A History of the Church in Africa

A History of the Church in Africa

A History of the Church in Africa

A History of the Church in Africa

Synopsis

The late Bengt Sundkler, missionary, bishop, and academic, pioneered the study of independent churches in Africa. In this magisterial work, he reviews the entire history of the development of Christianity in all regions of the continent. In contrast to the conventional focus on the missionary enterprise, Professor Sundkler places the African converts at the centre of the study. African Christians, typically drawn from the margins of society, reinterpreted the Christian message, proselytised, governed local congregations, and organised independent churches. Emphasising African initiatives in the process of Christianisation, he argues that its development was shaped by African kings and courts, the history of labour migration, and local experiences of colonisation. This long-awaited book will become the standard reference on African Christian churches.

Excerpt

'A bitter pill which the majority of writers on Christianity and missionary activities in Africa should swallow is that they have not been writing African Church History. ' This statement by Professors J. F. Ade Ajayi and E. A. Ayandele must serve as an introductory remark to our Church history of Africa. The two Nigerian scholars developed their point by claiming that hitherto Church history had been written 'as if the Christian Church were in Africa, but not of Africa'. It stressed the missionary presence while forgetting or neglecting whatever there was of an African initiative, an African dimension of African Church history. The sort of book which my Nigerian colleagues may have had in mind was not least the detailed and lengthy Mission histories, produced in the pre-Independence period and stamped by this fact. Of necessity this implied a view centred in some Western metropolis and in certain mission societies there. This view of Christianization was to treat it as a Western invasion in sub-Saharan Africa. The continent was mapped out according to mission societies and mission fields.

Confronted with the challenge of Professors Ajayi and Ayandele in the 1970s, I was asked to take on the task of writing a Church history of Africa, covering nearly 2,000 years and an entire continent. How could one attempt this? History, I realized is somehow related to the standpoint and experience of the writer. My own Africa background was largely limited to two Lutheran Churches: one in Zululand and the other in north-west Tanzania, with both of which I encountered situations which seemed to open up more comprehensive perspectives. The Zululand missionary in this case, throwing caution and prudence aside, entered into empathetic contact with what was then termed 'the Sects' or 'Native Separatist Churches' and launched out on a research which was published in 1948 as Bantu Prophets in South Africa and as Zulu Zion in 1976. The Bukoba experience during the Second World War brought me into contact with an 'orphaned' Church or rather a self-governing Church of immense vitality and liveliness, resulting in two books: Ung kyrka I Tanganyika (1948, in Swedish) and Bara Bukoba: Church and Community in Tanzania (1974 in Swedish, 1980 in English and 1990 in Swahili). The . . .

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