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Gresford Chitemo

Gresford Chitemo
1927 to 2009
Anglican (CMS)
Tanzania/Kenya

Gresford Chitemo had a reputation as a wise, extremely humble, and approachable man by all who worked or interacted with him. His riveting sermons preached in many different countries are credited with effecting changed hearts in hundreds of lives. He was also known for his love and care for the poor and oppressed, becoming legendary for his miraculous healings. He had a special heart for training and caring for other pastors and he exhibited tremendous skill in bridging differences to bring reconciliation in many tense situations. During his life of service, he was teacher, pastor, bishop, evangelist and trainer in Morogoro Diocese in Tanzania, as well as at AEE (African Evangelistic Enterprise) in Nairobi, Kenya. He was greatly respected and trusted by all who knew him.[1]

Chitemo was born May 8, 1927 in Nyangala Village, near the Anglican Mission Station of Berega, Kilosa district, Morogoro Region, Tanzania. He was the sixth of seven children born to Msagala Chitemo and Kezia Chiduo . One source says he was baptized at the age of twelve by Pastor Haruni Mbega, and received his initial education at the church school.[2] A personal writing indicates, however, that he learned about Christianity in primary school and simply chose to join the church, rather than Islam, to be spared the abusive names "pagans" were called.[3] In secondary school he learned of the need to accept Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. He studied at Alliance Secondary School, a missionary school in Dodoma, from 1944 to 1948, followed by a year at a Teacher’s Training College in Tabora. It was during this year, in 1949, that he accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior and was baptized.[4]

Chitemo returned to Dodoma to teach at Alliance Secondary School from 1951 to 1953, before becoming headmaster of Mgugu Middle School in his home area of Berega from 1953 to 1956. In December 1954, he married Violet Samuel Chisongela, with whom he eventually had eight children.[5] He regularly shared Christ with his students, and many were saved. After teaching for six years, he received “the Lord’s call for full-time ministry in the Church.”[6] He pursued studies at St. Paul’s Theological College in Limuru, Kenya from 1956 to 1957, where he was also ordained as deacon. He returned to Tanzania, working as a deacon for a short time before joining Moore Theological College in Australia for another year of studies, following this he was ordained priest in 1958 at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, Australia. The new reverand and his family returned to Tanzania, where he began his parish ministry of pastoring and preaching. Chitemo then served as priest and pastor for six years, first at Mpwapwa (Dodoma Region) from 1959 to 1962, then back in Berega from 1963 to 1965. On November 13, 1965 (St. Andrew’s Day), he was installed as Bishop for the new Morogoro Diocese that was being “carved from the diocese of Central Tanganyika.”[7]

During his bishopric, in addition to the initial organization and oversight of the new diocese, Chitemo started many development projects. He was a “passionate proponent of grass-roots, community owned projects.”[8] A Mother’s Union was established in 1965 to train women in the churches, especially the wives of pastors and evangelists, in ways to ensure “spiritual, social and economic growth.”[9] He was instrumental in the expansion of the Berega bush hospital to include an orphanage in 1965. A lay training centre was also established in Berega, and the Berega hospital established a remote clinic in the 1980s, the Tinguli Health Centre.[10] During the 1970s and 1980s, the Berega hospital was the most popular for the people of Kilosa and West Handeni districts due to its reputation for good services.[11] Training was also initiated in villages to improve agriculture and teach problem solving techniques to promote self-reliance. Other projects included teaching beekeeping, animal husbandry, and teaching nutrition. But Chitemo’s ultimate goal, even in development projects, was evangelism.[12] All of these programs continue to function in the Morogoro Diocese today and are a testimony to Chitemo’s holistic approach and desire to improve the lives of the impoverished and oppressed.[13] He showed love and concern for both the physical and spiritual welfare of people, believing that when people became wholly healthy, there would be change both socially and economically.[14]

Chitemo experienced renewal in 1973. After hearing remarkable stories about the healing ministry of Edmund John, brother of the first Archbishop of Tanzania, the Bishop traveled to Dar es Salaam to substantiate the stories for himself. He went with doubts and fears that this may be one of the false prophets Jesus warned would come, but his fears vanished upon meeting the humble and loving Edmund John. Chitemo invited Edmund John to come minister in the Morogoro Diocese that same year.[15]

