Classic DACB Collection

All articles created or submitted in the first twenty years of the project, from 1995 to 2015.

Tile, Nehemiah (C)

Thembu National Church
South Africa

The Reverend Nehemiah Tile (circa 1850s-1885), founded the first of the African “protonationalist” churches, independent of European mission control, in 1884.

Nehemiah Tile was made a probationer minister in the Wesleyan Mission Church in 1879 after having studied theology for a period at Healdtown. He was fully ordained in 1883. During a revolt in the Transkei, Tile sympathized with the nationalistic aspirations of the abaThembu, the ethnic group to which he belonged. Particularly, Tile spoke openly against the encroachment of colonial authority in Thembuland. A European missionary criticized Tile’s political sympathies and Tile, with his abaThembu followers, decided to leave the Wesleyan Church. Tile then founded an independent Thembu National Church with Ngangelizwe, the abaThembu nkosi (ruler), as visible head. Though Tile died a year later in 1885, he was succeeded by the able Jonas Goduka as pastor of the Thembu National Church. Unfortunately, Ngangelizwe’s son Dalindyebo was forced to withdraw his support from this vital institution by white colonial officials.

Tile’s church was the forerunner of the independent church movement in South Africa known as Ethiopianism. Increasingly in the 1880s African clerics resented the supervision of European missionaries and the racist policies of the Mission churches. African pastors also sought to adopt the message of the Christian church to the heritage of Africans, rejecting European cultural chauvinism in the process. Tile was one of the first African pastors to take a stand on these issues.

C. Tsehloane Keto


G.M. Sunkler Bengt, Bantu Prophets in South A.frica, London, 1948; Roux Edward, Time Longer Than Rope: A History of the Black Man’s Struggle for Freedom in South Africa, London, 1948.

This article was reprinted from The Encyclopaedia Africana Dictionary of African Biography (In 20 Volumes). Volume Three: South Africa- Botswana-Lesotho-eswatini. Ed. Keith Irvine. Algonac, Michigan: Reference Publications Inc., 1995. All rights reserved.