The Zionist Churches in Malawi


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This book presents an African Christian movement full of vitality and creativity. The reader will meet believers who drink milk so that they may dream about angels, reports about funerals where the mourners dance with the coffin on their shoulders and church members who are ritually not allowed to fertilize their fields or wear neck ties. The author’s unique insight into Malawi’s Christian community addresses important issues in society. Why have ‘Spirit Churches,’ including Pentecostalism, been so successful in Malawi? Why do some religious groups still refuse medical help, up to the point that children die of cholera? How did the independent churches deal with the colonial trauma? In this masterful portrait, Strohbehn takes the reader from industrial mine compounds to rural colonies, where churches have set up their own spiritual and political rule. He carefully dissects the fine lines between traditional notions and Christianity’s influence. We find a spiritual portrait of the Ngoni people, a fascinating cultural analysis of dancing and an encounter with a unique style of preaching.



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Published 11 May 2016
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EAN13 9789996045035
Language English
Document size 10 MB

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The Zionist Churches in Malawi History  Theology  Anthropology
Ulf Strohbehn
The Zionist Churches in Malawi
Copyright 2016 Ulf Strohbehn All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission from the publishers. Published by Mzuni Press P/Bag 201, Luwinga, Mzuzu 2, Malawi ISBN: 978-99960-45-16-5 ISBN: 978-99960-45-03-5 (e-book) Mzuni Press is represented outside Africa by African Books Collective, Oxford ( Layout Design: Arto Karvonen
The Zionist Churches in Malawi
Ulf Strohbehn
Mzuni Books no. 17 Mzuzu 2016
Rakkaalle Kirsille
I would like to thank my supervisor, Prof. Dr. Dr. Klaus Fiedler for his encouragement and assistance, which saw this study through. My second supervisor, Prof. Dr. Joseph Chakanza has been a source of enrichment, both personally as well as professionally. Rev. Wellem B. Kulanga (“ANkhoma”), lecturer of Church History at the International Bible College Berea, Blantyre, has been working as my research assistant in this project. My sincere thanks go out for all journeys, interviews, translations and discussions we had. Rev. Kulanga is pictured with the Zion ya bata leaders on page 364 second to the left. Other lecturers at the college have had their regular dose of Zionism as I rendered my discoveries during our discussions, devotions and lectures. I appreciate the fellowship of Patrick Chapola, Rev. Amos Khobili, Rev. Bismarck Lumwira and Rev. Christian Bongartz. Special thanks go out to Joseph Thawani Phiri, for keeping the college and its inhabitants in good shape – noni noni, abale! I thank my collegues from the AFM for years of good fellowship and ministry, especially Pastors E. Dauya, R. Maere and J. Hassani. My final years in Malawi allowed more excursions into the academic community. I have fond memories of the Anthropological Department at CUNIMA, mainly because of Dr Alan Thorold, while he was there, and Mr Stewart Maganga. Mrs C. Kathumbi of Chancellor College, Zomba, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, was so nice to manage my missiology lectures there, an opportunity I cherished. I have had the priviledge to serve under a director, Pastor Helmut Timm, who early enough stressed the need for academic learning, while he emphazised, both by word and personal example, a missionary’s responsibility to serve people in a spiritual way. It is this dual ministry, by mind and spirit, which has fascinated me up to this day. Mercy Chilunga and Josephine Kawejere from Kachere Publisher helped with the type styling and the final layout and thus saved me many days of work. I thank Steve Hayes, Tswane, for a lively exchange about the Zionists, Dr Peter Bailey for proofreading chapter 4 and discussing the medical dimension of it and Jackie Griffiths for proofreading chapter 5. I vi
enjoyed the privilege of a private history lesson about the Ngoni by Prof. Kings Phiri. The German Society for Mission Studies (DGMW) was so kind to assist with two grants in 2004 and 2013, enabling me to buy books, which could not be obtained from libraries in Malawi and eventually to help this study being published. We have had an excellent home crew during those fifteen years in Malawi, who have become part of our extended family. Thanks and appreciation go to Enock Reid, Soza Ntata and Amos Kunyangala.  My daughters Marja, Annika and Celine grew up with a father who so many times sat quietly on the sofa, tucked away into some book or typing things into his notebook with a cup of coffee at his side. I thank them for tolerating such a strange being. During those years I have not been able to share with you what wonderful people and fascinating spirituality I discovered among the Zionists, partly because you were too young. I hope, however, that this book will find you. This work is dedicated to my wife Kirsi, in the twentieth year of our marriage. Of all reasons to be grateful, you are the foremost. By letting me dream my dreams, you are the most important of them all. Ulf Strohbehn Blantyre, July 2012
List of Abbreviations and Glossary
AFM AoG AleviBiomedical Boma
BwaloCCAP CCACZ central region
Class DRC HACZ Isangoma Kubonga Machona Maseko
MCP Mtchona Mlaliki MleviMvangeliMvanoNAM Ngoni
African Initiated (or Indigenous or Independent) Church Apostolic Faith Mission Assemblies of God plural ofmleviterm used to describe the western medical approach seat of local government, the district administration’s centre communal meeting place Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Christian Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion (1) the central administrative region of Malawi where many Maseko Ngoni live a local Zionist congregation Dutch Reformed Church The Holy Apostolic Church in Zion (3) (pl.izangoma) a traditional diviner among the Zulu a basic dance pattern, fast and loud plural of mtchona a particular segment of the Ngoni who settled predominantly around Ntcheu Malawi Congress Party migrant worker preacher pastor of a class evangelist women guild in Malawian churches National Archives of Malawi ethnic group which emigrated from Natal to Malawi and other countries viii
Nguni Pentecostal
Pentecostalic PHC RCC Region SDA Sejising’anga
UDF UfitiUMCA VapostoliChurches
ya bata
ya malingaka ZCC ZEM ZIM Ziwasheni
name of the Ngoni before they wandered pertaining to charismatic manifestations found, among others, in Acts 2 and 1.Cor. 12 and 14 pertaining to the tenets and history within the modern Pentecostal movement Pentecostal Holiness Church Roman Catholic Church the southern African region (SADC countries) Seventh Day Adventist (church) a basic dance pattern, slow and devotional term for a traditional healer, ranging from herbalist to spirit doctor Southern region the southern region of Malawi United Democratic Front witchcraft Universities Mission to Central Africa a cluster of churches among the AICs, but not Zionists a Zionist church or denomination that does not use drums a Zionist church or denomination that uses drums Zion Christian Church (8) Zambezi Evangelical Church Zambezi Industrial Mission a ritual immersion