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C. Nxamalo: The Shembe Story

The amaNazarites of Isaiah Shembe are the oldest African Independent/Indigenous Church in South Africa. The church divided into two main sections in 1976 following the death of its leader Bishop Johannes Galilee Shembe [1904-1976]. The largest group was led by Bishop Amos Shembe [1907-1996], the other, smaller group, by the Rt. Rev. Londa Shembe [1944-1989]. The following texts represent both branches of the church and were produced with the the encouragement of the Bishop Amos Shembe, and the Rt. Rev. Londa Shembe respectively. By reproducing them here we remain neutral with regard to the division in the church which is a theological and administrative matter that only members of the amaNazarites can decide upon. Our only concern is to publicize the work of the founder, the "prophet" Isaiah Shembe.

A short BIBLIOGRAPHY suggesting books about the Prophet Shembe and the amaNazarites

Texts from the Church of the Bishop Amos Shembe: THE STORY OF SHEMBE saying, oral history and sacred scriptures.

Texts from the Church of the R. Rev. Londa Shembe: SOME SAYINGS OF SHEMBE, and sacred scriptures

The "Shembe Project"

Bishop Johannes Galilee Shembe initiated a project in the early 1970's to translate and publish the sacred texts and oral histories of the Nazareth Baptist Church into English. At the time he asked the Revd. Dr. Hans-Jurgen Becken to carry out the translation and arrange for their publication. Unfortunately, due to his own work and other pressures Dr. Becken was unable to complete the project until the late 1980's when he worked on it with the blessing of Bishop Amos Shembe. After completing the translations, in consultation with Bishop Shembe, Dr. Becken began cooperation with Professors G.C. Oosthuizen and Irving Hexham to publish these important text in English. Eventually it was decided to publish the them with the Edwin Mellen Press because they were the only publisher willing to publish a complete set of all the texts. So far two volumes of the texts are in print, a third is at press, and further volumes are in preparation.

In 1987 the Rt. Rev. Londa Shembe, the leader of a separate branch of the church made some short translations of his own that he asked Irving Hexham to edit and publish. These texts were published in a slim volume by the University of Calgary Press in 1994.

Who's Who:

SHEMBE, Isaia [Isaiah] (1867-1935): Zulu religious leader, healer and founder of the amaNazarites, the largest independent religious movement among the Zulus. Regarded as God by many of his own people, Isaia Shembe is usually spoken of as a prophet by Europeans but this designation was vigorously denied by his son Amos and grandson Londa. His writings and sayings have been translated by Hans-Jürgen Becken and Londa Shembe making them the first scriptures of a new religious movemetnin Africa to appear in English.

SHEMBE, Johannes Galilee (1904-1975): the successor of Isaia Shembe whose able leadership made the amaNazarites the second largest independent religious movement in Southern Africa.

SHEMBE, Amos (1907-1986): the son of Isaia SHEMBE and leader of the largest branch of the Zulu amaNazarite movement in South Africa which split into two rival factions after the death of Johannes Galilee Shembe. Under the wise leadership of Amos, the group has moved in a more Christian direction with a greater emphasis on the Bible and person of Jesus.

SHEMBE, Londa iNsiKayakho (1944-1989): brilliant leader of the smaller and more progressive branch of the amaNazariteswho called himself the "Third Shembe" thus identifying his work and personality with that of his grandfather Isaia Shembe. He strongly rejected the idea that the amaNazariteswere simply a form of Africanized Christiantiy, insisting instead that they were an African religion in their own right. He was brutally assassinated on April 7th 1989.

SHEMBE, Mbusi Vimbeni (27 April 1933-): the successor of Bishop Amos Shembe and current leader of the major branch of the amaNazarites with over one million followers, most of whom are Zulu.