The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) was established on the 26th September 1999 as a merger of the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (established in 1897) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (established as Bantu Presbyterian Church of South Africa in 1923). The two churches shared the same origin dating back to the 19th century when Britain took over the Cape Colony. Their distinctive characters were that the Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa was constituted among soldiers and settlers who arrived in the Cape in 1820, spreading north into Zimbabwe and Zambia. The first congregation is St Andrew’s in Cape Town. The Reformed Presbyterian Church, on the other hand, was a product of Scottish missions intended for the Africans, and it started at Lovedale Mission in Alice.
The establishment of the UPCSA’s was guided by the Basis of Union, a contract that was signed in September 1999 between the Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (PCSA) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church in South Africa (RPCSA). Under this contract, the two churches joined and became one: The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA). The Presbyterian form of Church government is held to be founded upon and agreeable to the Word of God. The form of government of the UPCSA is determined in all matters by The Manual of Faith and Order MFO. The MFO states the following about the foundations of the UPCSA:
The Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, whose faith, constitution and laws are hereinafter set forth, is a branch of the one holy catholic Church, and maintains liberty of conscience and of worship, within the rule of Scripture, of all members of the one holy catholic Church. (Chapter 1, paragraph 1:2)
The Lord Jesus Christ is the King and Head of the Church. Under his authority, and with the Holy Scriptures as its supreme rule, it seeks to frame and administer its laws and exercise its functions under the promised guidance of the Holy Spirit. (Chapter 1, paragraph 1:1)
The UPCSA has congregations in South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and is part of one united congregation in Oranjemund, Namibia. The UPCSA is establishing work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lubumbashi area. Its ethos is captured briefly in the following:
To be a reconciled community of Christians exercising a prophetic witness to Christ.
We will proclaim our Triune God in Southern Africa through
- Bearing witness to the saving love of Jesus Christ;
- Building vital, reforming congregations for worship, ministry and discipleship; and
- Visibly proclaiming the Kingdom of God through unity, justice, peace and love.
- The UPCSA will be a Missional Church.
- The UPCSA will have mission oriented and holistically developed ministry.
- The UPCSA will promote the equality of all its members and congregations.
- The UPCSA be welcoming to all, especially the youth.
- The UPCSA will reflect the demographics of its membership at all decision-making levels and forums.
- The UPCSA will have cohesive, efficient and effective administration.
- The UPCSA will be financially sustainable.
- The UPCSA will promote a positive image and raise its profile.
- The UPCSA will be a reconciled Church.