Friday, July 17, 2009

Charles Domingo and Seventh Day Baptists in Malawi

Charles Vicente Domingo can be considered the founder, in 1910, of an ongoing, continuous Seventh Day Baptist work in Nyasaland. He was born about 1880 in Mozambique. Nyasaland, located in Central Africa, was renamed Malawi at the time of independence in 1964. The Seventh Day Baptist work has continued unabated for at least one hundred years. It is unclear whether a Seventh Day Baptist work, however, continued without interruption, between the years 1900 and 1910, since in 1900 the Seventh Day Baptist industrial mission, the Plainfield Industrial Mission (started by the Plainfield Seventh Day Baptist Church) was sold and Joseph Booth, the pioneer missionary, left Seventh Day Baptists for awhile during that time.

The year 1900 is given by the Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions as the date for the founding by Joseph Booth of Seventh Day Baptists in Malawi. The same author, Klaus Fiedler, in the same article on Malawi, gives the year 1910 as the date that "Charles Domingo began the Seventh Day Baptists" in Malawi. Probably in reality then the 100 year anniversary of a continuous, unabated work of Seventh Day Baptists in Malawi is 2010. The 100 year anniversary though was already celebrated by Seventh Day Baptists in Malawi in the past decade.

Klaus Fiedler further writes, "With Malawi being seen as a Presbyterian/Anglican territory, evangelical and Catholic missions were seen as intruders. The early evangelical missions...all go back to Joseph Booth." Klaus Fiedler, a Baptist, though not himself a Seventh Day Baptist, lectured at the Seventh Day Baptist Bible College in Makapwa located in the more heavily populated southern region of Malawi, where Seventh Day Baptists have today their greatest concentration of members.

We will look at the Seventh Day Baptist leaders Domingo and Booth, as well as several other early church and political leaders , to better grasp the story of Seventh Day Baptists, as well as of other early missions, in Malawi.

Malawi was formally named the Nyasaland Protectorate by the British in 1907, although a British Central African Protectorate had been previously formed as early as 1891. The famous Scottish missionary David Livingstone had traversed Malawi on several occasions between 1859 and his death in 1873. Blantyre, Malawi is named for Livingstone's city of birth in Scotland.

Charles Domingo was probably from Quelimane which was near the Indian Ocean in neighboring Mozambique. He was the son of a cook with the African Lakes Company. W. P. Livingstone, the early biographer of Dr. Robert Laws, in his Laws of Livingstonia, calls the young boy a "helpless waif" and claims that the father may have been an alcoholic, but provides no substantiation for this claim.

The remarkable African, William Mthusane Koyi, a Gaika Kafir, was born in 1846 in South Africa. He became a Christian at age 23, and subsequently walked 150 miles to Lovedale, where he trained. He then volunteered to be a missionary to Nyasa with the famous Livingstonia Mission. He had brought the young Domingo to Nyasaland as early as 1881 on his return from furlough. Koyi was to became a very successful and influential evangelist to the Ngoni people.

Domingo very early in life, perhaps from only one or two years of age, was taken care of by Dr. and Mrs Robert Laws. He soon served as a houseboy in their home. Dr. Robert Laws was a well-known physician missionary and the leader of the Livingstonia Mission and spent over 50 years in Malawi (from 1875 until 1927). Domingo received excellent training at its Overtoun Institute at Livingstonia, a noteworthy Free Scottish Presbyterian institution.

Domingo was taken by Dr. Laws in 1891 to South Africa. Laws was on his way to Scotland, as ordered by his mission board, after he had suffered a severe bout of fever. Laws left four young men at Lovedale, in South Africa, one of whom was young Charles Domingo. Laws stopped in Capetown, and gave an address on Nyasaland, which was attended by Joseph Booth, a missionary who had recently arrived from Australia, and who, after hearing Laws, decided to go to Nyasaland, as an independent missionary.

Domingo himself attended the Lovedale Institution which many considered the best school in sub-Saharan Africa at that time. Domingo thus received an excellent theological and academic education.

Back at the Livingstonia mission Dr. Laws, when for a time without a carpenter, taught the young Domingo theology, while Laws himself was working at the carpenter's bench. At Livingstonia and its environs near Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi, or more accurately Maravi) in northern Nyasaland, Domingo served well as the first native assistant in the school, and also served in the church.

