Anglicans and Roman Catholics before and after Independence
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Writing Church history has its own peculiar problems. No church exists simply in terms of its institutions because a church is not its institutions but the body of believers which pay allegiance to it. Belief in itself is difficult to quantify, for of its very nature it is internalized in the believer and, although sacramental churches can obtain some sense of how widespread belief is through people’s participation in liturgical practices, statistics of baptisms, confirmations and partakings of the Eucharist make for dull history. The historiography of missionary churches is even more difficult to handle. The central question that must be asked of any successful missionary enterprise is why it succeeded at all. Missionary success, after all, means that a people who had religion appropriate to their whole cultural experience chose to repudiate it and put in its place a set of alien beliefs which, more often than not, designated their former practices as works of the devil. One way of considering the success of missions is to invoke the power of the Spirit which draws people to Its light through Its own mysterious processes. Such an account of conversions may be satisfying in pious magazines, but history does not deal in mysteries. If missionary history is to satisfy, it must offer an account which pays some attention to crises in the culture of a people, the problems the old religion had in accommodating those crises, and the way in which the teaching and practices of the new church have a peculiar and engaging relevance.