The Ecumenical Landscape in West Cameroon and The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and Infant Baptism

Two Studies from an Ecumenical Perspective

Elaboration, 2017
46 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Content

1. CHAPTER ONE: General Structure and Introduction to Research Paper
2. CHAPTER TWO: In-depth View of Ecumenicity in West Cameroon
3. CHAPTER THREE: The Way Forward for Ecumenism in Cameroon
a) Bilateral and Intra-Confessional Dialogues
b) Regional Ecumenical Bodies
c) National Christian Forum

1. CHAPTER ONE: General Introduction and Structure of Research Paper
2. CHAPTER TWO: PCC’s Biblical Understanding of Baptism vis-à-vis Other Confessions
a) Doctrine before Baptism in West Cameroon
b) Economic and Social Implications of Baptism
c) Blending Baptism in PCC
d) God Parenting
e) Changing of Names


1. CHAPTER ONE: General Structure and Introduction to Research Paper


What has motivated this paper is the genuine search for a Christian identity within the context of West Cameroon. Cameroon is a multicultural country which has been grouped into two major linguistic areas. The French speaking Cameroon constitute more than 70% of the country while the English speaking part is also more than 25%. Most often, the story of Cameroon is written in a block and as if it were a complete unit without minding the fact that the two linguistic parts are made up of two different people who have completely different cultures and style of governance as well as Christian experience. This all began in the colonial days and a brief historical background of the country will explain this more:

It is quite an interesting history wherein there have been four colonial powers who named and administered the country in four different ways. They were the Portuguese (Rio dos Cameros), the Germans (Kamerun), the English (Cameroon) and the French (Cameroun). Of these four, the last two were the ones that shaped the final component of the country as it is today. They divided the country in to two separate part and linguistic groups and governed by two different forms of governments and systems. The French governed the eastern part of the country by a policy called “assimilation” by which the colony was prepared to be absorbed into the French life in everything. The people of the colony had to think, behave, speak, eat, dance and governed as in France and everything had to be changed to and expressed in French. It is very important to note here that the aim of the assimilation was at the same time to wipe out anything German in the colony so that they were completely forgotten and French dominion established[1] against any Germanophilia. The legal system applied here was the civil law and a purely French system of education and the French Christian missionaries from Paris carried on work in this area.

The English on the other hand applied the “indirect rule” by which the colony was being prepared for selfhood in everything including administration. There was the application of the common law system and the education was purely Anglo-Saxon. English Baptist and German Basel Missionaries established Christianity in this area. At a UN plebiscite in February 11th 1961, the two states came together as a federation (The Federal Republic of the Cameroons) with two different structures meant to be respected in the various respective areas. But by the 20th of May 1972, in a referendum, the two states merged to form the United Republic of Cameroon with the constitutional stipulations that the country becomes fully bilingual in everything with the two structures given full rights of operation.[2]

Upon this background, this paper is motivated to show that the English speaking experience of Christianity is not and can never be the same as those of the French speaking part. Missionary activities followed colonial principles and to claim that the Cameroons is one in Christian experience is the same as to suggest that the British and the French Christian experiences are also the same. Thus to concretely explore the subject of ecumenism in Cameroon, the two units must be studied separately in order to get the true ecumenical story of the country. In this paper, focus will be laid on the West Cameroon where ecumenism seems to have been swallowed up under a structure of ecumenism known as CEPCA which operates more than 90% in the French speaking area and by French principles. By exploring this option, this paper seeks to make a clear difference between the experiences of the two territories.


The method used for this paper consists of an insider perspective where I had lived in the experience of the church and serves in the both parts all over Cameroon and can therefore fully testify that Christian experiences in Cameroon can never be the same. Terre Blanche says critical hermeneutic is a method of research which “treats people as though their thoughts, feelings and experiences were the product of systems of meaning that exist at a social…level”[3] as this is gotten from observation. He also adds that there is something about a people’s experience that when well incorporated can give some meaning in a research process. This research will consider the above methodology and will also fall under the framework of qualitative research method in which most analyses are made from observation. Terre Blanche again holds that these are “…methods that try to describe and interpret people’s feelings and experiences in human terms…”[4] Of course another method that will be applied together with the others is the epistemological method which is; “making sense of people’s experiences by interacting and listening carefully to what they tell us…”[5] The author of this paper has gone through this process of listening to others also speak of their experience. However, there are other general sources that are applied through written material.