W. P. Livingstone's early Law's biography states that Domingo was an elder in the church, even though not officially ordained. He also became a gifted lead singer and soloist. He was formally licensed to preach in 1903. A thanksgiving service at the time of the Laws' silver wedding anniversary was conducted by Domingo. He was, however, partly because of the pervasive, subtle racism of the time, never ordained by the Presbyterians, who were also acknowledgely, very conservative in polity and practice.

The Presbyterian missionaries, did speak very highly of Domingo, and after the 1915 uprising led by Chilembwe, under intense questioning by the British colonial authorities, refused to speak disparagingly of Domingo. Other Malawians, who had good theological training and experience, were also at the time left unordained. This fact, as well as a disagreement at Loudon with the missionary Donald Fraser, may have influenced Domingo's decision to leave the Presbyterians, which he did abruptly in 1908, without giving any advanced notice.

He was baptized by immersion by John Chilembwe, a Yao tribesman and American-trained Baptist pastor. Chilembwe was the Providence Industrial Mission leader. Chilembwe had been brought to the U.S. by Joseph Booth about 1897. Chilembwe had met Booth in 1892 and had served as a household servant, and as a nurse-companion for Booth's little daughter Emily, who had been nursed back from near-death from malaria by Chilembwe, while Booth was gone on an extended mission trip.

Dr. Laws was to have, at a later time, a chance meeting with Domingo in Balantyre, where Laws had travelled by the new train system. He apparently treated Domingo who was ill. Laws' early biographer, W. P. Livingstone reports that Domingo had had dealings with John Chilembwe, "but he never seems to have agreed with his extreme views," and when Laws met Domingo in Balantyre, Domingo had already broken with Chilembwe. W. P. Livingstone also reported that Domingo, after failing to "obtain a footing" along the Nyasa Lake shore, "established a pretentious mud church" in Ngoniland, the pulpit and pew being made also of mud. Livingstone also reported that Domingo "gathered a following, his influence, unlike Chilembwe's being for good."

Charles Domingo briefly worked with the Watchtower movement (Jehovah's Witnesses) and the Church of Christ, perhaps out of financial expediency, but his views remained mostly Presbyterian, except for his new-found views on baptism by immersion and his even later views on the seventh-day Sabbath. He moved around northern Malawi frequently as a Christian evangelist, came under the influence of missionary Joseph Booth, and had become a Seventh Day Baptist leader by 1910, a century ago.

Remarkably, Domingo at one time served nine stations in northern Nyasaland, pastoring about 180 baptized believers. He set up stations with schools for children and young people. He stressed the necessity of not being dependent on foreign missionaries and on subsidies from outside Malawi, a view he later had to modify somewhat, because of a lack of good local jobs, due to colonial inequities and injustices. A related obstacle to an indiginous work was that currency was scarce, the barter system having to be used extensively by the rural people.

Domingo also may have reshaped his thinking about foreigners, after being favorably influenced by the U.S. Seventh Day Baptist missionary, Walter B. Cockerill, who came to Malawi in December 1913 and had bicycled hundreds of miles in the northern part of Malawi by 1914 and early 1915. Cockerill was deported from Malawi in 1915, a scapegoat of the colonial administration's crackdown on mission activity after the January 1915 uprising of John Clilembwe and his supporters, even though Cockerill himself was not involved in any way in the uprising.

George Shepperson and Thomas Price call the youthful Walter Cockerill "an innocent abroad" in their well-researched, definitive book, Independent African, published in 1958, which was primarily a book about the 1915 uprising in Malawi. Cockerill, partly because he was from the town of Berlin in Wisconsin, and also because he was working in the northern region of Nyasaland, near the colony of adjacent Tanganyika, which had become a German protectorate in 1891. Cockerill was suspected, incorrectly, by the British administrators of being a German sympathizer. There was an ongoing proxy war between British Africa and the German colonies in Africa, with a result that the Africans were often conscripted to fight against their wishes.

