Our Heritage

Celebrating 200 Years Of Methodism 1816 – 2016

Early Origins of Methodism in MCSA

The earliest record of Methodist presence in southern Africa was in 1795 amongst soldiers at the Cape during the first British Occupation.  During the second British occupation from 1806, Methodist soldiers built a stone chapel near Table Mountain, where they held class meetings and Sunday worship services.


In 1816, the Rev Barnabas Shaw and his wife established the first mission station by at Leliefontein, Namaqualand, hence, we commemorates 200 years of our own heritage and history.


Rev Shaw established many other Methodist Societies in an around Cape Town, which gave rise to the need to bring more ministers from Britain


The second advent of Methodism into South Africa was with the arrival of the 1820 settlers at Algoa Bay. In July 1820, the Rev William Shaw gathered his first congregation at Salem, then at Grahamstown later that year, and other areas along the eastern Cape coastline.  His intention was to create a chain of mission stations to Natal through to Mozambique.  However the politics of the day prevented this enterprise.  Shaw did succeed in planting ten stations in the Eastern Cape, including Mount Coke, where the Bible was first translated into isiXhosa.


Whilst more ministers were sent to expand the mission field, many indigenous persons served as interpreters, preachers, catechists, evangelists and later ministers in various parts of South Africa, and in some instances, before the missionaries arrived. Some names that will always be remembered amongst these noble servants: Charles Pamla, William Kama, David Magatta, Daniel Msimang and a host of other men and women..

In 1823 the Revs Samuel Broadbent and Thomas Hodgson established the first mission station in the then Transvaal, at Makwassi.

Natal, the last outpost annexed by the British, saw the arrival of Methodism in 1842 with Rev James Archbell.  In 1846 Rev James Allison established the mission at Indaleni and in 1847, the church in Pietermaritzburg.


NAMIBIA: The first venture into present day Namibia in 1825 proved fatal as Rev Threllfall and his team were murdered.  Nine years later in 1834 a station was established at Warmbath, where a monument stands today.


LESOTHO: In 1833, Methodism was brought into the Free State at Thaba ‘Nchu From Thaba ‘Nchu missionaries took the work into Lesotho first at Maseru in 1897.

MOZAMBIQUE: In 1823 Rev Threlfall ventured into Mozambique, but the exercise was abandoned due to his health problems. Six decades later in 1885, a lay person Robert Machava formally established Methodism after completing his training at Lovedale College.  Their first ordained minister was Rev Elias Khumalo only in 1902.

MAHIKENG & BOTSWANA: The “Bechuana Mission” led by Revs Broadbent and Hodgson saw the advent of Methodism in these parts.  Botswana was served from Mahikeng and only in 1969 became an autonomous Circuit with Rev Isaac Moeketsi as the first superintendent.

SWAZILAND: Following a request by King Sobuza for missionaries, the Revs Allison & Giddy together with two indigenous evangelists Job and Mparini arrived in the Shiselweni region in 1844.


1958   The Church declares that “it is the will of God for the Methodist Church that it should be one and undivided, trusting to the leading of God to bring this ideal to ultimate fruition, and that this be the general basis of our missionary policy.”

1964      The first Black President of Conference, Rev Seth Mokitimi, takes office.

1976      The first woman, Rev Constance Oosthuizen, is Ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacraments.

1981      Obedience 81, we search our hearts for what the Lordship of Jesus Christ means. The assembly is

brought to repentance for wounds inflicted on each other by our insensitivity, bitterness and fear.

1982      Rev Dr M Stanley Mogoba becomes the first Black Secretary of Conference.

1986      The powerful Malihambe (Let it Spread) Home Mission programme is born and begins to make a significant impact on Circuits in the Connexion.

1988      Conference appoints its first 3-year term Presiding Bishop, Rev Dr M Stanley Mogoba.

  • The MCSA received back, members, Ministers and churches of the United Methodist Church the Transkei which had broken away ten years prior.

1993   The Journey to a New Land conference takes place as a Connexional Conversation which became the foundation of some new thinking and new structures in the Church.

  • The Federal Theological Seminary which had formed Clergy for Churches in Southern Africa over many decades with great distinction, closes at the end of 1993.

1995       The Connexion appoints its first Lay President, Mr Zandile Jakavula.

2000      Rev Purity Malinga becomes Bishop of the Natal Coastal District, the first woman in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa to hold this office.

2005      The first Mission Congress takes place, leading to a Mission Charter

2008      The Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary is opened in Pietermaritzburg.



Bethelsklip – A brief History

On 16 April 1816, the Rev Barnabas and Mrs. Jane Shaw arrived in Cape Town from England. They later met Rev Schmelen of the London Missionary Society who told them of the need for missionaries in the interior. Believing their calling affirmed to go to this area, Jane Shaw exclaimed: “we will go with you, as the Lord is opening our way…”


On 6 September 1816, Barnabas, Jane and their party set out on this 500 km, month and half journey into Namaqualand. En-route they met a Namaqua chief (Jantjie Wildshutt) and his men, who were looking for a Christian teacher for their people. This chance encounter Shaw described as “peculiar providence,” which ensured that he was received as an invited guest in Namaqualand.


On 23 October 1816, Shaw and party weary from their travel stopped to rest at a spot where there stood a large 10 meter high boulder, offering shade to travellers. After resting, Shaw held a worship service and here preached his first sermon. He gave this place the name: Bethelsklip, which today is a South African Heritage site.


In the nearby area of Lilyfountain, Shaw established the first Methodist Mission station in South Africa, amongst the Namaqua people, who were largely a nomadic hunter community.


As we reflect on our rich Methodist heritage these past two centuries, we too look to the rock (Bethelsklip) from which we were hewn. As we celebrate our past, the commemorations of 200 years (1816-2016) ought to encourage us to vitalise our present witness, and continue to grow our current and future mission endeavours.


The Heritage Campaign – Your Story

As the Methodist people in southern Africa, we have a rich legacy which has profound value for our present and future generations. This heritage, left to us by those gone before, must ignite a sense of pride in each of us, but also ought to be preserved.

Our heritage includes buildings & artefacts, mission endeavours, involvement in education, numerous Methodist homes & institutions, our organisations, and our many attempts of a united determination with the poor and marginalised.

You (Society / Circuit) are invited and encouraged to celebrate our heritage. Some suggestions for your participation:-

  • Motivate story telling especially from older folk;
  • Display Heritage Poster & hand out this pamphlet to all members,
  • Create your own mini “Bethel’s Klip” (see write in this pamphlet). Erect plaque with names of your foundational members.
  • plan your own Heritage Day closest to 24 May 2017. This can be a celebration service with a meal or picnic – celebrating your story, our hymns, our people and our unique contribution to today’s society