Close this search box.

Unintentional Contextualization in the Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe: A Case Study of the Premillennialist Branch’s Organizational Structure

Author: Paul S. Chimhungwe
Published: Winter–Spring 2019

MD 10.1

Article Type: Text Article

This paper describes the organizational structure of the Ruwa-Premillennialist branch of Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe, contrasting it with congregational autonomy that was championed by the majority of missionaries from Churches of Christ. This structure was developed by two premillennialist missionaries and is headed by a board of trustees without usurping the powers invested in congregational autonomy. These two missionaries, by default, contextualized an organizational structure that serendipitously suits the indigenous African leadership environment and psyche. Congregations in the Global South can adopt it with modifications.

S. Dewitt Garrett and Robert L. Garrett—father and son respectively—contextualized an indigenous church polity that espoused ownership, partnership, and transparency while retaining congregational autonomy, in their quest to spread premillennialism in Zimbabwe since the early forties.1 The older polity of strict congregational autonomy was transplanted by Euro-American missionaries associated with the Stone-Campbell Movement who arrived in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in 1896. They taught that congregational autonomy was the only biblical ecclesiastical structure and leadership format acceptable in their sending congregations.2 Proponents of congregational autonomy insist that this structure is based on NT teachings where each congregation was led by a plurality of elders/bishops/presbyters with the assistance of deacons (cf. Phil 1:1; Tit 1:5).3 For them, this is one of the sine qua non marks of the true church, and any deviation from this structure is considered heretical. Congregations of the same faith, however, can cooperate without forming a hierarchical decision-making body.4

The Need for a Different Organizational Structure

After spending decades planting churches in Kenya as a missionary from the Churches of Christ, Monte Cox questions the traditional structure.5 He contends for “replacing the concept of ‘local church autonomy’ and its negative connotations of separateness and isolation with a healthier understanding of the interdependency of churches in Kenya and beyond. To do that, those involved must ask hard questions about their commitment to strict congregational polity. Is this commitment rooted more in the democratic spirit of the founders than in clear biblical teaching? Does Scripture really prescribe only the sorts of interchurch cooperative efforts that are accepted by Churches of Christ in the United States? Is there any room for innovation on the mission field?”6 His hard questions, which can be viewed by others in Churches of Christ as the introduction of false teaching, have been answered pragmatically by the premillennialist branch of Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe. This branch contextualized its organizational structure to suit Zimbabwe’s economic, social, and legal context, which is diametrically opposite to the supposedly scriptural North American model that has been transplanted to every country by missionaries from this fellowship.7 Who are the premillennialists in the historical context of the Stone-Campbell Movement in Zimbabwe?

History of the Premillennialists in Zimbabwe

John Sherriff, the stone-mason-cum-missionary, laid the foundation of the Stone-Campbell Movement churches in Zimbabwe with his arrival in 1896. Sherriff was from the Associated Churches of Christ in New Zealand. After working for almost twenty years, he was joined by W. N. Short from the Churches of Christ in the USA, with S. Dewitt Garrett joining the team in 1930. Garrett was briefly stationed at Wuyu Wuyu Mission, where his son Robert was born in 1931.8 He openly taught that baptismal candidates must believe premillennialism when he started working with the Harari (Mbare) congregation after shifting to Salisbury from Wuyu Wuyu around 1931. In Salisbury, he was working with Goliath Nchena, the founding preacher of the Harari congregation.9 Around 1949, Nhowe Mission—one of the Churches of Christ owned boarding schools—was rocked by this doctrine, with Vernon Lawyer as its chief proponent. William Leslie (W. L.) Brown had left Lawyer as the acting superintendent in 1949 when he went to fundraise in the USA. In turn, Lawyer invited Arthur Phillips in 1949 to deliver lectures on premillennialism, a doctrine that was unacceptable to the majority at the mission.10 It ended with the resignation of Brown while traveling from the USA to Rhodesia.11 His supporting congregation, Central Church of Christ (Nashville, Tennessee), requested that he resign in December 1949, paving the way for Boyd Reese, who was in Northern Rhodesia, to become the superintendent of Nhowe Mission in 1950.

