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Southern African converts were already present in southern Africa before the arrival of missionaries of the Missionary Society, later known as the London Missionary Society (LMS), in southern Africa in 1799. These southern Africans accompanied the Society’s missionaries to settle beyond 'The Limits' of the then-Cape Colony, across the Orange River and preach to people living there. In 1814, no fewer than fourteen southern African men were 'set aside' as deacons and missionaries to run three new LMS stations, proving the success in this region of the missionary objective of evangelising and then moving on to new potential converts. This paper introduces these people to contemporary scholars. However, ‘the Limits’ of colonial authority shifted as a boundary; governors demanded to use mission station communities for colonial labour, apparently unwaged, which missionaries resisted in a tug of war which they ended up losing. In 1816 the Cape government closed the new stations without explanation, and the newly-appointed southern African missionaries became homeless and unemployed. The deputation undertaken by Robert Moffat and Campbell to investigate accusations of slovenliness at established LMS stations focused on the sexual indiscretions of two Black clergy, one of whom, Reverend Read, Snr, was reinstated as this was his first offence; the second, Corner, was dismissed because it was his second. Thereafter, management of all LMS stations was maintained by European missionaries, leaving the southern African clergy obscured by and peripheral to ecclesiastical history even while they proved the point of the mission in the first place. 

Joanne Davis is a Research Associate of the Centre for World Christianity, SOAS and Research Fellow, Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study. 

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking is required.