“Lately, we have disagreed”: Independent Churches in Natal and on the Rand, 1910-1930




Nelson, Jennifer

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This paper seeks to expand on existing scholarship to elaborate some stories of the independent church movement in early twentieth-century Natal and on the Witwatersrand, when numerous African churches broke away from white mission churches or were spontaneously created without mission sponsorship. Through an examination of the nineteenth and twentieth-century roots of the conflicts between congregations and the missions, with particular focus on the American Zulu Mission in Natal and its conflict with the African Congregational Church, the independent church movement can be placed within the context of the larger African struggle of the time period – a struggle for political rights and representation, economic advancement, and social and cultural identification. The independent church movement represented all of these desires, as well as the desire for spiritual connection that resonated within the local context. The independent churches that grew out of this struggle were not simply a negative reaction to government and mission regulation but were in fact highly creative, invoking Christianity in ways that resonated in the church community while organizing the congregation to address contemporary problems – dislocation, impoverishment, and the institutionalization of segregation.



South Africa, Natal, Christianity, Independent churches