When Edmund John arrived in Berega, he went straight to the church to pray and meditate. He taught the Morogoro pastors to fast in addition to praying. They all fasted and prayed for three days, during which time Chitemo witnessed a “light going up to heaven.”[16] On the third day, they began ministering in the village. During prayer for the sick, many were healed. Chitemo’s response was, “I cried as I have never cried before for pitying those being terribly tortured by evil spirits.”[17] Within a couple of days, Edmund John selected local pastors to pray, and the Lord healed many; thus transferring the healing ministry to the church. Pastors and lay people organized teams to continue the ministry of fasting and praying for the sick. The Lord answered prayers, and people continued to be healed throughout the Diocese: the dumb, blind, epileptics, and lepers.[18]

As renewal spread throughout the Diocese, especially among the youth, some confusion arose. Youth who fasted and prayed for three days without sleep started having “funny visions,” such as one claiming to be called to England to preach, yet lacked English and education.[19] In each case, the Bishop sought the Lord’s guidance and confirmation, if confirmation was not received, requests were denied. When criticism began arising from those who had been renewed against pastors who had not received renewal, there were movements towards leaving the Anglican parishes to join Pentecostal churches in the area. Chitemo called the clergy together to discuss the problems and led them in drawing up guidelines for renewal groups to follow to maintain a humble rather than chaotic disorder.[20] Renewal continued throughout the Diocese, and membership in the Anglican churches was maintained and grew. When the diocese began in 1965 under Chitemo, there were only fourteen parishes; at his retirement in 1987 there were more than forty parishes and many Christians in many congregations.[21] In one parish, preaching the Gospel with signs and wonders resulted in over four hundred Muslims and many Maasai people being baptized. Renewal reached all corners of the Diocese.[22] He was one of the exemplary leaders for the East African Revival Movement.[23]

In 1974, Chitemo took further courses in missiology at Selley Oak Colleges in Birmingham, UK. In 1980, he attended a course for Advanced Leadership and Evangelism at the Haggai Institute. Then in 1983, he attended the International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists at the Institute of Advanced Leadership on Evangelism in Amsterdam. Following this training, people throughout the diocese were called to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior in response to the preaching of the Word. Also in 1983, Chitemo attended a SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) Conference of Leaders at Brackenhurst Center in Limuru, Kenya, that was led by Canon Michael Harper of the UK. Here he learned about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and their use in ministry. A SOMA conference with Canon Harper was arranged to be held in Tanzania in 1984, which was attended by most of the mainline church leaders that were members of the Christian Council of Tanzania (CCT). Many leaders wanted to host SOMA meetings in their areas, so a committee for SOMA was formed in Tanzania. In 1985, a second SOMA Conference was held in Moshi. Delegates were overcome to tears when the Holy Spirit was invited, and students outside reported seeing a light come to rest on the roof of the building.[24]

Through the renewal and SOMA meetings, Chitemo came to realize that ministry involved more than just addressing the spiritual needs of people. The Lord desired to meet the whole needs of people, as Jesus’ example illustrates when he preached as well as when he healed the sick and cast out demons.[25] Like Jesus in the first century, miracles of healing were worked through the hands of Chitemo.[26] “Perhaps the only difference is that all who came to Jesus were healed, but some of the people prayed for are not healed. We do not have any answer as to why they are not healed.”[27] Seminars were also held for wives of clergy. When the husbands joined them after lessons, the Holy Spirit was invited to come to all. Many expressed a variety of feelings as the Spirit came: from “fire” and crying, praying in tongues, dew or water falling on them, or power just entering them. Chitemo expresses, “I also experienced that power.”[28] He described ministry cases that were difficult, especially with demons and jinni, which could take hours of prayer or even days before subjects were freed. Many times the ministry team could not find time to eat, fasting without intending to fast. Chitemo relates, “I now understand what it means to be a servant for the people because of Christ. Our hearts became very joyful when we saw these people come to Christ in repentance.”[29] The local pastors were counseled how to follow-up and nurture those who had made decisions.

Some pastors and bishops won’t spend time praying for the sick themselves, but Chitemo was unique in that he was so approachable and flexible in spite of his position. He always had time for even lay people and it wasn’t necessary to make an appointment for him to attend to the needs of people; he would even pray for people in the middle of a service if needed. And his home was always open. People saw God through him in his ministry; his faith led many from all over the world to come to know the Lord.[30]

Chitemo retired as bishop of Morogoro Diocese exactly twenty-two years after he had been installed, on Nov. 30, 1987, but he continued to serve in ministry, and as a highly demanded speaker world-wide. In 1988 he joined AEE (African Evangelistic Enterprise) as the Team Leader of the Tanzania office. Later the same year he moved to Nairobi, Kenya to take leadership of AEE for East Africa (Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania), following the death of Festo Kivengere. Under Chitemo’s leadership, the AEE grew to encompass eastern and central Africa as he influenced the opening of offices in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC), before retiring in 1995, the year he was diagnosed with Diabetes.[31]

