Malawi, Christianity in

Subject Area African Christianity
Author(s) Kenneth R. Ross, Joyce Mlenga
Published31 August 2022
Revised30 April 2024
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Christianity is the majority religion in Malawi, espoused by some 80 percent of the population. Its history goes back to the celebrated nineteenth-century travels of David Livingstone and the Anglican and Presbyterian missions that he inspired. While some remarkable European missionaries were prominent in the early years of Christianity in the country, it was not long before Malawians were developing their own interpretations of the faith and offering leadership to a rapidly growing Christian movement. Church life diversified as African Independent Churches were formed, returning migrant workers brought new churches with them, and Pentecostal and Charismatic churches began to proliferate. At the same time, the Catholics and Presbyterians have continued to run vibrant parishes in every part of the country and to wield significant influence at national level. Christianity has become deeply embedded in the culture, finding expression in music, language and everyday life. Following some general and introductory material, this article surveys the literature that has been generated on each of the major expressions of Christianity in Malawi, before examining the relation between Christianity and the two other major religions found in the country– African Traditional Religion and Islam – and the influence of Christianity on education and socio-economic development.

General Overviews

Much of the scholarly work on Christianity in Malawi has originated in the work of postgraduate students who have completed master’s or doctorate degrees. It therefore tends to focus on a narrowly defined topic rather than ranging broadly across the field. Comprehensive general introductory texts remain to be developed. Listed below are three introductory articles that offer overviews of Christianity in Malawi (Chakanza and Ross 2014, Phiri, Kapuma and Harawa 2016, and Ross 2011). Those seeking to find their way into the subject might derive value from two earlier bibliographic ventures with much relevance to Christianity in Malawi (Chakanza and Ross 1998 and Ross 1998). Also listed below are two historical volumes, one providing a systematic historical introduction to Christianity in Malawi, the other a set of illuminating case studies (Ross and Fiedler 2020 and Ross and Mulwafu 2020).

Chakanza, J. C., and Kenneth R. Ross. “Malawi.” In Worldmark Encyclopedia of Religious Practices, edited by Thomas Riggs, 2nd ed., 3:360–68. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2014. Export Item

Putting the focus on “lived religion” in Malawi, this article examines the practices through which Christianity comes to expression in the Malawian context.

Chakanza, J. C., and Kenneth R. Ross. Religion in Malawi: An Annotated Bibliography. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 1998. Export Item

The first fully comprehensive bibliographic survey of religion in Malawi, which builds on earlier bibliographic work at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. It has sections on African Traditional Religion, Islam, Christianity: General, Christianity: Anglican, Christianity: Presbyterian, Christianity: Roman Catholic, Christianity: Baptist, Evangelical, Seventh-day Adventist, Pentecostal, Christianity: African Instituted Churches, and Religion in General. Each entry has a short annotation.

Phiri, Isabel Apawo, Gertrude Kapuma, and Chimwemwe Harawa. “Christianity in Malawi.” In Anthology of African Christianity, edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri and Dietrich Werner, 634–40. Oxford: Regnum, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A brief survey of Christianity in Malawi that discusses the founding of the historical churches, the impact of Christianity on development, ecumenism and five major challenges for Christianity in Malawi.

Ross, Kenneth R. “Malawi.” In Religion Past and Present, edited by Hans Dieter Betz, Don S. Browning, Bernd Janowski, and Eberhard Jüngel. Leiden: Brill, 2011. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A short summary of the history of Christianity in Malawi and an assessment of its contemporary presence.

Ross, Kenneth R. “The Study of Religion in Malawi: A Select Critical Bibliography.” Missionalia 26, no. 2 (August 1998): 186–209. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This article, written by a Professor of Theology at the University of Malawi, surveys the major publications on religion in Malawi that had appeared by the end of the twentieth century. It has sections on African Traditional Religion, Islam, Christianity: General, Bible, Theology, Theological Education, Church, State and Society, Education, Medical Work, and Marriage, as well as sections on the major expressions of Christianity.

Ross, Kenneth R., and Klaus Fiedler. A Malawi Church History 1860-2020. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The first attempt to comprehend the whole of Malawi’s church history in a single volume. Written by two veteran church historians, it unfolds the history by examining four periods: 1860-1910, 1910-1960, 1960-90 and 1990-2020. It considers every expression of Christianity and aims to take account of its every dimension. It is arranged in twenty-eight chapters with a view to being used in the two fourteen-week teaching periods of a normal academic year.

Ross, Kenneth R., and Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, eds. Politics, Christianity and Society in Malawi: Essays in Honour of John McCracken. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A posthumous festschrift honouring John McCracken, the eminent historian of Malawi, celebrating his contribution and seeking to build on his legacy. In light of McCracken’s attention to the influence of Christianity in Malawi, around half of the essays are concerned with aspects of the history of Christianity in the country.


Publication of journals has been a challenging sphere in the Malawian context. There are very few journals that have appeared on a regular and uninterrupted basis. More commonly there are sporadic issues, sometimes with lengthy gaps. Religion in Malawi, the journal of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, is the leading journal in the field. Given the salience of religion in Malawian life and culture, relevant articles also appear in several journals that have a wider frame of reference. Outside Malawi, the Journal of Religion in Africa also includes a number of important articles.

Journal of Religion in Africa, 1967. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Founded in 1967, the Journal of Religion in Africa has established itself as the leading international journal in its field, publishing volume 52 in 2022. It is concerned with all aspects of religion and ritual throughout Africa and has included a number of valuable articles on Christianity in Malawi.

Malawi Journal of Social Science, 1972. Export Item

The Malawi Journal of Social Science is produced by the Faculty of Social Science at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. Following its inception in 1972, the journal appeared reasonably regularly, producing eighteen issues by 2004, but it has not been published in recent years. It has included a number of articles, especially in the field of history, that shed light on our understanding of Christianity in Malawi.

Religion and Culture, 2013. Export Item

The journal of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Mzuzu University, Religion and Culture, is somewhat modelled on Religion in Malawi. Launched in 2013, it has so far produced only two issues, so its potential is yet to be fulfilled. It aims to foster an interdisciplinary approach.

Religion in Malawi, 1987. Export Item

Having published its first issue in 1987 and having produced nineteen issues by 2020, Religion in Malawi has established itself as the leading journal in its field. Its founding editor, J. C. Chakanza, was an inspirational figure and the journal has a solid institutional base in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. Taking primarily a “religious studies” approach, it is intentionally inclusive of all religions found in Malawi but many of its articles are concerned with aspects of Christianity.

Society of Malawi Journal, 1965. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Founded as the Nyasaland Journal in 1948 and renamed in 1965, the Society of Malawi Journal has by far the longest continuous run of issues of any journal in Malawi, publishing volume 75 in 2022. It is concerned with all aspects of life in Malawi, striking a balance between the natural sciences and the humanities. Many of its articles have some relevance to Christianity in Malawi and it occasionally carries an article that directly concerns Christian history.

