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Christian mission, politics, and socio-economic development: the contribution of Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation.


This article considers the contribution of the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation to the political and socio-economic development of Zambia. First, the introduction and growth of Christianity in the mining areas of the Copperbelt are explored. Next, the article traces the formation and development of the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation. In the third place, it analyses the role played by the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in the politics and development oj Zambia during the first decades of its formation, including its participation in Zambia's struggle for independence. After political independence, the foundation continued to fulfil a major part in facilitating reconciliation between blacks and whites. The article argues that the participation of the church in God's mission in the world cannot be divorced from socio-economic and political realities.

There are many studies about missionaries and their activities in Zambia. (1) However, very few of these concentrate on the work of the missionaries in the Copperbelt province and on the activities of the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in particular. (2) The Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (MEF) is one of the Christian institutions that developed a critical view of colonial power structures in pre-independence Zambia. (3) This article considers the origins and development of the MEF and its contribution to development and the growth of Christianity in Zambia. The origins of MEF can be traced back to the struggles of the African miners and their families to access welfare and educational facilities and to the initiative of the mission church to respond to these needs.

The expansion of mines in Zambia's Copperbelt province led to rapidly increasing rural-to-urban migration. People from the rural parts of Zambia and neighbouring countries in southern Africa moved to the mines, where they faced many challenges. First, there was the loss of family ties and of African cultural values due to their exposure to Western lifestyles. Second, there was segregation of whites and blacks in the mines. The colonial government promoted a racial policy called "the colour bar" under which whites and blacks were not allowed to mix socially. (4) Blacks in the mines got less pay than their white counterparts while doing the same jobs. Whites went to good schools, exclusively for them, while blacks had to attend poor-quality schools. The colonial government had no proper welfare and education policy for blacks in the Copperbelt. (5) It was for this reason that the mission church took the initiative to provide education and welfare facilities for African miners and their families. Morrow records:
There was a move in 1931, stemming from the Merle Davis Commission
of that year, to commence systematic mission work on the Copperbelt.
However, it was not until 1933 that the London Missionary Society,
the main Protestant mission society working in the area of Northern
Rhodesia that supplied much of the labour of the Copperbelt, followed
the advice of the International Missionary Council's Commission
of Enquiry, and made an appointment to the Copperbelt. (6)

In 1932 the International Missionary Council (IMC) sent Merle Davis and a team of sociologists to survey the Zambian Copperbelt to define how the church could do holistic mission there. (7) The survey report recommended the strengthening of ecumenism in the area. In 1934, the London Missionary Society (LMS) founded the Mindolo Mission in the Copperbelt. Mindolo mission station "became the centre of much of the Copperbelt missionary work." (8) The Rev. R.J.B. Moore, the founding missionary of Mindolo mission station, raised a strong voice of protest against the injustices, perpetrated by the colonial government and authorities in the mines.

In 1935, African workers in the mines on the Copperbelt went on strike to protest against tax increases. Colonial government forces shot dead a number of African miners. (9) In response, the mission church on the Copperbelt became more determined in its protest against colonialism and racial segregation. In January 1936, reacting to the recommendations of the IMC's Commission of Enquiry, the General Missionary Conference of Northern Rhodesia established the Copperbelt United Mission, which in December of the same year became the United Missions in the Copperbelt (UMCB). Its aim was to promote ecumenism. (10)

The UMCB thus became an ecumenical body that undertook to provide welfare and education in the Copperbelt. It worked closely with mining companies and government in building educational structures and social services for the local community. (11) The initial plan of the UMCB was to "undertake evangelistic, social and recreational, and educational work." (12) It was noted that almost all the African youths in the Copperbelt were uneducated, making the area susceptible to crime. To address this situation, the UMCB focused much of its attention on education. Because the UMCB provided education and social services, it attracted many people to Christianity, and the churches in the area grew significantly.

Unlike mine owners in Zimbabwe, authorities in the Zambian mines did not allow black miners to migrate and bring their families to the Copperbelt. Black miners lived in single quarters. The colonial government and the mine authorities refused to build schools for black children in the mines, arguing that black children belonged in the rural parts of Zambia. As the colonial administration was oriented toward a rural society, it was slow in responding to the problems that came with social change in the Copperbelt. (13) For example, the mine officials took a long time to give the UMCB permission to build a school in Mindolo, where Nkana mine was located. The missionaries decided to combine their spiritual message with social gospel. At Mindolo mission, Rev. Moore took it upon himself to supervise education and a dispensary and to conduct classes for catechumens. He trained evangelists and distributed Christian literature while promoting education and welfare services for Africans.

Missionaries held different opinions on the responsibility of the church to provide education and welfare services. Some felt that the church needed to focus on evangelistic work rather than on education and welfare sendees. Others maintained that evangelistic work could not be achieved without considering education and welfare services for Africans. Rev. Moore emphasized evangelism in his own work. But he also ensured that education and social services were attended to. He often spoke on behalf of the marginalized Africans. (14) There was another strike by African mine workers in March 1940. This strike followed on a strike by European employees. At Nkana mine, which was in the catchment area of Mndolo mission, protest actions by miners were the strongest. A few miners were shot dead by the colonial government forces. The shooting of Africans during the strike attracted the attention of missionaries such as Rev. Moore, who strongly condemned the colonial government and the mine authorities for disregarding the rights of the blacks. The leaders of the UMCB were criticized for not facilitating reconciliation meetings between the African miners and the mine officials at an early stage of the strike. The UMCB was criticized for not speaking out clearly about the shooting of Africans. (15) Rev. Moore said that the leaders of the UMCB did not oppose the colonial authorities more radically because, as he put it, the UMCB leadership "were amongst those protected by machine guns." (16) Moore's attacks on government authorities, mine officials, and the UMCB leadership led to his expulsion from Copperbelt. (17) Moore saw no separation between the socio-political and the spiritual roles of the church. He was clearly conscious of the fact that the church had to engage with economic and socio-political issues, which he saw as the spiritual role of a missionary. However, other missionaries thought that evangelistic tasks would suffer if they became involved in socio-political issues. In 1950, the UMCB resolved that the provision of development and welfare services was fundamentally the work of the government. Consequently, the UMCB handed over its work to the government, the mines, and the municipalities. (18) The church now focused purely on doing evangelistic work.