The question to be investigated here or the problem that comes to mind is the why there is the neglect of ecumenical experience in the West of Cameroon and why there is so much suspicion within the Christians there so much so that even an attempt to begin ecumenical work may seem futile at the end of the whole process. The ecumenism of suspicion as reflected in the title of this work seeks to bring to mind these difficulties that have been experienced within the various operating churches in the West of Cameroon over the years. Can they be eliminated and can West Cameroon find ways of establishing an ecumenical movement that may include both the traditional and the new emerging churches without allowing bias and sentiments to creep into the process? Again, this paper will try to find out which major churches are in existence in the West of Cameroon and what are the relationship between them like? Are these relationships a means or a hindrance to the flow of an ecumenical spirit and if a hindrance, what can be done to make dialogue possible among the churches?


The main purpose of this study is to locate West Cameroon as an entity of its own which is deserving to be considered in establishing a form of ecumenicity compatible with the unique Anglophone Christian experience in Cameroon. This study does not seek to bring division within the political or religious structures of the nation of Cameroon but to remind the world that there is no need to ignore that fact that Cameroon is a bilingual country with a dual experience in everything from administration to education to law and even the church. Many books have usually presented the false notion of a one indivisible Cameroon and often highlighting it from the higher perspective of the dominant French speaking part and thereby missing a major partner and contributor to what makes Cameroon the only colonial bi-linguistic nation in Africa second to Canada. It is time to make known the great experience of a people almost not heard of when history is written. This paper therefore wishes to compliment the history of ecumenism in Cameroon as already known at the level of the WCC by showing that more can be done within a smaller context which can also be very significant in building the general ecumenical landscape of the nation as a whole.


Once again, Cameroon is a multi-cultural nation of two different linguistic group of peoples that were brought together at the time the colonial masters were handing off Africa as a whole.[6] Language is just a component of what makes up a culture but it plays an important role because it is the means by which a culture is expressed. It is the English speaking part of Cameroon that was formerly referred to as West Cameroon or commonly called Southern Cameroons. The major operating church in this area which has been for over a century is the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC alongside the Roman Catholic Church in Cameroon, RCCC and closely followed by the Cameroon Baptist Convention, CBC. But it has not ended with these three mainline churches since at the dawn of the early 1970s, the wind of Pentecostalism began to sweep through this territory which has again saw the coming of sometime yet undefined Christian groups.

From this perspective, this paper seeks to examine the ecumenical landscape of the territory known as the West Cameroon where the churches have been operating in the English Language. It must be noted already at this point that this paper does not completely ignores the experience of the French speaking part of Cameroon in this paper but seeks to addressed a well understood environment as the author of this paper knows. It is not also once again, any attempt to bring division between the two Cameroons but to underscore the fact that the country has two completely different experiences in everything they do including the church. If not well understood, Cameroon can be hastily considered as having a common Christian experience which is often time not the case.


A summary definition of ecumenism holds that it an attempt on dialogue for the promotion of Christian unity in visible and organic form. The search for a common understanding of the Christian faith which has been so divided due to different doctrinal and ecclesiological stands. It refers to efforts by Christians of different church traditions to develop closer relationships and better understandings. The terms ecumenism and ecumenical come from the Greek οἰκουμένη (oikoumene), which means "the whole inhabited world", and was historically used with specific reference to the Roman Empire[7]. The WCC has for many years applied this term to refer to the universal church but in recent times, the meaning of the term has gone beyond just the visible unity of the churches to sometimes refer to the effort to bring other religions in to an understanding for the sake of the promotion of religious peace. It is therefore common to here the term ecumenism being used even in interreligious circles. In the context of Cameroon then, when we talk of ecumenism, it is interpreted from the two above ways and especially when used by the government intended to achieve some peaceful results.

Thus when we talk of the ecumenical landscape of West Cameroon, it is an effort to explore how well there is Christian unity or efforts towards that among the English speaking Christians of Cameroon. Sometime, the tendency is that the Christians at the grassroots do not even understand what it means to be together as Christians while the authorities meet in many dialogues without relating the required information to the congregations. At other times, it is the reverse where the local churches try to come to a common peaceful understanding with the other at the anger of those in authority. Ecumenism has not yet been properly defined within the context of West Cameroon in particular and Cameroon in general.