Primary Resources Online

So far in Malawi relatively little has been done to make resources relevant to the study of Christianity available online. Malawians have enthusiastically embraced social media platforms, such as Facebook and WhatsApp, but little work has been done on the development of substantial websites housing data that can inform the study of Christianity. As internet access increases and scholars become accustomed to online ways of working, such development can be expected. Meanwhile, this section points mainly to websites maintained by some important church organisations in the country, where relevant primary resources can be found.

CCAP Blantyre Synod, Malawi. Accessed August 31, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The site provides the history of the CCAP Blantyre Synod, the activities of the church, and other relevant information.

CCAP Synod of Livingstonia. Accessed August 31, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This online resource contains the history of CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, its statement of faith and strategic documents of the church.

Episcopal Conference of Malawi. Accessed August 31, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This online source provides information about the Roman Catholic Church in general. The vision, the mission and the beliefs of the church, among other things, are shared. It also shares news concerning the Church’s activities, and serves as a prophetic voice on ethical issues, such as abortion.

Evangelical Association of Malawi. Accessed August 31, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

As the website indicates, “the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM) is a Christian umbrella organization for Evangelical churches and Christian organizations.” This online resource contains information about its history and activities, which include the strengthening of democracy, human rights and good governance.

Malawi Assemblies of God. Accessed August 31, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The site shares basic information concerning the vision, mission, doctrines and beliefs, history and organizational structure of Malawi Assemblies of God. The site also contains news about the activities of the church, including missions.

Public Affairs Committee. Accessed August 31, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The Public Affairs Committee is a key civil society organization in the field of human rights, mediation, advocacy, HIV/AIDS, Gender based Violence, religious co-existence, electoral processes and peace and security. It comprises representatives from different religious backgrounds. The site provides information about its roles and activities in promoting good governance in Malawi.


Presbyterian Missions were the first to establish a permanent presence in Malawi when the Free Church of Scotland launched the Livingstonia Mission in 1875 and the (established) Church of Scotland launched the Blantyre Mission the following year. As Livingstonia was drawn to the northern part of the country and Blantyre established itself in the south, the central region offered an inviting field for the Dutch Reformed Mission from South Africa’s Cape Province when its first missionaries arrived in Malawi in 1889. As indigenous churches emerged from the three missions, they adopted the Presbyterian form of government and united to become the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) in 1926. Much identity and authority remain, however, with the three synods that emerged from each of the three missions: Livingstonia, Blantyre and Nkhoma. Total CCAP membership today is between three and four million and the church has been historically influential, particularly through the educational institutions that trained many of Malawi’s leaders. It has put a premium on theological education, offered today at a united college in Zomba as well as at the universities run by each of the three synods.

Mapala, Cogitator Wilton. “A Historical Study of the Border Dispute between the Synods of Livingstonia and Nkhoma of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian.” PhD diss., University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Historically the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in Malawi had comity arrangements between its three constituent synods. Mapala, a minister of Livingstonia Synod, traces the history of a dispute between the Livingstonia and Nkhoma Synods about the border between them which led to an abandonment of respect for the border. It finds the nub of the issue in the priority given to ethnic identity at the expense of church unity.

McCracken, John. Politics and Christianity in Malawi 1875-1940: The Impact of the Livingstonia Mission in the Northern Province. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A revised and extended version of a doctoral dissertation submitted at Cambridge in 1967, this is an authoritative examination of Livingstonia Mission and its impact. Thoroughly researched and stylishly written by a holder of the UK’s Distinguished Africanist award, it sheds light on the dynamics at play as Malawi embraced Christianity. Described by Adrian Hastings as “a model, not easily surpassed, of mission history which is also genuinely social history drawing together a network of very varied themes.”

Munyenyembe, Rhodian G. “A History of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) as a Federative Denomination (1924-2015).” PhD diss., University of the Free State, 2015. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This thesis by the Head of Theology and Religious Studies at Mzuzu University examines the government structures of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian and concludes that it is a federation of five separate denominations rather than a single united church. Munyenyembe traces the reasons for this to its origins in missionary history and a determination to retain authority at synod level, so that the General Assembly, notionally the supreme court, is in reality an umbrella organisation of little significance.

Musopole, Augustine Chingwala. Singing and Dancing for God: The Theology of Indigenous Hymns from Northern Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A comprehensive theological analysis of the extensive body of hymnody that was composed by northern Malawians during the early years of their encounter with Christianity. The book provides many insights into the ways in which they understood and expressed the faith that they had embraced.

Ncozana, Silas S. Sangaya: A Leader in the Synod of Blantyre Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A vivid biography of Jonathan Sangaya, the first Malawian General Secretary of the Presbyterian Synod of Blantyre. Written by his deputy who later became his successor, it is an important study that sheds light on the era of transition from “mission to church” in African Christianity.

Pauw, Christoff Martin. “Mission and Church in Malawi: The History of the Nkhoma Synod of the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian 1889-1962.” DTh diss., Stellenbosch University, 1980. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The only systematic and comprehensive history of the Presbyterian Synod of Nkhoma, which originated from the work of the South African Dutch Reformed Church Mission in central Malawi. Written by a former DRC missionary with deep knowledge of Chewa language and culture, it draws extensively on primary sources, both in Malawi and in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Ross, Andrew C. Blantyre Mission and the Making of Modern Malawi. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

An authoritative study of the first fifty years of the Blantyre Mission (1876-1926) by one of its missionaries who later became Dean of Divinity at Edinburgh University. It is based on extensive oral and written sources, with a concentration on changes and conflicts in mission policy, church-state relations and the emergence of an African church. It offers an appreciative portrait of David Clement Scott, the mission’s brilliant leader during the 1880s and 1890s and demonstrates its decisive role in shaping the nation of Malawi.

Ross, Kenneth R. Mission, Race and Colonialism in Malawi: Alexander Hetherwick of Blantyre. Edinburgh; Mzuzu: Edinburgh University Press; Mzuni Press, 2023. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Through a biographical study of a long-serving leader of the Presbyterian Blantyre Mission, Alexander Hetherwick, this book explores ways in which Malawi’s early twentieth century history was shaped by the three forces of mission, race and colonialism. It examines how Hetherwick was influenced by colonialist thinking but also how he resisted it.

Ross, Kenneth R., and Mwawi N. Chilongozi, eds. The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian 1924-2024: A Centenary Assessment. Geneva; Wellington; Mzuzu: Globethics; Barnabas Academic; Mzuni Press, 2024. URL: Link Access: Export Item

An academic analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) as it marks its centenary in 2024. The twenty chapters are organised in three sections: CCAP History, CCAP Women, and CCAP Concerns.

