Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Evangelicalism in Britain and its influence in the Church in Kenya

Written by: on April 26, 2013


The history of the rise of evangelical belief in Britain helps me understand the foundations of the church in Kenya. The largest protestant denomination is the Anglican church of Kenya. It is entrenched in all the facets of the country; the opening prayer in parliament, at national holidays, at the opening of city and municipal councils are led by Anglican clergy. Prison, police and army chaplaincy are dominated by Anglican priests. Reading the rise of evangelicalism in Britain resonates with and shows the influence of Britain in the church and moral ethic of the country. Many other church leaders have stemmed from the Anglican tradition.  The four evangelical characteristics of conversionalism, activism, crucicentruim and Biblicism is a central theme in the evangelical church in Kenya. From Edward Garbet 1875 reflection of the trinity to John Stott’s emphasis on evangelicalism to J.J. Packer’s 1979 outline of the highlights of evangelicalism, these have formed the foundation of evangelicalism as the Kenyan evangelical church found its place.

Women began to participate in preaching in the early evangelical movement in Britain due to their fervent participation in the church. In the same way, women have been granted leadership and preaching opportunities as the spirit of the evangelical movement has spread. The revival of the 1930s in Kenya began in the Anglican Church and was spread by Church Missionary Society missionaries and local evangelists. It also opened doors for women to stand at the pulpit to preach and eventually opened doors for women to train in the first theological college, St. Paul’s theological College, established by the Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterian missionaries working in the country in the 1940s.

The new emphasis in missions meant a doctrine of assurance of salvation was preached the distinguishing mark was the work of the Spirit. The culture affected the understanding of the doctrine at the time. Open air meetings as an attempt to reach all people, not just those in the church gained fervency. This has influenced the understanding of church planning where the church is keen to identify pockets of people who do not have any Christian witness. Bible societies, urban missions and hospitals were part of the strategy for missions for the church. These overtones of the early evangelical movement are prevalent in the church today in the missions movement.

 As the influence of evangelical continued to spread in society, there was increased loyalty to the church. The 19th century was known to be the evangelical century before the onset of the First World War. Missionary work was widespread. It was during the time that the fits missionary came to the east coast to Kenya in 1846. There was a continued increase of missionary activity in this century. The fundamentalist movement did not affect the fervency of the church in the colonies. The church was dwindling in Britain but was growing in the colonies. By the time many of the British colonies gained their independence beginning in the late 1950, the church was gaining ground and has continued to do so due to the increase and fervency of the church. The resurgence of the evangelical movement has continued into the 21st century.

The church in Britain is no longer the center of culture and ideas. It still maintains some respect in view of the head of the Anglican Church and his role in the House of Lords. The decrease of Christian literature as influencing thought is a factor that is diminishing the influence of the church in Kenya too. Nevertheless, I believe that the church is on an increase in its influence and fervency due to the spiritual heritage that the church inherited from evangelicalism in Britain.

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Joy Mindo

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