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History of the Church: Africa

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Michael Spoke

on 13 May 2013

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Transcript of History of the Church: Africa

The Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists, and others had established African missions offices and developed plans to effectively reach the people of Africa.




Some opted for training natives for the ministry while many groups simply sent a growing number of white missionaries into the continent. Many who did return home did so, at least in part, to share the gospel of Christ with their own people.



Therefore, some of the first real missionaries to the interior of Africa were Africans themselves, returning home. Colonization largely replaced the slave trade, bringing traders, educators, and missionaries pouring into Africa.



Thus the 1800’s saw a dramatic rise in the number of Christians within the continent. The 1800’s brought a series of changes to Africa.

The bustling slave trade, fueled largely by Europe and America, was to come to an end in both places by the end of the 1800’s.






Slavery was officially abolished in 1814 in the Netherlands, 1818 in France, 1834 in Britain, and finally in 1865 in the USA. The kidnap and transport of slaves from their homeland was made illegal earlier in the century. In South Africa, the Dutch settlement of Cape Town launched German and Dutch missional efforts that had a growing impact before the Dutch church repealed baptisms done
by unordained clergy.




In East Africa, wars raged between Arab and European factions with most Christian and European influences being subdued by the mid 18th century. At the start of the 1700’s, many European nations busily sought to colonize and Christianize Africa.






Christianity in Africa in 1700's was more than just a faith to believe, it was a way of control imposed on all. The will of God manipulated by the will of the King. With the help of the Capuchins, thousands of people were
converted and baptized in the Kongo during Afonsa’s reign.
2 Reasons Christianity remained Strong:






Adherence of the King and core of the ruling class, the Mwissikongo, to Christianity.

New symbolic identity provided by rituals and priests and the churches of the capital. History of Christianity in the Kongo will always be linked to
Mbemba Nzinga, baptised as Afonsa I.










He became king of Kongo in 1506. He remained a Christian to his death in 1516 despite his many experiences of violence, rapacity and duplicity at
the hands of the Portuguese. Sao Tome and Cape Verde were both sparsely populated islands that became important to the production of sugar and missions.



Eventually, largely populated by Luso-Africans, many indigenous priests were raised from Sao Tome as respectable, learned, discreet, temperate priests and great musicians.




These priests ministered to the upper and lower Guinea areas and eventually provided priestly ministry to various areas in Africa. Africa 19th Century 20th Century Present Day Church History of the Church Just as there was, by this point in Church history, a large number of Christian denominations, there were a variety of churches and denominations making missionary efforts into Africa in the 1800’s. In 1821, at the age of 13, Samuel Ajayi Crowther was kidnapped from his home in what is now Nigeria by Muslims to be sold as a slave.

He was freed by the British and brought to Freetown where he became a Christian. In 1808 the British declared Freetown, Sierra Leone to be a crown colony and a place for freed slaves to call home.






For many freed slaves Freetown was not a place to call home but instead merely a stopover before attempting to return home. Christianity was an agent of great change in the 20th Century as education was a major focus of Christian activity

Schools set-up by both Protestants and Catholics educated many of the people who became leaders of post-colonial Africa

Health was another concern: Christian missions established hospitals and clinics

Many religious leaders and independent churches focused attention on healing.
Christianity is now one of the two most widely practiced religions in Africa





The statistics from the World Christian Encyclopedia (David Barrett) illustrate the emerging trend of dramatic Christian growth on the continent and supposes, that in 2025 there will be 633 million Christians in Africa Africans are taking leadership positions in global Christian organizations

2000 - Setri Nyomi, a Ghanaian was Chief Officer for the World Alliance of Reformed Churches – 1st non-European

2004 - Samuel Kobia, a Kenyan, elected executive of the World Council of Churches

2004 - Kwame Bediako, a Ghanaian was the presenter of the prestigious Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary 21st Century


Protestant teacher in Liberia who abandoned his Western style of life and traveled through western Africa baptizing tens of thousands of people. Also known as Spirit Churches

Emphasize spiritual and physical healing through the intervention of the Holy Spirit

This emphasis reflects the influence of African religious belief and practice Not directly associated with Ethiopia

Name received because of number of times
Ethiopia is mentioned in the Bible which demonstrates God's long-term interest
and involvement in Africa.

Founded and led by African Christians. Formed by Africans who decided to break away from missionary churches




Reasons for split:
Racism – missionaries sometimes guilty of mistreating African Christians
Rejection of African culture, practices and beliefs by missionaries The African Church Seeks Its Own Language

Western missionaries planted initial seeds of
Christianity

As the Gospel spread African Christianity began to define itself on its own cultural terms.

Reformers within the missionary churches as well as independent church leaders called for change in the institutionalized church.

