Who we are

“Our Mission is to train dedicated Christian leaders, in an urban setting, for the Church-in- Mission by providing quality tertiary education that is Evangelical, Holistic and Contextual.”

The Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa (ESSA) is a committed evangelical institution of Higher Education in South Africa. Our focus is to equip men and women with tools and attitudes needed to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in church, ministry and life. We are evangelical, multi-racial, multi-denominational, non-sexist, contextual and academically credible at tertiary level.

ESSA is a not-for-profit company, registered with the company number 2003/013904/08 and the NPO number 028-807-NPO.

History of the Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa

The Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa (ESSA) was founded 1980 with the aim of offering high quality theological education to those who didn’t have access to theological training on that level. Today ESSA is still pursuing that goal, although times have changed drastically.

The seminary opened its doors to students in January 1980 under the name of the Evangelical Bible Seminary of Southern Africa (EBSemSA). The need for a degree level evangelical seminary had been recognized back in 1974. Five consultations followed which led to the formation of an interim governing Council. The founding vision was for a multiracial seminary (which flew in the face of the apartheid policies of the day), based in a city (while most bible schools were out in rural areas) and offering degree level programmes (in contrast to the lower level of bible school training) to meet the needs of the church in future.

From the very beginning ESSA was a cutting edge and progressive institution. The fact that this was a multiracial body of students meant that the injustices and hurt caused by the unjust system created a fertile environment in which to confront charged emotions, examine prejudices and reflect on the role of the church in South Africa. In 1986 the seminary formally adopted a commitment to do contextual theology – to the displeasure of some of the supporting constituencies.

The first home of the seminary in 1980 was 200 Pine St in Pietermaritzburg. Over the next 21 years a further 13 properties were acquired to give ESSA ownership of both sides of a city block in Pine Street. These buildings included a disused Lutheran church, a block of flats and a set of Grade 1 listed Victorian homes from the 1860’s. Most of the properties were in a state of disrepair. Over the years they were carefully restored, such that Amafa gave the seminary   an award in 2006 in recognition of these efforts in urban renewal.  A new, purpose- built R3 million library was opened in March 2007 to house the 30000 volumes and journals.

Students have come from many different denominations over the years which has enriched the community. They have also come from many African countries, particularly from the SADEC region but also from Rwanda and Burundi when refugees from those countries ended up in Southern Africa.  This multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi denominational composition has proved to be a challenging and an enriching environment.

The founding principal, Dr Phil Capp, retired at the end of 1992 and he was succeeded by Dr Moshe Rajuili in 1993. This transition from the founder phase coincided with the need to formalize structures, policies and procedures over the next few years. When the six-day-war erupted in Edendale/Imbali and many homes were destroyed, the seminary opened its doors to house some of the displaced persons. Their plight led Dr Rajuili to start the Urban Missions Community Programme (UMCP) which provided training in secretarial and computer skills and in sewing classes in an attempt to enable people to find employment.  ESSA was the first seminary in Africa to introduce a Church and Community Development track of studies.  After 10 years the UMCP venture closed down and the social concern was refocused on the burgeoning HIV/AIDS pandemic. ESSA started the ESSA Christian Aids Programme (ECAP) to teach local churches to care for AIDS sufferers in their neighbourhoods. Over the years more than 100 congregations have undertaken training. ECAP has evolved and modified its training as the pattern of the disease has changed. It has received funding for years from the Department of Health. ESSA was the first evangelical seminary in Africa to teach a course on HIV/AIDS.

In 1994 ESSA formally joined the Pietermaritzburg Cluster of Theological Institutions. This arrangement brought about the formal relationship between the School of Theology in the University of Natal, the Roman Catholic seminary called St Josephs Theological Institute and ESSA. More recently the Lutheran Theological Institute (LTI), the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS), the Anglicans and the Congregational Church have joined the Cluster to make Pietermaritzburg an important node of theological education in the country. One of the major benefits of the Cluster is the arrangements by which each institution’s library holdings are shared online through the University which immeasurably enriches the participating schools.

Long before the advent of SAQA, the Seminary sought accreditation with the (then) Accrediting Council for Theological Education in Africa (ACTEA). Their processes were rigorous and, as such, enabled the seminary to ensure the quality of its educational qualifications which were a certificate, a diploma and a licentiate which was equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. After the advent of the new South Africa, ESSA was one of the first theological colleges to be scrutinized by SAQA. In 2004 the seminary introduced a BTh (Hons) degree through the local university, an arrangement which persisted until 2011. The quality of the education offered at ESSA is attested to by the fact that a large portion of graduates have gone on to do post-graduate studies, right up to doctorates, at the local university.

