Republic of Benin
World Convention is currently building a global reference for the countries and territories where we know there are Christian – Churches of Christ – Disciples of Christ Congregations. Of the 193 United Nations States, the Stone-Campbell Movement exists in 165. This listing includes other nations and territories, numbering 194 countries where there is at least one representation of our churches.
Rather than waiting for comprehensive, complete information we are putting up the details we have available. If you can correct or add to this information, please contact the World Convention Office with details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Republic of Benin is a small West African country facing the Gulf of Guinea covering an area of nearly 113,000 sq km (43,000 sq miles). It is bordered by Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east and Togo to the west. Once known as the Kingdom of Benin, by the seventeenth century the country was known as Abomey later Dahomey. Slave trade was an endemic problem in area with the town of Ouidah being the shipping point for several million slaves out of Africa. By 1850 the area was under French control (and is thus French-speaking), becoming independent in 1960. Several subsequent coups meant frequent changes in governmental leadership in the late twentieth century, including a time as a Communist state. Today Benin is a republic with a single legislative body known as the National Assembly. The population of Benin is approximately 7.5 million from several major people groups, including the nomadic Fulani, Fon, Adja, Bariba and Yoruba.
Subsistence agriculture, cotton production and regional trade are fundamental to Benin’s economy. Some offshore oilfields began to develop in the late twentieth century. Two major wildlife parks are located to the north and are shared with Burkina Faso and Niger. Inefficient state enterprises and over-staffed civil service have, in the past, inhibited economic progress. Porto-Novo, founded by the Portuguese in 1752, is the Capital.
The religious life of Benin is dominated by Traditional-Animist beliefs with seventy percent of the country following these traditional practices. In fact, Benin has been considered the Voodoo capital of world. Both Islam and Christianity share the remaining portion of the population.
The Stone-Campbell Movement in Benin is traced to the village of Se where Ghanaian Kwao Godfried Kabute began a Church of Christ in 1985. In 1990 this was the only known congregation in Benin; it had a membership of ten. Another Ghanaian, George Akpabli is also known to have distributed Bibles and taught both individuals and small groups. In 1995 Akpabli opened a Bible Training Center in Cotonou and served as its director, under the sponsorship of the Benton Church of Christ in Benton, Kentucky. It is now called French African Christian Education (F.A.C.E). As of 2016, graduates and present students represent 10 French speaking nations in West Africa: Benin, Togo, Chad, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Burkino Faso, Mali, Guinea and Niger.
Beginning in 1993 American missionaries of the a cappella Churches of Christ began entering Benin, including Andrew Gordon, Anthony and Maureen Parker and Tod Vogt. Doyle Kee and Bill McDonough led a medical mission to Benin in 1996. With the expansion of work in the country other American missionaries to go to Benin, included Richard Chowning, David Hicks, Andy Wilson and Randy and Kelly Vaughn. For more on the work of Churches of Christ in Benin, see http://missions-history.wikispaces.com/Benin.
In 2000 Brian Jennings, a Brit serving at Ghana Christian College, reported to the Global Leaders Forum at the Brisbane, Australia World Convention, about the state of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Benin, at that time. He reported that from 1992 to 2000 the Churches of Christ in Benin had grown from two small congregations to a total of 41 congregations with an aggregate membership of 1,250 members centered about three mission efforts. In Cotonou, George Akpabli was directing the Centre de Formation Biblique (Bible Training Center) which was sharing facilities with the Vedoko Church. In 2000 the Center marked its fifth anniversary and had seen the graduation of eighteen students from its three-year program from several Francophone countries. A team of five church planting missionaries, including Jana Treadway, Anthony and Maureen Parker, and Andrew and Pulcherie Gordon were working with the Fon people. At that time there were seven congregations with a total membership of 110, among the Fon. The third was a team consisting of Greg and Melanie Bailey, Richard and Cyndi Chowning, Murphy and Christian Crowson, Jim Kennell, David and Heather Hicks and Randy and Kelly Vaughn working with the Aja people. These families were living in the towns of Azove and Aplohoue. The work among the Aja numbered seventeen congregations with a total membership of about 550 Aja people (though the Jennings report says seventeen’ a 2007 report by Randy Vaughn says there are seven congregations).
International Churches of Christ have a congregation in Cotonou.
In the April 2001 issue of the Christian Worker, a periodical of the church of Christ in Great Britain, editor Graham Fisher reported that the congregation in Northampton, England had begun financially supporting a small congregation in Cotonou, providing the latter group the funds to rent a facility and support an evangelist.
In 1992 Christian Missionary Fellowship (CMF), based in Indianapolis, Indiana opened a new work in Benin. Steven and Shawn Allen and David and Carol Gustin completed language study in France and moved in July of that year to Cotonou to initiate a church planting ministry among the Fon-speaking people. Later, (1999) CMF work was centered in Parakou where Derek Powell and Mike Rutledge served in many small ministries, including employing graphic art as a way of carrying the Gospel to a people group where visual images were not the norm that they are in western culture. CMF did provide the opportunity for some American students to intern in Benin, as well. One of those students is currently serving with CMF in the Ivory Coast. Sometime thereafter the CMF work in Benin was closed, prior to 2004. Despite the work being closed Christian congregations yet flourish among the Aja people.
In December of 2006 the Kaiteme Church of Christ, planted in 1998 and one of the oldest of the Churches of Christ among the Aja people of Benin, hosted the annual year-end convention of Churches of Christ. The three-day event, just prior to Christmas (December 22-24), was historic in that it was also a time of celebration of union of the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches of Benin. There are reported to be seven congregations of Churches of Christ and over a dozen congregations identified as Christian Churches. On Saturday, December 23, during the annual convention a delegation of about 100 people from the Christian Churches arrived by truck. The delegation entered the worship service in a parade, their hearts full of praise as they offered up a special song they had prepared for the occasion. Randy and Kelly Vaughn, are missionaries from the American Churches of Christ in Benin (in 2007 they will be ending their eight-year tenure in Benin). Randy said of the Christian Church delegation, “I appreciate so much our brothers from the Christian Church; their humility is evident and their dynamic relationship with Jesus is contagious.”
Later in the day, the leaders of the Christian Church delegation called together the leadership council of the seven Aja congregations, laid hands upon them and prayed over the leadership of the Churches of Christ. Union will provide both groups of first generation Christians important opportunities for fellowship and mutual encouragement in a land where believers are still a very small minority. Vaughn says that this kind of union is significant for these relatively new Christians who have no mentors in their families to guide them in their Christian walk, “for God to bring together these two groups under one umbrella will strengthen everyone in this combat for purity, holiness and the pursuit of righteousness.” The combined fellowship will fortify both groups for the purpose of evangelism, discipleship and the spiritual battle for maturation and sanctification.
Clinton J. Holloway
National Profiles Editor
Revised by Gary Holloway, July 7, 2016
The Benin Bible Training Center is at Zinvie, Benin
This mission work is under the oversight of the Benton Church of Christ, 3091 Main Street, Benton, KY 42025 (USA)
An annual year-end convention is held among the Churches of the Aja people.