southern Malawi.” PhD diss., Indiana University, 2009. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This dissertation, by a Canadian missionary who worked in Malawi in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, examines the way in which members of the Presbyterian Women’s Guild express their faith through music and dance. It demonstrates how an inculturation of the faith has taken place as Western hymns have been adapted to African rhythms. The use of dance, notably the circular formation in which women move anticlockwise, is described and analysed.

Kalalo, Chimwemwe. Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS and the Anglican Church in Southern Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. Export Item

HIV/AIDS remains a threat to life and wellbeing in the Malawian context. Kalalo examines the response of the Upper Shire Diocese of the Anglican Church to issues of women’s sexual and reproductive health in the context of HIV/AIDS. The author herself is living with the virus, and her own experience informs her fieldwork among rural Malawian women, examining the inter-relation of faith and health.

Longwe, Molly. African Feminist Theology and Baptist Pastors’ Wives. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2019. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This study, by an author who herself has experience of being a Baptist pastor’s wife, as well as being a highly respected theologian in her own right, offers a concise account of African feminist theology and explores its meaning in relation to the lived experience of Baptist pastors’ wives in Malawi.

Longwe, Molly. Growing Up: A Chewa Girls’ Initiation. Zomba: Kachere, 2007. Export Item

Longwe describes the traditional chinamwali girls’ initiation rite as practised in Chewa societies in Malawi and examines the attempt by the Baptist Church to develop a Christian version of the rite, known as chilangizo. She concludes that this attempt at inculturation has not been successful since it is insufficiently tuned in to the Chewa worldview. She proposes measures that could make it more meaningful.

Madimbo, Maggie. Transformative and Engaging Leadership: Lessons from Indigenous African Women. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

An introduction to leadership in the African context, more specifically, women’s leadership in the African and Malawian context. Through the portraits of twelve indigenous Malawian women, who are national leaders, it shows how their background and formation underpins the resilience and spirituality that they bring to their leadership.

Phiri, Isabel Apawo. Women, Presbyterianism and Patriarchy: Religious Experience of Chewa Women in Central Malawi. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 1997. Export Item

The first book by a Malawian woman theologian, who went on to become Deputy General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, it won an honourable mention in the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa in 1998. It explores the female mediumships that featured in Chewa traditional religion and contrasts these with the limited opportunities for women to occupy leadership roles in the structures of Presbyterian Christianity, notwithstanding the major role played by Chigwirizano, the women’s church organisation in the Presbyterian Nkhoma Synod.

Sulumba-Kapuma, Gertrude Aopesyaga. “Widowhood within the Malawian Context: A Pastoral Care Model.” PhD diss., University of Pretoria, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This dissertation, by a Senior Lecturer at Zomba Theological University, examines the plight of widows in the aftermath of the death of their husbands. It reveals that many endure painful experiences not only of bereavement but of being subjected to harmful cultural practices and being dispossessed of their material goods. There has been an absence of pastoral care from the church and Sulumba-Kapuma shows how this could be remedied.

Christian Social Ethics

The ethical dimension of Christianity has attracted a good deal of attention among Malawi’s theologians, with concentration in certain areas. These include the public realm of state and society as well as the more intimate realm of sexual and family relationships. The ways in which the ethical demands of Christian faith have intersected with African traditional understandings have formed a fruitful area for theological inquiry. At the same time, there are theological attempts to come to terms with contemporary issues such as sexuality, climate change and democratic governance.

Jere, Qeko. “Pastoral Letters and the Church in the Public Square: An Assessment of the Role of Pastoral Letters in Influencing Democratic Processes in Malawi.” Verbum et Ecclesia 39, no. 1 (2018): 1–10. DOI: 10.4102/ve.v39i1.1844 Access: Export Item

An examination of how church “pastoral letters” addressing public issues have become the voice of the people when there is need to demand political change and improvement in governance in Malawi. Jere argues that the integrity and flourishing of the country’s democracy has come to depend heavily on this form of intervention from the churches.

Khisi, Maximian. The Church as the Family of God and the Care for Creation. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2018. Export Item

While appreciating the value of the concept of the church as the family of God, which has fostered greater social cohesion among members of the Catholic Church, Khisi, a Catholic priest, notes that the solidarity failed to extend to the relationship between humans and the natural world. He argues for a universal fraternity among people and the natural world, involving an ecological conversion, new lifestyles and new models of production and consumption.

Mawerenga, Jones Hamburu. The Homosexuality Debate in Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

One of the most controversial and polarising issues in Malawi today is homosexuality, still illegal but with active campaigning for its legalization and acceptance. The author, who chose this as the topic for his doctoral research, critically examines the conduct of the debate in Malawi, with particular attention to its religious dimension, and makes recommendations as to how the issue can best be handled by both church and society.

Mlenga, Moses. Polygamy in Northern Malawi: A Christian Reassessment. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A critical appraisal, by a scholar and a former senior lecturer at the University of Livingstonia, of the attitude of the Presbyterian Livingstonia Synod towards people in polygamous marriages. While accepting that polygamy is not compatible with Christian teaching on marriage, the author questions the policy of barring polygamous men and women from baptism, even when they have come to faith in Christ. He argues for a positive pastoral approach towards polygamous families.

Nkhoma, Jonathan S. “Church and Disability in Malawi: A Social-Cultural and Religious Perspective.” In Disability Is Not Inability: A Quest for Inclusion & Participation of People with Disability in Society, edited by James Amanze and F. Nkomazana. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Drawing on field research involving interviews with both church leaders and people with disabilities, Nkhoma argues that the church in Malawi should take the lead in reaching out to people with disabilities and those who support them in order to include them and enable them to contribute to community life.

Ross, Kenneth R., ed. God, People and Power in Malawi: Democratization in Theological Perspective. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 1996. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The product of a case study undertaken by the University of Malawi Theology and Religious Studies Department with the World Council of Churches “Theology of Life” programme, the book offers a theological analysis of issues of power and accountability that arose as Malawi embraced a democratic system in the mid-nineties. It includes consideration of a theology of power, the use of the Bible, women, youth, prisoners, persecution and the life of the church.

Schoffeleers, Matthew. In Search of Truth and Justice: Confrontations between Church and State in Malawi 1960-1994. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 1999. Export Item

A comprehensive account, by a veteran priest, scholar and activist, of the relations of church and state during the one-party period in Malawi through to the dramatic changes initiated by the Catholic Bishops’ 1992 Pastoral Letter, Living our Faith. Drawing extensively on oral and documentary sources, it also benefits from the analytical quality offered by an outstanding social anthropologist.

Tengatenga, James. “Moral Majority Redivivus: Assertive Religious Politics and the Threat to Religious Freedom and Citizenship in Malawi.” Stellenbosch Theological Journal 5, no. 3 (2019): 165–82. DOI: 10.17570/stj.2019.v5n3.a08 Access: Export Item

This article traces the emergence of a theocratic approach to politics in Malawian Christianity during the early twenty-first century. It traces the emergence of this new assertive religious politics, criticizing both its theologically problematic “Christian nationalism” and its lack of concern for sustaining the human rights gains of the early nineties.

How to Cite This Resource

Ross, Kenneth R. and Joyce Mlenga. “Malawi, Theology in.” Bibliographical Encyclopaedia of African Theology. 30 September 2022. Accessed [enter date].

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