Rev Dr Peter Cruchley is a Mission Theologian from the UK, he is British, born of missionary parents of CWM’s former self: the London Missionary Society. He has published in the areas of post-modernity and mission, ecumenism and mission and legacies of slavery and mission. He is a minister of the United Reformed Church in the UK and is currently the Mission Secretary for Mission Development with CWM.
“Deposing ‘Massa Jesus’: ‘Magnificat’ Moments Amongst a Colonial Mission Archive”
The CWM Legacies of Slavery project continues to unmask White Christian supremacism in the CWM/LMS archive providing an uncomfortable mirror for CWM’s ongoing self-reflection. This paper arises from that work and its core critique which is that Christian mission is rooted in a public theology, constructed by White colonial racist anthropology.
This public theology urged the whole earth to kneel before Jesus; who just happened to be White and to enter Christ’s kingdom, which looked suspiciously like White Christian empire. In their zeal at the Lordship of Christ the 18 th and 19 th century European missionaries created an idol, an idol this paper names as ‘Massa Jesus’. This name and title encapsulates the Christology pressed upon enslaved people by the missionaries so that rather than, ‘relieve them from their servile condition’, missionaries could ‘afford them the consolation of religion ….’ (LMS instructions to Missionaries 1816) Massa Jesus ironically represents a kind of theological indentureship, whereby those who sought to share the Gospel, signed up Jesus of Nazareth with an offer of eventual global dominance, on the basis he uphold enslavement and empire and guaranteed the profitability of the church in return for the future salvation.
In this proposal I will locate and lift up ‘buried de-colonial’ voices whose counter-public theology offers insurgency against Massa Jesus, who balked at the constraints missionaries placed on them and, perhaps, him. The paper will consider characters like:
Quamina, who was a deacon in an LMS chapel in Guyana, and wrote to the LMS in 1816 to raise his concerns with them about the treatment of enslaved persons like himself. He became instrumental in the slave uprising of 1823 in Dermerara and was executed for rebellion. He will be drawn in contrast to the LMS missionary John Smith, and minister of Bethel, who was depicted by the White British media as the Demerara martyr.
Jan Tzatzoe, who was a Christian convert and Koi chief from the Eastern Cape who came on deputation in 1836 to raise money for LMS and to underscore the racist missionary message that black people were little more than animals without the Gospel. However, he made the counter claim that in receiving the Gospel African was subject to the same rights and freedom as the British.
Andries Stoffles, who was a Christian convert from the Gona tribe, who was also paraded on LMS deputation with Tzatzoe, and later testified before the British Parliamentary enquiry into Aboriginal People in 1835.
Emma Martin, who was a Victorian feminist who was ejected from an LMS meeting in Manchester in 1844 after she gave a public lecture entitled ‘The crimes and follies of Christian Mission’
These moments offer a Magnificat of sorts, in which the Massa Jesus is brought down from his throne. These acts of non‐cooperation, dissenting, letter-writing, maroonage, uprisings, acts of intersecting solidarity etc which made an indispensable contribution to the struggle of the enslaved against servitude, and point to a de-colonial anthropology breaking out in the context of today’s empire and its missionaries.
Decolonising and deconstructing this White colonial racist anthropology seemed accomplished in the work of the 1960s and 1970s. But attempts to de-colonise this humanity through the vision of ‘mission from everywhere to everywhere’, or of ‘partnership around a table’, have failed to root out the seeds of racist supremacist anthropology today, or repair the damage done by a theology so public it enslaved upwards of 12 million people and robbed them of their humanity and freedom.
The paper will close with reflections of the enthroned spaces and concepts inside the Massa’s house de-colonising mission practice needs to pull down.