Joseph Booth (missionary)

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Joseph Booth
Born 1851
Derby, England
Died 1932
Occupation Missionary

Joseph Booth (born 1851, Derby, England, to 1932) was an English Baptist missionary in British Central Africa (present-day Malawi).

Early career[edit]

Little is known of Booth's childhood, but his mother died when he was twelve and his three elder sisters brought him up. His father was a Unitarian, but by the age of fourteen Booth questioned his father's religious beliefs and, as he could not live with those beliefs, he left home. Over the next few years, Booth educated himself through extensive reading and, before he was twenty, he turned to the Baptist Church. He married his first wife, Mary Jane née Sharpe, (who he first met on 1868) in 1872. He also adopted radical ideas about politics, economics and society. In 1880, Booth emigrated first to Auckland, New Zealand, and then to Melbourne, Australia, where he became a successful businessman. His business success helped to develop his later views on self-reliance and the economic bases of missionary work. From 1886, Booth became more active in his local Baptist Church and more fundamental in his beliefs. In 1891 he was challenged by an atheist to practice what he preached, sell all his goods and go to preach the word. He sold his business and, in July 1891, he agreed to become a missionary in East Africa. Despite the death of his first wife, Mary Jane, in Melbourne in October 1891, he left Australia with his two young children and started his missionary career, choosing to work in Africa.[1][2] He aimed to set up the type of self-supporting Baptist mission that William Carey had pioneered in India, combining teaching and commercial activities.[3]

Booth first came to Africa in 1892 with his two children, and worked to establish the Zambezi Industrial Mission at Mitsidi, close to Blantyre. As the mission needed to become self-supporting, Booth decided to locate it close to the existing commercial centre and market of Blantyre. Although the foundation of the Zambezi Industrial Mission is often dated from 1892, the land for the mission was purchased in 1893 and its main buildings came into use in 1894.[4] Booth also founded the Nyasa Industrial Mission in 1893, the Baptist Industrial Mission in 1895 and several others in later years. He organised or supported several other schemes with similar aims including the African Christian Union, the British Christian Union, and the British African Congress. At the Zambezi Industrial Mission, he recruited local farmers to plant coffee, and within a year a significant acreage was being grown. Before 1896, Booth made no dramatic calls for political or social change: he was more concerned with establishing and running the missions and raising financial support in Britain. However, his experiences during this period increased his awareness of colonial issues. This was to influence his later advocacy of Africa for the native Africans instead of for Europeans, a view unpopular with colonial authorities and most European missionaries of the time.[5]

Although he began a number of institutions some of which, including the Zambezi Industrial Mission, survive today as the missions or local churches in Malawi, other institutions he founded failed. After setting these institutions up, Booth usually did not remain with them for long, and their survival was due to their own efforts. The failure of the others was often caused by lack of finance, natural disasters or deficient personnel, factors Booth could not control. However, some institutional failures arose from Booth's weaknesses including his restlessness and his inability to compromise with any lack of commitment by his colleagues or the failures of society. By 1896 Booth's disagreements with his colleagues over finance, doctrine and especially African independence led to him ending of his associations with the Zambezi Industrial Mission and the Nyasa Industrial Mission.[6] In March 1896, Booth married his second wife, Annie née Watkins, during a short visit to Britain.[7]

He made a trip to Britain and the United States in 1897, taking along his former household servant, John Chilembwe. Chilembwe stayed in Virginia to study as a baptist pastor and later returned to Nyasaland where he led the Chilembwe uprising in 1915. By 1898, Booth had become a convinced sabbatarian, which became one of the guiding principles for the rest of his life, and he turned to the Seventh Day Baptists to support his missionary activities.[8] Booth returned to Central Africa in 1899 and established a new mission for the Seventh Day Baptist church in Thyolo District. In 1900 Booth succeeded in establishing a short-lived institute to produce African leaders for the Seventh Day Baptist Church. Two years later, the institute was discontinued, although Booth pointed out that the existing elementary schools could not produce African pastors, and the production of African church leaders was essential to promoting African development.[9]

Booth continued his pro-African efforts, producing a petition in 1899 to the commissioner Alfred Sharpe, which demanded that the whole protectorate should revert to African control in 21 years and that all of the Hut tax revenue should be spent on African education, including higher education for at least five percent of Africans. These views did not go over well with the colonial administration, and Sharpe tried to arrest and deport Booth for his "seditious remarks". Before this could happen, Booth escaped to Mozambique, remaining there until in 1900 Sharpe allowed Booth to return subject to a promise not to take part in political activities.[10]

