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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

versão On-line ISSN 2412-4265

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.36 no.1 Pretoria Mai. 2010

 

Puritanical and apocalyptic-minded American missionaries in southeast Africa - a contrast with Bishop John William Colenso

 

 

Scott Houser

Austin, Texas, USA

 

 


ABSTRACT

Six couples of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) arrived in Natal, southeast Africa in 1835 - three from north of the Mason-Dixie Line and three from the south - all six indelibly etched with a Puritan consciousness and worldview. Utilising a two-prong strategy -from West Africa and southeast Africa - the ABCFM wanted to Christianise and civilise all of "dark" Africa, and thereafter to celebrate together with other European mission societies somewhere on a central Africa mountain top. They perceived their mission to be one of urgency because the end time was near. A cosmic spiritual battle between God and Satan was forming. The God-elect were to take up their battle stations, and together with Him, wage aggressive war against Satan and his kingdom. Prior to the impending final judgment, their objective was to utilise whatever means necessary to pluck and save as many souls as possible from Satan's bondage. They were determined to do this irrespective of and with disregard to Zulu indifference to the missionaries' Christianising and civilising message and appeal.
Twenty years later, 1855, the Church of England's bishop to Natal, John William Colenso and his family arrived. Colenso was an individual influenced greatly by the literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) and the biblical criticism of Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872), particularly, the 1860s Essays and Reviews. He applied himself diligently to the task of learning the Zulu language, and in close daily contact with Zulus, particularly his friend, William Ngidi - sought to listen and respond to their many questions. This was in contrast to the Americans, who seemed to learn the language mainly so as to speak and instruct. Patience and a work of small things characterised Colenso's missiology. With a consciousness shaped by the Church of England rather than Puritanism or pietism, Colenso and some of his colleagues perceived God as friend and father rather than judge. In turn, this favourable perception of God positively affected their attitudes toward the Zulus, as well as any and all methods and means used in converting them to the Christian faith.


 

 

