Theologian returns from missionary work in Africa with new perspectives

Ann Riggs, second from right, with Friends Theological College students in 2012

Returning from five years of teaching in Africa, theologian Ann Riggs says that missionary work is "an opportunity and location for us to become what we were created to be."

Riggs, who returned to the U.S. in July after teaching college students in Kenya, is a new professor of pastoral studies at Loyola University Chicago.

During her missionary work as the principal, or president, at Friends Theological College, she learned more about the importance of cultural dimensions and perceptions, and plans on bringing her new perspective to her students at Loyola.

"So many perspectives that in North America seem to be natural and universal are in reality specific to what is sometimes called North Atlantic culture, that is, cultures heavily shaped by Western and Northern European historical experience and perspectives," Riggs told NCR. "I hope to aid students in encountering a more nuanced and complex perception of the cultural dimensions of their ministry."

Riggs' experiences before her move to Kenya are diverse. She worked for the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and as director of the Faith and Order Commission at the National Council of Churches USA. She holds master's degrees in divinity and theology from Duke Divinity School, and a doctorate in religion and culture from the School of Theology and Religious Studies from The Catholic University of America. In 2009, she left the United States for Africa.

About 8 miles from the equator is Kaimosi, Kenya, where Riggs worked at Friends Theological College. The college serves traditional and nontraditional students who want to pursue pastoral ministry. Many of them live in rural areas, and will most likely return to those areas to practice their ministry. For Riggs, getting involved in the college was unexpected, but welcomed.

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A version of this story appeared in the Aug 29-Sept 11, 2014 print issue under the headline: Missioner returns with new perspectives .

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