THE GROWTH OF CHRISTIANITY IN UGANDA

History of the Christian Church II

by Samuel Reed

Date 12-01-2014

Thesis: Jesus commanded Christians to preach the gospel all over the earth and it is by His holy providence that provides the clear opportunity to do so.

  1. Jesus commanded Christians to preach the gospel.
  2. It is God who directs and upholds all He commands by His own wise counsel.
  3. Jesus Christ and provides the personnel.
  4. Objectives of the Great Commission.
  5. Present the Gospel.
  6. Substitutionary work of Jesus Christ
  7. Free gift to undeserving sinners.
  8. God is Sovereign.
  9. Henry Stanley.
  10. King Mutesa.
  11. Henry Stanley shared the Gospel to King Mutesa.
  12. Mutesa responded.
  13. Letter to recruit missionaries.
  14. Church Missionary Society responded.
  15. Martyrs in Uganda
  16. King Mwanga.
  17. Christians began to be persecuted.
  18. Missionary effort in Uganda.
  19.  Orthodox Presbyterian Church
  20. The goal of the mission.
  21. The Head of the effort.
  22.  Some of the work.
  23.  Teaching correct doctrine is important in the growth of any Christian.
  24. Karamoja.
  25. Population.
  26. Culture.
  27. Ward’s view of mission history to Uganda.
  28. Modern missions to Uganda.
  29. Anti-Christian effort.
  30. God does not fail.

            Jesus commanded Christians to preach the gospel all over the earth and it is by His holy providence that provides the clear opportunity to do so.  It is God who directs and upholds all He commands by His own wise counsel.  He presents His children opportunities all over the world to further the gospel of Jesus Christ and provides the personnel to get the job done with proper support.  One of those places is in Uganda.

            Objectives of the Great Commission of Jesus Christ include places like Uganda. Unbelievers are presented the gospel which is the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ as a free gift to undeserving sinners.  Sinners encompass all of humanity because all people have broken God’s holy law.  So, Uganda is not unique in that respect.  No person can redeem himself.  God calls all mankind to submit to Himself yet sovereignly gives life to those He predestined prior to the foundation of the world.  No Christian can know who those people are and must work as commanded.

            In April 1875 a British explorer and journalist by the name of Henry Stanley went to Uganda and met King Mutesa.  Mutesa was the leader of a tribe in central Uganda.  Henry Stanley shared the Gospel to King Mutesa and he responded by requesting a letter be sent to the Queen of England.  He wanted Queen Victoria to send missionaries to his area in order to spread the message of Christianity. On November 15th 1875 a letter was published fulfilling that request.  It was published in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. That letter asked for practical missionaries who were able to teach others how to be Christians.  It also asked for them to be able to teach the people how to do construction and provide medical care.  It even indicated that the effort would be paid for and not to be concerned about paying their own way.  In 1877 eight missionaries from the Church Missionary Society went to Uganda to preach and teach the Christian faith as requested. 

            King Mwanga took power a few years after the arrival of the missionaries and by 1885 Christians began to be persecuted.  The reason for this was he could not stand the idea of Jesus Christ having the loyalty of the people over himself.  King Mwanga ravaged the Christian community and killed many of them.  Today there is a public holiday on June 3rd because on that day in 1886 he killed twenty-six Christians.  Some of them were Roman Catholics and the rest were Anglican. This holiday is to recognize the martyrdom of those people on behalf of the Christian faith. Even at the time of the murders the result was a strengthening of Christians instead of a weakening.  The twenty-six people who had been murdered sang hymns and prayed as they died which inspired those who saw it happen.  Africans began becoming missionaries and today Uganda has the largest Christian population of all African countries. 

            According to Kevin Ward Uganda was not given as much attention as other parts of Africa in terms of Christian missionary efforts.  He said, “Christianity came late to Uganda compared with many other parts of Africa.”[1]  Other parts of Africa such as Ethiopia had Christianity as part of the culture since the fourth century.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was in existence at the time of the Council of Chalcedon and rejected the decision.[2]  He too mentioned that in around 1877 the colonialism of Great Britain helped spread Christianity to the area which served the balubaale gods.  They also had some exposure to the religion of Islam because of neighboring countries that they interacted with.  Although some of the people in Uganda served these man-made gods the overall population was receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

            The Orthodox Presbyterian Church has had an ongoing Christian mission to “Uganda since 1995 and in the Karamoja region since 2000.”[3]  They explain their goal is to labor through the use of grace given by Christ and this is an important recognition of purpose.  It is Christ who establishes His Church and for any mission work to be successful one must recognize Christ as the Head of the effort.  Some of the work they do with the people of Uganda is to do pastoral training so that there are shepherds in place to lead new converts in the faith.  It is one thing to gain a convert to the Christian faith but it is another to help them grow in it.  Teaching correct doctrine is important in the growth of any Christian and those in Uganda are no different.  Once leaders are trained they can also get busy with evangelism, church planting, and still more leadership training.  Again this is one of the priorities because new Christians need guidance in the faith in order to mature in it. They also do works of mercy such as providing dental work, medical care, and literacy education.  Many of these areas are in need of water so there is also an effort to drill wells. 

