Elias Letwaba, the Apostolic Faith Mission, and the Spread of Black Pentecostalism in South Africa

Barry Morton

Abstract


This article argues that the little-known Elias Letwaba was the most influential African Pentecostal in southern African religious history. Using an array of primary sources, the article demonstrates the rapid growth of Pentecostal communities in the Northern Transvaal under Letwaba’s control. Unlike other African Pentecostal ministers who inevitably abandoned the movement, Letwaba received significant support, funding, and publicity for his efforts. These factors, combined with his strong leadership role, contributed to his remaining within the white-led Apostolic Faith Mission and building up its African membership. As the founder of South Africa’s first black-run seminary, the Patmos Bible School, Letwaba was able to propound and spread classic Pentecostal theology, although he placed a strong personal emphasis on holiness. He also placed a strong emphasis on faith healing as a means of attracting converts, and trained numerous evangelists to do likewise.


Keywords


Elias Letwaba; Apostolic Faith Mission; Pentecostalism; faith healing

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