Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

History of our Diocese 

Very early in his episcopate the first Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray saw the necessity for a division of his diocese. The wars in the Eastern Province stressed the need for a missionary bishop to the natives harrying the borders, and in 1851 Gray brought the question before a synod of clergy. He realised in his Visitation of 1850 that Natal and Kaffraria must be separate sees, for precipitous mountains made communication in those days almost impossible. St. Helena, too, with the islands of Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, needed more regular spiritual help and supervision than a bishop at Cape Town could give. Therefore, in 1852 Bishop Gray went to England to ask advice about such a division, and to beg for men and money for new sees. In spite of painful illness he spoke all over England, 300 times on that visit, to let churchmen know the need of reduction in the size of his diocese which stretched north to the Orange river and eastward to the Great Kei. With the help of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel the new sees of Grahamstown and Natal were created with the money the bishop had begged.

John Armstrong became the first Bishop of Grahamstown and John William Colenso went to Natal. The two sees were constituted under Letters Patent in 1853 and, a fortnight later, Gray received his new Letters Patent for his diminished See of Cape Town and as Metropolitan of South Africa.

Early development

The story of the foundation of the Grahamstown diocese under its first bishop, John Armstrong, is very different from that of Natal. Archdeacon Merriman had already set the key of missionary enthusiasm, courage, and self-devotion to which the new diocese was tuned. He arrived in Grahamstown in 1848 and his journeys on foot through his huge archdeaconry are famous. He offered to be the first missionary to the Xhosas, but Bishop Gray could not spare him as archdeacon, and wished him to be the first bishop; this his humility refused.

The Grahamstown diocese bordered on the often-debated and altered boundary between the Colony and Kaffraria. From the time of the first Kafir War of 1779, skirmishes, massacres, raids, and counter-attacks had taken place on both sides of the River Fish or Keiskama or whatever the authorities had decided the Kafirs must not cross. Different governors had tried to subdue the invading Xhosas by force of arms, but they had returned, and the problem seemed to be insoluble when either the astuteness of Moshesh, or merely the credulity of the natives when their witch-doctors speak, brought about their own undoing by the tragic cattle-killing of 1857. Then Galekas, Gaikas, Tembus, at the bidding of a witch-doctor and his niece, slew their cattle, believing that, when that was done, their chieftain ancestors would appear and lead them to victory against the hated white men. Instead, famine came and death from starvation, and though Sir George Grey, Governor and High Commissioner, 1854-1861, sent food, and missioners housed all they could, the numbers in British Kaffraria alone fell from 184,000 to 37,000, and the Kafir power disappeared as it seemed for ever.

This wise Governor had realised before this catastrophe that, owing to the Crimean War (1854), it was impossible for Britain to spare troops to keep the natives behind the boundary lines of their territories, and he had settled German legionaries and others in the confiscated native reserves on military tenure, and had also offered large Government grants to the various missions to build churches, industrial schools, hospitals, believing that educating the natives was cheaper than sending troops to shoot them. Many new mission schools were being built by Methodists with these grants, and both Bishop Gray and the new Bishop of Grahamstown realised the enormous opportunity given to the Church to found missions to the ama-Xhosa. Both bishops wrote imploring S.P.G. to send men. As soon as possible after his arrival Bishop Armstrong visited Umhalla, of whom Bishop Gray had written on his visitation in 1850:

"I have undertaken to found a mission in Umhalla's country midway between King William's Town and the Kei river. The chief has about 10,000 people under him, and here we hope to begin work."

The chief had granted to the Church a site for a mission near the deserted Fort Waterloo. Mr. Clayton was the first missionary there, and the stone of the first church for the Xhosas was laid on St. Luke's Day, 1854, and the mission took that evangelist saint as its patron. From there the bishop travelled up the Booma Pass, where many British troops had been ambushed and massacred, to Keiskama Hoek, a military station, with Mr. Dacre as its chaplain. Here in the fastnesses of the Amatolas lived the Gaikas, under their lame chief Sandile, but when they were expelled their land was given to the Fingoes, who had helped the British in the Xhosa wars. The Fingo chief gladly heard the bishop's proposal for a mission among his people, where they would learn about Christianity, and also about better ways of agriculture. The chief offered land not far from the Hoek, and Mr. Dacre nobly began work in the time he could spare from his military duties. He made the invaluable water-furrow for the mission lands, still in use, and by his influence paved the way for the first resident missionary there, H. B. Smith, who arrived in September, 1855. Sir George Grey granted 693 acres of land to this mission, which was called St. Matthew's.

