Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category


The IBMTE and I

May 7, 2009

Post removed while I reflect upon the situation.


Better late….

January 11, 2008

I have previously blogged on Race and Seventh-day Adventism in South Africa: here, here, here and here.I want to briefly recap the situation focussing on Helderberg College (extracted from my ASDAH presentation here):

While at least one Black student and several Coloured students were admitted to Claremont Union College–the forerunner of Helderberg College, established in 1893–early in its history; the school’s constituency remained almost entirely White until 1974 when having been relocated and renamed Helderberg College Coloured fourth-year Theology students were officially admitted.[1]

  • Coloured students attended Good Hope College established in 1930 which when compared with Claremont/Helderberg College, was grossly under-resourced, understaffed, and underfunded.
  • From 1909, the Seventh-day Adventist church also operated a separate school for Black students. The institution operated under various names and in various locations most recently as Bethel College. It was also grossly under-resourced, understaffed, and underfunded.

In 1968 Alwyn du Preez became the first non-white to graduate from Helderberg College, completing the third and fourth years of the theology course there after graduating from the two year Good Hope course in 1957. His presence was a special concession by the college; du Preez was required to live off-campus and was barred from using an college facilities other than the classrooms and library. He was not permitted to attend the Helderberg College graduation ceremony in 1968.
In 1971, Robert Hall a black student from Zimbabwe who had completed three years of the Theology course at Good Hope College was grudgingly permitted to enrol at Helderberg College.
Similar restrictions to those placed on du Preez were placed upon Hall. He was not permitted to board in the dormitory, nor to eat in the cafeteria; nor was he allowed to graduate with his class in 1971.[2] That same year, the administration of Helderberg College asked the South African Government to rule on the acceptance of a foreign non-white at an all-white South African educational institution. They were told that it was not, and never had been, government policy to interfere in the training of ministers by any denomination. As has been pointed out, this meant that Adventists of colour had been barred from Helderberg College all these years because of naked racist attitudes, not by government laws![3]

[1] I. F. du Preez and Roy H. du Pre, A Century of Good Hope: A History of the Good Hope Conference, its Educational Institutions and Early Workers, 1893-1993. (East London: Western Research Group/Southern History Association, 1994), 181-182. Antonio Pantalone points out that even if some non-White students were enrolled, the college’s graduation records show that during its 25 year existence, not a single non-white student ever graduated at [Claremont] Union College. “A Missiological Evaluation of the Afrikaanse Konferensie (1968-1974) and its significance for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in South Africa” (Dth, University ofDurban-Westville, 1998), 177.

[2] du Preez and du Pre, A Century of Good Hope, 104-105.

[3] du Preez and du Pre, A Century of Good Hope, 109-113.

Well why bring up this shameful history once more? Well on November 25, 2007 at a Graduation Ceremony at Helderberg College, small steps were taken towards righting these past injustices. At this ceremony–to a standing ovation–both Alwyn du Preez and Robert Hall were graduated (Post Facto); 39 years and 36 years late respectively.


Alwyn du Preez (Left) and Robert Hall (Right)

Thanks to Claudelle for the photos.


Kenya #2

January 8, 2008

Here is an update on the situation in Kenya. Unfortunately, the email I received did not list an author.

Forasmuch as the media has undertaken to update the world of what is happening in Kenya, in regard to the ethnic clashes that has terrified the country, it seems good to me being at the center of the clashes also to update you at AIIAS on the latest situation at Baraton, so that you may know and have perfect understanding of how good God is to us. He has not answered all our questions but He has kept all His promises.
The group that was holed up at Kapsabet Police station has now been evacuated to their ethnic homes. The first group of about 140 people composed of Kikuyus, Kamba, Meru and Kisii were evacuated by Kenya Military at about 4 a.m. They took about 3 hours to reach the nearest city, Eldoret about 65 km away. The military had to cut the big logs of trees that had been felled across the road, remove stones, metal spikes spread about half a kilometer. Sometimes the military had to construct road deviations at places where the bridges had been broken by the militia. The Baraton group travelled fear-frozen in their buses under military escort. Some recalled how they could see the solders cock guns any time they saw movement in the bush. One of the lecturers with children send a text message at about 4 am to me, ?Please, pastor, Pray as you have never done before?
The group arrived in Nairobi about 500 km away. I could feel the sigh of relief as they telephoned back from the East African Union head office in Nairobi where the Vice Chancellor of Baraton was awaiting to receive them. One of the lecturer?s daughter, aged 14 years txt me that she was going to write a long article once schools open on the experience they went through. Another group of about 150 people from Kisii ethnic group was evacuated yesterday to Kisii on trucks under police escort. For now the situation is calm and road blocks are being removed from roads. We hope to be able to travel freely as before. The university has postponed opening date until further notice. Other details can only be issued officially by university spokesman.
The University church meets daily at 6 pm to pray in groups for political situation in the country. We are seeing evidence of God?s leading and decrease of threatening crowds on road outside the campus. Apart from sporadic incidents of thuggery around, we are safe and we believe the university will open soon. The community is amazingly speaking friendly of the university. What God has done in this one week, cannot be fully quantified in such short email but it has left each one of us with a testimony to tell. Thanks for your prayers and concern.



