Mackenzie, Charles Frederick

Anglican Communion
South Africa , Malawi

Charles Frederick Mackenzie was an Anglican missionary bishop in central Africa. Born in Scotland at Portmore, Perthsire, Mackenzie was educated partly in Scotland, partly in England. He distinguished himself as a mathematician at Cambridge, where he became a fellow of Caius College. Attracted to missionary work, he at first considered joining the Delhi Mission but decided against it. In 1854 he was persuaded by Bishop William Colenso to join him as his archdeacon in Natal, South Africa. Under the influence of Colenso, Mackenzie took a radical stand on the issue of equal ecclesiastical rights for African and European congregations - an issue on which he was defeated at a church conference at Maritzburg in 1858. Shortly afterward he returned to Britain, partly as a result of ill health, and there he was persuaded to head the newly formed Universities’ Mission to Central Africa - established as a result of a speech by David Livingstone at Cambridge in 1857. In January 1861 Mackenzie was consecrated bishop “of the mission to the tribes dwelling in the neighbourhood of Lake Nyassa and the River Shire.” He met Livingstone on the Zambezi, and the explorer helped choose the site for the mission at Magomero in the Shire highlands of Malawi. It was isolated, unhealthy, and dominated by Yao slave traders. Almost immediately Mackenzie became involved in direct and physical opposition to the slave trade, and this interventionist policy made enemies of the powerful Yao people. In January 1862, while going down the Shire River to meet Livingstone, Mackenzie’s canoe capsized, and he lost all his medicines. Both he and his colleague Henry Burrup died soon afterward. These difficulties forced the mission to withdraw temporarily to Zanzibar, but it eventually returned in 1886 to Likoma Island in Lake Malawi. Mackenzie is remembered as a brave and principled — albeit somewhat naïve — pioneer.

T. Jack Thompson


Owen Chadwick, Mackenzie’s Grave (1959); G. Harvey Goodwin, Memoir of Bishop Mackenzie (1864); David Livingstone and Charles Livingstone, Narrative of an Expedition to the Zambezi and Its Tributaries (1865); R. H. Rowley, The Story of the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa (1866); Landeg White, *Magomero: Portrait of an African Village (1987).

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.