This led to both reform, on the one hand, and to the birth of thousands of "African Independent Churches" (AICs) on the other. 20th Century http://risingafrica.blogspot.com/2011/06/africa-wrestling-with-christianity.html
http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/2001-now/the-explosion-of-christianity-in-africa-11630859.html
http://www.spiegel.de/international/the-battle-for-souls-in-africa-the-growing-continent-of-christians-a-351292.html
http://exploringafrica.matrix.msu.edu/teachers/curriculum/m14/activity4.php
http://library.worldtracker.org/Reference/Encyclopedia's/Gale%20Group%20Africa%20An%20Encyclopedia%20for%20Students%20Edition%20Vol%201%20(Abidjan-Economic).pdf Sources There was wide diversity in belief and practice of the AICs but they can be divided into two broad groups:

Ethiopian Independent Churches
Zionist Independent Churches AICs Outdoor Sabbath service of the Apostles of Johane Marauke, in Zambia Beginning of the Sabbath service
Small Church of God in Zambia Religious sisters in an African Independent Church Zimbabwe Kimbanguist Temple under construction
Democratic Republic of the Congo School children in rural Guinea Sudan Interior Mission Hospital, Galmi Niger Mission Hospital, Democratic Republic of the Congo The capital that was dispersed to push into West Africa came out of the treasury of the Order of the Knights of Christ.

Mission activity was tied together with the enslavement of Africans.

The Portuguese sent Roman Catholic missionaries to Benin in 1515.

Although the mission built churches and baptized thousands, they were unsuccessful in the long run. West Africa The Portuguese sailed around the Cape of Good Hope for the first time in the late 1400’s.

By the 1500’s, missionaries were pulled into military campaigns to administer the sacraments and were often slaughtered 'in hatred of their holy religion.' South Africa East African cities were attacked, plundered and burnt down by the Portuguese in the early 1500’s.

However, although there was persecution and churches were destroyed, Ethiopian Christianity (adopted in the 4th Century) survived the expansion of Islam and the jihad against Ethiopia with the help of a Portuguese expedition in the mid 1500’s.

Ethiopian Christians engaged in missionary activity through the establishment of monasteries and intensified their contacts with Rome.

By the mid 1500’s, Ethiopian church and monastic life had become indigenous and circumcision, fasting, mass, confession and Sabbat were important features of the church. East Africa In this territory (Northern Sudan), various Christian empires had been founded since the sixth century.

Muslims conquered this territory beginning in the 15th century. The wars that ensued with the Muslims, the region lost their Bishop and their clergy.

Result: Christian faith in the region was forgotten and Egypt and Nubia fell to the expansion of Islam. North Africa The 1400’s and 1500’s marked the beginning of the first European overseas expeditions to the African coast. Pope Nicholas V gave Portugal papal rights and patronage over the churches on the lands, harbors, islands and seas of Africa.

The main objective of the European expansion was to ‘bend the barbarian nations under the yoke of Christ’ to further the Christian belief alongside the kingdom. European Expansion and Discoveries The late 1400’s marked the beginnings of the Church in Congo.

The king of Congo in the early 1500’s was a Christian and supported ties to the Portuguese king and to Rome.

His letters indicated there was mutual edification and criticism between the Europeans and Africans, especially concerning the slave trade. Central Africa 16th Century
Church There were several great movements of outreach and conversions in various areas of Africa, very few were sustained.


A weakness of Christianity in Black Africa during the middle of the century was its close association with the slave trade. Turn of the Century Church in the Kongo Augustinian monks were sent to Warri in the late
1500’s. These monks led the heir to the throne to be converted to Catholicism, baptized as
“Sebastian”. He was faithful to his conversion
the rest of his life.

By 1644, a good number of the Warri were now
Catholics fueled by the development of their
leader. Olu Sebastian sent his son , Domingos,
to study to become a priest but he came back not a priest, but with a white wife. Church in Warri, Nigeria Church in the Atlantic Islands Pedro Paez, a Jesuit arrived in Ethiopia in 1603. Paez learned the language and eventually converted the King – Susenyos - and some of his family members and associates to Catholicism.




By 1622, Susenyos openly declared himself Catholic but unfortunately, Paez died that same year. The new leaders were not as wise or tactful and provoked much opposition. Church in Ethiopia 17th Century Church in Africa As the end of the 18th century came, an evangelical revival spread throughout Europe and Americas based upon the cross, new birth in Christ, and the coming Kingdom of God.

These new convictions raised new passion for missional outreach in Africa as well as serious concern with the greatest obstacle for missionary advance in Africa: slavery. Missions Missional efforts were located alongside commercial enterprises.


The Coptic community of North Africa had a growing and developing faith community that had sprung from pre-18th century indigenous African missionaries. With its seaports facing the west, West Africa faced the harshest blows of the slave trade.

Christianity came to West Africa through Thomas Thomson who came to Cape Coast in 1752 as a chaplain for English traders.

The Baptists, Methodists, and Anglicans helped further the growing Christian movement in West Africa even while the slave trade boomed. The Church in West Africa Most missionaries sent to Africa had little formal
training and were mostly always non-ordained.



After a missionary had stuck it out in the field, ordination was often given.


Quickly missionaries realized the value of the African convert as the key to successful evangelism. European missionaries in Africa Though slavery had started in the 1600’s, the 1700’s marked the widespread practice of capturing, trading, and selling African people as slaves.


