Unisa honours Methodist Southern Africa’s first female bishop

The first female presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Purity Malinga, will be honoured by the University of South Africa for her trailblazing contribution in the field of theology and leadership.

Honorary doctorate

She will be awarded the honorary doctoral degree in theology on the second day of Unisa’s autumn graduations on Thursday. To be held at the Muckleneuk campus in Pretoria.

She is one of 12 eminent persons, including the late music legend Ray Phiri, to be conferred with honorary doctorates. This in recognition of their excellence and exemplary contributions in various fields.

A total of 40,000 students will graduate from Wednesday until May 31. The ceremonies will be held in Pretoria, Mbombela, Polokwane, East London Durban, and Cape Town.

Malinga has a master of divinity degree from Harvard University in the US. She has been a pioneer in the Methodist Church in Southern Africa.

Former teacher

The retired bishop, who is a qualified teacher, entered the ministry in 1981. Before that she worked as a teacher in her hometown of Ixopo, KwaZulu-Natal, for five years. She was only the fourth woman minister to be ordained by the Methodist Church in Southern Africa.

In 1999, she was inducted as a bishop, the first female in the Methodist Church in Southern Africa. Last year, she handed over the reins to presiding bishop to Pumla Nzimande.

In June 2021, the prestigious Methodist church school, St Stithians in Sandton, Johannesburg, honoured Malinga. The school named its entrance on 40 Peter Place “The Bishop Malinga Gate”. This was in recognition of the clergy’s historic induction as the first woman presiding bishop in 2019.

Church’s 100th presiding Bishop

Now, retired Malinga is the church’s 100th presiding bishop.

In  an academic paper in 2016 Raymond Simangaliso Kumalo of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary wrote a tribute. Titled “From Constance Oosthuizen to Purity Malinga: the struggle for equality in ordination in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa”.

It read in part: “In the town of Pietermaritzburg, stand the monumental and magnificent buildings of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS). This is the pride of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.”

“At the centre of the SMMS buildings stands the Christ the Servant Chapel with its large doors. Behind the chapel is a beautiful, evergreen and tranquil prayer garden. Built with cubicle hedges and strong pews.

First woman Bishop to be ordained in the MCSA

“In the entrance of the garden is a stone with these words: ‘This garden remembers the witness of the Methodist women. It honours the first woman to be ordained in the MCSA, Rev Constance Oosthuizen, and the first woman Bishop, Rev Purity Malinga.”

On Wednesday, Africa’s largest university will celebrate her contribution to opening doors for women leaders in the church.

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