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© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Episcopal Apostolic Church in Zion of Africa- (Episcopal)

This church is known as Episcopal for short. It is led by its founder Arch Bishop Johannes Moliti who founded it in 1958 in Kanye. The Arch Bishop had been working in the mines in South Africa at Carltonville where he had been introduced into, and joined the Morian Episcopal Church, which had been started by a Motswana, Daniel Kwape from Mochudi, in 1936. Arch Bishop Moliti had joined because he had seen the terrible conditions in the mines - the fighting, killings, deaths and terrible accidents. When he had returned to Botswana in 1958 he joined another Zion Church, called the Holy Catholic Zion Church. He had found that in that church the members believed in sacrifices. They believed that if you sacrificed a goat, a cow or a chicken, through its blood you would be saved. As he did not believe in sacrifices he had not stayed in this church but had then decided to start a new church. He had named it after the Morian Episcopal Church which he had belonged to in South Africa.

In this church there was no sacrifice of animal blood as this he believed could not save a person, only the sacrifice of  Jesus Christ. In addition, just as Christ and the Apostles moved around healing people quite freely, so should they in their church, not charging for cures like some prophets did in other churches. In Episcopal they believed that whenever they prayed for someone that person would be saved or healed through the power of God.

When he started his church in 1958 he had faced many difficulties, as this was the period when Zionists were still being victimized by other residents such as neighbours (relatives) and Headmen. He had been reported seven times at the Chief's Kgotla and had even been imprisoned. The older established churches did not like Zionists and were very suspicious of churches started by blacks people. But after Independence (September 30th, 1966) conditions had improved. Freedom of worship had been introduced and he had even registered his church in 1971 at the Ministry of Home Affairs in Gaborone.

The Church was built by members in the Bishop’s yard. All shoes are left outside the door.

The Arch Bishop (centre) with 2 Baruti

Prophecy poles in the roof of the church protecting it from harm

By the 1970s Episcopal in Kanye has 360 members, 200 women and 160 men (most of the latter worked in the South African mines). The regular church services wereheld in a rondavel in the Arch Bishop's lolwapa which has been consecrated by special prayers The door (half doors) is decorated with a cross and as it is Holy inside, members take off their shoes (this was a practice in all but one of the churches I studied) -This is justified in Exodus 3:5 where God forbade Moses to wear shoes on Holy ground.

There were poles in the roof of the church to protect the church. Members of the church wear uniforms (this is West's feature number 7). The standard women's uniform is green skirts, white blouses and head scarves; the younger girls wore long white dresses and white head scarves with appliqued green crosses. The men wore short or long white coats with white trousers. Both men and women wore green and white sashes. People become members by being baptized as, according to Mark Chapter 16 v. 16-24, this is when the devils are cast out. Baptism is by total immersion in one of the Kanye dams (total immersion Baptism is West's feature number 5).

A new member is baptized after it is judged that his behaviour is suitable. A candidate must show that he can abide by the Zion rules, i.e. no drinking, no smoking, no fighting, no stealing, no stabbing and no trouble-making. After baptism a new member is given a new uniform at the church. They buy the material and then the Bishop's wife, who has been specially prophesied for this, makes it up. New uniforms are given at special uniform services. Some members wear specially prophesied additions to their standard membership uniform. For example they may wear long or short cloaks with special decorations, such as a long blue cloak covered in little white stars, or a red head scarf with a green cross. Sometimes when a prophet "Gets the spirit" in a service he may "see" in the prophecy that a certain member should have a certain article for protection or to cure, for example for a headache or aching legs. Other members wear special cords next to the skin around the neck, trunk, waist, legs or wrists. Again these have been specially prophesied for protection or healing of certain sickness (N.B. this is very like the strips of animal skin that a traditional doctor may prescribe for treatment, and just as a traditional doctor's treatment must be worn until they either drop off through old age or the doctor takes them off, so too with these Zionist cords). These cords are put on a patient at the church and are usually sprinkled with Holy Water. According to the Episcopal Arch Bishop, cords are justified in the Bible in Jeremiah 13 v. 1-12.

The uniform has a large thick cord with tassles tied around the waist, in this church it is green. As will be seen later this is frequently stroked by a prophet whilst prophesying, and it is used to dip into the Holy Water to sprinkle it when people or buildings etc. are washed (this is very like the way a traditional doctor uses his animal tail to wash patients etc.)

As has already been stated some members wear specially prophesied additions to the standard church uniform. The Arch Bishop told me that these appliqued decorations have a special significance. For example the Cross represents Jesus Christ, a hand or hands means hands in prayer, and stars represent the Star of Bethlehem - as we all live by light and this reminds us of the source of all light.

It should be noted that there are similar taboos to the traditional ones, associated with this church uniform. For example a menstruating woman does not wear her uniform nor touch other people's cords, or enter the dance circle.

There are other branches of Episcopal in Gaborone, Molopole, Thamaga, Moshopa, Jwaneng, Selebi-pikwe and also some branches in the mines in South Africa. Membership is estimated of 2000 plus .  In Episcopal there is one Arch Bishop, one Bishop, two Vice- Bishops, seven Baruti (sing. Moruti), Deacons (Motiakone - pI. Batiakone), Evangelists (Moefangele - pI. Baefangele), Preachers (Moreri - pI. Bareri), Prayers (Morapedi - pl Barapedi), and Door Keepers (Khosa - pI. Dikhosa).

The Arch Bishop is the head of the church and the Prayers are the lowest of the "priestly" order~. Other than Dikhosa, all these offices are held by men although sometimes women may preach and pray for people. During a church service all people are placed according to the position they hold in the church

There are also other positions, the lowest of which is Khosa, or door keeper. These people stand at the door and make sure that people do not enter at the wrong time, for example during prayers, they have to make sure that people are positioned correctly, and keep order in the church. They make sure there are candles at the service, and at special services, where food may be prepared, they look after the pots and supervise the serving of food. They also have to warn mothers when their babies are crying (the babies are usually left to sleep in another house in the yard.)

Above the Khosa are the Secretaries. They look after the church books and records. During the services they are responsible for reading the Bible readings as directed by the Moruti in charge. At special services where money is collected, for example, Botsetsi, they collect the money and organize the contributions. Church dues are collected by them (these are the annual fees) used to buy candles, and also the weekly offerings. Secretaries must therefore have had some education and at least be literate. (N.B. Women can be a Khosa or Secretary).

Most of the priestly orders are as their names suggest. For each of these church positions a person is promoted at a special church service and specially prayed for at the church. There is usually an addition to the basic uniform that denotes the promotion and office held.

Not all the Baruti are literate (the Arch Bishop is literate but has never had any actual formal education). Some can only "read" (they at least know) the Bible and typically relate that the whole of the Bible was revealed to them in a dream when they were "saved". In all the organization and actions in the church, the Bible is taken as the absolute authority and especially during the special services the relevant parts of the Bible are read out as directions and justifications for the conduct of the service.

It should be further noted that none of these Baruti are full time. They all, including the Arch Bishop, work in their own jobs (he is a mechanic at the local Seventh Day Adventist hospital) or are they are farmers or contract workers in e.g. the South African mines..

The histories and organization of the other four churches are very similar to Episcopal’s so are described in less detail

The Congregation who attended a Sunday Service. Episcopal Church is to the left. N.B.Many members are wearing protective additions to their basic uniforms that were”seen” and “shown” to the Zion prophets when they were “visited” by Moya (Holy Spirit)

A Moruti (priest) holding the Episcopal emblem (the Arch Bishop is to his right - in red robes.