The model of mission and evangelism employed by the mission church was influenced bv economic and political developments in Zambia. In the late 1930s and the 1940s, when labour unions started to fight for the rights of black people, the colonial settlers reacted by trying to consolidate their power. Unionists and nationalists called for the social and economic advance of Africans. (19) To secure their power, whites in Zambia joined with those in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and Nyasaland (Malawi) and formed the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. (20) Africans strongly opposed the establishment of the federation because they felt that, as the black majority, they were seriously discriminated against by the white minority in all spheres of nationhood--religious, political, economic, and social. In 1944, a senior Bemba chief argued in the Northern Provincial Council against the new federation, and many other traditional leaders spoke out, fearing that they would lose to the European settlers land that traditionally belonged to Africans. In addition to traditional leaders, government clerks and teachers who were members of the African Representative Council protested against the formation of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. (21)

African nationalism continued to grow in Zambia. Africans decided to form a political party that could fight the injustices perpetrated by white settlers. In 1948, the Northern Rhodesia Congress was formed--after 1951, known as the Northern Rhodesia African National Congress (NRANC)--with Harry Mwanga Nkumbula as its president. The party attracted traditional leaders and trade unionists, all of whom opposed the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In March 1953, Nkumbula burned the British White Paper on Federation, called the nation to boycott the regulations of the federation, and called for two days of national prayers, to take place in April, during which all Africans would strike. However, the colonial government, mining companies, and other big employers crushed the plans by threatening workers who took part in the strike with instant dismissal. Only a few workers in Mufulira put down their tools. In April 1953, the NRANC took its protest against the federation a step further by appealing to the Queen and the House of Parliament in London, but no response was received. European settlers continued to exploit Africans and, in spite of the African opposition, the colonial government went ahead. In August 1953, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland became a fact. (22)

Africans continued to fight for freedom. Nationalists encouraged students, mine workers, and other black Africans to boycott and picket European businesses that discriminated against blacks. In 1955, the party leaders, Kenneth Kaunda and Nkumbula, were arrested and jailed for two months for being in possession of prohibited literature. (23) The situation of Andean mine workers worsened between 1955 and 1957 as a result of falling copper prices. The unemployment rate and, as a result, the poverty among black Africans was on the increase. The colonial government responded with beatings and arrests. It launched an investigation of all nationalists and sought stronger legislation against boycotting and picketing. The UMCB became concerned about the plight of Africans in Zambia and realized that the mission of the Church and its evangelization could not succeed unless the church made up its mind to seriously engage with political and socio-economic developments in the country. The church now began to look for ways to respond to the social, economic, and political needs of Africans.

Formation of Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation

The church continued to train evangelists and to provide Christian literature in the midst of the political and economic upheavals. In 1957, the churches in the Copper-belt tried to strengthen ecumenism. Consequently, the Copperbelt Christian Council (CCC) was formed to investigate the possibility of adopting a new model of mission and of promoting new forms of unity among Christians. The Council was tasked with investigating and determining areas of immediate, urgent need where the church could make a contribution. The CCC recommended the formation of an ecumenical centre that could foster ecumenical approaches to Christian activities. This is the background against which the MPT was eventually established in Copperbelt province of Zambia in 1958. (24) It was set up as an ecumenical centre for dialogue and social training. Rev. E.J. Peter Mathews was the founding leader of the centre. (25)

The centre was located next to the Mindolo mission church (26) of the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia (UCCAR). (27)

The formation of the MEF was of general significance for two reasons. First, political developments had made the church aware of the need for ecumenism. After the Second World War, the spirit of nationalism swept through Africa. Africans started to fight for political independence. Ghana became independent in 1957, and many more African countries gained their independence in the 1960s. (28) However, the position of the mission church was ambivalent. On the one hand, the church was an agent of colonialism." (29) Some European missionaries worked hand in hand with colonial authorities, as the work of the UMCB indicates. On the other hand, the church produced nationalists who fought against European imperialism, such as Rev. Moore and Kenneth Kaunda. The tension between the two positions of the Church--its involvement in the colonization process and, simultaneously, in the liberation of Africans--necessitated the formation of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) as a platform where churches could meet and discuss issues that affected the African continent. A conference held in 1958 in Ibadan, Nigeria, set up a provisional committee to prepare for the first AACC assembly, which took place in Kampala, Uganda, in 1963. (30) The AACC constitution was adopted, and S. H. Amissah from Ghana was elected as first general secretary. It was agreed that the AACC secretariat would be based at the MEF in Kitwe, Zambia. (31) In 1965 it was moved from Mindolo to Nairobi, Kenya. Thus MEF came to serve as an inter-church centre for dialogue and social training. (32)

