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Database of African Independent Churches and Leaders

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There are well over 10000 independent Christian denominations in Africa, and this makes it difficult for church historians and other researchers to get a full picture of Christianity in Africa, or in any particular region or country.

The database is intended to be a collaborative project, to try to collect information on the history, theology and distinctive practices of each denomination which might make it easier to get a full picture, or get background inforation about people or denominations found in obscure references in books or documents.

The information in the database is gathered from books, journal articles, unpublished manuscripts, interviews with church leaders and members, archival records and material contributed by researchers.

There are four main sections of the database:

  1. Denominations (500 records)
  2. Leaders (260 records)
  3. Events (250 records)
  4. Researchers (30 records)

Te number of records grows all the time as more are added. The various sections are described more fully below.

An index of all the pages on the SAMS web site
The home page of the SAMS web site
About SAMS
Information about the aims and objects of SAMS and how one may become a member.
The Southern African Missiological Society publishes the journal Missionalia three times a year, with articles, reviews and abstracts dealing with Christian mission.
African Independent Churches
African Initiated Churches (AICs) are the fastest-growing Christian groups in many parts of Africa. This page gives some introductory information about them, a list of AIC researchers, and links for some articles where more information can be found.
Missological discussion forums
There are several electronic forums for discussing missiological topics. These are available both as e-mail mailing lists or as BBS echo conferences.

Links to mission-related web pages in Africa and around the world.
Making contact with SAMS
You may find more information about how to get in touch with the committee on the SAMS information page. You may use the following addresses for e-mail enquiries:

  • Administration - for information about membership, subscriptions to Missionalia, annual congress, etc.
  • Webmaster - for comments on these web pages, suggestions for links or improvements etc.

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Information on other pages

  1. General information about AICs
  2. AIC terminology
  3. Articles from Missionalia
  4. Southern African Missiological Society

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Database of denominations

The database of denominatons has information on about 500 AICs.

The following information is recorded, where available:

  • Name of church
  • Name of founder
  • Names of other prominent leaders
  • Date and place founded
  • Denomination it seceded from (if any)
  • A brief historical outline
  • Notes of significant references or events
  • Sources of information
  • Researchers interested in this denomination
  • Notes on distinctive theology or practices
  • Location of headquarters
  • Address of headquarters

The amount of information held on each denomination varies, but each record usually contains at least the name of the denomination and its founder or current leader.

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Database of leaders

The database of leaders has information on about 260 church leaders, not all of them leaders of AICs.

The following information is recorded, where available:

  1. Name
  2. Date and place of birth
  3. Date and place of death
  4. Current address, phone & e-mail (if living)
  5. Biographical information
  6. Notes of significant events, or references in various places
  7. Sources of information
  8. Names of father, mother, spouse and children
  9. Languages spoken by father and mother
  10. Denominations of which the person has been a member
  11. Reason for leaving church if person has been a member of more than one
  12. Country or countries in which the person has been most active
  13. Author(s) of the biographical information

The biographical section of the database is being maintained in cooperation with the Dictionary of African Christian Biography (DACB) project. Where enough biographical information is available in the database, it is published as an entry in the DACB. The published biographies do not, however, contain all the information in the database record.

There are also many records in the database that do not have enough biographical information to warrant publication in the DACB, and we welcome contributions to fill out the records so that they too can be published. Contributions of information on leaders of all Christian denominations in Africa are welcome, even if the information is fragmentary.

We are also fairly generous in our interpretation of "leader". We are not looking only for bishops and archbishops and those who made headlines in the national press of their countries. We are looking for local leaders as well, and for people whose ministry attracted little notice outside their immediate circle, yet contributed to the shape of Christianity in the place where they lived or worked.

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Database of events

The database of events holds about 250 records.

It includes a lot of miscellaneous items that did not really belong in the records of denominations or leaders. The events may have been meetings, incidents in the life of a church, interdenominational gatherings etc. By sorting them chronologically it can help to give a fuller picture of church life in a place, or in a particular denomination, or even in the lives of some leaders. The database contains the following information, where available:

  • Date and place of the event
  • A brief description of the event
  • Quotes from original sources describing the event (e.g. newspaper reports)
  • Names of main people involved
  • Organisations involved
  • Sources of information
  • Comments from researchers
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Database of researchers

The database of researchers is a record of the names and addresses of people doing research into African Independent Churches, together with their research interests and information about their publications. This makes it possible for people researching in the same feild to make contact with each other and avoid duplication of effort. The researchers may also be able to provide more information if a person is interested in a group on which they have done research.

