THE AFRICAN INDEPENDENT PENTECOSTAL CHURCH OF AFRICA KENYA
By Rev John Njeru Gichimu
It is impossible to mention all those who have generously given me of their time and advice in one way or another in the process of writing this paper. However I wish to thank Martiny in a special way for her advice, and to thank my family, especially my wife Grace Wawira for their support.
Several people have written about the AIPCA, but often in a partial and rather biased way. The church needs a more comprehensive and orderly account of its history, its beliefs and practices, as well as its theology. I have undertaken to put together material that will eventually become a book that might answer such a need. In researching for that book, I have used especially oral material from interviews with some pioneer members of the church who are still alive. I asked them questions concerning the origins of the church, its links with the nationalise movement, its attitude towards the people's traditions and customs, and the main points of its beliefs, with particular reference to any theological differences there might be between the AIPCA and the churches (e.g. Anglican or Presbyterian) from which its founders separated.
I have also used the church's primary written sources: constitution, catechism, small booklets, and theses written by members as well as non-members. Quite a number of the standard published works relating to Kenya nationalism and the Mau-Mau struggle could be located at the Makumira Campus Library. I was also able to consult unpublished material found in the Kenya National Archives. But again, only a part of this research material has been used for this paper.
The origin and Identity of the AIPCA
The African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa started under the inspiration of the independence liberation movement. At the beginning it was simply called the ‘Independent Church’. Only later on did it adopt the name: ‘African Independent Pentecostal church of Kenya’ in order to stress the geographical and racial components of its identity. In fact, as Mcintosh observes (Mcintosh 1969, 146), it was a group of independent ministers and the Kikuyu Independent Schools Association leaders that decided in 1938 to call their church the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Kenya.
In 1963, the name was slightly changed from African Independent Pentecostal Church of Kenya to African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa (AIPCA) with the idea of including the whole continent of Africa in its scope. It was thus meant to stress the point that the church saw itself as an embodiment of the African Christian religion which has no fear of Africanising divine worship.
Nevertheless, it was the Bible that the founders were decided to follow as their guide to Christian worship. They had no intention of merely continuing the African Traditional Religion, we must remember that those who formed the new church had broken away from the Presbyterian Church of East Africa and the Anglican Church, and were thus quite familiar with and committed to the Bible.
And yet they insisted on being independent, that is: 'uninfluenced' by any other unrelated, irrelevant religions, least of all from white people. This search for independence did not apply only to religion, but even to education, as is clear from the fact that the leaders had been involved in the development of independent schools for the Kikuyus whereby they intended to feel that they wanted to be free of foreign ideologies and wanted to be left on their own to struggle against illiteracy and to conduct their religious affairs without the supervision of foreign masters.
They also decided that the church should adopt the 'Pentecostal' type of Christianity, meaning a church which is brought about by the Holy Spirit as in the Acts of the Apostles, which they felt was true in their case. And yet, unlike other Pentecostal movements, in its way of worship this church does not indulge in a fanatical kind of speaking in tongues, in fact, it does not preach the gospel of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It adopted Pentecostalism simply because the founders felt that they too, like the early disciples, were experiencing a ‘Call’ from the Holy Spirit (cf Kuria in Shenk 1973, 46).
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