Kikuyu Controversy

A dispute within the Anglican Church about the nature of the church and its ministry, which arose from the proceedings of a conference of missionary bodies working in Kenya, held on the Church of Scotland mission station at Kikuyu near Nairobi in 1913. The conference discussed a scheme of federation under which all Christian missionary work in Kenya would be brought together. Opposition to the scheme came from missionaries holding Baptist views who wished to rebaptize those baptized in infancy, and from the Anglican delegates who wished to insist on episcopal confirmation. Both parties, however, withdrew their opposition, and the scheme was approved for transmission to the overseas parent bodies of the missions involved. The conference closed with a communion service according to the Anglican Rite conducted by the bishop of Mombasa (William Peel), in which all members took Communion except the Friends.

When the Anglo-Catholic bishop of Zanzibar, Frank Weston, heard of the proceedings he wrote a letter of protest to the archbishop of Canterbury, Randall Davidson. He objected to what he regarded as the inadequate view of the church and its ministry reflected in the scheme of federation, especially the lack of emphasis on the historic episcopate, and the admission of nonepiscopally confirmed Christians to a Communion service conducted by an Anglican bishop. A month later he sent the archbishop a formal indictment of the bishops of Mombasa and Uganda (J.J. Willis, who chaired the conference) and asked him to arraign them on charges of “propagating heresy and committing schism.” The archbishop refused to do this, and referred the matter to the Central Consultative Body of the Lambeth Conference.

Meanwhile the controversy spread throughout the English- speaking world and was even the subject of a Punch cartoon. After some delay due to the outbreak of war, the archbishop delivered his findings at Easter 1915. He was obviously sympathetic to the two bishops, but advised caution in the matter of intercommunion in future, and felt that he could not advise Anglican acceptance of the scheme of federation in the form proposed.

H.M. Smith, Frank, Bishop of Zanzibar (1926); G.K.A. Bell, Randall Davidson (1935); vol. 1, chap. 42; J.W. Arthur and J.J. Willis in the symposium Towards a United Church (1947); R. Macpherson, The Presbyterian Church in Kenya (1970).