This set-back prompted Booth to leave Nyasaland for South Africa in 1901. After becoming a Seventh-day Adventist in Cape Town in 1902, Booth went to the United States and convinced the Seventh-day Adventist church of Plainfield, New Jersey to fund the establishment of a mission near Blantyre. This mission, originally called Plainfield mission and later renamed Malamulo, was on the site of the Seventh Day Baptist mission established by Booth, which the Seventh-day Adventists purchased.[11] Booth's stay with the Seventh-day Adventists at Malamulo mission ended after six months, as his colleagues did not accept his radical views, and criticised him for their political implications.[12]

Booth left Nyasaland for the last time in 1902, travelling first to Durban, which he left in February 1903, to travel to Britain. Booth was officially barred from returning to the Nyasaland in 1907.[13][14]

Later career[edit]

Booth remained in Britain until late 1906, as the Adventists were unwilling to send him back to Africa and the Church of Christ turned him down as a missionary because he was too political. While in Scotland in 1906, Booth became familiar with the writings of Charles Taze Russell, a prominent Christian restorationist columnist and founder of the Bible Student movement. In late 1906, journeyed to the United States and met Russell in New York.[15][16] Russell's Watch Tower Society appointed Booth as a missionary[17][18]

As Booth was banned from returning to Nyasaland, he went in 1907 to Cape Town, where he planned to train African evangelists to establish largely independent churches in their home areas that would be only loosely overseen by Booth and financed from America. Booth again met Elliot Kamwana, who was living in South Africa, in Cape Town in 1907, and converted him to Watch Tower beliefs.[19] Between 1906 and 1909, he brought at least seven trainee evangelists from northern Nyasaland. Booth instructed them for periods of four to eight months and taught them a mixture of his own sabbatarian beliefs and Watch Tower doctrines. Upon their return to Nyasaland, Booth's own role was limited to sending them monthly payments and Watch Tower bibles and other literature.[20] Booth preached his doctrine of Africa for the Africans in public in Cape Town, which gained him some notoriety. He combined Watch Tower millennialism with an insistence on the seventh day: this ultimately led to his expulsion from Watch Tower in late 1909, after Russell had tried to convince Booth to stop his seventh-day preaching.[21][22]

Before his break with Watch Tower, Booth had directed Kamwana to return to Nkhata Bay in Nyasaland where he baptised and converted about ten thousand people to Watch Tower in a few months in late 1908 and early 1909. These activities led to his deportation.[23] The other evangelists generally returned in 1909 and 1910, initially to set up Watch Tower congregations but, after an inspection visit by an American Watch Tower official in 1910 considered their sabbatarian practices unacceptable, they formed an independent Seventh-day Baptist church, which Booth supported financially and with Adventist books.[24] Other sections of the Watch Tower movement after the 1910 split became the Watchtower movement in Central Africa, now known as "Waticitawala" or "Kitawala" (a local term for "Tower") in Congo.[25]

Another disciple of Booth based in Nyasaland, Charles Domingo, who was educated at the Livingstonia mission but left in 1908 when he was refused ordination. He joined Watch Tower in 1908 and received funding for his activities from Booth until Booth was deported in 1909, and he became a Seventh-day Baptist in 1910.[26][27] Booth predicted that by 1914 Europeans no longer would rule Africa, but that there would be democracy, African self-rule and unity with American Blacks. These teachings, his criticism of taxation, and the suspicion of Booth because his associate, Elliot Kamwana, had been arrested and deported from Nyasaland, led to his deportation from the Transvaal in mid-1909, although he remained in the British-ruled part of South Africa.[28]

Referring to Booth and his African associate Elliot Kamwana, a 1976 Watch Tower publication noted, "they never became Bible Students or Jehovah's Christian witnesses. Their relationship with the Watch Tower Society was short and superficial."[29] Booth's teachings included advocating for social change, which disagreed with the Watch Tower literature he distributed.[30] Particularly in the case of Booth, who had a three-year association with, was appointed as a missionary by and financed by, Watch Tower, this appears disingenuous and misleading.[31]

