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Geoffrey Roper

Egyptian Muslim theologian, modernist, and reformer, was born in the Gharbiya Province of Lower Egypt, the son of ʿAbduh ibn Hasan Khayr Allah, a peasant farmer, and his wife, who was descended from the Bani ʿAdl clan. He grew up in the village of Mahallat Nasr and received a traditional education, learning the Qurʾan by heart. In 1862 he was sent to the madrasa (Islamic college) in Tanta. There, he perfected his Qurʾan recitation and started to learn Arabic grammar, by the then normal method of memorizing texts and commentaries without explanation from his teachers.

Reacting against this, according to his own account, he ran away from the college and returned to his village, intending to become a peasant rather than a scholar. In this condition he married in 1865 at the age of sixteen But after various vicissitudes he resorted to his great uncle Shaykh Darwish Khadr who ...


Louis Munoz

Augustine of Hippo was born in Tagaste (modern Souk Ahras, Algeria) in 354 and died almost seventy-six years later in Hippo Regius (modern Annaba, Algeria) in 429 on the Mediterranean coast. Only four of his seventy-five years were spent outside Northern Africa. However, those few years would influence considerably his thought and his work.

Augustine s Africa had been part of Rome s empire since the destruction of Carthage five hundred years before his birth The language of business and culture throughout Roman Africa was Latin Yet some distinctly African character continued to mark life in the province Some non Latin speech either the Berber tongue of the desert or Punic which ancient Carthaginians had spoken continued to be heard The dominant religion of Africa had become Christianity a religion opposed to the traditions of old Rome but that could not have spread without the unity that Rome had brought ...


James J. O'Donnell

Christian bishop and theologian, was born Aurelius Augustinus on 13 November 354 CE in Tagaste (mod. Souk Ahras, Algeria) in Roman Africa, the son of Patricius and Monnica. The names of father and son are marked by emphatic affiliation with Rome (echoing the imperial title of Augustus and the high dignity of “patrician”), while the mother’s name echoes the traditional Punic culture of Africa and one of its leading deities. Augustine died as bishop of Hippo Regius (mod. Annaba, Algeria) on 28 August 430. He never ceased to surprise his contemporaries, and he has astonished many more to this day.

As the older son in a family of some social pretensions but limited resources Augustine should have grown to manhood as a country squire of narrow horizons But his parents were ambitious and found the money from an influential friend to send him away for education He studied first at ...


Eric Bennett

One of the most famous theologians of his time, Augustine was raised in a mixed household: his mother was Christian but his father, an official of the Roman empire, was pagan. He spent his early years in what is today called Souk-Ahras, in Algeria Despite the piety of his mother Augustine abandoned Christianity at an early age attracted instead by Manichaeism a system of material dualism that claimed the human soul was like light imprisoned by darkness A precocious learner Augustine considered Christian scripture intellectually crude Inspired by Hortensius a now lost text by Cicero he mastered rhetoric and while still in his teens held a professional chair of rhetoric in Carthage Ever questioning the nature of things Augustine discarded Manichaeism for Academic Skepticism and later Neoplatonism At the age of twnenty eight he left Carthage for the Roman capital of Milan in search of better disciplined students In ...


Richard Watts

Amadou Hampaté Bâ was born in the town of Bandiagara, approximately 500 km (300 mi) northeast of Bamako, Mali, and belonged to an important family of Marabouts (Muslim religious leaders). Bâ’s father died when he was two years old, and he was adopted and raised by a chief in the region. Educated at French schools in Bandiagara and Djenné, about 200 km (124 mi) from Bandiagara, Bâ nonetheless managed to continue his traditional Islamic education with famed Islamic teacher Tierno Bokar, a man whose wisdom Bâ later immortalized in Vie et enseignement de Tierno Bokar (The Life and Teachings of Tierno Bokar, 1980 It was also at this time that Bâ encountered Kullel a storyteller and traditional educator who gave Bâ his first lessons in the African oral tradition Bâ later earned the nickname Amkullel Little Kullel and he honored his teacher by titling the first volume ...


