Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae publishes articles in the discipline of Church History/History of Christianity with an African/South African perspective. Published by University of South Africa (UNISA), Research Institute for Theology and Religion.


The library contains articles of Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae as of vol. 43(2017) no. 2 to current.

Recent Submissions

  • Rereading Texts of “Targeted Killings” in the Hebrew Bible: An Indigenous Knowledge Systems Perspective

    Temba T. Rugwiji, Mogomme A. Masoga and Pfalelo E. Matshidze; Rugwiji, Temba T.; Masoga, Mogomme A.; Matshidze, Pfarelo E. (University of South Africa Press, 2018-04-03)
    The biblical text is replete with narratives of targeted killings (TKs), although it is not stated as such. For example, David is depicted as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sm 13:14). However, when David was on his deathbed, he summoned his son Solomon to kill his enemies, namely Joab son of Zeruiah (1 Ki 2:5) and Shimei son of Gera (2:8). From an indigenous knowledge systems (IKS) perspective, this essay analyses David’s killings in view of TKs in the following eras: the apartheid era in South Africa; the post-apartheid period in South Africa; colonial Rhodesia; during the liberation struggle for Zimbabwe’s independence; and in the post-independence Zimbabwean era. It is explored that for the majority of African cultures, the spirit of a killed person will always return as ngozi (“avenging spirit”) to afflict the killer or a blood relative of the guilty person with various curses, illnesses or deaths.
  • Ramsden Balmforth on the Reformation and the Evolution of Christianity: A Post-Protestant South African Perspective

    Hale, Frederick; Extraordinary Professor, North-West University (University of South Africa Press, 2017-12-07)
    Theologians and historians of the Protestant Reformation have often interpreted it in terms that are strongly determined by their own concerns. One such writer was Ramsden Balmforth (1862-1942), a prominent Unitarian minister and public intellectual in Cape Town from 1897 until the late 1930s. An advocate of Darwinian evolutionary thinking, liberal theology, religious freedom, the comparative study of religions, and social reform, this transplanted Yorkshireman perceived the Reformation as an important stage in the Judaeo-Christian tradition, one marked by liberation from the spiritual and intellectual shackles of Catholicism. However, he regarded it as a truncated and ultimately reactionary reform movement which substituted the authority of the Bible and creedal formulations for that of the Roman Catholic power structure. Balmforth called for a “new Reformation” which would resume the liberation of religious life.
  • Violence Begets Violence: Anticolonial Mobilisation of Ressentiment in 19th Century Borneo

    Böhmer, Karl E (Unisa Press, 2019-03-11)
    The sudden and violent uprising marking the start of the “Banjarmasin War” in south-central Borneo in 1859 caught the German Rhenish Mission Society (RMS) by surprise. A well-coordinated attack by indigenous Dayaks and prominent Muslim figures led to the brutal massacre of nine people associated with the RMS. In a matter of days, the mission work of 23 years was destroyed. In all, violence was directed at Dutch colonial forces, German missionaries, and Christian Dayaks alike. The coastal city of Banjarmasin, seat of Dutch imperialism, became the last refuge for survivors. Some blamed the RMS for the uprising, arguing that the conversion zeal of the missionaries had provoked an anti-Christian jihad. The RMS retorted that Muslims, conspiring to overthrow the Dutch, had incited indigenous Dayaks to what amounted to an anti-imperialist uprising. Recently, scholars have argued that the interference of Dutch imperialism in local politics was to blame for the uprising, and that the Dayaks were unable to distinguish between Dutch and German foreigners. This paper examines the contribution of Dutch colonial policy to the uprising, particularly its restriction of Islamic religious practices, as well as forms of cooperation between the Dutch and the RMS. Primary sources provide evidence of prolonged and severe RMS brutality against Dayaks in the decade before the war. This leads to the conclusion that the initial violence of the Banjarmasin War directed at RMS persons was no coincidence. Sufficient warrant exists to argue that this was not a matter of mistaken identity, but of reasoned calculation.
  • The Relevance of Singing the Te Deum Laudamus in the Postmodern Era

