South Africa, 19 February 2000
After prayerful deliberation and consultation over a period of three years, culminating in a meeting at Muden, Kwazulu/Natal on February 5, 2000, we the undersigned, representing a wider body of concerned Christians who gathered there, as well as others who could not be present,
out of Christian love and concern for the many people who have either left the fellowship at Kwasizabantu Mission (KSB) or who have been excommunicated, as well as for all those still at KSB., issue the following statement, to be distributed to the wider Body of Christ as a witness of true concern, and a call to collective prayer for the issues mentioned herein:
1) We acknowledge with deep gratitude to God that many people, including most of us, have been blessed in our association with KSB. We acknowledge that God has worked through the ministry there.
2) However: we are deeply concerned about a number of matters there that are totally contrary to Biblical teaching and which bring disgrace on the Name of God. These include the following:
2.1) LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY
We refer to the refusal of the Kwasizabantu Leadership to take responsibility and stand accountable for sinful practices which they regularly condone. Many concerned Christians have, over time, in brotherly love, confronted leadership figures at the Mission about sinful practices at KSB. Without exception these practices have been denied and/or excused or rationalised. The following points are some examples of concerns which have been brought to the Mission Leadership’s attention for many years, but which have been continually dismissed by them. We cite Erlo Stegen’s recent statement about Cult and Sect Accusations in the Natal Witness newspaper as evidence of KSB Leadership’s consistent dismissal of many Christians’ concerns for KSB’s lack of accountability. (See the newspaper article in the appendix, which we include herewith with a view to a fair and truthful debate on the issues involved).
2.2) SPIRITUAL ABUSE
We refer to the spiritual tyranny, brainwashing and manipulation which have been substantiated by testimonies of significant numbers of victims (hundreds) and even by those who participated in such activities. Examples have been given in media reports during the past days and weeks, which the leadership not only denied and dismissed, but used as an opportunity to discredit the people testifying to such abuses at KSB.
2.3) LIES AND DECEPTION
We reject the rationalization and playing down of evil practices, lies, disinformation, deception and manipulation:
Godly people who have left the Mission and are truly following the Lord, are slandered and the most diabolical lies and calculated insinuations passed on about them by the Leadership and other KSB co-workers who have consistently worked to discredit the faiths, testimonies, and even ministries of those who have left, eg. by portraying their ministries as “not successful” because they have lost “God’s blessing” by leaving Kwasizabantu.
Visitors, especially those who are deemed as V.I.P., are manipulated by being presented with a totally false picture of the doctrine, practices, and traditions of Kwa Sizabantu.
True information provided to the media by former members of KSB, has been simply denied by the Leadership and described as lies, and not been brought to the attention of workers at the Mission, or to discussion with the KSB congregation.
Other serious testimonies of hurt and victimization have not been brought to the attention of or discussed with the congregation and have been systematically denied and rejected, and the people testifying have been demonized as servants of the devil.
2.4) SECTARIAN VIEWPOINT OF KSB AS “THE WAY”
Co-workers who leave and enquire why they are ostracized (to the extent that family members and close relatives at the mission are not allowed to attend the weddings of children and grandchildren, and are not allowed to visit them, etc.) are given as reason that they have left THE WAY, meaning not Jesus Christ as The Way, but the KSB way. This is an unchristian attitude and principle of the KSB leadership, clearly demonstrating the belief that to leave KSB is to leave the true Christian faith, and thus to be outside of God’s will and salvation. This constitutes a sectarian attitude on the part of KSB.
2.5) UNWILLINGNESS TO GIVE ACCOUNT TO THE LARGER BODY OF CHRIST
We cite a certain Scottish theologian’s “An Assessment of Kwa Sizabantu” dated February 1999, which, contrary to misinformation by KSB, has never been retracted by him, as an example of the many pleas which have gone unheeded for accountability to the Body of Christ.
We are concerned that the leadership has dismissed recent public concern regarding a lack of accountability to the larger Body of Christ by the Leadership’s references to its involvement with other denominations and organizations, especially with regard to the annual ministers’ conferences or invitations for other ministers to preach from the KSB pulpit. We encourage the leadership to differentiate such involvement with other Christians with honest accountability by the inner core KSB Leadership to the Body of Christ. Inviting preachers to preach at KSB is not equivalent to accountability to the body of Christ.
2.6) THE AUTHORITARIAN STRUCTURE OF THE LEADERSHIP AT KSB
There is no official counsel of elders as clearly prescribed by Scripture.
When questions are raised by members, the concerned individual or group is simply told to bow to KSB leadership authority, which according to KSB, constitutes God’s authority.