The formation of MEF was aimed at strengthening ecumenism at a time when the struggle for independence in Zambia reached a peak. (33) In 1958, young nationalists including Kenneth Kaunda, Sikota Wina, and Simon Kapwepwe joined the NRANC. They were committed to black emancipation and the establishment of an independent state. However, their leader, Nkumbula, did not expect that independence for Africans would soon become a reality. He got along well with white settlers. (34) Differences of opinion between Nkumbula and the young nationalists resulted in 1959 in a schism. Kaunda, Wina, Kapwepwe, and others broke away to form the Zambia African National Congress (ZANC). (35) In Malawi, in the same year, it was rumoured that nationalists planned to murder white settlers. The federal government declared a state of emergency. ZANC and NRANC were banned, and Kaunda and other nationalists imprisoned. (36) There were riots across the country. Africans smashed shop windows and attempted to burn down the rest-house used by members of the African Legislative Council. In October 1959, former members of ZANC formed the United National Independence Party (UNIP). In 1960, Kaunda and other nationalists were released from prison and Kaunda became the leader of the new party. (37)

The formation of the MEF was also aimed at pioneering a new model of mission in Africa, and in Zambia in particular. Western civilization and fast-growing towns posed a challenge to many Africans. It was difficult for the mission church to flourish in areas where people were torn between African cultures and the social changes brought on by western civilization. Hence the promotion of ecumenism and the establishment of the MEF. These initiatives were an attempt to introduce a new model of mission in the Copperbelt. The centre served as a venue for dialogue, conferences, and training courses in domestic science for women. It enabled the church to address spiritual, political, and socio-economic issues in the Copper-belt. It also served as an instrument for renewal of the church in mission, and as such it received much support from overseas mission partners. (38)

Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation's Model of Mission

The LMS and other missionary societies were aware of the need to not only preach about spiritual salvation, but to attend to political and socio-economic concerns of the community as well. They opened schools, hospitals, and welfare centres. To strengthen its missionary work in the urban areas of the Copperbelt, the MEF adopted the same model. First, the centre engaged with research to ascertain the needs of the community (7). With the cooperation of the World Council of Churches (WCC), it sponsored a study focusing on the responsibility of the church in a rapidly changing Copperbelt. The IMC sent Rev. John Taylor and Dr Dorothea Lehmann to conduct a survey of the life of African churches in the Copperbelt. (39) The German churches took care of the agricultural perspective by sponsoring Mr E. Greenshields of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of Rome, who was tasked with studying the needs of the rural areas surrounding the Copperbelt province. The MEF acquired a 10,000-acre farm where young people followed a three-year course in commercial farming. (40) Furthermore, Robert A. Lazear carried out a study on the state of adult education, establishing the need to train leaders of the nation. Research carried out at the MEF informed the church on specific areas in the province that required the church's attention as the MEF carried out its mission. (41)

Second, the centre organized conferences where participants exposed and condemned injustices perpetrated by the colonial government and raised awareness of social and economic issues. The growth of the mines attracted workers from different parts of Africa to the Copperbelt. The situation was complicated by segregation of blacks and whites. The MEF organized conferences where unfair treatment of Africans by whites was discussed. The centre's voice supplemented that of the African nationalists calling for political independence. (42) Due to this pressure, the British government proposed in 1961 to change the constitution so that Africans would in the future form a majority in the legislature. But the federal prime minister, Sir Roy Welensky, challenged the proposal. He feared that the concessions made in the proposed constitution would lead to Zambia's secession from the federation. (43) The result was that the UNIP began a stronger civil disobedience campaign, called Cha cha cha, throughout the northern and eastern parts of Zambia. Kaunda and other nationalists were largely influenced by Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolent protest, consisting of boycotts, pickets, rallies, roadblocks, and other acts of civil disobedience. (44) As a result of the protests, the colonial government revised the constitution in 1962, allowing UNIP and ANC to participate in the October 1962 elections. UNIP and ANC won two thirds of the total vote between them and gained a majority of government seats. (45) With opposition leaders now in government, the federation was dissolved in 1963. In early 1964, Northern Rhodesia held another election, based on universal adult suffrage. The election gave UNIP a decisive majority: Kaunda was elected prime minister, and Zambia was granted full independence on 24 October 1964. (46)

The MEF continued to organize conferences to fight the racist colonial policy known as the "colour bar." It stopped whites from mixing with blacks. The WCC sent its race relations consultant Rev. Daisuke Kitagawa to spend three months at the MEF, and a series of conferences on race relations now brought together teachers, civic leaders, welfare workers, ministers of religion, business managers, and workers of mining companies. The conferences helped participants of different races to foster communication and friendship between them. (47) Another result was that many whites in Zambia began to appreciate the need to join the fight for black emancipation.

By the time protests against colonialism had reached a point of great intensity, the MEF organized a conference to discuss the problems that Africans were experiencing under the federal government. The conference was attended by representatives of the churches, trade unions, the business community, the IMC, the WCC, and the Churches Commission on International Affairs. Participants were blacks and whites, and they freely deliberated the factors that affected the future of the country. Through the conference, the MEF managed to bring together, for the first time, representatives of the federal government and nationalists and to facilitate reconciliation between them. (48) In 1964, the MEF, WCC, and South African Institute of Race Relations organized a conference that addressed Christianity and race relations in Southern Africa. The conference was attended by WCC General Secretary Dr W.A. Visser't Hooft, Afrikaans ministers and academics, African and European church leaders, sociologists, and specialists in race relations from Africa and overseas. Thus, through conferences and seminars, the MEF became the instigator of peace and political reconciliation in Africa.