Between 1950 and 1960, S. D. Garrett was privately indoctrinating his followers, leading to the genesis of the Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure that was initially implemented in Southern Rhodesia in 1961.12 His son strengthened it when he arrived during the last quarter of 1961. Both father and son viewed premillennialism, in spite of its divisive effects, as essential for salvation. After his father’s death in 1972, Robert Garrett wrote:

But I want to reveal a significant part of his character and faith in Christ. Considerable pressure was put on him many years ago by personal friends and brethren to renounce the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth. One church somewhere in Kentucky which had been contributing to him stopped their support in 1945 and urged him in two letters as well as personally to change his views and premillennial associates and if he did, then they promised to gain for him ‘more hearty support.’ But he was a servant of Christ and was not for sale.13

S. D. Garrett died as a premillennialist, and his son has continued teaching this doctrine. In a recent interview, he said, “Some people from your branch [pointing to me] might believe that we will one day join and become one group. That is false; I will die a premillennialist and nearly all the Christians that work with us believe that doctrine. Christ’s reign on earth for 1,000 years is central in what we teach and preach.”14

Garrett got most of his theology from his father whom he worked with for twelve years in Southern Rhodesia, although he also went to college in the USA. After his father’s death, he became the sole leader and missionary for the premillennialists, strengthening the Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure. Churches of Christ in Salisbury (now Highfields and Mufakose) were and still are divided because of premillennialism.15 Robert Garrett worked harmoniously with the Board of Trustees of the premillennialist Churches of Christ, leading to the construction of that branch’s “head-office,” Rockwood Bible Camp in Ruwa, about thirty kilometers east of Harare.16 The camp comprises a church building that can accommodate eight hundred people, a well-equipped kitchen with a cold room, six classroom blocks that double as sleeping houses, and bathrooms. It also has a full-fledged functioning mechanical workshop.17

The camp is used to host retreats for youth, men, and women from the premillennialist congregations.18 In addition to that, it is an income-generating project, raising money from rentals to other Christian groups like Scripture Union and university students that hire it for their religious functions. Garrett said, “Rockwood Camp was financed from the Churches of Christ in the USA, and my brothers and sisters in this country contributed most of the labor. Therefore, I can proudly say this project is a partnership between the Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe and those in the USA, and it is led by local Christians.”19 The establishment of Rockwood Bible Camp is a success story because the Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure operates through the Board of Trustees of the Churches of Christ.

The Constitution

Although the indigenous leadership is not privy to the amount of money that the North American congregations contribute through Garrett, the premillennialists, as already pointed out above, have a legally binding constitution, registered with the Zimbabwe Government, that guides the leadership of the Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe to control, supervise, and own immovable property. Its preamble reads: “The CHURCHES OF CHRIST BOARD OF TRUSTEES was formed on July 29, 1961, being a joint effort of a number of independent congregations of the Churches of Christ to establish a means of joint ownership, especially of immovable property. As the acquiring of stands [plots to build church buildings] and financing of construction and the protection of property was difficult or beyond the individual capabilities of many congregations, it was felt that by working together we could accomplish much more for the kingdom of God.”20 According to Garrett, premillennialist congregations were prompted to form this body after dividing with the mainstream Churches of Christ over eschatology. Individuals like Fred Mupfawi from Highfields and Simon Nheweyembwa from the Harari congregation, who had worked tirelessly with S. D. Garrett, joined hands with R. L. Garrett to pull together congregations in Harari, Mufakose, and Tafara, and others around the capital city (then called Salisbury, now Harare), forming the nucleus of the premillennialists in Southern Rhodesia (Harari is now Mbare, while Salisbury is now Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe.). The establishment of a board of trustees was not acceptable to those in the mainstream Churches of Christ, but in hindsight, it has functioned well for the premillennialists, especially regarding the security of their church buildings.