The current list of researchers can be seen on the main AIC page.

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Access to the databases

The databases themselves are not available on line. There are two main reasons for that: lack of time and lack of money.

If you want information from the databases, send me e-mail at the address below, and say what you are looking for.


If there is anything available in the databases, I will send you a report. If the information you are looking for is not in the databases, I will pass it on to the AIC discussion forum, in case any of the other participants there can help.

If you are looking for biographical information on Christian leaders in Africa, look at the Dictionary of African Christian Biography first. Biographical reports from the "leaders" database are published there. If you do not find what you are looking for there, write to me at the address above, and I will send you a report that will include those whose biographies are not complete enough to be published.

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Contributing to the databases

If you have information about AICs or church leaders in Africa, please consider contributing this information to the database.

If you think you have something to contribute, please write to me, and ask for a report on what we already have for the churches or persons concerned. Then you can see what is available and what is not, and whether anything needs to be corrected.

I can send you, by e-mail attachment, a form that you can fill in (you can either do it electronically, or print it out and fill in the hard copy form). The form can be in rtf or pdf format, which means that it can be printed on most word processors, and distributed to others who might be able to collect the information.

If the information will not fit in the form, you could send it to me as a text document, or a document in .rtf (rich text) format. It would be most helpful if you could use the headings listed for churches, leaders or events used above, and send information for churches, leaders and events as separate files (one file for churches, one for leaders, one for events - you do not need to put each record in a separate file).

Anyone who contributes a complete biography, or contributes a significant amount of biographical information, will be listed as the author or co-author in the DACB.

For more information about how you can contribute, contact me at the addres below:


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Why are we doing this?

Anyone who has done research into church history or missiology knows that they have made notes of countless pieces of information that they do not use for publication or include in a thesis. Yet this information could be immensely useful to other researchers.

Perhaps the best way to illustrate it is through some scenarios and anecdotes.

Say you are researching for a historical biography of someone, and in one of your sources you see a mention of an encounter with another person. The other person is an AIC leader, say, of a church you have never heard of, or which may not even be mentioned in the source. But if you check the AIC database, you might be able to find both a brief biography of the person in question, and perhaps a potted history of the church of which that person was a leader, with pointers to sources of more information. That could enhance the value of your own research.

Material collected for one purpose can often be immensely useful for people who are interested in it for quite different reasons. Someone may be interested in the history of their family, and know that one of their ancestors or relatives was a leader in a church. They might not know where to begin to look for such information, but the database can serve as an index to possible sources.

My wife's mother once remarked that her great-uncle Charlie was "a missionary in Africa". That was the family story, which had been passed down from her parents. But where was he a missionary? And when? We wrote to first cousins and second cousins and third cousins once removed, and eventually one was sufficiently interested to go fossicking in libraries and archives in England, and turn up the information that he was Charles William Pearson who led an early party of Anglican missionaries to Uganda in 1878. A country and a date can make all the difference. Incidentally, we've included him in the database, so cousin Ralph's research won't be wasted, but may be useful to someone else.

A member of a church meets a leader from another church, who says "once your church was part of ours, but it split in the time of so-and-so". And suddenly they realise that they don't know why they split and what the history of the split was, nor do they know anything about so-and-so and her role in it.

The database may not be able to answer all such questions, but the more information is gathered, the more useful it will be, and the fuller the picture it can present.

We know that Christianity was spread in Africa mainly by humble evangelists, who travelled on foot or bicycle or horseback or ox-wagon or donkey-cart or on the third class coach of the train. But where they went and where they came from is often unknown. People come to a place, preach for a while and pass on to another place, and leave a church, or change a church, or change the lives of some people forever. And yet so little is known about them, and the nature of their influence, or the origin of their ideas.

Missiologists ask such questions, though: how did the Christian faith spread from A to B? Why did the Christians of A join trade unions, while those of B didn't? What happened to the evangelist who held such a momentous revival in C? Why was Pastor X arrested, and no one ever saw him again? Very often the information that answers such questions is available somewhere. Collecting it in a database makes it possible to find it again, and link it to other information, and get a more complete picture.

Why do we do it?

We do it to rescue the memories of our people.

See the web pages of the Rescuing the memories of our people Conference to see some more good reasons for this, and how and why others have got involved in it.

And do some of your own rescuing - contribute some of your infomration to the database now!

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Home page Index of all pages Information about SAMS Missionalia, the SAMS journal Articles from Missionalia African Initiated Churches Links to other sites

Maintained by
Steve Hayes

Started: 20 November 2002
Updated: 5 August 2009

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