The American Board Mission

The American Board Mission

Recent graduates of Williams College created the “American Board Mission” (ABM or “American Board) in 1810 with the goal of spreading Christianity worldwide – or in the language of its time – “to evangelize the heathen in foreign lands.”  It was the first organized mission society in the United States and one of the most important.  Rooted in the Congregational Church, it also accepted missionaries from other Protestant denominations.

American Board activity in Africa began with evangelicalism to the Zulu tribes in Natal (KwaZulu-Natal) in 1835.  But from the start of the Zulu Mission, the American Board desired to penetrate and spread Christianity into the African interior.   It’s expansion efforts focused on the provinces of Manica and Sofala in present day Mozambique (formerly Portuguese East Africa) and the eastern highlands of Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), an area sometimes referred to as “Gazaland.”

In 1893, a pioneer party of eight American missionaries made the trek from South Africa to Mount Silinda (Selinda), establishing ABM’s first mission in Zimbabwe.  A sister mission station was opened at Chikore 18 miles northwest of Mt. Selinda in 1895.

The Mt. Selinda and Chikore mission stations were initially collectively referred to as the “East Central Africa Mission”; later the East Africa branch of the Zulu mission in South Africa.  In 1904, the missions officially became known as the Rhodesia branch of the Mission in South Africa (or “Rhodesia Mission”), although the two missions continued to be informally referred to as the East Africa Mission for many years thereafter.

In 1957, the Congregational Christian Churches merged with the Evangelical and Reformed Church to form the United Church of Christ (UCC).  In June 1961, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions – which had become an official arm of the Congregational churches in 1913 – formally ended, becoming part of the United Church Board for World Ministries.  In 2000, World Ministries became “Wider Church Ministries,” one of the four covenanted ministries of the UCC, now known as “Global Ministries.”

The Mt. Selinda and Chikore Missions are currently owned and operated by the United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe (UCCZ).  UCCZ became independent from the American based UCC in 1977.

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Contributors
  • Mark Loomis
  • James Gavin

 

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