2. CHAPTER TWO: In-depth View of Ecumenicity in West Cameroon


According to the history of the church in West Cameroon written from the PCC perspective, it can be deduced that ecumenism in Cameroon in general began as early as 1886 but the Christian root were planted by Joseph Merrick in 1844 at the coast of Bimbia in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. I consider that ecumenism began only in 1886 because Merrick was a Baptist missionary, taken over by Joseph Fuller and Alfred Saker. But when the Baptist mission decided to hand over mission work to the incumbent Basel Mission in 1886, it was a clear sign that the Christian missions were ready to proclaim the commonness of the gospel free from divisions. Even if we consider that it was due to the fact that colonialism shaped things yet we must not be blinded to the one fact that it gave birth to something serious in the country. In 1884/85 after the partition of Africa, Kamerun (by German appellation) was taking over by the Germans and thus the English Baptist missionaries had to give way to the Swiss/German Basel mission. The interesting thing to note that counted for ecumenism is the way the Baptist missionaries handed over to the Basel missionaries. According to the history of the PCC, the Basel mission was given full custody of all mission stations and schools already created and this was done at the European Missionary Conference of 1886 between the two bodies.

It is the Basel mission that first took the gospel then to the Northwestern part of West Cameroon thereby making the Protestant missions as the first and dominant faith confession of the West of Cameroon since then. Today, the PCC is the largest denomination that has covered the entire territory of West Cameroon and operate various forms of social services alongside its ministry.

The Roman Catholic Church in Cameroon, RCCC, became very active in the West Cameroon. But they were ushered into Cameroon in 1890 by the Pallottine missionaries from Germany and succeeded to establish in the West Cameroon only by 1899 when they won their first convert. The RCCC is very dominant in the French speaking part of Cameroon through the effort of the Holy Ghost missionaries who took over the Pallottine Fathers by the 1920 after the Germans were defeated from Cameroon.[8]

Later and in the early 1970s came the first Pentecostal churches ushered in by the Apostolic with direct influence from Nigeria. Their activities were considered as deviant by the established denominations of the territory and simply termed, “born again” churches. They were later joined in by the Full Gospel Mission to constitute what is known today as a major Pentecostal force to reckon with. It should be noted that at the same time of the rise of the Pentecostals in West Cameroon came also the Jehovah Witness who were out rightly banned by a presidential decree and declared a sect feared by all.

But today, the story seem to be different all together again. Just as the Pentecostals were proselytized Christians from either the PCC, RCCC or the Baptist established churches in Cameroon, it seem the same battle to proselytism continued even among the Pentecostals such that today, we have a striking phenomenon of yet unclassified Christian gatherings springing out on a daily basis within the territory of West Cameroon which has been strongly under the influence of Nigerian prosperity and Tele-evangelist. Today, we have those classified as the African Instituted Churches, AIC and the Tele-Evangelist Churches, TEC.

These are the known Churches that are in daily operation in the West of Cameroon on which this paper will seek to examine the inter-relationship between them all. It is from such an understanding that we can be able to establish a landscape on the ecumenical situation of the Western part of the country Cameroon. But before we look into it, a small piece of information regarding what institutions of ecumenism that exist in Cameroon in general will be useful.

There is what has been referred to as CEPCA which translate in English as the Council of Protestant Churches in Cameroon. It has brought together the major Protestant churches as full members while the Pentecostals are still not yet full members. This seems to be the biggest and the only ecumenical body that officially exists in the entire country. Whatever the activities of CEPCA have been over the years is not so much the focus of this paper. But it can be noted that CEPCA came to be in 2005, the result of the former FEMEC of 1969 and the Evangelical Federation of Cameroon and West Africa created in 1943 which were ecumenical bodies that already existed and had tried to promote Christian unity in the early days of the country. CEPCA has since 2005 been the strongest forum for the Protestant voice in Cameroon. Its membership cuts across the two linguistic parts of the country and adhere to the common tenets and basis of the WCC[9]

There is another group known as the Ecumenical Service for Peace, ESP[10] whose activities have been more related to social domains. It is also not a Cameroonian born organisation and it does not relate entirely for the perspective of the churches. By this, its usage of the word ecumenical may have a completely different meaning form the focus of this paper.


In this section, we will examine some the activities that have been going on within the territory of West Cameroon that has promoted the idea of a unity among the Christians. We will also at the same time explore some of the hindrances that have occurred in the process due to doctrinal or ecclesiological stands. The result of all these will be to see if there is still hope in the ecumenical process of the churches in West Cameroon


This are very interesting groups of Christians in Cameroon and they constitute more than 60% of the total Christian population in the country. In the West of Cameroon, these two confessions are confusedly trying to unite. The usage of this word confused is as a result of the fact that no definite position has been reached by the two churches over the issues that divide them. At the level of the constituted authority, the Bishops and the Moderator are in very cordial relationship. They jointly receive the materials prepared annually for the Week of prayer for Christian unity but at the grass root, the practice is different. No one denomination takes the message fully down to the grass root where it is supposed to be practiced. In certain villages, the priest and the pastor may be in agreement over the organisation of this ecumenical week but in other villages, the priest usually turns it down or the pastors received the material and refuse to get a priest involved. What could be the cause of all these? A little perusing into the way each of these confessions view the other may explain the reason for this suspicious ecumenism.

