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From Bishop Phillip Russell to Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe: an examination of the causes of decline in membership at the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity in Pietermaritzburg from 1976-2021.

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There is a noticeable exodus of members globally from the mainline Protestant churches. As a result, in other parts of the world the infrastructure that belonged to the mainline Churches is being sold to the secular world. The Anglican Church in Natal is not immune from this phenomenon. This research study uses the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity in Pietermaritzburg as a case study to examine the causes of membership decline in the Anglican Church in Natal from 1976 to 2021. The Cathedral of the Holy Nativity is the mother Church of the Diocese of Natal. The causes of membership decline were examined through interviews that were conducted in terms of the Covid-19 protocols imposed by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Research Office, with the previous members and current (2021) leadership of the Cathedral. In addition, desk research was undertaken utilising Diocesan and Parish archives, on-line resources, journal articles, published books, and other literature made available through the University’s library services and elsewhere. The study found that the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity in Pietermaritzburg began as a unified Parish of white congregants in 1976, with black congregant members only beginning to join in the early 1990’s, following the repeal of the Group Area Act No. 41 of 1950 on 30 June 1991. Notwithstanding, the Cathedral has suffered the decline of both white and black congregants within 45 years of its existence. Among other things, the study found that social ills, politicaland secular-landscape changes, as well as the presence of untransformed imperialist doctrines, liturgy, and practices contributed in different ways to the exodus of congregant members. This work has the potential to challenge the leaders and laity of not only the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, but mainline churches both in South Africa and globally to undertake serious introspection and self-correction, to find new ways to attract and retain its members.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.