A HISTORY OF PROTESTANT MISSIONS IN ZIMBABWE

By Robert Reese

 

 

INTRODUCTION

The cradle from which the modern missionary movement to southern Africa was born was the Great Awakening that touched mainly Great Britain and North America.  Mark R. Shaw noted:

 

At the heart of these evangelical revivals were three powerful convictions. The first was the centrality of the death of Christ for salvation. A second was the necessity of the new birth. The third was a new eschatology that envisioned the spread of Christianity around the world as a prelude to Christ’s personal return.[i]

 

At this stage there was an optimistic postmillennial view of mission, and the Great Awakening only seemed to confirm that history was rapidly marching to a glorious conclusion for Christianity. Jonathan Edwards, the primary figure of the Awakening in America, stated, “We cannot reasonably think otherwise, than that the beginning of the great work of God must be near. And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America.”[ii]

 

Postmillennialism, ideas of certain progress from the Enlightenment, Manifest Destiny, and the spread of Anglo-Saxon dominance through British colonialism all converged in the missionary movement, along with the powerful desire to preach the gospel of salvation. In the wake of the American takeover of the Philippines, the Southern Baptist Christian Index of August 3, 1899 exclaimed,

 

Oh, let the stars and stripes, intertwined with the flag of Old England, wave o’er the continents and islands of earth, and through the instrumentality of the Anglo-Saxon race, the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ![iii]

 

This heady mixture of revivalism, confidence in progress, and the perceived divine commission of the Anglo-Saxon race caused missionaries to assume that Africans would respond fairly easily to the gospel as to an obviously superior way of life. But what in fact happened when European and American missionaries arrived in Africa? This paper seeks to summarize the course of Christian missions in the African nation of Zimbabwe in order to see the reality and to learn lessons for the future of missionary efforts. The story of Protestant missions to Africa begins, however, with West Africa.

           

 

EARLY PROTESTANT MISSIONS IN WEST AFRICA

 

Ironically, the first American missionary to Africa was not an Anglo-Saxon, but a freed African American slave named David George.[iv] He became a Christian while a slave in Virginia, later joined the British army during the Revolutionary War, and ended up as a Baptist preacher in Nova Scotia after the war.[v] When British evangelicals led by Granville Sharp, and later William Wilberforce, conceived of establishing Sierra Leone as a colony in West Africa for freed slaves, David George was among those who sailed from Halifax to Freetown, Sierra Leone, where he planted a Baptist church.[vi]

 

The Anglican Church Missionary Society took on Sierra Leone as their first main mission in Africa, and “the British navy was patrolling the waters off the West African coast. Slave ships that were intercepted were forced to transfer their human cargo to the care of the British navy.”[vii] These rescued slaves were then transported to the new colony of Sierra Leone. In this way, Freetown was populated and evangelized by British missionaries. Africa’s first Anglican bishop, Samuel Ajayi Crowther (1806-1891), was one of these recaptured slaves who became a Christian in Freetown.[viii] He was ordained in London and was sent to evangelize his native Nigeria. New Christian communities based on the Freetown model were established at Badagry and Abeokuta, where Crowther had first been enslaved.[ix]

 

Meanwhile, Americans were similarly inspired by the Sierra Leone experiment, and saw it as a possible model solution for freed American slaves prior to the Civil War. Samuel Mills helped this idea come to fruition with the formation of the American Colonization Society, which sent its first shipload of ex-slaves to the new colony of Liberia in 1821.[x] John Baur said that African American Baptists from Richmond, Virginia took the initiative as the first Americans to send preachers, Lott Carey and Collin Teague, to Africa in 1822.[xi] Both men were missionaries to Liberia. After many deaths of early missionaries due to tropical illness, Archibald Alexander could report by 1849, “Liberia not only exists, but is in a flourishing condition.”[xii] He explained the advantages of Liberia as

 

so much clear gain; gain to those who go, by greatly ameliorating their condition; gain to those who stay, by diminishing their number; gain to the white population who desire to be exempt from this class of people, and prospectively an incredible gain for Africa, by kindling on her borders the lights of Christianity, civilization, and useful science.[xiii]

 

Thomas J. Bowen undertook a missionary journey into West Africa on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1849 to 1856.[xiv] He traveled from Liberia to Nigeria on his way to “Sudan,” which appears to be northern Nigeria.[xv] Some of his observations reveal much about missionary attitudes of the time. His aim was conversion of Africans to Christ, because “the veriest savage on earth is not too inhuman to be capable of conversion.”[xvi] Evangelism would also require civilization as necessary and inevitable:

 

The revival of letters and science; the great but still defective reformation of the sixteenth century; the extension of geographical knowledge; the American revolution; the recent going forth of the missionary spirit, and the labors which we are now performing, are all indispensable links in the chain of providence which is to fill the whole earth with the knowledge of God.[xvii] 

 

He recognized, however, that American civilization was not suited for Africa, and that schools, industrial arts, mechanics, and trade were useful but “secondary means for the extension of the gospel.”[xviii] He said that slavery’s time was past and that it should be replaced with “lawful commerce.”[xix] He therefore advocated that the U.S.A. explore the Niger River and establish trading posts since America was “raised up by Providence for the exposition and vindication of principles which are destined to govern the world.”[xx] He understood that conversion to Christianity would mean a complete social transformation of African society, especially the eradication of polygamy, but this would all take time.[xxi] Bowen thus epitomized the zeal of this early wave of missionaries as well as their optimism and realism. Despite a high death toll, the missionaries continued to come and plant mission stations, and Bowen was able to report three such stations in Nigeria manned by seven missionaries. He announced plans for a line of such stations “from Lagos on the coast, directly to the remote interior.”[xxii]

 

THE LONDON MISSIONARY SOCIETY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

 

Roman Catholic missionaries were the first to arrive in southern Africa, and even to penetrate inland into present day Zimbabwe. The first attempt to introduce Christianity to the Shona [tribe of Zimbabwe] was made by a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, Fr. Gonzalo da Silviera, at the court of the Monomotapa dynasty until he was murdered as a result of court intrigues in 1561.[xxiii]            

Although at least a dozen Catholic churches were planted, they all disappeared by 1667, when Portugal’s power was waning, leaving “no discernible trace of Christianity.”[xxiv] This remained the situation until the wave of Protestant missions arrived in the nineteenth century.

 

Protestant missions to South Africa effectively began with the Moravians in 1792. Hastings called that year an “annus mirabilis” for Protestant missions,[xxv] because it was the year that William Carey launched the first modern missionary society, it was when David George and the other freed slaves from Nova Scotia landed in Sierra Leone, and it was when three Moravians landed at Cape Town to resume a work begun fifty years earlier by “a lone Moravian named Georg Schmidt,”[xxvi] who unaided and unsupported had managed to baptize a few Hottentots.

 

Right after them came a Dutchman, Johannes Van der Kemp, in 1799 who soon represented the newly formed London Missionary Society (LMS) in this recently claimed British colony.[xxvii] Hastings described this eccentric man who helped to launch a missionary society that was to have a great impact on the interior of southern Africa. He was a man of great spirituality and spiritual power, know to the Xhosa tribe as a rainmaker. He lived in “the most absolute poverty. . . . He walked bareheaded and barefoot, he fed on what was put before him, he was satisfied with the poorest of huts. . . . He lived on a principle of the most absolute human equality.”[xxviii] He married a Malagasy slave girl and had four children, and thus was certainly not typical of missionaries of this time.[xxix]

 

The LMS missionary who helped launch Protestant missions into Zimbabwe was quite a different kind of man. Robert Moffat was born in Scotland in 1795 and became a gardener before taking up the call to missions.[xxx] Hastings commented that while Van der Kemp was an eccentric, “Moffat [was] the norm.”[xxxi] He set out for Africa at age 21 and served primarily at the mission station of Kuruman for fifty years, as missionary to the Tswana peoples.[xxxii] He turned his gardening skills to good use, by turning Kuruman into “an oasis . . . near the southern edge of the Kalahari Desert.”[xxxiii] His major work was the translation of the Bible into Tswana,[xxxiv] but he was also famous for his son-in-law David Livingstone, whom he helped recruit to come to Kuruman in 1840.[xxxv] Mrs. Mary Moffat had tried vainly to talk Livingstone into taking a wife to Africa, writing in a letter, “I have done what I could to persuade Livingstone to marry, but he seems to decline it.”[xxxvi] Instead Livingstone found his wife at Kuruman, and he married Mary, the oldest daughter of Robert and Mary Moffat.[xxxvii] For the purposes of this paper, however, Moffat’s greatest accomplishment for missions in Zimbabwe was his remarkable friendship with Mzilikazi, king of the Ndebele tribe.