In the process, the MEF focused on raising awareness of social, economic, and community development issues in the Copperbelt. Its first conference on community development saw leaders in the mines, municipal councils, government departments, church, and trade unions gathering. The conference affirmed that, while the government employed social and community development workers, the church had a mandate to ensure that civic and community leaders deliver meaningful development to the community. In view of this, the MEF took it upon itself to train voluntary Christian community (7) development workers. (49) The AACC sponsored two family life seminars to discuss the stress and strain caused by industrialization in Africa. (50) All this meant that the institution was consistent in affirming the 19th-century missionary understanding of its mandate by recognizing the need to engage with both the spiritual and social needs of people. David Livingstone and Venn had balanced between messages of personal salvation and social renewal. They acknowledged that the very presence of missions in a society has social implications. (51)

Third, MEF conducted a couple of training courses; participants came from Zambia and other African countries. There were courses in family life to help families deal with the devastating impact of industrialization on traditional lifestyles. More than 73 tribes--matrilineal and patrilineal--mixed in the Copperbelt, resulting in unstable marriages and family patterns. The centre for women provided a four-month residential course in Christian homemaking. The syllabus included domestic science and topics touching on basic social and personal problems from a Christian perspective. Married women attended the course and were joined by their husbands during the last week. (52) By 1969, the MEF had an average of 120 students in residence throughout the year studying in five different programmes. Between 1958 and 1968, more than 500 wives and mothers had been trained in domestic science and Christian leadership. Betty Kaunda, the wife of the first president of Zambia, was one of the students. (53) Through its training programmes, MEF has contributed significantly to the education of women in Zambia. Especially the courses in social work, community development, youth leadership, and domestic science have benefited women. (54)

The Literacy and Literature Committee of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America (US) coordinated a four-month course in journalism presented by the EMF. Its duration was later extended to two years. The centre has, over the years, produced journalists who have made worthy contributions to Zambian society. A six-week course in nation building, aimed at emerging African leaders, was introduced by the Pan African centre for dialogue and reflection. The course prepared upcoming leaders for taking up political leadership once independence would be achieved. Its syllabus included political science, communication, social ethics, and economics. The centre also trained social workers and community development workers. (55)

When it was observed that white farmers in the Copperbelt did better than blacks, the MEF set up a course in agriculture to equip African farmers with new farming methods that would help to advance the country's economy. Participants were introduced to the use of machinery and the establishment of farming cooperatives. The World Council of Christian Education (WCCE), the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), and the Student Christian Movement (SCM) assisted the MEF to set up a course in youth leadership where many young Zambians were trained as youth workers. (56)

In addition, the MEF served as a pan-African ecumenical centre and a civil society organization. Due to its involvement in politics, peace, and nation building, the institution developed a special relationship with the United Nations (UN). Rev. Peter Mathews persuaded the Swedish Church to give $75,000 to the MEF to build a library in memory of former United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold, who died in a plane crash in Ndola in 1961. The library houses a huge number of books which serve both the centre and the general public. (57) In 1967, delegates to two UN seminars held in Kitwe stayed at Mindolo. (58) The institution runs the Dag Hammarskjold Messengers of Peace training programme. The programme is concerned with questions of peace and conflict and on conflict resolution. (59) In December 2000, the Dag Hammarskjold Centre for Peace, Good Governance and Human Rights was established on the MEF campus with the aim of disseminating information on issues concerning peace and conflict resolution and honouring the legacy of Dag Hammarskjold. In the same vein, Copperbelt University (CBU) has opened a Dag Hammarskjold Institute of Peace Studies, and in 2012 the director of this institute initiated a discussion with MEF on a possible collaboration in peace studies. The initiative was supported by the former archbishop of the Church of Sweden, K.G. Hammer, who emphasized that the promotion of peace is the aim of the WCC. (60) The MEF and the CBU later agreed to strengthen their collaboration in this respect. (61)

The MEF has also consistendy engaged with economic issues in Zambia. The political situation in South Africa and Zimbabwe did affect the growth of the MEF. The institution was intimately involved in the political, social, and economic sectors. (62) After Zambia's independence, it continued to play a role in the struggle to create new economic life in Zambia. Kaunda introduced Zambian humanism, a political and economic ideology called Ujaama, that promotes a Christian African socialism. Kaunda advocated for African participation in the private sector in order to ensure economic justice. (63) The MEF responded to the changes in government and economic policies by introducing pertinent courses that prepared Africans to participate fully in the Zambian economy. (64) A series of seminars on business management was held to help Africans run businesses effectively. The seminars suggested that business people of European and Asian origin should avoid exploitation by offering good conditions of service to their employees. The institution ran these courses and the seminars in collaboration with Barclays Bank, attempting to build better race relations in workplaces and to help the community overcome economic challenges. (65)

Over the years, the MEF has offered courses tailored to the needs of the community. Among these were courses in the field of church music, on the witness of the church in the community (evangelism), on stewardship, in-service training for ministers, and courses concerning HIV/AIDS. These programmes have enabled the MEF to do holistic mission in a contextual and relevant manner. (66) The centre has always been a place offering intercultural experience. It has been a home for people from different parts of the world. Dr G.A. Krapf and Mr Martin Stabler came from Germany, Mrs Essie Johnson and Miss Muriel Bissell from Canada; Rev. Peter Matthews from Australia, Dr Donald M'Tinkulu, the first principal, and Mrs Edith M'Kele from South Africa; Mr E. Voet from the Netherlands; Mrs Sonja Leander from Sweden; Fr Charley Thomas and Rev. Reuben Daka from Zambia. The current director, Bishop Mwangi, is from Kenya. (67) But running the MEF has not been without its challenges.

