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The Beginnings of Anglican Theological Education in South Africa, 1848–1963

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 June 2012

School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; e-mail:


Various attempts at establishing Anglican theological education were made after the arrival in 1848 of Robert Gray, the first bishop of Cape Town, but it was not until 1876 that the first theological school opened in Bloemfontein. As late as 1883 half of the Anglican priests in South Africa had never attended a theological college. The system of theological education which developed afterwards became increasingly segregated. It also became more centralised, in a different manner for each race. A central theological college for white ordinands was established in Grahamstown in 1898 while seven diocesan theological colleges were opened for blacks during the same period. These were reduced to two in the 1930s, St Peter's College in Johannesburg and St Bede's in Umtata. The former became one of the constituent colleges of the Federal Theological Seminary in Alice, Eastern Cape, in 1963.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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1 For a history of the Federal Theological Seminary see Roger Cameron, ‘Some political, ecumenical and theological aspects of the history of the Federal Theological Seminary 1963–1975’, unpubl ma diss. Cape Town 1984; Denis, Philippe, ‘Fedsem ten years later: the unwritten history of an ecumenical seminary’, JTSA cxvii (2003), 6879Google Scholar, and ‘Unfinished business: the painful closure of the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa’, Missionalia xxxvii (2009), 519Google Scholar.

2 On the Anglican Church of South Africa see Peter Hinchliff, The Anglican Church in South Africa, London 1963; John Suggit and Mandy Goedhals (eds), Change and challenge: essays commemorating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of Robert Gray as first bishop of Cape Town (20th February 1848), Cape Town 1998; and Olga Muriel Suberg, The Anglican tradition in South Africa: a historical overview, Pretoria 1999. For an overview of the history of theological education in the Anglican Church of South Africa see Simon Gqubule, ‘Theological education in the Church of the Province of South Africa (CPSA)’, in Leonard Hulley, Louise Kretzschmar and Luke Pato (eds), Archbishop Tutu: prophetic witness in South Africa, Cape Town 1996, 211–21, and Njongonkulu Ndungane, ‘Theological education in the last fifty years’, in Suggit and Goedhals, Change and challenge, 107–13.

3 1960 figures. See David Thomas, Christ divided: liberalism, ecumenism and race in South Africa, Pretoria 2002, 198. For an overview of the development of indigenous clergy in the first sixty years of the twentieth century in Africa see Bengt Sundkler, The Christian ministry in Africa, London 1960, 62–8, 76–87.

4 Bob Clarke, Anglicans against apartheid, 1936–1996, Pietermaritzburg 2008, 208.

5 Owen Chadwick, The founding of Cuddesdon, Oxford 1954, 3.

6 Nuttall, Michael, ‘Theological training in historical perspective: a South African Anglican review’, JTSA xvii (1977), 33Google Scholar, 35.

7 Peter Hinchliff, ‘The theology of graduation: an experiment in training colonial clergy’, in C. W. Dugmore and Charles Duggan (eds), Studies in church history, i, London 1964, 254.

8 Livingstone Ngewu, ‘A review of the history of St Bede's College: 1899–1992’, The College of the Transfiguration Journal: First Anniversary Issue (Feb. 1994), 23. On Peter Masiza see Goedhals, Mandy, ‘Ungumpriste: a study of the life of Peter Masiza, first black priest in the Church of the Province of Southern Africa’, JTSA lxviii (1989), 1728Google Scholar.

9 B. B. Burnett, Anglicans in Natal, Durban [1953], 97; Geoffrey Dixon Soni, ‘Indigenous clergy at the Springvale Anglican mission from personal reminiscence’, in Philippe Denis (ed.), The making of an indigenous clergy in Southern Africa, Pietermaritzburg 1995, 173–4.

10 ‘Resolutions passed by the provincial synod of 1883’, appendix D: ‘Report on the supply and training of candidates for the holy orders’, 90, WCL, BX 5700.6.A2 CHU.

11 Charles Norris Gray, Life of Robert Gray, bishop of Cape Town and metropolitan of Africa, London 1876, ii. 552.

12 Hinchliff, Anglican Church in South Africa, 36.

13 Nuttall, ‘Theological training in historical perspective’, 35.

14 R. F. Currey, St Andrew's College, Grahamstown, Oxford 1955, 12.

15 On the Mullins Institute see Marguerite Poland, The boy in you: a biography of St Andrew's College, 1855–200, Simon's Town 2008, 49–57.

16 Simon Gqubule, ‘An examination of the theological education of Africans in the Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, and Anglican Churches in South Africa from 1860–1960’, unpubl. PhD diss. Rhodes 1978, 183–4; Poland, The boy in you, 57.

17 Cecil Lewis and G. E. Edwards, Historical records of the Church of the Province of South Africa, London 1934, 313.

18 Jeff Guy, The heretic: a study of the life of John William Colenso, Pietermaritzburg 1983.

19 Idem, ‘Class, imperialism and literary criticism: William Ngidi, John Colenso and Matthew Arnold’, Journal of Southern African Studies xxiii (1997), 240Google Scholar.