January 5, 2008

I post below an email message from Caesar Wamalika of the University of Eastern Africa, Baraton – a Seventh-day Adventist university in Kenya.

“Subject: Report from CAESAR WAMALIKA at our SDA BARATON University, Eldoret, KENYA To: talkback-forum@ yahoogroups. com From: wamalika@yahoo. com Date: Thu, 3 Jan 2008 01:16:32 -0800 Subject: [talkback-forum] Going Through Nightmare of Ethnic War – Baraton, Kenya Dear Talkback Forum, I wish to share with you the terror and nightmare we are going through of Ethnic War. I am emailing from Baraton and the situation is bad! It all began soon after lection results were announced! Then several groups of community around broke into war songs. They broke into the shopping center next to the university and looted all the shops that belong to Kikuyus and Kisiis. Then they broke into rented off campus houses of students. A crowd of about 1,000 people surged to the university gate and wanted to storm the university. They demanded that all Kikuyus, Kambas, Meru, and Kisii people leave the university within two hours. That was the only way to save the university from being stormed. They remained at the gate until it would be seen done. About three armed policemen arrived and spent time negotiating with the crowd. Finally the police advised us to evacuate the named ethnic groups. We put the faculty and students numbering about 250 into three university vehicles and were taken to Kapsabet Police station under police escort. They are still there as at now. A few of us are on campus! The Division tried to evacuate those from Kapsabet Police Station to Eldoret international Airport but the next road block was a no-go-zone. In spite of the police escort, the university buses had to return to Kapsabet. The is no way anyone can get out. One baraton group is holed up at Kapsabet police station while faculty members from Luo and Luhyia community, international workers and students are holed up within the campus. Those at Kapsabet have no food or water. The worst fear is not so much of food but possibility of police station being stormed. The police are few and overstretched. We have been having threats a almost daily at campus. On one occasion, we had to give out a bull for them to slaughter and guarantee us peace. Then they came and demanded milk which we also gave. Then we succeed in pleading with the militia to allow us transport food to those at police station. They allowed us first day and we transported it on varsity tractor. It took three hours to go through road blocks to reach Kapsabet which is only 15 kilometers away. I attended a meeting yesterday with commanders and militia leaders who came to meet university administration. We confirmed that Militia had had their own meeting and resolved that on humanitarian ground, faculty with kids and pregnant mothers be allowed to return to campus. They also told us students of other communities should come back. It sounded good news. We shock hands. We asked them to transport food to Kapsabet. They agreed and used their own vehicles. But the food never arrived. The militia who were escorting the food we beaten and vehicles destroyed. The fact that you negotiate with one militia group, remember the next and several others groups have their own policy. It is like you need visa to cross several of them. We have about 130 Kisii students and workers stranded at police station but cant leave for home. I know of Mr Obuchi whose wife is pregnant! I know of Pr Elijah Njagi and wife, Nyarangi and wife, etcThey are sleeping in the grass and some in university bus parked at the police station. There is no food and I have never witnessed this. As I write this email, have just been informed that a crowd came to university gate 15 min ago and demanded that we go out and join them in mass demonstration in the street. That means we shall be put on front line to meet the armed police. University PRO has negotiated with them and the crowd has now chained the university main gate, locked it and gone with the key. No vehicle an come in or go out. We pray that they don’t come to force us out. It is a nightmare to meet them. All of them are armed with machetes, rungus, arrows and bows. Some are drunk and others baying for blood. I have never seen this! We are fear frozen and prayer takes a new meaning! My home is 100 km from here but how do you pass those road blocks? We have Luo workers who want to get out but we hear the Kisii are grouping to fight Luos on Kisii/Luo border. We are boxed in. The road blocks are manned by not less than 500 people. The road block at Cheptrit has a thousand youth manning it. Police told us that Mosoriot has ten thousand worriers camping there. It is a no-go-zone. We have no where to buy food, no calling cards available, no fuel! But we are finding a new meaning in prayer. I hope I can keep updating you of what is happening at Baraton. You can get from internet what could be happening in other parts like Eldoret, Kakamega and Kisumu. I have to leave for a crisis meeting to try and avert any attack on the campus. I hope internet access will remain open so that I can keep updating you. I can see helicopter flying over us but seems to be passing again! American Embassy called yesterday for the sake of their citizens. This is a no-go-zone! We need to be evacuated from here! Promises of safety from some militia groups cannot be trusted. You need to be here to feel it. Whatever the political argument, it is a nightmare! The ground issue is not how you voted but ethnic affiliation. Some are using it to settle personal scores! There were some leaflets from one group saying that all non-Nandis get ready to leave. Other Militia groups say no. But God still keeps us safe! From: Caesar Wamalika University of Eastern Africa, Baraton 14 Mwalimu Drive P.O. Box 2500, ELDORET 30100, KENYA, EAST AFRICA. Tel.: 254-734-429- 326 (Mobile)”

