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Date of Award

6-19-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Theology (Th.M)

Department

Divinity College

Supervisor

C. Mark Steinacher

Language

English

Abstract

Under the revivalistic example and persuasion of German Methodistic groups in the midnineteenth century, scattered groups of Swiss-German Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in North America came together in a union called the Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in 1883. This denomination deliberately drew closer to mainstream evangelicalism of a Wesleyan holiness type. Valuing "aggressive evangelism," and trying to serve widely located Anabaptists, the denomination supported foreign missions but did not have any mission sending structure until 1905. By then several dozen young members, men and women, had volunteered and joined nondenominational holiness movement missionary societies. When A W Banfield resigned from service in Nigeria with one such mission in 1905, some Mennonite Brethren in Christ Conferences led by the Ontario Conference organized themselves to send him and his wife back to Nigeria to start the first foreign mission of the denomination. A stronger organization, the United Missionary Society, was constituted in 1921, supported by all but one of the Annual Conferences. In Nigeria, the mission selected the Nupe people along the middle Niger River and slowly added mission stations, eventually serving about nine people groups in the west and north of Nigeria. A Nigerian church, the United Missionary Church of Africa, was organized as part of the indigenizing policy of the mission after the Second World War, but the mission retained leadership and ownership in key areas until moved to turnover control by mission board policies and the nationalizing mood of Nigeria through the 1970s. Nigerians converted through or serving with the mission became the leaders of uneven periods of growth, although overall the church has grown tenfold since the 1960s to average Sunday attendances of over 52,000 by 1999.

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