Platt, William James

Methodist Missionary Society
Togo , Benin , Côte d’Ivoire

William James Platt was a Platt, William) J(ames) (1893-1993), British Wesleyan Methodist missionary in West Africa. In 1916, following grammar school and two years’ preparation for the Wesleyan ministry at Didsbury College, Platt went to Dahomey (modern Benin) under the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS). From 1920 he superintended the Porto Novo and Anecho (Togo) circuits. Welcomed in 1924 by churches that had been inspired by the mission of William Wadé Harris, he administered from Abidjan a new MMS French West Africa district. He integrated more than 160 Harris-related indigenous churches into Wesleyan structures, established monogamy as the standard for the 32,000 members of these churches, and provided training for illiterate thousands. In 1926 his envoy, Pierre Benoît, brought a Harris-signed document naming Platt as Harris’s successor and ordering hesitant believers into the Methodist Church under threat of God’s wrath. This was affirmed in a 1928 visit to Harris from Ebrié John Ahui, who later headed the Harrist Church. Tensions with MMS over policy differences led in 1930 to Platt’s return to Great Britain, where he worked with the British and Foreign Bible Society until 1960, when he retired as general secretary. Toronto University awarded him the D.D. In 1985, the Ivorian Methodist Church celebrated autonomy in his presence, and Ivory Coast decorated him as Commander in its National Order.

David A. Shank


W(illiam) J. Platt, “Facing Our Task on the Ivory Coast,” The Foreign Field, August 23, 1927, pp. 261-265, An African Prophet: The Ivory Coast Movement and What Came of It (1934), and From Fetish to Faith: The Growth of the Church in West Africa (1935). Contention about the 1926 document signed by Harris is discussed in David A. Shank, Prophet Harris, The “Black Elijah” of West Africa (1994), pp. 243 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.