David B. McCarthy

was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the fourth of five children of Nannie Beatrice Perry and Zacharias Banner. After attending Philadelphia’s Walter George Smith School and Central High School, he graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a B.A. in 1935 and from Yale Divinity School with a Master of Divinity degree (M.Div.) in 1938.

That fall Banner began teaching as an instructor at Bennett College, a historically black women’s institution in Greensboro, North Carolina. On 7 June 1941 he married Beatrice Vera Suggs, a 1935 graduate of Bennett College who had been an English teacher at George Eastman High School in Enfield, North Carolina. They had one daughter, Anne, born on 15 May 1947, and one son, William Perry, born on 29 May 1952.

Banner began further graduate studies in 1943 at Harvard University where he was awarded a Sheldon Traveling Fellowship He received his M A ...


Wayne Sparkman

pastor, theologian, and churchman, was born in Selma, Alabama, the son of Wilbur McDonald Bottoms, a teacher, and Gussie Adolphus Shivers. While his mother's family had been Methodists, his father was a Reformed Presbyterian who graduated from Wilberforce College in Ohio and answered a call to teach at the Knox Academy in Selma. This school was operated by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Selma, and it was upon taking this post that Wilbur Bottoms met and married Shivers. Lawrence was raised in a highly unusual situation, for neither the school nor the church was segregated. Whites who taught at the school also lived on the school property and attended the church as members alongside African American teachers and other members in the congregation. At times the church had a white pastor, and at other times the pastor was African American.

Lawrence continued his education in Pennsylvania first at ...


Richard Bardolph

John Wesley Edward Bowen was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 3, 1855, the son of Edward and Rose (Simon) Bowen. Edward, a carpenter, had moved from Maryland to New Orleans, where he was ensnared in slavery and held in bondage until he purchased his own freedom. Subsequently he purchased freedom for his wife and his son John, then three years old. Edward Bowen later served in the Union Army during the Civil War (1861–1865).

The newly freed parents who were intelligent industrious and ambitious themselves quickly recognized their son s similar gifts and directed him in early childhood to the best education that their means and circumstances allowed They enrolled him in New Orleans University established for blacks by the Methodist Episcopal Church and there he attained his basic education from the first grade up through college years He received his bachelor s ...


Ralph E. Luker

Methodist educator and theologian, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the son of Edward Bowen and Rose Simon. John's father was a carpenter from Maryland who was enslaved when he moved to New Orleans. After purchasing his own freedom, Edward Bowen bought that of his wife and son in 1858 and served in the Union army during the Civil War. After the war, young J. W. E. Bowen studied at the Union Normal School in New Orleans and at New Orleans University, which was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church for the education of freedmen. Bowen received a bachelor's degree with the university's first graduating class in 1878. Eight years later, New Orleans University awarded him a master's degree. From 1878 to 1882 Bowen taught mathematics and ancient languages at Central Tennessee College in Nashville.

In 1882 Bowen began theological studies at Boston University While he was ...


Michael R. Mahoney

first Anglican bishop of Natal, theologian, and political activist, was born in Saint Austell, Cornwall, on 24 January 1814, the eldest of four children of a mineral agent to the Duchy of Cornwall. He began attending Saint John’s College, Cambridge University, in 1832, and in 1836 he graduated as a second wrangler in the mathematical tripos and a second Smith’s prizeman. A year later he was elected a fellow at Saint John’s. In 1839 he took up holy orders in the Church of England but worked as a mathematics tutor at Harrow, where he gained some notoriety as an author of mathematics texts. During this period Colenso also became increasingly active in the Church of England and in 1846 became rector of Forncett Saint Mary Church in Norfolk County. That same year he married Sarah Frances Bunyon, with whom he had five children.

In 1853 at the ...


