“Of Like Precious Faith”

Establishing the Church of God in South Africa

by David G. Roebuck
Seated at the table are signers of the amalgamation agreement: J. H. Walker Sr.; F. J. M. Beetge, moderator of the Full Gospel Church; H. L. Chesser; and H. R. Carter, secretary general of the Full Gospel Church. Witnessing the ceremony are J. H. Saayman, Mrs. Saayman, and A. H. Cooper

N THE EVENING of Tuesday, March 6, 1951, General Overseer H. L. Chesser penned a letter to Evangel editor J. D. Bright. Chesser had been reporting to Evangel readers for almost a month as he and World Missions director J. H. Walker Sr. traveled 4,000 miles by car from the Belgian Congo to Johannesburg, South Africa.

In his March letter, Chesser wrote: “Prospects look promising for the accomplishment of unity between the Church of God and the Full Gospel Church of South Africa. We have received a very warm welcome from the brethren we have met, and certainly the two groups have many things in common. The fellowship is grand; the men we have met seem to be very fine men. [It] will be several days yet before the convention convenes, and we shall then meet the Executive Council in full. We have met several of them already, and surely they are brethren of like precious faith.”

Chesser had anticipated the possibility of this trip since May 1949 when he and other Church of God leaders attended the World Pentecostal Conference in Paris. At this second global gathering of Pentecostal denominations, he met J. H. Saayman, who was the assistant general moderator of the Full Gospel Church of South Africa. Hearing that Saayman was on his way to tour the United States, Chesser invited him to visit the Church of God.

Saayman’s visit culminated in his joining the Church of God and preaching at the 1950 General Assembly, where delegates gave an offering for building churches in South Africa. The Church of God also appointed Saayman as the denomination’s missions representative to countries in the southern region of the African continent, including the Union of South Africa.

Seeing the value of a partnership between the Church of God and the Full Gospel Church, Chesser and Saayman began to work toward an amalgamation of the two Pentecostal bodies. Their labor proved successful and led to Chesser and Walker’s trip to Johannesburg to complete the union. At their March meeting, the Executive Council of the Full Gospel Church entered into an agreement with the Church of God. The agreement opened many doors for the Church of God to support what God was already doing in South Africa and undergird a rapid expansion of ministry there.

The amalgamation agreement signed on March 28, 1951, committed to carry the gospel to all races and ethnic groups in South Africa under the name “Full Gospel Church of God in Southern Africa.” By virtue of their offices, the moderator of the church in South Africa would sit with the International Executive Council at the international offices in Cleveland, Tennessee, and the general overseer would sit with the Executive Council of the national office in South Africa. Each body agreed to recognize the ministers and members of the other body.

When the amalgamation ceremony was concluded in 1951, the Church of God received 30,000 new members. Today, our ministry in South Africa includes more than 300,000 members “of like precious faith.”

David G. Roebuck, Ph.D., is the Church of God historian and director of the Dixon Pentecostal Research Center in Cleveland, Tennessee.

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