African Israel Church, Nineveh

African Israel Church, Nineveh
   The Kenya-based African Israel Church Nineveh (AICN), also known as the African Israel Nineveh Church, is one of the most prominent of the 20th-century African Initiated Churches (AIC). It was founded in western Kenya in 1942 by evangelist Daudi Zakayo Kivuli (1896-1974) of the Luyia people. As early as 1925, Kivuli had associated with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, eventually becoming supervisor of mission schools. Kivuli had a dramatic experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1932 and began an evangelistic and healing ministry, which was officially authorized by a Canadian missionary in 1939. When other African leaders failed to support him, in 1942 Kivuli founded his own church and assumed the title of High Priest. Pilgrims began to arrive at his home, called Nineveh, which became the headquarters of the church.
   As in other African Pentecostal churches, AICN members wear white robes and turbans, engage in singing and dancing, emphasize spirit possession, observe many Old Testament and other dietary and purification rules (eschewing alcohol, tobacco, pork, or fish without scales), and have a holy place where their leader resides. The AICN has become known for its joyful and colorful processions and open air meetings in which flags, drums, staffs, bells, and trumpets are used to accompany traditional African singing. Members gather for Friday worship, in remembrance of Christ's crucifixion, in addition to Sunday, the day of his resurrection. They make open confession of sins and rise at dawn for daily prayers. The church accepts polyga-mists, but leaders are expected to remain monogamous and unmarried members to refrain from sex. Sexual intercourse on Fridays is forbidden.
   Kivuli died in 1974 and was succeeded by his widow, Rabecca Jumba Kivuli (1902-88), who led the church until her retirement in 1983. She was followed by the present leader, John Mweresa Kivuli II (b. 1960), Kivuli's grandson. Possessing a degree in theology, Kivuli assumed the title archbishop in 1991, after he came to believe in the priesthood of all believers, and that Christ was the only High Priest.
   The African Israel Church, Nineveh claimed more than 800,000 members in Kenya alone in the early 1990s, drawing members from across Kenya's native population. unlike other Pentecostal churches, it has participated in the larger ecumenical community, joining the National Council of Churches of Kenya. In 1975, it was admitted to the World Council of Churches.
   Further reading:
   ■ John M. Kivuli, II, "The Modernization of an African Independent Church," in Stan Nussbaum, ed., Freedom and Independence (Nairobi: Organization of African Instituted Churches, 1994)
   ■ Peter Wilson Kudoyi, African Israel Nineveh Church: A Theological and Socio-Historical Analysis (Nairobi: M.A. thesis, Kenyatta University, 1991)
   ■ FF B. Wel-born, and B. A. Ogot, A Place to Feel at Home (London: Oxford University Press, 1966).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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