Methodist Church of Southern Africa

Methodism arrived in South Africa with British soldiers in 1806 but the mission began in 1816. Missionaries ventured across the Orange River into present-day Namibia and what are now the northern provinces of South Africa. In the late 19th century the work was extended into the gold mining area in Gauteng and north through modern Limpopo into Zimbabwe. Six missionary districts of the Wesleyan Methodist church became an affiliated conference in 1883. An independent conference was constituted in 1927 and enlarged in 1931 to include the Transvaal Missionary District of the British Conference and the small Primitive Methodist Mission. The connexion operates today in six countries - Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

The mission statement of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa is: "God calls the Methodist people to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ for healing and transformation". Its vision is: "A Christ-healed Africa for the healing of nations". The continuing goals of transformation are: a deepening spirituality; resolve to be guided by God's mission; a rediscovery of the priesthood of all believers; a commitment "to be one so that the world may believe"; a re-emphasis of servant-lead-ership and discernment as our model for ministry; a redefinition and authentication of the vocation of the clergy in the church. The MCSA rejected the apartheid ideology from the beginning and was a vocal critic of government policy throughout the nationalist supremacy. Faced by government pressure to divide along racial lines, the 1958 conference declared its "conviction 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". Six years later the first African to serve as president of conference was elected. The life of the MCSA reflects the strains and tensions of an apartheid society. In spite of this, the conference, connexional executive and synods have long since been non-racial. The ideal of a one and undivided church has still to be realized at the congregational level.

The MCSA was a major player in African education before the introduction of Bantu education in 1955. Its institutions were alma mater to many African leaders, including Nelson Mandela. A small but significant medical mission was also taken over by the apartheid government. An inventory of some of the ministries of the connexion include: pre-school, ministries to the homeless, ministries to informal settlements, hospice-type ministries, ministries to prisons, HIV/AIDS ministries, poverty alleviation projects. The church has provided leadership for church unity.

The direction of mission in the MCSA has been greatly influenced in recent years by a number of convocations, which have brought together laity and clergy to seek God's will for the church. "Obedience '81" set the church's course in South Africa's most troubled decade. "The Journey to a New Land" in 1992, followed by the 1995 Convocation and the 2004 Mission Congress, have shaped its mission policy in the challenging context of the new South Africa.