In 1915, Booth produced a British African Congress petition, demanding that educated Africans should have the same political rights as Europeans, and was again deported from South Africa in October 1915.[32] Over the next few years in England, he was involved in pacifist protest against the First World War. He was allowed to return to South Africa in 1919, to the house his daughter, Mary, had built some considerable distance from Cape Town, which discouraged him from any active involvement in African affairs. Booth's second wife died there in 1921, and he married his third wife, Lillian in May 1924 when he was 73 and she about 49. Booth and his third wife later returned to England because of his ill health and because Booth's contacts with Africans were attracting the attention of the authorities. He remained in England, suffering periodic illness, until he died in 1932. His daughter, Emily, would later write of their experiences in Africa.[33][34]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Owen J. M. Kalinga and Cynthia A. Crosby, (2001) Historical Dictionary of Malawi, 3rd ed. (Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-3481-2) pp. 40–41.
  • H W Langworthy, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, Journal of Religion in Africa, Vol. 16, 1, pp. 24–43.
  • Harry Langworthy, (1996), "Africa for the African". The Life of Joseph Booth, (Blantyre: CLAIM. ISBN 99908-16-03-4)
  • R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, Cambridge (Mass), Harvard University Press,
  • K Fiedler, (1994) The Story of Faith Missions, OCMS, p. 53. ISBN 978-1-87034-518-7

References[edit]

  1. ^ Harry Langworthy ,(1996), "Africa for the African". The Life of Joseph Booth, pp. 20, 25.
  2. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, pp. 24-5.
  3. ^ R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, p. 61.
  4. ^ K Fiedler, (1994). The Story of Faith Missions, p. 53.
  5. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, p. 26.
  6. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, p. 24.
  7. ^ Harry Langworthy ,(1996), "Africa for the African". The Life of Joseph Booth, p. 73.
  8. ^ Harry Langworthy ,(1996), "Africa for the African". The Life of Joseph Booth, p. 73.
  9. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, p. 27.
  10. ^ R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, p. 64.
  11. ^ Spalding, Arthur Whitefield (1962). Origin and History of Seventh-Day Adventists (PDF). 4. Review and Herald Publishing Association. 
  12. ^ Spalding, Arthur Whitefield (1962). Origin and History of Seventh-Day Adventists (PDF). 4. Review and Herald Publishing Association. 
  13. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, pp. 33-4. During his time in Durban, he met Elliot Kenan Kamwana, a Tonga who had attended a mission school at Bandawe between 1898 and 1901 until he left, frustrated in his repeated failed attempts to attain ordination.
  14. ^ R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, pp. 65-6.
  15. ^ "Part 1—South Africa and Neighboring Territories", 1976 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 71
  16. ^ "Malawi", 1999 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 150-151
  17. ^ "Missionaries Push Worldwide Expansion", Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, ©1993 Watch Tower, page 521
  18. ^ "Part 1—South Africa and Neighboring Territories", 1976 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 70-71
  19. ^ R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, p. 66.
  20. ^ K P Lohrentz (1971). Joseph Booth, Charles Domingo, and the Seventh Day Baptists in Northern Nyasaland,1910-12, The Journal of African History, Vol. 12, No. 3, p. 465.
  21. ^ Harry Langworthy ,(1996), "Africa for the African". The Life of Joseph Booth, p. 218.
  22. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, p. 33.
  23. ^ R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, p. 67
  24. ^ K P Lohrentz (1971). Joseph Booth, Charles Domingo, and the Seventh Day Baptists in Northern Nyasaland,1910-12, The Journal of African History, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 466-7.
  25. ^ "Part 1—South Africa and Neighboring Territories", 1976 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 1761
  26. ^ K P Lohrentz (1971). Joseph Booth, Charles Domingo, and the Seventh Day Baptists in Northern Nyasaland,1910-12, The Journal of African History, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp. 467-8.
  27. ^ R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, p. 81.
  28. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, pp. 33-4.
  29. ^ "Part 1—South Africa and Neighboring Territories", 1976 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, ©Watch Tower, page 73
  30. ^ "Part 1—Witnesses to the Most Distant Part of the Earth", Jehovah's Witnesses - Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, ©1993 Watch Tower, page 418
  31. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, pp. 33-4.
  32. ^ R I Rotberg, (1965). The Rise of Nationalism in Central Africa: The Making of Malawi and Zambia, 1873-1964, p. 72.
  33. ^ Harry Langworthy ,(1996), "Africa for the African". The Life of Joseph Booth, p. 487.
  34. ^ H W Langworthy III, (1986). Joseph Booth, Prophet of Radical Change in Central and South Africa, 1891-1915, p. 41.