Diane B. Stinton's Jesus of Africa is, no doubt, a valuable contribution to the ongoing conversation and articulation of the perennial question, "Who do Africans say Jesus is?" Many books and articles have been written in the past three decades on the same subject. But none of them had attempted such a broad exploration of Jesus as Stinton's research does in a single book. Divided into three major thematic parts with ten minor sections, Jesus of Africa is a true ecumenical work that provides forum for Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Evangelical as well as African Independent Church Christian men and women, professional and non-professional theologians, clergy, and lay people from Ghana, Kenya and Uganda to share their own views on Jesus.
Part 1 analyses the development of contemporary African christologies drawing from the expertise and wisdom of some African professional theologians, namely John S. Mbiti, Jesse N. K. Mugambi, Laurenti Magesa, Enyi Ben Udoh, Charles Nyamiti, Kwame Bediako and Takatso Mofokeng. The consensus of these theologians is that African Christianity is rapidly growing. The past is gone. African Christian theology must, therefore, acquire a critical voice with which to engage the present. Stinton concludes this part by identifying four broad christological interpretations: Jesus as Life-giver (healer and traditional healer), Jesus as mediator (ancestor), Jesus as loved one (family and friendship), and Jesus as Leader (king and liberator). However, Stinton does not claim that these are the only faces of Jesus in Africa; there are many more interpretations of Jesus in Africa that Stinton's work does not deal with, given the limited area of Africa that she chose.
Part 2 explores the rationale, sources, methods and meaning in contemporary African christologies. These themes are, today, at the heart of African Christology. What ties all these themes together, in Stinton's opinion, is whether "Jesus is significant to life in Africa today." This unarguably central theme does not only form Part 3 of the book, but it acts as the summary of the future of contemporary African christologies. Thus contemporary African christologies are "functional" christologies whose concerns are the role of Jesus in the salvation of the African Christians.
In Part 3 Stinton concludes, with the help of selected Christians and theologians, that "Jesus is highly relevant to various spheres of life" in Africa. Jesus is relevant because Jesus is the true "giver of life," "center of life," "healer of life" as well as "savior of life" for millions of African Christians.
Though Stinton's Jesus of Africa is an admirable work of pastoral, academic, cultural, gender and ecumenical sensitivity, there are, nevertheless, some limitations I want to point out. One, the book does not cover the whole continent of Africa; for the most part it only covers Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Yet the title claims a continental appeal, something I think Jesus of Africa does not fulfil. Two, the second section of the title refers to "African Christology." However, throughout the book, Stinton refers to "contemporary African christologies." For example, in chapter 2 Stinton examines different African christologies such as "ancestral christology," "Jesus the healer christology" and many others like them. I think a more suitable title for Stinton's work should be something like this, Jesus: A General Ecumenical Overview of Contemporary African Christologies.
In spite of the limitations mentioned above, Stinton's Jesus book is an excellent resource for college teachers, students, clergy, religious, laity, as well as missionaries in Africa. Those who wish to join the ongoing conversation will find the book very readable, engaging, informative, and true to its goal. Foreign missionaries and all non-Africans who think that African Christians are uncritical will surely discover the growing interest and capability of Africans in Christology after reading the book. Very few theologians, in my opinion, could have achieved such ecumenical balance and objectivity in a complex discipline like Christology better than Stinton. I whole-heartedly recommend this book to all.