Groves, Charles Pelham

Sierra Leone , Nigeria

Charles Pelham Groves was a church historian of Africa. Groves was born in Cambellport, Wisconsin, the son of a Methodist minister who moved to England in 1897 and thereafter became superintendent of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion in Sierra Leone. Charles studied at University College, Reading, and at the University of Manchester before entering the Primitive Methodist ministry. He was appointed to Eastern Nigeria in 1911 and from then until 1923 trained teachers and evangelists at the Oron Training Institute. Following a brief circuit ministry, he spent the years 1926 to 1954 (with the exception of a visiting professorship, from 1937 to 1939, at the Kennedy School of Mission at Hartford Seminary, Connecticut) in the Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, during the colleges’ most influential period in ecumenical and mission studies. He was tutor at Kingsmead, the Methodist missionary college, both before and after the 1932 union of the Methodist churches, and professor of missions in the colleges from 1945. His first major book, Jesus Christ and Primitive Need (1934), explores the relation of Christianity (“The Christian message is not the submission of an idea; it is an announcement about a Person”) to the worldviews current in primal, and especially African, societies. His magnum opus, The Planting of Christianity in Africa (4 vols., 1949-1958), was the first serious attempt at a full-scale African church history. Though it is inevitably missions centered, its scope is immense; it treats the entire continent and presents a continuous Christian history from New Testament times to the 1950s, making exhaustive use of the limited sources then available. It earned Grove the title “the Eusebius of Africa.”

Andrew F. Walls


Minutes and Yearbook of the Methodist Conference (1973), pp. 143 ff.

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.