Zimbabwe East Union Conference headquarters.

Photo courtesy of Morris Mlambo.

Zimbabwe East Union Conference

By Morris Mlambo

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Morris Mlambo, Ph.D. candidate (University of Zimbabwe, Mount Pleasant, Harare), currently serves as Highfield District pastor in the North Zimbabwe Conference and Solusi University adjunct lecturer. He holds Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology from Solusi University, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Special Honors degree and Master of Arts degree in Religious Studies from the Universtiy of Zimbabwe, and Master of Pastoral Theology degree from the Adventist University of Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya.

First Published: December 8, 2022

Zimbabwe East Union Conference is a subsidiary church administrative unit of the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

Introduction

The Zimbabwe East Union Conference was created in 2018, out of the former Zimbabwe Union Conference. Before this, the Adventist church in Zimbabwe enjoyed steady growth in stewardship and evangelism. The Zimbabwe Union Conference was adding 43,000 baptized members annually. At this growth rate, it was estimated that its membership could increase by 300,000 in the next five years if no realignment was done. ZUC already had 4,402 congregations in six conferences, with an average membership in each conference of 142,300 as of December 2017. ZUC’s institutions comprised a university, an orphanage, two dental clinics, 146 schools, an upcoming teacher’s college, and an orthodontic clinic that was about to reopen. To avoid a situation where most of the Union Conference’s operating time was spent in committees, it became necessary to realign ZUC to enhance the church’s mission.1

Current Territory and Statistics

Zimbabwe East Union Conference territory covers the Mashonaland and Manicaland Provinces. The nation’s capital city, Harare, the hub of economic activities of Zimbabwe, and Mutare, the fourth-largest city in Zimbabwe, are found in the conference territory. Zimbabwe East Union Conference is made up of two local conferences, East Zimbabwe Conference and North Zimbabwe Conference. As of June 30, 2021, ZEUC had 984 churches, with a total membership of 347,055 from a population of 5,255,603.2 The union conference’s institutions consist of Adventist Dental Services in Newlands, Harare, and the Adventist Book Center in the city center of Harare.

Organizational History

Adventist mission work in Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, commenced in 1894 at Solusi Mission. The first convert, Jim Mayinza Dube, was baptized December 1, 1901.3 In 1910, Elder Melvin Sturdevant spearheaded the penetration of Zimbabwe’s eastern regions, such as Rusape and Nyazura.4 In that same year, pioneers from Lower Gwelo Mission went to Nhema where they established Hanke Mission.5 The year 1910 was packed with evangelistic campaigns in selected parts of the country, resulting in pioneering such areas as Masvingo, Chiredzi, Runde, and Save Valley. From Nhema, the gospel was also proclaimed in such areas as Dombwe, Matamba, Dlodlo, Chivi, and Mukotosi. In 1911 the Lower Shangani area was also evangelized, comprising the areas of Silobela, Kanye, Donsa, and others.6

From 1921, Lower Gwelo Mission housed the headquarters for the Southern Rhodesia Field. In 1931, under the leadership of H.M. Sparrow, the church’s membership stood at 2,796. In 1934, E.C. Bogus became the superintendent, while Moses Donga oversaw departments. Other workers included James Ndebele and Paul Mbono, converts from Hanke Mission in Nhema.

In 1916 the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Mission was created, with headquarters in Bulawayo, and a membership of 953, in 28 congregations, as well as four boarding schools and three clinics.7 The Rhodesia and Nyasaland Mission Field administered the work in four countries, Bechuanaland (Botswana), Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), and Nyasaland (Malawi). It was renamed Zambesi Union Mission in 1919.

In 1964, the Matabeleland-Midlands Field and Mashonaland Field were created through a realignment of the Southern Rhodesia territory. Pastor O.D Muza became the first president of Mashonaland Field, while Pastor S.B. Dube (Mtshwangela) became president of Matebeleland-Midlands-Field. Before this time, presidents were called superintendents. Mission fields did not operate on a set wage factor at that time. Even after the organization of these two fields in Rhodesia, wages were not consistent. The power to determine workers’ wages was invested in the mission superintendent, who decided based on the available funds. Gospel ministers sometimes endured several months without remuneration, as funding largely depended on the contributions of few members dotted around the field, who also had no stable income. Lay evangelists did not receive any wages but found joy in advancing God’s cause.8

In 1981, Matabeleland-Midlands Field was realigned to form West Zimbabwe Field and Central Zimbabwe Field. That same year, the Mashonaland Field changed its name to become East Zimbabwe Field. Twelve years later, in 1993, the three fields attained conference status. The evaluation exercise was spearheaded by General Conference team Secretary Matthew A. Bediako Under Secretary A. Tolhurst.9