20 Janet Hodgson, ‘A history of Zonnebloem College, 1858 to 1870: a study of Church and Society’, unpubl. ma diss. Cape Town 1975, 523–9. Stephen Mnyakama was ordained deacon by Nathaniel Merriman, bishop of Grahamstown, in 1874. He worked for ten years at Fort Beaufort before committing suicide in 1885. See Mandy Goedhals, ‘Nathaniel James Merriman, archdeacon and bishop, 1849–1882: a study in church life and government’, unpubl. PhD diss. Rhodes 1982, 460. Jonas Ntsiko was ordained deacon in 1873, after which he seemed to have disappeared from church records. See Poland, The boy in you, 57.

21 Minutes of proceedings of the synod of bishops of the Province of Capetown … January 1869, no xviii, 14, quoted in Hodgson, ‘A history of Zonnebloem College’, 610.

22 Ibid. See Goedhals, ‘Merriman’, 342.

23 Hodgson, ‘A history of Zonnebloem’, 615.

24 The constitutions and canons of the Church of the Province of South Africa as revised, amended, and confirmed by the provincial synod, held at Cape Town, A.D. 1876, Cape Town 1876, 76–80. See Goedhals, ‘Merriman’, 343.

25 Hinchliff, ‘Theology of graduation’, 255.

26 Lewis and Edwards, Historical records, 421.

27 Ibid. On St Cyprian's College and the training of black clergy in the Anglican diocese of Bloemfontein see also Abraham Mojalefe Lieta, ‘Colenso and the emergence of an indigenous black clergy in South Africa’, in Jonathan Draper (ed.), The eye of the storm: John William Colenso and the crisis of biblical inspiration, Pietermaritzburg 2003, 242–54.

28 Pastoral letter addressed by the bishops of the Province of South Africa to the clergy and faithful laity of the Church, Cape Town 1876, 5, WCL, AB 1956.

29 Lewis and Edward, Historical records, 421.

30 Resolutions passed by the provincial synod of 1883 [Cape Town 1883], appendix D: ‘Report on the supply and training of candidates for the holy orders’, at p. 87.

31 Lewis and Edwards, Historical records, 204. See also Suberg, Anglican tradition, 66–8.

32 Personal communication with Jonathan Draper, 31 Dec. 2008. According to Gqubule, Archbishop Joost de Blank sent two African students to St Paul's in 1961–2: ‘An examination’, 200. On St Paul's College see Lewis and Edwards, Historical records, 204–7, and Christopher James Chichele Hewitt, ‘A history of St Paul's College’, The College of the Transfiguration Journal (Feb. 1994), 38–46.

33 Lewis and Edwards, Historical records, 204; Hinchliff, ‘Theology of graduation’, 257.

34 Hewitt, ‘History of St Paul's College’, 39–40.

35 Leslie Hewson, They seek a city: Methodism in Grahamstown, Grahamstown 1981, quoted in Richardson, Neville, “Ministerial training and theological education in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa: the road ahead”, Missionalia xxxv (2007), 138Google Scholar. See also Clarke, Anglicans against apartheid, 29.

36 Peter Lee, Compromise and courage: Anglicans in Johannesburg, 1864–1999, Pietermaritzburg 2005, 134.

37 Clarke, Anglicans against apartheid, 230.

38 Hewitt, ‘History of St Paul's College’, 44.

39 James Dexter Taylor, Christianity and the natives of South Africa: a year-book of South African missions, Lovedale [1927], 203.

40 M. S. Bentham, Henry Callaway M.D., D.D. first bishop for Kaffraria: his life – history and work, London 1896, 318, 321, quoted in Ngewu, ‘A review’, 21.

41 Bentham, Henry Callaway, quoted in Ngewu, ‘A review’, 21–2.

42 Alan G. S. Gibson, Eight years in Kaffraria, 1882–1890, London 1890, 160, quoted in Ngewu, ‘A review’, 23.

43 Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 190.

44 Idem, ‘Preface’, to Sigqibo Dwane, Issues in the South African theological debate: essays and addresses in honour of the late James Matta Dwane, Johannesburg 1989, 2.

45 Osmund Victor, The thin black line, Brighton [1914?], 7–8, quoted in Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 192. A copy of this rare 32-page pamphlet is kept at WCL, BX 5185 VIC.

46 Edwards and Lewis, Historical records, 591. See also Aelred Stubbs, ‘Your life as a prize of war’ (1983), 1, WCL, 2414, A7.

47 Victor, The thin black line. 7–8, quoted in Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 192. Farmer's statement is discussed in Doris Thompson, Priest and pioneer: a memoir of Father Osmund Victor, C.R. of South Africa, London 1958, 8.

48 Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 192–3.

49 Ibid. 193. On St Peter's College see also Eric Goodall, Forty years on, Johannesburg [1941]; Aelred Stubbs, ‘St Peter's College: a brief account of its 80 years’, 6 pages, typescript, WCL, AB 2414, A7; Alan Wilkinson, The Community of the Resurrection: a centenary history, London 1992, 211–14, 315–18; and Lee, Compromise and courage, 86.

