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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

versión On-line ISSN 2412-4265
versión impresa ISSN 1017-0499


HOUSER, Scott. Puritanical and apocalyptic-minded American missionaries in southeast Africa - a contrast with Bishop John William Colenso. Studia Hist. Ecc. [online]. 2010, vol.36, n.1, pp.1-22. ISSN 2412-4265.

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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