The Church Missionary Society's Burden: Theological Education for a Self-Supporting, Self-Governing, and Self-Propagating African Anglican Church in Kenya 1844-1930

By Nkonge, Dickson K. | Anglican and Episcopal History, March 2014 | Go to article overview

The Church Missionary Society's Burden: Theological Education for a Self-Supporting, Self-Governing, and Self-Propagating African Anglican Church in Kenya 1844-1930


Nkonge, Dickson K., Anglican and Episcopal History


ission work and equipping personnel to be involved in mission are inseparable entities.1 Any church involved in mission needs to realize that theological education is the backbone of the church for it is through it that her leaders are prepared. This paper traces the steps taken by the church in Kenya and CMS missionaries to plant a self-supporting, self-governing, and self-supporting African Anglican Church. The missionaries were aware that without well-trained African leaders this dream was unachievable and therefore they put significant effort and resources into the development of theological education. The Anglican Church in Kenya was started by the Reverend Dr. Ludwig Krapf, a Lutheran pastor who had come to evangelize East Africa under the auspices of the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in 1844.2 In 1846, a second CMS missionary, the Rev. Johannes Rebmann joined Krapf and in 1849, they were joined by Jacob Erhardt.3 The CMS had been founded in 1799 in England by the evangelical wing of the Church of England to promote Christian missions to Africa and the Far East. Most of the CMS missionaries were therefore conservative evangelicals deeply concerned about personal conversion.4

Currently, the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) is the second largest denomination in Kenya with a following of about 3,900,000 adherents, growing at a rate of over six percent each year.5 Closely associated with the growth of the Anglican Church in Kenya has been the development of local church leadership through theological education-something that did not take place during the church's early years.6 Although the Anglican Church was started in Kenya in 1844, it was not until 1885 that the first Africans, Ishmael Semler and William Jones, were ordained to the Angli*n can ministry. Both were ex-slaves.

THE BEGINNINGS

The governing principle of the CMS in its missions in various parts of the world was the establishment of a self-supporting, selfgoverning, and self-propagating local church. To this end, theological education and the provision of institutions for the training of people for indigenous ministry was given the highest priority in the thinking and planning of the CMS.6 Training of African clergy who would lead the African Church was one of the major policies of the CMS missionaries, as this would help create a self-governing African Church, led and managed by Africans themselves. At the same time it would also help create a self-supporting and a self-propagating indigenous church as African Christians would support their pastors who would in turn evangelize Africa.9 It was in view of this that Lugwig Krapf argued: "A black Bishop and a black clergy of the protestant may, are long become a necessity in the civilization of Africa."10

The first step toward establishing this indigenous ministry was found in the arrival and ordination of William Jones and Ishmael Semler. They arrived in 1865 at Frere Town, a site near Mombasa that was later to be used by the CMS as a colony for freed slaves from Europe and the Americas.* 11 Jones was a blacksmith and Semler was a carpenter. They had been trained at Bombay, India, and in 1865 they had been sent to Kenya by the CMS as evangelists to assist Rebmann.12 On 13 May 1885, they were ordained by Bishop James Hannington, the first bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, becoming the first Africans in Kenya to be ordained into the Anglican ministry. Soon after their ordination Bishop Hannington proposed that some of the most promising younger boys such as George David and J. R. Deimler be attached to Rev. E. A. Fitch for the purpose of training them as teachers and evangelists. In 1889 a divinity school was started at Frere Town under the headship of Fitch and in 1896 its first student, Deimler, was ordained by Bishop Alfred Tucker, the third bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa. These three African Anglican clergy formed the nucleus of the African "Mission Agents" of the young church at Frere Town where they were allowed to offer pastoral care to the freed slaves. …

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