Uganda

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For today’s post, we will look at a letter composed by the Rev. Don Dunkerley, a PCA pastor who was at that time also serving as the Director of a missions organization known as Proclamation International. He writes here with first-hand knowledge of the establishment of a Presbyterian witness in the nation of Uganda. This letter provides both a unique insight into the birth of a Church, and provides at the same time a great example of why it is so important to have a denominational archives like the PCA Historical Center which will preserve such things. 

July 18, 1986

Pastor Leon F. Wardell

Dear Leon,

I enjoyed our phone conversation several days ago. I phoned you in my role as Director of Proclamation International, the sole representative of the Presbyterian Church in Uganda in the USA, because the brethren in Uganda have been asking me how their request for fraternal relations was being handled by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.   As Chairman of the General Assembly’s Committee on Inter-Church Relations, you asked me to write this letter giving information about the PCU, since their request has been referred by the assembly to your committee.  You felt that the kind of information I shared on the phone would be helpful to your committee if it could be distributed to them in letter form.

A short time after speaking with you, I spoke with John Galbraith, Chairman of Inter-Church Relations for the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.  Since the PCU has made an identical request to the OPC, I will also send a copy to John.

The Presbyterian Church in Uganda is a daughter church of the PCA and the OPC.  This is not true in the formal sense of having been planted by PCA and OPC missionaries, for none of our missionaries were working in Uganda.  Nevertheless, in a less formal but very real sense it is a daughter of both of our churches, as the history will make clear.

Although the first missionary to enter Uganda was a Scottish Presbyterian, Alexander Mackay, he was sent by the Church of England and did not plant a Presbyterian but an Anglican Church.  For almost a century thereafter Uganda was a British protectorate, and no Protestant missionaries except Anglicans were allowed into Uganda by the British.

In the early 1970’s a movement for indigenous Ugandan churches was led by Dr. Kefa Sempangi, an Art Professor in Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Kefa’s spiritual background was in the East Africa Revival Movement in the (Anglican) Church of Uganda. Several indigenous churches arose out of Kefa’s movement, most notably the Redeemed Church which, under his preaching, grew from zero to 14,000 members in a year and a half and saw 150 witch doctors converted in that time.  Dictator Idi Amin ordered Kefa killed and Kefa had several narrow escapes from Amin’s hit men.  These are recorded in his book “A Distant Grief,” by Kefa Sempangi with Barbara Thompson (Gospel Light Regal Books, and soon to be reprinted by World Vision.)  The book also tells of the beginnings of the Redeemed Church, the forerunner of the present Presbyterian Church in Uganda.

In the 1960’s, when Kefa was an Art student in London, he regularly sat under the preaching of Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  He was again exposed to the Reformed faith when he studied under Dr. Hans Rookmaaker at the Free University of Amsterdam, where hereceived his doctorate.  When forced into exile by Amin, at the urging of Dr. Edmund F. Clowney whom he met in the home of Dr. Rookmaaker, he came to Philadelphia and studied at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he learned the Reformed faith more fully.

In 1979 Amin was driven into exile and Kefa returned to Uganda.  The Redeemed Church had survived the Amin years as an underground movement. They met secretly under penalty of death.  Amin’s soldiers had orders to raid their services and kill everyone.  They especially had orders to find and kill Peterson Sozi, pastor of an underground Redeemed Church congregation meeting in a garage in Kabowa.  Nevertheless, the church survived and many of Amin’s soldiers were converted.

On his return to Uganda, Kefa gathered together Redeemed Church leaders and began to teach them the Reformed faith in a weekly Bible study.  Soon Sunday afternoon Reformed services began under an open roof behind the public library building (where First Presbyterian Church, Kampala, meets to this day).  Some Redeemed Church leaders rejected the Reformed faith, especially the doctrines of grace (“TULIP”) and so did many of the people.  The Redeemed Church congregation at Kabowa informed Peterson Sozi and others that, if they wanted to teach this, they should leave and start a new church.  Soon a Presbyterian Church was meeting on Sunday mornings behind the public library.  Kefa Sempangi was its founder, but its pastor was Peterson Sozi.  The associate pastor was Edward Kasaija, who had been associate pastor of the Redeemed Church at Makerere, another congregation that would not accept the Reformed faith.  Joseph Musiitwa, an attorney who had been Kefa’s colleague in leading the indigenous church movement and who had most recently been an elder in Kabowa, was one of the elders of the new Presbyterian Church.  Although the Presbyterian Church was worshiping together by November, 1979, they were not officially organized and recognized by the government until January, 1981.

During his days at Westminster, Kefa had befriended Dr. C. John Miller, a professor at Westminster who is an OPC minister and an evangelist with the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, one of the four organizations that took the leadership in forming the PCA.  After Kefa’s return to Uganda in 1979, Jack Miller spent six months each year in Uganda, training Kefa and other leaders in the Reformed faith, until 1983 when Jack suffered a heart attack in Kampala.

In 1981 Jack Miller brought a team of evangelists and ministers from the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship into Uganda to evangelize and train leadership.  I was a member of this PEF team.  Except for Jack, I believe all members of the team were in the PCA.

Meanwhile, other PCA and OPC people visited Uganda at the encouragement of Kefa and Jack Miller.  Dr. Harvie Conn from Westminster came.  And Peterson Sozi and Edward Kasaija, the two pastors, were able to come for six month periods to study at Westminster Seminary.

In 1983, on my second trip, Petereon and Edward told me that the elders hoped that I would start an organization that would enable me to return often to Uganda to evangelize and train leadership and would be able to represent the Presbyterian Church in Uganda in the USA.  It might also have a similar ministry in other countries.  In March, 1984, in direct response to the urging of the elders in Kampala, Proclamation International was formed in Pensacola.  Our board has seven men.  I am a PCA minister and five of the other six are elders and deacons in Gulf Coast Presbytery of the PCA.  Until Proclamation International was recognized by the IRS, we operated as a committee of Pinewoods Presbyterian Church (PCA), Cantonment. Fla.

