Alice Mulenga Lubusha

Prophetess Alice Lenshina Mulenga Mubisha was the founder of a powerful African independent church movement at the time of Zambian independence. Beginning as an anti-witchcraft movement, it clashed with the new government when it rejected secular authority.

She was born Alice Mulenga Lubusha in 1920 in the Chinsali district of the northern province of Northern Rhodesia. Alice was her baptismal name, while Mulenga was her traditional African name. The name "Lenshina" was a Bemba form of the Latin word "Regina" ("queen").

Lenshina was a baptismal candidate with a Presbyterian mission when she received a series of visions in which she believed that she was taken to heaven and given divine messages instructing her to destroy witchcraft and sorcery. She claimed to have died and been resurrected four times. In 1953 she began a movement called Lumpa (meaning "better than all others" in Bemba) in a town that she renamed Zion. She took the name Lenshina, meaning queen. Despite her claims, a Presbyterian pastor baptized her, an event that seems to have had a profound impact on her intensifying her visions. She and her husband were expelled in 1955, however, and began their preaching mission. Crowds of adherents soon joined them, and by 1959 there was an organized church with ministers and between 50,000 and 100,000 members, most of whom had left either Presbyterian or Catholic missions.

Lenshina preached a basically Christian doctrine but with baptism as the only observance. Baptism was a special ceremony administered by Lenshina herself. She attacked witchcraft and sorcery, which placed her in the long tradition of witch eradication movements in Central Africa, but to these she added the condemnation of alcohol and polygamy. The Lumpa composed spirited Bemba hymns, far superior to the wooden translations in use among Protestants and Catholics. The religion gathered its members into villages where the hymns and rejection of traditional religious practices created what she promoted as a new, cleansed society worthy to receive the Savior when He came again. The grand cathedral built at Zion in 1958 has a pillar upon which Jesus Christ was to descend for His second coming.