Challenges in the Running of Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation

The political situation in South Africa and Zimbabwe affected the growth of the MEF. In countries that had not yet gained independence, it was difficult for churches to fully participate in ecumenical programmes. For one thing, the struggle for independence kept them occupied. In Zambia, however, it was the church that produced nationalists who fought colonialism. Nationalists such as Kenneth Kaunda had denounced the mission church for collaborating with colonial authorities. (68) But even in Zambia it took a long time to produce capable men and women who were ready to take on leadership roles in the MEF. Hence, the institution was for a long time operated by Western mission partners and ecclesiastical bodies. This proved to be costly. (69)

The MEF had developed as an Inter-Church Aid project of the WCC. It drew 75 percent of its finances from national councils of churches around the world. In its early stages, the institution received support locally from mining companies, foundations, and trusts, but its operations largely depended on foreign aid. (70) The situation was further complicated by failure of the Zambian economy in the late 1970s, when the mining industry in Zambia collapsed as a result of tumbling copper prices, and the MEF stopped receiving substantial support from the mines. At its inception in 1958, the institution had only a few thatched houses for staff. By 1968, the assets of the institution were valued at about $1 million and the total budget was at $300,000. The budget was met by an income based on contributions from church councils in Africa and overseas mission partners. (71) By 1962, the MEF staff represented eight nationalities and eight denominations. But its leadership remained predominantly white, and not much was done to invest in local capital projects and human resources. (72)

The MEF has for over 50 years depended on donors and various cooperating partners for support. Overseas mission partners, particularly those in Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, and the United States, have supported the centre since its inception. The mines and other businesses on the Copperbelt did so in its early years. Other institutions that provided financial support to the MEF include Barclays, Beit Trust, Leverhulme Trust Fund, and the Gulbenkian Foundation. In 1967, an effort was made to focus on African sources of funding to avoid an overdependence on WCC support. (73) According to the Lusaka Times, the MEF owed the Kitwe City Council at the time an amount of over K430,000 ($43,000) in land rates. (74)

During a joint 51st Pan African graduation ceremony and golden jubilee celebration on 30 October 2009, the President of Zambia, Mr Rupiah Banda, advised MEF management to try and obtain funds for a massive injection of resources so that training programmes, infrastructural development, and maintenance could be realized without depending too much on donors. He also urged the institution to revisit the purpose for which it was founded and to move with the times by engaging with political, social, and economic developments in Africa to remain viable. The institution was further advised to revive the spirit of ecumenism in order to bring together various stakeholders and address the challenges of poverty, democracy, underdevelopment, regionalism, and tribalism in Zambia. (75)

In 2016, courses on offer included diploma programmes in peace building and conflict transformation, social work, ecumenical church ministries, specialized care and management, community development, media and communication studies, leadership and development for women, specialized care and management of orphans and vulnerable children, educational studies, and training in the hospitality sector. (76) However, in the recent past, the number of students has declined. MEF director Rev. Reuben Daka noted in 2009 that the student intake had dropped from 150 to 31 due to a decline in donor support. Rev. Daka appealed to government to support the MEF by sending civil servants for refresher courses at the institute. (77)

Administrative and operational problems in the last decade have affected the MEF's ability to foster ecumenism in Zambia. The institution operates under the auspices of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) and the AACC. The AACC is networking with the Council for World Mission (CWM) and the WCC. The institution of which the board is chaired by Rev. Susanna Matale, general secretary of CCZ, does not adequately accommodate local churches in its programmes. At Mindolo mission (popularly called MEF campus), the following institutions are housed: The Africa Literature Center, Young Women's Christian Association, United Church of Zambia University, Theological Education by Extension in Zambia, United Church of Zambia Presbytery office, United Church of Zambia Mindolo Mission Church, and St. John's Anglican Seminary. (78) There is, however, little effort to bring these institutions together in a spirit of ecumenism. This has partly contributed to the MEF incurring huge debts in the running of the institution, especially when it comes to social amenities and in view of the squabbles it has with UCZ over land ownership. (79)

The MEF has also been affected by changes taking place in the operations of the CWM and AACC, the mother ecclesiastical bodies. In the decades between 1977 and 2007, Africans called for a moratorium while thev sought to become financially and politically independent from western churches. It was emphasized that the relationship between Western and African churches should be one of partnership. CWM "undertook a conscious pilgrimage from being a classic European sending agency, to being a post-colonial partnership of Churches of equal stature." (80) This meant reduced funding of institutions like MEF by overseas mission partners.

Reclaiming Holistic Mission and Ecumenism

Holistic mission can onlv be fostered within the framework of ecumenism. The word "ecumenism" comes from the Greek oikovuevn, oikoumene, meaning "inhabited." The term has been used to refer to the inhabited world or "the whole inhabited earth." The root of the word oikouev? is oikos, which means "house," "family," "people," or "nation." (81) From a Christian perspective, it implies a fellowship or a coming together of Christians or churches on earth as a household of God. The concept of ecumenism is important in a context like that of Africa, where there are so many denominations. As Chuba observes, Christianity in Africa was introduced in a fragmented way when Euro-American churches and missionary societies evangelized most parts of the continent. (82) Denominationalism has frustrated Christian efforts to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ due to divisions among Christians.

