Diocese of Mthatha

Henry Cotterill who had been Bishop of Grahamstown from 1856 was translated to Scotland during 1871 to become coadjutor bishop of Edinburgh. On the death of Charles Hughes Terrot, Primus and Bishop of Edinburgh, in April 1872, Cotterill was elevated to the Bishopric. Allan David Bruno (b. 1934) AKC, Overseas Chaplain to the Episcopal Church in Scotland (1971-1975) wrote, “Bidding farewell to the Grahamstown diocese Cotterill promised to do everything in his power to see that the Scottish Church would support South African mission work.”

The South African College of Bishops then wrote to the Primus and Bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church in the knowledge that the Scottish Province was keen to found a foreign mission. Through the co-operation of Bishop Cotterill the Scottish Bishops became interested in the great South African field, along with an invitation to co-operate with the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. For their part, the Scottish Church was asked to form a Board of Foreign Missions and to send a bishop and missionaries to Kaffraria.

S. P. G. welcomed this move and willingly consented to place its missionaries under the tutelage of such a bishop, provided he was a member of the College of African Bishops. The Scottish Province chose George Calloway, a veteran missionary of Natal. He was consecrated bishop on All Saints’ Day 1873 in St Paul’s Church Edinburgh [now known as St Paul’s and St George’s].

At the first Synod of the recently created Kaffraria diocese held in November 1874 the name of the bishopric was changed to that of St John’s. One of Callaway’s chief assistants was Henry Waters who was one of the first S. P. G. missionaries from England to have been deaconed and priested in Kaffraria, and with the creation of the diocese, was made its Archdeacon.

The headquarters of the diocese of St John’s was removed from Pondoland to Umtata in 1877. At that time there was only one building at Umtata, which soon became well populated. The town owed its founding to Bishop Calloway and it remains one of the most important settlements in the region.

During the Gealeka War (1877-1878) and the Pondomisi Rebellion in 1880, numbers of Christian Europeans and Christian natives sought refuge and found protection within Umtata as the churches and the mission were fortified. Although a few professed Christians joined the dissidents, a hundred to one were loyal and Archdeacon Waters testified, “not a few died fighting for the Queen!” Henry Tempest Waters, attributed as the founder of the church in Kaffraria, died at Cape Province on 19th November 1883, aged 64 years. At his death, instead of the solitary mission of 1855, there was an organised body of 20 clergymen (his son being among the number).

In 1989, the Dioceses of Aberdeen & Orkney and of St John’s South Africa entered into an agreement of Companionship. There have been many missions to the African Diocese in Mthatha from this diocese, not the least of which was a 12-person Youth Exchange in 2009. Numerous members and clergy have ventured south to extend the right hand of fellowship to their African brothers and sisters.

In 2008 the diocese was again renamed, this time with an African name, that of Mthatha. The current bishop is Sitembele Tobela Mzamane who was first consecrated as Bishop of St John’s in 2000, and is now first Bishop of the Mthatha Diocese. During his Episcopacy the number of parishes so greatly increased that he was forced to draft plans to split the area into two, creating the new Episcopal See centred at Ngcobo. The new diocese of Mbhashe was established on 16th December 2010 out of part of the Diocese of Mthatha.