Methodism came to South Africa with the British garrison in 1806, but the mission was launched by Barnabas Shaw who reached the Cape in 1816 and William Shaw (unrelated) who arrived in 1820 with the British settlers and rapidly established a chain of mission stations between the Cape Colony and Natal.
Methodism spread to all parts of Southern Africa and drew its membership from all sections of the community. It was a non-racial church from the outset, although it was deeply affected by prevailing social customs, and is still endeavoring to give true affect to this character.
Six missionary districts of the Wesleyan Methodist Church became an affiliated conference in 1883. An independent conference was constituted in 1927 and enlarged in 1832 to include the Transvaal District and the Primitive Methodist Mission.
Census figures reflect a Methodist community over 2.1 million, most of whom claim affiliation to the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. According to a church census conducted in 2000, there are 683 ministers, 5,078 congregations and 2,888 preaching places.
The mission statement of the MCSA reads: “God calls us to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ for hearing and transformation.” The church’s vision statement is “A Christ-healed Africa for the healing of nations.”
An inventory of some of the ministries of the connexion include: pre-school, ministries to the homeless, ministries to informal settlements, hospice type ministries, ministries to prisons, HIV/AIDS ministries, poverty alleviation projects.
Through membership in the World Methodist Council, World Council of Churches, All Africa Council of Churches, South Africa Council of Churches and Christian Unity Commission we endeavour to develop relationships with other Christians churches in South Africa and throughout the world.
In 1843, British Wesleyan missionary Thomas Birch Freeman who came from Lagos, Nigeria, visited Togo. He gained permission from the Ling of Anecho, Georges Lawson I for preaching and for establishment of schools.
For a long time, the work was developed only in the Anecho area which is inhabited by the ethnic group of Mina and Guin.
At the beginning, the Methodist Church of Togo was under the authority of Nigeria-Dahomey-Togo District which later became Dahomey-Togo District. It was only in 1978 that the Methodist Church of Togo was separated from the Methodist Church of Benin and became an independent district of the British Conference and is presided over by a chairman. From 1978 to 1980, the chairman was Rev. James Lawson. From 1981 to 1990 it was Rev. Gaspard Menoah, and at the present time, it is Rev. Felicien Lawson.
The last Synod (1995) decided that the Methodist District of Togo will become an independent conference in 1999.
The total Methodist community is 38,816 of whom 18,622 are full members in 6 circuits and 25 parishes. The church is served today by two Togolese ministers in full time and two in part time while four are in school. Eight catechists and other lay preachers helped the ministers in this service. Women and youth are given their places in the church and their unions are active and growing in strength. The church also operates 20 primary schools and one secondary school.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church through its Fourteenth Episcopal District operates in five nations of West Africa, including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Ivory Coast. The AME mission to this region commenced in 1820 when Daniel Coker, the founder of African Methodism in Baltimore, arrived in Sierra Leone. Since Coker mounted an independent effort, John R. Frederick in 1886 became the first official AME representative in Sierra Leone. Frederick’s missionary successes, the strides of his colleague, Sarah Corham, and the adsorption of the Countess of Huntingdon Connection enabled Bishop Henry M. Turner on November 10, 1891, to organize the Sierra Leone Annual Conference. A month later Turner launched the Liberia Annual Conference. AME members whom Bishop John M. Brown organized in 1878 emigrated to Liberia from the United States. They eventually became the nucleus out of which Turner inaugurated African Methodism in Liberia. Bishop Edward J. Howard convened the first Ghana Annual Conference in 1936, five years after Mrs. Europa J. Randall, a missionary from Sierra Leone, founded a congregation at Essikadu. Not until the 1960s was the AME church firmly established in Nigeria although formal recognition had occurred in 1956 when the General Conference admitted delegates representing that country. Bishop John R. Bryant and the Rev. Cecilia W. Bryant inaugurated an evangelistic thrust which brought the AME Church into the Ivory Coast in 1989. Within three years five congregations had been founded.