The sale of immovable property, such as church buildings and preachers’ houses, was a thorny issue during the transition from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe (1976–1990). Some missionaries left church buildings in the hands of supposed church leaders who ended up selling them to other denominations. It was therefore prudent of Garrett to incorporate an institution called the Churches of Christ to stabilize the situation. Independent congregations have proven able to work voluntarily with this incorporated body and still retain their autonomy. Garret claims, “Congregations retain their complete autonomy—independence—they are are not governed by the Board of Trustees, but the board can guide congregations on their properties. To show this autonomy—congregations can hire, pay, fire preachers; they can voluntarily contribute to the activities supervised by the Board of Trustees like evangelism and so on. No one is forced, but we now have close to forty congregations that make up our group. This is what we call growth.”21 A typical case is that of the Waterfalls Church of Christ building that was sold to the United Methodist Church. Nyakudya narrated the story of how they nearly lost the Waterfalls church building after it was sold to the United Methodist Church by one individual who had the title deeds. After selling the building, he left the country. The following Sunday there were two groups: the Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church. After some discussion they repurchased the building.22 Fortunately, the church managed to repurchase it, and it was such cases that encouraged Garrett and the board of trustees to strengthen the Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure. The constitution safeguards immovable buildings from those who have departed from the premillennialist faith. It reads, “If in the opinion of the Board, any congregation has departed from the faith and practice of the New Testament, that congregation may be barred from the use of any church property under the control of the board.”23


The Ruwa-Premillennialist structure is made up of thirty-three congregations and “the board of trustees is made up of members from all congregations.”24 The constitution stipulates, “Each member congregation . . . of the Churches of Christ is entitled to elect and send two representatives to the Board who shall serve as Trustees for the time being.25 These Representatives must be members in good standing within the congregations they represent.”26 This functional organizational structure allows each congregation to operate independently of other congregations but cooperate towards maintaining a united body of Christ and the perpetual existence of the church in Zimbabwe. The ownership of church buildings is vested to the board of trustees because it is responsible for drawing the architectural plans, constructing the steel structures, providing roofing material, and supervising the phased construction of buildings. In turn, the congregation is, in some cases, responsible for providing bricks and partially paying the building contractor and maintenance. At the church’s annual general meeting, the board announces locations that need church buildings and lays out a strategic construction plan.

Although Garrett is the linchpin of this model, his role has been gradually diminishing over the last ten years. He permanently stays in the USA raising funds and travels to Zimbabwe twice a year for periods not exceeding two months. He is being replaced by what Cox suggests as “the church-centered organizational” structure instead of a “missionary-centered model.”27 For years Garrett and his father, worked under a missionary-centered model that was fraught with challenges, while the Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure “minimizes the risks of a loss of trust between missionaries and nationals over various decisions which nationals often think the missionaries make on their own.”28 The structure is not only concerned with physical matters, but spiritual issues are at its core.

Spiritual Matters

The board strategically plans the planting of new congregations through deliberations at the men’s monthly meeting and the annual general meeting. The church will identify an area in need of a new congregation and the executive will deliberate on the logistics: funding for the preacher/evangelists’ upkeep, temporary meeting shelter, and other ancillaries. The board of trustees, with the support of elders from congregations, deliberately plans church programs and, without denying the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, does not “believe the Holy Spirit will eventually resolve . . . [spiritual] issues.”29 This strategy has resulted in the Ruwa-Premillennialist structure planting Church of Christ congregations in rural and remote villages like Binga, Zimbabwe’s most underdeveloped district. In addition to this, the board advises and assists congregations in the hiring and deployment of ministers. A preacher is deployed to a specific congregation after being vetted by the board of trustees even if the congregation is solely responsible for paying his salary. Lastly, the board plans annual lectureship retreats for men, women, and the youth and coordinates lectureship themes, lessons, speakers, and accommodation. These examples show that the nurturing of souls is pivotal for the board of trustees. This model is a success story because congregations contribute funds that are administered by the board for shared benefit.

Funds Controlled by the Board of Trustees

As the legal custodians of church property, the board is responsible for the building fund. Nyakudya explains that “small congregations pay US$25 for the building fund and big congregations pay US$50 every month.”30 The board receives, banks, and disburses the funds on behalf of congregations. To increase transparency “the Treasurer . . . prepare[s] Monthly Financial Reports. These are to be presented to the General Meetings of the CHURCH OF CHRIST MISSION, and an annual Audited Report shall be prepared by [external] Auditors and presented to the A.G.M of the Board.”31 (I had the privilege of seeing the board’s detailed monthly financial statements, including bank statements and board minutes that are filed and kept at Rockwood.)32

In addition to building fund contributions, the board receives financial contributions that are categorized into four significant areas:

  1. An evangelism/gospel fund that is used to pay preachers and evangelists who are working for congregations that cannot afford to pay. Currently, the board is responsible for three preachers.
  2. A funeral fund that provides for expenses connected with the burial of preachers and their immediate family members who are not covered by funeral policies.
  3. A transportation fund that takes care of evangelists’ traveling expenses.
  4. A widows’ fund. Most preachers do not have an adequate pension fund, and the board augments it with the widows’ fund that caters for preachers’ wives after the death of their husbands.33

Since the board handles substantial amounts of money on behalf of congregations, accountability and transparency are imperative.

