The Church in Africa: 1450-1950

The Church in Africa: 1450-1950

The Church in Africa: 1450-1950

The Church in Africa: 1450-1950

Synopsis

Covering five centuries--from the rise of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in the 15th century and the early Portuguese missionaries right through to the Church and its key role in Africa today--this major new volume is the first complete history of the Christian Church in Africa. Written by a leading authority on Church history who has spent many years in Africa, it looks at all aspects of Christianity in Africa, including its relationship to traditional values and customs, politics, and the comparable rise of Islam in Africa during the period. It is the latest volume in the highly successful Oxford History of the Christian Church series.

Excerpt

Limitations are inevitable. A work of history must have its frontiers and yet it is often impossible to adhere to them very rigidly without cutting into a flow of interacting developments unduly. This book is about the Churches within black Africa. The history of Churches on the Mediterranean coast or in the south when composed principally of white people is excluded except in so far as it forms part of the story of a black Church. I have also, with regret, excluded Madagascar. Its Church history is exceptionally interesting but it stands essentially on its own and to do it justice would have required more space than I could afford.

The frontiers in time have been more elastic: 1450-1950 provides a clean 500 years but it is inevitably rather arbitrary and I have not forced myself to feel constrained by these dates. Medieval Ethiopia is the right place to start but it seemed sensible to review, at least briefly, the earlier history of Christianity in Africa. Moreover, fifteenth- century Ethiopia cannot make sense without quite detailed discussion of developments, monastic and royal, of a century earlier. At the other end, 1950 is no less unsatisfactory, as a sharp point of conclusion: 1960, 'the Year of Africa', is a better cutting-off point, beyond which I have not gone. Nevertheless, I have kept to 1950 in the title for two reasons beyond that of neatness. The first is that a very great deal was happening in the 1950s, a time when the Churches were growing very rapidly in societies conscious that their political future was about to see great changes. I have not had the space to focus on these developments in adequate detail. In many ways they can, anyway, be better studied with the 1960s. My second reason is that I have already done this in A History of African Christianity 1950-1975, published in 1979. Having had more space to deal with these decades there, I did not think it sensible to repeat it, except rather briefly, here. The intention of the book is to end with some account of where the Churches had reached on the eve of colonialism's collapse, but not to chart in detail the way they were beginning to respond to a new predicament. A history of African . . .

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