The AME Church has had a broad impact on education. Mainly in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ghana the denomination has operated numerous schools at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels. In Sierra Leone the Rev. H. M. Steady, who joined the denomination in 1890, founded the AME Boy’s Seminary and the AME Girl’s Industrial and Literary School. In 1960 the Sierra Leone Annual Conference sponsored eight educational institutions. In Liberia in 1902 Bishop Cornelius T. Shaffer purchased 100 acres near Arthington for the Shaffer Boy’s High School. Monrovia College and Industrial Institute, however, became the leading AME school in that nation. Founded in 1921 by Bishop William S. Brooks, the institution continued to grow under his episcopal successors who built additional facilities and attracted able faculty. Bishop Eugene C. Hatcher, for example, dedicated the new Hatcher Hall in 1955 and installed the Rev. John F. Little as the administrator of the school. The AME Church also supported numerous other institutions in the Liberia Annual Conference, including facilities in Cape Palmas, in the Gedebo Interior, and other areas. In the Ghana Annual Conference the Payne Collegiate Institute in Accra, which the Rev. J. P. B. Richards started in the 1930s, was an early venture in this jurisdiction. During this period 10 AME schools mostly in Accra were in operation. Other facilities impacted people in Essikadu, Essaman, Takoradi, Kumasi, and Sekesua.
The greatest growth in West Africa occurred during the 1988-1992 tenure of Bishop John R. Bryant. Phenomenal growth continues under the leadership of Bishop Adam J. Richardson who has undertaken an extensive building and renovation program, as well as the maintenance of fifteen primary schools, six secondary schools and one college with a collective enrollment of 9,000 students. The total number of churches now stands at 108 and nearly 13,000 members.
Church unity in Zambia dates back to the country’s first General Missionary Conference held in Livingstone in 1914. But even more significant, as far as church unity is concerned, is the 1931 General Missionary Conference held at Kabwe (Broken Hill). This conference approved the formation of United Missions in the Copperbelt which would provide pastoral services to Christians flocking from rural churches for work at the emerging copper mines. Thus the Union Church of the Copperbelt was virtually initiated by mine workers themselves. Missions involved in the United Missions on the Copperbelt were: The Church of Central Africa Mission, represented by Rev. R. J. B. Moore; the Church of Scotland; The Methodist Church; and The Baptist Church, represented by Rev. A.J. Cross.
The Church of Central Africa Mission, the Church of Scotland and the Union Church of the Copperbelt formed the Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia. Further groups joined in the formation on July 26, 1958, of the United Church of Central Africa in Rhodesia.
Continued union negotiations with the Methodist Church eventually led the Methodists and the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society to join the UCCAR in 1965 to form the United Church of Zambia. Rev. Colin Morris became its first president with Rev. Doyce Musunsa as the Synod Clerk.
The United Church of Zambia is the largest Protestant church in the country and despite short-lived schisms it has continued to grow numerically. The United Church of Zambia, among other tasks, seeks to create more awareness in the nation of the presence of the church as a missionary and prophetic institution.
The African Methodist Church in Zimbabwe was founded in May 1947 by Rev. Dr. E. T. J. Nemapare, a teacher who turned theologian and was later ordained in the British Methodist Church. Beginning as a small church at Ngezi Missionar Station near Mvuma, it soon spread to the rural areas. Branches were established in the city of Bulawayo, Gweru, Harare and Masvingo.
Today the church works in the ecumenical environment through the Zimbabwe Council of Churches but maintained its roots in the areas where it has constructed schools and clinics.
The church is an indigenous independent organization which relies on the contributions from its members. The structures of the church are continuously being examined so that they remain open to spread the good news of the Gospel in a complex society/ community.
We have 21,000 members and a constituency of about 30,000 people who rally from the wider brotherhood in which we serve. The golden anniversary of the church was celebrated in 1997.
The Methodist Church in Zimbabwe which originated in Wesleyan British Methodism came to Zimbabwe under the leadership of Rev. Owen Watkins and Rev. Isaac Shimmin, who arrived at Fort Salisbury on September 29, 1891.
The first mission stations were established at Fort Salisbury (1891); Hartlyton (1891); Nenguwo (Waddilove) (1892); and Kwenda (1892). The work at these stations was made possible by the arrival of the Rev. George H. Eva and eight African evangelists and teachers from the Transvaal and Cape colony of South Africa in August 1892. Rev. Isaac Shimmin welcomed these evangelists and teachers because he believed that the evangelization of Africa could best be done by the Africans witnessing to Africans. A new mission station was established in Matebeleland in the western part of the country in 1894 at Makokoba in Bulawayo.
The first Synod was in Harare in Mashonaland in 1895 under the chairmanship of the Rev. George Weavind – Chairman of the Transvaal District of the Methodist Church in South Africa. By this time Synod noted that already 3,000 adults regularly listened to the gospel and 700 children attended Sunday School.
