Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa

Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa

Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa

Songs of Zion: The African Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and South Africa

Synopsis

This is a study of the transplantation of a creed devised by and for African Americans--the African Methodist Episcopal Church--that was appropriated and transformed in a variety of South African contexts. Focusing on a transatlantic institution like the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the book studies the complex human and intellectual traffic that has bound African American and South African experience. It explores the development and growth of the African Methodist Episcopal Church both in South Africa and America, and the interaction between the two churches. This is a highly innovative work of comparative and religious history. Its linking of the United States and African black religious experiences is unique and makes it appealing to readers interested in religious history and black experience in both the United States and South Africa.

Excerpt

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.

It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God. Strengthen ye the weak hand, and confirm the feeble knees.

Say to them that am of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb thing sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and steams in the dessert . . .

And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

ISA. 35:1-6, 10

In 1892 a group of black Christians in Pretoria, South Africa, withdrew from the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society. Led by an ordained Methodist minister named Mangena Mokone, the group began holding services in Marabastad, the burgeoning African location on Pretoria's western edge. They called themselves "Ethiopians," after the prophecy of African redemption in Psalms 68: "Princes shah come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hand unto God." Three years later, after a seemingly providential set of contingencies, the founders of this fast-growing movement came into contact with the leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the oldest and largest church in black America. In 1896, the Ethiopian Church was formally incorporated as the South African arm of the AME Church.

Thus began one of the most remarkable episodes in the intertwined history of Africa and black America. Over the next fifteen years--a period encompassing the Anglo-Boer War, imperial reconstruction, and the consolidation of the . . .

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