African Initiated (Independent) Churches

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AICs, sometimes called African Initiated Churches, African Independent Churches or African Instituted Churches, are a designation of African Christianity established by Africans separate from Western mission agencies.


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AICs, emerging in the early 20th century,[1] are by no means homogeneous, but often bring uniquely African elements to Protestant Christianity. For instance, there is a distinct emphasis on the Holy Spirit, a shift in focus from the emphasized Christology of Western Christianity. This spiritual emphasis manifests itself in practices such as glossolalia, exorcism and healing.[2] The movement stems from indigenous African culture; as the World Council of Churches describes AIC:

Western missionaries were largely negative about African culture and Africans were alienated from the gospel dressed up in European garb. To that extent, the AICs represent an indigenizing movement in Christianity. They in effect protest the verbal and cerebral mode which puts Western Christianity beyond the reach of people’s comprehension and experience. Instead, the AICs offer a celebrative religion, making considerable use of symbols, music and dance. Thus they represent cultural renaissance in reaction to the cultural imperialism of the mission work of the historic churches.[2]

The AIC movement is fundamentally biblicist, and carries the Western individualist attitude toward biblical interpretation, often localizing interpretation to fit cultural practices.[2]

AICs have seen rapid growth, and represent at least 83 million African Christians by some estimates.[2]

Relationship with Mennonites

Wishing to become part of a broader Christian tradition, many AICs have sought out relationships with the Mennonite Church. Mennonite Board of Missions, now Mennonite Mission Network, has worked with AICs in mostly Western Africa, while Mennonite Central Committee and Eastern Mennonite Missions have carried out ministries in Central and Southern Africa.[3] The main facet of this relationship has been leadership training, but has also included a variety of educational, medical and agricultural work.[3]

After 50 Nigerian AICs expressed interest in joining the Mennonite Church in 1959, the pioneering ministry of Edwin and Irene Weaver led to a continuing relationship with these AICs, an expansion of the Nigerian Mennonite Church, and a church body on the path to autonomy.[1] As Irene expresses, experiences with AICs opened missionary attitudes to mutual relationships, turning teachers to learners and learners to teachers:

We needed to recognize Africa’s fierce passion for freedom. We had to be sympathetic to the desire for human rights and self-determination. Africans had to be given the right to become the people that God in his grace created them to be. In an era where the colonial empires were disappearing from Africa, large colonial-type missions had to go too and adjust to the new day.[1]

For more information about AICs and their relationship with Mennonites, refer to "Evangelical and Ecumenical Dimensions of Walking with AICs" by James R. Krabill[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Hollinger-Janzen, Lynda. ["'‘A new day in mission’: Irene Weaver reflects on her century of ministry"] Mennonite Mission Network. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 ["African Instituted Churches."] World Council of Churches. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Krabill, James R. (1990). ["African Independent Churches."] [Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.]. Retrieved 20 December 2009.
  4. Krabill, James R. "Evangelical and Ecumenical Dimensions of Walking with AICs," pages 240-247 in Evangelical, Ecumenical and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation, Krabill, Sawatsky, and Van Engen, eds. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2006.