Western growth and demand for luxuries like tobacco and sugar fueled a slave demand met in Africa. The Slave Trade 18th Century Church In 1787, 411 settlers, mostly former slaves from Europe, landed in Sierra Leone to set up a new Christian community called Freetown modeled after Kingdom of God.

Within a year most were dead.

In 1792, a group of 1,200 former slaves from Canada arrived singing hymns and praising God to set up a community that would be a City on a Hill to evangelize all of Africa. New hope for the New Kingdom Explosion in number of Christians from an estimated eight or nine million in 1900 (8 to 9%) to 335 million in 2000 (45%)





Spread mostly attributable to African Independent Churches (AICs)

Shift in the “center of gravity of Christianity” from the West to Latin America and parts of Asia and Africa. 

1.8 million Christian martyrs in Africa Origins Christianity on the Continent of Africa was established in various countries by the 6th century.

However, with the exception of small remaining remnants of Ethiopian, Egyptian and Coptic churches, most of the Christian churches had died off or fell under Muslim influence by the 12th century. The Movement Freetown -Sierra Leone Samuel Ajayi Crowther Dr. David Livingstone Missionary Endeavors African Independent Churches Ethiopian Independent Churches Zionist Independent Churches Bishop James “Holy” Johnson


West African proto-nationalist, became the second African to be ordained an Anglican bishop and was a critical figure in advocating for stronger integration of African culture into Christianity. Yohana Kitigana -












A former Buganda chief who converted to Christianity, gave up his title, wives, and possessions, and traveled through central Africa preaching the Gospel. Key Figures in Spread of Christianity in Africa William Wadé Harris Christianity in Africa has become a distinctly Africanized faith with elements of traditional belief and culture. 

In the 1960s the Catholic Church officially adopted the position that local African churches should lead Catholic missionary efforts in Africa.




Later, in the 1990s, it stated that African churches would not be forced to accept pre-existing religious structures and ideas but could develop their own based on local traditions and needs. Christian population continues to grow Country Breakdown: Mozambique The Portuguese first began to occupy Mozambique at the beginning of the 16th century- in 1505 Portuguese settlers occupied the Muslim settlement on the Island of Mozambique.

Dominicans, Jesuits and Augustinians missionaries flocked to Mozambique. In 1561, a Jesuit missionary named Don Gonçalo de Silveira baptized the young emperor Negomo of the of Munhumutapa empire, which was the tribal empire that ruled over Mozambique and parts of Zimbabwe

During the following 400 years, as the Portuguese colonized and controlled Mozambique, Christianity- particularly the denomination of Catholicism- became much more prevalent and widespread throughout the country. In 1632, Susenyos eventually abdicated Catholicism and two years later, his successor, Fasilidas put the Jesuits out. However, by the mid-1800’s due to a change in leadership which returned to the old religious practices and a lack of priests, many no longer followed. Eventually, Afonsa and many of the Christian leaders were killed in a war with Portuguese of Loanda.
There were basic contradictions between converting Africans to Christianity and purchasing them as slaves.

Christian impact in Africa was limited by the vitality of traditional culture, shortage of clergy to help maintain movements that began and a long continued experience of European “injuries and injustices” such as slavery. Christians evangelized Africa one minute then sold them to slavery the next.




This theme of missional expansion and rampant slave trading casts a pall over the entire 18th century African continent. The slave trade was so profitable to the European traders yet devastating on its effect on Africans.



Almost 10% of all slaves would die in
“mid passage” to the plantations of the new world as they were beaten, forced to live in sub-humane living conditions, and treated like animals. Liberated former African slaves Ottobah Cugoana (from Ghana) and Olaudah Equiano (from Nigeria) published narratives attacking the slave trade and the abolition movement began to spread. Ottobah Cugoana Olaudah Equiano He was later ordained in 1843, and in 1864 received a doctorate of divinity from Oxford and became the first African bishop in the Anglican Church.

He was instrumental in the missionary efforts in much of West Africa. Although he is only recorded to have made one African convert as a missionary, he opened up trade routes and mission fields that would be well utilized by those who came after him and was instrumental in shifting public opinion towards the abolition of slavery. In the mid 1800’s Dr. David Livingstone ventured across Africa for the cause of “Christianity, Commerce, and Civilization.”


The three pronged goal of his ventures set a precedent in European expansion that would have far reaching consequences. Percentage of population practicing traditional tribal religion: Update on the Church The history of the church in African can be traced through the movements of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, the Roman Catholic Church, Protestantism and the rise of African Independent Churches. Beginning with the church in Ethiopia and the first European overseas expeditions to the African coast, Christianity spread throughout the life and culture of Eastern, Southern, and Western Africa. Nevertheless, throughout this period most of northern Africa remained under Islamic influence.

Once colonization replaced the slave trade, traders, educators, and missionaries poured into Africa and began the Christianization of the continent. Christianity proliferated through many struggles and triumphs and over the last century, the African church became a vital part of the world church. Conclusion
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