When Hindus and Sikhs become followers of Christ, what happens next? Should they join Christian churches that often look and feel very unfamiliar to them? Or to what degree can or should they remain a part of their Hindu/Sikh communities and practices? Uncomfortable with the answers that were provided to them by Christian leaders in northwest India, six followers of Christ began Yeshu satsangs (Jesus truth-gatherings) that sought to follow Christ and the teachings of the Bible while remaining connected to their Hindu and/or Sikh communities. Ecclesial Identities in a Multi-faith Context analyzes the contextualized practices and identities of these leaders and their gatherings, situating these in the religious history of the region and the personal histories of the leaders themselves. Whereas Christians worry that the Yeshu satsangs and related "insider movements" are syncretizing their beliefs and are not properly identifiable as "churches," Ecclesial Identities analyzes the Yeshu satsang's narratives and practices to find vibrant expressions of local church that are grappling with questions and tensions of social and religious identity. In addition to its ethnographic approach, Ecclesial Identities also utilizes recent sociological and anthropological theory in identity formation and critical realism, as well as discussions of biblical ecclesiology from the book of Acts. This study will be a helpful resource for those interested in global Christianity, the practices and identities of churches in religiously plural environments, and the creative ways in which Christ-followers can missionally engage people of other faiths.
Endorsements & Reviews-
"On the fringes of the churches in India there are signs of fresh questioning about the meaning of the gospel among deeply Hindu and Sikh peoples. That is the focus of this important study. It doesn't provide any simple answers; that is one of its strengths. It does provide helpful insight into some of the questions and struggles that increasing numbers of people are recognizing and grappling with." --H. L. Richard, author of Following Jesus in the Hindu Context
"Duerksen makes an essential contribution to the ongoing debate about so-called insider movements. Any doubters must read this scholarly study--carefully researched, field-based, and tested among Hindu and Sikh communities in Punjab, India. Duerksen interacts with leaders and literature in the debate, e.g., Herb Hoefer, H. L. Richard, Dason Jeyaraj, and others. Then, moving beyond the present theological impasse, Duerksen utilizes a sociological framework and an 'emergentist theory of identity formation' which moves the discussion forward. . . . Highly recommended." --Roger E. Hedlund, Chief Editor of The Oxford Encyclopaedia of South Asian Christianity
"This study provides a significant step forward by using sociological tools to understand and analyze the insider movement phenomena in India. Duerksen conveys a sound grasp of the cultural, biblical, and theological issues involved in this peculiarly indigenous development within the dynamic cultural and religious diversity of India. Duerksen breaks new ground in focusing on the satsangs, thus recognizing the centrality of worship, rather than doctrine, in Indian spirituality. . . . The Holy Spirit is at work in India, and we struggle to keep up as 'it blows where it wills.'" --Herbert Hoefer, author of Churchless Christianity
"Duerksen has taken the risk of listening carefully to believers who most evangelicals would dismiss as heretical, of seeking to understand theologically the ways in which these believers have negotiated the tensions between their cultural heritage and the gospel, and then of embracing their ecclesial solutions to this tension as part of the historical process of God's building His church. Each of the narratives analyzed by Duerksen illustrates how crises in the lives and beliefs of both Hindus and Sikhs led to the adoption of a new course of faith and practice, a commitment to Christ." --Sherwood Lingenfelter, author of Leading Cross-culturally
Darren Duerksen William A. Dyrness
Darren Duerksen is Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies at Fresno Pacific University.