Guidelines for Writers of Biographies and Christian Histories

Please feel free to download and use either of our manuals:
1. The Instructional Manual for Researchers and Writers (PDF)
2. Archives Manual: Rescuing the Memory of our Peoples (PDF)

In the essential task of documenting the story of African Christianity before it is lost to human memory, the DACB is committed to collecting and preserving: 1) the biographies of African men and women, both lay people and clergy, who have played a significant role in the birth and growth of Christianity over the entire continent, from the time of Jesus to the present and 2) the histories of religious movements, churches, and Christian communities.

Please follow these guidelines when submitting biographies (see below, section A) and Christian histories (see below, section B). In composing your article, refer to the guidelines for formatting and content found in our The Instructional Manual for Researchers and Writers.

Email all submissions (see section C below) to Michèle Sigg, Project Manager, [email protected]

A. Biographies

Choice of Biographical Subjects

As you choose biographical subjects for your research, please take into account the following guidelines:

1. Subjects whose stories already appear in the DACB will normally not be considered, unless the proposed article gives significant new material and insight. Therefore it is important to consult the DACB either online or at a DACB participating institution, to ascertain whether or not the DACB already has stories on your proposed subjects.

  1. Your subjects need not be confined to professional clerics, missionaries, or theologians, but might include laypersons from various walks of life whose stories are essential to an understanding of the church in Africa.
  2. General suggested length: no longer than 3,000 words and no shorter than 500 words.
    4. As the intent and purpose of the DACB is to record the history of African Christianity, we ask that you focus on writing the stories of deceased subjects.
    5. It is the policy of DACB NOT to publish the stories of living subjects. In very few cases, exceptions have been made if the subjects are (a) of a very venerable age (over 70) and (b) they have retired from all active ministry (in other words, their story is complete). Stories of living subjects will be kept on file in the DACB office for future use.

Guidelines for Writing a Biography

In preparing a biographical study for inclusion in the Dictionary, please insure that your article includes information on as many of the following categories as possible. The author should integrate this information into an article between 200 and 3000 words long.

1. Given name(s) of Person. As necessary, provide explanations of these names.

  • Baptismal names
  • Kinship names
  • Nicknames

2. Family names. If there is more than one spouse, list the children under the appropriate mother or father.

  • Ethno-linguistic group
  • Kinship group
  • Father
  • Mother
  • Wife/Wives
  • Husband/Husbands
  • Children
  • Grandchildren

3. Life Story

  • Date or approximate date of birth
  • Place of birth: village, city, province, nation
  • Unusual circumstances associated with birth
  • Formative experiences, such as illnesses, personal misfortunes, tragedies, visions, etc.
  • Education, degrees (including dates)
  • Conversion (including date, if applicable)
  • Calling and/or ordination to ministry (including date)
  • Date or approximate date, place, and circumstances of death

4. Nationality / citizenship

5. Languages, including first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.

6. Church affiliation

  • Roman Catholic
  • Orthodox; Coptic
  • Protestant (Conciliar, Evangelical, Anabaptist)
  • Independent (African initiated, Spiritual, Pentecostal / charismatic)

7. Names, locations, and descriptions of churches begun or served by the Subject

8. Ministry details: Where? How long? What happened? Short term and long term impact? (Please provide detailed information wherever possible, including anecdotes, stories, and hearsay)

9. Continuing influence and significance of the Subject

10. Publications, reports, writings, letters, musical compositions, artistic contributions by the Subject

11. Sources of information about the Subject

  • Unpublished
  1. Eyewitness accounts (give names and addresses of storytellers who are or were eyewitnesses; include details of their relationship to the Subject)
  2. Oral and anecdotal (give names and addresses of storytellers wherever possible, and include details of their relationship to the Subject)
  • Published (include full bibliographic data wherever possible: book title, author, publisher, year of publication; title of chapter within a book, author of the chapter, title of the book, name of the editor of the book, full publication data; title of article in periodical, author of article, periodical title, date of periodical, page numbers of article, place of publication.)

12. Other pertinent information

B. Christian Histories

Guidelines for Writing the History of a Religious Movement, Church, or Christian Community

In preparing a history of a religious movement, local church or Christian community, please include as much information as possible in the following categories.

1. Origins, founders, and key personalities

  • Original founder(s): Life story and call (see Guidelines for Writing a Biography, above)
  • Key personalities and their roles in the origins of the movement/church
  • Significant events that led to the founding of the movement/ church
  • Key dates, milestones
  • Writings, sermons, publications

2. Beliefs and practices

  • Vision and philosophy of the founder
  • Central teaching: Main points
  • Sacred places
  • Role and place of the Bible; of ancient church practices; of traditional religion
  • Use of healing and miracles
  • Practices: Description, origins, and evolution over time

3. Organizational Structure

  • Who are the leaders? Describe their roles or functions (apostle, deacon, elder, etc.).
  • Is there a hierarchy? How are leaders and successors chosen?
  • How is the church / movement organized? By committees or otherwise?
  • What is the place given to women? To youth?
  • Church polity: Is it episcopal, connexional, congregational, presbyterian?
  • How have the organization and structure of the church evolved over time?

4. Worship and liturgy

  • Describe the worship service. How many services are there during the week? Explain the different kinds of worship services.
  • Languages used in worship.
  • Liturgical calendar: What important events are celebrated throughout the week, month, year?
  • Creation of music and religious objects, art
  • Vestments and religious clothing
  • How have the worship and liturgy evolved over time?

5. Impact of the movement / church locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally

  • Legacy: How has the church /movement impacted society?
  • Describe the influence and growth of the church on the local, regional, national, and international level.
  • Is the church is related to larger ecclesiastical blocks, such as the WCC, WEA, AACC, OAIC? If so, in what capacity?

6. Sources of information

  • Unpublished
  • Eyewitness accounts (give names and addresses of storytellers who are or were eyewitnesses; include details of their relationship to the church/ movement)
  • Oral and anecdotal (give names and addresses of storytellers wherever possible, and include details of their relationship to the church / movement)
  • Published (include full bibliographic data wherever possible: book title, author, publisher, year of publication; title of chapter within a book, author of the chapter, title of the book, name of the editor of the book, full publication data; title of article in periodical, author of article, periodical title, date of periodical, page numbers of article, place of publication.)

7. Other pertinent information

C. Submitting

For proper credit to be given to you as a contributor, please include:

  • Your name and address
  • Name and address of the church with which you are affiliated
  • Name and address of affiliated educational institution of mission agency
  • Name of individual(s) chiefly responsible for researching the story of each Subject
  • Name and position of the person supervising the research.

Please submit material intended for the Dictionary to the address below. 

Dictionary of African Christian Biography
Center for Global Christianity and Mission (CGCM)
745 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, Massachussetts 02215, USA

See the DACB page on the CGCM Website: DACB at CGCM
Email all submissions to: [email protected]