Mission Churches and African Marriage in Zimbabwe 1890-1970: Contemporary African Christian Dilemmas Over Marriage in Historical and Theological Perspective

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Ngundu, Onesimus A. 

Chapter 1 reviews the relevant literature on African marriage and states the objectives of this study. Chapter 2 describes the main features of the African (Shona) customary marriage of Zimbabwe which are commonly practised among other African ethnic groups in sub-Saharan Africa. Missionary negative attitudes towards African customary marriage were conditioned by their various doctrinal traditions and by the long process whereby the Church in Europe asserted its control over marriage (chapter 3). In place of the African customary marriage, the British colonial authorities introduced statutory marriage law, and claimed jurisdiction over the marriages of all Africans, including Christians (chapter 4). Missionaries, though now denied legal jurisdiction over the marriages of their church members, still required all African Christian couples to wed in church for church purposes (chapters 5 and 6). Chapter 7 analyses a survey of current African Christian attitudes towards marriage and considers three previous scholarly proposals for recognising African customary marriage mainly for church purposes. Whilst there are major differences between male and female perspectives, it is clear that contemporary African Christians would like to discover a way of expressing Christian principles of marriage within a customary marriage framework. The suggested proposal, an African Christian customary marriage ceremony, as put forward in chapter 8, is offered as a theological and pastoral response to the dilemmas surrounding African Christian marriage in sub-Saharan African with special reference to Zimbabwe. The proposed approach, which has already been tried in some churches in current Zimbabwe, is culturally relevant, in conformity to civil law and ecclesiastically acceptable in the country where customary and civil marriage laws co-exist as in independent Africa.

Stanley, Brian
Shona marriage, Zimbabwe, Christian marriage
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge