The Rise of Post-Colonial Christianity: African Initiated Churches

Many in the twentieth century regarded Christianity as a colonial religion, imposed on native populations by their European masters. When the Europeans returned home, it was believed, Christianity would be abandoned as a colonial trapping, with massive reversion to the traditional religions of the region. In fact, the removal of western power generally removed western constraints which had until then prevented the emergence of more culturally adapted forms of Christianity.


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The withdrawal of colonial powers – such as Britain and France – from their former territories during the 1960s allowed their churches to develop theologies, ministries, and styles of worship which were adapted to their contexts, rather than being poor copies of those found in the homelands of the colonial powers. In most cases, the departure of the colonial power was followed by renewal, as the cultural restraints on indigenous variants of Christianity were finally removed. Political independence rapidly led to ecclesiastical independence, and the ending of cultural suppression of indigenous theologies and worship patterns. Although these patterns can be observed throughout the post-colonial world, they are probably best studied from the African context.

During the nineteenth century, Catholic and Protestant missionaries established churches throughout southern Africa. These were generally African implementations of European models, with little more than cosmetic adaptations to the local culture. Catholicism became the dominant form of Christianity in French and Belgian colonies, as did Anglicanism in British colonies.

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