We hoped for peace but no good has come, for a time of healing but there was only terror. (Jeremiah 8:15)

Dona nobis pacem.


Clothing the SDA Clergy

May 10, 2007

clergy-dress-a.jpgIn 1903, following the lead of the GC, the (unofficial) South Africa Conference was remade into the (official) South Africa Union Conference with an American, W. S. Hyatt (pictured above) as president.

I found it intriguing that Hyatt is in this photo, wearing an item of dress not normally associated with SDA clergy.

Hyatt was not the only SDA minister to garb himself this way. It was apparently, relatively common amongst missionaries in certain parts of Africa.

The following picture of Mr & Mrs Walston–also missionaries in Africa illustrates this point. The caption also gives an explanation as to why this dress form was chosen: “to help smooth the way in many situations.” It seems then that wearing such an item of clerical costume enabled the wearer to be easily identified as a clergyman and that this recognition allowed the wearer to accomplished various tasks more easily.


My favourite item of history on the dress of SDA clergy comes from the cover of the July 1980 Ministry magazine. Enjoy:


To Beard or not to Beard.. That is the Question

April 5, 2007

At the 1866 General Conference Session on May 17 a series of resolutions passed by the Battle Creek Church were read. These resolutions included the following statement:

“We hold that in the matter of shaving and coloring the beard, some of our brethren display a species of vanity equally censurable with that of certain of the sisters in dressing the hair; and that in all cases should they discard every style which will betoken the air of the fop; but while we have no objections to a growth of beard on all parts of the face, as nature designed it, yet where any portion of the beard is removed, we think the brethren greatly err from the sobriety of the Christian in donning the mustache or goatee.
These resolutions were amended by the delegates by adding “Point 12” as follows:

“While we condemn pride and vanity, as set forth in the foregoing resolutions, we equally abhor and abominate everything that is slovenly, slack, untidy, and uncleanly in dress or manners.”

Point 7 was then amended by substituting the word “wearing” for “donning,” in the expression, “We think the brethren greatly err from the sobriety of the Christian, in donning the moustache or goatee,” so that as amended, it should read, “We think the brethren greatly err from the sobriety of the Christian in wearing the moustache or goatee.”

Interesting. According to that session I would be erring “from the sobriety of the Christian” by wearing my goatee.

This was not the only occasion that such an issue was raised at the Church’s highest levels.

A century ago the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, not only included articles on theological or other topics being discussed by church members, but also answered questions sent in by subscribers. One topic that came up for discussion several times was whether or not it was proper for a man to wear a beard. Editor Uriah Smith responded to one query:

