Anglican Church of Southern Africa

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Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Anglican Church of Southern Africa emblem.png
Independence 1870
Primate Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Cape Town
Polity Episcopal
Headquarters 20 Bishopscourt Drive
Bishopscourt 7708
South Africa
Territory Angola
Saint Helena
South Africa
Members c. 3–4 million[1]

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, known until 2006 as the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, is the province of the Anglican Communion in the southern part of Africa. The church has twenty-eight dioceses, of which twenty-one are located in South Africa, two in Mozambique, and one each in Angola, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and Saint Helena. In South Africa, there are between 3 and 4 million Anglicans out of an estimated population of 45 million.[1]

The primate is the Archbishop of Cape Town. The current archbishop is Thabo Makgoba, who succeeded Njongonkulu Ndungane in 2006. From 1986 to 1996 the primate was Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu.


Thabo Makgoba is the current Archbishop of Southern Africa

The first Anglican clergy to minister regularly at the Cape were military chaplains who accompanied the troops when the British occupied the Cape Colony in 1795 and then again in 1806. The second British occupation resulted in a growing influx of civil servants and settlers who were members of the Church of England, and so civil or colonial chaplains were appointed to minister to their needs. These were under the authority of the governor.

The first missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel arrived in 1821. He was William Wright, a priest. He opened a church and school in Wynberg, a fashionable suburb of Cape Town. Allen Gardiner, a missionary of the Church Missionary Society went to Zululand, and arranged for a priest, Francis Owen to be sent to the royal residence of King Dingane. Owen witnessed the massacre of Piet Retief, the Voortrekker leader, and his companions, who had come to negotiate a land treaty with Dingane, and left soon afterwards.

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa at this time was under the Diocese of Calcutta, which effectively included the East Indies and the entire Southern Hemisphere. Bishops en route for Calcutta sometimes stopped at the Cape for confirmations, and occasionally ordination of clergy, but these visits were sporadic. It became apparent that a bishop was needed for South Africa, and in 1847 Robert Gray was consecrated as the first Bishop of Cape Town in Westminster Abbey. The new bishop landed in Cape Town in 1848.

Desmond Tutu (born 1931), former Primate of the Anglican Church of the Province of South Africa, noted pacifist and a leading figure in the successful fight against apartheid

Some Anglican parishes in the then-Cape Colony refused to join the Church of the Province of South Africa when it was constituted in 1870; these parishes constituted themselves as the Church of England in South Africa (CESA). CESA has subsequently renamed itself as Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa.

Desmond Tutu rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. Tutu was elected and ordained the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, and the Magubela prize for liberty in 1986.

In 2006, the name Church of the Province of Southern Africa was dropped as the name was confusing to some people. The church was renamed the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

In July 2012, Ellinah Wamukoya of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa became the bishop-elect of Swaziland and the first woman to be elected a bishop in any of the twelve Anglican Provinces in Africa.[2][3] She was consecrated on 17 November 2012 at All Saints Cathedral, Mbabane.[4] On 19 January 2013, Margaret Vertue was consecrated the diocesan bishop of False Bay.[5]


The polity of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is episcopal, like that of other Anglican churches. The church maintains a system of geographical parishes organized into dioceses. The province is divided into various dioceses, each led by its own bishop.


