Attached is a letter which I wrote on 15 August 1988 to all those who were part of the Kwa Sizabantu movement at the time. It gives a few glimpses on the sad story which unfolded during my involvement with the place from the late seventies onwards. It was the last in a series of desperate attempts to save my first marriage from total collapse. It was never mailed, not because I did not want to mail it, but because I was advised against mailing it by the very people who were doing most to help me, in the light of the fruitlessness of previous attempts.
The gist of this 15 August 1988 letter is an open invitation to Erlo Stegen to meet me in the presence of unbiased christian witnesses with a view to resolving the dreadful impasse which had come about as a direct consequence of the way in which he had handled my unwillingness to “repent” from the “sin” of not subscribing wholeheartedly to what he was practising and preaching, as described in the letter. This letter, had it been mailed, would have been neither the first nor the last such invitation to mr Stegen. It is highly significant that Erlo Stegen has until today never seen his way open to discuss this matter with me in the presence of unbiased witnesses.
There is a simple reason for this state of affairs. Mr Stegen knows that the way in which he handled the “problem” (his words) which I represented to him puts him at direct odds with what the Bible teaches. He will deny this – and indeed he has gone to great lengths to misrepresent the situation in the eyes of the Church – but that is not the point: the point is that I am inviting him to meet me in the presence of unbiased witnesses with a view to resolving this matter for Christ’s Name’s sake and he is unwilling to agree to such a meeting.
I mention this to you for two reasons. Firstly, I believe it is my duty before God and before the Church to publicly identify myself with the contents and spirit of the “letter to the Church from concerned christians” and accompanying documents published on 19 February 2000 by Somerset Morkel, Trevor Dahl, Greg Damron and others.
Secondly, I would like to remind you of Galations 1 and 2. The fact of the matter is that Erlo Stegen’s refusal to submit to God’s Word has sadly also left his thinking and his teaching open to all sorts of man-made dogmas from which I believe the Church has a responsibility to publicly distantiate herself.
In His Name,
Kobus Du Preez
Cambridge, UK, 23 June 2000
PS: Note at bottom of letter added (not part of original letter)
15 August 1988
It was always in very vague terms that the silent disappearance of certain co-workers from Kwa Sizabantu during my stay there was explained to me. They had “fallen into sin” or “gone back into the world”, etc. I sometimes wonder what you must be hearing about me.
But I do not intend going into many details here. There is just one devastating fact regarding what is happening to me and Anneli which I feel obliged to bring to your attention, as members of the kind of church to which we belonged.
In Matthew 18.15-17 Jesus clearly teaches us what our duty is if our brother sins against us: “If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church …”
In a series of meetings held in January 1986, uncle Erlo asked his co-workers to state exactly where they stood as regards unity with Kwa Sizabantu. I subsequently shared with him about several issues where I felt I could not be one with what he taught and did. He was aware of most of these issues. It was not the first time that I shared them with him.
Uncle Erlo requested me to repeat in front of five of his most senior co-workers what I had shared with him in private. At two separate occasions on 1 and 30 June 1986 these co-workers in very clear terms put me in front of a choice: either “repent” or leave Kwa Sizabantu.
I honestly failed, though, (and still fail) to see from what sin I had to “repent”. I “had a different spirit”, had “read too many books”, was declared “their biggest enemy” etc, but nothing was said about obedience or disobedience to God’s Word. I explained to both uncle Erlo and uncle Friedel that I understood them to leave me no other alternative than to leave them. When this did not change their attitude, I started looking for another work.
In the meantime, however, Anneli was telling me that she was under no circumstances going to leave the place with me. This is where things started becoming particularly sad. Like uncle Erlo and some of his co-workers, she believed that I was deceived. She kept comparing me with a madman who once visited Kwa Sizabantu with his family, asking me if that man’s wife was obliged to follow her husband. This too is in line with the way in which certain co-workers described me.
I went back to uncle Erlo and explained my dilemma to him. His answer was (quote from my diary for 30 August 1986): “Leave me alone. Do just what you feel like doing. It is your problem.”
What was I to do? I believed that, in his capacity as Anneli’s pastor, uncle Erlo should at least have been prepared to show her what the Bible teaches about marriage. So I spoke to him a second time. He still refused, maintaining that he did not prescribe to people what they had to do.
At this point I said to uncle Erlo that I could see no other option anymore than to discuss the situation in detail with the minister who married me and Anneli. I wanted uncle Erlo to know about it beforehand. When he heard, however, that this minister had allegedly described Sizabantu as a sect (which was not true), he was furious with me. He threatened to go and speak to this minister personally, if I did not put this “sin” right with him. But when I suggested the next day that the two of us go to this minister together to try and sort out the problem, uncle Erlo’s full programme suddenly no longer allowed him to do so.
Eventually he accepted to speak to Anneli. She asked him whether he would in that case be prepared to take the responsibility for her and the children’s future upon him. This he did not want to do, so he came back and said that she insisted on staying and that he “could do nothing about it”.
This seemingly settled the matter for him, until approximately one year after I had left Kwa Sizabantu, when an important church leader from Europe phoned him, requesting an appointment to discuss the situation with him. I do not know what was said in the conversation he had with Anneli after this telephone call, but she promptly left the place a few days later. (Uncle Erlo never let me know of this.)
