United Congregational Church of Southern Africa
The Congregational Church was established in Southern Africa by the London Missionary Society (LMS) which started work in Cape Town in 1799. Within a few years mission stations had been established throughout the Cape Province, in present-day Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. At the invitation of the LMS, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) came to South Africa in 1835 and commenced work in Natal and Mozambique. During the 19th century English-speaking congregations were also established in the major centres of South Africa. After the withdrawal of the LMS from the Cape, the churches it had established, together with the English-speaking congregations, formed the Congregational Union of South Africa in 1859. This church united in 1967 with the Bantu Congregational Church (ABCFM) to form the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa, incorporating the work of the two bodies in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. A further merger took place in 1972 when the UCCSA was reconstituted to include the congregations of the South African Association of the Disciples of Christ.
Theologically the UCCSA traces its roots back to the Reformation teachings of John Calvin. It also stands in the radical Anabaptist tradition that developed on the European continent and in England during the 16th and 17th centuries. The UCCSA governs itself in the belief that each local church is a "gathered" company of Christian believers, whose only credal statement is the biblical affirmation: "Jesus is Lord". Each local church retains the right to govern itself in all matters that affect its life and work, but is inter-dependent on all other churches in the denomination, as they voluntarily pool resources and work to do together what they cannot do apart. The UCCSA is divided into regional councils composed of ministers and lay delegates from each local church. The regional councils have been organized to form synods in the different countries in which they are situated: Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The highest governing body of the church is the assembly, which meets biennially and consists of ministers and lay delegates elected by the regional councils and synods. It is presided over by a president who serves for two years. An executive committee which is representative of the synods is in charge in between meetings of the assembly.
Until the implementation of the Bantu Education Act in 1953, the UCCSA and its precursors were responsible for widespread educational work in Southern Africa. Since 1954 it has maintained one private school in South Africa, the historic Inanda Seminary, near Durban. The church is still responsible for two high schools in Botswana and two in Zimbabwe. Ministers are trained at the University of the Western Cape, Fort Hare University, Natal University and the Evangelical Seminary of South Africa, the United Theological College in Zimbabwe, Ricatla Seminary in Mozambique, and Paulinum Seminary in Namibia.
Itself the product of church union, the UCCSA is deeply committed to ecumenical endeavour. It is a founding member of the South African Council of Churches and the Church Unity Commission and is fully involved in their activities. It is equally active in the Christian Councils of Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.