Robert Gray was the first Anglican bishop of Cape Town, South Africa. Son of the bishop of Bristol, England, he was appointed the bishop of Cape Town in 1848. His high churchmanship significantly shaped the Anglo-Catholic ethos of early Anglicanism in South Africa. Sponsored by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, Gray envisioned a mission strategy that facilitated the twin goals of imperial expansion and the religious conversion of indigenous peoples of southern Africa. Missionary dioceses were established spanning the existing colonial territories, and mission stations were founded with the substantial backing of Governor Sir George Grey. These two leaders of church and state, respectively, were true to the spirit of the times in equating Christianity with Western civilization and loyalty to the Crown. Gray’s commitment to education led to the establishment of numerous church schools in newly emerging urban centers. As a pastor he was untiring in his countrywide visitations, often made under appalling conditions. His missionary zeal took him on extensive fund-raising tours to England. In consequence of doctrinal controversies with Bishop J. W. Colenso of Natal, who challenged Gray’s metropolitan authority in the English courts, the Anglican Church in South Africa was made an autonomous province, with Gray presiding over its first synod in 1870. He can be regarded as the father of Anglicanism in southern Africa.
A. E. M. Anderson-Morshead, Pioneer and Founder (1905); C. N. Gray, Life of Robert Gray, 2 vols. (1876); Peter Hinchliff, The Anglican Church in South America (1963), pp. 27-53, 69-75, 82-117; Janet Hodgson, “Mission and Empire: A Case Study of Convergent Ideologies in 19th-Century Southern Africa,” Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 38 (1982): 34-48; Cecil Lewis and G. E. Edwards, Historical Records of the Church of the Province of South Africa (1934), pp. 31-112).
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.