Thompson, T. Jack. Christianity in Northern Malawi: Donald Fraser’s Missionary Methods. Leiden: Brill, 1995. URL: Link Export Item

Donald Fraser stood out among Livingstonia missionaries for his sympathetic approach to African culture. This found expression in his work among the Ngoni people of Mzimba in the early years of the twentieth century as he identified points of resonance for the Christian message in their traditional culture. Jack Thompson was adopted by the Ngoni as one of their own and given the clan name Jabulani Jere.


The Catholic Church is Malawi’s largest church, though in terms of academic analysis it has not attracted the largest literature. It was rather a latecomer on the ecclesiastical scene in Malawi, motivated to begin its mission work in the late 1880s by concern that Malawi might become a Protestant enclave. Its first mission settled at Mponda’s on the southern shore of Lake Malawi in 1890 but became embroiled in the struggle between Britain and Portugal for control of the Shire Highlands and was finally abandoned. A fresh start in 1901 marked the beginning of a permanent presence as the Montfort Mission arrived to establish missions across southern Malawi. Soon afterwards the White Fathers founded a chain of mission stations across the central part of the country. In the early years, competition with the Protestants was intense, often expressed in rivalry between their networks of schools. After the First World War the Catholics grew exponentially in numbers and also developed an impressive institutional presence. A national hierarchy was established in 1959. Priests and bishops had their formation in minor and major seminaries, the latter encouraging theological engagement.

Chigona, Gerard. Catholic Church and Politics in Malawi: The Circle of Silence and Prophetic Engagement (1964-2004). Balaka: Montfort, 2011. Export Item

An independent Catholic scholar with a keen eye for the interplay of faith and politics, Chigona traces the history of the Catholic Church’s engagement with national politics from the early post-independence years when it was reduced to silence by the hostility and intimidation of the ruling regime through to the development of an effective prophetic stance during the 1990s.

Kalilombe, Patrick A. “Christ’s Church in Lilongwe Today and Tomorrow.” In Doing Theology at the Grassroots: Theological Essays from Malawi, 44–73. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

When Patrick Kalilombe, the first Malawian “White Father,” became the Catholic Bishop of Lilongwe in 1972, he aimed to apply the ecclesiology of Vatican II to his diocese. In his 1973 Pastoral Letter he set out his vision, which set him on a collision course with the dictatorial regime of Kamuzu Banda but had far-reaching implications for the Catholic Church in Malawi.

Lacayo, Beverly. “Sisterhoods and Empowerment of Women in Central and East Africa.” In Christianity in Malawi: A Reader, edited by Klaus Fiedler and Kenneth R. Ross, 423–37. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2021. Export Item

This article, originally published in the SEDOS Bulletin in 1994, recognises the highly significant role played by orders of nuns in the Catholic Church in Africa. It questions male dominance of leadership roles and makes the case for more recognition and responsibility being given to the sisters.

Linden, Ian, and Jane Linden. Catholics, Peasants and Chewa Resistance in Nyasaland 1889-1939. London: Heinemann, 1974. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A pioneering study of early Catholic history in Malawi by a scholar who later became Director of the Catholic Institute for International Relations. He contrasts Catholic “populism” with Presbyterian “elitism.” His focus is on the White Fathers’ missions among the Chewa and Ngoni peoples of central Malawi. Through insightful cultural analysis he identifies both points of harmony and points of conflict in the interaction between African communities and Catholic missions and sets this encounter in its broader social and political context.

Linden, Ian, ed. Mponda Mission Diary 1889-1891. Lilongwe: White Fathers, 1989. Export Item

A primary source which provides a vivid account of the first attempt by the White Fathers to begin mission work in Malawi. Though thwarted by the political circumstances of the time, it proved to be the harbinger of the highly successful mission work that was to follow from the early twentieth century.

Reijnaerts, Hubert, Ann Nielsen, and Matthew Schoffeleers. Montfortians in Malawi: Their Spirituality and Pastoral Approach. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. Export Item

First published in the Kachere Series in 1997, this is an unrivalled account of the extraordinarily successful work of the Catholic Montfort missionaries in southern Malawi. The authors were all members of the Montfortian order and include the distinguished anthropologist Matthew Schoffeleers, so it is an “insider” narrative but written with critical awareness. Rich in detail, it sympathetically describes the missionaries and their work while also tracing the emergence of the Malawian Catholic Church.

Vezeau, Roland. The Apostolic Vicariate of Nyasa: First Developments. Rome: Generalate of the Missionaries of Africa, 1989. Export Item

Originally written in 1935 by a serving priest of the Missionaries of Africa, this book recounts the beginning and early development of the work of the White Fathers in Malawi: the bishops who presided, the mission stations that were opened, and the training of local catechists and, later, priests.


The first church to respond to David Livingstone’s advocacy of Malawi as a strategic site for missionary work was the Church of England. As a direct result of Livingstone’s famous speech in the Senate House at Cambridge in 1857, the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) was formed as a joint effort of Cambridge, Oxford, Durham and Dublin Universities. The mission was firmly based in the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England and this is the form of Anglicanism that has taken root in Malawi. It got off to a disastrous start at Magomero in 1861 when it became embroiled in inter-ethnic conflict and several of its missionaries died of disease, including its leader Bishop Charles Mackenzie. The mission withdrew and spent the next two decades in Zanzibar preparing for the return to Malawi which took place in the mid-1880s when it began to work around the lakeshore and established its headquarters on Likoma Island. In the post-independence period, leadership has passed into Malawian hands and the Anglican Church has spread to all parts of the country.

Chadwick, Owen. Mackenzie’s Grave. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1959. Export Item

A classic account by a leading church historian, this book tells the story of the first attempt to establish a permanent Christian mission in Malawi. The UMCA party, accompanied by David Livingstone, established itself at Magomero in southern Malawi but its presence there was short-lived and culminated in the death of its leader, Bishop Charles Mackenzie.

Kilekwa, Petro. Slave Boy to Priest: The Autobiography of Padre Petro Kilekwa. Translated by K. H. Nixon-Smith. London: UMCA, 1937. Export Item

Translated from Chinyanja by Nixon-Smith, the book is Fr Kilekwa’s account of his early life as a slave, his liberation, his formation at the UMCA station in Zanzibar, his ordination as a priest and his service at the Anglican missions at Nkhotakota and Monkey Bay.

M’passou, Denis B. Josiah Mtekateka: From a Priest’s Dog-Boy to a Bishop. Chilema: M’Passou, Mtekateka and Subscribers, 1979. Export Item

A brief biography, drawing on extensive primary sources, of Josiah Mtekateka who in 1965 became the first Malawian to be consecrated as an Anglican Bishop. Initially a Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of Malawi, in 1971 he became the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Lake Malawi, with his base at Nkhotakota.