Because of this abuse and other abuses, Domingo opposed the colonial system, and the white employers who were "cruel as tigers. " The British colonialists dismissed from jobs some of his Seventh Day Baptist congregants who refused to work on the seventh day Sabbath, and were thus often jailed for being unable to pay the hut tax, which had been imposed about 1912. The "bomas" or administrative stations, which were often in the office of the District Commissioner (or "D. C."), were named after the thorn hedge (literally: "stockade of thorns") which surrounded the D. C. in Balantyre.

Although Domingo strongly opposed colonialism, he did not believe in resorting to violence, as Chilembwe had done in the 1915 uprising. In spite of his innocense he was also later deported by the fearful British colonial authorities. Livingstone again reports, "Though unconnected with the rising, Charles Domingo went down in the cataclysm."

Livingstone makes this somewhat biased assessment of Domingos later years, "The writer saw him in 1920 at Mzimba, where [subsequent to his deportation and after his return to Malawi] he was employed in the Government service, and came across his church in the bush falling into ruins. Charles appeared to be conscious of his foolish conduct, but there was nothing against his moral character, which was something to the credit of the careful teaching and training he had received in the [Livingstonia] Mission."

By 1912 there were several thousand Seventh Day Baptist adherents in northern Nyasaland. The church structures were, it is true, mostly unpretentious mud churches with mud benches, in contrast to the impressiive, often beautiful, Presbyterian and Anglican church edifices in Malawi. When I visited the Seventh Day Baptist churches in September 2009 many of them had mud benches or the congregants simply sat on hard-packed mud floors.

Charles Domingo, edited an African version of the Sabbath Recorder magazine in Nyasaland, under Joseph Booth, the editor-in-chief, who was working out of Capetown, South Africa. Booth, accused of being an an "Ethiopianism" supporter by the British colonialists, had been deported from Malawi in 1903. When I visited Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, in the old colonial capital, Zomba, I was able to copy a file full of letters from Charles Domingo. Domingo had written, mostly to Joseph Booth in Africa, and also to the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society in the United States. His hand writing was very neat and beautiful, as was one of his wife's letters. Chancellor College also has, according to the card catologue, the first three issues of the African Sabbath Recorder, which Domingo edited with Charles Booth. The second and third issues seem to be lost and unavailable for viewing, I discovered on my second visit to the college library.

Domingo supported a strong education for the youth, as well as for adults. Unlike Elliot Kamwana, the famous indiginous, charismatic Watchtower leader in northern Nyasaland, who reportedly baptized as many as ten thousand people, Domingo strongly supported education for the youth and adults. Kamwana was generally opposed to education, primarily due to his Watchtower millenial ideas; there was no need to educate people since Christ was supposed to return in 1914, as Jehovah's Witnesses falsely taught. Charles Domingo, on the other hand, was the first trained and educated indiginous teacher in all of Nyasaland, and made the education of the people a high priority of his Christian work.

Joseph Booth, the English nonconformist was born in England 1851, moved from Australia to Nyasaland in 1892, and died in South Africa in 1932. He visited the U.S. in 1897 (author Benjamin Ray says 1895) accompanied by John Chilembwe. Booth published the egalitarian, anti-racist treatise Africa for the African: Dedicated First to Queen Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, Second, to the British and American Christian People, Third and Specially to the African-American people of the United States of America , in the city of Baltimore in 1897. It went through two editions.

He, with the help of the Plainfield, New Jersey Seventh Day Baptist Church, which he had joined in 1898 while he was in America, started an industrial mission in southern Malawi on 2,000 acres near Cholo (now more correctly spelled Thyolo). It came to be known as the Plainfield Mission. The coffee-growing industrial mission was not economically viable for a variety of reasons, one of which was a precipitous drop in coffeee prices, and soon failed and was sold at a great loss to the Seventh Day Adventists. It is now under the Adventists known as Malamulo Mission, one of the showplace, vintage mission complexes in Africa.

Booth was only in Malawi from 1892 until 1903, having been deported, and also banned from returning to Nyasaland, by the British colonial government.

Chilembwe, who went with Joseph Booth to the U.S. in about 1897, attended Virginia Theological Seminary, a National Baptist Convention school, for three years. Chilembwe returned to Malawi in 1899 or 1900 as an ordained Baptist minister, and started Providence Industrial Mission (PIM). He, like Domingo, established mission schools. He completed a beautiful large brick church building there in 1913, later destroyed by the British after the 1915 uprising.

