Since the ecumenical movement is a child of the missionary movement and Africa is one of the traditional mission fields of the previous century, ecumene is not something new in Africa. In spite of denominational diversity many forms of cooperation in missions developed throughout the 19th century. Missionary councils were established, at a rapidly increasing pace after the World Missionary Conference of 1910. These missionary councils generally developed into national Christian councils. Although institutional ecumenism is not new in Africa, it is also true that it was only in the second half of the 20th century that African Christianity started to move from the missionary stage of its history into the ecumenical age.
How many Christians are there in Africa today? After centuries of missionary work, after countless sacrifices, the staffing of mission stations and the spending of millions - just how strong is the church in Africa? How well has the church withstood the storms that have raged over Africa? How many of the steeples that were built with so much care have proved strong enough to withstand the winds of change - in political, social, economic, cultural and religious fields? Is Africa still ""dark Africa"" or has that darkness been banished by the light of Jesus Christ?
It has happened before when Christianity has stagnated in an old world (between the Mediterranean and the Danube for instance), that it has received fresh vitality from its new mission fields (the Celtic, Norse and Germanic lands in the 8th and 9th centuries, for example), and experienced a profound transformation. Few would challenge the hypothesis that ""First"" and even ""Second"" World Christianity in our day could do with an extensive overhaul.
The history of nineteenth century theological education in the Third World reveals a divergence of opinion as to what policy should be followed in training indigenous church workers. Two schools of thought existed: what we might call the Venn and Keswick schools.