Cripps, Arthur Shearly
1869 to 1952
Arthur Shearly Cripps (1869-1952) spent 50 years of his life as
an Anglican priest near Enkeldoorn (now know as Chivhu) in the then Southern
Rhodesia. Before the phrase because popular, he took the "preferential option
for the poor."
He was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England, where his father was a lawyer
and his grandfather had been a builder. He studied modern history at Oxford with
the intention of becoming a lawyer like his father, but there he came under the
influence of Charles Gore. He joined the Christian Social Union, whose members
exposed exploiting employers, and switched to service of the church.
After taking his degree, he went to Cuddeston Theological College, and was
ordained deacon in 1892 and priest the following year, and served as assistant
curate at Ickleham in Sussex. In 1894 he became Rector of Ford End in Essex. In
1897 Olive Schreiner's book Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland was
published. The book was a scathing attack on Cecil Rhodes and his Chartered
Company, and reading it moved Cripps to offer himself to the Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) for service in Mashonaland.
In late 1900 he travelled through Italy to Naples where he boarded the German
steamer Herzog for the voyage to Beira, and reached Umtali (now Mutare) on 6
January 1901. He spent two months there to get his bearings, and in March was
put in charge, temporarily, of Wreningham, 12 miles from Enkeldoorn.
He walked throughout the distict, and refused lifts if offered, sharing his
food and clothes with the poor. He fought with the British South Africa Company
over its plans to deprive the black population of what little land was left to
them, and lived an austere and simple life as one of the people. He raised money
to buy his own farms where land-hungry Africans could settle, and continually
urged the bishops and synods of the Diocese of Mashona and to take the concerns
of their African flock more seriously.
He opposed government subsidies for church schools, and when the church
accepted them, he returned to England, to his old parish of Ford End, which was
once again vacant at the end of 1926, and the following year his book
Africa for Africans, on the land question in Southern Rhodesia was
By August 1930, however, at the age of 61, he returned to Rhodesia, to his
farm Muckleneuk, where he served the church Maronda Mashanu (Five Wounds), which
he had built there. In effect he was now retired, with his only income the
royalties from his books and small family trust. At the age of 60 he went blind,
but continued his ministry, walking with a companion to guide him, and friends
from Enkeldoorn to help him with reading and writing.
Steere, Douglas V. 1973. God's irregular: Arthur Shearly
Cripps. London SPCK.
This article is generated by the Database of African
Church Leaders, which is part of the Database of African
Independent Churches maintained by Stephen Hayes. All rights reserved.