Biblical literacy and Khoesan national renewal in the Cape Colony
The rapid growth in popularity of the Protestant, Nonconformist missionary movement among the Cape Colony’s indigenous population, the Khoesan, coincided with Britain’s efforts to remould the Cape into a territory which exhibited British characteristics. Cape society had already been structured according to a racial hierarchy, though race was not yet the sole determinant of belonging as it was to become from the 1840s onwards. Christian identity held important sway in the Cape Colony during the early nineteenth century and was an important marker of social status and inclusion. For Khoesan descended from distinct, precolonial ethnic lineages, biblical literacy offered a language through which a new, Christian ‘nation’ could be imagined and articulated, and which could challenge settler–colonial hierarchies of power. This chapter explores how the Bible became a site of contestation in the struggle over the ownership of Protestant Christianity in the Cape Colony during the early nineteenth century. Khoesan acceptance of the Bible did not simply amount to submission to Western domination. Rather, Khoesan interpretations of scripture positioned the Bible as a disruptive, anti-colonial text. By confirming the Bible as a potent repository of symbolism and imagery, Khoesan sought to challenge racially based notions of Christian identity.
While historians of early modern Britain have long noted the ubiquity of Old Testament typology in religious-political discourse, its enduring potency thereafter has received much less attention. In part this is because of the flexibility of such rhetoric, for while posing as a ‘new Israel’ worked for embattled states like sixteenth-century England, this was not the only rhetorical option available; nor was it always the most apposite comparison, especially in the era of British global hegemony. This chapter argues that maritime imperial expansion lent particular weight to one set of passages, those concerning ancient seagoing Tyre and Tarshish. What they stood for was seldom stable: they were read prophetically, as literally presaging Britain’s current greatness; typologically, as warnings against the besetting sins of commercial greed and pride; and moralistically, as examples of the problems caused by imperial overstretch. I seek to show that British people in the nineteenth century continued to map the world and their place in it in biblical terms, to an extent that has sometimes been underplayed. What that meant, however, was increasingly open to interpretation.
When members of that oft-maligned institution, the Anglican Church – the 'Tory Party at prayer' – encountered the far-flung settler empire, they found it a strange and intimidating place. Anglicanism's conservative credentials seemed to have little place in developing colonies; its established status, secure in England, would crumble in Ireland and was destined never to be adopted in the 'White Dominions'. By 1850, however, a global ‘Anglican Communion’ was taking shape. This book explains why Anglican clergymen started to feel at home in the empire. Between 1790 and 1860 the Church of England put in place structures that enabled it to sustain a common institutional structure and common set of beliefs across a rapidly-expanding ‘British world’. Though Church expansion was far from being a regulated and coordinated affair, the book argues that churchmen did find ways to accommodate Anglicans of different ethnic backgrounds and party attachments in a single broad-based ‘national’ colonial Church. The book details the array of institutions, voluntary societies and inter-colonial networks that furnished the men and money that facilitated Church expansion; it also sheds light on how this institutional context contributed to the formation of colonial Churches with distinctive features and identities. The colonial Church that is presented in this book will be of interest to more than just scholars and students of religious and Church history. The book shows how the colonial Church played a vital role in the formation of political publics and ethnic communities in a settler empire that was being remoulded by the advent of mass migration, democracy and the separation of Church and state.
Bhils have disciplined themselves to become good Christians, but it was Christianity on their own terms. This chapter examines their society, their history and their healing practices. C. S. Thompson had come to work amongst the Bhils in 1880 in accordance with a new strategy that the Church Missionary Society (CMS) was adopting at that time in India. The chapter also examines how the Bhils were made to fit into an evolutionary schema. In his report, Thomas Hendley claimed that in general 'The Bhils are a healthy race.' In making this claim, he appears to have been guided more by certain notions current at that time about the 'healthy primitive' than by any reality on the ground. Hendley observed that the Bhils believed that some people, mainly women, had the ability to cause sickness, misfortune or death.