In view of the feeling which is growing up on this subject throughout the country as evinced by the many unshaven faces which one everywhere meets, and considering moreover that some of our correspondents have expressed themselves quite warmly in favor of this reform, if reform it may be called, it may be proper for us to say a word on the subject at this time. We would say then that we must beg to be excused from taking any interest in the question, or discussing its merits or demerits in the REVIEW, we cannot look upon it as Bible question.
Like that restriction which would exclude swine’s flesh from the list of our eatables, whatever other plea may be urged in its favor, we think it cannot be made to rest upon Bible ground. We do not regard that book as imposing upon mankind at the preset time any restriction on these subjects. Then let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind.
If a person is fully assured that shaving is incompatible with health, we would not of course have him do anything to injure his constitution; and if he thinks that the sympathy between his eyes and his upper lip is such that he cannot shave the latter without injuring the former, we see no other way but that a mustache must develop itself. Though in our opinion the views which many take on these points stand much in need of confirmation.
Again, as to its looks, and the plea that has been advanced, that to shave was to mar the divine beauty of the human visage as God designed it, we must remember that all have not the same ideas of beauty, and that in the eyes of many a projecting mustache and flowing beard, are as apt to make a man look like a rough goat as a venerable patriarch, and perhaps more so. We only say, let every one endeavour to form correct views of propriety and abide by them; and if under these circumstances they can feel free to make a meal of pork steak, or brandish a razor, we have no objections to offer. Upon these subjects, until they shall assume more importance than we can at present attach to them, we design to be neutral; and neutrality, now-a-days, is silence.
(Review and Herald June 25, 1857, p64)

Apparently Elder Smith’s only real concern was with those who wanted to make a religious test out of something that the Bible was silent on, not whether or not a man grew a beard. Another time he wrote, “We care not whether a man wears a beard or not. The Bible says nothing against it and it says nothing for it” (Quoted in Eugene Durand, Yours in the Blessed Hope p120-121).

During the 1970’s at Helderberg College, much time was spent discussing the critical issue of hair styles (and I would suspect that this was the reality at many other Seventh-day Adventist colleges).

At the January 11, 1973 Helderberg College staff meeting, it was voted that the following guidelines for a conservative hairstyle be presented to all college students:
a) Side-burns – well-trimmed and not lower than the ear-lobe.
b) Hair must not reach the collar, or have a bushy appearance.
c) Ears must be clear, and foreheads clean.
Further, it was voted that College students be “permitted to grow short, neat moustaches” and that students in their third or fourth year of study or who were 24 years of age or over, “be permitted to wear short neat beards.”

On August 7, 1973 at a meeting of the five member “Men’s Dress Committee” it was voted that a sketch of the “prescribed high school hair style” be provided to the College’s official barber, and that he be requested to “strictly adhere to it.” At the time both the primary school and high school were included under the label “Helderberg College”.


Less than a year later, there were still problems: a memorandum issued by the college principal to “all Department Heads” pointed out that “some students are apparently not abiding by the dress and grooming regulations of the College.” One specific problem was “Non-regulation hairstyles by men.”

By 1975, the rules had relaxed ever so slightly. College students were permitted:
a) “Well trimmed” sideburns,
b) Hair that does not “overhang the collar or have a bushy appearance,”
c) To have “Part of the ear…covered”, (What a radical step forward!)
d) “short neat moustaches”.
e) Students who were in their third or fourth year/over the age of 24, were permitted “short neat beards”.

Obviously at some stage, these rules were relaxed—the current Student Handbook (2005) makes no mention of any specific hairstyle: “Helderberg College students are expected to develop a personal philosophy of dress and grooming that exhibits simplicity and cultural refinement and eschews that which draws undue attention to oneself.” (It should be noted that considerable time is spent detailing the specifics of “modest” and “appropriate”.)

Perhaps we’ve learned something after all….

Brad Strahan in his landmark study: Parents, Adolescents and Religion (Avondale Academic Press, 1994) used data gathered in the 1993 Valuegenesis survey of Seventh-day Adventist young people in Australia and New Zealand to show that

optimal development may not consist of adolescents simply conforming to a set of traditional Seventh-day Adventist beliefs and practices. In fact those adolescents who can clearly distinguish between central [such as using tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs] and peripheral values [such as attending movie theatres, dancing, consuming caffeinated beverages, listening to rock music] are most likely to be most supportive of the central values of Adventism and least likely to participate in at-risk behaviour. (p116-117)

In other words if you want youth to internalize Seventh-day Adventist core lifestyle practices, you must teach them to distinguish between core and peripheral values. Failure to do so actually increases the likelihood that they will participate in at-risk behaviours.

Interestingly, Malcolm Bull & Keith Lockhart in their brilliant new edition of Seeking a Sanctuary (Indiana University Press, 2007) note that the 1991 Valuegenesis data from the United States found that support for such “traditional” peripheral Seventh-day Adventist practices is extremely low—only 18% of grade-school students survey agreed with the church’s position on jewellery. Furthermore, they note that according to Roger Dudley, a number of these standards—specifically cosmetics, the cinema, dancing, and rock music—“will not hold in the near future of the church.”