Euro-American missionaries passionately competed for converts. Each missionary society had its own territory where it claimed to bring the only true teaching. (83) The call for ecumenism in Zambia started as early as 1919, when the missionaries realized the need for unity among the churches in the field of mission and evangelism. Consequently, the Christian Council in Northern Rhodesia was formed to foster holistic mission and evangelism. The mission and objectives of the MEF are informed by this commitment to ecumenism. The institution was focused on ensuring that sustainable development is achieved through training, reflection, and worship that are informed by a spirit of ecumenism. As an ecclesiastical Pan-African training institution and as part of civil society, MEF strives to achieve its vision by engaging with the challenges faced by churches and societies in Africa. (84) Some of its objectives, which are significant because they enable the contemporary church to foster holistic mission and ecumenism, are

* To develop lay and ordained leadership in the church through giving training in social, religious, political and economic disciplines.

* To improve the quality' of life of poor people by empowering them to design their own future and free them from poverty, hunger and diseases.

* To participate in God's mission for justice, peace and integrity of creation in partnership with ecumenical and church related organizations.

* To identify vital social issues and challenges faced by African communities by conducting research in order to find ways to address the problems.

* To serve as a think-tank and intellectual force in order to revitalize the ecumenical movement through engagement in reflection on contemporary' social and religious issues.

* To foster a process of self-discovery and self-reliance in individuals, communities and nations in order to overcome the dependency syndrome.

* To help churches to extend the concerns of mission by embracing the religious, socio-political and economic progress of the communities and nations they serve. (85)

These objectives provide the church, or any ecclesiastical institution that endeavours to do mission and evangelism, with an adequate framework for responding to contemporary issues, such as poverty, politics, and climate change. Unfortunately, the MEF is not as aggressive as it used to be in the 1950s and 1960s. Given the high levels of poverty, health problems, and political crises in Africa, one would have expected the MEF to take the lead in promoting peace and reconciliation as it used to do during the struggle for independence. (86)

The MEF is strongly rooted in ecumenism and Pan-Africanism. The institution strives to ground its work in contextual analyses of Africa's contemporary challenges. It aims to provide spiritual awakening as well as sustainable human development. (87) John Apeh rightly notes that "the economic life of those being evangelised, discipled and shepherded has serious spiritual implications." (88) Discipleship, evangelism, and transformation are not only meaningful in theory, but they encompass formation and transformation of people in society, Christians as well as non-Christians, by changing the total pattern of their lives. Often transformation may be brought about through informal conversations and interactions between people. It is a product of the Christian lifestyle and the prayer life of the entire community. It should not be regarded as a secular activity when the church engages with political and socio-economic issues. The church ought to establish its right and its competence to speak out on the conditions of people's lives, including on questions of a politic nature. (89) In other words, Christian mission is more than preaching a sermon during an evangelistic campaign. It is the recognition that God is present in the world, calling on human beings, regardless of their social status, to participate in God's work of reconciliation, transformation, and healing. (90)

The missiological and theological objectives of MEF are in agreement with the Common Call of the 2010 Edinburgh conference, item four of which states,
Disturbed by the asymmetries and imbalances of the powers that divide
and trouble us in Church and world, we are called to repentance,
to critical reflection on systems of power and to accountable use
of power structures. We are called to find practical ways to live
as members of One Bodv in full awareness that God resists the proud,
Christ welcomes and empowers the poor and afflicted, and the power
of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our vulnerability. (91)

The 2010 conference reflected on a century of ecumenism and on its beginnings, namely the Edinburgh conference of 1910, where the modern ecumenical movement was born. The 1910 conference emphasized the need for greater co-operation in the field of mission and participants showed enthusiasm for spreading the Christian religion to continents such as Africa and Asia. (92) Mission was at the time more church-centred. The formation and subsequent development of MEF has followed the changing landscape of the ecumenical movement. The resolutions of the conference held in Willingen, Germany, in 1952 reinterpreted mission as the mission of God (missio Dei). The church-centred understanding of mission was contested and it was felt that the church needed to move outside its doctrinal and ecclesial confines in order to participate fully in the mission of God. (93) The spirit of the Willingen conference inspired the MEF to engage seriously with socio-political issues in Zambia. But in fact, missionaries in Zambia had already conceived of mission as missio Dei as early as 1935, when they saw the need for the church to cross traditional borders and address the problems caused by social change in the Copperbelt. (94) Political and economic factors made the global church rethink its understanding of mission during the Willingen conference. As Ross et al. note, "Anthropocentric and ecclesiocentric conceptions of mission gave way to theocentric, Christocentric and basileio-centric conceptions." (95) This paradigm shift in ecumenical missiology and related theological understanding enabled the church to move with the changing times.

The world conference in New Delhi, India, in 1961 pushed the agenda of the Willingen conference forward by emphasizing the need to take account of local contexts as the church participates in the mission of God. (96) As the present MEF seeks to reclaim its position as a beacon of ecumenism and peace building in Zambia, it needs to engage with problems of increasing violence, fragmentation, and exclusion, especially in politics. It should find a position balanced between missio Dei and missio-Ecclesiae as the Athens world conference of 2005 affirmed. (97) It is crucial that the institution take full account of the contexts in which it operates. As Kobia observes, there is no need for ecumenical institutions in Africa to base their activities on a Western model, especially as church membership in western Europe and North America is declining, resulting in a reduced ability in the West to contribute financially to the work of the ecumenical movement. (98) Ecumenism in Africa has a better chance of success if mission and ecumenism on the continent are based on African thought. There has always been ecumenism in African culture which supports the values of unity, hospitality, and community. (99) An African community "is a sharing community; members of a community have shared their foodstuft, land, implements, water and other property to an extent that it is unusual to find a destitute person, an orphan, or a beggar in a community of able bodied traditional Africans." (100) If these values are adopted today, they can add support to Christian initiatives for mission and ecumenism.

