Bishop A.R. Tucker of Uganda and the implementation of an evangelical tradition of mission
The thesis deals with A. R. Tucker and the implementation of an evangelical tradition of mission, as represented by the Church Missionary Society, in Uganda where he was Bishop 1890-1911. Any evangelical tradition claims to be Biblical, and so three probes are made into the New Testament perspective on mission. The Acts of the Apostles was a foundation text for nineteenth-century missionaries, and is considered along with a complementary discussion of mission in John’s Gospel and Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This discussion uncovers tensions relating to the relationship between older and younger churches, to finance, to the development of local leadership and responsibility, to the relationship with political authorities and wider issues of contextualisation that are echoed in both Venn and Tucker. Although Venn as Hon. Secretary of C.M.S. was largely responsible for shaping the Society’s tradition of mission in the mid nineteenth century, its implementation was often frustrated by unwilling missionaries. Whereas Venn was an administrator based in London, Tucker’s locus of activity was in East Africa before 1897 and specifically Uganda thereafter. Tucker’s theological position and spirituality bore a marked resemblance to that of Venn. He worked when the prevailing socio-political context was a Protectorate mentality, which militated against a radical implementation of the principles and concerns developed in Venn’s time. At the start of the twentieth century Uganda was held in high repute in missionary circles, but the thesis questions whether this can be wholly justified. Inasmuch as the reputation may be defended, Tucker’s was a limited responsibility for the success. In the areas of the development of indigenous ordained ministry, encouragement of evangelism and church-planting, defence of Africans whom he felt were being exploited, insistence on local financial resourcing of the church, ecumenical vision, and the desire to integrate the missionary presence within the African church, Tucker’s work was clearly in the evangelical tradition developed by Venn. But in each of those areas we identity tensions and ambivalence also. This returns us to the New Testament theme that Christian mission, although fundamentally the Missio Dei, is in fact entrusted to fallible people by the grace of God.