    Marumo, Phemelo Olifile (Unisa Press, 2019-02-12)
    This paper investigates the relevance of singing and performing the Te Deum Laudamus in the postmodern Christian era, especially in view of changing enactments and perceptions of the purpose of the hymn. The Te Deum has been used in various ways in church history, sung as a confession of praise and regularly used since the time of St Benedict during Matins (morning service). While the Reformers were critical of the late medieval worship, they did not query incorporating the Te Deum into their liturgies, because it brought meaning to the glorification of a benevolent God. This explains its use also by most Christian churches in their liturgies in the postmodern era. However, the pertinent question remains: Is the Te Deum still applicable to the postmodern church, which is characterised by secularism, charismatic sermons, and commercialised worship. The question is instigated by events and conceptions of the universe from the era of Gregorianism to Darwinism. In answering this question, the paper highlights the history of the Te Deum and its application within the church, and seeks to find out whether the hymn addresses the present needs of Christians, which have been affected by postmodernism. The paper contends that the Te Deum is still relevant and contributes to the glorification of God’s mission (missio Dei).
  • The Dutch Reformed Church, Mission Enthusiasts and Push and Pull of Empire

    Müller, Retief (Unisa Press, 2019-01-23)
    The various ways in which the British Empire acted as both a beacon and a repellent for Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) mission enthusiasts in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, are considered here. Focusing especially on Andrew Murray Jr, D.F. Malan and J.G. Strydom, but also with references to Johannes du Plessis and G.B.A. Gerdener, among others, the article illustrates the evolution of Afrikaner attitudes to Empire in this period. The Empire in question is primarily the British Empire, but this paper will make the case that the developing Afrikaner nationalism, in which some of these mission enthusiasts played leading roles, in some ways appropriated imperial aspirations, while simultaneously disavowing Empire in public discourse. The wider and more general relevance of this paper is that it sheds light on the allure of power, and how a minority in opposition to power might become contaminated, even captured, by that very power it seeks to oppose.
  • Dynamics of Decoloniality in South Africa: A Critique of the History of Swiss Mission Education for Indigenous People

    none; Seroto, Johannes (University of South Africa Press, 2018-09-19)
    This paper presents a new framework to analyse missionary education in South Africa, using Grosfoguel’s conceptual and methodological lens of coloniality of power, coloniality of knowledge, and coloniality of being. Firstly, the paper introduces the theoretical lens that undergirds this study and describes the three above-mentioned dimensions. Rather than seek generalisations concerning missionary education in the historical record, the paper presents an analysis of the endeavours of the Swiss Mission Society as an example of Protestant evangelism in South Africa. I indicate how the Swiss Mission used education to racialise and hierarchise the indigenous people and how, in this process, knowledge and indigenous people were dehumanised. The argument is based on examples drawn from the Swiss Mission’s teacher training institution, namely the Lemana Teachers’ Training College, near Elim. Based on the paper’s critical analysis, I propose how power structures, colonised knowledge systems and beings could be decolonised.
  • Servant Leadership: The Style of Frank Chikane from Early Life to the Presidency of Thabo Mbeki

    University of Pretoria; Kgatle, Mookgo Solomon (University of South Africa Press, 2018-05-22)
    This article is a historical study of Frank Chikane from early life to the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. The article looks at the early life of Chikane; his experience of the crusade organisation “Christ for all Nations” in 1975; theological studies at the Pan-African Bible Correspondence College; pastoral duties at Kagiso; ordination in 1980; detention by government; suspension by the church; involvement in Institute for Contextual Theology; reconciliation with Adriaan Vlok; involvement in the unity of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM); and his role as a director general in the presidency of Thabo Mbeki. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that the leadership style of Chikane is servant leadership.
  • A Remarkable Woman in African Independent Churches: Examining Christina Nku’s Leadership in St John’s Apostolic Faith Mission

    University of South Africa; Kgatle, Mookgo Solomon (University of South Africa Press, 2019-01-11)
    The name African Independent Churches (AICs) refers to churches that have been independently started in Africa by Africans and not by missionaries from another continent.There has been extensive research on (AICs) from different subjects in the past. There is, however, a research gap on the subject of leadership in the AICs, especially with reference to women leaders. To address this gap, this article discusses leadership in the AICs with special reference to the leadership of Christina Nku in St John’s Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM). A historical examination of Christina Nku’s leadership is studied by looking at her roles as a family woman, prophet, church founder, faith healer and educator in St John’s AFM. The aim of this article is twofold. First it is to reflect on gender in the leadership of the AICs. Second it is to apply the framework of leadership in the AICs to Christina Nku’s leadership in St John’s AFM. Consequently, the article is an interface between gender and leadership in an African context. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that Christina Nku was a remarkable woman in the leadership of the AICs.
  • Ordination of Women to the Ministry of Word and Sacraments: A turning point in the history of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa

    Dlamini, Ntobeko (University of South Africa Press, 2018-01-26)
    In 2016, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) celebrated 40 years since the first woman was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacraments (1976–2016). The MCSA Conference of 1976 ordained the first woman to the ministry of Word and Sacraments, a verdict that was long overdue. This became a turning point in the history of the MCSA. This document seeks to highlight the role of women in the MCSA prior to and after the 1976 Conference resolution. Included herein are key controversies, statements and events in the ministry of women within the MCSA.
  • The Many Reformations of Catholic Women’s Religious Life

    Rakoczy, Susan; School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics, University of KwaZulu-Natal (University of South Africa Press, 2017-12-07)
    One of the last enactments of the bishops, as the Council of Trent ended in 1563, was to mandate enclosure for all consecrated women. This reflects a prohibition against the first steps toward apostolic, non-cloistered women’s religious life, which was occurring at that time. This article examines some of the various “reformations” of women’s apostolic religious life from the 16th century to the 21st century in South Africa. A case study is presented of Mary Ward’s attempts to found a women’s apostolic congregation and her persecution in the light of Trent’s decree. The initiatives of Francis de Sales and Jeanne Frances de Chantal were also thwarted, but Louise de Marillac and the Daughters of Charity survived. Two significant reformations were the growth of apostolic congregations beginning in the mid-17th century and women’s responses to the theology of the renewal of religious life of Vatican II, including its impact in South Africa. Because women’s religious life came to Africa in Western structures and theology, principles of inculturation which guide the initiatives of making religious life African, are presented. The historical narrative is analysed through the lenses of women’s agency and women’s voice. Although male church authorities consistently tried to limit women’s initiatives to shape new forms of religious life, which frequently caused immense suffering, women’s apostolic religious life has evolved to be a very vibrant part of the life of the Catholic Church, including Africa, in the 21st century
  • Grant me Justice! Reading the Chronicle of the Ordination of Women in the MCSA as the Making of a Patronage Ministry

    Tiroyabone-A-Sedupelela, Obusitswe (University of South Africa Press, 2017-12-07)
    In 2016 the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) celebrates 40 years of the ordination of women which signifies a milestone in the ministry. Whilst this calls for celebration, it is also important that we lament the challenges women ministers are facing in the church. The chronicle of how the church came to ordain women as ministers in the MCSA cites tensions and debates as well as theological arguments for and against the ordination of women. This paper reads this chronicle with a hermeneutic of suspicion. The paper holds that the decision of the church to ordain women has not translated to women being ordained ministers like men within the church, but rather the decision created a patronage system within the ministry where male ministers (and their wives) are patrons and female ministers their clients. The woman minister in the MCSA joins the woman in the Luke narrative who continues to go to the judge (the MCSA) and laments “Grant me Justice!”
  • Religion and Elections in Nigeria: A Historical Perspective

    UNISA; Adamo, David Tuesday (University of South Africa Press, 2018-09-19)
    Elections in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious people like Nigeria can be a serious practice with many risks. They can also be marked by violence, corruption, intimidation and deceit. The history of Nigerian elections appears to reflect the above characteristics. It has been confirmed that Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world. Therefore it should not be a surprise that Nigerian elections will be greatly influenced by religion. This article traces the history of Nigerian elections from the pre-colonial to the post-independent period up to 2015. Most importantly, the strong evidence of not only violence, corruption and intimidation, but also the serious aggressive influence of religion—mostly negatively on Nigerian elections—is clear and cannot be disputed.
  • The Ecumenical Struggle in South Africa: The Role of Ecumenical Movements and Liberation Organisations from 1966

    Duncan, Graham; Egan, Anthony (Unisa Press, 2019-03-13)
     In contemporary South Africa, it would be true to say that there is no longer any urgency with regard to organic union as an aim of ecumenism. This marks a significant reversal of the pre-1994 situation where political and other motives stimulated the impulse. This is not only a local situation, for ecumenism has taken on a different character globally. Former alignments have weakened, and emerging alignments challenge former assumptions regarding ecumenism—and are no less political than formerly within the Pentecostal bloc, which has ousted the SACC from its former place of privilege in the government’s affections. This is not to say that nothing has been happening on the ecumenical scene. There has been significant activity which is ongoing and offers hope for the future of cooperation. This article includes material up to the present and explores these recent activities of the twenty-first century.
  • There is a Great Need for Contextualisation in Southern Africa

