Andrew F. Walls (1928–2021)

Honorary Professor of World Christianity, pioneering historian of Christian missions and world Christianity

Andrew F. Walls, November 2018
Professor Walls in November 2018, after receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.

Andrew Finlay Walls, OBE (1928–2021), Honorary Professor of World Christianity, was a pioneering historian of Christian missions and their reception, and in many ways the architect of the field of study now known as world Christianity. Trained as a patristic scholar at the University of Oxford, he went to Sierra Leone in 1957 to teach at Fourah Bay College. There and at the new University of Nsukka in Nigeria (1962–66) he studied the growing churches of Africa and their history. 

At the University of Aberdeen where he taught between 1966 and 1986, he became a scholar of international renown, establishing the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World (now known as the Centre for the Study of World Christianity), and supervising many research students who became leaders in both church and academy. The Centre was established as a library and archival resource, documenting the history of missions and the growth of non-western Christianity: the students followed, attracted by the sources. 

In 1986 Andrew transferred to the University of Edinburgh, where he was given an honorary chair. The Centre followed him in 1987. It continued to expand in archival and library resources, under the care of Andrew’s wife Doreen and, from 1988, a librarian, Margaret Acton.  By Andrew’s ‘retirement’ from Edinburgh in 1996 almost one-third of the postgraduate students at New College were affiliated to the Centre. With his former Aberdeen colleague, Lamin Sanneh, he established the Yale-Edinburgh Conference in 1992. One of his last academic duties was to offer closing reflections at the online Yale-Edinburgh meeting in June 2021. His legacy is preserved in various institutions across the globe, in a host of published papers, and above all in the person of his former students. Andrew remained a regular visitor to the Centre until the end. The University of Edinburgh bestowed on him an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity in 2018, and in the following year Andrew was delighted to see his precious Centre archives integrated into the University’s Centre for Research Collections. 

We extend our heartfelt condolences to his second wife, Ingrid, and to all the family.

Brian Stanley, Emma Wild-Wood, and Alexander Chow