The KSB leadership is self-appointed and refuses to be held accountable to any individual, congregation as a whole, or the larger body of Christ.
Anyone who dares to question the position or quality of exercised authority of the leaders in the light of scripture is on the whole ostracised and threatened with the judgement of God, and falsely branded as an instrument of the devil.
If any member questions the KSB leadership’s misinterpretation and/or misapplication of Scripture, he/she is stigmatised or censured.
In more than one case, the Leadership has pronounced curses on them and has told them or said of them that they are serving another god or are serving the devil.
The Leadership encourages and demands disassociation with anyone who has been blacklisted by them, even though they be next of kin: Brothers and sisters, parents and children, and husbands and wives are separated – not on the basis of Biblical authority and faith, but on the basis of allegiance and loyalty to the Leadership. There are very many families which have been unjustly fragmented and split because of this policy.
2.7) FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY
There is no transparency regarding deals, spending, or any monies received.
a. No ordinary member has access to financial reports or statements.
b. Large amounts of money have been borrowed without the consent or knowledge of the congregation.
c. Large donations are being received from European sources without any receipts or acknowledgement to the congregation.
d. Projects – especially financially controversial projects – have been initiated with no discussion or consent of the congregation. We cite one of many examples, namely investment in an alluvial diamond mining operation (millions of Rands have been invested and lost in this project).
2.8) BETRAYAL OF CONFIDENTIALITY
Confessions are, without the consent of the confessors, freely exchanged between leadership figures, and are subsequently used against the confessors, especially at the moment someone questions KSB. The Leadership often uses this confidential information to manipulate and intimidate recalcitrant individuals.
2.9) DIVISIVENESS AND USURPING OF PARENTAL AUTHORITY
Token acknowledgement is given to the parental role in the family, yet the reality is that the leadership has full and final authority over families. As stated in par. 2.4 above, the Leadership encourages and even demands disassociation with anyone who has been blacklisted by them, even though they be next of kin.
a. Evidence of dozens of split families is freely available, and cannot be denied.
b. The Leadership lays great stress on the fact that they don’t arrange marriages, yet no marriage will be condoned without the consent of the Leadership. Parents often hear of their child’s decision to marry only after the Leadership gives consent to the marriage.
3) CALL TO REPENTANCE
In view of the above-mentioned issues, and many others not mentioned, we appeal to the KSB Leadership to repent of these sins and to return to the Biblical Christian faith. We earnestly plead with the Leadership, for whom we pray continually, care about, and love unconditionally, to take heed of James 4: 6- 10 and in godly sorrow, submit to God and to find true freedom and liberation from darkness and deception, in sincere humility, while there is still opportunity to do so. A refusal to do so will undoubtedly strengthen unbiblical, legalistic and sectarian attributes, bring the Kingdom of Jesus Christ into disrepute, and do further damage to the work of God. This will eventually lead to the judgement of God on KSB, which we sincerely do not wish to happen, and which we pray will be avoided.
Committee representing the concerned group of Christians:
Prof. Koos van Rooy and others
PERSONAL ADDENDUM by Karl Heinz Wicker: 20/02/2000
(Former member of the KSB Leadership and CFT Vice-President)
I would hereby like to make an explanatory statement with regards to my separation in June 1999 from KSB and CFT, after having worked together with Kwasizabantu-South Africa as well as Kwasizabantu-Germany, having held the position(s) of the Kwasizabantu-Limburg fellowship leader, co-worker in Kwasizabantu-Germany and Kwasizabantu-Europe and Vice-President of CFT-Germany.
It was in autumn 1982 that I was invited to a series of meetings by the missionary, Erlo Stegen. I was a Catholic at the time and my wife, as a result of attending these meetings with me, began talking about love and salvation in and through Jesus. This was all foreign to me.
At these meetings, Erlo Stegen spoke of a tremendous work of God, which had started amongst the Zulu nation as well as his family. He shared about how everyone was serving God. He invited me to come visit, saying, “Come and see for yourself – this pure life we are living.”
So my family and I (5 people) travelled to KSB early in 1983. We also wanted to experience this pure life that we had been told about. And so we parted from all to give this new Revival-message room to do a complete work in our lives.
We lived in the expectation that God would use this revival-message, through a revival in Germany, to renew our country. Therefore I also invited Erlo Stegen to come and minister to us in my hometown – Limburg. After that we received Erlo Stegen and his team as guests in Limburg regularly. In the interim we got to meet and know many people from KSB-South Africa and many of their followers, but we virtually knew no other Christians. KSB in KwaZulu-Natal was portrayed to us as the place where, even now, a huge revival was spreading to the rest of the country.