Carl Mirra

theologian, was born in Fordyce, Arkansas, the son of Charles “Charlie” Madison Cone, a woodcutter, and Lucy Cone. Cone was the youngest of three children. When Cone was just a year old his family moved to Beardon, Arkansas, a rural town of roughly 800 whites and 400 blacks. He only achieved a sixth grade education, but his natural intelligence and courage led him to later challenge racial segregation, a lifetime commitment to racial justice that included his participation in a school desegregation case and his opposition to racial coercion in the Jim Crow South.

Cone s early education took place in segregated schools that often employed teachers without college degrees What they lacked in formal training however Cone s teachers made up for in life affirming qualities He recalls that his first grade teacher often hugged him making him feel loved Cone did not know what it meant ...


Richard Newman

In 1969, a year after the assassination of Martin Luther King, James H. Cone published Black Theology and Black Power, a treatise that called liberation the center of the Christian gospel, and the blackness expressed in black consciousness the only tool of liberation. This formulation of a uniquely black theology saw Jesus and the Bible as identified with the poor and exploited, and Black Power as divinely inspired resistance against racial oppression.

Cone's thesis drew upon his own deep involvement in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as the strength of the black Arkansas community in which he was nurtured, and the influence of Malcolm X's cultural critique of mainstream Christianity. The son of Lucille Cone, a homemaker, and Charlie Cone a woodcutter James Cone attended Philander Smith College Garrett Theological Seminary and Northwestern University He taught at Adrian College Philander Smith ...


Carmen De Michele

Christian theologian and bishop, who initiated a doctrinal dispute with the patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, about the two natures of Jesus Christ, was born in Alexandria in the year 375. He spent several years of his life in a monastery in the Nitrian Mountains until he succeeded his uncle Theophilus as bishop of Alexandria in 412. He confronted the church of the Novatianists, a sect that opposed the power of the church and granted protection and absolution to those believers who returned to idolatry because of persecution. He closed their churches and took over their church treasuries. Cyril further challenged the authority of the civil government by expelling the Jews from the city of Alexandria in the year 415, triggering violent riots.

Cyril was also indirectly involved in the murder of one of the most prominent female pagan philosophers and scientists of antiquity Hypatia A highly respected and influential citizen ...


Raymond Pierre Hylton

minister, author, and educator, was born near Burgess in Northumberland County, Virginia, to Robert, a fisherman, and Maggie Ellison, a homemaker. Coming from an impoverished background, he received a rudimentary education and had to work at age fourteen as a farm laborer earning seven dollars per month. His first stroke of good fortune occurred in 1906 when he entered the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute (later Virginia State College and still later Virginia State University) in Ettrick, Virginia. Getting into Virginia Union University in Richmond was not so easy; there was initial skepticism on the part of its president, Dr. George Rice Hovey, who saw no academic promise in the young man. In 1909 Hovey reluctantly admitted Ellison to the Wayland Academy (as Virginia Union's high school program was then called), and he then went on to the collegiate undergraduate program, graduating in 1917 ...


Gregory Hays

, Christian theologian, bishop, and saint, was born at Thelepte, in modern-day Tunisia, to an upper-class family. His father, Claudius, died soon after Fulgentius’s birth, and he and his younger brother were raised by their mother, Mariana. As a young man he embarked on an administrative career but abandoned it to enter a monastery, subsequently moving to a second one headed by a longtime friend, Felix. As a Trinitarian Catholic, Fulgentius was involved in the ongoing conflict with other Christians (often referred to as Arians), who held different views on the nature of Jesus Christ and his relationship to God the Father. This group included other clergy, as well as the Vandal regime. On at least one occasion, both Fulgentius and Felix were severely beaten by an Arian priest and his supporters.

Shortly before 500 Fulgentius embarked on a voyage to Egypt the homeland of monasticism However he actually went ...


