Conclusion the enduring legacy of Ethiopianism

In 1964, the Nigerian Methodist theologian E. B. Idowu gave a series of radio talks, 'Towards an indigenous church', that sounded like a close reading of earlier Ethiopian themes. The indigenisation project that followed decolonisation so mirrored the design of Ethiopianism that the movement can be said to have nurtured the roots of modern African Christianity. Ethiopianism deployed Christianity as an instrument to reconstruct the development of African cultural and political nationalism. Later African indigenous churches uncovered the Achilles heel of missionary Christianity and also revealed the limits of the Ethiopian response. The legacies of the Ethiopian movement were, however, numerous: the quests to appropriate the gospel and modernity with dignity; to be both an African and a Christian; to express faith from an indigenous world-view and spirituality so that Africans could respond to their own realities and culture in the spheres of liturgy, polity and ethics; to tap the resources of indigenous knowledge in communicating the kerygma; and to practise local initiatives in evangelism, decision-making processes, ecclesial structures and funding. Some Ethiopians even advocated dialogue with other faiths by responding to Islam without confrontation. Dialogue was an African idea long before missionaries woke up to its import.

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