Pilkington, George Lawrence
George Pilkington was a Church Missionary Society (CMS) lay missionary in Uganda. A graduate of the University of Cambridge and strongly influenced by the Keswick movement, he arrived in Buganda (now Uganda) with Bishop Alfred Tucker’s party in 1891. There he found a militarized society, rent by religious factionalism and the conflicts of the colonial scramble. Pilkington’s remarkable linguistic ability enabled him quickly to get alongside the Baganda soldiers and to realize their spiritual hunger and desire for literacy. In 1893, troubled by the confusion of Christianity and politics, he went on retreat to Kome Island, where he had an experience of the Holy Spirit. This sparked off a religious revival that profoundly affected the life of the Ugandan church, an inspiration to the Balokole revival of the 1930s, which looked back to Pilkington as a role model. Pilkington’s other great contribution was his translation of the Bible into Luganda. Ironically, despite his desire for a purely spiritual understanding of Christianity, he was a firm believer in the benefits of British colonialism. In 1897 he accompanied his beloved Baganda soldiers as they went to quell the mutiny of Sudanese troops in eastern Uganda. Pilkington’s death in battle was universally mourned.
C. F. Harford Battersby, Pilkington of Uganda (1898), J. V. Taylor, The Growth of the Church in Buganda (1958) gives a memorable account of the period.
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.