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The American Missionaries from Springfield, Missouri



JOHN BOND by Peter Watt


Some Personal Notes

My First General Conference of the Assemblies of God

H. C. Phillips

The Congress on Mission and Evangelism held in Durban

W F P Burton and some Congo Missionaries

Nicholas Bekinkosi Hepworth Bhengu
His Youthful Dreams
His Preaching

- Bhengu and Education
- Bhengu and Money
- Miraculous Experiences
- Spiritual Happenings
- The Sanctifying Spirit of God
His Departure

- Mylet Bhengu

Bhengu’s “Isinthunzi”
- Government and Politics
Some Faults, Virtues and the Burden of His Heart

President Lucas Mangope of Bophuthatswana

Early Days in Durban

The Glad Tidings Assembly

William Frederick Mullan
The Fairview Assembly
Fred Mullan and the Gifts of the Spirit
A Miracle and a Vision
The Revival in Norwood
James E Mullan

Paul O Lange
William Branham in Durban
Oral Roberts in South Africa

Billy Graham in Salisbury and Durban
The American Missionaries from Springfield, Missouri
C. Austin Chawner and the Portuguese Work
August Kast and the Mount Tabor Mission Station

John and Yvonne Stegman

Colin La Foy and the Coloured Leadership
The Work in Zimbabwe
Mauritius and Reunion Island

Special Answers to Prayer – 1
Special Answers to Prayer – 2

A Beautiful Square with Good Vibes
Prayer and the Hippie Revival
The Young Turks
Tensions within the Group
The Split of 1981 – Part One
The Split of 1981 – Part Two

The Beginnings of the Faith Movement in South Africa

The Statement of September 1989
The Charismatic Renewal

The Start of the Pentecostal Revival World Wide and The Swedish Pentecostal Assemblies

Letting Go of the Reins

APPENDIX 1 : How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit

APPENDIX 2 : The National Church by Nicholas Bhengu

APPENDIX 3 : Article from the Argus 5/02/1981

APPENDIX 4 : Pointers to the future of the Assemblies of God in the New South Africa (10/06/94)

When first I joined the Assemblies of God, I hardly knew who or what they were nor who else belonged to them. With the passing of time, my consciousness of the movement grew. I became aware that there were other churches besides the Glad Tidings Assembly where I worshipped. I realised there were African churches and ministers too, though I knew very little about them.


And I learnt too of the existence of missionaries who all did something or other among the African population. The time came when I heard about “the compound work on the mines”, and I accepted what I was told about it, namely that it was a very viable way of spreading the Gospel into remotest Africa. The mines recruited labour from Mozambique, Nyasaland (now Malawi) and elsewhere. There were missionaries who preached to these labourers, who would of course carry the message back to their homes when their contracted term of labour ended. I was actually given a copy of what was called “The Heart Book”, an illustrated tract depicting the condition of mans’ heart before and after the individual became converted. Fred Mullan did not approve of “The Heart Book” because it contained a passage depicting a Christian backsliding and going to hell. Fred Mullan was a strong proponent of the teaching “Once saved, always saved”. Nonetheless, I thought the missionaries who distributed “The Heart Book” were doing a wonderful thing, for I had actually heard of one copy that found its way into a primitive kraal somewhere in the bush. As a result, at least ten adults had seen it and become Christians.
For my part, I felt it was quite romantic meeting missionaries from far places who now endured in difficult circumstances in remote areas in South Africa, districts like Tzaneen, Duiwelskloof, Nelspruit, Kaapmuiden and the like. They came from Norway, Sweden,Canada, Britain and America. Some I found to be warm, interesting people. Some were a little eccentric.
Increasingly I got to know about the American missionaries. They came from the Assemblies of God Missionary Board in Springfield, Missouri, and they thrilled me with many stories of the early days of revival in America. I became particularly aware of one couple, Edgar and Mabel Pettenger. She was American but of Swedish extraction, a fine-looking very positive woman, kindly but dogmatic and very outspoken. He was an alert, wiry little fellow with a loud clear voice and a rich American brogue. Both the Pettengers were fine people, good friends to those they agreed with, totally intolerant of those they disagreed with; fiercely American in their loyalties and outlook, unquestioningly devoted to the Assemblies of God in Springfield, America. I am sure that their manifestly fine qualities and unswerving loyalty to the home-board made them very, very influential with the Missions Board of the Assemblies of God in America. In South Africa I came to know Edgar Pettenger as totally inflexible in his dealings and opinions, not only fixed in his ideas, but militant in opposing anything he took to be a deviation from the norms applicable in the Assemblies of God in America.
I had not been long in the ministry before I saw that “live and let live” was not by any means part of Edgar Pettenger’s philosophy. I came to realise that he actually went out of his way to goad certain people whose opinions were different from his. It sometimes resulted in quite childish disputes. For instance, when I spent a short holiday in Port Elizabeth with the Mullans, Jim Mullan received a letter from Edgar Pettenger. The envelope bore the address:

