From mission to local church: a history on the ‘indigenization’ of the Catholic Church in Buganda, 1913 - 2012
Kannamwangi, Kyanda Deogratius
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The African struggle to ‘indigenize’ the version of Christianity received from Europeans is a struggle that has been on since Christianity reached the continent. It only gaining momentum in the 20th century as Africa geared up for political independence. In this study, I trace the history and extent of the ‘indigenization’ process of the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda’s southern region of Buganda in the period between 1913 and 2012. The study seeks, among other things, to understand the nature and attributes of the early Catholic Church in Buganda, the official perception of the Roman Catholic Church of the notion of ‘indigenous Christianity’, the extent to which the Catholic Church in Buganda had been ‘indigenized’, the challenges encountered and finally the implications of the ‘indigenization’ process on the same Church between 1913 and 2012. The study was prompted by the absence of a comprehensive historical account on the ‘indigenization’ process in the Roman Catholic Church in Buganda and yet the struggle for an African identity is a topical issue in post-colonial Christianity in Africa. The central question that guided the study was: To what extent had the Catholic Church in Buganda been ‘indigenized’ by 2012? The study was informed by Henry Venn and Rufus Anderson’s “Three-Selfs Principle” or the “Indigenous Church Theory” of self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating, which constitute the universally accepted measure of indigenous maturity in mission churches. It employed a historical research design and a qualitative approach with three data collection methods; documentary, archival and oral research. The study breaks new ground by positing that the historical conditions that framed the initial form and the subsequent experiments of ‘indigenization’ of the Catholic Church in Buganda, unlike elsewhere, were not related to heightened political nationalism and the rise of the educated elite of the 1950s and 60s. Instead, I contend that the ‘indigenization’ process of the Bugandan Catholic Church was driven by the missiological vision of Msgr. Charles Lavigerie, the evangelisation approach of the first White Fathers in Buganda, the 1882–92 religio-political events that unfolded in Buganda, and the 1962–65 Vatican Council II resolutions. Findings of the study reveal that while aspects like Church personnel and hierarchy, liturgical literature and language had been fully indigenized by 2012, others like liturgy, Church architecture and ornamentation, the celebration of ‘Christian’ marriage and death rites had partially indigenized. In contrast, certain Catholic traditions including vestments, Sacraments and liturgical actions retained their European character almost in entirety. In its conclusion, the study recommends continued dialogue between Roman Catholicism and Kiganda culture, more ‘indigenization’ of liturgy, more income-generating projects and more Lay participation in the functions of the Church among others.