During his time at AEE, Chitemo often conducted training seminars for leaders; he was quite skilled in training, encouraging, and motivating pastors.[32] His training was always well received because he had a real heart for pastors, being one himself, and his wisdom was widely respected. He was also gifted in bridging differences between denominations. Many were surprised at his being a charismatic minister, coming from a mainline (traditional) church. Many miracles continued to occur in healing of the sick in response to his prayers, yet all was accomplished in extreme humility. One would not know how gifted he was just by meeting him, yet when he “began ministering and sharing the Word, signs and wonders would just happen quietly.”[33] On one of his international trips, a white westerner with a withered hand was anxious in meeting the Bishop, whom he had heard possessed the gift of healing. The man was, however, afraid of the flamboyant spectacle often associated with healing ministries. Yet, Chitemo simply shook hands with the man in greeting and while they shook hands, the man’s withered hand was healed.[34]

Chitemo was also a gifted reconciler. He was the one person who could calm down everyone in charged situations. There were many difficult situations during his time at AEE, including the Rwandan genocide and war in Eastern DRC. Additionally, around 1990, some in the AEE began feeling that an African CEO should be appointed, questioning the African-ness of the white South African founder of AEE, Michael Cassidy. Chitemo, seen as second in leadership in the organization, was being urged by many to accept becoming CEO. He was able to calm the friction as he “refused to take over, upheld, and showed due support for Michael Cassidy as International Team Leader.”[35] Chitemo was also known as being very fair and just regardless of denomination, tribe, nationality or race. He was a servant to all.[36]

In 1995 Chitemo returned to Tanzania and continued in an official advisory capacity to the AEE office in Tanzania through 1997. Then he continued as a trustee of the board even until his death in 2009.[37] He showed up for a board meeting in the late 2000s, during the time of his illness, laughing and joking because the newspapers and radio announcements had recently reported his death prematurely.[38] Additionally, Chitemo also served at St. Alban’s Church in the Diocese of Dar es Salaam from 1997 to December 1999.[39]

In 2000, Chitemo became part of the original Bible translation team for his mother tongue of Kagulu, along with Benjamin Mkuchu, a Roman Catholic priest, and a young Baptist pastor, Michael Nhonya.[40] Chitemo saw the New Testament translation through to its completion, though he missed its dedication in 2010, a few months after his death. His involvement in the project was instrumental in the acceptance of the translation project by the Kagulu people due to the tremendous respect he garnered.[41] He was instrumental in the project because he also served as the “dictionary” of the team. Being the most senior, he knew the language the best and this laid a good foundation for the translation even after his departure. His preparing and serving tea to the other translators characterized the humility of his servant heart when the Kagulu team shared a guest house with a northern pastoralist tribe during a Bible Translation consultation. The culture of the pastoralists did not allow them to ever be in the kitchen. Frederick Chingwaba was appointed by the Anglican Church to replace Chitemo on the Kagulu translation team, and overlapped with Chitemo the last few years as his health failed. In spite of poor health, Chitemo continued to work with great devotion and commitment with all his heart, as he had always done in every task, and he continued to encourage and promote those around him.[42]

Chitemo’s health began failing in 2007 with unusual fatigue and tremendous loss of strength. By October 2008, he could not stand or walk for very long. Even so, many people continued to seek him out for advice and prayers. His deteriorating health had been blamed on his diabetes, but in May 2009, when he could no longer stand or walk at all, doctors discovered he had been suffering from prostate cancer. He was confined to a wheelchair, yet his spirit remained at peace. He loved singing old hymns during this time and remembering in prayer all his co-workers in the Kingdom over the years. On October 30th he told his wife, “I have finished the work, now I am going home!”[43] He prayed extensively at midnight, giving thanks for his family, his schooling opportunities and teachers, all his co-workers through the years, those who would continue to preach the Gospel, and all Christian leaders, that they may remain faithful. He also gave thanks for those who ministered to him in his life and the blessings he received as he traveled throughout the world. On Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009, he was extremely tired and went to sleep, not to awaken again in this earthly life.[44]