Also, the MEF's commitment to the training of women is in accordance with the Common Call of the 2010 Edinburgh conference (third item), stating that Christians are called to become communities of healing and compassion "and women and men share responsibilities fairly, where there is a new zeal for justice. ..." (101) During the last 50 years, the institution has provided various courses for women. Currently, more than 50 percent of the Zambian population are women, and programmes on gender issues and good governance are critical for national development. (102)


This article sought to document the history of the MEF and its contribution to Christian mission, politics, and socio-economic development in Zambia in the framework of ecumenism. MEF has made significant contributions, advancing the ecumenical movement as well as the spread and development of Christianity in Zambia. From its inception, MEF has participated in the mission of God (missio Dei) bv engaging with economic, political, and social issues in Zambia. It has always been based on the vision of a community characterized by justice, peace, healing, and reconciliation. (103) MEF has demonstrated that ecumenism is an important instrument of mission. The realities of the world--politics, economics, social change, climate change, and so on--cannot be ignored by African Christianity if it wants to play a meaningful role in the mission of God.

Jonathan Kangwa

Rev. Dr Jonathan Kangwa is registrar at the United Church oj Zambia University College, Kitwe, Zambia.

(1) Adrian Hastings, A History of African Christianity, 1950-1975 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979); Bwalya S. Chuba, God of Our Fathers and Mothers: African Theology in Practice (Kdola: Mission Press, 2(111); Bwalya S. Chuba, A History of Early Christian Missions and Church Unity in Zambia (Ndola: Mission Press, 2(105); Peter Bolink, Tomards Church Union in Zambia (Franeker, Netherlands: T. Wever, 1967).

(2) Sean Morrow, "On the Side of the Robbed': R.J.B. Moore, Missionary on the Copperbelt, 1933-1941," Journal of Religion in Africa XIX, no. 3 (1989): 244-63; Peter E.J. Mathews, "Mindolo Fcumenical Foundation," International Review of Mission 51 (1962): 1-136; W. Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo: A Catalyst for Christian Participation in Nation Building in Africa," International Renew of Mission 58 (1969): 1-140.

(3) Zambia was a British protectorate until 24 October 1964, when the country gained political independence. Betore independence it was called Northern Rhodesia. In this arriele I use Zambia throughout, even when referring to the period before independence.

(4) John M. Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era (Lusaka: Multimedia Publications, 1994), 15-17; Morrow, '"(in the Side of the Robbed,'" 245.

(5) Morrow, "On the Side of the Robbed,'" 245.

(6) Ibid., 245-46.

(7) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 67.

(8) Morrow, "On the Side of the Robbed,"' 246.

(9) Ibid.

(10) Ibid.; Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 67.

(11) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 67.

(12) Morrow, "On the Side of the Robbed,'" 246.

(13) Ibid., 245, 147.

(14) Ibid., 248.

(15) Ibid., 249.

(16) Ibid.

(17) Ibid., 251.

(18) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 67.

(19) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 17-18; Aden Tedia, "Zambians Campaign tor Independence, 1944-1964," Global Nonviolent Action Database (2014). See

(20) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 17-18.

(21) Ibid.; Tedia, "Zambians Campaign for Independence."

(22) Tedia, "Zambians Campaign for Independence."

(23) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 23-24.

(24) Grenvillc-Grcy, "Mindolo," 112; Minutes of the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia, CC?R 58/40 of 1958. UCZ Theological College archives; Minutes of the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia, CCAR 58/22.1 of 1958. UCZ Theological College archives; United Church of Zambia Land Sub-committee, Report presented to Synod Executive on Mindolo Mission land, 2003. UCZ Theological College archives, 1; Global Ministries, Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (2014).; Mwiinga Shimilimo, Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (2012).

(25) Grenville-Grev, "Mindolo," 112; Global Ministries, Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation.

(26) Mindolo Mission was founded in 1934 by the London Missionary Society. After many years of negotiations for church union in Northern Rhodesia, the Church became, in 1945, part of the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia (CCAR); in 1958, of the Inited Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia (UCCAR); and finally, in 1965, of the United Church of Zambia (UCZ). See Morrow, '"On the Side of the Robbed,'" 246.

(27) Minutes of the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia, CCAR 58/40 of 1958; Minutes of the Church of Centra] Africa in Rhodesia, CCAR 58/22.1 of 1958; United Church of Zambia l-and Sub-committee, Report presented to Synod Executive, 1; Hastings, A History of African Christianity, 164.

(28) John Pobee, "All Africa Conference of Churches," in Nicholas Lossky ct at, cds, Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement (Geneva; WCC, 2002), 17.

(29) Ibid.

(30) Ibid.

(31) Ibid., 18.

(32) Hastings, A History of African Christianity, 164.

(33) Minutes of the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia Synod, UCCAR S/62/69 of 1962.

(34) Tedia, "Zambians Campaign for Independence."

(35) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 27.

(36) Ibid., 28-29; Tedia, "Zambians Campaign for Independence."

(37) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 30.