A hut tax had been imposed by the colonial administrators (their colonial stations were nicknamed the "boma") in 1912, which the Malawian correctly viewed as a a form of conscription or slave labor, since half the tax could be rebated for doing a month's work on the white settler's lands. The Malawians were also conscripted to fight European battles on African soil before and during World War I, which many of them resented. The German colony of Tanganyika (now Tanzania) was contiguous to Nyasaland on its north boundary, and the Germans, in similar manner conscripted Africans from their colony.

Chilembwe became famous for leading the 1915 uprising in which several colonial men were killed, including the cruel manager of the Bruce estates, William J. Livingstone, a relative of the famous Scotish missionary-explorer, David Livingstone. It is to be noted in contrast to the killing of the men, that the western women and children were taken to safety, fed, and treated well.

Separatist churches, like the Watchtower Society and the Seventh Day Adventists, to some extent had raised unfulfilled millenial dreams of a new order to be established with Christ's imminent second coming. The white colonial order in Malawi and Africa it was proclaimed would be abolished. The year of 1914 had been set by Jehovah's Witness leader, Charles Taze Russell, for Christ's return.

Chilembwe started the first Central African resistance movement to British colonialist abuses, and is considered by Malawians to be their first national patriot. Near the Mozambique border Chilembwe was shortly tracked down and killed by Nyasaland policemen, working for the colonial government. Other supporters and accomplices of the uprising were also executed by the colonial government.

The only Seventh Day Baptist leader, who I was able to establish, with any certainty, to have been part of the 1915 uprising, was Pastor Filipo Chamaya. He was involved in a planned branch-uprising at Ntcheu. His group of Ngoni supporters were less organized and were apprehended by the District Commission before there was any violence. Chinyama was executed, even though no one had been killed by him or his men.

Joseph Booth very early was a noted denomination hopper, partly for financial reasons, having been variously a Presbyterian, a Baptist, a Seventh Day Baptist , a Seventh Day Adventist, a Watch Tower movement supporter, and a Church of Christ worker. In the end, however, he rejoined and stayed with Seventh Day Baptists. During his visit to the U.S. he published an anti-Watchtower treatise, and distributed it at Chautauqua Lake in New York, where he lectured during the summer.

Booth had come to Malawi in 1892, three weeks after his wife Mary, who had shared the missionary call, died of pneumonia. He independently started the Zambezi Industrial Mission and then the Nyasa Baptist Industrial Mission, before organizing in 1899 the Plainfield Industrial Mission with the help of the Plainfield Seventh Day Baptist Church in New Jersey. Twelve thousand dollars had been paid by the Plainfield Church for the plantation.

Booth left Malawi in 1902 or 1903 after religious disagreement with the Adventists, with whom he had briefly affiliated. He was permanently barred from Malawi by the British colonialists in 1907 for "seditious" ideas. He was a pacificist and not involved in the Chilembwe armed uprising of 1915. He was egalitarian and opposed to colonialism. Booth had angered some whites by paying, what was considered by colonial standards, very high wages to Malawians.

George Shepperson and Thomas Price, Harry Langworthy, T. Jack Thompson, John McCracken, Andrew C. Ross, Robert Rotberg, Bridglal Pachai, D.D. Phiri, have written scholarly works which, among other things, have effectively shown the African response to European and African missionary factors. The three early Malawians trained by the missions, who came under the "Ethiopianism" and "Africa for the African" influence of Joseph Booth, have now become well known in Malawi and African history- John Chilembwe, Elliot (Kenan) Kamwana, and the Seventh Day Baptist Charles Domingo, althought the last has been somewhat less studied than Chilembwe and Kamwana.

Charles Domingo was a better writer than the better-known John Chilembwe. His English was sinificantly better. Apparently the education obtained by Domingo at Lovedale and at Livingstonia, in Africa, was superior to that received by Chilembwe in the segregated Baptist seminary in Virginia, though all three of these were Christian schools.

