Jan 5: Hank Owings, “The African Inland Mission, Congolese Decolonization, and Global Modernity”

Tuesday, January 5, 2016, 12:00-1:20pm (Swift Hall Room 208)
Hank Owings

The Blood-Dimmed Tide is Loosed, and Everywhere: The African Inland Mission, Congolese Decolonization, and Global Modernity

Abstract: This paper examines both the small group of roughly eighty missionaries, all of whom were white and American,​ ​that were sent by the Africa Inland Mission to serve the Congo between 1955 and 1967. After briefly situated the station in the history of the mission and the Congo, I discusses their personal responses to race, Cold War politics, and decolonization. Missionary relationships with Africa are often framed as narratives that locate mission activity between the poles of racism and humanism, liberalism and conservatism, imperialism and glocalization. But reducing missionary attitudes, behavior, and beliefs to convenient political frames is disingenuous to both history and politics. I hope to work against these reductions, and instead locate the Africa Inland Mission within a recurring theme of Evangelical history. Surprisingly, race and politics did not see to be the major tensions confronting them: rather, their overarching issue was ecumenism and the growth of Pentecostalism. Why, given the domestic racial changes at home and geopolitical tensions abroad, did the Africa Inland Mission and Congo Field respond so consistently to ecumenism, while​ ​having varied responses to social dilemmas? Because ecumenism challenges the accepted fundamentals of Evangelical faith and Christ alone offers the transformative power necessary to redeem a politically fallen world. Racial and political tensions are worldly problems, which will be solved through conversion or displaced by salvation’s primacy; ecumenism directly challenges the truth that makes conversion and salvation possible. I argue that this​ ​Evangelical emphasis on Christ offers a theology of politics that does not fit comfortably into mid-century dichotomies of capitalism and communism, integration and segregation, colonialism and independence.

The paper should be read in advance. For a copy of the paper, please email contact-global-christianities@lists.uchicago.edu

Lunch will be provided.