- Grenfell, George
- ( 1849-1906 )Baptist missionary leader in AfricaBritish Baptist missionary George Grenfell is most remembered for introducing Protestantism to the Congo River basin. Roman Catholics had developed a presence at the mouth of the Congo as early as the 15th century.George Grenfell was born on August 21, 1849, in Cornwall, England. He became interested in the exploits of explorer David Livingstone (1813-73), and following his graduation from Bristol Baptist College he applied for service through the Baptist Missionary Society (BMS). He left for Cameroon in December 1874 with Alfred Sakar, who had pioneered Baptist work there. While there, he developed a facility for exploration and made several trips to the interior.in 1877, the BMS invited Grenfell to join a feasibility study on opening work in the CoNGO.His explorations led to the start of Baptist work the next year. However, after marrying his pregnant Jamaican housekeeper in 1878, he resigned from the BMS and ceased missionary activity.In 1880, the BMS asked Grenfell to resume his work. He oversaw the construction of the Peace, a ship that made exploratory trips up the Congo River and its many branches over the next six years. in the next decade, he established a string of mission stations from near Kinshasa (then Leopoldville) to modern Kisangani (Stanleyville) a thousand miles away. These stations were designed to connect up with another string of stations being established by the Church Missionary Society (British Anglicans), who were simultaneously moving across Kenya and Uganda, but the Belgians thwarted the attempt to push farther upriver. Grenfell had come to believe that the region north and west of Stanleyville would witness a great competition between Protestantism and islam, a belief that has been confirmed in the 20th century.Grenfell's accomplishments have been somewhat overshadowed by his misplaced faith in King Leopold. He saw the Belgians as benevolent rulers and ignored evidence of widespread atrocities. Late in the 1890s, he admitted that the abuses were occurring, and in 1904 he admitted Leopold's role in them.Grenfell died in the Congo at Basoka on July 1, 1906.See also Africa, sub-Saharan.Further reading:■ George Hawker, The Life of George Grenfell: Congo Missionary and Explorer (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1909)■ Harry Johnston, George Grenfell and the Congo (London: Hutchinson & Company, 1908)■ David Lagergren, Mission and State in the Congo (Uppsala, Sweden: University of Uppsala, Ph.D. diss., 1970).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.