Repository logo

From chinamwali to chilangizo : the christianisation of pre-christian Chewa initiation rites in the Baptist Convention of Malawi.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation critically reviews chilangizo in the Baptist Convention of Malawi (BACOMA) and assesses its impact on Chewa society. Christian History has shown that the Christian attitude towards traditional customs and practices surrounding life cycle rituals has ranged from negative and hostile to positive and acceptance, resulting in offering alternative 'Christian' rituals. The issue of chilangizo and chinamwali have been a real pastoral and missiological problem to the Baptist Convention churches because of the churches' failure to understand the meaning of the traditional rites in the light of the mother tongue Scriptures. This study aims at guiding the Church in Malawi and in Africa to engage with more openness with the cultural issues. This should assist BACOMA to thoroughly understand this cultural phenomenon and the meanings associated with all aspects of the rites. Studying the Scriptures to understand how they reinterpret chinamwali and its associated meanings should lead BACOMA churches into an interactive process of discussion, reflection, teaching and action. This study is therefore an attempt to begin this process and make recommendations for BACOMA. After the introductory chapter, the second chapter gives a survey of the 'religious itinerary' of the Chewa pre-Christian life and thought. The third chapter traces the emergence of BACOMA churches within the American Southern Baptists' religious and Western cultural contexts on one hand, and the African context on the other. The fourth chapter gives a phenomenological description and analysis of chinamwali. It also shows the socio-religious significance of chinamwali within the Chewa culture. The fifth chapter surveys the historical context of chilangizo as the Christian response to the traditional rite. It then analyses the Baptist chilangizo liturgy and its contents. The sixth chapter gives the phenomenological description and analysis of chilangizo at the grassroots level. It also assesses its impact and makes recommendations towards an improved rite. In view of the assessment and recommendations made in chapter six, the final chapter allows the Chewa Scriptures to re-interpret the rite and its meanings. It also presents a proposed Christian chinamwali that maintains the traditional ritual frame and dynamism. The proposal leaves room for creativity and improvement by the individual congregations.


Thesis (M.Th.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2003.


Christianity--Malawi., Chewa (African People)--Religious life and customs., Theses--Theology.