EDITORIAL The first prophetic movement in modern black African Chris- tianity is sometimes said to be that of Kimpa Vita, 'Donna Beatrice' in the Kongo kingdom in the early 18th century. The spirit of St Anthony, she believed, had come to possess her. She was duly burnt. Dr Haile's fascinating piece shows us a still earlier ex- ample of a new religious movement from Ethiopia in the first part of the 17th century. The explicit identification with Christ of this figure may be paralleled in a few of his modern successors, but again, hardly the terrible fate that came upon him. While we would like to know much more of the story than we do from these brief manuscript accounts, it is particularly welcome in helping re- establish a sense of continuity in religious history between Ethiopia and the rest of Africa. Charles Domingo and Peter Mulenga represent two of hundreds of twentieth century prophetic figures. Their forms of prophecy, however, were markedly different. Neither was thought to repre- sent Christ. Domingo became, nevertheless, the bitter, often only too sharp-eyed, critic of missionary imperfections; Mulenga re- mained a visionary disciple of the White Christ, a black Simon Peter. Both are interpreting Christian discipleship within a central African context but while Domingo, around 1912, expresses himself in terms drawn from the missionary tradition with which he is battling, Mulenga, sixty years later, has returned to quite an- other thought world, drawing predominantly upon the symbols and vocabulary of African tradition. Wyllie's study of the perception of the strengths and weaknesses of Spiritist churches in contemporary Ghana presents the modern relationship between them and older churches at the membership level in an altogether less dichotomous light. These four studies, concerned with three very different parts of the continent and indeed diverse phenomena, combine in throwing a little more light on the vast complexity of Christian Independency in Africa and its relationship, at once one of resemblance and of conflict, with more ancient churches and traditions.
Journal of Religion in Africa – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1985
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