Public confession and the moral universe of the east African revival

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


When the East African Revival emerged as a distinct movement in Rwanda and Uganda in the early 1930s, one of its most noticeable and controversial characteristics was the prevalence of public confession of personal sin. The revival made public many of these sins that African converts had kept hidden. Many confessed to stealing objects or money from mission stations or other employers, others admitted to sexual indiscretions, others even brought 'witchcraft' objects to revival fellowship meetings in order to be burned. Revivalists learned to be morally perspicacious. They sought to locate any hint of sin from their own lives and often took the next step of publicly identifying others' sins. This paper analyses the content of what African revivalists named as 'sinful' as it was recorded by European missionaries and bishops, African Balokole and British District Commissioners. It argues that revivalists developed a common moral discourse through their public confessions and testimonies, which in turn formed a common moral imagination across the revival. The broader benefit of tracing the shifts of these definitions is that one can then observe how revivalists interacted with traditional taboos and social mores, as well as changes that stemmed from colonial systems of governance and economics. This paper, therefore, illustrates that the revival was distinctly appealing to people across various colonial and social boundaries because it allowed them to name particular threats to their spiritual and temporal lives while connecting them through a new sense of fellowship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-268
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in World Christianity
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Confession
  • East African revival
  • Moral
  • Sin
  • Uganda

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Public confession and the moral universe of the east African revival'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this