Domingo effectively used the pen, to oppose the injustices of colonialism in Africa. He was one of the pioneers in an Africa movement for freedom. As the first trained African teacher in Malawi, Domingo placed a high priorty on educating the youth, the future leaders of Africa. Though he, like Booth, had briefly been swayed by the Watchtower movement, his Christian faith remained orthodox and evangelistic. His writings were strongly influenced by the Bible, his primary source book. He emphasized that churches and Christian schools should be led by Africans, and not be so dependent on western missionaries and agencies, a concept that was ahead of the colonial times in Africa. His vision for his people was mostly unfulfilled in his lifetime, due to the colonial inequalities and injustices, and the pervading poverty of his family and people in a colonial culture.

Charles Domingo's vibrant Christian faith, a faith that was practical and holistic, was the hallmark of his life, and of his vision of hope for the African people.


Black, William Henry, Proposal for a Christian Mission to the Millions of Ethiopia and Eastern Africa, Walworth, Wisconsin: J. C. Beard, Crown Row, 1845.

Booth, Joseph, Africa for the African, Baltimore, 1897. Republished by CLAIM (Christian Literature Association in Malawi), Balantyre, Malawi, in the Kachere Series of the University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi in 1996, edited by Laura Perry, 114 pp. , editor's preface, index, illustrations.

Booth, Joseph, Correspondence with American Seventh Day Baptists in the Malawi/Nyasaland Collection, 1898-1915, Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society, Janesville, Wisconsin.

Briggs, Philip, Malawi: The Bradt Travel Guide, Chalfont St Peter, UK: Bradt Publications, 1996, 1999. 246 pages. Chapter 1: History, pages 3-22.

Crosby, Cynthia, Historical Dictionary of Malawi, Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1980. 169 pages, abbreviations and acronyms, chronology, introduction, maps, extensive bibliography with introduction to bibliography. Charles Domingo, pp. 41-42.

Davidson, Basil, The African Genius, Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1969, 367 pp. Illustrations and maps, notes and references, select bibliography, index. Published in England as The Africans. For Charles Domingo, John Clilembwe, and Joseph Booth see pp. 281-283, 288, 296.

Domingo, Charles, and Joseph Booth, "A Native Pastor's Plea for Boys and Girls," Sabbath Recorder, 72, 5 (January 29, 1912), 140-142.

Douglas, John and Kelly White, Spectrum Guide to Malawi, New York: Interlink Publishing Group, 2003, 384 pages. "The History of Malawi" section, pp 30-43.

Harris, Joseph E., Africans and their History, New York, New York: Penguin Books, 1972, second revised edition, 1998. 337 pages, bibliographical notes, index. Booth and Chilembwe pages 198-200, 231, 236. "Chilembwe's Rebellion" pages 198-200.

King, Michael and Elspeth, The Story of Medicine and Disease in Malawi: The 130 Years since Livingstone, Balantyre: The Montforth Press, 183 pages, 1992.

Langworthy, Emily Booth, This Africa Was Mine, Sterling Tract Enterprise, 1950, 139 pp. Introduction by George Shepperson, M.A., Department of History, The University of Edinburgh, 2 maps, 2 photos: Joseph Booth, and daughter Emily Booth as a child, in Malawi. Written by the daughter of Joseph Booth.

Langworthy, Harry, "Africa for the African": The Life of Joseph Booth, CLAIM: Balantyre, Malawi, 1996, 520 pp. Kachere Monograph Number 2, University of Malawi, Zomba, Malawi. Bibliography, index, 40 illustrations, including maps. Harry Langworthy is the great grandson of Joseph Booth and the grandson of Emily Booth.

Langworthy, Harry W., "Charles Domingo, Seventh Day Baptists and Independency," Journal of Religion in Africa, 15,2 (1985), 96-121.

Langworthy, Harry W., "Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915," Journal of Religion in Africa xvi, 1 (1986), pp 22-43.

Livingstone, W. P., Laws of Livingstonia: A Narrative of Missionary Adventure and Achievement, London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1921. 385 pages, introduction, many photos, endmap, index. Domingo pages 194, 257, 277, 277, 309, 327, 339, 355.

Lohrentz, Kenneth, "Joseph Booth, Charles Domingo, and the Seventh Day Baptists in Northern Nyasaland, 1910-1912," Journal of African History, 12, 3 (1971), 461-480.

