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Southern Africa

Although Roman Catholic missionaries entered Mozambique and E Rhodesia in the sixteenth century, the Dutch settlement at the Cape was more significant for the development of Christianity in Southern Africa. For over a century only the Dutch Reformed Church was permitted, and it remains the spiritual home of most Afrikaners. The evangelization of the indigenous Hottentots and imported slaves received little attention until the late eighteenth century when Dii. van Lier and Vos awakened missionary interest among the Dutch colonists. This led eventually to a strong Dutch Reformed Mission Church among the Cape Colored people. After 1857, missions to Africans were also undertaken.

The first missionary at the Cape was the Moravian, Georg Schmidt,* who returned to Europe in 1744 after seven frustrating years. The Moravians resumed operations in 1792, and their work at Genadendal won universal respect. In 1799 the London Missionary Society entered the field, first among the Hottentots and subsequently among the Griqua and Tswana outside the colony. The concern of its missionaries, notably J.T. Vanderkemp* and John Philip,* for the rights of indigenous people made the LMS highly unpopular with the colonists. Methodism arrived with British soldiers at Cape Town and British settlers on the Eastern Frontier, and spread among black and white throughout South Africa. Although Anglicanism had official status after the British occupation of the Cape in 1806, its development awaited the arrival of Robert Gray, first bishop of Cape Town, in 1848. Roman Catholicism became well established after the arrival of its first bishop in 1838; its expansion owed much to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and other missionary orders.

A healthy climate and relatively safe conditions attracted numerous societies. They included the Glasgow Mission (Ciskei, 1821), the Rhenish Mission (Cape and South-West Africa, 1829), the Paris Evangelical Mission (Lesotho, 1834), the American Board (Natal, 1835), and the South Africa General Mission (1889). The Berlin Mission (Cape, 1834) and the Hermannsburg Mission (Natal, 1854) found their most important fields in the Transvaal, where continentals were preferred to “meddling Anglo-Saxons.” Church life. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Afrikaner trekboer (“wandering stock farmer”) led an isolated existence. The paterfamilias conducted family devotions and occasionally took his clan to the distant town for nagmaal (“Communion”). Conservative Calvinism was the norm, and theological liberalism received short shrift when it appeared in the 1860s. British settlers transplanted the religious patterns of the homeland. In Anglican circles the tension between High and Low Churchmen led to a rift between the predominant Church of the Province and the small conservative-evangelical Church of England in South Africa-a division which has persisted to this day.

Missionaries gave devoted service as evangelists, translators, educators, administrators, and friends of their people. Unfortunately they often passed on denominational rivalries and paid insufficient attention to the indigenization of Christianity. During the nineteenth century the mission station was central to missionary strategy. In the Cape Colony it gave the Hottentots an alternative to vagrancy and farm labor. Among the Africans it both stemmed from and emphasized the rift between Christian and tribal society. As an interim measure it was perhaps inevitable, but Christianity only took deep root in African society when the Church was carried outside the mission station by African evangelists. In course of time the major mission stations became important educational centers, with the Scots at Lovedale setting the pace. Elementary schools were established in most congregations, and Christianity became almost synonymous with education. Provincial governments gradually assumed financial responsibility, but relied upon missionary managers until the Bantu Education Act (1954) asserted full government control and applied apartheid to educational policy. Church development. South African churches began to emerge during the nineteenth century. The British occupation severed the links of the Cape Dutch Reformed Church with Holland, and in 1843 it was freed from government control. Legal and political considerations led to the establishment of separate synods in Natal, the Orange Free State, and Transvaal, but a general synod was formed in 1963. This does not include the Hervormde and Gereformeerde (Dopper) churches which originated in the Transvaal.

In 1853 the LMS began to withdraw financial support from its missions in the Cape Colony. The independent Coloured congregations eventually joined white Congregationalists in the Congregational Union of South Africa (1877). The Church of the Province of South Africa was constituted in 1870 as an independent member of the Anglican Communion, and the Methodists formed a South African conference in 1883. These so-called English denominations were (and remain) multiracial. By contrast the Dutch Reformed Church has established daughter churches for the Cape Coloured, African, and Indian communities. During the twentieth century, many overseas missions have formed self- governing local churches, some of which have sought a federal or organic relationship with white coreligionists.

A significant feature of the past eighty years is the growth of an estimated 3,000 independent African churches. These range from orthodox denominations, like the Presbyterian Church of Africa, to nativistic sects in which Christian elements have merged with traditional beliefs and customs. The complex causes of this movement include the rejection of white control; the search for significance and status in a small, personalized group; and the reaction of unsophisticated people to detribalization and urbanization. Ecumenical movement. The ecumenical movement has made limited progress. There have been several confessional unions, and the Anglican, Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches have set up a church unity commission. The general missionary conferences (1904-32) promoted understanding and fellowship. They made way for the Christian Council (now South Africa Council of Churches) which is growing in importance and enjoys some cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church. The Dutch Reformed Church has, however, withdrawn from ecumenical contact, largely for political reasons, while black activists question the reality and value of racial partnership in the church. Many theologically conservative groups regard ecumenism with suspicion.