Annual General Meeting

The board is accountable to congregations through monthly meetings and at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) that are held either at Rockwood Bible Camp, Ruwa, or at the Mbare congregation, in Harare.34 The constitution stipulates that “most business meetings shall be at the premises of the Church of Christ . . . Mbare.”35 It empowers the board to expedite decisions by having “a Standing EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE which shall have power to deal expeditiously with any matter arising which cannot wait for a full Board meeting. It shall have power to deal with any task which the Board may delegate to it from time to time. All decisions taken by the Executive Committee must be subsequently approved by the Board unless the Board previously grants full authority to the Executive Committee to act in its place in a particular designated task.”36 According to Nyakudya, “the Executive Committee meets once every month unless there is an emergency case that warrants meeting more than once, to discuss the business of the church.”37

Funding from Overseas

The Ruwa-Premillennialists raise their funds for the construction of church buildings, preachers’ salaries, development projects, and other activities. Garrett, through his fundraising activities overseas, finances some of their major projects. In a recent interview, Garrett said, “I do raise substantial amounts of money from congregations in the USA, and this finances some of the church programs in Zimbabwe.”38 Unfortunately, as expected, the board is not privy to the dollar figure, yet it is a partnership between Churches of Christ in the USA and Zimbabwe. Garrett alone reports to the benefactors—overseas congregations—and this is one of the significant challenges of the Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure.

For that reason, in his call for a healthier financial partnership between North American congregations and congregations in the Global South, Cox suggests, “The financial partnership is best served if the missionary is not the middleman receiving and disbursing funds.”39 The missionary should, if possible, not handle funds because, according to Cox, “It is better for national church leaders to deal directly with their counterparts in the churches that send them funds. In the case of Churches of Christ, that means African elders should deal directly with American elders in discussing these matters.”40 Gradually, the Ruwa-Premillennialist model will likely implement some version of Cox’s suggestion, but in the meantime, this organizational structure still has some practical benefits for both Zimbabwean and North American Christians.

Practical Advantages of the Ruwa-Premillennialist Model

The Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure has real practical advantages over strict congregational autonomy. The overarching benefit is that this model promotes a healthy symbiotic relationship between indigenous leadership in congregations located in the Global South and their brothers and sisters in the West. Other advantages follow.

First, there is a cross-fertilization of ideas and exchange of best practices. If ordained leaders or, where necessary, their representatives come together as equal partners and learners they will share experiences that will create confidence in nurturing souls. Spiritually, nationals and internationals enjoy contextual diversities that enrich worship since, as anthropologist Paul Hiebert argues, “the gospel must not be equated with any particular human context, not even the biblical cultural context. . . . The gospel was revealed in the historical and sociocultural contexts of the Old and New Testaments, but those contexts are not normative for Christianity around the world.”41

Second, this model limits the duplication of programs and projects in a specific area. In this way, the Ruwa-Premillennialist Organization overcomes a significant drawback of congregational autonomy where different congregations working in the same area often replicate the same work without cooperation. In contrast, the board coordinates work and channels both human and financial resources where they are needed.

Third, the board implements the planned construction of enduring, strategically located infrastructure.42 For example, the premillennialists, with their fully equipped and functional workshop in Ruwa, construct and erect steel structures for all their church buildings utilizing money from their centralized building fund. To promote ownership, congregants of a particular congregation where a church building is under construction mold or provide bricks, labor, and roofing material. Although congregations contribute towards the building fund, “all congregations donate labor and time to make sure that a building under construction is finished in time.”43 All their church buildings are insured, and the board can negotiate better premiums because of the number and size of their buildings.