During Bishop Armstrong's second journey in 1855, he visited Sandile, who at once consented to have Church missions in his land, and offered a site near his kraal on the Kabusie river. This was eventually called St. John's. There still remained the great Kreli, who lived further east across the Kei, and to see him the bishop travelled through bare country, with scarcely a human being, or an animal, or even a green bush, to be seen for miles, and the hot sun beating down was paralysing. A police horse was lent to him, which saved him from the almost intolerable jolting of the waggon over the rough veld, and after nearly a week's journey he reached the banks of the White Kei, across which, nearly seven miles away, was the king's kraal. Here, with fifty men, Kreli came to visit the bishop. He very readily agreed to have missionaries in his country, though his 600,000 people were not in any way under British rule. A little later the great mission station of St. Mark's was founded by Henry Waters.[1]

Later developments

The Diocese of Grahamstown has been divided three times in its history; three independent daughter diocese have been formed:

  • Diocese of Mthatha (formerly Diocese of St John's) in 1872
  • Diocese of Port Elizabeth in 1970
  • Diocese of Ukhahlamba in 2009

List of Bishops of Grahamstown

Diocesan Bishops

  1. Bishop
    Later Moved 
    John Armstrong  D.D 1853-1856  
    Henry Cotterill M.A., D.D. 1856-1871 Later bishop of Edinburgh
    Nathaniel James Merriman, D.D 1871-1882  
    Alan Becher Webb D.D 1883-1898 Later dean of Salisbury, England
    Charles Edward Cornish  D.D 1899-1915  
    Francis Robinson Phelps  D.D. 1915-1931 Later Archbishop of Cape Town
    Archibald Howard Cullen  M.A 1931-1959  
    Robert Selby Taylor  M.A., D.D 1959-1964 Later archbishop of Cape Town
    Gordon Leslie Tindall  B.A 1964-1969  
    Bill Bendyshe Burnett, M.A. L.Th 1969-1974 Later archbishop of Cape Town
    Kenneth Cyril Oram,  B.A., A.K.C.  1974-1987 Later assistant bishop of Lichfield
    David Patrick Hamilton Russell  M.A., Ph.D 1987-2004  
    Thabo Cecil Makgoba

    B.Sc. B.A. (Hons) Med.

    (Psychology) P.G. Dip. Ed. Ph.D

    2004-2007 Later archbishop of Cape Town
    Ebenezer St Mark Ntlali

    Dip.Th. B.A. (Hons) B.Th.

    2007 - present  

Bishops suffragan

The following were bishops suffragan in the dioce

  • Eric Pike P.T.C., Dip.Th 1989-1993 Later bishop of Port Elizabeth
    Anthony Mdletshe  L.Th., M.Div 1993-1997 Later bishop of Zululand
    Bethlehem Nopece Dip.Th. B.Th. M.Th 1998-2002 Later bishop of Port Elizabeth
    Thabo Cecil Makgoba  B.Sc. B.A. (Hons) Med. (Psychology) P.G. Dip. Ed. Ph.D . 2002-2004 afterwards bishop of Grahamstown 


Mothers' Union

Mothers' Union

President: Mrs Anna Mangaliso
Tel 083 498 8195

The organisation was founded by Mary Sumner in 1876 in the Church of England parish of Old Alresford, near Winchester, where her husband was rector. She was inspired to start the movement after the birth of her first grandchild. Remembering her own difficulties when she was first a mother, Sumner wanted to bring mothers of all social classes together to provide support for one another and to be trained in motherhood, something which she saw as a vocation.


Anglican Women's Fellowship

President: Ms Weziwe Busakwe
Cell:082 417 0169


About the Anglican Women’s Fellowship

The Anglican Women’s Fellowship is a group open to all persons 18 years of age and over in the worship of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and shall be bound by the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

Aims of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship

  • Promote and further the life of the Church in all spheres
  • Participate as much as possible in ecumenical activities
  • Co-operate and maintain good relations with all welfare organisations with particular emphasis on the aims:
    • Prayer and Worship
    • Mission and Witness
    • Fellowship and Study
    • Service and Stewardship


Thabo Makgaba Bursary Fund Anniversary 2016 



Mary Magalene

President: Amanda Ncanywa

East London

Cell number: 0815499313



Vision of the Guild

  • To bring women together into the kingdom of God


Aims and Objectives

  • To worship God regularly through prayers
  • To encourage bible studies amongst members
  • To build fellowship amongst members
  • To visit and help those in need
  • To practise and encourage stewardship amongst members


CHRIST IS RISEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Lay Ministers

Bernard Mizeki

Bernard Mizeki Guild

President: The Revd W. Bloko
cell. 072 560 1994


Youth Guild 

 President: Mr Sonwabo Mdubi 
Cell 073 353 54727



Chaplain Revd. GIXANA, Noluthando Lucia

10 Durham Road, Vincent, East London 5247.

083 985 8764 (cell).


Please find the Invitation for THE ORDER OF ST VINCENT AGM

St Agnes

Ibutho Labavuseleli


Mr Mgatyelwa

Mdantsane Eastern Cape

Cell:083 594 8534