Diocese Bishop Territory Cathedral Founded
Angola André Soares Angola 2003 (from Lebombo)
Cape Town Thabo Makgoba (Archbishop)
Garth Counsell (suffragan Bishop of Table Bay)
Cape Town and nearer suburbs, and Tristan da Cunha St George's Cathedral, Cape Town 1847
Christ the King William Mostert (bishop elect)[6] Vaal Triangle and southern suburbs of Johannesburg 1990 (from Johannesburg)
False Bay Margaret Vertue Southeastern suburbs of Cape Town, Stellenbosch, the Overberg and the Breede River Valley 2005 (from Cape Town)
Free State Dintoe Stephen Letloenyane Free State province Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael, Bloemfontein 1863 (from Cape Town, as Diocese of Bloemfontein)
George Brian Marajh Garden Route, Little Karoo, Langkloof and Great Karoo St Mark's Cathedral, George 1911 (from Cape Town)
Grahamstown Ebenezer Ntlali Area of Albany, Ciskei, King William's Town and East London in the Eastern Cape Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Grahamstown 1853 (from Cape Town)
Highveld Charles May East Rand and southern Mpumalanga St Dunstan's Cathedral, Benoni 1990 (from Johannesburg, as Diocese of South Eastern Transvaal)
Johannesburg Stephen Moreo Central Johannesburg, its northern suburbs and the West Rand St Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg 1922 (from Pretoria)
Kimberley and Kuruman Oswald Swartz Northeastern half of Northern Cape, western part of North West St Cyprian's Cathedral, Kimberley 1911 (from Bloemfontein, Cape Town and Grahamstown)
Lebombo Carlos Matsinhe Mozambique south of the Zambezi River St Augustine's Cathedral, Maciene 1893
Lesotho Adam Taaso Lesotho Cathedral of St Mary and St James, Maseru 1950 (from Free State, as Diocese of Basutoland)
Matlosane Molopi Diseko Central part of North West Cathedral of the Resurrection, Ikageng 1990 (from Johannesburg, as Diocese of Klerksdorp)
Mbhashe Elliot Williams Southern part of the former Transkei, around Butterworth and Ngcobo 2010 (from Mthatha)
Mpumalanga Daniel Kgomosotho Northern Mpumalanga province 2004 (from Pretoria)
Mthatha Sitembele Mzamane Central part of the former Transkei, around Mthatha and Port St Johns St John's Cathedral, Mthatha 1872 (from Grahamstown and Natal, as Diocese of St John's)
Namibia Luke Pato[7] Namibia St George's Cathedral, Windhoek 1924 (as Diocese of Damaraland)
Natal Dino Gabriel KwaZulu-Natal southwest of the Buffalo and Tugela Rivers Cathedral of the Holy Nativity, Pietermaritzburg 1853 (from Cape Town)
Niassa Vicente Msosa Mozambique north of the Zambezi River St Bartholomew's Cathedral, Messumba 1979 (from Lebombo)
Port Elizabeth Bethlehem Nopece Western part of the Eastern Cape, from Port Elizabeth to Colesberg St Mary's Cathedral, Port Elizabeth 1970 (from Grahamstown)
Pretoria Allen Kannemeyer Northern part of Gauteng and northeastern part of North West St Alban's Cathedral, Pretoria 1878 (from Bloemfontein)
St Helena Richard Fenwick Saint Helena and Ascension Island Saint Paul's Cathedral, Saint Helena 1859 (from Cape Town)
St Mark the Evangelist Martin Breytenbach Limpopo province Christ Church Cathedral, Polokwane 1987 (from Pretoria)
Saldanha Bay Raphael Hess Northern suburbs of Cape Town, the Swartland, the West Coast and Namaqualand 2005 (from Cape Town)
Swaziland Ellinah Wamukoya Swaziland All Saints Cathedral, Mbabane 1968 (from Zululand)
Ukhahlamba Mazwi Tisani North-central part of the Eastern Cape, from Queenstown to Aliwal North 2009 (from Grahamstown)
Umzimvubu Mlibo Ngewu Griqualand East and the northeastern part of the former Transkei 1991 (from Mthatha)
Zululand Monument Makhanya KwaZulu-Natal northeast of the Buffalo and Tugela Rivers Cathedral of St Michael and All Angels, Eshowe 1870 (from Natal)

Liturgy and prayer books

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa has used the following prayer books:

  • The Book of Common Prayer (1662)
  • An Alternative Form of the Calendar and Occasional Offices of the Church Set forth by Authority for Use in the Church of the Province of South Africa Where Allowed by the Bishop. London: S.P.C.K. 1946. 
  • A Book of Common Prayer. London and Cape Town: Oxford University Press and S.P.C.K. 1954. 
  • The Holy Eucharist morning & evening prayer, 1975. Johannesburg (South Africa): C.P.S.A. 1975. ISBN 0868810037. 
  • An Anglican Prayer Book. Collins Liturgical Publications. 1989. ISBN 978-0-00-599180-0. 

The Anglican church was a product of the English Reformation and political contexts of the sixteenth century. Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, was instrumental in determining the form Anglicanism was to take, not by writing confessional statements or significant theological treaties, but through his authoring of the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 and 1552. All expressions of Anglicanism forever after defined itself in relation to the concept of the Prayer Book, whether being faithful to the Reformed tradition or seeking different approaches. Other denominations have found unity in confessional documents, or doctrinal formularies, or a systematically articulated theology, or the pronouncements of magisterial authorities.[8]

When the work of revising the liturgy in the twentieth century was undertaken it was with the understanding that it was touching the nerve-centre of the Anglican ethos, since Anglican identity takes a more intangible form, deeply dependent upon the influence and binding effect of its liturgical worship.[9] The most recent revision of the Prayer Book resulted in the publishing of An Anglican Prayer Book (1989). The Anglican Prayer Book stands alongside the South African Book of Common Prayer (1954).[10] Both the 1989 and 1954 prayer books have the English 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a common source.