Though there is a growing literature on the metropolitan support for conventional missionary activity, it is only recently that scholars have turned to consider the subject of metropolitan involvement in settler Churches. This chapter examines the nature of the flows of information and ideas, as well as men and materiel that travelled between the ‘mother Church’ and its branches in the colonies. One of the chapter’s key findings is that influence did not always run out from the metropole to the colonial periphery: he we shall see that the reorganisation of the Church’s missionary arm—the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel—was intimately linked to the reform and revival of the home Church’s institutional structures in the ‘age of reform’ period in the 1830s and 1840s. The chapter’s other broad aim is to identify the distinct contribution that the branches of the Church in England, Ireland and Scotland made to the expansion of the colonial Church. Given the range of metropolitan Anglicans who had a hand in overseas Church expansion, it is not surprising that churchmen found it difficult to establish a coherent British support base that did not impair the unity of the colonial Church.
W. B. Collins noted that a major reason for the missionaries' popularity amongst the Bhils was that they were providing medical care. Medical work has broken down many barriers, softened thousands of hearts, and drawn the people to the Mission. The crisis during the famine period was caused by starvation made lethal through disease. Food provided the best medicine against this deadly combination, and this the missionaries did their best to provide. Jane Birkett wrote to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) authorities stating that the mission needed a proper hospital. Although there was a cantonment hospital at Kherwara, this was not adequate for their needs, for it was forty-eight kilometres away from Lusadiya and about thirty-five from Biladiya, Bavaliya and Ghoradar. The Thakor of Karchha had been eager to provide land for the new hospital at Lusadiya on condition that he and his family receive free treatment.
This chapter considers the Church of England’s relationship with the growth of a range of voluntary associations and societies in the colonies of European settlement in the middle third of the nineteenth century. The Church both contributed to, and benefited from, the growth of a world of voluntary endeavour in the settler colonies. While clergy promoted the establishment of charitable and benevolent societies, fraternal bodies like the Orange Order provided much of the Church’s rank-and-file support in areas like Ontario. This chapter argues that a study of the Church’s engagement with two types of association—the national benevolent society and the Orange Order—can help us answer important questions about the Church’s changing relationship with ethnic and loyalist identities in the colonial world. For instance, the Canadian Church’s involvement with the English St. George’s Societies sheds light on how churchmen were rethinking the role and identity of their Church in an age of disestablishment and political reform. On the one hand associations gave the Church a means of broadening its appeal; on the other, they highlighted the weakness of a Church that was forced to rely on powerful communities of laymen for support and funding.
In 1964, a special meeting of the World Council of Churches was convened at Tubingen in Germany to discuss the role of the medical mission in the postcolonial era. Lesslie Newbigin, a former bishop of the Church of South India, recalled how medical missionaries working in remote villages had once been at the forefront of the evangelical battle against 'the forces of evil'. In his contribution to the debate, Erling Kayser, a Norwegian who had served as a medical missionary in Indonesia, pointed out what he saw as an even deeper problem. Newbigin took it as a given that modern biomedicine was superior to indigenous systems that were associated with paganism. In many respects, biomedical treatment has vindicated the approach that had been favoured by Dr Daniel Christian, namely that of providing small-scale local biomedical facilities run by Bhils for Bhils as a community service.
Bishops were essential for the effective running of a distinct colonial Church. As the nineteenth century wore on bishops began to play a much more important role in the administration of the Church; the figure of the ‘missionary bishop’ also became a key symbol of Anglican renewal and expansion after the mid-1830s. The formation of the Colonial Bishoprics’ Fund (CBF) in 1841 has usually be taken as a key moment in the formation of a colonial Church that was episcopal in outlook and capable of funding and administering itself. This chapter argues that existing work has under-examined two important dimensions of the CBF’s work. Historians have not asked why its fund-raising activities were so successful. The chapter also shows how the expansion of the episcopate was far more contested than existing accounts have given credit. Various Anglican and non-Anglican communities in the colonies resisted the imposition of a more high church, episcopal and English colonial Anglicanism. By showing how individual bishops sought to conciliate these dissentient groups, the chapter sheds light on the kind of postures bishops had to adopt if they were to succeed in creating a popular and genuinely national Church in the colonies.
Mission medicine was made possible by European colonialism, and it inevitably shared some of its characteristics. In the case of the mission to the Bhils, C. S. Thompson distanced himself from the British-officered Mewar Bhil Corps (MBC) in the 1880s so as not to be associated with its punitive raids on the Bhils. In contrast to official colonial medicine, mission medicine sought to situate itself very strongly within non-European social and institutional milieus as a form of day-to-day practice. Christians were required to make use of the services of mission medical workers and accept their allopathic remedies. The mental transformation that the missionaries demanded was therefore secular only to a degree, for it also involved a radical restructuring of belief about the supernatural in the process of healing.