“ Reverend James E Mullan”.

Here was no slip of the pen. He knew right well that Jim Mullan abhorred the title “Reverend” as applied to ministers. Pettenger was obviously goading Jim Mullan whose dogmatism he despised. Jim Mullan asked me on that occasion whether he should open the letter or send it back unopened as a protest against the use of ministerial titles. Privately, I thought the matter ridiculous from both sides, but I advised Jim Mullan to open the letter and then to protest to Pettenger in writing when he replied to it. Unfortunately, it is out of such incidents that hostilities grow leading to unnecessary disputes and divisions. Edgar Pettenger targeted Nicholas Bhengu as well. In 1946 I attended a convention in the Fairview Assembly Hall in Johannesburg. I learnt that behind the scenes an executive meeting had been called to apply discipline to Nicholas Bhengu because on his letterheads he refused to have the denominational name “Assemblies of God”.
Without for one moment upholding Nicholas Bhengu in the attitude he was adopting, one has to recall that Bhengu and his friends Alfred Gumede and Gideon Buthelezi had all started out with a strong prejudice against belonging to a denomination. One does not know what promises had been made to them in order to persuade them to join the Assemblies of God. Edgar Pettenger would have been wise not to make a big issue of the name on Bhengu’s letterheads. But he was one who “went by the book” one might say. It took all the tact and wisdom of H C Phillips, W F Mullan and James Mullan to defuse the situation in which we could easily have lost Nicholas Bhengu and all that he has meant to the Kingdom of God in this land.

There were other incidents that could be recounted but it is enough to recall these two from more than fifty years ago to show that almost from the first the American missionaries were uncomfortable with developments in South Africa. As things developed and the Assemblies of God became increasingly indigenous, the American missionaries grew more and more vociferous in their demands and complaints, even though they had little right to do so. After all, the American home board had actually withdrawn from South Africa in 1933. Somehow American missionaries had come dribbling back to the field but in 1958 they were again talking of withdrawal. By the time I became an executive member in 1959, their over-riding demand was that we should have a constitution. In fact we did have a constitution consisting of seven points, but it was the barest minimum which enabled us to do business and register property. When questions of principle or procedures arose it was our habit to delve into previous minutes of the General Executive or General Conferences and form a judgement on the current issue in the light of these past resolutions. In effect, we had a body of minutes which served as a quasi-constitution, or rather, set of by-laws.
I was quite content with this arrangement, the only one I knew. So were some others on the General Executives including James Mullan who had strong opinions against having any constitution beyond the existing small enabling document of seven points. The Americans were not. They told us we needed “a policy”. For some time the use of the term “policy” genuinely confused us, for we did have a policy on which we based our whole way of working. We told the American missionaries that indeed we did have a policy which we held to strongly. It took me personally, some little time to realise that when the missionaries spoke of a “policy” they actually meant something framed in the form of a constitution. Somebody had dubbed our seven point document “the Bikini Constitution” because of its brevity which covered so little. They wanted more.
At first I opposed the notion of a fuller constitutional statement. I remember quoting to the General Executive the words “the genius of the British peoples is to walk in the fog”. I reminded them that to this very day there is actually no British constitution. I thought we could get along quite well without writing things down explicitly. But the reaction of our own blacks took me by surprise. Nicholas Bhengu said, “I don’t want to walk in the fog; I must see where I am going”. For once the American missionaries and Nicholas Bhengu’s black churches were in agreement, superficially at least.

