posted February 8, 2011

Lecture to Explore Christianity from a Global Perspective

Author and social critic Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra of Colombo, Sri Lanka, will present "Unmasking Idols: The World Church as a Prophetic Community" through the World Christian Lecture Series of Hope College on Friday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Winants Auditorium of Graves Hall.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Ramachandra is secretary for dialogue and social engagement with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.  His work includes promoting inter-disciplinary public dialogues in universities in various parts of the world, and helping Christian students, professors and graduates engage theologically with the social, cultural and political challenges they face in their national contexts.  His numerous publications include the books "Faiths in Conflict? Christian Integrity in a Multicultural World" and "Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World."

"Given the stunning expansion of Christianity in the global south documented by Philip Jenkins in 'The Next Christendom,' this year's World Christian Lecture Series offers us a critical opportunity to hear a preeminent public intellectual, author, social critic and theologian," said Dr. Mark Husbands, who is a member of the lecture series' planning committee and is the Leonard and Marjorie Maas Associate Professor of Reformed Theology at Hope.  "His lecture will be of immediate relevance and interest to people interested in globalization, theology, culture, economics, international relations, and the promise and perils of multiculturalism."

Commenting on Ramachandra's book "Subverting Global Myths," theologian Dr. Stanley Hauerwas of the Duke Divinity School faculty said that "Ramachandra exposes the idolatry often masked in so much current discourse on globalization," adding, "I have read few books from which I have learned more."

The World Christian Lecture Series invites recognized Christian thinkers and practitioners who are leaders in their respective disciplines and areas of expertise to join with the Hope and Holland communities in exploring issues, themes and ideas that face Christians in the world.  The annual series, which debuted in 2008 and is coordinated by the college's campus ministries office, features a mix of speakers that can include Christian scholars, artists, preachers, politicians, and industry and church leaders.

"Our hope through the series is to provide intellectually charged events that engage our deepest questions," said Dr. Trygve Johnson, who is the Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope.  "We're honored to have Vinoth Ramachandra come to campus and speak into our community from a context other than our own as we seek to understand our place in the world as people of faith."

Born in Colombo, Ramachandra went to England for his college education, completing bachelor's and doctoral degrees in nuclear engineering at the University of London in England.  He returned to Sri Lanka in 1980 initially for a year before intending to conduct research and teach in the United Kingdom or United States, but became involved with a group of young graduates interested in developing a Christian ministry at the university level.  He remained in Sri Lanka, and became the first general secretary of the newly formed Fellowship of Christian University Students from 1983 to 1991.

He joined International Fellowship of Evangelical Students in 1987 as the regional secretary for South Asia.  IFES is a global partnership of more than 130 autonomous, indigenous university student movements around the world.  As regional secretary, he worked with programs in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.  In his current role he is a member of the IFES Senior Leadership Team.

Ramachandra has been involved for many years with the civil rights movement in Sri Lanka, as well as with the global Micah Network and A Roacha, a worldwide biodiversity conservation organization.  He has served as a lecturer at colleges, universities, theological seminaries and conferences around the world, including delivering a plenary address during the International Conference on Peace & Reconciliation in Seoul, South Korea, this past November.

In addition to "Faiths in Conflict? Christian Integrity in a Multicultural World" and "Subverting Global Myths: Theology and the Public Issues Shaping Our World," his six books are "The Recovery of Mission: Beyond the Pluralist Paradigm," "Gods That Fail: Christian Mission and Modern Idolatry," "The Message of Mission" and "Church and Mission in the New Asia: New Gods, New Identities."  He is also the author of numerous journal articles and chapters and essays in books.

He lives in Sri Lanka with his wife, Karin, who is a trained counselor and Bible teacher.

While on campus, Ramachandra will also speak during the college's Chapel service on Friday, Feb. 18, at 10:30 a.m. and "The Gathering" worship service on Sunday, Feb. 20, at 8 p.m., both in Dimnent Memorial Chapel.  The public is invited to both events.

Graves Hall is located at 263 College Ave., on College Avenue between 10th and 12th streets.  Dimnent Memorial Chapel is located at 277 College Ave., on College Avenue at 12th Street.