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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.34 n.2 Pretoria Dec. 2008


The crisis of the Church of Sweden Mission among the Zulus during the 1880s



Frederick Hale

Department of English, University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa




After the destruction of its original station at Oscarsberg near Rorke's Drift in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879, the Church of Sweden Mission gradually developed its programme of evangelism and social ministry under the leadership of Otto Witt during the 1880s. However, Witt underwent a spiritual crisis and gradually became disillusioned with the missionary strategy of his Lutheran agency. His criticism of its emphasis on establishing mission stations and their schools went hand-in-hand with his increasing focus on itinerant evangelism, the imminent Second Advent of Jesus Christ, and a de-emphasis of educational work that ran counter to the Lutheran confessionalism of the Church of Sweden Mission. This brought Witt into conflict with its leadership, causing an internal crisis and eventually leading to his departure from this Lutheran organisation. Despite this setback, it weathered the storm and emerged from it with new initiatives leading to inter alia an emphasis on ministry to urbanised Zulus in Natal and, eventually, on the Witwatersrand.



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