The work of the revision reflected the worldwide liturgical renewal, most notably in relation to the Roman Catholic Church as a result of decisions reached at its Second Vatican Council.[9] Another influence was the charismatic renewal, which has had a marked impact on the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.[9] Particular care was taken to meet evangelical concerns in a Province that is historically High Church rather than Low Church in its main emphasis. Theological breadth – catholic, evangelical, charismatic, and liberal – was aimed at in order to achieve balance and to accommodate these various convictions.[9]

These sensitivities and influences are most evident in the Eucharistic liturgy. Four Eucharistic prayers are given to accommodate different theological preferences. Two are taken from the Church of England, one is borrowed with permission from the Roman Catholic Canon, and pride of place is given in the First Eucharistic Prayer to an indigenous product. The influence of the liturgical movement can be seen in the overall structure and language of the Eucharist, including seeking a sense of continuity with the early, apostolic church.

In tracing this line of continuity from the Lord’s Table to the Communion Table, a prayer traditionally ascribed to Hippolytus (ca. 215), bishop of Rome, called the Apostolic Tradition, captured the imagination of contemporary liturgists and now appears in the modern liturgical books of different churches both Roman Catholic and Protestant.[11] The opening lines of all four Eucharistic prayers closely mirror the wording of Hippolytus. The fourth Eucharistic prayer most closely maintains the link with the Hippolytus liturgy, but allows slight variation with respect to the wording of “we offer you” and “we bring before you” to accommodate different theological persuasions. This is an example of how the Anglican Church of Southern Africa in making revisions for the 1989 Anglican Prayer Book adopted a more conciliatory approach to the various ecclesiastical factions, foreshadowing the conciliatory context of South African politics in the early 90s in regard to political factions and political change.

Doctrine and practice

There are a wide range of beliefs among Anglicans, from Evangelical to Anglo-Catholic, from liberal to traditional, but what unites Anglicans is common prayer Lex orandi, lex credendi.[12][13]

The centre of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa's teaching is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The basic teachings of the church, (contained in the catechism),[14] include:

The threefold sources of authority in Anglicanism are scripture, tradition, and reason. These three sources uphold and critique each other in a dynamic way. This balance of scripture, tradition and reason is traced to the work of Richard Hooker, a sixteenth-century apologist. In Hooker's model, scripture is the primary means of arriving at doctrine and things stated plainly in scripture are accepted as true. Issues that are ambiguous are determined by tradition, which is checked by reason.[15]

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa embraces three orders of ministry: deacon, priest, and bishop. A local variant of the Book of Common Prayer is used. The Church is known for having Anglo-Catholic leanings.

Social issues and ecumenical relations

Ordination of Women

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa is regarded as the most liberal Anglican province in Africa with respect to the ordination of women and homosexuality. The church ordained the first woman as a deacon in 1985 followed by ordaining three women to the priesthood in 1992.[16] In 2012, the church consecrated Ellinah Wamukoya as the bishop of Swaziland.[17] Later, the church consecrated Margaret Vertue as bishop of False Bay.[18] In 2014, the church appointed the first woman to lead the provincial residential theological college.[19]

Same-sex unions and LGBT clergy

There is no official position on homosexuality.[20][21] Therefore, gay people may be "legally ordained ... including [in] the Anglican church in South Africa."[20] The Church does not allow gay priests to marry but does allow "same-sex relationships if they are celibate."[22] In 2003, Rowan Smith, a former dean of St. George's Cathedral, came out as gay and was supported by the congregation, and Douglas Torr, a priest from Johannesburg, also came out as gay.[23][24] An openly gay and celibate bishop, Mervyn Castle, was consecrated in Cape Town.[25] Njongonkulu Ndungane, a former Archbishop of Cape Town, disapproved of same-sex marriage, when it was legalized in South Africa, and he also stated that he does not support the blessing of same-sex unions.[26] Ndungane nevertheless was supportive of the consecration of the first openly partnered gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, Gene Robinson in 2003.[27] However, Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, affirmed same-sex marriages and supported church blessings.[28] As of October 2016, Thabo Makgoba, the current Primate and archbishop, was quoted as being "one among few church leaders in Africa to support same-sex marriage."[29]