Stuart, Richard G. “Christianity and the Chewa: The Anglican Case 1885-1950.” PhD diss., SOAS University of London, 1974. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This thesis examines the interaction between the Chewa and the Anglo-Catholic UMCA during the colonial period. It employs Robin Horton’s “intellectualist” theory of African conversion to assess both acceptance of and resistance to the message of the mission. Free via subscription from EThOS.

Tengatenga, James. Church, State and Society in Malawi: The Anglican Case. Zomba: Kachere, 2006. Export Item

Written while the author was Anglican Bishop of Southern Malawi, he examines the relationship of the Anglican Church to the state and to politics in Malawi through different phases of history. On the basis of a critical analysis, he proposes an ecclesiology of prophetic engagement with society and political life.

Tengatenga, James, ed. The UMCA in Malawi: A History of the Anglican Church. Zomba: Kachere, 2010. Export Item

A new edition of the official history of the UMCA, originally produced in three volumes (vol. 1 edited by Anne E. M. Anderson-Morshead, originally published in 1897 and republished in 1955, and vols. 2 and 3 edited by Arthur G. Blood, published in 1957 and 1962). It includes a substantial new introduction by Bishop Tengatenga which covers the post-independence period.

Weller, John C. The Priest from the Lakeside: The Story of Leonard Kamungu of Malawi and Zambia 1877-1913. Blantyre: CLAIM, 1971. Export Item

A biography of Leonard Kamungu who was among the first to be baptised at the UMCA mission at Chia on the eastern shore of Lake Malawi. Ordained priest in 1908 he became a missionary to Zambia, establishing its first Anglican church at Msoro. Though his ministry was cut short by his sudden death in 1913 he continues to be revered among Anglicans for his saintly character.


The Evangelical tradition was introduced to Malawi by the controversial Baptist missionary Joseph Booth in the early 1890s. Booth founded the Zambezi Industrial Mission in 1892 and the Nyasa Industrial Mission soon afterwards. Both would become significant Evangelical churches in Malawi, spreading from their initial base in the Blantyre area to have a nationwide presence. Baptists have formed a major element in the Evangelical movement, with Booth’s protégé John Chilembwe founding the Providence Industrial Mission, as a Baptist church, in 1900. The Churches of Christ also trace their origins to the early twentieth century. New missions in the mid-twentieth century strengthened the Evangelical presence and it was galvanised by the Blantyre Spiritual Revival of the 1960s and 1970s, with its lively worship and active evangelistic outreach. Through the revival, some notable Evangelical preachers came to prominence, such as Shadreck Wame and Andrew Gabriel. It also strengthened para-church organisations like Scripture Union and the Student Christian Organisation. The Evangelical Association of Malawi emerged as an influential forum at national level. The Evangelical Bible College of Malawi, earlier known as Likhubula Bible Institute, in Blantyre, is a significant centre for Evangelical theology.

Kawamba, Brighton. The Blantyre Spiritual Awakening and Its Music. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

An account of the spiritual revival that occurred in the city of Blantyre in the 1960s and 1970s, revitalizing Evangelical Christianity and preparing the way for the Charismatic movement. The book has a special focus on the introduction of choruses and musical accompaniment which was an innovative feature of the movement.

Langworthy, Harry. Africa for the African: The Life of Joseph Booth. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 2002. Export Item

Written by Joseph Booth’s great-grandson, this book traces the story of the “maverick missionary” who disturbed the status quo in Malawi in the 1890s and founded a succession of churches in the Evangelical tradition. Langworthy examines his social and political ideas, including his petition to Queen Victoria demanding that Malawi become independent by 1920. Though Booth was a pacifist, his thought was seminal to the Chilembwe Rising of 1915.

Longwe, Hany. Christians by Grace - Baptists by Choice: A History of the Baptist Convention of Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2013. Export Item

Growing out of the work of the Baptist Mission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Baptist Convention of Malawi has developed a truly Malawian character. The author, a long serving Principal of the Baptist Theological Seminary, examines its growth and identifies some of its distinctive features.

Longwe, Hany. Identity by Dissociation: A History of the Achewa Providence Industrial Mission. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2013. Export Item

Tracing its origins to the work of John Chilembwe, in particular to Chilembwe’s student Peter Kalemba, the Achewa PIM has been strongly concentrated among the Chewa people of the Lilongwe area where it prepared the way for the later emergence of the Baptist Convention of Malawi.

Makondesa, Patrick. A Church History of Providence Industrial Mission. Zomba: Kachere, 2006. Export Item

Beginning with the founding of the Providence Industrial Mission by John Chilembwe in 1900, the author, himself a PIM leader, takes a rounded view of its early history. He acknowledges the “remarkably early liberation theology” that underpinned the 1915 Rising, which was based at the PIM, but also looks at many other aspects of church life, including PIM’s re-establishment in 1926 under Daniel Malekebu.

Thiesen, Mark. Churches of Christ: A History of the Restoration Movement in Malawi, 1906-2011. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2021. Export Item

A comprehensive survey of the (many) different branches of the Churches of Christ found in Malawi, by an author who was born on a Churches of Christ mission and later served himself as a missionary. Divergent understandings of how to restore the New Testament church have led to fragmentation but have not hindered extensive expansion throughout Malawi.

Wendland, Ernst R. Preaching That Grabs the Heart: A Rhetorical-Stylistic Study of the Chichewa Revival Sermons of Shadrack Wame. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 2000. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Wame was a prominent preacher in the revival movements and crusades that transformed the religious landscape, particularly in the city of Blantyre, in the early post-independence years in Malawi. The content and character of this fresh movement of Christian faith is revealed by a close study of the sermons of this celebrated lay preacher by a biblical scholar with a lifetime of experience in Central Africa.

Seventh-day Adventists

The Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church is the third largest in Malawi, with a presence throughout the country. The “maverick” missionary Joseph Booth was instrumental in the launch of the first SDA Mission in Malawi at Makwasa, later known as Malamulo. It quickly established a reputation for the quality of its schools and was also a pioneer in healthcare. Major mission stations were established at Matandani in the west of the country and at Lunjika in the north, renowned for the quality of their infrastructure and their disciplined approach. The Adventists became heir to much of the work that the Seventh Day Baptists had begun in the northern region, where it offered an alternative form of Christianity to that represented by the Livingstonia Mission. The post-independence period saw a decline in the once-formidable mission stations but a dramatic growth in congregational life as the Seventh-day Adventists extended their presence to all parts of the country. In accordance with their tradition, they have kept a certain distance from the other Christian churches but Malawian Adventists are unusual in being members of the ecumenical Malawi Christian Council.

