Naga Christianity: The Baptists in the Formative Years, 1838–1915


Joshua Lorin

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This dissertation explores indigenous expansion of faith through local leaderships and support agencies in the formative years of Naga Christianity, 1838-1915. It is based on works initiated at four centers, viz., Namsang, Impur, Kohima, and Wokha by the Baptist missionaries from America. Our research is an historical work that carefully and systematically connects events and themes to show that "self-propagation" and "self-support" was a dominant motif of Naga Christianity. In the process of this historical inquiry, we investigated key aspects of the development of the literature and education, and the interplay of colonial politics and mission in the Naga Hills. Though peripheral to the story, mission controversies and dissensions, enabled us to take a closer look into the critical elements that went into the foundation of Naga Christianity.

We argue that though the missionaries espoused the principle of self-support, it was the innate Naga qualities such as self-reliance, altruism, and independent spirit, among all else, which contributed to this success story of Christian faith. Despite slow growth in the period under review (1838-1840; 1872-1915), "indigeneity" was the modus operandi early on; it persisted and in time became well established. Beginning with the Nagas from Namsang in the 1830s, active native participation was prominent, and by the first decade of the twentieth century, the native people had assumed the sponsorship of virtually all churches and schools, at least, in the case of the Ao Nagas.

While the missionaries espoused the theory of indigeneity, adequate attempts were not made to understand the Naga socio-cultural and religious expressions that could have led to a more serene and meaningful adaptation of the faith. The exception is Edward Clark, the pioneer missionary, who embraced the socio-religious culture of the Nagas beyond what could be tolerated among most mission colleagues of his era. We assert that Naga Christianity had attained a critical faith quite early on despite those perceptions, inclusive of Naga scholars, who viewed Naga Christianity in a negative light for absorbing excessive external elements. Conclusively, we argue that the natives were not passive recipients of a foreign faith since they made early attempts to define their own brand of Christianity.

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PHD in Theology

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Bradley, James E.

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Baptists, Missions, India, Nāgāland, Church history


Missions and World Christianity


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