From Owen Watkins and Isaac Shimmin a succession Chairman of District under the British Conference followed – namely John White, Frank Noble, Herbert Carter, Jesse Lawrence and Andrew M. Ndhlela (1965). Andrew Ndhlela marked the end of white leadership in the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe but the church only got its autonomy from the British Conference in 1977 – Andrew Ndhlela becoming the first President of an Autonomous Church. He was succeeded by President Crispin Mazobere, Caspen Makuzwa and Farai J. Chirisa who became the first bishop in 1989. Rev. Cephas Z. Mukandi came after Bishop Chirisa and was the first Presiding Bishop. He retired from this office in 2004 and Reverend Margaret M. James was the Acting Presiding Bishop in 2005. She was succeeded by the current Presiding Bishop, Reverend Simbarashe Sithole.
Over the period of now 115 years the Methodist Church has been involved in preaching the gospel throughout the country involving Men’s Christian Union, Women’s Fellowship organization, Boys Christian Union, Girls Christian Union and a vibrant Youth Department to cater for work among young people and children. The church has been involved in agricultural work, primary and secondary education. The church runs eleven primary schools, two secondary schools and eight high schools. It is planning to establish a Southern African Methodist University in the Mashonaland Province.
Bishop Joseph Crane Hartzell is associated with the beginning of the Methodist Episcopal Church, now the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia). After arriving in Mutare on December 10. 1897, he organized the first congregation two days later on December 12, 1897 and forty people attended this first service which was held at a general dealer’s store, the present site of the Puzey and Payne garage in the city of Mutare at which the bishop preached. After applying for permission to start mission work for the church and subsequent to meeting with Cecil Rhodes, a business man and administrator of the British Colony of Rhodesia, who owned the property, the site for the Old Mutare Mission was donated by Mr. Rhodes.
The first Methodist Church for Africans was built in the town of Mutare and continues with the name of Hilltop United Methodist Church. The church soon began to spread fast in the villages due to the enthusiasm for the gospel and evangelism on the part of the newly converted African evangelists.
Soon after the conference was established here, the church quickly realized that the future and the strength of the church lay in the proper and adequate training of the African preachers. The first African preachers were ordained in 1942 and this move ushered in a new era in which Africans began to participate at the highest level of conference decision making. The first black Zimbabwean woman to graduate with a university degree was a United Methodist, a product of this program. Also a product of the church’s program was the first black Zimbabwean to qualify and graduate from university as a medical doctor. The first comprehensive agricultural
irrigation scheme in Zimbabwe’s poor villages was introduced and developed under the church’s rural development program. The church has been involved in extensive program of evangelization and rural development through comprehensive programs of education, medical and health care services.
From the time of Bishop Hartzell, a succession of bishops followed and great work was done. The appointment of Bishop Ralph Edward Dodge marked a turning point in the Africanization of the church and the Zimbabwean society. The bishop embarked on an intentional policy of sending young men and women to study in the United States, and upon returning home these became leaders in the church and in society. As a climax to this Africanization, Bishop Abel T. Muzorewa was elected the first African bishop in the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. He espoused the concept of salvation for the whole person and became an avid critic of the colonial racist regime in the country. With a rapid turn of events the bishop became the first black prime minister of the nation of Zimbabwe.
The church currently runs three hospitals, several clinics, two nurses training schools, numerous primary/elementary and high schools (three of which offer junior college-level courses) and a teachers’ college. All are run by Africans except the hospitals which rely heavily on missionaries or doctors from overseas. The establishment of Africa University at Old Mutare in 1992, is a landmark achievement for all of Africa.
During the protracted war for liberation which ended in 1980 in Zimbabwe, the church was hated and its leaders were detained and harassed by the Rhodesian security agents. It was (ironically) during this period that the church grew very rapidly, mainly as a result of the new secret house churches which emerged and began to meet underground in vans as members traveled to and from work and in homes for prayer and fellowship and Bible study and holy Communion.
Because of continued growth and expansion the church is always short of adequately trained pastors for the fast expanding work. Membership continues to grow as there are more areas which must still be reached by the gospel. The present generation looks back and commends the faith of the founding fathers and mothers, and rejoices in what has been accomplished and hopes for more blessings to come. Year-long celebrations of its centennial in 1997 focused on personal holiness and the desire to spread the same throughout the land.