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1 Rufus Anderson and R. Pierce Beaver, eds., To Advance the Gospel: selections from the writings of Rufus Anderson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 64. Text of 1837.         [ Links ]
2 J. P. T. Bury, ed., "The Zenith of European power 1830-70", in The New Cambridge Modern History (London: Cambridge, 1960), 10, 2; Carl N. Degler, Out of our past; the forces that shaped modern America (New York: Harper, 1959), 274.
3 Walter Edwards Houghton, The Victorian frame of mind, 1830-1870 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957) 10, 96.         [ Links ]
4 Winthrop D. Jordon, White over black: American attitudes toward the Negro, 1550 - 1812 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968), 30.         [ Links ]
5 Ibid., 28.
6 Christine Bolt, Victorian Attitudes to Race (London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1971), 136.         [ Links ]
7 Josiah Tyler, Forty Years Among the Zulus (Boston and Chicago: Congregational Sunday-School and Publishing Society, 1891), 24.         [ Links ]
8 Christine Bolt, Victorian attitudes to race (London: Routledge and K, 1971), 131; Winthrop D. Jordan, White over black: American attitudes toward the Negro, 1550 - 1812 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968), 6-7.
9 Andrew Sinclair, The Savage: A history of misunderstanding (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1977), 20.         [ Links ]
10 John W. Blassingame, The slave community: plantation life in the Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1972), 200.         [ Links ]
11 Tite Tienou, "The invention of the 'Primitive' and Stereotypes in Mission", Missiology, 19 (1991), 298.
12 Thomas F. Gossett, Race: The history of an idea in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 180, 187-8.         [ Links ]
13 Alan Simpson, Puritanism in old and new England (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1955), 99: "Everyone who inspects the national consciousness of Englishmen and Americans today finds Puritanism a part of its makeup,         [ Links ] whether the inspection is made by ourselves or by strangers who look at us with the incredulity -sometimes kindly, sometimes irritated - of visitors from another world."
14 Rufus and Beaver, eds., To advance the Gospel, 36, 99.
15 Edwin William Smith, The life and times of Daniel Lindley (1801-80): Missionary to the Zulus, Pastor of the Voortrekkers, Ubebe Omhlope (New York: Library Publishers, 1947), 425.
16 "Annual Meeting of the Board Regarding a Memorial on Slavery", in The Missionary Herald (1842), 424-5.
17 Anderson and Beaver, To advance the Gospel, 126. See also Daniel Lindley to Rufus Anderson. Port Natal, 1840. Most ABCFM missionary and mission correspondence, journals and reports have been copied and placed on a microfilm entitled Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. The individual missionary letters and journals quoted in this paper have been taken from microfilm reels 149, 174, 175, 176, and 177. The total microfilm collection of all ABCFM missions and stations encompasses over 800 reels. According to the ABCFM index, microfilm reels that contain South African missionary correspondence include: 149, 174-212, 216, 220-222. Letters, extracts, journal entries, reports, etc., of American Board missionaries were also taken from The Missionary Herald, available in microfilm format.
18 Samuel Hopkins, A treatise on the millennium (Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews, 1793, reprint 1972 by Arno Press), 104, 145-6. All quotations from Hopkins's A treatise on the millennium are from the 1972 reprint of the original 1793 edition. The language of the 1972 reprint, however, retained the antiquated, archaic language of the 1793 version.
19 Oliver Wendell Elsbree, The rise of the missionary spirit in America 1790-1815 (Williamsport: The Williamsport Printing and Binding Co, 1928), 87, 92.
20 D.J. Kotzé, Letters of the American missionaries, 1835-1838 (Van Riebeeck Society Publications, Cape Town: Van Riebeeck Society, 1950), 6.
21 Rufus Anderson and R. Pierce Beaver, To advance the Gospel: selections from the writings of Rufus Anderson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 69.
22 ibid.
23 "The theory of missions to the heathen: a sermon at the ordination of Mr. Edward Webb, as a missionary to the heathen." Ware, Mass., Oct. 23, 1845, in To advance the Gospel: selections from the writings of Rufus Anderson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 76.
24 Henry Alexander Douglas, Sloth (Cape Town: Saul Solomon, 1860), 16, 18.
25 Eli Smith, The missionary character: an address delivered before the Society of Inquiry in the Theological Seminary in New Haven (New Haven, April 1, 1840), 32-3.
26 Anne Mackenzie, ed., The net cast in many waters: sketches from the lives of missionaries (London: Bemrose & Sons, 1870), 15.
27 Anderson and Beaver, To advance the Gospe, 55.
28 Eli Smith, The missionary character: an address delivered before the Society of Inquiry in the Theological Seminary in New Haven (New Haven, April 1, 1840), 4-5.