It would seem to me that at least one of these—the cinema—has already been lost (and very few Seventh-day Adventists appear to be in mourning).


The Afrikaanse Konferensie

November 1, 2006

On December 8, 1968, 425 delegates met for a Special Business Session of the Transvaal Conference. Before the session had ended approximately fifty delegates (including five ministers) had walked out, and in protest at the policies of the Transvaal Conference, resolved to establish a new conference—provisionally named the Suid-Afrikaanse Konferensie. The group did not consider themselves as schismatic, but wanted to remain within the established church structure. On the 15th of December, the group held another meeting and over 200 attended. At this meeting the group took the name Afrikaanse Konferensie van Sewendedag-Adventiste.
In an open letter to the leadership of the Transvaal Conference, the group stated:
“The history of our organization has not been a happy one in this country. The ‘Dutch’ have been continually regarded as inferior and not capable of handling their own affairs. The Afrikaners…have had to be content with crumbs falling from the master’s table.”
In response the SDA Church suspended a number of ministers while others resigned. A number of church members were placed under censure.
Despite denying that Afrikaner church members were in any way ignored or discriminated against, the Transvaal Conference and the South African Union Conference recommended in 1968 that Helderberg College be “as bilingual as possible” and add an Afrikaans-speaking theology lecturer to its staff. They also launched an extensive translation, production, and distribution of Afrikaans literature—including the production of the Trans-African Outlook in Afrikaans.
It is somewhat ironic that the church refused to officially recognise or create an Afrikaans-speaking conference when there were already numerous conferences established along racial/ethnic lines. Edwin de Kock (Helderberg College teacher) pointed this out in an undated manuscript:
“We and the Bantu, Coloured and Indian Believers are one in Christ, however do we have the same congregations and conferences?”
Kock also pointed out that separate conferences along language lines were established in Europe in the 1880’s (Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, and German), and that in 1901 the small Swiss Conference was also divided into German and French-speaking conferences.
In May 1969, the new Conference was formally registered with the South African government. For many this was only an interim measure until the orthodox SDA Church made changes.
At least one SDA congregation transferred its allegiance—the Krugersdorp SDA Church. Many groups were started in other areas, and by April 1969, there were 15 groups meeting in various locations.
The Afrikaanse Konferensie also undertook additional evangelistic efforts (and were very strongly opposed by the orthodox SDA church!).
At the end of 1970, the group reported a membership of almost 1,000.
However, by 1972, a crisis was apparent—the Afrikaanse Konferensie was severely in debt and losing members. Antonio Pantalone attributes this to 3 factors:

  1. A dramatic loss of membership,
  2. Excessive spending,
  3. Misappropriation of funds by some leaders.

It seems that many members of the Afrikaanse Konferensie still considered themselves loyal SDAs. They believed that their actions would result in dialogue with the orthodox SDA church and the breakaway group would soon be incorporated back into the existing church structure. When this did not happen, many returned anyway.
The Afrikaanse Konferensie had big plans—a school, a college, a medical clinic etc. They built a large meeting hall in Bapsfontein, a home for the aged was opened at Cottesloe in Johannesburg, another near Belfast in the Transvaal, and a third in the town of Springs. An aerotorium (inflatable evangelistic tent) was bought for R5500 along with a large truck to transport it. When numbers were reduced the group could not even pay their phone bills.
While the exact situation is unclear there were financial irregularities amongst some of the group’s leaders. This resulted in external audits and eventually a court case.
From this, the Afrikaanse Konferensie was unable to recover. In 1973 Pr von Horsten and a small group applied for re-admittance to the SDA church. Following the group’s complete collapse, six pastors were again employed by the orthodox SDA church. Karl Birkenstock and a small group of followers chose not to return to the church.

It is relevant to note that in 2006, many of the issues that prompted the formation of the Afrikaanse Konferensie have not been solved; and that similar proposals for independent, separate, or minority conferences have been proposed as a result of the ongoing merger/realignment of local conferences in South Africa.

Reference: Antonio Pantalone, “A Missiological Evaluation of the Afrikaanse Konferensie (1968-1974) and its Significance for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in South Africa.” DTh, University of Durban-Westville, 1999.