Some scholars argue that independent churches or religious movements demonstrate syncretism or partial integration between aspects of Christian belief and African traditional religion, but the degree to which this happens varies, and has often been exaggerated. Often these churches have resulted from a process of acculturation between traditional African beliefs and Protestant Christianity, and have split from their parent churches.
The charge of syncretism suggests an 'impure' and superficial form of Christianity used to maintain older cultural practices and beliefs. More recently, academic opinion has shifted towards recognizing that all forms of Christianity entail some adaptation to ethnic or regional cultural systems. Bengt Sundkler, one of the most prominent pioneers of research on African independent churches in South Africa, initially argued that AICs were bridges back to a pre-industrial culture. Later, he recognized instead that AICs helped their affiliates to adapt to a modernizing world that was hostile to their cultural beliefs.
While the term "African" is appropriate, given that these Christian groupings formed in Africa, AICs differ from one another. Not all African cultural systems are the same: regional variations occur between West, East, and Southern Africans, and the AICs will reflect these. Africans tend to have in common a belief that ancestral spirits interact with the living (a belief also shared by many Asian peoples). As the discussion of classification below shows, the various AICs also differ widely in their organisational forms. Some resemble western Christian denominations (Ethiopian-types), while others may not (Zionist-types). Some have large numbers of affiliates located all over a country (the Zion Christian Church of South Africa), while others may consist only of an extended family and their acquaintances meeting in a house or out of doors.
Recently, even the idea that AICs are indigenous to Africa have had to be surrendered, as AICs can now be found in Europe (e.g. Germany, Britain) and the United States. In such cases, the term "African" suggests the continent of origin, rather than of location.
Many AICs share traditions with Christians from other parts of the Christian world, and these can also be used in classifying them. So there are AICs of Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic, Pentecostal and Orthodox traditions. Some are Sabbatarian, some are Zionist, and so on. The categories described below are those that have been used by many church historians and others, but there are no rigid boundaries between them.
The Zionist missionaries were followed by Pentecostal ones, whose teaching was concentrated on spiritual gifts and baptism in the Holy Spirit, with speaking in tongues as the initial evidence of this. Out of this movement arose the predominantly white Apostolic Faith Mission, which emphasised the Pentecostal teaching, while the black Zionists retained much of the original Zionist tradition. The Zionists split into several different denominations, although the reason for this was more the rapid growth of the movement than divisions. A split in the Zionist movement in the USA meant that few missionaries came to Southern Africa after about 1908, and the movement in Southern Africa and its growth was the result of black leadership and initiative.
As time passed some Zionist groups began to mix aspects of traditional African beliefs like ancestor veneration with Christian doctrine. Many Zionists stress faith-healing and revelation, and in many congregations the leader is viewed as a prophet.
Denominations that have been described by some as Messianic include the Kimbanguist Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Nazareth Baptist Church of Isaiah Shembe in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and the Zion Christian Church with headquarters in South Africa's Limpopo province.
A revival took place in 1918 during the outbreak of influenza epidemic. The group filled with the Holy Ghost used prayer to save many lives affected by the Influenza epidemic. This consolidated the formation of the prayer group and the group was properly named Precious Stone and later to Diamond Society. By 1920, the Diamond Society had grown tremendously and had started to form branches around the Western region of Nigeria. In particular, David Odubanjo went to start the Lagos branch. The group emphasized divine healing, Holiness, and All Sufficiency of God, which form the three cardinal beliefs of the Church today. For this reason, the group had association with Faith Tabernacle of Philadelphia and changed its name to Faith Tabernacle of Nigeria.
A great revival started in July 1930 by the raising of a dead body by Apostle Joseph Ayo Babalola at Oke-Oye in Ilesa. People trooped from neighbouring cities and countries to receive healing at Ilesa. Several people were healed through the power of prayer and there were evidences of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The revival lasted about 60 days and it's still regarded as the greatest revival ever in Nigeria. Faith Tabernacle of Nigeria later invited the Apostolic Church of England in 1931 to form an Association which lasted till 1939. The Revival group went through several name changes until, after 24 years of its formation, it finally adopted the name Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) in 1942. Today, CAC has spread worldwide and definitely is the precursor of Aladura Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria. Visit [CAC website] at http://www.cacworldwide.net/. The Church has established several schools at all levels, including Joseph Ayo Babalola University.
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