Kimani Njogu

Kenyan theologian, preacher, counselor, author, and poet, was born on 3 March 1925. As a child John Gatu attended Kambui Mission School between 1931 and 1940. However, his education was cut short in 1941 when he joined the army during World War II, and rose through the ranks to become a company sergeant major, the second-highest rank that was available then to Kenyans. At the time Gatu did not believe in Christianity, despite coming from a Christian background. While in the army, in June 1946, Gatu attended the coveted victory parade in London and had a meeting with Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president, for the first time. For Gatu, Christianity was the “opium applied to Africans by the white man” (personal communication, 3 March 2006). This belief led him to take the Mau Mau oath and fight for the liberation of Kenya.

During this period Gatu trained ...


Matteo Salvadore

Ethiopian monk and scholar, was born ‘Eskender to a noble Amhara family in the early 1600s and is also known as Abba Gorgoryos, Gregory, and Gregorio. Gorgoryos was ordained a monk in the Ethiopian Church in the early 1620s. In 1625 the Jesuit father Gaspare Paez introduced him to Catholicism to which he converted before the beginning of the anti Catholic persecution of the 1630s When he embraced the Roman faith he also took the name Gorgoryos by which he became known throughout Europe He was most likely the first Ethiopian monk to be reordained Catholic which thrust him at the heart of early modern relations between the Ethiopian elite and the Roman Catholic Church After his conversion Gorgoryos joined the Jesuit mission by becoming the secretary to Father Afonso Mendes 1579 1656 third Catholic Patriarch of Ethiopia and head of the Jesuit mission Following Fasiladas s expulsion of ...


Ezekiel Gebissa

Ethiopian theologian, church leader, and advocate of social justice, was born in 1929 at Bojii in Wallaga Province, western Ethiopia, to a farming family that professed different faith traditions—Protestantism, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Oromo traditional religion. Another form of his name is Gudina Tumsa. He was educated in Swedish Evangelical Mission schools in Bojii, where he took literacy classes and was introduced to Protestant Christianity; Najjoo (about thirty miles from Bojii), where he completed elementary school; and Naqamtee (the provincial capital), where he was trained as a health assistant. In 1952 he married his wife, Tsehay Tolassa.

Working with Swedish missionaries as a gardener in Najjoo and a health assistant in Naqamtee deepened Guddinaa s commitment to the Protestant faith Though a health worker he often preached the gospel emphasizing the need for healing spiritual ailments Recognizing his inclination as a teacher the Lutheran congregation in Naqamtee called him to become ...


North African Islamic theologian and jurist, was born in the city of al-Qayrawan to an Arab family with origins in the Hadramawt region of southern Arabia. His nisba al-Muradi further suggests a lineage among the Madhij Bedouin of Maʾrib in the Yemen. Al-Hadrami received his early education in al-Qayrawan, where he was able to study with a number of luminaries, including the influential jurist Abu ʿImran al-Fasi (d. 1039). He quickly drew the notice of his teachers for his formidable intellect and impressive command of the Arabic language. Al-Hadrami subsequently departed al-Qayrawan, possibly prompted by the Bedouin invasions of the mid-eleventh century, and took up residence in the Moroccan city of Aghmat, southeast of Marrakech. Here, he embarked on a career teaching the Islamic sciences, and he is known to have produced at least one student of note, the theologian Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf bin Musa al-Kalbi al-Darir (d. 1126).

It ...


Efraim Barak

Egyptian jurist, religious thinker, and second general guide (murshid ʿam) of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, was born in December 1891 to a lower-class family in Arab al-Sawaliha, a village northwest of Cairo. After learning the Qurʾan in a local kuttab, he spent a year in one of al-Azhar’s religious elementary schools before transferring to a state school, from which he graduated in 1911. Hudaybi then enrolled in law school. Upon completing a five-year program, he began working at the law firm of Kamil Husayn and Hafiz Ramadan. In 1918, Hudaybi opened his own practice in Shibin al-Qanatir, a city near his village, before moving the office to Suhaj in Upper Egypt.

In 1925, Hudaybi was appointed a judge in Qina. Thereafter, he received postings in other provincial towns and was transferred to Cairo in 1933. By the late 1940s he had ...