Brethren in Christ Church, South Africa

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Brethren in Christ Church, South Africa
Sf-map.gif
South Africa: World Factbook, 2009[1]

Location

South Africa

Date Established

1988

Presiding Officer

Frank Nkala[2]

MWC Affiliated?

Working Towards MWC

Number of Congregations

13

Membership

764

The Brethren in Christ Church (BIC) is the primary Anabaptist-related group in South Africa. The Brethren in Christ congregation was established in South Africa in 1988 near the capital city of Pretoria. Currently the Brethren in Christ Church in South Africa has over 764 members in thirteen different congregations.

Stories

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History

Origins

In 1897 the first Brethren in Christ missionaries left New York for Zimbabwe in late November. Since they arrived just two years after the end of the second war of resistance to white colonial rule, the missionaries were viewed by the nationals as having the same ideals and culture as the colonists. The missionaries soon proved themselves and eventually the Zimbabwe Brethren in Christ Church spread to Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa.[3] 
The Brethren in Christ Church in South Africa was established in 1988 near the capital city of Pretoria. The original congregation consisted of four different tribal groups that evangelized by hosting tent revival meetings and ministering in prisons and hospitals.[4]
The pastor and organizer of this first church was Rev. Hamilton Madlabane. Anna Engle, who was a missionary working to translate scriptures, first introduced Madlabane to the Brethren in Christ Church. Madlabane then left for the United States and attended Messiah College. At college Madlabane met some Brethren in Christ friends who persuaded him to establish the BIC Church in South Africa.[5] Until recently, Madlabane had been the leader of the Soshanguve Brethren in Christ Church for its entire existence. He has since died.
The second church created was the Hillbrow Brethren in Christ Church, which is currently located in the Johannesburg area. This group was originally formed by expatriate Zimbabweans living in South Africa as refugees that wanted a support group for one another.[6] This small support group eventually created the church, as early leaders, David Masuku and Patrick Sibanda, made efforts to gather everyone together to worship. Their efforts eventually were successful when on January 22, 1991 their first BIC service was held in the home of Buhle Ndlovu. More people began attending, and the church became a uniting of both South Africans and Zimbabweans. This church did not have an official pastor for the first two years of its existence, but eventually the first pastors of this church were Simon Sibanda and Francis Moyo.
Three months after the Hillbrow Brethren in Christ Church began, Rev. Ndlovu, who was on the Zimbabwe NIC Executive Board, travelled to South Africa to introduce the two newly founded groups. This effort was unsuccessful, as their relationship did not work out well.

Hillbrow.jpg

Visitors speaking at Hillbrow Brethren in Christ Church [7]

Growth

After the church began in 1988, Bishop Jack Shenk and his wife Nancy played a vital role in providing the church structures that have helped the church to grow both numerically and administratively. Bishop Shenk is an individual that has been tasked by the Board of Missions in North American Brethren in Christ Church, and has a job to help the BIC Churches in the Southern African region as the Regional Administrator.
Like many other African churches, the Brethren in Christ Church in South Africa expresses and values their culture by singing and dancing during worship services. Through song and dance this group is able to connect with others to build a larger community, which is a factor in why they are so diverse.[8]
The youth make up a vast majority of the growth of the church. However, these youth have not made a logical connection to the Anabaptist faith, however, and so this creates questions of what the church’s identity will be in the future.[9]


Contemporary Trends

Currently the BIC church has branches in the following places: Freedom Park, Eersterus, Johannesburg South, Yeoville, Krugersdorp, Tembisa, Cosmo City, Ivory Park, Tsakane, Cape Town, and Pretoria. These branches have recently been given a General Conference status by the international Brethren in Christ Association (IBICA).[10]
Lately, Zimbabweans have been making efforts to nurture the Hillbrow group. The Zimbabwe Brethren in Christ Church sent Pastor Benedict Macebo to help strengthen their newly formed sister church.
Recently, efforts have been made to build relations with other Anabaptist churches, including Grace Community Church in Philipstown, South Africa.

Identifying as Anabaptist

The church has committed itself to a message of compassion, peace, and reconciliation.[11] Members in the Brethren in Christ church do not participate in wars. Learning to lead a separate lifestyle from that of the world is encouraged and necessary as an Anabaptist in this church. The church also puts a lot of emphasis on living simply, and forgiveness is a core part of their teaching.[12]

Important Individuals

  • Pastor Benedict Macebo - He is currently the pastor at Hillbrow Brethren in Christ Church in South Johannesburg. Pastor Macebo has done a lot of work with the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA). [13] He is an influential leader within the Anabaptist community, and has had success in creating connections within the different branches. [14]

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Benedict Macebo Photo contributed by Aspen Schmidt