In 1999, in anticipation of the new millennium, ESSA adopted a new Strategic Plan and vision for the future. One of the decisions was to change the name from EBSemSa to ESSA in order to avoid the cumbersome double stopped consonants in the old acronym. The following Mission Statement was adopted: “The Seminary exists to train dedicated Christian leaders in an urban setting, for the Church-in-Mission, by providing quality education that is evangelical, holistic and contextual.” This mission statement and a clear set of undergirding values has provided stability and has steered the seminary through troubled waters over three decades.

ESSA has seen the usual number of ups and downs in the past 38 years. A serious leadership crisis in 2008 has led to a reduction in staff from 20 to 5 full-time staff members by mid-2010. The Seminary has been de-registered in 2011 due to financial audited statements not being submitted to governmental departments on time. While the academic standards had been superb and ESSA’s 3 qualifications (BTh, DipTh and HCertTh) had just been re-accredited in 2010, the administrative aspect of the Seminary had been in need of attention. In beginning of 2012 the Seminary had a total of 630.000 Rand in combined debts.

Remaining staff members and a renewed council have committed themselves to re-build the Seminary into an institution that will, once again, serve the church and God, our Lord, by preparing men and women for ministry and mission in Africa and beyond through a new mode of instruction which is relevant and affordable and allows for stronger integration with local churches and congregations.

In May 2013 the combined debts have been cleared and, probably for the first time in its history, the Seminary was debt free and showed a positive balance in the bank account. The financial statements have been audited and administration is back on track again.

As of November 2017 the proposed BTh programme has been accredited (with conditions) by the Council on Higher Education (CHE) in South Africa. ESSA has also applied for registration as a Private Higher Education Institution (PHEI) with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) in 2014 and we are still awaiting the outcome of that process.

On being “Evangelical”

As the Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa the term “evangelical” is connected to our very core and identity. The central beliefs that characterizse the term ‘evangelical’ are outlined in our Statement of Faith.

The Christian historian David Bebbington says, “Although ‘evangelical’, with a lower-case initial, is occasionally used to mean ‘of the gospel’, the term ‘Evangelical’, with a capital letter, is applied to any aspect of the movement beginning in the 1730s.” He notes four distinctive aspects of Evangelical faith: conversionism, biblicism, crucicentrism, and activism, noting, “Together they form a quadrilateral of priorities that is the basis of Evangelicalism.” [-> Wikipedia: Evangelical]

Evangelicalism is typified by an emphasis on evangelism, a personal experience of conversion, biblically oriented faith and a belief in the importance of Christian faith to cultural issues. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, Protestant people, churches and social movements have often been called evangelical in contrast to Protestant liberalism. [-> Wikipedia: Evangelicalism]

The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology defines an evangelical as follows:
An evangelical is:

  1. An orthodox protestant
  2. Who stands in the tradition of the global Christian networks arising from the eighteenth-century revival movements associated with John Wesley and George Whitefield
  3. Who has a preeminent place for the Bible in her or his Christian life as the divinely inspired, final authority in matters of faith and practice
  4. Who stresses reconciliation with God through the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross
  5. And who stresses the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of an individual to bring about conversion and an ongoing life of fellowship with God and service to God and others, including the duty of all believers to participate in the task of proclaiming the gospel to all people.

[Page I in Timothy Larsen, “Defining and locating evangelicalism” in The Cambridge Companion to Evangelical Theology. Timothy Larsen & Daniel J. Treier (eds). Cambridge University Press, 2007]

More details and what it means to be evangelical can be found in the Lausanne Covenant (1974), the Manila Manifesto (1989) and the Cape Town Commitment (2010).

ESSA’s Directors

Mrs. Pat Bruce
Mrs. Pat Bruce

Mrs Pat Bruce; Director, Chairperson of the Council

D. Bill Houston
D. Bill Houston

Dr. Bill Houston; Director, Treasurer
Bill Houston BA. BSc. MTH. D Min. has spent the last 25 years in theological education having lectured for 6 years in England at All Nations Christian College before joining the staff at ESSA in 1992. For five years before retiring in 2010, he visited some 40 evangelical colleges in sub-Saharan Africa as a consultant on behalf of the Overseas Council International. This unique overview of trends in Africa led him to write two papers which are to be published shortly; ‘The Future is Not What it Used To Be: changes and choices facing theological education in Africa’ and ‘What is Quality in Theological Education?’ Bill has been married to Joan for 41 years and they have three adult children.

He is currently a visiting lecturer on the D Min programme of Africa International University in Nairobi.

