The Church of England in South Africa

This is a church in search of an identity.  Over the last forty years they have abandoned any semblance of their Anglican heritage in favour of a broad American style, vanilla, evangelicalism.  The founders of this splinter Anglican group were BCP 1662 men all, and they would be saddened by the total abandonment of its liturgy and teaching that we see today.

True Anglicanism is catholic and Reformed, according to the formularies.  The CESA is neither.  On the sacraments they are thoroughly and deeply baptistic, vigorously attacking any ideas of sacramental efficacy, and thus fighting with their own standards.

So on point one they fail.

On the Reformation issues, the doctrines of grace, that define what it is to be Reformed, are forbidden by a silent anathema in one to one meetings with senior clergy.

Is that so that there are no witnesses?

On point two they fail as well.

Therefore the CESA is neither catholic nor Reformed, so what are they?  They are American style revival evangelicals with a strong baptistic, free will flavour.

In a recent interview with Virtueonline, the present Presiding Bishop said that CESA is catholic and Reformed.  I am certain that this came as a surprise to the clergy and congregations.

I remember sitting in class at their College being told that CESA did not conform to the 39 Articles.  Yet, according to their founding documents, they do, and many a court case victory against the Anglo-Catholics in South Africa depended upon this.  If they have abandoned their claim to be the true Church of England in South Africa, they should hand over any and all disputed property to their rivals without delay.

Martin Lloyd-Jones said of the CoE that they were a living lie regarding the difference between their formal standards and their actual faith.  CESA is no different.  In that sense perhaps they really are the Church of England in South Africa.


6 thoughts on “The Church of England in South Africa

  1. As an active member of CESA who has been on the church council of one of the local congregations of CESA for a period of 9 years from 2003 to 2011 and is currently the area secretary of the CESA in the Gauteng province of South Africa I strongly object to your incorrect statements about CESA.

    At the CESA synod in September 2012 it was agreed to adopt as our trading name REACH SA (Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa). This name was chosen because it reflects who we are. The name was adopted with over 80 % support of the voting delegates (lay and clergy) to Synod. Please read the following document on the CESA distinctives which outlines who CESA is as a church denomination. This document comes from the address of our Presiding Bishop at the 2011 CESA Synod. The document can be found at . REACH SA as our new trading name, after ratification at Synod 2013, clearly expresses that we are Evangelical, Reformed and Anglican. Yes we may not use a word for word rendering of the prayer book in all our worship services but the basic elements of the prayer book are found in the worship of our congregations and many congregations do use prayers, creeds etc. from the prayer book in our services. Certainly we do in our local congregation. One thing we are definitely not is a free will Baptist Church. Infant baptism is clearly taught and practiced in our congregations. I know of a man who was hoping to be ordained into the ministry of CESA but has had to leave CESA because he could not be ordained due to his Baptistic views. Election, Predestination and the sovereignty of God are all doctrines taught in our churches. In our congregation we did a study earlier this year on the Five Solas of the Reformation and our minister often teaches and preaches on the sovereignty of God, election and predestination. We are are a Catholic Church in the sense of being part of the universal church of God but not in the sense of being Roman Catholic. Every lay and ordained leader in CESA needs to sign affirmation to the constitution of CESA which clearly indicates that we hold to the 39 articles. CESA may have its problems since no church is perfect but we are definitely Evangelical, Reformed and Anglican and we are definitely not free will and Baptist.

    Please make sure of your facts before your make statements of the nature you have. I would suggest you make contact with our Bishops, Rectors and other ministers and speak with them to find out the truth about CESA before making clearly incorrect statements like this.

    Yours in Christian Love
    Pierre Wedepohl

  2. Have I checked my facts? I joined CESA in 1985, and studied at their George Whitefield College for four years, passing at the top of my class. I was an assistant curate at one of their churches for a year before moving to the UK in 1999. I know them from the inside.

    During my time at College I was the only one to ever lead chapel using the 1662! The student body regarded me with amusement for that. During a lecture on the 39 Articles we were informed by Alan Beckman, a lecturer and the administrator, that CESA does not follow the 39 Articles. A series of lectures on the doctrines of grace were boycotted by the CESA students. Only myself and one other attended. Before starting my curacy I was summoned by the Presiding Bishop, Joe Bell, to be told that I was not to preach or teach the doctrines of grace to the congregation, but simply shepherd them into heaven, at the cost of my job. During the next year I disregarded this outrageous instruction, because it is impossible to avoid the doctrines of grace while teaching Romans to a leader’s Bible Study.

    As a result I was summoned for “counseling” by a senior clergyman whose name I forget, to be told that I should by all means believe the Reformed Faith, but under no circumstances take it with me into the pulpit. When I warned one congregant of the wages of sin, my supervisor called me “arrogant”. You see, CESA does not challenge sin because it results in people leaving. Did I mention that in four years of full time study we did not once deal with the Ten Commandments? CESA obviously does not believe in sin or repentance.

    To summarize then, CESA or REACH, is Reformed is name but not in fact. That is called false advertising. I feel a real grievance at being lured into this denomination under false pretences. It is only on the inside that you see it for what it is. It preaches free will for salvation in the teeth of the 39 Articles that it formally acknowledges. (That is a classic Anglican subterfuge, I admit). It is not liturgical, and the stripped out parody of a liturgy that it does occasionally condescend to use has had its sacramentology entirely removed, and replaced with a baptistic view of non-effective signs.