Fourth, although North American churches are shrinking, they still have abundant financial resources. As Justo González suggests, “From the point of view of vitality, missionary and evangelist zeal, and even theological creativity, the centres have been shifting south for some time.”44 González is arguing for churches in the West to assist in financing Christian activities in the Global South, and Cox suggests that such funding “should only be given for projects that can be maintained locally. . . . Aid given by foreign partners should be tied to what locals have already given.”45 This situation is partially happening at Ruwa where Garrett assists in funding projects that are jointly owned by the board and individual congregations. This healthy partnership promotes growth, ownership, interdependence, and unity, which are embedded in this model.

Fifth, Nyakudya points out that “this organizational structure promotes transparency” because “each time we meet, either as the board or men’s monthly meeting or during the AGM, we receive financial reports, business narrative reports, over all the projects that the board is supervising.”46 The Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure is a clear answer to Cox’s argument that “missionaries and nationals must clarify the relationship between churches, replacing the concept of ‘local church autonomy’ and its negative connotations of separateness and isolation with a healthier understanding of the interdependency of churches.”47 In the case of Zimbabwe, this paper argues that congregational autonomy, which is predicated on individualism—the seedbed of the Western psyche—undermines communalism. Laurenti Magesa writes, “The principle of individualism and self-interest as the sole criteria of autonomy fails to satisfy the African communitarian psyche.”48 The Shonas of Zimbabwe say “gunwe rimwe haritswanyi inda”: one thumb does not kill lice. The tested philosophy that each person has to identify with the community because, “a person is a person only with other persons, alone one is an animal” grounds the African communalism known as Ubuntu.49 Accordingly, a person functions fully in a community, and this can be extended to societal organizations like Churches of Christ congregations. A single congregation, as premised by congregational autonomy, a concept rooted in individualism, cannot function without the support of other congregations. Churches of Christ congregations can form a community that is a “social group whose members live together or share common property and interests,” as exemplified by the Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure.50

Sixth, adopting this model—with modifications to suit the contextual environment of a particular culture—will reduce financial and material misuse, which is common among those who claim the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Todd M. Johnson et al. argue, “Ecclesiastical crime, amounts embezzled by top custodians of Christian monies (U.S. dollar equivalents, per year) [was close to] 59 billion.”51 There are no documented cases of misuse of funds by missionaries from the Ruwa-Premillennialist Churches of Christ, but this model increases transparency since leaders from both sides of the oceans will share information at the regional and national levels because every leadership structure has some challenges.

One Challenge of the Ruwa-Premillennialist Model

The Ruwa-Premillennialist model has aided in stabilizing this branch of the Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe, but it does not adequately address the role of women whose voices are silent in all the decision-making meetings, yet they are the majority of the membership. Garrett is convinced that God has kept women on the leadership periphery for reasons better known to him.52 Ladies can immensely contribute if the executive incorporates them in their decision-making bodies. My description of the problem is not a call for women elders or deaconesses but reflects a desire to empower them by tapping into their God-given wisdom and intellect.


This paper briefly unpacks the history of the premillennialist branch of the Churches of Christ in Zimbabwe, zeroing in on its nuanced organizational structure, which can be used as a model by other Churches of Christ in the Global South where the church is enjoying phenomenal growth.53 The adoption of this model will stimulate healthy ownership of churches by the indigene in the case of sub-Saharan Africa and a stronger partnership between indigenous Christians and North American Christians. Of course, this adoption requires variations to suit specific geographical contexts. This assertion reflects Cox’s argument: “A church can be both ‘owned’ by nationals [indigenous] and partnered with internationals. A key ingredient in such a partnership is ‘participation,’ which inspires ownership.”54 Adopting this model will breathe “fresh air” into Churches of Christ in the Global South, whose spiritual and numerical growth has been stifled by the implementation of a congregational autonomy that functions well in the West where congregations can afford to hire or fire ministers and construct their own church buildings. Congregational autonomy thrives in the West because individualism is embedded in society, while communitarianism is the fulcrum of indigenous African communities. The Ruwa-Premillennialist organizational structure has some challenges, but its advantages outweigh these challenges and deserve further studying.

Paul S. Chimhungwe received his PhD in Christian Theology (Church History) from McMaster Divinity College. He teaches at African Christian College in Manzini, Eswatini.

1 Premillennialism ‘teaches that Christ will return to reign on earth for a thousand years before history is brought to a close.” R. Chia, “Eschatology.” in Global Dictionary of Theology, ed. William A. Dyrness and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity, 2008), 277–82.