So my life, reasoning and thoughts all became entwined with KSB-South Africa, and this flowed over into my family, my acquaintances, and also the fellowship in Limburg, which was meeting in our house.
If we noticed false developments, saw errors or were able to determine that preaching or practices within KSB went against God’s Word – we would shove such thoughts aside immediately. We did not want to judge or criticise. In such situations we still had the impression that were just not as spiritual yet as our brethren from KSB. We didn’t dare to think or act differently to the people at KSB as we understood this to be sinful.
In the meantime, CFT and KSB in Germany had been launched and our “independence” depended on our following the provisions of KSB and CFT – South Africa. Over the years, in the light of God’s Word, many questions arose and became bottled up in our hearts. This carried on until a group of brothers in the leadership of KSB- and CFT-Germany discussed their questions and problems in a meeting, at which it was decided to ask for a meeting with some of the leaders from KSB-South Africa with a view to sorting out these questions.
The points of discussion for this meeting were:
a) Legalism in all its forms, whether regarding clothing, marriage, weddings or engagements – yes, laws which governed our whole lives, in which KSB decided what was allowed and what not. In the meeting with the leaders from KSB – Friedel and Erlo Stegen were also present; we were unable to reach a single point of consensus, even when reference was made to the unbiblical foundation and standing of these laws. The issues were simply dismissed with the reason: KSB has its standards and will not part from them. In this meeting we had to come to terms with the fact that the decisions and laws of the KSB-leaders were above the Holy Scripture. Even that the work at KSB was above the teachings of our Lord and Saviour.
b) When KSB maintains that it is open to, and thankful for criticism, when they say that they do not put any pressure on anyone who asks questions, then they are not speaking the truth. Through painful experiences we have learnt: whoever criticises KSB’s laws and standards is not only shunned, but also “sorted out” and demoralized with thorough precision. Whoever questions the KSB-system is threatened with God’s curse.
Friedel Stegen proclaimed openly in a conference at Lindach in January 1999, “Whoever does not abide with the work of KSB, I part with that person. I have done so in the past and I will do so in the future. Even if the person is my own wife…” Is this the tolerance and freedom of Christianity? Or is this a dictator with an all-encompassing passion for control?
c) Neither the Lord Jesus nor the teachings of God through the Holy Spirit have their rightful place at KSB. The measuring rod or standard for everything, are the experiences from the “Revival”, those of Erlo Stegen and some of his co-workers. These experiences dictate everything and are made laws.
d) What became obvious during our conversations was that there was a serious lack of true fellowship in prayer. Prayer was “blocked”, it was doubted as real, and was actually discouraged. A quote from a Stegen-sermon, “… you can pray as much as you like, it (the prayer) doesn’t go higher than the ceiling…” Indeed, Jesus Christ, the Giver of Holiness was made foreign to us. We were never taught about an overflowing, victorious life through the Holy Spirit. Even the glad tidings of Salvation in Jesus Christ, the victory through the Cross, and the power and healing of His Blood, and His holiness paled by comparison to the exaltation of confession of sin – to another human being.
The working of the Holy Ghost was also just a reality to the KSB-South Africa congregation, through the revival. The love towards Israel and its nation was never taught. Communion and baptism were ministered for the first time in the KSB-Germany congregation in summer 1999. I visited KSB-South Africa more than 12 times and never experienced these ministries there either.
Dear friends, I have to acknowledge that I followed KSB in blind dependence and submission, without proving any facts and truths through God’s Word. In this state I led others to bondage. With a sad heart I ask for your forgiveness.
May God, through our Lord and Saviour and the Holy Spirit, bring Erlo Stegen and Friedel Stegen and the whole of KSB to repentance and acceptance of the Truth, and through true remorse lead them to a complete and total dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that through the Holy Spirit all people who are and have been involved with KSB can experience the opening of prison doors.
So that the Name of the Lord would not be slandered, but glorified.
Limburg, 20.02 2000
Karl Heinz Wicker
Newspaper Article – Natal Witness, South Africa 12/2/2000
Kwasizabantu director spells out the mission’s position.
In the light of the many allegations in various newspapers and possible accusation along the same lines in future articles, Kwasizabantu wishes to clarify the following issues:
1. Cult and Sect Accusations
Kwasizabantu is an evangelical organisation with complete openness to other churches and organisations. There is nothing cultic or sectarian about the mission. Our religious beliefs are contained in the Bible and the classical confession of the church through history. KSB teaches no new doctrine and does not believe that it alone has exclusive ownership of the truth. This has always been our practice and it is evidenced by:
No person is ever told by KSB to leave their denomination. Cults and sects always tell others to forsake their churches.