When finally the General Executive agreed to frame a set of by-laws which together with our “Bikini Constitution” would enshrine our working policy, the Americans were not satisfied with that. They demanded something very different from what we had in mind. They would be satisfied with nothing short of an American model. They wanted to have South Africa split up into regions, each with a regional superintendent. Every minister would be confined to a particular region, would work under the direction of his regional superintendent, and could only minister outside the confines of his region if he had the specific consent of the regional superintendent concerned. In effect, they wanted Nicholas Bhengu to be confined to East London and to work under the direction of some missionary regional superintendent.
The Executive responded to this by telling the Americans that far from confining Nicholas Bhengu to a region in the Eastern Cape, we were convinced he had a ministry for all of Southern Africa. We said, “If Bhengu feels led to go and preach in Timbuktu, we’ll take up a collection and send him there!” The audacity of these American demands astounded me. Even Morris Williams who spoke for the Springfield missionaries confessed that the American work represented less than five percent of our membership and that the African work numbered more than 90 percent. Yet they were pressing on us these outrageous demands. Of course their plan was to bring Nicholas Bhengu under their thumb. The same fate was intended for James Mullan and his white assemblies.
When it came to personal reactions, I can only describe what went on in my own thoughts. I genuinely could not believe that the Americans were truly wanting to apply such a heavy-handed policy. I had yet to realise what it meant to be dealing with a bureaucracy which the American system certainly was. My friend Irvin Schaffer, an American missionary, told me one day, “Brother Bond, Brother Morris Williams is coming to South Africa from Nyasaland to look into the whole situation of the Assemblies of God here. He will tell you where you fit into the work. He’ll do the same for Brother James Mullan and for Nicholas Bhengu”. I simply laughed it off. But Schaffer had information at his disposal and he really meant what he was saying, arrogant as it was. Brother Morris Williams did come to us in 1962. We received him cordially with open arms and great brotherly love.

Morris Williams presented us with a list of demands, some of which he said were negotiable, some non-negotiable. We spent two years talking about what he wanted. Again we found that when he used the term “non-negotiable” he really meant it. We were too naive to realise that at first. But we too knew what we could accept and what we had to refuse.
In 1964 the Americans split away, taking a number of black churches with them out of the Assemblies of God. In all, 15 missionary couples left us and two single ladies, a total of 32 missionaries. I was surprised to realise how small the American contingent was for they were so dynamic, vociferous and influential. I felt the work would fall apart without them. So did they and they boasted of that possibility. In the event, it turned out to be a blessing in the long run. After a traumatic period that followed their departure, our work took on an increasingly indigenous character. Churches grew, stabilised and were blessed. Ministries from South Africa came to the fore. We found we did not need the Americans after all. We could manage quite well without them.
When Morris Williams told us in an executive meeting in 1964 that the American missionaries were withdrawing, I asked him outright, “Are you forming a new movement?” He answered, “Yes”. I then asked him, “Are you taking a different name from ours?” He replied, “Yes”. But it turned out that they actually took the name International Assemblies of God.
I tried to convince them that they were pirating the same name as ours but they ignored all pleas. I sought legal advice on the point just to make sure that my contention was right. I was told that under the Common Law of South Africa, an interdict could be sought and gained against the Americans. Of course we didn’t take the matter to court. They got away with it. But I don’t think they have been blessed in their arrogance.
Some years later a group of them sought me out to apologise for what they had done to us. They confessed that they had been influenced in their attitude by certain recalcitrant black Assemblies of God members and ministers. To quote their own colloquial expression, they said to me, “The very people who led us up the garden path kicked us in the pants and we parted company”.
Latterly, moves have been afoot to heal the past. The Assemblies of God and the International Assemblies of God have jointly signed a declaration of co-operative fellowship, but nothing very practical has come out of it as yet.
Looking back over 35 years, I believe the Missionary Home Board at Springfield, America at that time went through a phase of missionary imperialism. Probably that phase has now passed and one hopes a better attitude prevails. One regrets all the unpleasantness, repenting too of one’s own guilt in it all, for no one emerges from such controversy unstained.
When one is aware of the strength of the Assemblies of God now, where conventions of seven to ten thousand people gather at the huge Thaba Nchu Conference Centre, and where Soweto alone has 18 congregations with churches erected, several housing more than a thousand regular attendants, one feels comforted. It was worth suffering to keep such a great work intact and inviolate from imperial meddling.