Meanwhile, Dr. Henrik Krabbendam, an OPC minister and a Professor at PCA’s Covenant College, became involved in Uganda.  He has been visiting about twice a year, evangelizing and training leadership.  I believe he is there at this present time.

Close ties are developing with individuals and churches in the Christian Reformed Church.  More financial support is coming presently to the PCU from CRC sources than from either PCA or OPC.  And Reformed Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an independent school with close ties to the CRC, is also becoming involved.  Our PCU Bible School, “The Back to God School of Evangelism and Discipleship” in Kampala, is being operated with very close ties with Reformed Bible College.  Emma Kiwanuka, a member of the church and a graduate of RBC, is the one full-time faculty member.  He designed the curriculum in consultation with Dr. Burt Braunius, Vice President for Academic Affairs at RBC.  Burt was at one time Director of Christian Education at Mcllwain Memorial Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Pensacola, Florida.

(I am attaching the class schedule for the most recent program, June 23 to July 6.  Please notice the emphasis on TULIP.)  Dr. Dick Van Halsema, President of RBC, has raised most of the money to date for the construction of a church sanctuary for First Presbyterian Church, Kampala, a building that is about half paid for and partially built.

In 1984 Peterson asked me to teach Church Government to the leadership. He felt that they had been grounded in Reformed theology by Miller, Krabbendam and others, but needed help with Reformed Church government. He said he was asking me to teach this because of my practical experience.  He was aware that I had been the organizing first Moderator of Gulf Coast Presbytery, had participated in the Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church in the historic February, 1973, meeting and had been elected by the Convocation of Sessions to be an alternate to the Organizing Committee of the Continuing Presbyterian Church, with which I served actively.

For three weeks in the Fall of 1984 I taught a daily morning seminar. Our text was, “The Form of Presbyterian Church Government” (FOG), written by the Westminster Assembly of Divines and adopted by the Church of Scotland in 1645.  We studied it line by line, discussing at each point its scripturalness and also its relevance to Uganda.  At the conclusion of the course they asked me to write a revision of the Westminster FOG in the light of our discussions.  Daughter churches were being formed and a presbytery should be organized soon.  The constitution would need a FOG suitable for Uganda.

After preparing an initial draft. I sent copies to many that I believed could make helpful suggestions, including:

Dr. Will Barker, Pastor Rich Cannon, Prof. George Clark, Dr. Phillip Clark, Chaplain Don Clements, Dr. Edmund Clowney, Dr. Harvie Conn, Dr. John Richard DeWitt, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Pastor John Findlay, Dr. George Fuller, Professor Bill Iverson, Dr. James C. K. Kim, Dr. George Knight, Dr. Henrik Krabbendam, Dr. Paul Long, Pastor Jimmy Lyons, Dr. Allan A. MacRae, Dr. Don MacNair, Dr. C. John Miller, Pastor Iain Murray, Dr. J.I. Packer, Dr. Robert Rayburn, Dr. Robert Reymond, Dr. Palmer Robertson, Dr. Morton H. Smith, Mr. William H. Spanjer, III, Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. Dick Van Halsema, Dr. Luder Whitlock, and Pastor Paul Zetterholm.

Significant revisions were made as a result of suggestions from these brethren.  Of course, not all suggestions were incorporated.  Some contradicted each other, especially on the number of offices.  Don MacNair, Henry Krabbendam and Allan MacRae are among those whose specific wording was included at certain points.

When Peterson was in the USA in 1985, I gave him a copy of my revised draft plus the complete file of correspondence.  He took this material back to Uganda where it was thoroughly studied by the elders.  They sent me a list of further revisions, mostly editorial changes to bring it more in line with Ugandan English.

On February 28, 1986, I had the privilege of being the only American visitor present at the formation of the Presbytery of Uganda.  Most of the meeting was taken up with last minute changes to the Form of Government.  The FOG was adopted, along with the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (I am appending a copy of the FOG in the form finally adopted.)  Peterson Sozi was elected Moderator and Kefa Sempangi was elected Stated Clerk.  A “Letter to All Churches of Jesus Christ” (patterned after the one adopted by the First General Assembly of the PCA) was adopted, and copies have since been sent to PCA and OPC
General Assemblies, among others.  The Clerk was instructed to write the following churches for fraternal relations: the Presbyterian Church in America, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Christian Reformed Church (USA), and the Westminster Presbyterian Churches of Australia.  A letter was also sent to Gulf Coast Presbytery, PCA.

In a technical sense, PCU is not a daughter of the PCA and the OPC. But who are its spiritual fathers?  We have seen some names: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Free University of Amsterdam, Hans Rookmaaker, Edmund P. Clowney, Westminster Theological Seminary, Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, C. John Miller, Harvie Conn. Henrik Krabbendam, Proclamation International, Reformed Bible College, Dick Van Halsema, Don MacNair and Allan MacRae.  The roots of the PCU are in the PCA, OPC and related movements.  They look to us as their fathers.  We should receive them as our spiritual children.

It should be abundantly clear that the PCU is a church of like faith and order with the PCA and OPC.  It is also our spiritual daughter and looks to us for leadership and help.  Not only is there no good reason to refuse their request for fraternal relations, but to do so would hurt them greatly and hinder our ability to nurture them in the future. I urge your committee to recommend strongly to the PCA General Assemb1y that it enter fraternal relations with the PCU.

May the Lord bless you richly.

In Christian affection,

Don Dunkerley

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