98 McAlpine Road, Wychwood, Johannesburg

Our History

Johannesburg Gold

The Johannesburg Gold Fields in 1902

The world’s largest gold rush took place in South Africa after the discovery of gold in the present Johannesburg area in February 1886. Within ten years of this, 100 000 people moved to Johannesburg leading to the establishment of the city.  A census taken in January 1896 shows the mix of peoples as; Whites (50%), Natives (42%), Asiatics (5%), Mixed and other races (3%) and Malays (1%) – a mix of origins and faiths.  And some of these were Baptists.

The first Baptist service took place with some fifteen men and women in attendance on 15 July 1888, this being the first small beginnings of the Baptist work in the northern part of South Africa.  H. Batts (ca1920) notes that the Rev. W. E. Kelly left Port Alfred Baptist Church and travelled up to Johannesburg early in 1889 in search of Baptists seeking to establish a church in Johannesburg.  Thus, ‘The Baptist Church of Johannesburg’ was founded and their home built on 20 June 1892 (later called Johannesburg Central Baptist Church and now Central Community Fellowship).

The first BNA church – Central Baptist Church, Johannesburg

The manse and the church were both erected on the southwest corner of Plein and Wanderers Streets.

Kelly, additionally, obtained sites for Troyeville Baptist, Germiston Baptist Church and Krugersdorp Baptist churches.

The work extends

Troyeville Baptist Church began shortly afterward under Rev T. Chapman and then Boksburg Baptist Church was established in 1889 under Rev. H. T. Cousins.  Pretoria Free Baptist Congregational Church (now Central Baptist Church Pretoria) followed under R. H. Brotherton in 1889, and therafter, Krugersdorp Baptist Church under an evangelist, A. Pearson, in 1891 and Wakkerstroom in the Transvaal under Rev. T. R. Matthews in 1898.

Troyeville Baptist Church – the oldest church in our association

The Transvaal Baptist Association is Formed

On 7 October 1891, representatives of several churches; Central Baptist Church Johannesburg (Rev. W.E. Kelly and six other members), Krugersdorp Baptist Church (Rev. A. Pearson), Boksburg Baptist Church (Rev. E. Davies), and affiliated works, Johannesburg Native Church (Rev. E. Wakeman), Palmiet Native Mission (Rev. W. Lechega and Bolus), gathered to form the Transvaal Baptist Association.  

The minutes of this first historic meeting can be viewed here

It was later renamed the Transvaal Baptist Church Council in 1902 and then renamed the Northern Baptist Association in 1933 and then the Baptist Northern Association in 1934.  It is worth noting that the original purposes for the formation Association, namely, “co-ordination, fellowship and advance” (Hudson-Reed, 1983) remain as primary purposes of the Association still today.  That inaugural meeting appointed Rev. W. E. Kelly as President, Rev. T. Cousins as Vice-President and Rev. A. Pearson as Secretary.  The first member churches were Johannesburg, Troyeville, Krugersdorp and Boksburg.  They “adopted a constitution, resolved among other matters to become a legal entity, to issue certificates of ministerial recognition, to collect money for mission work, and to apply to the Baptist Union for affiliation as an Association” (Hudson-Reed, 1983).

Application to join the Baptist Union denied

The Association’s application to join the Baptist Union was received by the Baptist Union Executive meeting held in Durban in November 1891.  The minutes of that meeting record;

The Secretary having reported that an Association of Baptist Churches had been formed in Transvaal and that the Rev. A. Pearson, the Secretary, had written conveying the birth of this Association to be affiliated with the B. Union.  It was resolved that the Secretary write a suitable reply.

The Secretary pointing out that the said Association had passed a resolution binding the Baptist Churches of S. Africa.

BU Exec Minutes 1891He was instructed to call the attention of [illegible] Pearson to this and to ask that the brethren should speak for their own Association only except in cases where a joint resolution had been passed by both Assemblies.

Exactly what this resolution was, has not yet been determined.

Hudson-Reed (1983: 118) then notes that “The Union’s refusal of its application seemed to unsettle the infant Association.  No meeting was held until May 8th 1895.  After a heated discussion, the meeting decided not to seek affiliation with the Baptist Union, but to carry on as originally planned.”

In December 1896, the Association again sought affiliation with the Baptist Union.  The Baptist Union Executive reported to the 1897 Assembly that; “The Witwatersrand churches have now entered the Union, and we shall be free to direct our efforts to the extension of the work in the Gold Fields, which offer not only the largest, but also the most needy field in South Africa for Christian effort.”

War Halts the Progress

January 1896 saw the first uprising against the Zuid-Afrikaansch Republiek (ZAR) Transvaal government over conditions in Johannesburg and by May 1899 the real possibility of war led to thousands leaving the city.   Between May and the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer war on 11 October of that same year, a vast exodus out of the city ensued.  This retarded the work of the Association while the war raged for the next two and a half years until on 31 May 1902.