By 1997, the Adventist Church in Zimbabwe had 506 congregations, with a total membership of 230,700, distributed in three local conferences.10 The Church oversaw seven boarding schools and ten clinics. Because of this growth in membership, institutions, and finances, the Zambesi Union Mission was organized into a union conference, changing its name to Zimbabwe Union Conference in November 1997. It took 113 years for the church to attain this mature status.11

In 2017 Zimbabwe Union Conference membership reached 863,932.12 This was an increase of 633,232 members, translating to average annual growth rate of 31,662 members. As a result of this growth, the conferences in Zimbabwe were realigned in December 2014 to create six local conferences. The newly organized local conferences were Central Zimbabwe Conference, with a membership of 144,076; East Zimbabwe Conference, with 172,755; North Zimbabwe Conference, with 146,619; North West Zimbabwe Conference, with 131,737; West Zimbabwe Conference, with 154,249; and South Zimbabwe Conference, with 95,777.13

By realigning the work into smaller, workable territories, the church enhanced its mission and increased its effectiveness. The ZUC worked tirelessly under the guidance of the executive committee to prepare for the realignment. The Union Conference Secretariat spearheaded the preparatory work, in collaboration with all the departments and other church entities. The realignment task force included all officers, departmental directors, the executive committee, and appointed other sub-committees, including the information and technology department. Pastor Micah Choga was the President of ZUC, Pastor Enoch Chifamba was the Executive Secretary, and Elder Ndabezinhle Masuku was the Chief Financial Officer.

In June 2018, ZUC became officially aligned into three union conferences, Zimbabwe West Union Conference, Zimbabwe Central Union Conference, and Zimbabwe East Union Conference. Since the organization of Zimbabwe East Union Conference in 2018, the church in the eastern part of Zimbabwe has continued to fulfill its Christian mandate. The union conference has created additional departments to increase mission effectiveness. It is most likely that more new conferences will be organized, as preparations are already underway.14

Outlook

After the organization of the Zimbabwe East Union Conference, the first quinquennial session received reports of membership growth. The two local conferences under the union’s supervision have already voted requests for realigning into more conferences. Zimbabwe East Union Conference is also looking forward to establishing a media center to spread the gospel using media technology. Great Heights University is under construction, and studies will commence soon. The union conference also seeks to develop an Adventist Lifestyle Centre and a hospital to provide a holistic ministry.

List of Administrators

President: Godfrey Musara (2018 to present).

Secretary: Zibusiso Trust Ndlovu (2018 to present).

Treasurers: Muchandida Phelimon (2018 to 2022); Simbarashe Muzamindo (2022 to present).

Sources

History of the Solusi Mission and University: A Bibliographical Guide to Sources in the Heritage Room. Pacific Union College Library (G. Shearer, 1997).

“Home." Zimbabwe East Union Conference. Accessed 8 September 2022, http://zeuc.adventist.org/.

Machamire, Paminus. “East Zimbabwe Conference.” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8CCX.

Moyo, Sam. The Land Question in Zimbabwe (Harare: SAPES Books, 1995).

Ncube, Linos. “Republic of Zimbabwe.” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. July 15, 2022. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BCDB.

Robinson, Virgil. The Solusi Story. Accessed September 8, 2022, https://africansdahistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/The-Solusi-Story-by-Virgil-Robinson.pdf.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997, and Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2017.

Notes

“Republic of Zimbabwe.” Accessed November 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BCDB.

2 “Zimbabwe East Union Conference.” Accessed September 7, 2022, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity?EntityID=54216.

3 Virgil Robinson, “The Solusi Story.” Accessed September 8, 2022, https://africansdahistory.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/The-Solusi-Story-by-Virgil-Robinson.pdf.

4 “East Zimbabwe Conference.” Accessed November 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8CCX.

5 “Entity.” Accessed November 21, 2022, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/entity.

6 “Republic of Zimbabwe.” Accessed November 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=BCDB.

7 “History of the Solusi Mission and University: A Bibliographical Guide to Sources in the Heritage Room.” Pacific Union College Library (G. Shearer, 1997).

8 “Zambesi Conference.” Accessed November 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6J99.

9 “East Zimbabwe Conference.” Accessed November 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=8CCX.

10 “Zambesi Union Mission.” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1997), 77.

11 Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, 2nd rev. ed, Commentary Reference Series, v. 10-11 (Hagerstown, MD: Review & Herald Pub. Association, 1996).

12 “Zimbabwe Union Conference.” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2017), 387.

13 Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

14 ACTION: ZUC 15 – 056 VOTED to recommend to General Conference through Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division (SID) the realignment of the Zimbabwe Union Conference into three (3) Unions.

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Mlambo, Morris. "Zimbabwe East Union Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 08, 2022. Accessed June 17, 2024. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AHED.

Mlambo, Morris. "Zimbabwe East Union Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. December 08, 2022. Date of access June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AHED.

Mlambo, Morris (2022, December 08). Zimbabwe East Union Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved June 17, 2024, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=AHED.