It all came about as a result of a visit I paid uncle Erlo on 1 June 1987, but this time accompanied by Hannes and Hanni Trauernicht of the Stadtmission, Pretoria and Martin Frische of the German branch of Trans World Radio in S.A. I had come to the conclusion, and was also told by someone who had been constrained to quit the movement for similar reasons as I, that I would never make any progress unless I could somehow manage to speak to uncle Erlo in the presence of unbiased witnesses. It seems to me that uncle Erlo does not have any scruples to misinterpret even his own words when it suits him. For example when he agreed in January 1987 to speak to Anneli the second time. She phoned me the same morning at work, calling me several times a hypocrite and a liar, and assuring me
that she was not going to go the way Saphira went. I had “told lies about uncle Erlo”.
As I knew nothing about these lies, I suggested that uncle Erlo makes a list of them and that the three of us then sit down and sort them out together. When this eventually took place, uncle Erlo told me, in Anneli’s presence, that he felt sorry for her because of the fact that she was married to a
man like me. He made a recording of this conversation, but refuses until today to let me have a copy of it.
In spite of the fact that Hannes Trauernicht had arranged and confirmed an appointment by telephone, uncle Erlo told us upon our arrival that there must have been a misunderstanding about the appointment, that the matter was in any case not in his hands, and that he had no time to discuss it with us. We waited until he had finished his programme for the day, but were then told by the co-workers that he was too tired to see us. The next morning we inquired from several people about his whereabouts, but no one knew where he was. At 08:00 on 2 June we left again for Pretoria.
Not long afterwards, however, a Swiss church leader handed us a copy of a five and a half page typed letter which he received from uncle Erlo, dated 1 June (four pages) and 2 June (one and a half pages). In this letter uncle Erlo accuses us of all kinds of things, in an effort to justify his conduct. Strangely, he also complains of being accused without being given a hearing, quoting John 7.51. This letter led to the telephone call [by the important church leader from Europe] I referred to above. Because Anneli left Kwa Sizabantu a few days after the telephone call, however, uncle Erlo and the church leader (a colleague of the one who received the letter) unfortunately never came to see each other.
Towards the end of September 1987, I arrived home one evening from visiting Anneli and the children to find a divorce summonds waiting for me. I personally informed uncle Erlo of this later on, because I still believed that he could help us, if he only wanted to. He replied that he normally waits for drunk people to become sober again before he talks to them, i.e. I must first “repent” before he would talk to me.
Several ministers have tried to obtain uncle Erlo’s co-operation in the matter. The point where every effort shipwrecks, however, is that I must “repent” from “sins” which are no sins. I am not ashamed to confess and apologise for mistakes which I really made, but I would have to become a liar before I could confess what uncle Erlo and Anneli insist that I confess.
In a reply which I was requested to write to uncle Erlo’s accusations of 1 and 2 June 1987, I wrote: “If he was serious in quoting John 7.51, let this then serve as an open invitation for such a meeting to be held, where both sides can be heard”. This was 7 March 1988. Uncle Erlo excused himself, due to his busy programme, for two months. In the meantime three more months have gone by, and my children will soon have to hear that their mommy and daddy, who both told them about the Lord Jesus and His love and forgiveness, are no longer married. But this does not seem to bother uncle Erlo.
God says in His Word that He hates divorce (Malachi 2.16). Jesus says: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matthew 19.6). For eight and a half years Anneli lived and worked at Kwa Sizabantu. How can uncle Erlo suffer this to happen to her and her children? Even if
I were deceived, as he assumes, what right would that give him to disregard the principles God lays down in His Word for marriage? Yet he gives himself out to be a man greatly used of God.
It is not easy for me to write these things. But I owe it – to God’s Word, and to you, and to the many people who come across my way, hurt and confused and disappointed as a result of their contact with Kwa Sizabantu. Not to speak of my children. It breaks my heart.
If uncle Erlo should feel that I am in the wrong, I invite him to arrange to speak to me personally about it, in front of unbiased children of God. Let him not take offense at this letter. The greatest love I can show him is still to remain honest with him. But as long as he refuses such a meeting, let his refusal be his answer to the Christian Church, and let no one take it amiss if I henceforth ignore what he may say or write about me.
Please pray for us. We need your prayers – all of us. Pray that God may somehow turn this whole situation to glorify His Name.
Your brother in Christ
Kobus du Preez
PS. I had asked Anneli what she believed would be the solution to our problem. Of course it was that I should “repent”. I then told her how uncle Erlo had lost his temper with me when he told me the minister who had married us had called Kwa Sizabantu a sect, and asked whether she wanted
me to repent and become like that. (I was discussing something else with him when all of a sudden he turned all red in his face and shouted at me: “What did you tell that man!?” It was so violent that my first thought was that he was going to hit me.) I added that she was welcome to repeat my words to
uncle Erlo – I was never in the habit of saying things behind his back. So when uncle Erlo finally accepted to speak to her, she told him what I had said. He was “very astonished” and flatly denied everything.