Banda, Macleard. Lunjika SDA Mission in Northern Malawi 1932-1995. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A thorough exploration by an Adventist scholar of how the SDA Church established its presence in the north of Malawi, taking over much of the earlier work of the Seventh Day Baptists. The Lunjika Mission, earlier known as the Mombera Mission, was a key centre as the SDA Church spread within the Ngoni communities of Mzimba.

Bilima, Jaspine D. “The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Malawi, 1900-1980.” MDiv thesis, Andrews University, 1987. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A pioneering history of the SDA Church, which grew during the twentieth century to become a major force in Malawian Christianity. It examines missionary methods and the roles played by both expatriate and national workers. It concludes that the development of schools was very significant for the church growth that took place.

Chirwa, Frank Barden. Mission in Progress: The Developing Role of Women in the Church. An SDA Perspective from Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A wide-ranging survey of the role of women in the SDA Church, particularly in Malawi, leads to a critical appraisal. Chirwa, a long-serving SDA leader and theologian, shows how the role of women has been a source of much conflict, yet they have progressively come to occupy positions of influence in the life of the church. He advocates that this process should go further.

Matemba, Yonah Hisbon. Matandani: The Second Adventist Mission in Malawi. Zomba: Kachere, 2003. Export Item

The author, an educationalist and theologian, traces the history of Matandani Mission from its founding in 1908 through to its years of flourishing in the mid-twentieth century and its decline in more recent times. It illustrates the holistic approach that characterised SDA Missions and the discipline that became a hallmark of the SDA way of life.

African Independent Churches

Especially in the early decades of the twentieth century, African Independent Churches (AICs) exercised an important role in ecclesial, cultural, social and political terms. As colonial rule took effect and Malawians got the measure of mission Christianity, a number took the decision to form their own churches, independent of European control. Particularly in the north of the country where Livingstonia Mission’s advanced educational system cultivated independent thinking, some outstanding leaders broke away to found their own churches. These often took a more sympathetic view of traditional African culture than was found in the European-run missions and became pioneers of the inculturation of the faith. In a colonial society where there were few opportunities for the African community to organise itself, the independent churches also had a role as harbingers of political independence. Often these churches were small and relatively local. It was a fragmented and diverse movement, yet with enough in common to form a distinct strand of Christianity. Many of them continue as an active presence today, though often on the fringe. Their theology, though not often expressed in an academic form, is richly articulated in symbols, music and ritual practice.

Chakanza, J. C. “The Independency Alternative: A Historical Survey.” Religion in Malawi 4 (1994): 32–42. Export Item

Based on the author’s Annotated List of Independent Churches in Malawi 1900-1981, published in the University of Malawi’s “Sources for the Study of Religion in Malawi” in 1983, this article comprehensively maps and describes the emergence of AICs in Malawi from the beginnings in the early twentieth century through a prolific period in the 1920s and 1930s to a decline in the number of new AICs from 1940.

Chakanza, J. C. Voices of Preachers in Protest. The Ministry of Two Malawian Prophets: Elliot Kamwana and Wilfred Gudu. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Written by the doyen of AIC specialists in Malawi, this work offers a close examination of two leaders of independent church movements who were influential in Malawi not only in developing alternative forms of church life that connected with African consciousness but also in offering a challenge to the colonial rule that held sway in their time.

Gondwe, Wezi Makuni. A History of the Last Church of God and His Christ. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2018. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Based on the author’s master’s thesis at Mzuzu University, this study traces the history of the Last Church from its beginnings in 1916 through to contemporary times. Themes it considers include the relationship of the church to African culture, its growth and expansion, maintenance of unity, and relationship with other churches.

Strohbehn, Ulf. The Zionist Churches in Malawi: History - Theology - Anthropology. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

An exhaustive account of the thirty different Zionist denominations in Malawi and the genius they have shown for combining a Pentecostal expression of Christianity with African cultural rhythms and dynamics. The study shows how Zionists have dealt with changes in society and examines distinctive features of their theology and liturgy.

Wishlade, R. L. Sectarianism in Southern Malawi. London: Oxford University Press, 1965. URL: Link Access: Export Item

An early study of religious independency, by a pioneering anthropologist, surveying more than thirty southern Malawian “sects,” with a particular focus on the Ethiopian Church and the Faithful Church of Christ. Offering a rich fund of primary data, the book brings a social anthropological perspective to bear on the process of sectarianism in relation to social organisation.

Pentecostals and Charismatics

When Pentecostalism was first introduced to Malawi in the 1930s it appeared to be small and peripheral, arriving with returning migrant workers who had embraced Pentecostal Christianity in South Africa or Tanzania. The Apostolic Faith Mission found a ready response in the Lower Shire Valley where Pentecostalism had resonance with the traditional cults of the area. It was the Assemblies of God, however, that was successful in the post-independence period in attracting large numbers and building a nationwide presence. During the 1980s a new wave of Charismatic churches emerged, initially as an urban phenomenon with a Blantyre base. Several of them, such as Living Waters, have extended their influence around the country. The twenty-first century has seen this movement take centre stage as a major force reshaping Malawian Christianity. New ministries, based on a Pentecostal expression of Christianity, have augmented the historic Pentecostal and the more recent Charismatic churches. Under pressure from their membership, many of the “mainline” churches have also adopted elements of Pentecostal worship and spirituality. Pentecostalism is thus functioning as a renewal movement for Malawian Christianity as a whole.

Fiedler, Klaus. “The Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements in Malawi in Cultural Perspective.” In Conflicted Power in Malawian Christianity: Essays Missionary and Evangelical from Malawi, Klaus Fiedler, 321–48. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2015. URL: Link Access: Export Item

A seminal article on Pentecostals and Charismatics in Malawi, it analyses similarities and differences between the two, arguing that while they have much in common in terms of spirituality, there are significant differences between the social and cultural profiles of the two. Originally published in Religion in Malawi in 1999, this assessment by a seasoned missiologist provides a comprehensive discussion of the presence of the two movements in Malawi at the end of the twentieth century.

Gadama, Richard Gracious. “Women in the Charismatic Churches in Malawi: A Historical and Theological Perspective.” PhD diss., University of the Free State, 2015. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This thesis examines the roles and experiences of women in Malawi’s Charismatic churches since their beginnings in the 1970s. It finds that patriarchal ideology prevails so that leadership positions are monopolised by men with few opportunities for women beyond their traditional supportive roles.

Munyenyembe, Rhodian G. Christianity and Socio-Cultural Issues: The Charismatic Movement and Contextualization in Malawi. Zomba and Mzuzu: Kachere Series and Mzuni Press, 2011. Export Item

One of the first books to take account of the Charismatic movement and its impact on Malawian Christianity in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Munyenyembe, Head of Theology and Religious Studies at Mzuzu University, explores the “double inculturation” that allows the Charismatic movement to address issues arising from the African tradition while at the same time being fully attuned to contemporary global culture.