McCracken, John, Politics and Christianity in Malawi 1875-1940: The Impact of the Livingstonia Mission in the Northern Province, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1st edition, 1977. CLAIM edition, 2000, 376 pages, 5 maps, preface, abbreviations page, bibliography, index.

Moreau, A. Scott, editor, Evangelical Dictionary of Missions, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000, 1068 pp. Articles on "Malawi" and on "Joseph Booth" both by Klaus Fielder.

Moore, N. Olney., and Wayland D. Wilcox, "The Report of the Visit to South and Central Africa," Sabbath Recorder 73, 22 (November 25, 1912, 695-735.

Moore, N. Olney., "Seventh Day Baptists and Mission Work in Nyasaland, Africa," Riverside, Cailfornia, 1950, Duplicated copies.

Morrison, J. H., Missionary Heroes of Africa, New York: George H. Doran Co., 1922. reprinted New York: Negro University Press, 1969, 267 pages. Chapters on David Livingstone, Stewart of Lovedale, and Laws of Livingstonia.

Pachai, Bridglal, editor, Livingstone, Man of Africa: Memorial Essays 1973-1973, London: Longman Group, 1973. 245 pages, notes, index, includes essays by George Shepperson, Andrew C. Ross, and John McCracken.

Pachai, Bridglal, editor, The Early History of Malawi, Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1972, 454 pages.

Pachai, Bridglal, Malawi: The History of the Nation, London: Longman Group, 1973, 324 pages. Charles Domingo, see pp. 89, 169-170, 176, 179, 204-205, 210.

Pearson, Bettie, "An Old Soldier of Christ," Sabbath Recorder, 189, 4 (July 27, 1970), P. 6-7.

Pearson, David C., Seventh Day Baptists in Central Africa, Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society assisted author in publication, 2003. 138 pages, forward by Janet Thorngate, introduction by author, 2 maps, biography of Malawian SDB leaders, list of SDB missionaries and their dates of service, explanatory notes, bibliography, index. Charles Domingo, pages 14-19 in chapter 4 "Booth Relives."

Phiri, D. D., History of Malawi: from Earliest Times to the Year 1915, Christian Literature Association in Malawi (CLAIM), 2004, 292 pages, references, index. Pages 163-167 has sections on Seventh Day Baptists Charles Domingo and Alexander Makwinja.

Ray, Benjamin C., African Religions: Symbol, Ritual, and Community, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1976. 238 pages, introduction, notes, bibliography, index, map. Chapter 6, "Religion and Rebellion," includes pages 159-165: "John Chilembwe and the Nyasaland Uprising of 1915."
Ross, Andrew C., Balantyre Mission and the Making of Modern Malawi, Balantyre, Malawi, 1996. Ross, R. K., Christianity in Malawi: A Source Book

Rotberg, Robert I. The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1965,1972. 360 pages, preface, postscript, note on the sources, select bibliography, index. Charles Domingo, pages 69-72, 76-77, 135. Seventh Day Baptist Church, pages 64, 66, 70-71, 85, 151.

Sanders, Renfield, Malawi, New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1988, 103 pages.

Sanneh, Lamin, Disciples of All Nations: Pillars of World Christianity, New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. 362 pages, inroduction, notes, maps, select bibliography, index. Charles Domingo, pp 142-143, 307.

Shepperson, George, and Thomas Price, Independent African: John Chilembe and the Origins, Setting, and Significance of the Nyasaland Uprising of 1915, Edinburgh, Scotland: The University Press, 1958. 564 pages, introduction, illustrations, notes and references, sources appendices, index, endmap. Charles Domingo, see pp. 159-169, 183, 210,213, 223, 241-242, 323, 334, 339.

Shepperson, George, "Joseph Booth and the African Diaspora," Tenth Herkovits Memorial Lecture, Evanston, Illinois, 1972.

Singano, E. and A. A. Roscoe, Tales of Old Malawi, 1974, amended and enlarged 2nd edition, 106 pages, 1980. Forward, thirty tales from Malawi's oral tradition, 137 riddles plus meaning of riddles.