The Diocese of Cape Town, after a synod in 2009, passed a resolution calling the bishops of the church to give pastoral guidelines for homosexual couples who lived in "covenanted relationships." The resolution agreed to "Affirming a pastoral response to same-sex partnerships of faithful commitment in our parish families."[30] It also approved an amendment to the resolution which provided that the guidelines give "due regard of the mind of the Anglican Communion." Archbishop Thabo Makgoba stated that it was "an important first step ... [and] the reason for this resolution was because we have these parishioners, and the law provides for them to be in that state, so how do we pastorally respond to that?"[31] In 2009 the synod of bishops declared that "[g]ays and lesbians can be leaders within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa as long as they remain celibate".[32]

The Diocese of False Bay has also been supportive of LGBTI people celebrating the ministry of one of its openly gay priests.[33] Mervyn Castle, who is openly gay, was consecrated as bishop of False Bay by Desmond Tutu, the then archbishop of Cape Town in 1994.[34] Also, in 2011, Clifford Felix, a priest in the diocese had his license revoked by the bishop of the Diocese of False Bay "after he'd delivered delivered a sermon to [his] congregation and distributed emails...denouncing the ordination of homosexual priests."[35] The Diocese of False Bay confirmed that he had been removed "for the disruptive and destructive way in which he has gone about raising issues that he was charged."[36]

In 2013, the Provincial Synod, governing the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, adopted a resolution that "urged its bishops to provide guidelines for giving pastoral care to same-sex couples who have entered civil unions under South African law."[37] The resolution "request[s] the Synod of Bishops to work towards finalising the Guidelines for pastoral ministry in response to Civil Unions as soon as possible."[38] The resolution says that it "affirms" in "2.1 That God calls us to love and minister to all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, while at the same time upholding God’s standards of holiness; 2.2 That this is a highly complex and emotive area which affects many people deeply and has a far reaching impact on the mission of the Church."[39]

In December 2015, Mpho Tutu, the daughter of Desmond Tutu, married her female partner in a civil ceremony in the Netherlands.[40] In 2016, the Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, a Church of England priest, presided with her bishop's permission over a service of celebration, and Archbishop Tutu was able to give a blessing for his daughter and her partner.[41][42] Archbishop Makgoba then directed his suffragan to revoke Mpho Tutu's license as a priest. Tutu decided to surrender her license to avoid controversy, but remains a priest of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.[43] The church has not yet allowed gay priests to marry.[44] Bishop Raphael Hess, of Saldanha Bay, who openly supports religious same-sex unions, is seeking to change church policy to allow her to serve.[45][46]

The church discussed the different views among clergy at the bishops' gathering that took place in East London, Eastern Cape, in February 2016. The official statement said that the church "cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions".[47] At the same time, Archbishop Makgoba said "we also tried at the Synod of Bishops to draw up guidelines for clergy wanting to bless couples in same-sex unions, or who want to enter same-sex unions themselves...[but] on this issue, I had to report back...that we were not of one mind."[48] The bishops also affirmed members in same-gender marriages as full and equal members of the Church.[49] Archbishop Makgoba supported welcoming LGBT members saying "that gay, lesbian and transgendered members of our church share in full membership as baptised members of the Body of Christ."[50]

In August 2016, the Diocese of Saldanha Bay proposed that the church bless same-gender unions and permit LGBTI priests to marry.[51] A motion to this effect was put the Provincial Synod meeting in September 2016; The voting was as follows:[52]

House For Against Total  % In Favour
Laity 25 41 66 37.9%
Clergy 34 42 76 44.7%
Bishops 6 16 22 27.3%
Total 65 99 164 39.6%

Archbishop Makgoba "added that 'all is not lost.' He said the issue might hopefully be taken up again at the next Provincial Synod in 2019...He also said the issue could be discussed at the local level in parishes and dioceses."[52] The archbishop further added "I was deeply pained by the outcome of the debate."[53] After the vote, priests in Saldanha Bay declared they would bless same-gender marriages individually.[54] At least one priest, who is in a same-sex relationship with his partner, has said the church had ordained him knowing of his relationship.[55]