            Karamoja is a part of Uganda that is not well populated but the need for preaching the Gospel is just as important as any highly populated area.  They have the same problems as any highly populated areas would have such as alcoholism and domestic abuse.[4]  Those who identify as Christians don’t always have a very good understanding of the Gospel.[5]  This means missionaries need to understand cultural issues in the area they serve.  By doing this they can build better relationships in order to show them how God looks at certain things like alcoholism and domestic abuse.  Those who call themselves Christians without knowing God’s standards may continue in certain behaviors that God warns us not to do. Doing those things from time to time do not make you a non-Christian but it gives non-Christians a reason to scoff at what the Bible teaches.

            Anti-Christians such as Andrew O’Hehir wrote about how terrifying it is that Christians are sending missionaries to Uganda.  He said, “Waves of American missionaries have turned Uganda into the test case for right-wing, anti-gay Christian backlash.”[6]  It does not seem to be a stretch to say Mr. O’Hehir would be on the side of King Mwanga had he been present during the persecution he directed back in the 1800s.  Andrew O’Hehir takes the political position that social conservative American Christians are trying to spread their homophobia to the “Pearl of Africa”.  He talked about two films that portray the life and death of a gay man who dared to tell the world he was gay.  Uganda was considering putting a law into place that would carry life imprisonment for homosexual acts and a death penalty for those who were deemed repeat offenders.  O’Hehir believes the culture of Uganda is already extremely conservative regarding issues such as homosexuality and that is the reason it has been such fertile soil for conversion to Christianity.  He called it the “most extreme version of Western Christianity”.[7]  He also suggests that the Christian missionary effort is a form of strategic ideological colonialism that takes advantage of the Ugandan people who suffer from the collapse of the traditional colonialism.  These crazy Christians are apparently providing a type of social adhesive between the various groups of Africans by providing social services that the weak central government cannot manage to provide.  These social services include medical care, education, and other good works as part of a strategy to brainwash the people of Uganda. While he talks about the persecuted gays in Uganda he does his own persecuting of an ex-gay American by the name of Scott Lively.  He calls Lively unhinged, evil, and crazy due to comments he makes about the homosexual community.  It is interesting that he uses the term evil and cannot seem to apply that to the Biblical standard of evil which calls homosexuality an abomination to God.  Lastly, he talked about an excommunicated Anglican bishop by the name of Christopher Senyonjo who is a leading gay-rights activist and that perhaps he will provide something similar to the Great Awakening in American history on behalf of homosexuals.  Andrew O’Hehir calls for all those in favor of tolerance and secularism to join forces and fight back against the missionaries in Uganda and around the world.

            Missionary work can never and will never end.  No matter the ignorance of the secular forces and no matter the persecution formed against Christians the Great Commission will continue. It will also not end as a result of the unbiblical teaching of people who claim to be Christian such as the excommunicated Anglican bishop.  Being excommunicated means you are considered a non-Christian.  Jesus commanded all Christians to witness to all nations regarding His Gospel.  The Gospel is only good news to those willing to submit to Jesus as Lord as described in the Bible.  This means He has authority over everything you think and do as part of your worldview.  This means He takes priority over world leaders such as Kings, Queens, Presidents, and religious leaders.  The worldly flesh will always pursue the lusts of the flesh and cannot understand or pursue spiritual things.  This is why it is God who must make the first change in the heart of a person in order for them to be saved.  He is sovereign over all things including the mission field.  The success of mission work in Uganda has not been because a missionary said the right things to a King.  It was not successful because the British took over and area using colonialism.  Finally it is not successful because of a political effort to persecute a personal behavior or culture.  It is successful because Christianity is good for a society and more importantly good for the individual.  Moral truth and common sense were not discovered they were given by general and special revelation.  God will continue to draw people unto Himself through the use of missionaries all over the world and hopefully will continue to work in Uganda. 

Bibliography

Church of Uganda. Church of Uganda. 2014. http://churchofuganda.org/about/history#_ftn1 (accessed December 7, 2014).

Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity The Reformation to the Present Day. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.

O’Hehir, Andrew. “God Loves Uganda”: Africa’s terrifying Christian revival. October 9, 2013. http://www.salon.com/2013/10/09/god_loves_uganda_africas_terrifying_christian_revival/ (accessed December 7, 2014).

Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Orthodox Presbyterian Church. n.d. http://www.opum.org/about-us/ (accessed December 5, 2014).

Tuma, Tom. Building a Ugandan Church. Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau, 1980.

Tuma, Tom, and Phares Mutibwa. A Century of Christianity in Uganda, 1877-1977. Nairobi: Uzima Press, 1978.

Ward, Kevin. Dictionary of African Christian Biography. January 1, 2014. http://www.dacb.org/history/a%20history%20of%20christianity%20in%20uganda.html (accessed December 4, 2014).

Westminster Theological Seminary. Mission to Uganda. July 01, 2012. http://www.wts.edu/stayinformed/view.html?id=1287 (accessed December 5, 2014).


[1] (Ward 2014)

[2] (Gonzalez 2010, p. 503)

[3] (Orthodox Presbyterian Church n.d.)

[4] (Westminster Theological Seminary 2012)

[5] (Westminster Theological Seminary 2012)

[6] (O’Hehir 2013)

[7] (O’Hehir 2013)

Published by SReed

Attends Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church. I'm a sinner saved by the work of God in me and not a work of my own.

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