Dr. Rowanne Marie
Dr. Rowanne Marie

Mrs Rowanne Marie; Director, staffing

Rowanne Marie is from the Full Gospel Church, and is married to Pastor T S Marie. Together, they have a vibrant, active church life and they are involved in ministry at all levels.
Rowanne is a graduate and former lecturer of ESSA, where her key responsibility was heading up the Church and Development Programme. Rowanne is currently employed by the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary as their Registrar and Head of Foundation and Development Department. She also brings to the Methodist Seminary experience in Accreditation and Registration of Private Higher Institutions. Rowanne has also lectured at UKZN and has been involved in the student supervision.
Dr. Rowanne Marie has concluded her PhD programme in the field of Theology and Development (with a particular focus on Gender and Development), where her passion lies. Her underlying principle is that people are agents of their own development so do everything possible to empower them!

Rowanne and her husband have been married for 20 years and have an only son.

ESSA’s Management body


The Principal position is currently vacant. The governing body is hoping to appoint a Principal as soon as the Seminary is “up and running” again.

Mr. Hennie Storm
Mr. Hennie Storm

Mr. Hennie Storm; Finance Director

Hennie has begun his career with the Free State Provincial Government where his task, among others, became “Implementing Financial Administration systems at schools and educating personnel on financial related issues”. After 13 years he moved on into the corporate sector until he accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour.

He quit his job, sold his franchise and moved to Cape Town to study theology. After graduation Hennie felt a call to ministry and pastored a church in the Natal midlands.

In June 2012 God created a “coincidence” where Hennie was mentioned to a staff member at ESSA. One thing led to the next and he agreed to become involved with the Seminary on a voluntary basis for 3 months. This time was supposed to give both parties enough time to find out whether or not they wished to become involved.

As of 1st October 2012 a part-time contract was signed, appointing Hennie Storm as Financial and Admin director. The debt reduction of 2012-2013 and subsequently stable financial position of the seminary would not have been possible without his strict but fair financial oversight. We are gratefult o Hennie for having lead us where we are now and safeguarding that mistakes of the past are NOT repeated.

Hennie and Kim live in Pietermaritzburg with their two young boys.

Mr. Johannes Klapprodt
Mr. Johannes Klapprodt

Mr Johannes Klapprodt; Academic Dean

Johannes spent his early years in the Philippines where his parents were planting and growing churches as missionaries. Johannes returned to Germany in 1983 and did his matric in 1993. He began an apprenticeship as a car mechanic and graduated in 1996.Johannes met his wife-to-be during a humanitarian aid mission to post-civil war Croatia. He was called up for military service in the same year and signed up for 4 years, including a tour of 5 months in Bosnia-Herzegovina as Weapons Inspector with NATO Peacekeeping Forces.

In 1999 Johannes and Christine got married and he was honourably discharged from the Army in 2000. Johannes and Christine a German Bible College for a BTh degree after which an MA degree in Missions & Church Growth followed. After graduation in 2005 they began an internship with a church in northern Germany which was extended into a part-time pastoring position. All the while both pursued a calling to the mission field. Between 2006-2008 Johannes ministered as part-time junior pastor, part-time truck driver and part-time missions secretary, raising support and preparing for ministry in South Africa.

In 2008 Johannes and Christine were seconded to ESSA by VDM (Vereinigte Deutsche Missionshilfe) and relocated their family to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa where he joined ESSA as junior lecturer. Due to challenging times at the Seminary a number of staff members resigned and Johannes over time was tasked with additional duties such as publicity, chaplaincy, fieldwork coordinator, student affairs and others.

The Seminary lost its accreditation in 2011 and the governing body approached Johannes with the mandate of “driving the turnaround strategy”. This mandate included the three goals of regaining financial stability, redesigning (and gaining accreditation) of the academic programme, and repairing the reputation of the Seminary. In order to work on this mandate Johannes was given the title of “Administrative Assistant to the Council” as the governing body was responsible for the process and Johannes was merely the executing or coordinating person on ground. Thanks to the enormous effort of a dedicated and committed staff ESSA managed to clear all debts by 2013 and submit applications to relevant government departments in 2014.

Toward the end of 2015 Johannes resigned from the position of Administrative Assistant as the mandate had expired with years end. The governing body appointed a Principal as of 1 February 2016 and Johannes is assisting with the hand-over process. As Johannes had been involved in designing the BTh in connection with the block release model the governing body felt it appropriate to appoint Johannes as Academic Dean. Johannes is currently registered for a doctorate at SATS. The field of his research is missiological training in South Africa.
Johannes and Christine live in Pietermaritzburg with their 3 boys, Jonathan, Micha and Timothy.

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