His wife Violet testified that, “without any doubt whatever, that Gresford was a man of God: his life, testimony, faith, love, endurance, brokenness, purity, faithfulness, power to forgive, gentleness, joy, etc. He lived awaiting the Lord at all times.”[45] At his death on November 1, 2009 (All Saint’s Day), he was survived by his wife Violet, four sons, two daughters, twelve grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.[46] The youngest son, Amani Steward, serves as an Anglican priest in Dar es Salaam.[47] Services were held at St. Alban’s Cathedral in Dar es Salaam as well as at Holy Trinity in Morogoro, where he was laid to rest next to the church building.[48] The scripture to mark his life was taken from 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have guarded the Faith. Henceforth, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give me on that day, but not to me only, but to all those also who have loved his appearing.” There is no doubt that the numbers are many who will also claim their crown of righteousness because of the faithful ministry and service of Gresford Chitemo, who lived his life in faithfulness to bring honor and glory to God, his Savior.

Tammie M. Harvey (Kinnerson)

Notes

1. Chingwaba has served as Morogoro Diocesan Secretary, Anglican Church of Tanzania and Kagulu Bible Translation Team. Mbogo is International CEO, African Evangelical Enterprise (AEE). He began working with AEE in 1992 as the youth coordinator under the tenure of Chitemo. See Roger Bowen, Tanzanian Affairs: Obituaries, Issue 95, January 1, 2010, http://www.tzaffairs.org//2010/01/obituaries-24/ (accessed May 1, 2013), Frederick Chingwaba, interview by Bradley S. Harvey, Sr., June 13, 2013, Pioneer Bible Translators office, Morogoro, Tanzania, digital recording and transcription, Dr. Stephen Mbogo, interview by author, July 4, 2013, Africa International University, Karen-Nairobi, Kenya, typed transcript, and Father Michael Harper Foundation, “Michael in Pictures: SOMA,” (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), Canon of Anglican Church, UK www.harperfoundation.com/michaelinpictures_SOMA.html (accessed May 1, 2013).

2. Memoriam, “Short Praise of our Beloved Father, Bishop Gresford Chitemo, Who Passed from Earth November 1, 2009,” (Morogoro, Tanzania: Anglican Church of Tanzania, Morogoro Diocese, November, 2009).

3. Gresford Chitemo, “The Rt. Rev. Gresford Chitemo, Bishop of the Diocese of Morogoro in Tanzania: My Short History,” (Morogoro, Tanzania: Anglican Church of Tanzania: Morogoro Diocese Office, 1986), 2.

4. Ibid.

5. Gresford Chitemo, “CV (Curriculum Vitae) for Rt. Rev. Gresford Chitemo, Bishop, Diocese of Morogoro,” (Morogoro, Tanzania: Anglican Church of Tanzania: Morogoro Diocese Office, c. 1980).

6. Chitemo, “My Short History,” 2.

7. Ibid.

8. Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT), “Diocese of Morogoro,” http://www.anglican.or.tz/act_diocese_morogoro.php (accessed May 1, 2013).

9. Johnson J. Chinyong’ole, “The Anglican Church and Poverty in Tanzania: A Review of Development Programs in the Diocese of Morogoro,” MTH Thesis, School of Religion and Theology, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, Australia, 2005, http://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za//xmlui/bitstream/handle/10413/1854/Chinyong’ole_Johnson_J-2005.pdf?sequence=1 (accessed May 1, 2013), 46.

10. Ibid., 41.

11. Ibid., 40.

12. See Chingwaba, interview and Chitemo, “My Short History,” 8.

13. See Morogoro Diocese, Anglican Church of Tanzania, (ACT), http://www.actmorogoro.com/chetemo and mageni.html (accessed June 6, 2013) and Bowen, Tanzanian Affairs: Obituaries.

14. See Chingwaba, interview and Chitemo, “My Short History,” 7.

15. Chitemo, “My Short History,” 2-3.

16. Ibid., 3.

17. Ibid.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid., 4.

20. Ibid.

21. See Morogoro Diocese, ACT and Chingwaba, interview.

22. Chitemo, “My Short History,” 5.

23. Chingwaba, interview.

24. See Chitemo, “My Short History,” 6 and Harper Foundation, SOMA.

25. Chitemo “My Short History,” 7.

26. Chingwaba, interview.

27. Chitemo, “My Short History,” 9.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid., 10.

30. Chingwaba, interview.

31. Violet Chitemo is Chitemo’s wife. Hugh Prentice and Ian Pearce are former CMS missionaries who worked in Tanzania under Chitemo. For more information see Mbogo, interview, Bowen, Tanzanian Affairs: Obituaries, and Violet Chitemo, e-mail to Hugh Prentice, December 16, 2009, Translated by Ian Pearce, January 3, 2010.