 

 

MOFFAT AND MZILIKAZI

 

Mzilikazi had fled from Shaka, the Zulu tyrant, with his people and crossed from coastal Zululand into Transvaal on the central plateau, where his Ndebele warriors looted and pillaged the resident tribes.[xxxviii] John S. Moffat, Robert Moffat’s son, recorded how in 1829 two white traders met Mzilikazi during a hunting expedition, and the warrior king expressed interest in learning about Kuruman, which he had heard of through his Tswana subjects.[xxxix] He sent two headmen with the traders to Kuruman to see it for themselves. The Ndebele headmen were in awe of the sights of the mission station: the worship, singing, “the water-courses, gardens, houses, and blacksmith’s forge,” while the African residents were likewise in awe of these half-naked warriors.[xl] For their safety, Moffat insisted on escorting the two men back to Mzilikazi, since the Ndebele were feared and hated by the neighboring tribes. Along the way, Moffat noted the complete devastation of the countryside caused by Ndebele raids.[xli] He described his first meeting with the Ndebele king: “We entered the large public cattle-fold, where were ranged in a semicircle about 800 warriors in full dress. About 300 more sat concealed in ambush, perhaps for precaution or to try our courage.”[xlii] As Moffat’s small band dismounted, the 300 hidden warriors rushed in behind them “shouting and leaping with the most fantastic gestures.”[xliii] There was a profound silence for ten minutes, “then all commenced a war-song, stamping their feet in time with the music,”[xliv] and in walked Mzilikazi. After eight days together, Mzilikazi told Moffat, “My heart is all white as milk; I am still wondering at the love of a stranger who never saw me. You have fed me, you have protected me, you have carried me in your arms.”[xlv] By these words, he meant the courtesy that Moffat had extended to the two envoys he sent to Kuruman. Moffat explained his desire to send missionaries to live among the Ndebele, “messengers from God to tell them of another and a better world beyond the grave.”[xlvi] Thus began one of the most remarkable and enduring friendships between a white missionary and an African warrior king.

 

In 1835 Moffat spent two months with Mzilikazi, and he recorded that when they met, the king “did not speak, but gazed on me for a time as if I had dropped from the clouds. At length he repeated my name two or three times, and said, ‘Now my eyes see you, my heart is white as milk.’”[xlvii] Soon after this visit, however, Mzilikazi fled from the Transvaal due to skirmishes with Dutch Boers and retreated into southwest Zimbabwe. Moffat again visited him there for three months in 1853 and asked Mzilikazi’s assistance in locating his explorer son-in-law, Livingstone, who had disappeared into the depths of Africa beyond the Zambezi River.[xlviii]

 

When Livingstone reemerged in 1857, after following the Zambezi into Angola, then right back across the continent to follow the river to the Indian Ocean, he sailed to England to a hero’s welcome.[xlix] Although he himself withdrew from the LMS then, he persuaded the Directors in England to plant new missions simultaneously among the Makololo tribe on the Zambezi River and the Ndebele tribe to prevent these two kingdoms from fighting each other.[l] This ambitious task fell to Robert Moffat, then 62 years old, so he set about organizing the two groups of missionaries. In July 1859 two families, the Helmores and the Prices, set out for the Makololo, but met with disaster. The hardship of the travel by ox wagon and malaria, combined with poor treatment by the Makololo, caused Roger Price to return to Kuruman with two Helmore orphans as the only survivors.[li]

 

Moffat himself accompanied the missionary expedition to the Ndebele also in July 1859. He was aware that Mzilikazi was wary of outsiders and would only accept missionaries if he brought them. John Moffat, himself one of the new missionaries with his wife, noted that Mzilikazi “and his people shared in a deep conviction that the opening of the country to white men to come and settle would be the beginning of the end. They were not far wrong there.”[lii] While the Ndebele king welcomed Moffat personally, he was reluctant to allocate a place for a permanent mission for the three missionary families, Mr. and Mrs. John Moffat, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Morgan Thomas, and Mr. William Sykes, whose wife had died recently in childbirth. Ngwabi Bhebe explained that the Ndebele regarded the missionaries as carrying uncleanness into their land, firstly because “Sykes was carrying on his person the evil and contagious force of death,”[liii] and secondly because the missionaries had purchased diseased oxen from the Tswana to pull their wagons over the last stretch of the long trek.[liv] In the end, rather than simply replace the oxen that had lung sickness, the Ndebele tasked eighty warriors with pulling the six wagons for a hundred miles.[lv] Mzilikazi sent an inyanga [witch doctor] who “cleansed them and their possessions by sprinkling them with medicines soaked in water.”[lvi]

 

In late December, 1859, Mzilikazi finally decided that the missionaries could build a mission station at Inyati, but since he no longer tolerated new openings to the outside world, he flatly refused any attempt to communicate with the Makololo missionary group, so Moffat was unaware of the unfolding disaster there until he returned home in the middle of the next year after a six-month building program at Inyati.[lvii] Moffat’s departure signaled the end of his personal contact with Mzilikazi and the beginning of settled Protestant missions to the Ndebele. Jane M. Sales has criticized Moffat for his low regard of African traditional religion, his linking of Christianity and commerce (which was also Livingstone’s catch phrase), his emphasis on western civilization for Africans, and his insistence on heavy-handed church discipline to enforce Christian standards of conduct.[lviii] All these criticisms actually describe fairly typical missionary attitudes of the time, and overlook the complete dedication which missionaries like Moffat put into their work, because it was done for God with little regard for personal cost.

 

 

LOBENGULA AND CHRISTIAN MISSIONS

 

In 1870, Lobengula succeeded his father, Mzilikazi, as king of the Ndebele. By 1884, John Moffat noted that only William Sykes remained of the original group of missionaries, and although Mzilikazi and Lobengula had treated them well, “the mission has as yet been without visible success. Time only will tell what has been the meaning of this strange history.”[lix] Bhebe cited several reasons for this complete lack of conversions: the king was absolute monarch, and his military kingdom was squarely based on traditional religion; the Ndebele saw no need for learning to read or for other western ideas; they saw no moral superiority of monogamy over polygamy and could not see why missionaries denounced their customs; Christianity did not seem to offer practical answers to the daily problems of Ndebele people, but answers were provided by their traditional religion; a high God of love did not square with the droughts and disasters they were experiencing.[lx]

 

Ironically, the Ndebele had been introduced to a high creator God who provided rain by their Shona subjects, who had shrines to this God, Mwari, in the Matopo Hills. The Ndebele, like most African tribes, had a concept of a high God, whom they called uNkulunkulu, but the local Shonas had a sophisticated cult for this God whose worship the Ndebele had previously neglected. By Lobengula’s time, the integration of Shona rainmaking and Ndebele traditional religion became complete, as Lobengula became an honorary priest of Mwari.[lxi] Initially Lobengula “gave hope to the missionaries that he might become a Christian king,”[lxii] and Sykes spent much time instructing him personally, but Bhebe showed that Lobengula was actually letting Christian theology buttress his own developing theology of Mwari, the rainmaking God. He “saw the traditional and the white men’s religions as two separate and equal conceptions of the supernatural world,”[lxiii] and thus used Christian ideas to strengthen the traditional religion.