2 In this paper, congregation means, “a group that possesses a special name and recognized members who assemble regularly to celebrate a more universally practiced worship but who communicate with each other sufficiently to develop intrinsic patterns of conduct, outlook and story.” James F. Hopewell, Congregation: Stories and Structures (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989), 12–13; emphasis original.

3 This is the leadership at congregational level according to the NT—each congregation was led by a group of elders. We first read of “a clearly defined threefold church order in which monarchical episcopacy is the most important element. Center stage stands the bishop, the unquestioned leader of the Christian community in a given city, who presides over a council of elders and is assisted by deacons.” K. N. Giles. “Church Order, Government,” in Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments, ed. Ralph P. Marin and Peter H. Davids (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 219–226. In support of congregational autonomy, Everett Ferguson writes: “As presented in the New Testament, each local church [congregation] is the church, complete in itself. The ekklēsiai are not a splitting into parts of the universal ekklēsia, nor is the ekklēsia a sum of the ekklēsia. Each church [congregation] is the whole in miniature, a manifestation of the whole in a given locality.” Everett Ferguson, The Church of Christ: A Biblical Ecclesiology for Today (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 344; emphasis original.

4 In a theological essay, Ferguson argues: “The Restoration Movement was in part a revolt against creeds, denominational structures, and human organizations. The apostles left no hierarchy to replace their presence but commended local elders to God and his word. . . . The local church [therefore] should be free under Christ to conduct its work, worship, and life according to the instructions of the Bible. There is voluntary cooperation in all areas of concern among believers and churches of the same faith. But they do not create new decision-making organizations.” Everett Ferguson, “Four Freedoms of the Church,” Restoration Quarterly 35, no. 2 (1993): 67.

5 Monte B. Cox, “Finishing Well: Phase-Out or Partnership?” in 100 Years of African Missions: Essays in Honor of Wendell Broom, ed. Stanley E. Granberg (Abilene, TX: ACU Press, 2001), 291–320.

6 Cox, 303–4.

7 Contextualizing “means articulating biblical faith using vernacular terms and engaging local issues.” T. G. Gener, “Contextualization,” in Global Dictionary of Theology, ed. William A. Dryness and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 192–96.

8 Robert Garrett was born in Harare (then Salisbury), although his parents were based at the Wuyu Wuyu Mission.

9 In addition to the usual work of a missionary, S. D. Garrett established Arcadia Children’s Home in Arcadia, Harare. The home is still in existence, although the congregation severed its relationship with the board of trustees. It received its title deeds for the church building. This shows that congregations have the freedom to leave the Ruwa-Premillennialist structure. Nevertheless, the Arcadia congregation remains premillennialist in faith.

10 Since the Church of Christ in Zimbabwe has two branches, the premillennialist and the mainstream (postmillennialist), I need to point out that in 1949, this doctrine was fully supported by W. L. Brown, as well as S. D. Garrett, who was based in Salisbury. Garrett had taught this doctrine during a gospel meeting at Wuyu Wuyu Mission, with George Hook opposing him. During those years, some of the outstanding missionaries based in the Rhodesias who did not support this doctrine were W. N. Short, J. D. Merritt, and J. C. Shewmaker. In 1950, however, J. C. Shewmaker’s $5 monthly support from Springfield Church of Christ was terminated after he was requested in writing to explain his position over this doctrine.

11 Ndhlukula, interview by author, Marondera, Zimbabwe, August 15, 2011. Although Eldred Echols, who worked at Nhowe Mission under Brown, wrote that Brown, the missionary-in-charge, was forced to resign because of the poor treatment he gave to the natives. Eldred Echols, Wings of the Morning: The Saga of an African Pilgrim (Forth Worth: Wings, 1989), 50.

12 During colonialism, only whites, Euro-Americans were allowed to start and register Christian churches with the colonial government; Africans could be arrested for starting a church.

13 Robert L. Garrett. “S. D. Garrett: His Works Do Follow Him: Tributes from the Field,” The Mission and the Work (November 1972): 318–19.

14 Robert L. Garrett, interview by the author, Ruwa, Zimbabwe, June 3, 2016.

15 From 2010 to 2016, unity initiatives between the premillennialists and the mainstream Churches of Christ have seen partial success. Some congregations have united, and both men and women from the divisions have held joint retreats since 2016.