32. See Chingwaba, interview and Mbogo, interview.

33. Mbogo, interview.

34. Ibid.

35. Ibid.

36. Ibid.

37. Memoriam, “Short Praise.”

38. Mbogo, interview.

39. Memoriam, “Short Praise.”

40. Bradley S. and Tammie Harvey, “March 2002 Mission Newsletter,” Pioneer Bible Translators, East Africa Branch, Morogoro, Tanzania, http://www.dfamily.com/fccmissions/pbt/news/march2002.html (accessed May 1, 2013).

41. Mr. Harvey was the Assistant Director of Language Affairs with Pioneer Bible Translators, Morogoro, Tanzania while Chitemo was working with the Kagulu Bible Translation team. See Bradley S. Harvey, Sr., interview by author, June 4, 2013, Africa International University, Karen-Nairobi, Kenya, typed transcript.

42. Chingwaba, interview.

43. V. Chitemo, e-mail.

44. Ibid.

45. Ibid.

46. Memoriam, “Short Praise.”

47. Harvey, interview.

48. V. Chitemo, e-mail.

Bibliography

Anglican Church of Tanzania (ACT). Diocese of Morogoro. http://www.anglican.or.tz/act_diocese_morogoro.php (accessed May 1, 2013)

Bowen, Roger. Tanzanian Affairs: Obituaries 95 (January 1, 2010), http://www.tzaffairs.org//2010/01/obituaries-24/ (accessed May 1, 2013).

Chingwaba, Rev. Frederick. Interview by Brad Harvey, June 13, 2013, Pioneer Bible Translators Office, Morogoro, Tanzania, digital recording and transcript. Morogoro Diocesan Secretary, Anglican Church of Tanzania and Kagulu Bible Translation Team, United Bible Society.

Chinyong’ole, Rev. Johnson J. “The Anglican Church and Poverty in Tanzania: A Review of Development Programs in the Diocese of Morogoro,” MTH Thesis, School of Religion and Theology, University of Kwazulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, Australia, 2005. http://researchspace.ukzn.ac.za//xmlui/bitstream/handle/10413/1854/Chinyong’ole_Johnson_J-2005.pdf?sequence=1 (accessed May 1, 2013).

Chitemo, Gresford. “CV (Curriculum Vitae) for Rt. Rev. Gresford Chitemo, Bishop, Diocese of Morogoro.” Morogoro, Tanzania: Anglican Church of Tanzania: Morogoro Diocese Office, c. 1980.

--------. “The Rt. Rev. Gresford Chitemo, Bishop of the Diocese of Morogoro in Tanzania: My Short History.” Morogoro, Tanzania: Anglican Church of Tanzania: Morogoro Diocese Office, 1986.

Chitemo, Violet. E-mail message to Hugh Prentice, December 16, 2009, former CMS missionary of Anglican Church in Morogoro Diocese of Tanzania.

Father Michael Harper Foundation. “Michael in Pictures: SOMA,” (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), Canon of Anglican Church, UK http://www.harperfoundation.com/michaelinpictures_SOMA.html(accessed May 1, 2013).

Harvey, Brad and Tammie. “March 2002 Mission Newsletter,” Pioneer Bible Translators, East Africa Branch, Morogoro, Tanzania, http://www.dfamily.com/fccmissions/pbt/news/march2002.html (accessed May 1, 2013).

Harvey, Bradley S., Sr. Interview by author, June 4, 2013, Africa International University, Karen-Nairobi, Kenya, typed transcript.

Mbogo, Stephen. Interview by author, July 4, 2013, Africa International University, Karen-Nairobi, Kenya, typed transcript.

Memoriam. “Short Praise of our Beloved Father, Bishop Gresford Chitemo, Who Passed from Earth November 1, 2009”. Morogoro, Tanzania: Anglican Church of Tanzania, Morogoro Diocese, December, 2009. English translation by author.

Morogoro Diocese. Anglican Church of Tanzania. http://www.actmorogoro.com/chetemo and mageni.html (accessed June 6, 2013).


This article, received in 2013, was written by Tammie M. Harvey (Kinnerson), a Master's student at Africa International University (formerly Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology), under the supervision of Dr. Mark Shaw, senior lecturer in the department of Historical Studies, and Mr. Babatomiwa Moses Owojiaye, Ph.D student and instructor in African Christian History at AIU.