 

Moreover, Lobengula prevented the spread of Christianity to the Shona tribes, as western missionaries increasingly clamored to gain permission to enter his territory. For example, Francois Coillard, of the Paris Missionary Society, was sent by a nascent indigenous church they had planted in Lesotho to establish a new mission among the Shonas of southeast Zimbabwe. In 1878 his party sought an audience with Lobengula, and Lobengula sent a witchdoctor to cleanse them first: “The witchdoctor, dipping a gnu’s tail into some slimy greenish mixture, sprinkled them with it back and front. . . . ‘And this man,’ he said, fixing his gleaming eyes upon me, ‘Give him a double dose; he is the arch-sorcerer.’”[lxiv] Coillard described Lobengula, who finally appeared, as corpulent, with smooth hands, nails of exaggerated length, and wearing monkey skins about his loins.[lxv] In a tense conversation, Lobengula repeatedly asked Coillard where his wife was and why she was not present. Coillard insisted that western manners prohibited her from being introduced before the men were.[lxvi] When Mrs. Coillard appeared, Lobengula became more affable, yet Coillard had to witness examples of his cruelty, such as when he personally applied a glowing stick of firewood to the lips of a herdboy whom he accused of lying.[lxvii]

 

Lobengula summoned Sykes in order to explain to Coillard’s group that “he does not wish . . . that his slaves [Shonas] should be taught. His own country is already provided with missionaries. He will soon have four, and he does not want any more.”[lxviii] With bitter disappointment the Paris Missionary Society team left Zimbabwe, but soon they were directed to fulfil the dream of a mission to the successors of the Makololo tribe on the Zambezi Riber, where they arrived in August, 1878.[lxix] By this time, the Barotse tribe, once subjects of the Makololo, had revolted and exterminated the whole male population of the Makololo, yet retained the Sotho language and customs which made them ideal for the Paris Missionary Society.[lxx] As Sotho-speaking missionaries following in Livingstone’s steps, they found the Barotse wide open to receive them:

If some travellers have engraved their names on the rocks and tree trunks, he [Livingstone] has engraved his in the very hearts of the heathen population of Central Africa. Wherever Livingstone has passed, the name of Moruti (missionary) is a passport and a recommendation.[lxxi]

 

Looking back at the Ndebele nation, however, Coillard saw only darkness: they “are a people sans foi ni loi. . . . Here, indeed, is a country where Satan has his throne.”[lxxii] In twenty years of ardent labor, the LMS could not claim a single convert.

 

As European imperialists, like Cecil John Rhodes, began to increasingly covet Lobengula’s realm, the LMS missionaries stationed there “had by the 1880's come to the conclusion that the Ndebele political system must be overthrown to pave the way for Christianity.”[lxxiii] Lobengula used an LMS missionary, C. D. Helm, as an interpreter and adviser in the negotiations with Rhodes’s men, and Mark Shaw claimed that Helm deliberately misinterpreted portions of the Rudd concession that gave Rhodes the right to enter Shona areas to search for gold.[lxxiv] Bhebe, however, defended Helm, saying that he and Lobengula with his other advisers “were in the dark regarding Rhodes’s intentions to use the agreement as a basis for the extension of the British Empire to Zimbabwe.”[lxxv] Helm merely believed that Rhodes meant to restrict his venture to mining, and that Ndebele mine workers would be more open to the gospel, so it was another case of combining Christianity and commerce rather than blatant imperialism.

 

If Rhodes did indeed deceive both the Ndebele and the missionaries, this was not for long. Lobengula first tried to rescind the agreement, then war broke out between the new British settlers and the Ndebele. By 1893 the Ndebele kingdom was gone forever as Lobengula disappeared in flight to the north. Missionaries too had lost some credibility with the Ndebele due to Helm’s involvement in the Rudd concession, but they were not grieved over the demise of Lobengula’s empire. For a time they too had to flee the country, and leaders of traditional religion persecuted the handful of Ndebele converts.[lxxvi]

 

THE PLANTING OF MISSION STATIONS

 

With the end of Lobengula’s reign, Bhebe showed how the Mwari rainmaking cult initiated Ndebele resistance to white rule:

 

The natural disasters from 1894 to 1896 . . . gave added influence to the religious institutions. The rinderpest that mercilessly slew cattle, the drought and the locusts and the resulting famine, moreover, could all be blamed on the presence of Europeans, who were disregarding the established beliefs and institutions of the country.[lxxvii]

 

Agitation by the priests of Mwari then led to the 1896 uprising, but Bhebe noted that the few Ndebele converts to Christ did not join the rebellion and tried to protect missionaries and mission stations. At least one named Makaza was martyred at Inyati Mission by the rebels.[lxxviii] As this rebellion engulfed all of Zimbabwe, the British dispatched forces with maxim machine guns to suppress it. Major-General R. S. S. Baden-Powell, who later founded the Boy Scouts, led the British campaign and described it in great detail. He claimed that the Mwari rainmaking God had “promised that the white men’s bullets would, in their flight, be changed to water, and their cannon-shells would similarly turn into eggs.”[lxxix] In open combat this enabled the British machine guns to mow down the Ndebele, but when the warriors retreated to the caves of the Matopo Hills, it became much more difficult to defeat them. This second war with the Ndebele was ended by the personal courage of Cecil John Rhodes who rode unarmed with two assistants to help him with interpretation to meet the Ndebele chiefs in the Matopo Hills.[lxxx] He negotiated peace and this enabled Christian missions to look forward to a time of rapid progress.

 

Terence Ranger found that in the Shona areas, whereas the traditional spirit mediums had urged the Shonas to “listen to the missionaries” in the early 1890s, by 1896, however, “they developed an ideology of resistance and advised the people of Mazoe to drive out the whites.”[lxxxi] This Shona rebellion lasted from 1896 to 1897, and again it produced African Christian martyrs from the few converts. “The Church of England gained its most celebrated martyr, Bernard Mizeki.”[lxxxii]

 

C. J. M. Zvobgo summarized missionary experience from these difficult early years: “Clearly missionaries needed the support of a secular power if the evangelisation of Matabeleland was to succeed.”[lxxxiii] Most missionaries strongly supported military solutions, and would have agreed with George Eva, a newly arrived Wesleyan missionary: “The Matabele had never been thoroughly beaten by the White man and until we give them a thrashing we may expect periodical outbreaks.”[lxxxiv] A Jesuit priest at the new Catholic mission at Chishawasha in Mashonaland claimed that the 1896 rebellion was a “war of heathenism against Christianity.”[lxxxv] Almost alone, the new Anglican bishop, G. W. H. Knight-Bruce could not see how war helped Christianity in a direct way: “It is a very difficult question and one that must come up constantly in the progress of the white man.”[lxxxvi]

 

Missionaries now saw an unprecedented opportunity for winning the Ndebele and Shona peoples of Zimbabwe to Christ. As the surviving leaders of the uprising were taken to the gallows, Jesuit priests persuaded many to accept baptism. In Mashonaland, a female spirit medium named Nehanda, however, remained defiant, refusing the Christian God, and died “screaming and yelling.”[lxxxvii] Significantly, since independence and black rule in Zimbabwe in 1980, Nehanda became something of a cult figure. In fact black nationalist freedom fighters teamed up with a spirit medium claiming to be possessed by Nehanda’s spirit in the guerrilla war that led up to independence.[lxxxviii] To this day, she remains something of a patron saint of African traditional religion. Likewise, the rainmaking cult of Mwari in the Matopo Hills continues to thrive.

