Lumpa Church

A religious movement in Zambia known for its intense opposition to colonial rule and the rejection of traditional practices.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Independent African Church
Founder: Alice Lenshina
Founded: 1953
Location: Zambia
Ended: 1964
Other Names: Lumpa Church of Africa

The Lumpa Church was an independent Christian church established in 1953 by Alice Lenshina Mulenga in the village of Kasama, Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). It stood out for its blend of Christian beliefs and traditional African values, promoting the role of women as spiritual mediums. The church was born from Alice Mulenga Lubusha’s (who later rechristened herself Alice Lenshina, meaning “Alice the Queen”) spiritual experiences and opposition to polygamy and sorcery. Positioned against the backdrop of colonial rule, the Lumpa Church sought to eradicate these practices, advocating for a moral and spiritual purification of society.

The church blended Christian beliefs with traditional religious values, notably advocating for women’s roles as spiritual mediums. Alice Lenshina, originally named Alice Mulenga Lubusha, rebranded herself after experiencing what she claimed was a divine encounter with Jesus Christ, leading her to launch a witchcraft eradication movement and subsequently form the Lumpa Church​​​​. Her leadership was marked by a strict moral code that included the prohibition of adultery, polygamy, divorce, dancing, and drinking. Baptism, performed exclusively by Lenshina, was a central rite within the church, believed to ensure salvation and protection against witchcraft. The church also rejected all forms of earthly authority, establishing its own judicial systems and refusing state interference, which led to its confrontation with the Zambian government.

In its inception, the Lumpa Church seemed to align with the independence movement in Northern Rhodesia, incorporating nationalist propaganda into its meetings. However, as the church grew, it became increasingly nonpolitical and focused on spiritual and moral purification, advocating for withdrawal from secular politics and creating separate communities. This stance led to conflicts with both colonial authorities and emerging political movements, particularly the United National Independence Party (UNIP) led by Kenneth Kaunda. The church’s refusal to obey the colonial state laws and its establishment of autonomous communities heightened tensions, leading to a violent confrontation in 1964, shortly before Zambia gained independence. The conflict resulted in the deaths of over 700 people and the displacement of thousands of Lumpa Church members​​. The church was banned the same year and Lenshina remained imprisoned or under house arrest until her death in 1978​​.

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