    Here is a shocker for those opposed to lay administration: My bishop, Frank Retief, authorized me as an un-ordained man to administer Holy Communion to my congregation. Sydney is way behind Cape Town on that.

    CESA, or REACH, is not Anglican and it is not Reformed. It has abandoned the Anglican faith and order.

  3. Hi Roger

    I appreciate your comments and please understand that I do regard you as a beloved brother in Christ. I cannot deny your experiences but you also cannot deny my experiences. I am also sure that things may differ from congregation to congregation. However, I have had experiences of services in a number of CESA congregations in recent years as well as the two congregations where I have been a member. Also I think that things may be different today to what they were in the 1980s and 1990s. It may be true that during the time that Joe Bell and Frank Retief were presiding bishops of CESA the main focus was on evangelism and not doctrinal precision. However, our current presiding bishop, Des Inglesby, is a main who is more concerned to define precisely who we are as a denomination. It looks as though the two main focuses during his time as presiding bishop will be our destinctives as a denomination and church planting.So you may be right that during your time in CESA there was a drift away from the Reformed faith and from Anglicanism but that is not the case in 2012. There is a move back to being more Anglican and I do believe that the doctrines of grace are taught in many of our churches without interference from our current Bishops who as far as I am aware would all hold to the doctrines of grace as I am sure Joe Bell and Frank Retief do as well. One of our area Bishops in Gauteng. Martin Morrison, studied at the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in the USA which is a soundly reformed seminary. I do not want to have an argument with you or to say that I must be right in everything I say but I would interested to know how you would experience CESA / REACH SA if you returned to South Africa and were to be involved in CESA for a period of time.

    On the issues lay administration at communion you are right about the position in CESA. Personally I do not have problem with this as long as it is not just anybody but is some-one authorized to do so by their Bishop. I actually do not have a problem with the position of the Sydney Anglicans.

    I am happy to further discuss my views on the matter with you but I do not want a heated argument or a fall out with a brother in Christ. Also as I said before I am not claiming CESA to be without faults.

    Yours in Christ

    • Hello Pierre

      Thanks for the update on CESA.

      The purpose of my reply was to show you that I had grounds for my comments, and that my remarks are not arbitrary. Heat is besides the point.

      What is your church background?


  4. Hi Roger

    I understand that you wanted to show that you had grounds for your comments and I appreciate that. There may still some elements of what you experienced in CESA remaining in CESA but I definitely see a move to being more Anglican and I think the Reformed Faith (5 Solas of the Reformation and 5 points of Calvinism) are alive and well in CESA although there may be some who do not hold to all of the the 5 points of Calvinism but I think they would be in the minority.

    You asked my church background. Growing up my mother sent me to Sunday School at a High Anglo-Catholic Church which is part of what is now the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (then the Church of the Province of Southern Africa). At age 12 I attended a youth camp run by a CESA congregation and became involved with that congregation. I would date my conversion to Christ, by God’s grace, to the few weeks after that youth camp. I spent a few years in that church. Later I was involved with 2 independent churches which were Reformed and Presbyterian in character and Belief (both holding to the Westminster Confession of Faith). I also spent a short time in a Reformed Baptist Church in between my time in those two churches. In 2002, the second of the two Independent Churches (The Presbyterian and Reformed ones) closed it doors due a declining membership (we sometimes had less than 15 people at our services). I had been a deacon in that church. I was again looking for a church and ended up joining a CESA church. That congregation soon planted a daughter church and I joined the daughter church and was in the daughter church from December 2002 to January 2012, serving most of that time on as the church council secretary. In January 2012, my wife and I (I was married in December 2010) moved to another CESA congregation closer to our home where we now are and plan to stay. Since 2010 I have been the area secretary for the Gauteng Area of CESA.

    I would consider myself an Evangelical Reformed Covenantal Christian with Presbyterian leanings. However, most of the Presbyterian Churches in South Africa are not Evangelical but Liberal and in my opinion not worth joining so I am in CESA. However, I do consider myself a committed member of CESA and do not have plans to leave CESA anytime soon.

    I hope that gives you a good idea of my background.

    My current congregation is the Holy Trinity Church in Weltevreden Park in Johannesburg. You can visit our church website and download some audios of the sermons and some sermon notes to get an idea of the kind of preaching we have in our congregation. Our Rector is Philip Howes. The website address is .


    • Pierre

      You have the view of CESA that I had before I went to College, which is that CESA is Reformed at heart, with some good Reformed ministers, and some others. I now have the attitude that Martin Holdt privately expressed to me once about ministers who call themselves Reformed, which is that until they preach the doctrines of grace openly and clearly from the pulpit, they are not one of us. Martin Morrison may have studied at WTS, but I have never heard him preach the doctrines of grace, and I have heard him many, many times. IOW practically speaking he is not Reformed. Ditto for Bell and Retief. They were trained at a BI in Kalk Bay, which was once Calvinistic, but they chose not to preach what they learned. BI is baptistic, and CESA sadly lost its sacramentology by its association with them.

      I looked at your church’s website, and it brought back many good memories of CESA and its culture. I recommend the BCP 1662 to you, and the 39 Articles. Learn to use them in your weekly devotions, and follow the lectionary for a wide selection of Bible reading and instruction. I know that there are very few Reformed churches today, so one has to worship where God has placed us, but there is a better way.

      Warm regards Roger

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