           

In the 1890s in the aftermath of British suppression of black rule and rebellion, however, missionaries flooded into Zimbabwe and lined up to ask Rhodes for huge tracts of land on which to build mission stations. They expected a major turning to Christ. For example in 1898, five missionaries from the Pennsylvania-based Brethren in Christ Church (BICC) obtained 3,000 acres in the Matopo Hills for their Matopo Mission, because Rhodes said, “Missionaries are better than policemen and cheaper.”[lxxxix] In July 1906, Harvey and Emma Frey opened a second BICC station, Mtshabezi Mission, with 6,000 acres of land.[xc] Wesleyan Methodists opened four stations by 1914.[xci] The American Methodist Episcopal Church received 13,000 acres at Old Umtali “free and clear” for their “great central mission” in 1898.[xcii] The Berlin Missionary Society entered Zimbabwe in 1892 and built mission stations at Gutu, Zimuto, and Chibi, which were all taken over by the South African Dutch Reformed Church in 1907 when the Berlin Society experienced financial difficulties.[xciii] The pioneer of Dutch Reformed missions in Zimbabwe was A. A. Louw (a nephew of the famed Andrew Murray), who founded Morgenster Mission in 1894 next to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.[xciv]

 

In 1894 “Cecil Rhodes granted missionaries of the Seventh Day Adventist Church a farm of 12,000 acres at Solusi.”[xcv] Bishop Knight-Bruce founded St. Augustine’s Anglican mission near Penhalonga in 1891.[xcvi] The Salvation Army entered Zimbabwe in 1891, and received a farm of 3,000 acres in the Mazowe River valley.[xcvii] In 1893 missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) established their mission station at Mount Selinda.[xcviii] Jesuits accompanied Rhodes’s original column of settlers as they moved in by ox-wagon in 1890, and established Chishawasha Mission in 1892.[xcix] In l896 four Catholics of the Trappist order opened Triashill Mission in the Nyanga District.[c] Churches of Christ from New Zealand began

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work in the city of Bulawayo when John Sheriff arrived there in 1898.[ci] Sheriff was a self-supporting stone mason and he established Forest Vale Mission on the outskirts of Bulawayo “for the purpose of raising up and training national evangelists.”[cii] The original LMS work was expanded, but “remained restricted to the proper Ndebele area.”[ciii] John Baur summarized, “The first twenty years saw twenty different missionary groups establishing themselves in Zimbabwe. . . . It was a record number in early mission history.”[civ] Although this large number of churches and missionary agencies established churches in the growing towns, they concentrated their mission efforts on the farms they had been allocated in rural areas where the vast majority of Ndebele and Shona people lived. Baur noted that Rhodes’s willingness to donate large land tracts to missions “blurred the difference between settler and evangelizer in African eyes.”[cv] In order not to compete for converts, the Southern Rhodesia Missionary Conference of 1903 delineated “spheres of influence” for each church represented.[cvi] In general Christian missionaries were now optimistic about the future, and they agreed with Cecil Rhodes that mission work was “one of the best means for opening up and civilizing a country.”[cvii]

 

EARLY AFRICAN RESPONSE TO CHRISTIANITY

 

The Africans were subdued by the wars and so initially greeted white missionaries into their tribal lands both as representatives of the conquerors and “as friends - different from other white people.”[cviii] Ndlovu noted, however, that the oppressive structures “that existed in the colonial regimes also existed in the missionary life-style as observed by the African. . . . Missionaries had a preconceived and negative attitude about the African people, the African culture, and the African land.”[cix] This is borne out in some of the missionaries’ own descriptions of their encounters with the Africans during this early period. J. R. Mackay of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland wrote, “I was met with a specimen of almost pure heathenism, and I had the feeling . . . that one had there to fight Satan on his own ground.”[cx] Africans were in a poor state from the wars and the resulting famines, and missionaries had a daunting task of uplifting them, for which they were often heavy-handed and paternalistic. John Climenhaga, a BICC missionary who arrived at Matopo Mission in 1921, noticed Africans working on a Sunday and “preached on observing the rest of the Sabbath day. Finding people drinking beer, he preached on the only liquid that truly satisfies, the water of life.”[cxi] Climenhaga noted that British colonial policy was “distinctly aggressive. The native is held under, again because of necessity, he has no say in the affairs of state, since he is not ready for it. . . . In Rhodesia, the missionary is the ruler of his realm so far as the native is concerned.”[cxii] When Climenhaga fined an African for drinking alcohol on the mission farm, a European policeman took him to court on a charge of extortion. The European judge, however, dismissed the case, chiding the policeman, “Hereafter I want you to do all you can to build up appreciation for the work of Matopo Mission. They are doing a splendid piece of work.”[cxiii]

 

With a paternalistic heavy-handed missionary approach, the initial African welcome of missionaries faded, and missionaries met with marked resistance to the gospel. A Jesuit missionary recorded, “As for the old people, one might as well preach to the cattle.”[cxiv] Peter Nielsen, a government native commissioner and not a missionary, was one of the few whites of that time to do a serious study of Ndebele culture. He noted some missionary enthusiasm for transforming Africans, but concluded,

 

the great majority of responsible white people, whether friendly disposed towards the natives or not, are agreed that David’s statement, as applied to the sons of Ham, is correct, and that their condition, being hopelessly chronic, is beyond repair.[cxv]

 

He added, “The native’s only hope lies in subjection to discipline, and not in being artificially elevated to levels of equality with men whose inherent superiority is of age-long acquisition.”[cxvi]

 

Although missionaries would not have agreed with the hopelessness of transforming Africans, since they believed in the gospel’s inherent power, they did tend to give up hope of reaching the older generation and concentrated on two approaches: educating the younger generation is mission schools, and attacking the African system of marriage that was embodied in polygamy and lobola (bride-price).[cxvii] In both these areas they expected colonial assistance and in both areas they “not only baffled the peoples of Ndebeleland, but also drove some of them into becoming stubborn enemies of the missionaries,” because these approaches constituted a “total condemnation of the traditional ways of life.”[cxviii] The colonial government did assist missions in setting up schools to educate African youth because they needed semiskilled manpower for the growing economy based on white farms and urban businesses. On the question of polygamy and lobola, however, the government refused to legislate against traditional practices, believing “that to abolish lobola and polygamy would be striking a blow at the whole African social and economic order, which was bound to provoke universal disaffection and dangerous unrest.”[cxix] This became the issue that missionaries saw as “the greatest hindrance to Christianity”[cxx] in Zimbabwe. Indeed, both polygamy and lobola persist to this day, and lobola is usually now accepted by Christian churches.

 

By concentrating on education of the young, Christian missions were attempting to extract the youth from their culture, and in the early stages had to offer incentives in order to get students. Bhebe claimed that Seventh Day Adventists “either bought or accepted into their care children offered by parents who were unable to feed them.”[cxxi] But even for other missions, since African parents were reluctant to send their children to school at first, “missionaries had to resort to giving presents of sweets and clothes to induce those who came to school to attend school regularly.”[cxxii] Because the colonial government did not want Africans to compete for jobs with European settlers, they insisted that missions teach vocational training and industrial arts, but Africans began to see western education as a route to greater prosperity and they began to insist on academic subjects.[cxxiii] As a result, mission schools, which were all primary schools at this stage, offered industrial arts, academic subjects, Bible knowledge, and soon began to offer teacher training as the number of schools outstripped the capacity of missionaries to staff them all. Zvobgo noted that the aim of curriculum was to establish “a Black Christian community separate and apart not only from the White Christian community in the mission stations, but also from the rest of the surrounding non-Christian Black communities.”[cxxiv]

 

