Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NABIS Conference (February 28-29)

COMMUNIQUE - NABIS NORTHERN ZONE SECOND ANNUAL CONFERENCE FEB. 29, 2008

The Second Zonal Conference of the National Association of Biblical Studies (NABIS) took place on 28-29th February 2008, at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) Bukuru, Plateau State. Nigeria.

The Conference was attended by seventy-seven participants who came from thirteen institutions. The major discourses of the conference focused on the reality and ongoing challenges of the African spirit world and witchcraft to the Christian community in Africa, particularly Nigeria.

The Conference also presented the Person, work, and ongoing role of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. It highlighted the roles of the spiritual gifts in individual and inter-denominational relationships, and encouraged the energizing of the African-Nigerian Church towards wholistic impact on the Nigerian society.

Hence, NABIS calls its membership to engage Biblically the African spirit world, providing biblical remedies to the problem of witchcraft, and other African problems coming from an African understanding of the spirit world.

NABIS expresses its gratitude to TCNN for hosting this conference, and thanks all the participants and also all participating institutions. It also expresses its special thanks to the organizing committee of NABIS (Northern Zone) for efficient planning and care of logistical aspects of the conference.

During the last weeks we have asked for prayer on behalf of the NABIS (National Association for Biblical Studies) northern zonal conference of Feb. 28-29. We can now report that this conference was a great success, and thank you for praying! NABIS seems to be one of the most active theological societies in Nigeria. As a Nigeria-wide organization NABIS meets annually, usually in July, at a centrally located university (last year it was held in Jos). But locally organized conferences are also held in various regions. This year the northern zone, which covers a very large part of Nigeria, including what is often called the Middle Belt (where the University of Jos is located), held its second annual conference just outside of Jos, hosted by the Theological College of Northern Nigeria in Bukuru. As an interdenominational seminary, with faculty and students coming from many Nigerian churches, TCNN was founded some fifty years ago by Dr. Harry Boer, a Christian Reformed missionary; it remains one of the major seminaries in this country..

Registration for this year’s NABIS conference was about the same as last year, with seventy-seven pastors, students and teachers (at various levels) in attendance, and with thirteen educational institutions represented. Of course many students came from TCNN itself; this year it was quite convenient for them to attend, since their school hosted the two day conference. The facilities were excellent.


Our main sessions were held in the large chapel, which is located centrally on campus. Registration was held outdoors just beside the chapel, and ACTS (Africa Christian Textbooks) had a book table not far from that entrance, providing relevant books and journals at a special conference discount. Photocopy machines were available for presenters, who were required to make sufficient copies of their papers for distribution for all those who had registered.

The four commissioned papers this year were given by faculty of the University of Jos, indeed, from the Dept. of Religious Studies (in which we teach here). The lead paper of the conference, given by the Head of the Department, Prof. Umar Danfulani, “Power Encounter in African Worlds: Witchcraft, Oracles and Healing in Nigeria,” provided an excellent base for further discussion on a topic of considerable relevance for presentday concerns in religion in Nigeria. The second major paper, given Thursday afternoon, was by an Old Testament scholar, Dr. Jotham Kangdim, “The Holy Spirit and Other Spiritual Forces in the Old Testament and Christian Community: A Descriptive Analysis” gave a good general introduction to the important OT presention on the Holy Spirit.

On Friday morning Prof. Danny McCain, the founder of IICS, who also teaches New Testament, led discussion for that day with an interesting paper “Energizing Church Development in Africa through the Gifts of the Spirit,” in which he accented the contribution of the African church for Christianity worldwide. Wendy (who was also the chief organizer for this conference), started the discussions on Friday afternoon with her presentation on “Stephen: ‘Full of the Holy Spirit and Wisdom,’” in which she discussed post-exilic wisdom literature revealing a virtual identification of God’s Spirit with Wisdom, as background for understanding the qualifications of Stephen in Acts 6.

Alongside the commissioned papers, we heard a number of shorter presentations with some very interesting topics. To complement the presentation of Dr. Kangdim our IICS colleague at Unijos, Yoilah Yilpet, presented on “The Anointing Work of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:1-5; 42:1-7; 61:1-3.” Two graduate students from the Jos Evangelical Theological School, located not far from Unijos, presented good papers: Bitrus Sarma, “A Quest for Miraculous Powers in African Popular Religion: A Comparative Study of Miracles and Magic in the Ancient Near East,” and Matthew Michael, “Old Testament Angelology and African Understanding of the Spirit World: Exploring the Forms, Motifs and Descriptions.” To complement Dr. McCain’s presentation, Dr. Pauline Lere of Unijos spoke on “African Independent Churches: A Re-enforcement for African Spirituality for Transforming Development.” Our CSI colleague Rev. Rudy Wiebe examined the conference topic from a Trinitarian undcrstanding,“The Holy Spirit’s Role in Trinitarian Salvation: Exposition of 1Peter 1.1-12.” Two faculty members from the same school where Wiebe teaches (the Pankshin College of Education), Mrs. Victoria N. Pali and Fr. Yohanna T. Wadak presented a joint paper, “The Practice of Healing and Witchcraft in African Society: Implications for the African Independent Churches.” Adrian presented a paper called, “The Power of the Holy Spirit Cannot Be Bought: The Story of Philip and Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8:4-25.”

And Benue State University was ably represented by the head of the department of Religious Studies, James Shagba Moti, presenting “The Significance of Pentecost (Acts 2.1-13) in Contemporary Christian Mission in Nigeria”
The organization of the conference fell to Wendy by default; she has functioned as chairperson for the Local Organizing Committee of NABIS northern zone. Our Unijos colleague, Dr. D. Gwamna, chief organizer of last year’s conference and chairman of the zonal organizing committee for NABIS, fell ill before Christmas, suffering what appears to be a stroke. He could not be burdened with these affairs, though we were grateful that he was well enough to attend the conference for a few hours on both days. You can see him at the registration table, where he is seated (at the left of the photo). The secretary of the northern zone of NABIS, Rev. Dauda Gava, was also absent. During January he left for South Africa to pursue research for his thesis (Wendy is supervising this work). Although we encountered a number of obstacles during the first day, the participants were very pleased with the conference.

As the communiqué issued after the conference explains, the major discourses of the conference focused on the reality and ongoing challenges of the African spirit world and witchcraft to the Christian community in Africa, particularly Nigeria. It also presented the person, work, and ongoing role of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments, and highlighted the roles of the spiritual gifts in individual and inter-denominational relationships, and encouraged the energizing of the African-Nigerian Church towards holistic impact on the Nigerian society. NABIS has rightfuly called on its membership to engage Biblically the African spirit world, providing biblical remedies to the problem of witchcraft, and other African problems coming from an African understanding of the spirit world. NABIS also expressed its gratitude to TCNN for hosting this conference, and thanked all participants and the participating institutions.

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