Freedom to Witness: Southern Baptists in Rhodesia, 1950-1980
Hansen, Jonathan Michael
This paper explores the activities and experiences of a small group of American missionaries, Southern Baptists, who went to Rhodesia to spread their faith, but often found themselves caught between the movement for majority rule and white resistance. Southern Baptist missionaries spent thirty years spreading their faith in white-ruled Rhodesia. Throughout this period the mission successfully avoided confrontation with the Rhodesian government and converted Africans to their faith and their denominational work. In balancing their commitments to evangelism, law and order, and racial equality, the thirty year history consistently points to evangelism and conversion as the primary concern of Baptist missionaries. Only when Rhodesian law threatened this commitment did the Baptist Mission protest against white authorities. Rarely did the missionaries challenge the racist policies of the Rhodesian government. By placing their commitment to law and order above racial equality, Baptists applied an evangelistic pragmatism that allowed them freedom to live in Rhodesia and “witness” to the majority African population.