Nyika, Felix C. “African Agency amongst Malawian Neocharismatics.” In Politics, Christianity and Society in Malawi: Essays in Honour of John McCracken, edited by Kenneth R. Ross and Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, 345–71. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This chapter, by a scholarly practitioner in the field, traces the growth and development of Neo-Charismatic churches in Malawi, showing how they contextualised Christianity in a way that allowed it to connect with the concerns of Africans. It also shows how the movement organised around significant leaders who were recognised as apostles or bishops.

Schoffeleers, Matthew. Pentecostalism and Neo-Traditionalism: The Religious Polarization of a Rural District in Southern Malawi. Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1985. Export Item

This short book, by a Montfort missionary who was also a pioneering anthropologist, traces the spread of Pentecostalism in the Nsanje District of southern Malawi and argues that it is closely connected to the emergence of a lower middle class among the traditional peasant population. It also examines the relationship between the crumbling of possession cults and the growth of Pentecostal churches.

Strohbehn, Ulf. Pentecostalism in Malawi: A History of the Apostolic Faith Mission. Zomba: Kachere, 2005. Export Item

The Apostolic Faith Mission was one of the earliest Pentecostal churches to establish its presence in Malawi, from the 1930s. Drawing on oral sources and local histories, Strohbehn, a German scholar who spent fifteen years in Malawi, examines how the churches were begun by returning migrant labourers, the role of missionaries in their development and their place in today’s social and religious landscape.

Christianity and African Traditional Religion

African Traditional Religion (ATR) is a term that is used to refer to the religions of African ethnic groups. These religions have developed out of the beliefs and practices of previous generations, and are practised today in various forms, shades and intensities by a many Africans, including individuals who profess to be Muslims or Christians. ATR is one of many religious traditions found in Africa today but is the only one that can claim to have originated in Africa. For a long time Western scholars did not take ATR seriously but in the mid-twentieth century, some began to examine it more carefully. ATR was first studied by Western scholars who were under the employ of the colonial administration or Christian missionary organisations. The colonial administration studied ATR to enhance its understanding and governance of African ethnic groups. Generally, the colonial administration had a negative attitude towards Africans and they used ATR, which they considered primitive, as a reason to justify their presence in Africa. On the other hand, missionary anthropologists studied it in order to understand the nature of African religious consciousness so as to be better able to plant churches among indigenous peoples. Thus, after the group of scholars who were negative towards ATR, there emerged another group of scholars who tried to be sympathetic towards ATR. The latter group was eventually followed by African scholars in the study of ATR. In Malawi, several scholars have taken an interest in the study of ATR. Some have focused on the way ATR expresses itself in traditional societies, while others have studied it in relation to Christianity.

Amanze, James N. “The Bimbi Cult in Southern Malawi.” PhD diss., SOAS University of London, 1986. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This work, by a long-serving Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Botswana, introduces readers to one of the territorial cults in southern Malawi, the Bimbi Cult, which is found in the Upper Shire Valley. It provides a captivating account of how the cult acquires rains and discusses the critical role of such a cult in the area which is dependent on its rainfall for survival.

Boucher, Claude. When Animals Sing and Spirits Dance: Gule Wamkulu, The Great Dance of the Chewa People of Malawi. Mua: KuNgoni Centre of Culture and Art, 2012. Export Item

An introduction to the gule wamkulu, the “great dance,” of the Chewa people of Malawi, written by a Canadian White Father missionary who has led a unique inculturation initiative at Mua in central Malawi. The study notes that “it is through the dancers of the gule wamkulu that the ancestors communicate with the living and give instructions on how to abide by the code of moral conduct.” This book gives rare insight into the values, spirituality and worldview of the Chewa.

Chakanza, Joseph Chaphadzika. Religion and Culture in a Changing Malawi. Balaka; Mzuzu: Montfort Media; Luviri Press, 2023. Export Item

Drawing on anthropological expertise and deep knowledge of the Malawian context, Chakanza assesses what was taking place at the cultural level as Malawi passed through a time of rapid social change during the last years of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first.  He recognises both the enduring value of Malawian religious traditions and the need for these to adapt to changing conditions, including the advent of Christianity.

De Kok, Bregje. Christianity and African Traditional Religion: Two Realities of a Different Kind. Zomba: Kachere, 2005. Export Item

A cultural, psychological study of the way Christian Malawians account for their involvement in African Traditional Religion. Using a qualitative approach, it investigates how individuals enact two different religions in their daily lives, focussing particularly on religious practices.

Harawa, Chimwemwe. Christianity and Traditional Medicine in Northern Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2023. Export Item

An examination of the uneasy relationship between Christianity and the practice of traditional medicine in northern Malawi, with particular attention to the Synod of Livingstonia of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian and the use of traditional medicine by its members and adherents. It includes consideration of three types of healing: biomedicinal, traditional and spiritualist.

Lindland, Eric. Crossroads of Culture: Christianity, Ancestral Spiritualism, and the Search for Wellness in Northern Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Combining history, ethnography, and culture theory, this book explores how people in north-western Malawi have responded over time to the early missionary assertion that local religious and healing practices were incompatible with Christianity and western medicine. It includes analysis of the Vimbuza therapeutic dance and addresses questions of conversion and syncretism.

Mlenga, Joyce. Dual Religiosity in Northern Malawi: Ngonde Christians and African Traditional Religion. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This book, by a theologian from northern Malawi, explores how Ngonde Christians navigate between their traditional religion and Christianity, without attempting to mix the two religions, and identifies factors that increase or decrease dual religiosity. The study emphasizes that ATR is often resorted to by many Christians and notes that the level of Christian commitment is one of the major determining factors for either involvement or non-involvement in dual religiosity.

Ncozana, Silas S. The Spirit Dimension in African Christianity: A Pastoral Study among the Tumbuka People of Northern Malawi. Zomba: Kachere, 2006. Export Item

A study, by an outstanding Presbyterian leader and theologian, that examines spirit possession as traditionally experienced among the Tumbuka, including the spirit affliction cults that continue to be influential. The author explores ways in which the Christian understanding of spirit, and the Holy Spirit in particular, have enabled Tumbuka people to address the issue of spirit possession in terms of their Christian faith.

Nyasulu, Timothy Kabulunga. Witchcraft Accusations and Church Discipline in Malawi: A Missiological Mandate of the Church to the Vulnerable in Malawi. Zomba: Kachere, 2021. Export Item

This work, by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Livingstonia, explores the vulnerability of some sections of society in Malawi due to witchcraft accusations. The author argues that the church is mandated to deal with this issue by being a healing entity to all those accused of practising witchcraft, but at the same time it must discipline those found guilty of this vice. The book proposes that the church must deal with the violence and social injustice inflicted on the accused and the affected.

