3 Liberia


   The modern nation of Liberia was a creation of the colonization movement in the United States, an effort to solve the slavery problem by transporting free blacks and then slaves to Africa. In 1821, the
   American Colonization Society purchased land previously part of Sierra Leone and founded the port city of Monrovia (named after former U.S. president James Monroe, a major backer). Unfortunately, the movement manifested little understanding of the variety in African cultures, and failed to foresee the difficulty of building a new society from people who had passed through slavery.
   Christians were among the thousands of people who were transported to Liberia, as the new country was called. in 1822, Baptist missionaries Lott Carey and Colin Teague (c. 1780-1839), who had been commissioned by the Richmond African Missionary Society, arrived to found the first Baptist congregation in the country (second in Africa only to the congregation in Freetown, Sierra Leone). The work eventually came under the care of the American Baptists, the Lott Carey Foreign Missionary Convention, and finally the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.
   Methodist Episcopal Church missionary Melvin Cox (1799-1833) arrived in 1833; his death three months later heralded future missionary problems with the local environment. Transported slaves had their own troubles integrating into African society, so for several generations the work remained confined to Monrovia.
   Presbyterians and Episcopalians soon arrived. Episcopal missionary John Payne (1815-74) survived the climate and opened work outside Monrovia. He became the first Anglican bishop in the country in 1851. Succeeding Payne in the episcopal chair was Samuel Ferguson (1847-1916), the church's first black bishop, who developed the church's educational system. The Lutherans were the last of the major groups to establish work in the 19th century.
   Among the outstanding missionaries in Liberia was Alexander Crummell (1819-98), an African-American Episcopalian. Crummell moved to Liberia in the 1850s and became a Liberian citizen. He took a leading role in the evolving school system and was a professor at Liberia College for four years (1862-66). He was a major theorist of the Liberia project; he saw the country's role in God's redemptive purpose and looked toward a future of democracy, flourishing culture, and continental leadership. After a dispute with the Americanized leadership in Monrovia over his support for native Liberians, he returned to the United States in 1873.
   Among 20th-century arrivals were the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Assemblies of God, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. The relatively small Fire-Baptized Holiness Church of God made Liberia a major building block of its missionary program and built a substantial local following. The Church of the Lord (one of the Aladura churches) is the largest of the African Initiated Churches in Liberia.
   In 1847, Liberia became an independent nation. Britain was among the first to recognize the new country, the united states waiting until the 1860s. Though remaining relatively poor, the country enjoyed a century of stability and participated in such international organizations as the League of Nations. However, a 1980 assassination of the president triggered civil conflicts that lasted more than 20 years. During the fighting, more than a million people were displaced, and another 300,000 fled the country. Church properties were looted and/or destroyed, personnel were killed, and humanitarian relief was blocked by the shifting lines of war. The negotiations leading to a restoration of stability in 1995 were credited to the country's Inter-Religious Council of Liberia, set up by the Liberian Council of Churches and the National Muslim Council of Liberia.
   The Liberian Council of Churches, affiliated with the World Council of Churches (WCC), includes about 15 denominations and parachurch organizations in Liberia. More conservative groups are part of the Evangelical Fellowship of Liberia affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance. In the effort to end the civil war, a notable coalition that included all segments of the Christian community came together with the help of Action by Churches Together (ACT) International, a global alliance of churches and relief agencies working with the WCC that assists people recovering from emergencies.
   As the new century begins in Liberia, the largest Protestant churches are the Liberian Baptist Convention, the Liberian Assemblies of God, the Lutheran Church of Liberia, and the United Methodist Church.
   See also Africa, sub-Saharan.
   Further reading:
   ■ D. Elwood Donn, A History of the Episcopal Church in Liberia, 1821-1980 (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1992)
   ■ Willis J. King, History of the Methodist Church Mission in Liberia (Monrovia: Methodist Church, 1950)
   ■ J. R. Oldfield, Alexander Crummel (1819-1898) and the Creation of an African-American Church in Liberia (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1990)
   ■ Harold Vink Whetstone, Lutheran Mission in Liberia (Hartford, Conn.: Hartford Seminary Foundation, M.A. thesis, 1955).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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