Siwane, Nyaniso James, The Unknown Made Known: A History of Seventh Day Baptists in South Africa, published by the Seventh Day Baptist Conference of South Africa and the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society, 1995. See Chapter 4 " Joseph Booth: The European Connection"
Thompson, T. Jack, Christianity in Northern Malawi: Donald Fraser's Methods and Ngoni Culture, Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1995. 292 pages, peface, glossary, map, 20 photos, bibliography, index. Charles Domingo pp. 166-169, 173, 177, 223.

White, Landeg, Magomero: Portrait of an African Village, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987, 1st paperback edition 1989. 271 pages, preface, illustrations, maps, sources, index. Much Chilembwe and some Booth information.

Williams, Walter Lee, Black Americans and the Evangelization of Africa, 1877-1900, Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


John Calvin (1509-1564) was born a half a millenium ago in Noyon, France. Yesterday, July 10, was the 500 year anniversary of his birth. The son of a lawyer for the Roman Catholic Church, John Calvin had a conversion experience between 1528 and 1533, and formally broke with the Roman Catholic Church in 1533. John Calvin eventually became a dominant leader in the Protestant Reformation through his powerful preaching, systematic theological writing, organizational and administrative skills, and missionary zeal. Reformers associated with Calvin in Geneva and Strasbourg included Guillaume Farel, Martin Bucer, and Theodore Beza.

The Protestant Reformation began on the European continent with intensive study of New Testament texts by scholars such as Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and John Calvin. Geneva in particular became the center of Reformation scholarship, as John Calvin and Theodore Beza were Greek and Latin scholars.The Reformers were involved in translating the Scripture into the vernacular. Many English Protestant leaders found safe haven in Switzerland and Germany. They studied and wrote primarily in Geneva. English and French translations of the New Testament and the whole Bible were produced. Miles Coverdale completed the first complete Bible with Apochrypha, in the English language. It was published in Zurich in 1535. A French Bible was translated by Pierre Olivetan, a cousin of Calvin. Notable English and Scotish Protestant exiles to the continent were William Wittingham, John Knox, John Foxe, John Bodley, John Bale, William Kethe, William Williams, Anthony Gilby, Christopher Goodman, Thomas Wood, Thomas Sampson, William Cole, and Thomas Cole. The Geneva Bible translation was supported by John Calvin, Theodore Beza, and John Knox, all considered some of the greatest Protestant theologians in history. Beza had published several editions of the Greek and Latin New Testaments. The Geneva Bible New Testament was finished in 1557 and the complete Geneva Bible in 1560, a year and a half after the death of Queen Mary, who had persecuted the Protestants. The Geneva Bible was in English, but the sources for the translation were in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, and prior English translations. The Geneva Bible had extensive Calvinist-oriented notes on the Bible text. John Bodley (father of the Bodelian Library of Oxford's namesake, Thomas Bodley) was the primary financial backer of the Geneva Bible. One of the primary translators, William Wittingham, a Greek scholar, was married to the sister of John Calvin's wife. The King James Bible was very indebted to the Geneva Bible, as were both translations to the earlier Tyndale Bible.

John Calvin's followers also were leaders in the developement of constitutional and representative government, the right of the people to change government, and the separation of church and civil government. In France his followers were refered to as Huguenots, and, in the British Isles and the Americas, they were called Puritans. These ideas of representative government were originally limited to the land-owning aristocracy but over the next century, especially in Holland, England and Scotland, and Colonial America more democratic ideals developed and flourished, culminating in the first flowering of extensive liberty in the small state of Rhode Island, founded by the Calvinist (or "Particular") Baptists Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke.

It is true that Calvin's administration of justice erred. Some of his opponents were tortured and executed, the most notable being Servetus, who was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1559.

Will Durant called John Calvin's massive masterpiece, Institutes of the Christian Religion, "one of the ten books that shook the world." This influential and systematic exposition of Bible doctrine, followed and expanded on the articles of the Apostle's Creed. It was revised at least five times between 1536 (first edition) and 1559. The book became the fundamental treatise in the developement of a truly evangelical theology. Calvin held that the Bible was the basis of all Christian teaching. He was indebted, however, to the writings of Augustine, the Apostles' Creed, and the Nicene Creed, as well as to other early church writings. Calvin published the first of his many Bible commentaries, the Commentary on Romans, in Strasbourg in 1539.