Van Breugel, J. W. M. Chewa Traditional Religion. Zomba: Kachere, 2001. Export Item

Originally a doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of London in 1977, this work is a unique contribution to anthropological research in Malawi. It presents a comprehensive overview of all aspects of Chewa Traditional Religion. The book offers valuable descriptions of rain rituals, explanations of witchcraft phenomena, a convincing theory of the religious significance of Nyau, and wide-ranging discussions of concepts of God and ancestors.

Christianity and Islam

Most of Malawi’s population profess to be Christians and most of the remainder are Muslims. The exact number is contested but often thought to be around 15 percent of the total population. Islamic influence reached Malawi in the nineteenth century through trading connections with Africa’s east coast and the Arab world. It is therefore concentrated in the eastern part of the country, especially around the southern lakeshore. It has also had a considerable presence in the southern cities of Blantyre and Zomba where a substantial Indian community, coming originally from Gujarat, is mainly Muslim. Today mosques indicate Islamic presence in towns and cities throughout the country. Notwithstanding occasional tensions and a degree of mutual suspicion, Christian-Muslim relations have been peaceful and respectful. At local level, a spirit of tolerance prevails and it is widely accepted that people convert, in either direction, between the two religions, often through marriage. At national level there has been cooperation between the two religious communities in addressing public issues. This has found expression particularly through the Public Affairs Committee, which was formed in 1992 at a moment of political crisis and has continued to bring a religiously-based critique to bear on national affairs. Throughout its thirty-year history, it has brought Christian and Muslim leaders to engage together in public theology. To some degree, it has come to be recognised as the conscience of the nation, calling the government to account when required. It is this engagement with social and political issues that has fostered a degree of theological engagement between Christians and Muslims, rather than any comprehensive intellectual exchange. The Programme for Christian-Muslim Relations in Africa (PROCMURA) has provided some stimulus for more broadly based reflection, but its efforts have been sporadic and have yielded only limited results.

Bone, David S. Introduction to Islam for Malawi. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2022. Export Item

This textbook, based on a lifetime of teaching Islam in schools and colleges, introduces the essential beliefs and practices of Muslims, explains the rich diversity within and between Muslim communities and examines in what circumstances and in what ways Islam has become established in certain areas and among certain peoples in Africa, particularly in Malawi.

Bone, David S. “The Development of Islam in Malawi and the Response of the Christian Churches c.1860-1986.” In Malawi’s Muslims: Historical Perspectives, edited by David S. Bone, 113–52. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 2000. Export Item

This account, by a former teacher of Islam at the University of Malawi, is the most thorough treatment to date of the history of Christian-Muslim relations in Malawi. Though focussed more on political, cultural and commercial dimensions, it also highlights the theological commitments that set representatives of the two faiths at odds with each other from the late nineteenth century. It traces how the intense rivalry of that time gradually gave way to a Christian understanding of “the Muslim, our permanent neighbour.”

Hofmeyr, A. L. “Islam in Nyasaland.” In Malawi’s Muslims: Historical Perspectives, edited by David S. Bone, 165–72. Blantyre: CLAIM-Kachere, 2000. Export Item

Originally published in Dutch in 1910 in Het Land langs het Meer (Stellenbosch: Christen Vereniging van Zuid Afrika, 105-114), this is a valuable historical source. While negative in its theological assessment of Islam, it offers valuable empirical data about the presence of Islam in Malawi at that time. Hofmeyr notes reasons for the growth of Islam and suggests ways in which Christian Missions could witness effectively to Muslims.

Mnthambala, Anderson. Living in Religious Diversity: A Possibility for Malawi Muslim and Christian Co-Existence. Zomba: Kachere, 2020. Export Item

With a focus on the interaction of Christians and Muslims in Dedza Northwest and Lilongwe East, Mnthambala examines changes in the policy of the Presbyterian Nkhoma Synod in regard to evangelism among Muslims. These are characterised as a change from an “antagonistic” approach to a “dialogue” approach. Consideration is also given to the contribution of PROCMURA to peaceful co-existence of Christians and Muslims in Malawi. It was published shortly before the author’s death.

Tengatenga, James. “Religious Pluralism in Malawi: A Challenge to the Churches.” Religion in Malawi 8 (1998): 16–23. Export Item

The article was written at a time when Malawi was embracing democracy and pluralism by a Malawian Bishop who later became Chair of the international Anglican Consultative Council. It traces the history of religious plurality in Malawi, challenges the “gatekeeper” mentality that has prevailed amongst the dominant mainstream churches, calls for humility among believers and advocates an ecclesiology of acceptance.

Christianity and Education

In Malawi, formal education was introduced by Christian missionaries in the late nineteenth century. The main aim, in their view, was to civilise and Christianise the natives by teaching them Christian values and replacing the slave trade with what was considered to be legitimate commerce. The aim of the education was to help Malawians learn to read the Bible in order to reinforce Christian beliefs and values. The British colonial government was happy to allow missionaries to dominate education because it was cost effective. Several missions were established in different parts of the country, each establishing an education system based on its own philosophies blended with the characteristics of the communities they were working in. A common feature of the curriculum was reading, writing and arithmetic, with some missions placing emphasis on technical skills. It is worth noting that all the early missions undertook educational work, so most of the mission histories examine the mission schools, including the missiological and theological thinking that motivated the educational effort. John McCracken’s Politics and Christianity, for example, has a full chapter on “Church and School.” Today Christian involvement in education continues at all levels, and several larger churches have established universities in recent years.

Banda, Kelvin N. A Brief History of Education in Malawi. Blantyre: Dzuka, 1982. Export Item

A standard history of the origins and development of education in Malawi that pays extensive critical attention to the contribution of the Christian missions. Until 1926 the missions were the only providers of formal education in Malawi and the churches have continued to operate significant educational institutions at all levels until the present day. Banda’s pioneering study recognises the scale and nature of the churches’ role in education.

Lamba, Isaac C. Contradictions in Post-War Education Policy Formation and Application in Colonial Malawi 1945-1961: A Historical Study of the Dynamics of Colonial Survival. Zomba: Kachere, 2010. Export Item

A chronological examination of the development and application of colonial education policies during the period 1945 to 1961 in Malawi. It argues that given the prevailing economic and political conditions, non-European education, especially that of Africans, experienced retardation in favour of European education. Sometimes apparent government ineptitude, combined with the calculated needs of the Europeans, resulted in under-development of African education. In the end, African education operated against the odds in face of missionary and government apathy.

Lonje, Agnes. “African Attitudes and Responses towards Western Education, 1875-1940: The Case of the Livingstonia Mission in Northern Malawi.” MA thesis, University of Malawi, Chancellor College, 1979. Export Item

This dissertation was an early work of Agnes Lonje, Minister of Education in the Malawi Government from 2020. It examines the response of African communities to the educational work of Livingstonia Mission at a time when it was the most outstanding provider of education in the whole of Central Africa.