(38) Minutes of the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia Synod, UCC?R S/62/69 of 1962; Hastings, A History of African Christianity, 164; Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 67.

(39) Mathews, "Mindolo ecumenical Foundation," 67.

(40) Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo" 111.

(41) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 68.

(42) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 27; Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo," 111,

(43) Tedia, "Zambians Campaign for Independence."

(44) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 32-33; Tedla, "Zambians Campaign tor Independence."

(45) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 35.

(46) Ibid., 39; Tedla, "Zambians Campaign for Independence"; Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 68.

(47) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 69.

(48) Ibid.

(49) Ibid.

(50) Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo," 111.

(51)Andrew F, Walls, "The Legacy of David Livingstone," International Bulletin of Missionary Research 11, no. 3 (1987): 128.

(52) Mathews, "Mindolo Kcumenical Foundation," 70.

(53) Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo," 111; Minutes of the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia, CCAR 58/40 of 1958; United Church of Zambia Land Sub-committee, Report presented to Synod Executive, 1.

(54) Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo," 111.

(55) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 70.

(56) Ibid.

(57) Grenville-Grev, "Mindolo," 1 12.

(58) Ibid., 111.

(59) Global Ministries, Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation; Mwiinga Shimilimo, Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (2012), note 24, above.

(60)Mwiinga Shimilimo and Newt Phiri, eds., Mindolo Kcumenical Foundation, Special graduation dav edition, MEF Newsletter 1, no. 3 (2012): 3.

(61)United Nations, Dag Hammarskjold Living Memorial Initiative (2016), htrp://ww\

(62) Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation, Prospectus (2012), 12.

(63) Mwanakatwe, The End of Kaunda Era, 49.

(64) Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo," 113.

(65) Ibid.

(66) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical foundation," 70.

(67) Grenville-Grev, "Mindolo," 112; Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation, Prospectus.

(68) Grenville-Grev, "Mindolo," 112; Kenneth David Kaunda, Zambia Shall Be Free (London: Hcinemann, 1962), 150.

(69) Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 71; Hastings, A History of African Christianity, 164.

(70) Ibid., 164.

(71) Kashinda Bible School, Report presented to the Synod of the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia (1960), UCZ Theological College archives; Minutes of the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia, CCAR 58/40 of 1958; United Church of Zambia Land Sub-committee, Report presented to Synod Executive, 1; Grenville-Grev, "Mindolo," 110.

(72)Mathews, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation," 71; Hastings, A History of African Christianity, 164.

(73) Grenville-Grev, "Mindolo," 116; Lusaka Times, "Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation Dependence on Donors Saddens Rupiah Banda," 30 October 2009,

(74) Lusaka Times, "Mindolo Fxumenical Foundation Dependence on Donors Saddens Rupiah Banda."

(75) Ibid.

(76) Mindolo Hcumcnical Foundation, Prospectus, 21-27; Mwiinga and Phiri, Mindolo Fxumcnical Foundation, 4; Kitwe Online, Short courses (2016),

(77) Lusaka Times, "Mindolo F.cumenical Foundation Dependence on Donors Saddens Rupiah Banda," 30 October 2009.

(78) Global Ministries, Mindolo Fxumcnical Foundation.

(79) Lusaka Times, "Mindolo F.cumenical Foundation Dependence on Donors Saddens Rupiah Banda"; Minutes of the United Church of Zambia Synod F.xecurivc, UCZ SE/75/47 of 1975. UCZ Theological College archives.

(80) Steve De Gruchy, '"Growing up and Increasing and Yielding Thirty...': Change and Continuity in the Council for World Mission, 1997-2007," in Desmond Van der Water, Isabel A. Phiri, Namsoon Kang, Roderick Hewitt, and Sarojini Nadar, eds., Postcolonial Mission: Power and Partnership in World Christianity (Charleston: Sopher Press, 2011), 31.

(81) Chuba, A History of Early Christian Minions, 107.

(82) Ibid.

(83) Ibid.

(84) Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (2016).

(85) Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (2016); Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation, Prospectus, 3-4.

(86) Cf. Grenville-Grey, "Mindolo," 110.

(87) Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation (2016).

(88) John E. Apeh, Social Structure and Church Planting (Shippensburg: Companion Press, 1989), 21.

(89) Grenville-Grev, "Mindolo," 116.

(90) Van der Water et al-, eds., Postcolonial Mission.

(91)Kenneth R. Ross, Jooseop Keum, Kyriaki Avtzi, and Roderick Hewitt, eds., Ecumenical Missiology: Changing Landscapes and New Conceptions of Mission (Oxford: Regnum, 2016), 144.

(92) Kenneth R. Ross, "Tracing Changing Landscapes and New Conception of Mission," in Ross et al., eds., Ecumenical Missiology, 7.

(93) Ibid., 62.

(94) Morrow, '"On the Side of the Robbed,'" 245-46.

(95) Ross et al., eds., Ecumenical Missiology, 62.

(96) Ibid., 74.

(97) Ibid., 138.

(98) Samuel Kobia, "Postcolonial Mission in World Christianity: Power and Partnerships in Contestation," in Van der Water et al., eds., Postcolonial Mission, xv.

(99) Chuba, A History of Early Christian Missions, 107.

(100) Ibid., 109.

(101) Ross et al., eds., Ecumenical Missiohgy, 144.

(102) Lusaka Times, "Mindilo Ecumenical Foundation Dependence on Donors Saddens Rupiah Banda."

(103) Cf. Ross et al., eds., Ecumenical Missiology, 233.
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Date:Jun 1, 2017
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