Christianity and politics have always been interrelated in South Africa. The DRC played a major role in the development of Afrikaner nationalism and has given its blessing to apartheid. On the other hand, there is a long-standing tradition of missionary support for black interests, but its influence is severely limited by the apathy of white churchmen and the concentration of political power in white hands. The Christian response to the developing political situation in Southern Africa will be fundamental to the future standing of the church in this region. Rhodesia. Attention was drawn to Central Africa by the travels and writings of David Livingstone.* The LMS established a mission at Inyati in 1859, but general Christian penetration of Rhodesia followed its occupation by the Chartered Company in 1890. The pattern of evangelism and education was similar to that which evolved in South Africa, and many of the missions involved were the same. The Christian Council of Rhodesia promotes common action, and several of its member churches, together with the Roman Catholic hierarchy, have confronted (1968-72) the Smith government on aspects of its racial policy. Many Rhodesian missions are still heavily dependent upon overseas assistance. Malawi. The attempt of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa to enter Malawi in 1861 ended in disaster. Not so the Scottish missions, which arrived in 1875 and exercised widespread influence from their headquarters at Livingstonia (Free Church) and Blantyre (Church of Scotland). The Dutch Reformed Church also entered this field in 1896 and joined the Scots in the Church of Central Africa Presbyterians in 1926. The UMCA undertook work among Muslims in the 1890s. Zambia. Zambia was entered from several directions. F. Coillard* came from Lesotho to found the Barotse Mission in 1886, closely followed by the Primitive Methodists. The LMS entered Bembaland from Tanganyika; the Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, and Anglicans came from Malawi; and the Wesleyan Methodists from Rhodesia. The development of the Copper Belt after 1925 led to the spontaneous formation of an African Union Church, and to united action by several missions. In 1965 the United Church of Zambia brought together churches in the Congregational, Methodist, and Presbyterian traditions, but it did not embrace considerable bodies such as the Plymouth Brethren, Reformed, and Anglicans.

In the 1920s and 1930s the government suppressed nativistic prophet movements which were blamed, perhaps unduly, upon the Watchtower Movement which has a large following. Another nativistic movement, the Lumpa Church of Alice Lenshina, was involved in violent conflict with the Zambian government after independence. Mozambique. The sixteenth-century Roman Catholic mission faded away. During the late nineteenth century, work was resumed throughout Central Africa under the control of the White Fathers* and, in Rhodesia, the Jesuits. In Portuguese East Africa the missionaries had the support of a Catholic government which restricted Protestant missions, of which the most important were the Swiss Mission and the American Methodists. Since Vatican Council II, Roman Catholic pressure on Protestants had eased, and the White Fathers have recently clashed with the government on political issues.

G.B. Scholtz, Die Geskiedenis van die Nederduitse Hervormde of Gereformeerde Kerk (2 vols., n.d.); J. Whiteside, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of South Africa (1906); W.P. Livingstone, Laws of Livingstonia (1921); G.G. Findlay and W.W. Holdsworth, The History of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, vol. IV (1922); C.P. Groves, The Planting of Christianity in Africa (4 vols., 1949-58); J.N. Hanekom, Die Liberale Rigting in Suid Afrika (1951); G.B.A. Gerdener, Recent Developments in the South African Mission Field (1958); O. Chadwick, Mackenzie's Grave (1959); W.E. Brown, The Catholic Church in South Africa (1960); B.G. Sundkler, Bantu Prophets in South Africa (2nd ed., 1961); J. Taylor and D. Lehmann, Christians in the Copperbelt (1961); P.B. Hinchliff, The Anglican Church in South Africa (1963) and The Church in South Africa (1968); J. du Plessis, A History of Christian Missions in South Africa (rep. 1965); A. Ive, The Church of England in South Africa (1966); B. Kruger, The Pear Tree Blossoms-the History of the Moravian Church in South Africa, 1737-1869 (1966); P. Bolink, Towards Church Union in Zambia (1967); E. Strassberger, The Rhenish Missionary Society in South Africa, 1830-1950 (1968); D. R. Briggs and J. Wing, The Harvest and the Hope-the Story of Congregationalism in Southern Africa (1970); J. Sales, The Planting of the Churches in South Africa (1971); R.H.W. Shepherd, Lovedale, South Africa, 1824-1955 (1971).