The commitment to the implanting of independent churches contained multiple ambiguities both in theory and in practice. At the theoretical level, it was unclear whether 'civilisation' was a good or a bad thing. Inasmuch as civilisation implied the acquisition of the tools for economic self-sufficiency, it was to be endorsed. But if it meant the imposition of western patterns of organisation and thought, missionary opinion was divided. Both Catholic and Protestant strategists, even as they commended the necessity of socio-economic 'civilisation', could advocate a repudiation of western cultural accoutrements. Thus Libermann, who insisted that 'our mission . . . consists not only in announcing the faith but also in initiating the peoples to our European civilization', also urged his missionary priests in Africa to 'rid yourselves of Europe, its customs and mentality' and 'become Negroes with the Negroes'.15 In similar terms, Venn could set before Samuel Crowther in 1858 the vision of filling up 'the distance between Lagos and the Niger with civilization, through missionary operations and lawful commerce', yet also admonish J. C. Taylor, Crowther's Igbo colleague in the Niger mission, when returning to West Africa after his ordination by the bishop of London in 1859, to 'let all European habits, European tastes, European ideas, be left behind you'.16 By the 1870s, a strengthening reaction against the prominence of European habits was discernible in missions across the ecclesiastical spectrum from the UMCA to the CIM.
Was human equality itself a 'European idea'? Rufus Anderson, though confident that ultimately the gospel would raise the Hawaian or the Hindu to the same exalted level of civilisation as that reached by New Englanders, developed a profound scepticism towards all missionary talk about 'civilisation' and its embodiment in education in the English medium, believing that such policies encouraged unrealistic and expensive expectations among indigenous Christians. His scepticism extended even to the wisdom of permitting 'native' pastors to enjoy equal status with missionaries. Those who were granted equal status would expect equal pay, with the result that self-support would never be achieved. Congregational independency without missionary hierarchy was doomed to futility.17
Anderson's doubts about whether pure Congregationalism was suitable for impoverished and poorly educated infant Christian communities were paralleled in a variety of contexts from the 1840s onwards. Missionaries were stationed by their home committees, and were thus effectively appointed as
17 Harris, Nothing but Christ, p. 114.
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