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African Clergy, Bishop Lucas and the Christianizing of Local Initiation Rites: Revisiting 'The Masasi Case'

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image of Journal of Religion in Africa

One of the most famous instances of missionary 'adaptation' was the Christianizing of initiation rites in the Anglican Diocese of Masasi in what is now southeastern Tanzania. This was long assumed to be the work of Bishop Vincent Lucas, who from the 1920s became widely known in mission, colonial and anthropological circles for his advocacy of missions that sought 'not to destroy, but to fulfill' African culture. Terence Ranger in his groundbreaking 1972 article on Lucas and Masasi was the first to point out the crucial role of the African clergy. In reexamining the creation of Christian initiation in Masasi, this article reveals that Lucas's promotion of Christianized initiation was actually based on the vision and efforts of the African clergy, an indication that mission Christianity in the colonial period cannot be assumed to reflect European initiative and African compliance.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Messiah College, One College Ave, Box 3051, Grantham, PA 17027, USA


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