Firstly, the Roman Catholic Church in Cameroon, RCCC continues to insist to see itself as the “Catholic Church” (one holy catholic and apostolic) and therefore often times refers to the Protestant churches as the “prodigal sons”. By this, they define Christian unity as a comeback to Catholicism by all the Protestants and the acceptance of the authority of the Holy Father over their lives. This is usually expressed in songs and open debates and sometimes even silently and taught to children by the families. They have insisted so much so that the idea is beginning to be force even on the students of GCE exams who are often asked: “which church considers itself as the universal church” for which pass answer must be, the Catholic Church.[11] They regard marriage to a Protestant as almost a taboo or sometime a thing of shame. The pastor for them is regarded as a catechist who is not yet even qualified to be a deacon, let alone a priest. To this, Eucharist blessed by such a low rated spiritual leader is not up to standard and cannot be taken by any catholic.

On the other hand, the Protestant see the Roman Catholics as ignorant and lacking on scriptural knowledge. They rather usually express pity and sympathy for the Roman Catholics who are considered slaves to dogmas. They hold that the Roman Catholic Church is also one of the Protestant Churches from the Catholic (universal) Church. It is the Church of Rome or the church that came from Rome to Cameroon just as they saw the Basel missionaries and the Baptist. Thus for them all churches are Protestants and no Church can claim superiority over the other. For the sake of ecumenism then, they define the entire universal church as a polygamous marriage in which there is one father (Christ’s Church) with many wives (denominations) and thus many children (Christians). Each child is entitled to the mother’s upbringing but all the children belong to one father. This view seemed to have resonated with the RCCC and thus a relative and conducive atmosphere was created but the suspicions maintained. The local Christians will do everything to protect their own interest even if the Bishops and the Moderator or the priests and the pastors are trying to unite at the top level.

However, the RCCC recognizes the baptism of the PCC and vice versa and also that of the Baptist but still maintain its position on marriage and sacrament. But today, the RCCC is beginning to allow and permit marriage between Presbyterians and Catholics but hardly with the other denominations. It has been influenced by a long periods of debates, joint efforts on national examination boards and programmes, the influence of the WCC and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, PCPCU in their continues dialogues and work at the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC. The results of this are often respected and creates some sense of unity among the Christians. Today, unity is gradually taking a different definition at the level of authority. Consultations are frequents and interchangeable programmes especially on national events are promoted jointly by these two with the help of the Baptist.


This is another interesting area where we can examine relations between Christian members and churches. But before we look into the issue we must consider the following quote from Luka Vscher; At the “Committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and in May 1996, two teams were gathered in Torre Pellice, Italy, in the first of five annual meetings representing Pentecostals and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches”.[12] This is a clear indication that this paper is addressing a context where these events have never been mentioned or even understood. It is almost unheard of in West Cameroon to hear that there has been a dialogue between the Pentecostals and the Protestant. Save for the glimpse of cordial relationship between the Apostolic and the Presbyterians.

Generally speaking, this is the area of the strongest suspicion that can be noticed in West Cameroon ecumenical world. The reason is simply that Pentecostalism applied proselytism on the main Protestant churches in order to fish out members for their pews. It is commonly held and sometime proven that 95% of present Pentecostals Christians were former Protestants. The Protestants hold that the Pentecostals applied tricks, spiritual scam and false promises to lure these members away and that some even used magic portions and occultic influences on the Christians.[13] It is also believed that this group is shallow in the scripture since they apply literary interpretations without considering the contextual events of the time. They are looked upon sometimes as mad, shabby and stupid. They see the Pentecostals as not normal people who would refuse to participate in community water projects yet would love to drink from the same constructed water source. They are despised and simply stigmatized and sometimes avoided.

On the other hand, the Pentecostals see the Protestants as lost, spiritually empty and occupied by the things of this world. They consider such churches as lacking of the Holy Spirit and full of sin among its members. They accuse them of extorting money from the people without allowing them enjoy any spiritual benefits. They hold that especially the PCC does not know how to pray since they cannot pray in the spirit. Any baptism done then in such a spirit empty church must be repeated in the Pentecostal church so as to allow the one to receive the spirit. In summary, each of the members from both end lack basic respect for the other and there is a great feeling of superiority between them. For this reason, they would not meet in any forum for any discussions. The Pentecostals would never attend any ecumenical programme because they see the other participating churches as lost and confused. Such programs for them are the non-essentials of faith. What is important is to pry and worship God in spirit and in truth, they say.

