The European Founded Mission Churches In Africa Theology Religion Essay Example
The European Founded Mission Churches In Africa Theology Religion Essay Example

The European Founded Mission Churches In Africa Theology Religion Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1904 words)
  • Published: September 25, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The introduction of European-founded mission churches into Africa during colonial rule resulted in a significant increase in Christianity.

In many cases, the Christianity brought to Africa by Western foreigners failed to understand and integrate with the African worldview. For Christianity to successfully grow in Africa, it needed to be made sacred and symbolically understandable to Africans. Indigenous African churches emerged as a way for followers to eliminate the foreign aspects of European Christianity that they couldn't connect with. These churches developed practical and spiritual characteristics that catered to their emotional needs, shaping Western Christianity into African Christianity. Emphasis was placed on myth and ritual, rhythm and dance, as well as spiritual healing, prophecy, visions and dreams, and enchantment and dispossession. This essay will identify the distinct characteristics of churches within the Aladura


category of African Independent Churches in western Nigeria, as well as the key Kenyan Agikuyu Spirit Churches of the African Orthodox Church (AOC) and Arathi.

The aim is to determine which aspects of Christianity align with the European founded mission churches, and to what extent they have distanced themselves from disappointing elements of Western Christianity. The need to classify has resulted in a broad categorization of 'AIC's' that suggests a common cosmopolitan nature. However, there is a wide range of African churches, each with its own unique and influential attributes. The inherent moral strength of each church makes it difficult to accurately classify and sub-categorize them. Despite ongoing debates in the academic field regarding the definition of AIC's, Francis Kimani Githieya uses the taxonomy of Ethiopian Churches and Aladura (or Roho) Churches to group those with similarities. This essay will use this typology for

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clarity purposes.

Ethiopian churches differ from European mission churches mainly due to political reasons rather than spiritual differences. Although these churches still retain some aspects of European Christianity, they reject the superiority of the missionaries. Sundkler notes that their church organizations and bible reading are largely influenced by Protestant Mission churches that they left. This is evident in the continued practice of baptism, Holy Eucharists, and European clerical attire in many Ethiopian Churches. However, these practices remain conservative because they are based on a European worldview that differs significantly from the Aladura prophesier mending churches.

Allen Anderson describes the latter churches as representing a distinct African interpretation of Christianity, with a genuine expression of religion that aligns with the religious, cultural, and societal aspects of African life. One example of this is seen in the Roho Spirit churches in Kenya, which were founded by Alfayo Odongo Mango. These churches are characterized by their emphasis on visions, prophetic activity, healings, and miracles, setting them apart from the mission churches established by Europeans. This essay focuses on the Aladura group, also known as ijo elemi, which originated in South West Nigeria in the 1920s.

These religious churches are led by the Holy Spirit and include The Christ Apostolic Church (CAC), the Cherubim and Seraphim (C;S), the Church of the Lord, and the Celestial Church of Christ (CCC). They are prophetic movements that practice Christianity while incorporating aspects of African culture and tradition, such as healing, deliverance, prophecy, and angelic prayer. The AICs faced strong criticism from mission churches due to their association with Yoruba cultural practices, syncretism, and what was perceived as an excessive use of spiritual gifts. However,

Aladura Christianity shares fundamental beliefs in God and Jesus Christ with Western Christianity, even though their expressions of faith may differ.

According to C ; S philosophy, their ecclesiology and divinity are based on the Bible, aligning with the true teachings of Christianity. The unique expression of this religion is demonstrated by their reference to God as Olorun Orimolade. Harold Turner believes that any church claiming Christ is Lord and demonstrating it in practice is Christian. This is evident in the traditional African understanding of witches, evil forces, and malevolent spirits. They cannot simply discard these beliefs because a foreign form of Christianity does not acknowledge them.

The African characteristics of religious worship are crucial in combating and spreading outstanding problems. These characteristics include trust in supplication, Godhead healing, the use of magnetic gifts, and the importance of sacred places. Supplication is particularly emphasized as it is not only the foundation of their practice and philosophy, but also the source of all their blessings and successes. In the Aladura churches, prayer is directly associated with healing and battling subjugation, known as ise iwosan. Various objects, such as consecrated water, candles, aromas, incense, palm fronds, hand bells, staffs, spears, and holy oils, are often used alongside prayer for healing. While some of these objects can also be found in European mission churches, they are not used in conjunction with prayer for healing. The Aladura religious tradition clearly relies on prayer as the fundamental fabric of their faith.

Wednesday, known as Ojo aanu, and Friday, known as ojo iwosan, are designated as specific twenty-four hour periods in the Aladura churches. Wednesday is considered a day of clemency, while Friday

is designated as a day of healing. These characteristics highlight the differences in prayer methods between mission churches and African traditions. Unlike the rigid and scripted prayers of conventional supplication, African demands called for spontaneous and individualistic prayer, allowing for a truly African expression. Religious attire is another distinct feature of the Aladura churches. The Celestial Church of Christ (CCC) emphasizes the importance of wearing white garments which symbolize the purity and holiness of its members both inside and out. On the other hand, the Cherubim and Seraphim (C) church also wears white garments but allows for colored garments as well.

