A bird’s-eye view of Cameroon’s church history
The first Christian mission to Cameroon was the London Baptist Mission (LBM) in 1845. The LBM was constituted at the request of former African slaves in the Americas. It consisted of black pastors Fuller and Merrick along with English missionaries Dr Prince and Alfred Saker.
Based in Douala and working in difficult conditions, these men laboured to bring the good news of salvation to local people, and to care for their practical needs – especially through teaching farming.
Pastor Merrick died in 1849, the same year the first Cameroon national convert was baptised. Commenting on this, Saker said, ‘I have witnessed the realisation of a long time desire, the beginning of a good work in Cameroon and the establishing of the Christian Church. May I be allowed to see thousands come to join with us. The Christian community in all its smallness is recognised as a new power in this country.’
By 1862 the mission had translated the whole Bible. Saker ordained the first Cameroonian pastors – Thomas Horton Johnson in 1855 and George Nkwe in1866. Saker returned to England in 1876, from where he was called home on 12 March 1880.
In 1850 the American Presbyterian Mission (APM) arrived in the Bight of Biafra and later with the missionary Cornelius Heer began work in the southern part of Cameroon.
In 1884 Cameroon became a German colony. This led to the departure of LBM and its replacement by the Basel Mission.
After WWI the country was under French and English rule. The Basel Mission was ousted and replaced by the Paris Mission, but allowed to return in 1925. After WWII, with the country preparing for independence, the French Mission opted to give autonomy to the church.
The EEC (Eglise Evangelique du Cameroun) and UEBC (Union des Eglises Baptistes du Cameroun) were formed in 1957. In the same year the APM granted autonomy to the EPC (Eglise Presbyterienne du Cameroun), covering the southern and central areas of the country – so the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon was constituted.
Today many mainline Protestant churches are represented in Cameroon including Lutherans and Anglicans.