Nankwenya, Ignatio A. J. Christian Influence on Education in Malawi up to Independence with Special Reference to the Role of Catholic Missionaries. Limbe: Montfort Press, 1977. Export Item

This study originated as a doctoral thesis at the University of South Africa and was published in a limited polycopied edition by Montfort Press. It surveys Catholic educational work from its early beginnings with village schools through to its major role in the provision of secondary and tertiary education by the time of independence in 1964.

Ross, Kenneth R., ed. Church, University and Theological Education in Malawi. Zomba and Bonn: University of Malawi and VKW, 1995. Export Item

This book provides a record of the development of theological education in Malawi, particularly in the early 1990s, by an editor who was heavily involved at that time. It includes the Report of a Commission on the Future of Theological Education which sat in 1993-94 and also provides details of programmes offered at Diploma, Bachelor’s and postgraduate levels.

Tembo, Dorothy. “‘They Were Kept Outside but Their Interest Was Inside’: An Examination of the Role of African Women in the Construction of Social Identities in Colonial Malawi.” In Politics, Christianity and Society in Malawi: Essays in Honour of John McCracken, edited by Kenneth R. Ross and Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, 191–214. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

While recognizing the impact of mission work and colonialism on the construction of social identities in colonial Malawi, the author focuses on the active role that women played in this process. She points out that historically research investigating African identities has focused on the effects of mission schools, native associations and indirect rule on African communities. Since the mission schools and native associations were dominated by African men, it has tended to focus on the negotiations between African men and European men rather than African women.

Christianity and Socio-Economic Development

Christianity and socio-economic development is one of the areas which is still work in progress, and there is little published scholarship at the moment. Just like Christianity and education, some historical sources do contain material that is related to socio-economic development. For instance, one of the early missionaries, David Livingstone aimed at bringing the three Cs to Malawi, namely, Christianity, Civilization and Commerce. Several of the books about Christianity and politics give attention to the question of socio-economic development but there are rather few books that make this their primary focus. This area of study is now ripe for further research, but some early works have laid a foundation.

Amanze, James N. “The Role of Religion in the Development of the People by the People for the People.” In Religion and Development in Southern and Central Africa, edited by James N. Amanze, Maake Masango, Ezra Chitando, and Lilian Siwila, 1:53–68. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2019. URL: Link Access: Export Item

Inspired by the political slogan that describes democracy as “Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” the author utilizes the slogan in socio-economic terms to describe effective development. The author argues that development can yield good results if people in a particular locality or country play an active role in identifying their problems and providing solutions to these problems. He further shows how religion plays a very important role in development.

Lwanda, John Chipembere. “Pastors, Priests, Prophets: Poverty and Christian Religion in Malawi 1861 to 2019.” In Politics, Christianity and Society in Malawi: Essays in Honour of John McCracken, edited by Kenneth R. Ross and Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, 293–319. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This work examines the dynamics at play between the work of Christian clergy and existence of poverty in Malawi between 1861 and 2018. Some scholars have argued that poverty has been a feature of the Malawian landscape from the early colonial period. Previously, aspects of this poverty have been studied from historical, economic, social and other perspectives but this work highlights the double-edged and ambiguous agency of Christian clergy.

Madimbo, Maggie. Transformative and Engaging Leadership: Lessons from Indigenous African Women. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. URL: Link Access: Export Item

An introduction to leadership in the African context, more specifically, women’s leadership in the African and Malawian context. Through the portraits of twelve indigenous Malawian women, who are national leaders, it shows how their background and formation underpins the resilience and spirituality that they bring to their leadership.

Msukwa, L. A. H. “The Role of the Churches in the Development of Malawi - with Particular Reference to the Christian Service Committee of the Churches in Malawi.” In Christianity in Malawi: A Reader, edited by Klaus Fiedler and Kenneth R. Ross, 369–85. Mzuzu: Mzuni Press, 2021. Export Item

The former Director of the University of Malawi’s Centre for Social Research takes account of the work of the Christian Service Committee, an ecumenical endeavour by churches in Malawi to contribute to economic and community development, from the 1960s to the 1980s. It examines the efforts of the CSC to mobilise the churches for development work and reveals how this initiative resulted in severe tensions with the one-party political system.

Mvula, Mzee Hermann Yokaniah, and Kenneth R. Ross. “Malawi’s Governance Crisis in Theological Perspective: A Tale of Two Cultures.” In Beyond Impunity: New Directions for Governance in Malawi, edited by Kenneth R. Ross, Asiyati Lorraine Chiweza, and Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, 347–68. Cape Town and Mzuzu: University of Cape Town Press and Mzuni Press, 2022. URL: Link Access: Export Item

The final chapter of a comprehensive analysis of governance in Malawi offers a theological assessment of the issues at stake, with particular reference to impunity and accountability, corruption and plunder, and the question of leadership. The Zomba-based authors draw on the biblical text, local contextual theology, and global theological thinking, to argue that there are resources to be found in Malawi’s religious culture that can be of service to its political culture.

Nzunda, Matembo S., and Kenneth R. Ross, eds. Church, Law and Political Transition in Malawi 1992-1994. Mzuzu: Luviri Press, 2020. URL: Link Access: Export Item

This book brings together the work of lawyers and theologians, many of them based at the University of Malawi, to offer ground-breaking analysis of a pivotal moment of social and political change in Malawi. As well as examining the role of the churches at a time of transition, theologians turn their attention to such matters as the experience of women and the action of the military.

Owens, Peggy. When Maize and Tobacco Are Not Enough: A Church Study of Malawi’s Agro-Economy. Blantyre: CLAIM, 1999. Export Item

Taking its starting point from Malawi’s success in navigating the transition to multi-party democracy in the early 1990s, this book by an American researcher grapples with enduring problems in the Malawian economy. It aims to explore the distinctive contribution that the church can bring to the challenge of economic development.

Phiri, Isabel Apawo, Kenneth R. Ross, and James L. Cox, eds. The Role of Christianity in Development, Peace and Reconstruction: Southern Perspectives. Nairobi: All African Conference of Churches, 1996. Export Item

Part II of this Africa-wide book is titled “The Malawi Story” (pp. 48-117) and includes chapters by John McCracken, Kenneth R. Ross, Joseph Chakanza and Klaus Fiedler. These authors examine the role of the churches in bringing about social change in Malawi in both the colonial and post-independence periods. They span the entire church spectrum from the “mainline” Presbyterians and Catholics to the “post-classical” missions and churches.

How to Cite This Resource

Ross, Kenneth R. and Joyce Mlenga. “Malawi, Christianity in.” Bibliographical Encyclopaedia of African Theology. 31 August 2022. Accessed [enter date].

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