29 C.J. Phillips, Protestant America and the pagan world: the first half century of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1810-1860 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1969), 267.
30 Extracts from "The instructions of the Prudential Committee, given to the Rev. John Leighton Wilson, at Philadelphia, on the 22d of September, Will explain the nature and objects of the mission", in The Missionary Herald, November (1833), 402.
31 Lewis Grout to Rufus Anderson, Umsunduzi, September 1852 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
32 Anderson and Beaver, To advance the Gospel, 76.
33 American Zulu Mission to Rufus Anderson, Umbilo 1850 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
34 Annual Report of the American Zulu Mission, Port Natal, to Rufus Anderson, 12 September 1849 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
35 David Rood, to Rufus Anderson, ifafa, 25 March 1849 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
36 Josiah Tyler to Rufus Anderson, Esidumbini, 29 June 1850 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
37 Jarle Simensen, ed., Norwegian Missions in African History. Vol. 1: South Africa 1845-1906 (Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1986), 202.
38 Ibid., 227, 229.
39 Daniel Lindley to Rufus Anderson, Port Natal, 12 March 1840 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
40 Edwin William Smith, The life and times of Daniel Lindley (1801-80): missionary to the Zulus, Pastor of the Voortrekkers, Ubebe Omhlope (New York: Library Publishers, 1947), 318.
41 Hyman A. Wilder, "Annual Report of the Umtwalume Mission Station, Natal, So. Africa for the year ending 7 June 1854" (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
42 Silas McKinney, The Missionary Herald, XLIV, 4, April 1848, 110.
43 Aldin Grout o Green, Pietermaritzburg, 10 September 1844 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
44 Josiah Tyler to Rufus Anderson, Esidumbini, 27 July 1857 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
45Jubilee of the American Mission in Natal, 1835-1885 (Maritzburg: Horne, 1886), 56.
46 General Letter of American Zulu Mission, Umvoti, 20 June 1855 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
47 HA Wilder to Rufus Anderson, Inanda, 7 March 1864 (Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Board Missions).
48 Anderson and Beaver, To advance the Gospel, 103-4.
49 JW Colenso, "On the efforts of missionaries among savages." The Anthropological Review 3 (1865), cclix-cclx; William Mellen, "Journal of a Visitation of the Diocese of Natal in 1864." Personal, 1864, 21. See also, Jeff Guy, "Class imperialism and Literary Criticism: William Ngidi, John Colenso and Matthew Arnold," in Journal of Southern African Studies 23/2 (1997), 219-41; Jonathan A. Draper, ed., The eye of the storm (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications, 2003).
50 Peter Bingham Hinchliff, The Anglican Church in South Africa; an account of the history and development of the Church of the Province of South Africa (London: Darton Longman & Todd, 1963), 64; Rees, Wyn, Colenso letters from Natal (Pietermaritzburg: Shuter and Shooter, 1958), 258.
51 Jeff Guy, The heretic: a study of the life of John William Colenso, 1814-1883 (Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg: Ravan Press and University of Natal Press, 1983).
52 JW Colenso, A Sermon, St. Luke xi.2 (Pietermaritzburg: Cathedral Church of St. Peter's, 1866).
53 JW Colenso, Ten weeks in Natal: a journal of a first tour of visitation among the Colonists and Zulu Kafirs of Natal (Cambridge Eng: Macmillan & Co, 1855), 16-7.
54 JW Colenso, "On the efforts of missionaries among savages.", cclxii.
55 JW Colenso, Ten weeks in Natal, 254.
56 JW Colenso, A letter to an American Missionary from the Bishop of Natal (Pietermaritzburg: Natal Guardian, 1855), 42.
57 Samuel Hopkins, A treatise on the millennium (Boston: Isaiah Thomas and Ebenezer T. Andrews. Original edition, 1793), 143-4.
58 Ibid., 148-9.
59 Ibid., 157.
60 JW Colenso, Natal sermons: second series of discourses preached in the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter's, Maritzburg (London: N. Treubner, 1868), 346-7.
61 Colenso, Ten weeks in Natal, 99.
62 Ruth Edgecombe, ed., J.W. Colenso - Bringing forth light: five tracts on Bishop Colenso's Zulu Mission (Pietermaritzburg and Durban: University of Natal and Killie Campbell Africana Library, 1982), 18.
63 JW Colenso, "On the efforts of missionaries among savages", cclxi.
64 Henry Callaway, Missionary sermons, a sermon on the Great Commission, Mark 16:15 (London: George Bell, 1875), 51-2.
65 Robert A. Robertson, "A farewell sermon", Ed. Eaton Square at St. Peter's, at the Anniversary of the Mackenzie Memorial Mission, held on 20th March, 1873 (Eaton Square at St. Peter's, London, 1873).
66 Jeff Guy, "Class, imperialism and literary criticism: William Ngidi, John Colenso and Matthew Arnold." Journal of Southern African Studies 23, no. June: 219, in The Natal Witness, 1863.         [ Links ]

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