In the artificial environment of the mission stations, missionaries continued to attack traditional marriage practices by educating both boys and girls whom they hoped would produce Christian marriages and families. Mtshabezi Mission run by the BICC established a “Rescue Home for African Girls in 1908.”[cxxv] This was “a haven for girls escaping arranged marriages, and . . . it sought to prepare these same girls for life as Christian matrons.”[cxxvi] Since missionaries saw traditional marriage customs as “licentiousness,”[cxxvii] they were only too happy to provide refuge for runaway girls. Moreover, missionaries “perceived African men’s power as fundamentally dangerous to white-led development,”[cxxviii] and Carol Summers showed that “some African men used Christian marriages to educated women to establish identities for themselves.”[cxxix] She maintained that missionaries “had considered how much authority could be safely entrusted to African church leaders, and had concluded the answer was not much,”[cxxx] so missionaries kept strict control and oversight of everything they could. In these circumstances, the only route available for an African Christian man to achieve “civilized manhood”[cxxxi] was to marry an educated Christian woman and be posted as a family man to a remote outpost away from missionaries. This was because “white missionaries were reluctant to allow African families, not matter how elite, to occupy homes built for white missionaries.”[cxxxii]

 

 

IMPACT OF THE MISSION STATIONS

 

On the other hand, there were many positive achievements made by Christian missions. Probably the most significant was the translation of Scripture into the various vernaculars. For example, A. A. Louw of the Dutch Reformed Church had translated the New Testament into Chikaranga, a Shona dialect, by 1919.[cxxxiii] Missionaries of the ABCFM translated Scriptures into Ndau, another Shona dialect.[cxxxiv] Missionaries of the American Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church translated the New Testament into Chinyika, yet another Shona dialect.[cxxxv] Terence Ranger said that the three churches, AME, Roman Catholic, and Anglican, operating in Manicaland at that time became “the three power-houses of Chimanyika, the dialect of the literate progressives of eastern Zimbabwe,” and this “did more than anything else to produce a sense of distinct Manyika identity.”[cxxxvi] The AME missionaries would even trade Bibles and Christian literature for grain, thus promoting both Bible literacy and agriculture.[cxxxvii] The LMS missionaries published the Ndebele New Testament in 1903, with C. D. Helm of the Rudd concession debacle as one of the translators.[cxxxviii] Wesleyan Methodists published a Shona New Testament in 1908.[cxxxix]

 

Lamin Sanneh has noted the impact of the ardent Protestant desire to get the Scriptures into the vernacular:

 

Missionary translation was instrumental in the emergence of indigenous resistance to colonialism. Local Christians acquired from the vernacular translations confidence in the indigenous cause . . . with subject peoples able to respond to colonial events in light of vernacular self-understanding.[cxl]

 

It is likely that translation of the Bible and other literature into local languages boosted African self-confidence when most other factors were oppressing them. Certainly it gave rise of new forms of African Christianity, especially African independent churches at first.[cxli]

 

Secondly, Christian missions trained local evangelists to propagate the gospel and it was through these that Christianity spread throughout Zimbabwe and churches were planted. For example, the New Zealander, John Sheriff, trained and sent out African evangelists from Bulawayo to Mashonaland and Zambia, and they were so successful that he had to call for American missionaries of the Church of Christ to assist in the follow-up.[cxlii] This led to the first mission stations of the American Church of Christ in southern Africa. Zvobgo observed, “While the missionaries brought the Gospel to Africa, it was the indigenous Christians, evangelists and teachers who brought the Gospel to the Africans.”[cxliii] Mission schools trained these indigenous evangelists to read and preach the Bible in their own tongues.

 

Thirdly, Christian missions acted as a bridge between rural Africans and the modern world, introducing them to western education and medicine. Zvobgo noted, “Initially, the main objective of missionary education was religious,”[cxliv] that is both to evangelize young people and to train evangelists. One missionary estimated that 80% of Christians were won first in mission schools.[cxlv] As time went on, the emphasis on civilization began to overtake evangelism, and Africans flocked to mission schools for the perceived benefits of learning job skills and receiving medical treatment. In this the colonial government played a part, because they were content for missions to do these governmental functions, while they imposed the standards and the inspectors. Government objectives of supplying the economy with semiskilled African workers did not always match missionary objectives, but the government was in control through the issuing of financial subsidies to mission schools that met their standards. Although missionaries resented this intrusion, in the end they “decided to co-operate with the Government in order to make their own educational work among African more fruitful.”[cxlvi] In summing up the contribution of Christian missions, Zimbabwean nationalist Ndabaningi Sithole said, “It was the Christian Church that first introduced literacy which was to give birth to African nationalists, medical doctors, advocates, businessmen, journalists and graduates.”[cxlvii] Sithole, himself a Congregational Church minister, saw the benefits of missions in secular terms.

 

Donald McGavran did a church growth study of “the school approach” to evangelism in Rhodesia and Zambia.[cxlviii] He noted that “only missions which promised to maintain schools and dispensaries were permitted to enter these countries,” and the government provided “all education through the missions.”[cxlix] He said that this produced a distinctive kind of church growth. “It was not based on New Testament practices,” and it “was developed to fit one kind of government and social structure.”[cl] That is, it assumed colonialism would always be there, with Africans as second class citizens. He described the rate of church growth under such assumptions as “glacial advance which is all the school approach can deliver.”[cli] Rating Rhodesian and Zambian churches on five axes, he found them to be heavily dependent on the founding missions, opting for individual over group conversions, leaving most of the country unevangelized, doomed to grow very slowly, and unindigenous.[clii] He concluded, “Nothing will redeem the citizens of these two African countries but new kinds of church growth.”[cliii] Baur seemed to confirm the slow impact of Christian missions in Zimbabwe, saying, “Under the Smith regime half a century later eight out of ten Ndebele as well as four out of ten Shona still held on to the faith of their ancestors.”[cliv]

           

 

REVIVALISM AND INDEPENDENCY

 

In eastern Zimbabwe, Christian missions did produce some spontaneous revivals that could have led to people movements. Zvobgo noted that the American Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church liked to use camp meetings for revivals and to win new converts. “The first camp meeting was held at Old Umtali in June, 1918.”[clv] This coincided with a worldwide influenza epidemic, and as in other African countries, the Methodist revival of 1918 issued in mass repentance, with weeping, wailing, and conversion. Barbara Moss noted that this revival was “fanned by the growing women’s prayer union” called Ruwadzano (fellowship).[clvi] While missionaries understood this revival to be of the same nature as those experienced at camp meetings in the U.S.A., Moss noted that African women viewed it somewhat differently. “Like their non-Christian relatives, mission girls sought alliance with the Holy Spirit to enhance their own potential in a changing society.”[clvii] That is, traditionally African women gained some status by becoming spirit mediums, so Christian women saw revival as a way to gain the same status in the church. Additionally, “African women identified ruwadzano as a vehicle for enhancing fertility and ensuring motherhood through its spiritual and healing powers.”[clviii]

 

A second revival broke out in 1928 among Methodist churches at camp meetings. Moss added that this revival especially touched women and issued in the AME Church officially recognizing the Rukwadzano Rhwe Wakadzi (Women’s Fellowship).[clix] Ranger noted that this period of revivalism produced a two-tiered Christianity, the official missionary version, and the folk African version.[clx] By the 1930s he claimed that the early Christian movement initiated by missionaries “was running out of steam” since “missionaries themselves seemed to have lost what enthusiasm they had had for energetic manifestations of popular religion,”[clxi] and had turned their attention to improving education and training teachers. Furthermore, the Great Depression limited mission resources and reduced the number of missionaries.