Current Challenges

Probably the biggest problem of the Brethren in Christ Church is the capacity to finance all of the church programs. [15] While the church continues to grow at a very good pace, many of the members are unemployed and do not help the church financially. While the church desires to plant 60 churches by 2014, they do not have enough money to develop a strong leadership program. [16] Another issue within the church is the continued affects of apartheid. In this way, xenophobia within the church is sometimes a serious challenge. Some problems to mention would also be that tribalism is also felt in the church. Poverty is a constant frustration among members. The church is still at an infant stage, which is a challenge in itself. Crime is very prevalent in the South African society. Faith Healers also challenge the church as members are leaving the church in large numbers. [17] One of the challenges facing the BIC Church in South Africa today is the growing numbers of youth in the church. While many churches would feel blessed to have such a young church, it can pose as a problem if the youth have not completely latched on to the Anabaptist ideals. This has come as a concern since the youth are the future of the church. A further challenge within the BIC branches is that there is a lack of knowledge about Anabaptism. The Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA) is an organization that is working to fix this, but hopefully the problem is not too big at this point.[18]



Annotated Bibliography

This website helps connect the Anabaptist churches in South Africa. The creators’ goal is to help define what it means to be Anabaptist in a South African context, and allows churches all around the country to have a common place to connect. Along with general information on Anabaptists, ANiSA has contact information for a couple Brethren in Christ churches in the country.
  • "Africa." Africa Summary. Mennonite World Conference, 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/files/Members%202009/Africa%20Summary.doc>.
This website directs the reader to a document that lists the different Anabaptist and Mennonite World Conference churches within Africa. The document lists the African countries in alphabetical order, with a list of each church in the pertaining country. Under the church’s name is the number of members and how many congregations exist within each church.
While the need for a processional script is unclear, this website provides a little information on when the Brethren in Christ church began. It also lists a few things that the church has been focusing on.
  • Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
This is one of the most thorough books on Anabaptist history within the African context that I used during research. While it focuses on the whole continent, this book pays ample attention to the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in Southern Africa. There was even a small section specifically on the Brethren in Christ Church in South Africa. This was a primary source.
  • Macebo, Benedict. "I Want to Know More About Your Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
Benedict Macebo is the pastor at Hillbrow Brethren in Christ Church in South Johannesburg. Through this interview Benedict presented his obvious and clear passion for the church, as well as provided some very direct and necessary information about the Brethren in Christ Church. He answered every question in the interview in full detail, delighted that someone was interested about his church. Benedict is a major leader within the South African Anabaptist community, and really knows his history but also where he wants to lead the church in the future. This was a primary source.
This site doesn’t have a lot of information on the Hillbrow Brethren in Christ Church, however there is a picture of the church and congregation.
  • Suderman, Andrew. "Tell Me About the BIC Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
Andrew is one of the web developers for the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA). He knows a lot about the Anabaptist churches working within the country.

Citations

  1. "South Africa," CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sf.html
  2. "Africa." Africa Summary. Mennonite World Conference, 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <www.mwc-cmm.org/en15/files/Members%202009/Africa%20Summary.doc>.
  3. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  4. "BICWM | International Flag Processional Script." Brethren in Christ Church. Brethren in Christ World Missions, 2000. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;lt;http://www.bic-church.org/wm/global-impact/resources/script.asp&amp;gt;.
  5. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  6. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  7. "Picture of the Week: Hillbrow BIC Church." Africa and the Meeting House. Brethren in Christ, 14 Nov. 2010. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;http://africa.themeetinghouse.ca/2010/11/picture-of-the-week-hillbrow-bic-church/&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;.
  8. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  9. Checole, Alemu, et al. Anabaptist Songs in African Hearts. Ed. John Allen Lapp and C. Arnold Snyder. 3rd ed. Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2006.
  10. Macebo, Benedict. "I Want to Know More About Your Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
  11. "BICWM | International Flag Processional Script." Brethren in Christ Church. Brethren in Christ World Missions, 2000. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;lt;http://www.bic-church.org/wm/global-impact/resources/script.asp&amp;gt;.
  12. Macebo, Benedict. "I Want to Know More About Your Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
  13. "About ANiSA." The Anabaptist Network in South Africa. 2009. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;http://anisa.org.za/about&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;.
  14. Macebo, Benedict. "I Want to Know More About Your Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
  15. Macebo, Benedict. "I Want to Know More About Your Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
  16. Macebo, Benedict. "I Want to Know More About Your Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
  17. Macebo, Benedict. "I Want to Know More About Your Church." E-mail interview. 10 Apr. 2011.
  18. "About ANiSA." The Anabaptist Network in South Africa. 2009. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;http://anisa.org.za/about&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;.

Acknowledgments

This information was compiled by Aspen Schmidt, working through the Anabaptist/Mennonite History course at Goshen College in Goshen, IN.</center></center></center>