Info

he purchased from slavery a girl of seventeen whom he then married. The young girl's African mother was from Madagascar. Vanderkemp's personal example of a radical and politically uncompromising evangelical faith that openly endorsed the principle of social and political equality influenced many who followed him in missionary service.

Upon his arrival in South Africa, Vanderkemp was immediately stumped by the language question. Unlike the Zulus, the Khoi in Cape Colony had some knowledge of Dutch and so could act as intermediaries with the missionaries. In that role, the Khoi could also function as teachers and catechists and thus as second-tier missionaries to their own people, a role that would help accelerate the process of naturalizing Christianity in Africa. The more astute of the European missionaries saw such African agency as implying inescapably a sharp role reversal, with Christian Africans becoming the chief agents of Christian-ization and setting the agenda for mission. Furthermore, the achievements of African agency had the prospects of permanency in a way that foreign agency manifestly did not.

Much in that idea and in its implications of cost-effectiveness resonates well with the logic of the local reception and adaptation of Christianity rather than with missionary notions of transmission and wholesale indigenous uprooting. Those setbacks of transmission were precisely what occurred in other parts of the mission field, prompting the missionary statesman, Henry Venn (d. 1872), for example, to propound his theory about 'the euthanasia of a mission'. Vanderkemp's insights were promptly adopted as sound policy by other missionaries, though the fact that Vanderkemp was working with South African Khoi with some knowledge of Dutch gave an advantage to his ideas.

Yet the rigours of frontier life among Africans on the fringes of a colonial white society which was on the path of unrelenting expansion into native lands took a terrible toll on him, and he died relatively young in 1811. The leading agent of the London Missionary Society and chief architect of its work in South Africa was John Philip of Aberdeen, Scotland, who was appointed to that position in 1820. He was an eloquent and passionate defender of the rights of Africans against whites in South Africa, carrying the antislavery banner into opposition strongholds.

Appointed to a commission of enquiry into the state of the mission following Vanderkemp's death, Philip found that the colonial government appeared unhappy with the work of missionaries, and that puzzled him at first. However, upon further enquiry, and given what he came to know of the nature of that unhappiness, sadly, he saw little chance of reconciliation. To the bitter dismay

0 0

Post a comment