16 The Premillennialists are pejoratively called in the Shona language “Chechi yaGarret” (“Garrett’s church”), and the Premillennialists call Robert Garrett “mukuru” (“the elder”).

17 The workshop has equipment used to construct steel structures for church buildings and steel window frames; they store construction machinery including a concrete mixer, scuff-folding and welding machines.

18 In 2017 and 2018, other non-premillennialist congregants have organised their retreats at Rockwood Bible Camp. This is a direct consequence of the unity initiative.

19 Garrett, interview.

20 “Constitution of the Churches of Christ,” prepared by representatives of the premillennial Churches of Christ in Southern Rhodesia, July 29, 1961, preamble, copy in possession of the author. (Garrett’s lawyers drafted the constitution, whose signatories are the chairman and secretary of the board of trustees. A duly constituted annual general meeting selects board members. Church representatives, that is, elders, deacons, preachers, or ordinary Christians, attend the AGM as voting delegates.)

21 Garrett, interview.

22 G. Nyakudya, interview by the author, Ruwa, Zimbabwe. September 1, 2017.

23 “Constitution of the Churches of Christ,” art. III, § d.

24 Nyakudya, interview. As already pointed out, Garrett says there are over forty congregations.

25 Appendix A of the constitution has a list of member congregations.

26 “Constitution of the Churches of Christ,” art. IV, § b.

27 Cox, 305–6.

28 Ibid., 306.

29 Cox, 302.

30 Nyakudya, interview. Any congregations with a membership of less than fifty adult members is defined as small, and those congregations with a membership above fifty members are classified as big. Since January 2009, Zimbabwe has been using the US Dollar as it major currency. Its own currency was eroded by hyperinflation resulting in the country printing a one trillion note in January 2009.

31 “Constitution of the Churches of Christ,” art III, § g.

32 Garrett, interview. He gave me the following:

  • A copy of the “Constitution of the Churches of Christ.”
  • Financial accounts for the month ending 31 May 2016.
  • A spreadsheet for gospel fund collections listing all the congregations in Zimbabwe that contributed to the fund.
  • A building fund spreadsheet that has a section for rentals that are received from the hire of church buildings and other properties like classrooms that are used as nurseries.

All title deeds for property owned by these premillennialist Church of Christ are kept in a safe at Ruwa.

33 This fund, although not substantial, gives widows dignity in the community because they are not abandoned by the church. This is one of the significant weaknesses of the strict autonomous organizational structure. At the demise of a preacher, the congregation will give the widow a small amount of money to cater for immediate needs, and after a few months, she will be struggling. All associated premillennial preachers, as employees of the Church of Christ Board of Trustees, are registered with the National Social Security Authority (NASSA) in Zimbabwe. The disbursements are a pittance, hence, the board established the widows’ purse to augment NASSA.

34 Harari is now Mbare, while Salisbury is now Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe.

35 Churches of Christ, Constitution of the Churches of Christ, art. II.

36 “Constitution of the Churches of Christ,” art. V, § 5.3.j.

37 Nyakudya, interview.

38 Garrett, interview.

39 Cox, 312; emphasis original.

40 Ibid.

41 Paul G. Hiebert, The Gospel in Human Contexts: Anthropological Explorations for Contemporary Missions (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009), 31.

42 A term borrowed from Cox, 308–19.

43 Nyakudya, interview.

44 Justo González, The Changing Shape of Church History (St. Louis: Chalice, 2002), 43.

45 Cox, 311–12; emphasis original.

46 Nyakudya, interview.

47 Cox, 303.

48 Laurenti Magesa, What is Not Sacred? African Spirituality (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013), 45.

49 Magesa, 12.

50 Soro Soungalo, “Family and Community” in Africa Bible Commentary, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 1204.

51 Todd M. Johnson, Gina A. Zurlo, Albert W. Hickman, and Peter F. Crossing, “Christianity 2017: Five Hundred Years of Protestant Christianity,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 41, no. 1 (2017): 41–52.

52 Garrett, interview.

53 Johnson, et al., “Christianity 2017,” 15.

54 Cox, “Finishing Well,” 308–9.

Close this search box.