 

Ranger argued that these conditions proved ripe for the birth of a potent form of African independent church in the very place where Methodist revivals were strongest, but were now fading. Johane Masowe, founder of the Vapostori (Apostles) sect was, in Ranger’s estimation, “a critique and continuation of Manyika folk American Methodism,”[clxii] having been born at Gandanzara, a key AME mission station. In contrast to periodic camp meetings, “Masowe offered continual rather than occasional rituals of repentance, exorcism and protection. . . . Witches were identified -- and then healed by exorcism and prayer.”[clxiii] Ranger concluded, “Masowe’s teaching struck deeper into Manyika society than American Methodism had ever done.”[clxiv] When missionaries challenged Vapostori evangelists, the latter referred to two serious deficiencies in mission Christianity: mission evangelists worked for money and could not cast out demons.[clxv] Although lacking the western resources of Christian missionaries, the Vapostori planted their churches all the way from South Africa to Kenya in Masowe’s lifetime. Of course, they were not the only such independent church to emerge.

 

Marshall W. Murphree studied Christianity in Budjga society, a Shona clan, some decades after the rise of the Vapostori. By this time he found that the Methodist Church was dominated by women of the ruwadzano to the extent that “many Budjga men regard this church as a women’s organization and hesitate to give it their religious loyalties.”[clxvi] The Vapostori sect that was also present were followers of another Shona prophet, Johane Maranke, and had the advantage of believing in spirit possession, witchcraft control, and healing, but were at a disadvantage in their neglect of education and western medicine.[clxvii]

 

While it is beyond the scope of this paper to deal adequately with the rise of African independent churches, it should be noted that these churches tried to integrate Christianity with African traditional religion, and Christian missions thus played a part in their rapid rise. For example, in southeastern Zimbabwe, where the Dutch Reformed Church had their missions, the independent Zion Christian Church of Samuel Mutendi was founded. Daneel said that Mutendi preempted all three crucial functions of the traditional Mwari rainmaking cult: “crop fertility (rain), curative powers especially related to the fertility of females, and with tribal politics.”[clxviii] On the same day that traditional Africans would congregate at the Matopo Hills, “Zionists from all over the country dance at the ZCC headquarters,” at Zion City.[clxix] Thus while Christian missions tried to stamp out traditional practices or at least ignore them, African independent churches incorporated them and transformed them into new understandings that were often syncretistic. These churches, as noted earlier, were informed by the Bible in their own languages, and did result in the people movements that eluded the Christian missionaries.

 

POLITICAL CHANGES

 

The colonial period could not last forever, but a more important question for Christian missions was whether they could adapt to a changing political situation. Nathan Goto noted that during the colonial era,

 

The conspicuous missionary presence in the primary decision making process impeded the development of top level African leadership. . . . Issues of fear and insecurity, control and prestige blurred the vision of many missionaries with respect to the future of the Church on the African continent. . . . The African was trained to be a dependent person.[clxx]

 

For example, Goto noted that it took the American Methodist Episcopal Church “over fifty years to produce an African graduate in the Methodist Church in Rhodesia, and fifty-nine years to have Africans appointed to responsible positions in administration.”[clxxi] Stephen Ndlovu noted that it took almost as long for the first Africans to be ordained in the BICC, and this coincided with the time when “missionaries began to accept the culture of those around them and learned better how to relate.”[clxxii]

 

Aylward Shorter noticed new attitudes developing in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1970 where a spirit of nascent ecumenism had resulted in the founding of the African Christian Workers’ Fraternal with “an inter-racial membership, although most of the white clergy preferred to join the Bulawayo Ministers’ Fraternal, which was almost exclusively white.”[clxxiii] He noted that these new attitudes were developing in the “worsening political situation under the regime of Ian Smith, a situation that was shortly to develop into civil war.”[clxxiv]

 

For the Methodist Church, Goto emphasized that the turning point in inter-racial issues came with the arrival of Bishop Ralph Dodge in 1956.[clxxv] Dodge was an AME missionary who had already served in Angola since 1936, where there had been a “nonracially-segregated society.”[clxxvi] He arrived in Rhodesia determined “to establish a new pattern within the church,” because he noted that American missionaries “ate in separate dining rooms during Church conference”[clxxvii] and used their own vehicles while African pastors boarded buses. Dodge insisted that “at no time did I deliberately set out to be a reformer,”[clxxviii] but because of his long experience in Angola he was aware that change would come. He wrote, “The major blind spot of the total missionary program in Africa may well be the failure of white church leaders to foresee the approaching rebellion and to train nationals for administrative responsibilities.”[clxxix]

 

Dodge moved to transfer power and authority in the Methodist Church immediately to Africans even as Ian Smith was proclaiming, “not in a thousand years” would there be a black prime minister of Zimbabwe.[clxxx] Ironically, the first black prime minister in 1978 was Bishop Abel Muzorewa, the first African Methodist bishop, who had been appointed by Dodge. For his racial activism, Dodge was declared a prohibited immigrant in Rhodesia by Ian Smith’s government in 1964.[clxxxi] Yet his African church members were delighted, saying, “You have made the government recognize the position of the church. They are afraid of us.”[clxxxii] When Muzorewa became prime minister, he summoned Dodge back for six months to orient African leaders for greater independence. Veteran African nationalist, Joshua Nkomo, told Dodge, “In your Christian mission you have indeed preached the living Christ and have made the Christian religion something from which people find salvation here and now as well as in the life to come.”[clxxxiii]

 

Along with the rising clamor for political independence, African church leaders of mainline denominations were increasingly calling for independence from foreign missions. John Gatu, chairman of the Presbyterian Church in Kenya, called for a moratorium on foreign missionaries and funds in 1971, and this call was repeated in Lusaka, Zambia at the All-African Conference of Churches in 1974.[clxxxiv] Mainline churches tended to heed this call by cutting back on missionaries and funding as they gave ecclesiastical independence to the churches they had established in order to go along with the political independence of African nations. Hastings pointed out, however, that the mainline churches were “precisely those bodies whose commitment to missionary work is anyway seriously diminishing.”[clxxxv]

 

On the other hand, the more conservative churches such as evangelical or Catholic, “tend to reject the appeal out of hand as theologically unjustified: the obligation to preach the gospel is an absolute one which cannot be abandoned on any grounds.”[clxxxvi] In fact, with political independence and the downgrading of mainline Christian missions, there was a veritable flood of new missionaries from conservative evangelical and Pentecostal churches. For example, Southern Baptists entered Zimbabwe in the late colonial period in 1950, and established a mission station at Sanyati in 1953 with a primary school and a hospital under Dr. Giles Fort and his wife, Dr. Wana Ann Fort.[clxxxvii] The German evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, began to hold mass crusades all over Africa, including Zimbabwe, with great success. Steve Brouwer, Paul Gifford, and Susan D. Rose commented, “Both Bonnke and TBN [Trinity Broadcasting Network] are contributors to a Protestant wave of conversion in Africa,” which they estimated at 20,000 conversions per day.[clxxxviii] They calculated that by the 1960s non-ecumenical evangelical missionaries outnumbered mainline Protestant missionaries, and “these new missionaries to Africa are normally not working in development or schools or clinics; the vast majority are concerned with evangelization pure and simple.”[clxxxix] Clearly a huge paradigm shift in Christian missions came with the end of colonialism.

 

 

POST-COLONIAL MISSIONS

 

Christian Africans desired greater independence in their churches for self-government and self-expression. Hastings said they want

 

to go back from being Rhodesia to being Zimbabwe, to shift their primary mythical collective symbol of identity from the grave of Rhodes in the Matopos Hills to the walls of the elliptical temple [Great Zimbabwe Ruins]. They want . . . a cultural revolution beyond and below the political revolution.[cxc]

 

These same churches, however, have not done as well with self-support and self-propagation. They have remained dependent on foreign resources of missionaries both to fund their operations and to spread the gospel. This is partly because of Zimbabwe’s economic collapse under its President Robert Mugabe who has ruled the country since 1980.