    Simango, Daniel (University of South Africa Press, 2018-05-24)
    The purpose of this article is to show the need for contextualisation in southern Africa. The author discusses the early missionary activities in Africa and the current problems that the African church faces and how these problems are linked with a lack of contextualisation of the Gospel.
  • Drawing a Connection between Coptic Christianity, their St Mark Tradition, and Contemporary AICs: A Conversation with Coptic Bishop Markos

    Molobi, Victor Masilo S (University of South Africa Press, 2018-04-20)
    This article raises a question from the assertions that Mark’s memories of his martyrdom can provide an alternative theology for the African Independent Churches (AICs). Can there be a link with the Gospel of Mark from the African perspective? The AICs have been contending with matters of faith and culture, which bear a strong presence in their theology. Much has happened in attempting to answer the questions relating to their faith. This article tries to create an alternative narrative for the makeup of such theology. An interview with Bishop Markos has been a key factor in the founding of such a possibility. To Markos, St Mark, the Egyptian Coptic Church and the ancient Christian experience with their popes and bishops will inform such a theology. They were proud of their linear and orthodox connection to the times of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry two thousand years ago. Egypt and Alexandria—as situated in Africa—have compelled me to test such an allegation. Markos is the author of several books, and he has travelled extensively on the African continent in an attempt to understand the AICs. He introduced and discussed the relationship between Pope Shenouda III and the AICs for the formation of the Organisation of African Independent Churches (OAIC). This essay is an exploration of oral tradition. The Africans’ claiming a connection with early Christianity through the Coptic Church has triggered a curiosity to perform more research.
  • Healing in a Cultural Context: The Role of Healing as a Defining Character in the Growth and Popular Faith of the Zion Christian Church

    Mashabela, James Kenokeno (University of South Africa Press, 2017-08-17)
    This article revisits the role healing has played in the growth of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) as one of the fastest growing African Independent Churches (AICs) in South Africa. The article argues that the ZCC is appealing to black Africans because it addresses healing within the cultural context of an African. Healing within the cultural context speaks to the fundamental needs of an African. The fundamental needs of an African see healing as addressing more than just a body ailment, but the totality of a person. The paper revisits the history of healing in the ZCC, and in so doing, will be a revisit to this church’s history. In revisiting this history, the discrimination that this church faced from the political authorities and from the white mission churches will also be referred to. 
  • Development and South Africa: A critical Theological Reflection on the Discourse of Development within the All Africa Conference of Churches and its significance for post-Apartheid South Africa

    Klaasen, John Stephanus; UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN CAPE DEPARTMENT OF RELIGION AND THEOLOGY ARTS FACULTY (University of South Africa Press, 2017-11-17)
    The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) has made significant contributions to the theological discourse of development in Africa. Two gatherings, Lome (1987) and Harare (1992), stand out in the history of the AACC as defining moments in the theological discourse on the regression of development in Africa since the achievement of independence of the first African states from colonial rule. The purpose of this article is to investigate the contributions of these two gatherings and to assess the role of personhood and personal responsibility for development in South Africa as one of the last African countries to achieve democratic rule. Development attempts by the religious, and specifically Christian institutions such as the Ecumenical Federation of Southern Africa (EFSA) and the World Council of Churches, are correlated with dominant development theories to demonstrate the overlapping of development approaches. Some of the weaknesses of these approaches are pointed out. The constructive part of the article suggests that a theological notion of personhood and its relation to development is a more sustainable form of development within the context of contemporary South Africa.
  • John de Gruchy’s Understanding of the Kingdom of God as Articulated in “The Church Struggle in South Africa”

    Dreyer, Wim (Unisa Press, 2019-03-13)
    In 2019, John W. de Gruchy turns 80 and it will be 40 years after his influential The Church Struggle in South Africa was published. This contribution reflects on the last chapter of De Gruchy’s book, titled The Kingdom of God in South Africa. In this chapter, De Gruchy engages with well-known theologians such as Niebuhr, Bonino, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Pannenberg and Moltmann. He enters into conversation with liberation theologians from South America and Africa. His interpretation of the kingdom of God within the context of South Africa, with all its socio-political challenges, became a seminal text in the theological critique of apartheid. De Gruchy concludes with a “theology of hope” with reference to Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison in which he reflects on Christian hope.
  • Ja, vir God, Nee vir die Kerk? Kobus Kok

    Oliver, Erna (Unisa Press, 2019-01-17)
    Book review

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