Kimbangu, Simon

ca. 1887–1951
Congolese religious leader

Simon Kimbangu was born in the Lower Congo (now CONGO, KINSHASA) and raised as a Baptist. Although not a member of the clergy, he began to preach in British missions in 1918. He also experienced a series of spiritual dreams and visions. In an effort to escape them, he moved to the city of Leopoldville (now KINSHASA). But the visions continued.

Three years later Kimbangu returned to his home village and began a healing ministry at a place he called New Jerusalem. He drew huge crowds of followers who were convinced that he possessed miraculous powers. He destroyed the fetishes associated with traditional African religions and converted large numbers of people to Christianity. While some Baptist leaders accepted his ministry, others were skeptical.

Belgian colonial authorities arrested Kimbangu and sentenced him to death, though he had not committed a crime. In response to a request from the Baptist Missionary Society, Belgium's King Albert I overturned the death sentence. However, Kimbangu remained imprisoned until his death 30 years later and many of his followers were exiled to Upper Congo. Kimbangu's ministry was continued by his sons. In the late 1950s they established the Church of Jesus Christ on Earth Through the Prophet Simon Kimbangu, which is now a member of the World Council of Churches. (See also Christianity in Africa, Missio