John Wesley College: Wikis

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See also John Wesley College (North Carolina).

John Wesley College is the Seminary of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa situated at Kilnerton in Pretoria, South Africa. It is most commonly referred to as John Wesley College Kilnerton. It has been in its current location since 1994.


The background to John Wesley College - A history of full time training of clergy for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

Lesseyton, Easter Cape

Theological education for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, conducted in South Africa, began at Lesseyton, near Queenstown in the 1850s, where it remained until the end of the 19th century.

Kilnerton, Pretoria

In 1886 the Reverends Owen Watkins and George Weavind purchased the farm "Koedoespoort", to the east of Pretoria, with funds collected by the Rev John Kilner, then General Secretary of the Wesleyan Missionary Society in London, England. On the farm Rev George Weavind founded the Kilnerton Training Institution, initially for the theological education of evangelists and ministers for the Transvaal Missionary District of the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Kilnerton rapidly grew to include a Teachers' Training College, a High School, two Primary Schools, a Domestic Science College, a Clinic and an Agricultural School. In 1933 the Transvaal Missionary District was incorporated into the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and was separated from The Apartheid government, under Group Areas legislation, in 1962 forcibly closed Kilnerton. In 1994 Kilnerton was re-opened by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa as a Theological training institution.

Alice, Eastern Cape

With the establishment, in the latter part of the 19th century, of the Presbyterian educational institution at Lovedale in the Eastern Cape town of Alice, and a theological education programme there, the work at Lesseyton was relocated to Lovedale and "Wesley House." From Lovedale there developed the University of Fort Hare, to which Wesley House became attached.

In 1963 the Methodist Church of Southern Africa joined forces with the Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Anglican Churches under the banner of the Church Unity Commission to form the Federal Theological Seminary, situated across the road from the University of Fort Hare. Wesley House became "John Wesley College", a constituent College of the Federal Theological Seminary, affectionately known as "Fedsem." Fedsem and John Wesley College remained at Alice until 1975, when the Apartheid government expropriated the Fedsem campus for incorporation into the Fort Hare campus.

"Bollihope", Mowbray, Cape Town.

In the 1930s a Methodist church of Southern Africa theological training centre was established at Mowbray, Cape Town, under the leadership of the Rev E. Lynn Cragg, who was later to play a major role in the development of John Wesley College and Fedsem. Rev Lynn Cragg was sole tutor at Bollihope, to those whose theological education was at undergraduate level. Those who studied to postgraduate level did so at the University of Cape Town while still part of the Bollihope community. Bollihope closed with the outbreak of the 2nd World War.

Rhodes University, Grahamstown.

In 1947 the Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian and Congregational Churches combined, in an agreement with Rhodes University, Grahamstown, to form a Divinity Faculty for the theological education of ministers for the participating churches in particular and the Christian ministry in general. "Livingstone House" was built to house theological students at Rhodes and the Methodist Church of Southern Africa formed the "Methodist Theological College" as an integral part of Rhodes University and the Divinity Faculty. Rhodes University continued to provide theological education for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa for 53 years and closed its Divinity Faculty and Department of Theology and Religion in 2000.

Federal Theological Seminary (FEDSEM), Pietermaritzburg.

When the Federal Theological Seminary was evicted from its campus in Alice by the expropriation of 1975, the Seminary, along with John Wesley College, relocated in mobile homes to Umtata. However, the presence in Umtata of a large contingent of intellectually and socially aware and articulate Christian ministers opposed to the policy of Apartheid was not welcomed by the then "Homeland" Administration. "Fedsem" was again evicted. In 1976 Fedsem found a temporary home in the Lay Ecumenical Training Centre at Edendale, outside Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. While there, an entirely new campus was built in the Pietermaritzburg township of Imbali. In 1978 Fedsem moved again, this time into its new premises.

Fedsem, and John Wesley College at Fedsem, continued to provide theological education appropriate to the times until 1993, when falling numbers of students from the Anglican and Presbyterian Churches rendered the Seminary economically unviable, resulting in its closure.

John Wesley College, Kilnerton.

Kilnerton became the site of the revival of John Wesley College when Fedsem closed, opening its doors in January 1994. This occasion also marked the revival of Kilnerton as a training institution after 32 years. With the closure of the Department of Theology and Religion at Rhodes University in 2000, John Wesley College Kilnerton became the only centre for residential theological education in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

John Wesley College Kilnerton, therefore, stands upon the foundations and traditions of no fewer than seven different theological training institutions: Lesseyton, Lovedale, the University of Fort Hare, Kilnerton, Bollihope, the Federal Theological Seminary and Rhodes University. They are proud traditions and firm foundations held in sacred trust for future generations here at Kilnerton.


A history of the Kilnerton institution.

Kilnerton is situated in Weavind Park, a suburb of Tshwane (Pretoria). It was established towards the end of the 19th century to meet the needs of the African community. There was a growing need for education for the local people. There was also a request from local chiefs for the Methodist Church to provide land where they could safely settle. When Kilnerton Institution was established these people settled at what became Kilnerton Village.

Kilnerton served the community with a primary school, a high school, a training college or normal school as well as with a clinic and special domestic science course. Their spiritual needs were served by the services held in the chapel on the hill.