However, the story seem to be greatly changing today with a great deal of dialogue between the PCC and The Apostolic Church Cameroon, TACC where bilateral dialogues have let to the training of their pastors together for postgraduate studies. At the moment, they relate on academic issues and on official meetings but their various ecclesiologies still do not permit a meeting point at common worship. The Full Gospel do not even want to hear or have anything to do with the Protestants still considered as dry Christians. But a very interesting phenomenon is being applied by the Catholics and the Presbyterians known as Charismatics which tried to apply some elements of the agile nature of Pentecostal worship within their services. This has led to a massive return of some of those members who left the Protestant churches in search of the spirit led services. It has become a great stumbling block to the proselytizing process of the Pentecostals such that they too have now resorted to constructing a doctrinal and ecclesiological position by which to ascertain membership.


This is one of the most unacceptable union that exist in the West of Cameroon. The Pentecostal actually at a certain time saw the RCCC as an institution of the devil considering the Vatican and the Pope as the seat and leader respectively. Open crusades were done against them and insult thrown in public. They actually applied no mercy in castigating the RCCC and to be a member of the RCCC then was actually like being an open sinner. That view has not left till date as such sermons based of divisions can still be heard. But on the part of the RCCC, they just chose to ignore the Pentecostals. No open comment would be made against them but within the confines of the RCCC, the Christians would be warned and counsel against such traits of Christianity. The RCCC resorted to bible studies and doctrinal teaching which has been a great help to maintain catholicity. However, the RCCC see the Pentecostals rather as ignorant people or better still as the manifestation of the biblical prophecies of the coming of false teachers. The ecumenical situation between them is clearly not cordial at all and hardly have they come to table with the RCCC. But it must be noted that the Pentecostal movement view itself from a restorative approach to the history of the church where for them, the church that once lost its glory, the spirit, entered a new process of restoration through Martin Luther and has now been fulfilled in Pentecostalism. But this, ecumenism is not possible since the other churches are considered as still lost[14]. And “yes, in spite of the attempts by some Pentecostals to participate in ecumenical bodies for the sake of advancing the Gospel message around the world, many, though not all Pentecostals came to believe that the Ecumenical Movement, and hence, the historic churches that were part of it were to be avoided”.[15]

But we must note that since the 1970s there has been international RCC-Pentecostal dialogue which came to agree that the Holy Spirit has been active in both churches. But is the West of Cameroon, that information has not been shared in full understanding.


[1] Wikipedia contributors. History of Cameroon, Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. (3 December 2016 08:04 UTC)

[2] Consult the official historical position of Cameroon, Ref to Mula Njoh Litumbe in an Interview with feedback express show on November 2016. He was the founding father of the state of Cameroon and one of the only living references today.

[3] Terre, M. Blanche & Durrheim, K (eds). Research in Practice. Applied Methods for the Social Sciences. 3rd ed. (Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2006)

[4] ibid

[5] ibid

[6] The Berlin Conference of 1884/85 had brought Cameroon under Germany but after WW1, in a condominium between the French and the English, the country was governed as two separate territories until 1960 and 61 when the both territories had independence and came together as one nation.

[7] Wikipedia, Ecumenism. Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia.

[8] ibid

[9] Information provided in the official website of the WCC, (Accessed, 28 December, 2016).

[10] WCC, 2001, ESP.

[11] This is experience gotten for the GCE marking centers as an examiner of Advanced level Philosophy by the author of this paper and many other examiners. Last observation done at the marking center in Bamenda, 2016.

[12] Lukas Vischer, “World Communions, the WCC and the Ecumenical Movement,” The Ecumenical Review 54 (2002), 142-161.

[13] Ministry experience as a pastor serving in the West of Cameroon by the author of this paper.

[14] Cecil, M Robeck Jr. This general approach to historiography is shared by several other traditions including the Churches of Christ / Disciples of Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons), and Seventh- Day Adventists.

[15] ibid

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The Ecumenical Landscape in West Cameroon and The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and Infant Baptism
Two Studies from an Ecumenical Perspective
Inter-Confessional Dialogue
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West Cameroon, Baptism, ecumenism, dialogue
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Emmanuel Wayi (Mico) (Author), 2017, The Ecumenical Landscape in West Cameroon and The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon and Infant Baptism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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