The Celtic Ghanaian – Kwame Bediako

In 1996, Wilma and I had been only one year in Buenos Aires. IAMS (International Association of Mission Studies not a cat food!) was having a conference in the city. RenĂ© Padilla organised an “asado” (Argentine BBQ) at the Kairos Centre for various of the participants. We were also invited. Asados are sit down events where you eat meat (not a beef burger in sight!). I sat down beside a short, white haired African man. He was very friendly and he introduced himself as Kwame Badiako.

I had read his Theology and Identity and Jesus in Africa and had found them very stimulating. So I was a little overwhelmed. He asked me what I did in Argentina and I told him. Then he asked me what module I was teaching at the moment. When I replied “History of Mission”, he inquired as to the part of history I had reached. I told him that we had just finished the Celtic mission movement. His eyes lit up and he said “Oh I love the Celts! They were so dedicated!” He then proceeded to talk rapidly about the Celtic missionaries he most liked. I got my notebook out (paper and pencil back then!) and began to take notes. He was so excited and with his wonderful West African accent in English, you didn’t know where you were: Argentina, Ghana or Iona!

Afterwards I thought, what a weird existence I had. Here was a Ghanaian theologian, sitting having an Argentine Asado, teaching a British theologian about Irish missionary monks! This did make me reflect about the whole issue of cultural and Christian identity, not only from Kwame’s books but the whole cultural mix I was experiencing. Kwame was concerned to have a truly Ghanaian expression of the gospel but this did not stop him from assuming Celtic history into his own Christian identity.

Sadly Kwame died quite suddenly in June 2008; a sad loss to African and World Christianity.