Full Stream Ahead

With the culmination of the Anglo-Boer War, Baptist leaders felt a great opportunity lay before them leading to the reconstituting of the Transvaal Baptist Association as the Transvaal Baptist Church Council.  It quickly bought more land for the future development of churches at Denver, Linden, Richmond, Rosebank, Boksburg North, Edenvale (1904), Roodepoort and New Pietersburg and started a work in Bez Valley in a hired hall.  While some of these properties were sold, the work on others continued leading to the first beginnings of churches of Brakpan Baptist Church in 1903, Springs Baptist Church in 1904, Roodepoort Baptist Church in July 1905, Germiston Baptist Church in 1905 and Rosebank Union Church in 1910.  

1900 to 1930’s

Hudson-Reed observes that the Baptist endeavours in Transvaal in this period was slow and attributes this to a number of factors; the apathy of many Baptists to join a church in formal church membership, the shortage of pastors and especially indigenous pastors, a lack of funds and the reluctance of some churches to join the

Transvaal Baptist Association (1983: 127-128).

The 1924 Baptist Union Statement of Belief

The first indication to be found of the need for a clear and unifying doctrinal statement is found in the Minutes of the Baptist Union Executive Meeting held at King Williams Town on Saturday and Monday, 21st and 23rd June, 1924.

The minutes read;

Notice of Motion was given by the Rev. W. H. Doke to submit a “Statement of Belief” to the forthcoming Assembly for consideration and adoption.  Typed copies of such a statement had been sent out to all members of Executive and all the Ministers of the denomination, but that was withdrawn in favour of one in a slightly modified form now presented to the Executive.  After prolonged discussion the following resolution was moved by the Rev. D. H. Hay and seconded by Rev. H. J. Batts.

“Having no authority to accept a doctrinal statement on behalf of our Churches, but knowing there is unsettlement in some of our Churches, we agree to commend this statement to them for their consideration as a general expression of our Baptist belief.”

Agreed that the Secretary present this resolution with a brief statement to the Assembly.  The foregoing was unanimously adopted on the understanding that Mr. Doke should do his utmost to get the Committee represented by the Notice of Motion also to accept this arrangement.

At the time when Rev W. H. Doke presented this motion, he was the pastor of our own Troyeville Baptist Church demonstrating that the pastors of the Baptist Northern Association have always had a great concern for both doctrine and unity.  It is equally interesting to note that they considered this doctrinal statement as necessary to bring an end to “unsettlement in some of our churches.”  They understood that acceptance of a clear and shared doctrine is needed to refute error and resolve conflict.

The minutes of the 44th Annual Assembly at which this statement from the Baptist Union Executive was presented is also worth quoting.  The minutes are dated Tuesday morning September 23rd 1924.

Rev. Thos. Aitken presented a Resolution prepare by the Executive and on behalf of the Executive he moved same and that it be commended to our Churches.  Seconded by Rev. J. Ernest Eve.



Statement of Belief Baptist Union Assembly 1924

“Having no authority to accept a doctrinal statement on behalf of our Churches, but knowing there is unsettlement in some of our Churches, we agree to commend this statement to them for their consideration as a general expression of our Baptist belief.”

Proposed by Rev. Thos. Aitken.  Seconded by Rev. J. Ernest Eve.                         AGREED

A number of things are worth noting; the seeming agreement of the acceptance of this statement by the 1924 Assembly possibly indicating a general recognition of the need for it, the seeming unity of the Baptist Union Executive preceding its being tabled, and the tender wording of the submission to the churches for their consideration, recognising the Executive has “no authority to accept a doctrinal statement on behalf of our churches,” which is a wonderful demonstration and appreciation of the congregational nature of the composition of our union of churches.

Beyond the Borders of the Transvaal

The minutes of the Council meeting of the Association held on 23 May 1933 read “It was agreed that an association be formed and named the Northern Baptist Association in order to include such Baptist churches and Baptists not in membership with Baptist churches resident in the Transvaal and neighbouring territores as desired.”  “In 1934, the BNA (the name was changed from Northern Baptist Association) came into being in an endeavour to bring into associational relationship, not only churches along the Reef, but in Pretoria and even beyond the Transvaal borders” (Hudson-Reed 1984:128).  The Bloemfontein Baptist Church and Bulawayo Baptist Church were the first to join that same year.

Since then the BNA has grown from strength to strength and looks to God for His leading and grace each step of the way.  At the time of writing this article, by God’s grace, we have 150 churches on our books.


Batts, H. J. (ca1920). The Story of 100 Years 1820-1920 Being the History of the Baptist Church in South Africa. Available at: https://www.1820settlers.com/genealogy/Media/documents/History%20of%20the%20Baptist%20Church%20in%20SA.pdf (Downloaded: 13 April 2019).

Hudson-Reed, S. (1972). Baptist Beginnings in South Africa 1820 – 1877. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal.

Hudson-Reed, S. (1983). By Taking Heed… The History of Baptists in Southern Africa 1820-1977. Roodepoort, Johannesburg: Baptist Publishing House.

Minutes of the 44th Annual Assembly of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa held at Central Baptist Church -West Street, Durban 17 – 24 September 1924

Minutes of the Baptist Northern Association meetings 1891-2012 kept in the BU archives.

Minutes of the Executive Meeting of the Baptist Union of Southern Africa  held at King Williams Town 21 & 23 June 1924

Unknown. The History of Johannesburg. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Johannesburg (Accessed: 14 April 2019).