50 Burnett, Anglicans in Natal, 149–50. Founded in 1882, St Alban's had operated as a school for African boys which closed in 1895 before transforming into a theological college.

51 Goedhals, ‘Merriman’, 346. See also Lewis and Edwards, Historical records, 297.

52 Lewis and Edwards, Historical records, 284.

53 Goedhals, Mandy, ‘African nationalism and indigenous Christianity: a study in the life of James Calata (1895–1983)’, Journal of Religion in Africa xxxiii (2003), 64Google Scholar.

54 Taylor, Christianity and the natives of South Africa, 406–7.

55 Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 185.

56 Ibid. 681.

57 Not far from there, in KwaNzimela, a theological college was established for the ordinands of the diocese of Zululand in 1984. It was closed in 1988. Interview with Jonathan Draper, Pietermaritzburg, 11 Apr. 2008.

58 Lewis and Edwards, Historical records, 703; Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 181–2. See also bishop of Zululand to bishop of Johannesburg, 8 Feb. 1937, WCL, AB 2414, 15.1.

59 F. Firkins, ‘Modderpoort’, Basutoland News, 12 July 1932, 7. See also ‘Suggested memorandum on S.S.M. in South Africa for the Great Chapter of the society (1962)’, WCL, AB 1309, L2.

60 From 1920 Zonnebloem was reorganised as a teacher training college for coloured people: Les and Donna Switzer, The black press in South Africa and Lesotho: a descriptive bibliographic guide to African, Coloured and Indian newspapers, newsletters and magazines, 1836–1976, Boston 1976, 235.

61 Directory of the Church of the Province of South Africa 1925, Cape Town 1925, 18; Directory of the Church of the Province of South Africa 1928, Cape Town, 1928, 56. In 1958 a non-racial theological college for the training of ordinands, Bishop Gray's College, opened in one of the buildings of the archbishop's residence at Bishopscourt, Cape Town. It closed when Fedsem opened in 1963: Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 183.

62 Report of the Provincial Missionary Conference, 1906, n.p. n.d., 5: copy at WCL.

63 Official report of the seventh provincial missionary conference of the Church of the Province of South Africa holden at Bloemfontein: from September 28th to October 4th, 1918, Grahamstown 1918, 27.

64 Osmund Victor, With one accord in South Africa: an interim statement circulated, by permission, before the provincial missionary conference 1933, Johannesburg, Community of the Resurrection [1933]: copy at WCL.

65 1934 conference of the heads of theological colleges, n.p. n.d., 3: copy at WCL.

66 Minutes of episcopal synods, vol. 5 (1928–43), 151–3, WCL, AB 1956.

67 1934 conference, 1. On St Augustine's, Penlahonga, see Wilkinson, Community of the Resurrection, 241–6. The CR Fathers left Penlahonga in 1983 (p. 329).

68 Provincial missionary conference, Bloemfontein, 1938, n.p. n.d., 22: copy at WCL.

69 Appendix to minutes of St Peter's College Council, 16 Aug. 1938, WCL, AB 2414, A2.1.

70 Goodall, Forty years on, 22.

71 Alban Winter, Till darkness fell, n. p. [1962], 69.

72 Wilkinson, Community of the Resurrection, 211–12.

73 Ibid. 211.

74 Ngewu, ‘A review’, 26.

75 Ibid. 23.

76 Norman Goodall and Eric Nielsen, Survey of the training for the ministry in the younger Church today, London 1954, 15. See Gqubule, ‘An examination’, 191.

77 Ngewu, ‘A review’, 26.

78 Ibid.

79 William Booth, ‘How we came together’, in Aelred Stubbs (ed.), The planting of the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa, Lovedale 1973, 3.

80 On this episode see, among other sources, the narrative compiled by Theodore Simpson cr under the title ‘The exodus and the agony’, 18 Dec. 1975, WCL, AB 2414, B5.2.

81 See the resolution of the Provincial Standing Committee in September 1991, in Winston Njongokulu Ndungane, ‘The story of the amalgamation of St Paul's and St Bede's Colleges and the formation of the College of the Transfiguration’, The College of the Transfiguration Journal (Feb. 1994), 4.

82 Jonathan Draper interview, Pietermaritzburg, 27 Aug. 2007.

83 ‘Suggested memorandum on S.S.M. in South Africa: for the great chapter of the society (1962)’, WCL, AB 2409, L2. In November 1963 St Augustine's Test School relocated to St Luke's Mission, Newlands: minutes of seminary council, 13 Feb. 1964, Howard Pym Africana Library, University of Fort Hare, Fedsem, box 1.

84 Stubbs, ‘Your life’, 2–3.

85 Ibid. 3.

86 Idem, ‘St Peter's College’, 3.

87 Goodall and Nielsen, Survey, 55, quoted in Booth, ‘How we came together’, 1.

88 Cameron, ‘Some political, ecumenical and theological aspects’, 12–13.

89 Gruchy, John de, ‘Church unity and democratic transition: perspectives on ecclesiology and ethics in South Africa’, Ecumenical Review xlix (1997), 356–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

90 Denis, ‘Unfinished business’.