It’s a long jump from Mary Slessor’s canoe to Billy Graham’s chartered aircraft. The white queen of Calabar died in Nigeria after 39 years of saving lives of unwanted twins and their mothers. The far-travelled American evangelist visited five Nigerian cities in little more than a fortnight, then moved on to Rhodesia and Tanganyika. This week he was to conduct meetings in Kenya.

Graham’s talks to missionaries and church leaders always reflect his awareness that he is reaping where others have sowed in blood and tears. One morning, in a hastily-built brush arbor where he had preached to a little church which has resisted Moslem repression at great peril, he murmured aloud: “I tell you, these people will live in mansions in Heaven; we’re getting a lot of our reward down here.”

While Nigeria has no great zeal for pan-Africanism such as is being fostered in neighboring Ghana, nationalism is nevertheless an important factor in religious life, especially in the cities. Materialism beckons talented young people. Natives are moving faster to take the reins in national church life. Many missionary groups are relinquishing control in favor of a fully indigeneous church.

Paradoxically, in parts of Nigeria where the indigeneous church is relatively strong and older missionaries are moving to more needy fields, some American societies are moving in and supporting dissidents. The resultant multiplication of sects adds to the confusion of seekers and semi-pagans.

Much of the religious picture in this most populous (36,000,000) of African countries can be explained in terms of a second century church and a delayed renaissance. African Christians are busy operating schools and organizing national church life and have comparatively little concern ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.