On 2 March 2017, the bench of bishops stated that they are working on "pastoral guidelines for ministry to those in same-sex relationships, which are still incomplete. [The bishops] asked Archbishop Thabo to set up a small group of bishops to work on completing them, together with others who could help the process."[56] Archbishop Thabo Makgoba set up a working group ".... to amend Canon 34 which will enable ministry to those in Same Sex Unions and the LGBTI Community in the context in which ACSA operates in Southern Africa."[57]

Ecumenical Relations

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa is a member of the ecumenical World Council of Churches.[58]

Relation with the Anglican Communion conflicts and realignment

South Africa's Anglican church has a more liberal tradition that sets it apart from its more conservative African counterparts.[59] The province has been associated with the most liberal Anglican provinces concerning homosexuality and the acceptance of same-sex unions, such as the United States, Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, Scotland, Wales and South India.[60]

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa, despite being the most liberal Anglican province in Africa, is a member of the Global South, that unites the most theologically conservative provinces of the Anglican Communion. Moderate conservative Bishop Johannes Seoka, of the Anglican Diocese of Pretoria, represented the province at the Global South Fourth Encounter that took place in Singapore on 19–23 April 2010 and at their subsequent meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, on 18–20 July 2012.[61] The ACSA adopted the Anglican Communion Covenant proposed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, as a way to preserve the unity of the Anglican Communion at their provincial synod held in 2010 and ratified the decision at their following meeting in October 2013. At the same time, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba emphasised his province's role of "being at the heart of Anglican life, often acting as a bridge-builder, and drawing on its own experiences of living with considerable diversity and wrestling with difference."[62]

Bethlehem Nopece, Bishop of Port Elizabeth, has been the leading name of the Anglican realignment in the province since he strongly opposed the consecration of partnered homosexual Gene Robinson as a bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2003.[63] Nopece was the only bishop of the ACSA to have attended the Global Anglican Future Conference that took place in Jerusalem on 23–28 June 2008. He decided the following year to launch the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans in South Africa after the resolution on 22 August 2009 of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town to pass pastoral guidelines to members of the church who live in same-sex unions. Nopece presided at the launching of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans at St. John's Church, Port Elizabeth, on 3 September 2009, with the presence of a retired Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, Benjamin Nzimbi. The event was greeted with messages of support from some of the leading names of the Anglican realignment, archbishops Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria, Peter Jensen of the Anglican Diocese of Sydney, Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of the Church of England.[64] Nopece led a ten-members delegation, which included Bishop Nathaniel Nakwatumbah of the Anglican Diocese of Namibia, to the GAFCON II that took place at Nairobi, Kenya, on 21–26 October 2013.[65]


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  • Germond, Paul (1997). Aliens in the Household of God: Homosexuality and Christian Faith in South Africa. New Africa Books. ISBN 9780864863300. 
  • Church of the Province of Southern Africa (1989). An Anglican Prayer Book. Collins Liturgical Publications. ISBN 978-0-00-599180-0. 
  • Hefling, Charles (2006). "Introduction: Anglicans and Common Prayer". In Hefling, C.; Shattuck, C. The Oxford Guide to The Book of Common Prayer : A Worldwide Survey. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-972389-8. 
  • Nuttall, Michael (2006). "The Province of Southern Africa". In Hefling, C.; Shattuck, C. The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer: A worldwide survey. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-972389-8. 
  • Jones, Alan (1 May 2006). Common Prayer on Common Ground: A Vision of Anglican Orthodoxy. Church Publishing, Inc. ISBN 978-0-8192-2666-2. 
  • Johnson, Maxwell E. (2006). "The Apostolic Tradition". In Wainwright, Geoffrey; Westerfield Tucker, Karen B. The Oxford History of Christian Worship. ISBN 9780195138863. 

Further reading

  • Elphick, Richard; Davenport, Rodney, eds. (1997). Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social, and Cultural History. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-20940-4. 
  • Hinchliff, Peter (1968). The church in South Africa. London: SPCK. ISBN 0-281-02277-1. 
  • Neill, Stephen (1977). Anglicanism (Revised ed.). London: Mowbrays. ISBN 0264663527. 
  • Page, B. T. (1947). The harvest of good hope. London: SPCK. 

External links

  • Official website
  • An Alternative Form of the Calendar and Occasional Offices of the Church Set forth by Authority for Use in the Church of the Province of South Africa Where Allowed by the Bishop (1946)
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