capturing and absorbing materialism, it may be, that they may have to resort to Africa to recover some of the simple elements of faith; for the promise of that land is that she shall stretch forth her hands unto God.13
Blyden thus foresaw the coming shift in the centre of gravity of Christianity from the north to the south Atlantic and its import for Africa. Perhaps, the significance of the movement can best be gleaned from the fact that African Christians choreographed all three movements of loyalty, voice and exit; as some loyally memorised the script written by the missionaries, others voiced their dissent through publications and the media; gradually, a few, such as Mojola Agbebi, led a movement of exit to form Native African Churches which split from the mission-founded ones to experiment with interdenominational Christianity. In Nigeria, there were six main branches of the movement: three split from mainline churches and three sprouted thereafter on their own. By the 1921 census, these churches in aggregate constituted the third largest form of Christianity in southern Nigeria. The Ethiopian cultural register included the rejection of European baptismal names; the use of African clothes; praying for chiefs instead of the British monarch; and accepting polygamists into church membership. They contested missionary polity, liturgy and ethics from an honest appropriation of biblical principles.14 Indeed, by 1914 two of the Native Baptist churches had returned into fellowship with the Southern Baptist Convention. The image of a syncretistic endeavour is fictional.
This may explain the changing pattern of white responses to Ethiopianism. The conservative ones were often regarded as useful for controlling the natives, while those influenced by African Americans, such as the African Orthodox Church in Zimbabwe, were viewed as subversive, to be hounded out of the religious space. For the most part, Ethiopianism pursued the symbols of modernity such as education, but used antistructural strategy to protest against the arrogance of power. Beyond cultural nationalism, Ethiopianism restructured the ecclesiology and theology of the missionary churches and encapsulated the dilemmas of blending missionary endeavour, colonisation and endogenous development in African societies. It confronted externality in African Christianity by asserting that all forms of Christianity are tribal and that a truly African Christianity was possible, even though its full character would emerge only with time: in the words of the Akamba proverb, 'cattle are born with ears, they grow horns later'. Ethiopians laid the foundations for modern forms of
13 Lynch, Edward Wilmot Blyden, p. 147; see the discussion of Blyden's visit to Egypt, pp. 55-7.
14 Webster, The African churches among the Yoruba, p. xvi.
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