Kilnerton Institution was established in 1886 on the farm Koedoespoort which had been bought by the Methodist Church a year earlier. It was bought to establish a school and a missionary settlement and was named after the Rev John Kilner, secretary of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society who encouraged the formation of an indigenous clergy in South Africa.

The first Principal was the Rev Owen Watkins, one of the first Methodist missionaries in the Transvaal (now Gauteng). The school catered for the sons of chiefs and also for men wanting to enter the ministry and to provide trained teachers for the mission schools. Later other learners were admitted and a girls’ hostel and a high school were added. The primary school catered for the needs of the children in Kilnerton Village and surrounding areas like Vlakfontein (Mamelodi) as well as providing practice teaching for the learners at the teachers’ training college.

The portion of land that Kilnerton now occupies is only a portion of the original farm as at various times sections have been sold or expropriated to establish new suburbs for the growing Pretoria. However, learners who have attended Kilnerton in its new form as John Wesley College have studied at a college steeped in Methodist and South African history and tradition. The wall of remembrance in the quadrangle bears the names of people who helped to establish the Institution. The Chapel is named after the Rev Amos Burnet, Chairman of the Transvaal and Swaziland District of the Methodist Church in the early 20th century while the walls inside the Chapel bear plaques commemorating many of the people who helped to make Kilnerton great.

The growth of Kilnerton

1886 – Kilnerton opens its doors to the first learners

1889-1902 – Kilnerton closed during the South African War

!903 – Kilnerton once again in operation with a growing number of learners from both the community and ministers children. Theological classes introduced.

1922 – The girls’ hostel and domestic science school opened by Princess Alice from England.

1927 – The Inspector, Mr R Swartbeck, reported that the practising (primary) and training schools were “of a very high standard”. Apart from the missionary teachers most of the local educators were trained at the Kilnerton Training College or Healdtown Institution.

1929 – The chapel consecrated for the use of the Kilnerton learners and staff and the surrounding community.

1940 – The High School built. This is still in use today as part of the John Wesley College buildings and is used as the dining room and single accommodation. (The old Normal School has to be rented from the Department of Arts and Culture as classrooms)

1946-1953 – The student body doubles in size.

1953 – The government took over church schools and Kilnerton also affected.

1962 – Kilnerton forced to close by the government as the area in which it was situated was declared “white”. Promat, an organization providing adult education, leased the buildings for part of the time. The school continued for a while at a new location at Hebron, north of Tshwane

1994 – Kilnerton re-opened in its new form as John Wesley College to train Methodist probationer ministers.

The 'new' Kilnerton'

On 6 February 1994 Kilnerton again opened its doors to learners. Renamed John Wesley College - Kilnerton to commemorate the previous colleges at Fort Hare and Federal Seminary that were forced to close due to political pressure, it now became the training school for Methodist probationers. The first Principal was the Rev Tim Attwell and he was succeeded by the Rev Victor Tshangela, while Professor Dr N Richardson is presently in charge. Since then numerous Methodist probationers have passed through its doors as well as a number of learners from other denominations. After receiving their diplomas a number of the learners have studied further to receive honours, masters and doctoral degrees from different universities.

The learners reach out to the community through their field study projects and their service in the various congregations around Tshwane.

High achievers among Kilnerton Alumni

Kilnerton produced many great men and women who served their communities and South Africa with dedication. Prominent among these high achievers are the following:

Rev Sefako Makgatho – founder of the Transvaal Teachers’ Association, Past President of the African National Congress (Former President nelson Mandela was so pleased with Rev Makgatho that he named his son Makgatho)

Dr C N Phatudi – educationalist, author and politician, chief minister of the former Lebowa homeland

Dr M J Madiba – author, politician and church leader who promoted the use and teaching of African languages and founder and first Principal of the Mokopane College in Potgietersrus.

Dr Mary Malahlela – first black woman doctor in South Africa

Dr N H Motlana – medical practitioner, business man and member of the Soweto Committee of Ten

Dr Machupe Mphahlele – obstetrician in the United Kingdom and South Africa

Prof J N Mafojane – first black head of the neurology department at the University of Pretoria

Dr Isaac Thapeli – neurologist in the USA

Rev Dr Stanley Mogoba – Past President of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, winner of the Methodist Peace Prize and past president of the Pan-African Congress

Mr Joe Nhlanhla – served as the Minister of Intelligence in the first democratic government in 1994

Judge Dikgang Moseneke – Deputy President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

Prof Abram Nkabinde – former Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Zululand

Dr S K Matseke – head-master, inspector and Director of Education who was recently honoured by the Western Cape Department of Education for his contribution towards improving the standard of education.

Mrs Zodwa Fanele – nursing sister who founded the Zodwa School for the mentally handicapped in Atteridgeville

Prof Khabi Mngoma – served as a teacher at Kilnerton training Institution and later established the Department of Music at the University of Zululand


The current staff of John Wesley College, Kilnerton.

Principal - Rev Prof Neville Richardson

Dean of Students - Rev Dr Dion Forster

Coordinator of training for ordained ministries - Rev Madika Sibeko

Coordinator of training for lay ministries - Rev Ruth Jonas


External links

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