The significance of coloring material is also connected to objects in a similar way to clothing. The CCC only permits the use of white tapers, while the C ; A ; S allows for both white and colored tapers. The symbolism attached to physical objects in these churches is much more profound than in the European founded mission churches, resulting in a distinct and significant division between the two. The Aladura style of worship also varies greatly from that of the mission churches. The energy and fervor observed in their worship illustrates the integration of traditional African customs into the churches.

The usage of lively music, vocals, dance, and applause is inherent in expressing their deep-rooted religion and spirituality. Ayegboyin explains the contrast between the passive nature of worship in traditional mission churches and the theatrical nature of Aladura worship. In Aladura worship, the members become completely absorbed, demonstrated through rhythmic swaying, stomping, calls, and jumping. On the other hand, European-founded mission churches practice organized, structured, and discreet worship that focuses on the individual rather than

the community.

The disagreement between the African and European churches highlights how mission churches are unable to satisfy the deep emotional and religious needs of Aladura African Christians. The significance of sacred places, known as ile mimo or ori oke, emphasizes a further departure from European Christian practices. Adogame and Jafta note that mountains, rivers, and groves have been designated and transformed into holy sites where rituals are performed. European churches often associate holiness exclusively with their own buildings. The Aladura churches demonstrate that for Christianity to flourish in Nigeria, it must align with the African traditional worldview and incorporate the spiritual and emotional needs of the people within Christian practices. Omoyaowo argues that the survival of the Christian church in Nigeria today primarily relies on the Aladura churches.

'The Agikuyu Spirit Churches (or Kikuyu Spirit Churches) in Central Kenya have their origins in the Bantu-speaking people. The AOC and Arathi (Watu wa Mungu) serve as examples of how these movements developed distinct characteristics that combined African and Christian identities. Interestingly, the AOC shares similarities with the Ethiopian course, but there are still noticeable differences. It is believed that these two churches emerged as a response to the inability of mission churches to meet African demands for spiritual freedom and liberty. The Arathi community is often described as a blend of pagan beliefs, Christianity, knowledge from the Old Testament, and prophetic inspiration. However, this fails to recognize Christianity as a moral force on its own.'

The presence of European mission churches in Africa brought with it the influence of European civilization. However, many Africans chose to either reject or modify aspects of this civilization to align their faith

with their own culture, way of life, and worldview. As an example, the Arathi churches disagreed with the missions' condemnation of practices such as polygamy and female circumcision.

'The churches in question have varying patterns of construction, but this doesn't necessarily mean that their Christianity should be dismissed or labeled as 'tribal'. According to David B. Barrett, the emergence of African Independent Churches can be attributed to a 'tribal Zeitgesit'. However, Jomo Kenyatta argues that the Arathi and the AOC are not tribal, but rather new entities in East Africa. Kenyatta astutely observes that the AOC is a community that wants to embrace Christianity without abandoning its cultural customs... it is both Gikuyu and Christian simultaneously.' Murray states that the Kikuyu churches should be taken seriously as they have developed their own philosophy, code of ethical behavior, and practice Holy Eucharist.

This analysis recognizes the validity of African Christianity, despite its unique characteristics. Githieya affirms this validation by arguing that both the AOC and Arathi consider themselves Christian and their beliefs are not contrary to the true doctrines of the Christian religion. Their distinctiveness is rooted in their African perspective and their relatively recent establishment, but the strength of their faith is just as reliable as that of the European missionaries. The Agikuyu Spirit Churches exhibit various differences in their faith practices compared to the mission churches founded by Europeans. The AOC places significant emphasis on the importance of African liberation.

According to Welbourn, the AOC is influenced more by the Agikuyu tradition than Christianity. However, this could be seen as a political motive. The AOC claims to be deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, stating that it

is a true Christian church in the apostolic tradition. It has historical connections with Archbishop Alexander and later with the Greek Orthodox patriarchate of Alexandria. The AOC's structure values family (mbari) greatly. Christianity is seen as a community that functions like a close-knit group, recognizing the identity, worth, and unity of each individual. This differs significantly from European Christianity and stems from Kenyan traditional culture. The AOC emphasizes the importance of both a closely-knit community based on family and a sense of belonging to the family of God.

The Arathi churches firmly rejected a large part of European influence in their land and faith, distinguishing themselves from Ethiopian churches by completely disconnecting from the political inclinations of mission churches. They vehemently opposed any intrusion of European customs into their culture, as demonstrated by discarding Western clothing and adopting a traditional garb called Kanzu. This is analogous to the all-white attire worn by the CCC.

The Arathi people have strong beliefs in "Urathi" (prognostication) and "thahu" (ritual cleanliness), which are based on their devotion to prophetic figures like Joseph Ng'ang'a and Musa Thuo. These figures claimed divine healing in their prophetic ministry. The emphasis on the search for the Holy Spirit is different from what is commonly seen in European Christianity. In European Christianity, there is not as much focus on the Holy Spirit alone but rather as part of the Holy Trinity, as explained in Pneumatology.

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