Our pupils have welcomed hundreds of ministers from a host of denominations over the years. We need the teaching and wisdom of God’s people whatever their church background. The Kwasizabantu Ministers’ Conference has been a highlight for the last decade. About 1 000 ministers, pastors, evangelists and Christian organisation leaders gather at KSB every year for a three-day conference where leaders from different churches, locally and internationally, share with about 1 000 delegates.
People are free to come and go at KSB. There is no “escape” necessary (as stated in a number of articles). The attempt to paint KSB as another “Jim Jones” or “Branch Davidian” cult is absolute nonsense.
There are at least 1 200 people at the mission at any time of the year and many of them are not connected to KSB but are visitors and people in need. People who are helped are never encouraged to sever ties with families or churches.
2. Virginity Testing
The Zulu members of the parent body of Domino Servite School (registered with the Department of Education) have insisted on this cultural practice with their own children. About 85% of pupils at DSS are Zulu and we do not feel it right to impose Western values to abolish this tradition. However, all cultural practices which are clearly unBiblical are rejected whatever the racial or cultural background. If some in the media have a problem with the virginity testing tradition they should take it up with the Zulu nation and not blame the mission. At the same time we do point out that in an era when about 30% of the KwaZulu-Natal population has HIV, anything which helps prevent Aids should be commended. KSB strongly insists on the Biblical emphasis of sexual purity – abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage.
The accusation of racism at KSB is ridiculous. We have been a beacon of light regarding non-racism over the last 34 years. Different races, languages and cultures have lived together in harmony for years at KSB. This has always been our message and we live it out in a practical way. The attempt to label KSB as racist because of its rejection of the practice of ancestral worship cannot be reconciled with the views of church leaders, politicians and laymen who have visited the mission and have constantly expressed their appreciation for the racial and cultural harmony. Some have called it a “model for the New South Africa”.
4. Military/Political Connections
KSB has often visited military bases to preach the Gospel. We continue to do so, and will use every opportunity to bring the message of hope and forgiveness in Christ. There have been, and there continue to be, members of the military (and police) who are friends or members of the mission. We gladly accept invitations to address people and always bring the message of the Gospel. Should Colonel Muammar Gaddaffi of Libya or Bill Clinton of the U.S. invite KSB to preach in their countries (at their expense) we will gladly accept this invitation.
KSB is politically neutral despite the scandalous attempts to make it appear a stronghold of certain political parties. We have never told people who to vote for. However, we are not silent when it comes to issues that involve Christians, for example: abortion, euthanasia, pornography etc. These are issues that involve politics, but only because politics has involved itself in these things.
We have had direct discussions with senior political leaders on these various issues, both before and after the first democratic election in 1994.
We sometimes wonder whether some groupings and some elements of the media are on a campaign to neutralise organisations such as ours simply because our views on certain issues are so politically incorrect.
Kwasizabantu Mission is financed by various projects and donations. A number of agricultural and technical ventures help provide employment, training and finance. No church collections are held and no appeals for finance are made. No person, visitor, helper or full-time co-worker is ever asked to part with possessions or money.
The reference to our duping people out of millions is not true. The mission has never organised any such scheme.
The school is a private institution and normal school fees are paid. The highest school fees (for grade 10 to 12) are R1 000 a year (which includes hostel fees).
We go out of our way to help people in the whole of their lives. The Gospel is all inclusive and is not just limited to the spiritual. A number of very successful social upliftment projects are run by the mission.
6. Corporal Correction
The insults against the mission began with the allegation of regular “public beatings” at the school. It was the practice of DSS, since its inception in 1986, to use corporal correction. In 1994, a year before the Department of Education banned the practice of corporal punishment, DSS suspended it. In early 1996 it was officially banned by the school at a special meeting for parents. The school insisted, despite much opposition from parents, that it was the duty of parents and not the school to use corporal correction.
Aberrations and excesses of corporal correction were dealt with by church discipline and teaching. It is our view that corporal correction is only one of many options and should always be within the context of love and care.
In conclusion, we believe that in the context of the new emphasis in our country on secular-humanist values there is a direct clash of world views. Much of the harsh criticism in the press is not aimed just at KSB but the Church in general. There will probably be an escalation of such attacks and a strong effort to brand outspoken churches and Christian organisations as “right wing”, “fundamentalist”, “exclusivist”.
We, together with other churches and organisations who stand strongly on the message of the Bible, will continue to fulfil our commission to “preach the Gospel to every person”.
The Reverend E. H. Stegen is the director of Kwasizabantu Mission.