Dust to ashes

Cremation Choice Among Kenyan Christians

  • Rev Canon Francis Omondi
Keywords: Cremation, Burial, Christian funerals, African customary funerals


This article explores cremation as an alternative way of disposing of the dead among African Christians in Kenya. It examines the theological justification for this practice as an accepted way of disposing of the dead. The study applies the Zerfass Model[1] to provide a theological basis for cremation: First, the theological tradition is studied; second, a situation analysis is conducted; third, critical correlations are explored; and finally, a theory is constructed. This study shows that burial predates Christianity, meaning that Christians adopted a common practice in their context. It further shows the weakness of using scriptural accounts as grounds against cremation, which they neither command, encourage nor condone. This study identifies motivations of Kenyan Christians who choose cremation. These reasons include changing cultural norms, exposure, Churches reform of funeral policies, and openness to new thinking. This study proposes that cremation would not offend African customs for disposing of the dead and offers theological grounds for accepting cremation as a Christian option for disposing of the dead.

[1] Roman Catholic theologian Rolf Zerfass invented the Zerfass Model in 1974. The model analyses a concrete situation which points to the departure of a present praxis. This model used to conduct a study in practical theology provides an outline for the research project that follows a logical framework of four steps: Introduction, Step 1: Theological Tradition, Step 2: Situation Analysis Step 3: Critical Correlation Step 4: Theory Construction and Conclusion (see Zerfass 1974:167-8).


Author Biography

Rev Canon Francis Omondi

The author is a Priest of All Saints Cathedral Diocese of the ACK, a Canon of the All-Saints Kampala Cathedral of the Church of Uganda and Adjunct Lecturer at St. Paul’s University Limuru.