 

Into this period of economic and social collapse, aggravated by the AIDS epidemic, evangelical missionaries continue to enter. Brouwer, Gifford, and Rose noted, “Given Africa’s phenomenal economic and social collapse, and the state of dependency this has created, Africans are vulnerable to resourceful outside interests that radiate success, professionalism, and enthusiasm.”[cxci] They added:

 

Although the missionaries often claim they are working for the local churches or networks, or are “partners” with them, one must make full allowance for the disparity of resources and education. . . . The claim that churches are “independent” or “autonomous” may sometimes disguise foreign influences that are increasing rather than diminishing.[cxcii]

 

These authors see evangelical and Pentecostal missions as a wing of American capitalism to which needy Africans are only too responsive: “What does this portend? Actual conquest, the literal extension of U.S. frontiers and direct political control? Or something different, something new in the annals of cultural conquest?”[cxciii] Frans J. Verstraelen picked up these concerns and labeled as New Religious Movements “a special brand of Christianity largely from the fundamentalist stream. . . . Most of these groups are American of origin and reflect views espoused by the Religious Right.”[cxciv] These groups have “mushroomed” in Zimbabwe since 1982 and included Campus Crusade, Youth With a Mission, World Vision, Christ for All Nations, Rhema, and Jimmy Swaggert Ministeries.[cxcv] Verstaelen criticized these missionary groups as “a rather neo-colonial type of mission which seems to be anachronistic in the post-independence era of Africa.”[cxcvi] He characterized these movements as teaching dispensationalism, a prosperity gospel, and a dualism of simplistic alternatives which “ignores all political and economic factors affecting the lives of people.”[cxcvii]

 

Although Verstaelen may be an alarmist, he has pointed out the Zimbabweans are susceptible to the lure of American prosperity that is sometimes embodied in current missions. Clearly American missionaries have taken the lead now in Zimbabwean missions, and may be contributing unwittingly to continued dependence of local churches on foreign funds. Moreover, these missionaries have turned away from the school approach denounced by McGavran to concentrate on evangelism and church growth. For example, under “Target 2000,” evangelical churches came up with “a very concrete plan of action for evangelizing the whole of Zimbabwe . . . to plant ten thousand new churches by the year 2000.”[cxcviii]

 

CONCLUSION

 

Christian missions in Zimbabwe have entered a new phase which is both postcolonial and increasingly American dominated. The postcolonial era is one where Africans seek a greater measure of independence from western control, yet Zimbabwean churches have been slow to become self-supporting and self-propagating, even as they call for self-government and self-expression in theology. The entrance of greater numbers of conservative American missionaries since the late colonial period has unwittingly created a greater dependence on foreign resources. This is partly because these missionaries represent the only remaining superpower with its incredible wealth, and partly because conservative missionaries have continued to have a worldview that arises from ideas of Manifest Destiny. The missionaries themselves are often unaware of these basic worldview assumptions and may be politically naive about the implications of representing the U.S.A.

 

Scottish missions historian, Andrew Walls, noted the irony of the U.S.A. being both “the first colonial independence movement”[cxcix] and “the first modern imperial power,”[cc] which has been expanding since the beginning of Manifest Destiny. He said that this has helped to create in American missions

 

a curious political naivete, as though by constantly asserting that church and state were separate they have somehow stripped mission activity of political significance. Even the elementary political implications of their presence, let alone of patriotism, has not always been recognized.[cci]

 

Evangelical American missionaries would assert that they are not concerned with politics, but only with preaching the gospel. For this reason, they ignored the call for a moratorium on missionaries and foreign funding, and they heeded Donald McGavran’s call for church growth via direct evangelism rather than by the school approach with its mission stations. When R. Pierce Beaver surveyed American missionary motivation over three centuries (1640-1940), he found in fact that evangelism was always the primary motivation, and American nationalism was always “secondary to spiritual and theological motivation.”[ccii] This conclusion leads to another irony: while evangelical American missionaries understood their mission in terms of evangelism, Africans noticed an accompanying American ideology, such as the diffusion of democracy and capitalism. In some cases, it was this that attracted them as much as the gospel, and they often sought to use the gospel to advance economically and politically, by forging financial partnerships with American missionaries, churches, and Christian organizations. The prosperity gospel is very much alive in Zimbabwe today.

 

This situation of continuing dependence of Zimbabwean Christianity on outside resources calls for new postcolonial models of missions. It is wrong to assume that the time for missions in Zimbabwe is over, just as it is wrong to assume that home missions in the U.S.A. are no longer necessary. The Great Commission is still in force and much evangelistic work still needs to be done. Missionary attitudes, however, need to change in order to allow Zimbabwean churches, now over a hundred years old in many cases, to take their rightful place in world missions. American missionaries in particular need to undergo a postcolonial worldview change, both to become more ambassadors for Christ rather than for the U.S.A., and to treat Zimbabwean churches as equal partners in evangelism. Keeping these churches dependent on foreigners and foreign resources in any way will stunt local church growth and will ultimately delay the fulfillment of the Great Commission.



1Mark R. Shaw, The Kingdom of God in Africa: A Short History of African Christianity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 129.

2Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (n.p., 1834; reprint, Edinburgh, Scotland: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), 381 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

3Rufus B. Spain, At Ease in Zion: Social History of Southern Baptists, 1865-1900 (Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1961), 126.

4Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The “Invisible Institution” in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978), 140.

5Adrian Hastings, The Church in Africa, 1450-1950 (Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1994), 176.

6Ibid.,180.

7Shaw, The Kingdom of God in Africa, 143.

8Ibid.

9Ibid., 144.

10John R. Bodo, The Protestant Clergy and Public Issues, 1812-1848 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1954), 120.

11John Baur, 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa: An African Church History, 2d ed. (Nairobi, Kenya: Paulines Publications, 1994), 113.

12Archibald Alexander, A History of Colonization on the Western Coast of Africa, 2d ed. (Philadelphia, PA: William S. Martien, 1849; reprint, Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971), 6 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

13Alexander, A History of Colonization, 10-11.

14Thomas J. Bowen, Adventures and Missionary Labors in Several Countries in the Interior of Africa, from 1849 to 1856 (Charleston, SC: Southern Baptist Publications, 1857).

15Ibid., 26.

16Ibid., 321.

17Ibid., 325-26.

18Ibid., 329.

19Ibid., 330.

20Bowen, Adventures and Missionary Labors, 337.

21Ibid., 342.

22Ibid., 350.

23Marshall W. Murphree, Christianity and the Shona (London, England: The Athlone Press, 1969), 6.

24Ibid.

25Hastings, The Church in Africa, 197.

26Ibid.

27Ibid., 199.

28Ibid., 201.

29Ibid., 202.

30John S. Moffat, The Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat (London, England: T. Fischer Unwin, 1886), 5.

31Hastings, The Church in Africa, 206.

32Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, vol. 5, The Great Century in the Americas, Australasia, and Africa, A.D. 1800-A. D. 1914 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 345.

33Ibid.

34Ibid.

35Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 156.

36Ibid., 158.

37Ibid., 168.

38Peter Becker, Path of Blood (London, England: Longmans, 1962), 59.

39Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 109.

40Ibid.

41Ibid., 110.

42Ibid., 111.

43Ibid.

44Ibid.

45Ibid., 112.

46Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 112.

47Ibid., 133.

48Ibid., 205-206.

49Latourette, vol. 5, 347-348.

50Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 216.

51Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 224.

52Ibid., 218.

53Ngwabi Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion in Western Zimbabwe, 1859-1923 (London, England: Longman, 1979), 28.

54Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 227.

55Ibid.

56Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 28.

57Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 231.

58Jane M. Sales, The Planting of the Churches in South Africa (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 81.

59Moffat, Lives of Robert and Mary Moffat, 233.

60Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 38-43.

61Ibid., 49.

62Ibid., 50.

63Ibid., 53.

64Francois Coillard, On the Threshold of Central Africa, 2d ed. (New York: American Tract Society, 1903), 33.

