Pastor Reinhard Ruzo was an ordained pastor of the Rhenish Mission Church (later ELCRN), one of the first group of pastors ordained in 1948. However, he left the Mission Church and became the first leader of the Oruuano or Protestant Unity Church, the largest Independent African Church in Namibia, formally established in 1955.
Pastor Ruzo’s change of ministry must be understood within the context of the apartheid society, which developed in Namibia during the 1940s. There were rumours that “Southwest Africa” would be incorporated into South Africa as a province. In fact, such requests were made at the United Nations by two South African prime ministers, Smuts and Malan. This aroused strong feelings among traditional African leadership in Namibia. An Anglican priest from the U.K., Father Michael Scott, had discussions with Chief Hosea Kutako in 1947, and again on Herero Day in 1948. He was appointed the authorized representative of the Herero people to the U.N. The Herero people saw Father Scott as a champion of human rights. His approach was in stark contrast to the Rhenish mission, which was an obedient servant of the South African administration. The contrast between the approach taken by the Rhenish Mission led by Dr. Vedder and that of Father Scott, the human rights activist, was very obvious.
Secondly, an increase in church contributions, decided at the regional synod of the Rhenish Mission Church in 1950 and approved by the church board and congregations, was rejected by the Herero chiefs. At the discussions organized by the mission, four chiefs were present, Kutako, Hoveka, Kapita and Tjerije. The discussion dealt with the lack of recognition for indigenous Herero leadership and culture.
After this meeting, it became clear that the traditional Herero chiefs wanted a national independent Herero Church which would maintain the Rhenish liturgical tradition but would be firmly rooted in the Herero cultural tradition. The only delay in founding the intended Community Church was the lack of support from Lutheran evangelists and pastors of the Rhenish Mission Church. Eventually, in 1954, Pastor Reinhard Ruzo emerged as the first pastor willing to accept the chiefs’ ideas.
When Ruzo circulated a notice announcing that on January 1, 1955, a secession would take place from the Rhenish Mission Church, few congregations reacted to this. On August 25, 1955, Ruzo was installed by Chief Hosea Kutako as leader of the Herero community church. Ruzo was joined by the prophet Kanambunga of Ekoto, Kaokoland, who had already been working independently as a prophet for many years.
Gerhard Buys and Shekutaamba Nambala
For the development of this secession, the veneration of ancestors, prophetic ministry and religious life of the Oruuano Church, see Sundermeier 1973 p.114-178, Pöllitzer 1978 p.43-52.
See article on Kanambunga
This story is taken from Buys & Nambala p. 182, 186.
Buys, G. L. & Nambala, S. V. V. 2003. History of the Church in Namibia 1805 - 1990, an Introduction. Windhoek: Gamsberg Macmillan.
Namibia Research Institute (www.nets.iway.na/research)
Unpublished & Published References
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Beris, A. P. J. 1996. From Mission to Local Church: One hundred years of mission by the Catholic Church in Namibia, with special reference to the development of the Archdiocese of Windhoek and the Apostolic Vicariate of Rundu. Windhoek: John Meinert.
Buys, G. L. 1983. Die holistiese sendingbenadering in die ekumeniese diskussie met besondere verwysing na die Kerk en Sending in Suidwes-Afrika/Namibië. Unpublished D.Th. thesis, University of Stellenbosch.
Christians, N. C. 1957. Afrikaanse Metodisme, ‘n Kort oorsig: Richard Allen, vader van die Afrikaanse Metodisme in Suidwes-Afrika. Keetmanshoop: Unpublished manuscript.
Friesen, R. H. 1994. “Origins of the Spiritual Healing Church in Botswana” in Oosthuizen, Kitshoff, Dube (Ed). Afro-Christianity at the Grassroots, Its Dynamics and Strategies. New York: E. J. Brill, p.37-50.
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Hunke, N. 1996. Church and State: 100 years of Catholic Mission in Namibia. Windhoek: RCC, John Meinert Printers.
Kamburona, A. C. 1975. Church Order of Oruuano. Unpublished manuscript.
Kandovazu, E. 1968. Die Oruuano-Beweging. Karibib, ELK Boekdepot.
Kritzinger, J. J. 1972, Sending en Kerk in Suidwes-Afrika - Band I & II. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of Pretoria. (references to pages in the first volume are indicated by normal page numbers, while pages from the second volume are indicated by adding ‘b’ in front of the particular page numbers).
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Interviews & questionnaires
Christians, N. C. 2002. Unpublished notes forwarded on request to Buys, on 22 May 2002. Rev. Nicholas Christians was the pastor of the Trinity AME Church in Keetmanshoop for an uninterrupted period of 43 years (1953 - 1997). In 1998, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Wilberforce Institute of the AMEC in USA.
Mubonenwa, L. 1997. Response of Pastor Mubonenwa on the Questionnaire forwarded by Buys, dated 25 September 1997. Pastor Mubonenwa is the present Field President of the North East Namibia Field of the SDA Church.
Tjijombo, P. 2002. Interview of Buys with Bishop Petrus Tjijombo on 18 January 2002 at his house. Bishop Tjijombo was the founder and still active leader of the St. John’s AFM in Namibia when this interview took place, after a ministry which started in 1953. The photo of his ministry starting in that year in the “old location” was unfortunately too bad to use in this publication.
Witbooi, H. 2002. Interview of Buys with the honourable Dr. Hendrik Witbooi, in Windhoek, on the history of Evangelists Petrus Jod and Marcus Witbooi. Dr. Witbooi is the son of Pastor Marcus Witbooi, who was a founder member of the AMEC in Namibia. At the time of the interview, Dr. Witbooi was Deputy Prime Minister in the Namibian government and leader of the AMEC (African Methodist Episcopal Church) in Namibia.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from History of the Church in Namibia, an Introduction - 1805-1990, Gamsberg Macmillan, Windhoek, Namibia, copyright © November 2003 by Dr. Gerhard Buys and Dr. Shekutaamba Nambala. All rights reserved.