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A summarised history of the establishment of the Bantu Methodist Church of Southern Africa

Although there was misunderstanding on an increase in the Church Contributions, the root cause was the depression as well as discrimination that existed in those days.  People were out of work and those working could hardly support their families, let alone educate and save for the future.

When these difficulties and concerns were placed before the leadership, the leadership turned a deaf ear to the people.  This caused the beginning of the Bantu Methodist Church of S.A.

It was at the Quarterly Meeting of the Methodist Church, held on the 18th September 1929, at Albert Street, Johannesburg, that the Superintendent Minister Rev. E. Carter told the meeting that as from the beginning of 1930 an additional 6d (6 pence) would be charged on the quarterly contributions of 2/ (2 shillings) per quarter on tickets.  The meeting disagreed with what the Superintendent Minister was saying.

Following this dispute, the President of the Conference, the Rev. J.W. Allcock attended the Quarterly Meeting held at Albert Street on the 17th September 1931 in order to clarify things and to try and find out what the root cause of the trouble was.  The President said, inter alia, that he had come to appeal to the members along the Rand through the Quarterly Meeting that they contribute this additional 6d per quarter.  Nothing good was achieved in this meeting.

People then started organising themselves against the Church, this resulted in that the service started at Mr Kitse’s house in Sophiatown with a small group of people and this was a stepping stone to what is now known as the Bantu Methodist Church of South Africa.

Following a few incidents, on the 14th April 1933, the President of Conference, the Rev. J.W. Allcock, came to Johannesburg on his itinerary and here he met a very unpleasant reception.  That same year a Conference was held in Durban where certain men went to the 1933 Conference as delegates of the people, where they failed to get satisfaction.

It was on the 28th May 1933 when the first real split took place.  On the day in question all the Protestants gathered at Sophiatown, coming as far as Germiston and Alexandra and other places.  The street Revival Service started at 10h00 a.m. from a house through the streets of Sophiatown.  A sheet on which was written “Our Lord was sold for 30 pieces of silver:  we are sold for 30 pence” was carried by one of our men, Mr J. Zitha, until when the congregation was praying in front of the Methodist Church in Gold Street in Sophiatown.  When they got up from their knees, they saw a well built grey ass, on which this sheet was then placed; hence we are nicknamed “Donkey Church.”

On the 25th June 1933, at Albert Street, Johannesburg, where the Superintendent Minister, Rev. E. Carter was to hold a Service, some of the Protestants went to Church and when Rev. E. Carter announced his opening hymn “Nearer my God to Thee,” one of our men Mr B.B. Ngculu, stood up and sang “Sikuyo indlela yelizwe lobomi,” and out went the whole crowd of the Protestants.  This caused a great commotion, unexpected by the Ministers, the Revs. T.M. Ramushu and E. Carter.

On the 9th August 1933, certain men (Mr Direko and Mr Lepitsi) went as deputation to Klerksdorp to invite Rev. T.M. Ramushu to the now Bantu Methodist Church of S.A., who had subsequently been transferred to Klerksdorp by the Methodist Church.  This trip was successful, as on the 17th September 1933, Rev. T.M. Ramushu was in our midst as our Minister and Leader.  And we were also joined by Rev. E. Mthimkhulu of Boksburg.

Rev. T.M. Ramushu was indeed a man of exceeding spiritual gifts.  Under his leadership the Church spread to the Cape, Free State and Natal.

At Boksburg one Mr J.V. Sabe broke away from the A.M.E. Church to rejoin his colleagues Ramailane and others.  It was this same Sabe who, after being made a Minister, went to Port Elizabeth and from there established our Church throughout the Cape Province.

The following were amongst the members who started the Church: Messrs J.B. Kopo, P.J. Moguerane, T.D. Zulu, S. Lepitsi, J. Mngoma, Mokhele, B.B. Ngculu, Rev. E. Mthimkhulu, G. Leeuw, J. Zitha, Mesdames D. Luthuli, Kumalo and others.

The Rev. T.M. Ramushu died after a long illness at the residence of his eldest son, Mr J. Ramushu, at Belfast in the Transvaal on Tuesday the 9th April 1940 at the age of 76 years.  He was buried on Sunday the 14th April 1940 at Brixton Cemetry in Johannesburg.

The rapid spread to the East and West of the Reef through men like Mr S.B. Macheng, Rev. J.V. Sabe, Mr S. Maponyane was a proof that the Almighty had called it into existence. Revs. J.V. Sabe, S.M. Ntshalintshali, Molebaloa, I.M. Mbalo and Evangelist Mngxali played a leading part in the extension of this great Church.

The coming of Rev. J.B. Mvambo soon pitched our Conferences high and the Constitution of the Church became a very important document.  This man was indeed a scholar.  He unfortunately died in the first year of his Presidency.

God provided us with yet another leader, namely Rev. P.S. Ramushu.  He took particular care in the raising of monies and we are proud to say that money was plentiful during his period of Presidency.  Other Presidents who followed played their part in the furtherance of the Church.  Rev. L.M. Vabaza and Rev. A.S. Mthimkhulu succeeded in getting the Church recognised by the Government in the year 1951.  Their names are held high in esteem.