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The Papers of Bishop Ridsdale (1916-2000) Missionary to the Eastern Congo

From the Henry Martyn Centre, Cambridge

These papers, collected by Bishop Philip Ridsdale, cover the history of the Anglican Church in the Congo, from 1949 through until the death of Ridsdale in 2000. They offer a rare and invaluable insight into the development of an Anglican Christian presence in the Congo from the 1950s onward, including important records of the work of the Church Missionary Society in the region.

Through the correspondence, pamphlets, newsletters, articles and reports included in this collection, we can analyse the political and military developments in the Congo during this period, and the Anglican Church’s reaction to these crises. The papers include items on contemporary topical issues as:

  • The stress caused by the influx of refugees from Uganda during the unrests of the mid-1980s
  • The creations and administration of the province of Zaire from 1991 onwards
  • Insights into the turbulent political situation in the Congo between 1990-1997
  • Reactions to the capture of Bunia by Rwandan-backed Zairian rebels in 1996

Philip Ridsdale’s love for the Congo began in 1938 when he served as a lay helper there. He returned after the War as a CMS missionary in Boga, 1948-1950; rural dean and schools’ supervisor in Bunyoro District, 1950-1955; and diocesan missioner and then archdeacon in the Ruwenzori Diocese, 1956-1964. After a brief sojourn in England, he returned to the Congo in 1971 and was consecrated as the first Anglican bishop of Boga-Zaire in 1972. He retired in 1980, but maintained an active interest as Chairman of the Congo Church Association, 1980-2000.

He was responsible for collecting together large numbers of papers relating to the Anglican Church in the Congo and these documents have been lodged with the Henry Martyn Centre since 2003. Now they are made available to a wider audience.

The documents in this collection record:

  • Ridsdale’s work at CMS mission in Boga, 1948-1983, as well as CMS Link Letters, Reports and Meetings 1973-1999
  • The growth of the Anglican Church in the Congo from 25,000 members in 1969 to 500,000 members in 1992
  • The work of the Congo Church Association and Anglican Theological Institute, Bunia (IsThA)
  • Correspondence with African clergy including Bishops Njojo and Diropka
  • The creation in 1992 of the Congo as an ecclesiastical province, with its own archbishop, Patrice Njojo Byankya
  • Pamphlets, theses, diocesan calendars, accounts and photographs

This collection will be of great interest to all those interested in the Congo, religion in Africa and the Africanisation of the Church. There is also much insight into the political and security situation in this region of modern Africa, with particular relevance to the impact of the wars on the Church and its followers.

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