His only child died at birth in 1542, and his wife died in 1549. In 1559 Calvin founded an academy in Geneva, which eventually became a university. Calvin has been described as a simple, reticent, and austere man, and not very much is known about his personal life.

Max Weber's well-known, but flawed, thesis (translated into English and published as The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism) pictured Calvin as the source and spirit of modern capitalism, drawing heavily on the ideas of deist Benjamin Franklin, and misconstruing prolific English Puritan writer Richard Baxter. Calvinists were portrayed as exhibiting brotherly love only as a means of bringing glory to God, and thus devoid of real interest in the welfare of individuals or the community. Calvin did, it is true, as opposed to Luther, encourage the taking of interest. Robert Mitchell shines a beam of light on the issue: "Calvin's theological doctrines are based upon Scripture, and his social and economic views are related to his teachings of the Bible and how he should conduct his life." Georgia Harkness states " More consistently than any other Reformation leader, Calvin taught that the Bible was the sole authority in matters of faith and conduct." William Williston argues "...Far more than Luther... Calvin treated the Scriptures as a new law regulative of the Christian life." Richard Baxter (1615-1691), himself, probably better describes this ethic than does Max Webber. In his 17th century English, Baxter writes," True Morality of the Christian Ethick, is the Love of God and Man, stirred up by the Spirit of Christ, through faith: and exercised in works of Piety, Justice, Charity, and Temperance."

Calvinists have often, and unfairly been criticized for a lack of missionary passion and activity. Roger Greenway, in his article on Calvinism, in the Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, refutes this view both with Scripture and from history. He shows that Calvinism stresses truths that encourage missions. Three truths or doctrines are analyzed in relationship to missions: the glory of God, the kingdom of God, and the sovereignty of God. Historically, Calvinists have fielded the majority of missionaries in many parts of Asia (Korea for example) and the South Pacific , Africa (Moffat, Livingstone, Laws, Lovedale, etc.) and Latin America, and have had a major role in the missionary enterprise for over two centuries. Greenway writes, "There are critics who argue that Cavinism's emphasis on the sovereinty of God discourages mission...Calvinism's defense lies in its submission to the Scriptures which clearly teach both divine sovereignty and Christian duty to co-labor with God in mission."

John Calvin, himself, was, ostensibly, the most mission minded of all the early Reformers sending many evangelists back into his French homeland. He also in 1555 commissioned four missionaries to evangelize the indiginous people (Native Americans) of Brazil. Tragically, the mission and colony was plundered by the Portuguese and the few survivors martyred by Jesuits.

Calvin taght that the Bible was the supreme authority not only in spiritual matters, but also on the nature of all human institutions. His doctrinal statements began and ended with Scripture, even though he was well versed in the early church fathers and in the classic literature of the ages. Calvin writes in his Institutes "Read Demosthenes or Cicero, read Plato, Aristotle, or any others of that class; I grant you that you will be attracted, delighted, moved, enraptured by them in a surprising manner; but if, after reading them, you turn to the perusal of the sacred volume, whether you are willing or unwilling, it will affect you so powerfully, it will so penetrate your heart, and impress itself so strangely on your mind that, compared with its energetic influence, the beauties of rhetoricians and philosophers will almost entirely disappear; so that it is easy to perceive something divine in the sacred Scriptures, which far surpasses the highest attainments and ornaments of human industry." Further, he writes 'This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare."

Further Reading:

Brake, Donald, A Visual History of the English Bible, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008

Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, translated by Henry Beveridge, 2 volumes, Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1983.

Harkness, Georgia, John Calvin: The Man and His Ethics, New York: Abingdon Press, 1931, 1958.

McNeill, John T., editor and introduction, John Calvin on God and Political Duty, New York: Liberal Arts Press, , 1950, 1956

Mitchell, Robert M., Calvin's and the Puritan's View of the Protestant Ethic, Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979

Moreau, A. Scott, Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1990. See "Calvinism" article by Roger S. Greenway.

Van Halsema, Thea B., This was John Calvin, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959, 1990