65Ibid.

66Ibid., 34.

67Ibid., 35.

68Ibid

69Ibid., 53.

70Ibid., 59.

71Coillard, On the Threshold of Central Africa, 60.

72Ibid., 44.

73Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 82.

74Shaw, The Kingdom of God in Africa, 214.

75Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 83.

76Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 87.

77Ibid., 95.

78Ibid., 99.

79R. S. S. Baden-Powell, The Matabele Campaign (London, England: Methuen & Company, 1901), 32.

80Baden-Powell, The Matabele Campaign, 253.

81Terence Ranger, “The Churches, the Nationalist State and African Religion,” in Christianity in Independent Africa, ed. Edward Fashole-Luke, Richard Gray, Adrian Hastings, and Godwin Tasie (London, England: Rex Collings, 1978), 499.

82C. J. M. Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 1890-1939 (Gweru, Zimbabwe: Mambo Press, 1996), 45.

83Ibid., 2.

84Ibid., 27.

85Ibid., 55.

86G. W. H. Knight-Bruce, Memories of Mashonaland (London, England: Edward Arnold, 1895; reprint, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: Books of Rhodesia, 1970), 220 (page citations are to the reprint edition).

87Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 51.

88David Lan, Guns & Rain: Guerrillas and Spirit Mediums in Zimbabwe (Harare, Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe Publishing House, 1985), 7.

89Stephen Ndlovu, “Historical Brethren in Christ Missionary Attitudes in Zimbabwe,” The Conrad Grebel Review 15, no. 1-2 (1997): 74.

90Zvobgo, History of Christian Missions in Zuimbabwe, 67. This couple are the ancestors of MABTS student Ernie Frey.

91Ibid.

92Nathan Goto, “A Great Central Mission: The Legacy of the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe,” Methodist History 33, no. 1 (October 1994): 16.

93M. L. Daneel, Old and New in Southern Shona Independent Churches, vol. 1, Background and Rise of the Major Movements (The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton, 1971), 187.

94Ibid., 188.

95Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 11.

96Ibid., 3.

97Ibid., 5.

98Ibid., 6.

99Daneel, vol. 1, 191.

100Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 67.

101Ibid., 79.

102Robert Reese, “A Survey of Work in Southern Africa: Zimbabwe and Zambia,” in 100 Years of African Missions, ed. Stanley L. Granberg (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2001), 64.

103John Baur, 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa, 310.

104Ibid.

105Ibid.

106Daneel, vol. 1, 187.

107Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 11.

108Stephen Ndlovu, “Historical Brethren in Christ Missionary Attitudes,” 75.

109Ibid., 76.

110Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 111.

111Donna F. Wenger, “John and Emma Climenhaga: A Study in Commitment,”                 Brethren in Christ History & Life 23, no. 3 (December 2000): 430.

112Wenger, “John and Emma Climenhaga,” 435-36.

113Ibid., 432.

114Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 103.

115Peter Nielsen, The Matabele at Home (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe: Davis & Company, n.d.), 65.

116Ibid., 70.

117Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 111.

118Ibid.

119Ibid., 113.

120Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 104.

121Bhebe, Christianity and Traditional Religion, 132.

122Zvobgo, History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 151.

123Ibid., 155.

124Ibid., 166.

125Wendy Urban-Mead, “Girls of the Gate: Questions of Purity and Piety at the Mtshabezi Girls’ Primary Boarding School in Colonial Zimbabwe, 1908-1940,” Brethren in Christ History & Life 25, no. 1 (April 2002): 8.

126Ibid., 4.

127Ibid., 5.

128Carol Summers, “Mission Boys, Civilized Men, and Marriage: Educated African Men in the Missions of Southern Rhodesia, 1920-1945,” The Journal of Religious History 23, no. 1 (February 1999): 75.

129Ibid.

130Ibid., 76.

131Ibid., 88.

132Ibid., 90.

133Daneel, vol. 1, 189.

134Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 126.

135Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 126.

136Terence Ranger, “‘Taking on the Missionary’s Task’: African Spirituality and the Mission Churches of Manicaland in the 1930s,” Journal of Religion in Africa 29 (1999): 178.

137Ibid.

138Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 125.

139Ibid.

140Lamin Sanneh, Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1989), 123.

141David B. Barrett, Schism and Renewal in Africa: An Analysis of Six Thousand Contemporary Religious Movements (Nairobi, Kenya: Oxford University Press, 1968), 127-34.

142Reese, “A Survey of Work in Southern Africa,” 65.

143Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 130.

144Ibid., 149.

145Ibid., 150.

146Zvobgo, A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 188.

147Ibid., 372.

148Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 20-24.

149Ibid., 21.

150Ibid., 23.

151Ibid.

152McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, 29.

153Ibid., 24.

154Baur, 2000 Years of Christianity in Africa, 310.

155Zvobgo, History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 353.

156Barbara Moss, “‘And the Bones Come Together’: Women’s Religious Expectations in Southern Africa, c. 1900-1945.” The Journal of Religious History 23, no. 1 (February 1999): 116.

157Moss, “‘And the Bones Come Together,’” 116.

158Ibid., 117.

159Ibid., 122.

160Ranger, “‘Taking on the Missionary’s Task,’” 177.

161Ibid., 179.

162Ibid., 195.

163Ranger, “‘Taking on the Missionary’s Task,’” 199.

164Ibid.

165Ibid., 200.

166Murphree, Christianity and the Shona, 149.

167Ibid., 150.

168M. L. Daneel, Old and New in Southern Shona Independent Churches, vol. 2, Church Growth–Causative Factors and Recruitment Techniques (The Hague, Netherlands: Mouton, 1974), 104.

169Ibid., 105.

170Goto, “A Great Central Mission,” 21.

171Ibid.,  22.

172Ndlovu, “Historical Brethren in Christ Missionary Attitudes,” 76-77.

173Aylward Shorter, The Church in the African City (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1991), 123.

174Ibid., 124.

175Goto, “A Great Central Mission,” 22.

176Ralph E. Dodge, The Revolutionary Bishop Who Saw God at Work in Africa (Pasadena, CA: William Carey, 1986), 115.

177Ibid., 117.

178Ibid.

179Dodge, The Revolutionary Bishop, 153.

180Ibid.

181Ibid., 155.

182Ibid.

183Ibid., 157.

184Adrian Hastings, African Christianity (New York: The Seabury Press, 1976), 22.

185Hastings, African Christianity, 23.

186Ibid.

187Baker James Cauthen and Frank K. Means, Advance to Bold Mission Thrust, 1845-1980 (Richmond, VA: Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1981), 157.

188Steve Brouwer, Paul Gifford, and Susan D. Rose, Exporting the American Gospel: Global Christian Fundamentalism (New York: Routledge, 1996), 151.

189Ibid., 153.

190Hastings, African Christianity, 41.

191Brouwer, Gifford, and Rose, Exporting the American Gospel, 151.

192Ibid., 153.

193Brouwer, Gifford, and Rose, Exporting the American Gospel, 247.

194Frans J. Verstraelen, “Patterns of Missionary and Ecumenical Relationships in Zimbabwe,” Exchange 24 (1995): 193. This use of “New Religious Movements” is contrary to that of anthropologists, who reserve it for syncretistic movements like the Vapostori. For example, see David Burnett, Clash of Worlds (Grand Rapids: Monarch Books, 2002), 145-59.

195Ibid.

196Ibid., 194.

197Ibid., 199.

198Verstraelen, “Patterns of Missionary and Ecumenical Relationships,” 198.

199Andrew F. Walls, The Missionary Movement in Christian History (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1996), 233.

200Ibid., 228.

201Ibid., 233.

202R. Pierce Beaver, “Missionary Motivation Through Three Centuries,” in Reinterpretation in American Church History, ed. Jerald C. Brauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968), 139