Kimbangu was born at Nkamba, 320 km southwest of Kinshasa in the Bakongo province, Democratic Republic of Congo on 12 September 1887. He was married to Muilu Kiawanga with 3 sons namely: Kisolokele Lukelo Charles, Dialungana Kiangani Solomon and Diangienda Kuntima Joseph. Kimbangu died on 12 October 1951.
Simon Kimbangu had humble beginnings and was a devoted catechist after baptism by the British Baptist Missionary Society in 1915. From 1918 he reportedly had visions of the Biblical Jesus Christ appearing to him, urging him to start a movement of spiritual awakening by preaching the Word of God and healing. At the age of 34 he answered this call and on 6 April 1921 he healed for the first time a dying woman called Nkiantondo.
Word of this spread fast and a short ministry of almost six months saw Kimbangu drawing a huge crowd in Nkamba as well as surrounding villages. Before long hospital beds and Missionary Churches were emptied as people sought healing and even resurrection. Kimbangu resurrected and estimated 146 people. Some of whose relatives are still alive today.
This Ministry was conducted whilst fleeing the then Belgium Colonial forces of the DRC. He gave himself up and was finally arrested on 12 September 1921. He was tried in Mbanza Ngungu, a nearby town, for sedition. In those days punishment for sedition was death. On the 3rd of October 1921 the death sentence was handed down to him only to be commuted to life imprisonment later that year by the then king of Belgium, Albert 1st. He was sent 2000 km away to Lubumbashi east of the DRC where he spent 30 years in isolation. In jail several attempts to end his life failed and he received a daily 120 lashes by prison warders.
In spite of this jail term his wife, Muilu Kiawanga, carried on the work her husband left behind, of cause under trying circumstance. She played a major role in the development of the church from 1921 to 27 April 1959 (year of her dearth). She introduced the Christian card system and founded the International Kimbanguist Women Association. She was the first Spiritual Leader of the church and is widely perceived as an Icon in Kimbanguist circles, because the expansion of the movement is largely attributed to her. Kimbangu’s youngest son, Diangienda Kuntima led the Church from an underground movement from 24 December 1959 (date of the Church’s independence) to an international organization of close to 20 million members today. H.E. Diangienda Kuntima passed away on 8 July 1992 in Switzerland. Since then H.E. Dialungana Kiangani took over as Spiritual Leader and Legal Representative of the church until his passing on 16 August 2001.
The ‘Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by His Special Envoy, Simon Kimbangu’ was the first AfricanChurch to be accepted as a full member of the World Council of Churches in 1970 and is also a full member of the South African Council of Churches.
From 1918 to 1951 Kimbangu predicted in chronological order the following:
- He said that Africans would be liberated throughout the first nominal independence of the 60’s
- That dictators would come into power in African afterwards
- That murderers wars would break out everywhere in Africa not long after independence
- That young Africans would flee to occidental countries to escape oppression and severe poverty
- The second independence (dipanda dianzole) would be led by a powerful man, with a highly important mission. He would have a book with a very important message that will at first be rejected but eventually accepted by all. This man would be a great political, religious and scientific leader.
- And that one day black people would become white and white people black.
The beloved City, Nkamba Jerusalem
Nkamba, the birth place of Simon Kimbangu and international headquarters of the KimbanguistChurch, is today a place of pilgrimage to Kimbanguists worldwide. It is now affectionately called “New Jerusalem”. The soil and water of the NkambaRiver is widely used for medicinal purposes and no shoes are worn in and around this sacred place. On 6 April 1985 the Church building was inaugurated by the then Spiritual Leader, Diangienda Kuntima and this date has since been sanctified by the Church. The Church building consists of 37000 seats and this figure represents the number of families tortured and deported for their association with Simon Kimbangu in 1921. The deportations was an effort to curb the spread of this movement, but needles to say it only resulted in Kimbanguism becoming a multi-ethnic movement in the DRC. Today the Church is also present in other African countries like: Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Rwanda, Burundi, Gabon, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Togo, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa.
Conduct and Hierarchy
Like other African Churches, Kimbanguists adhere to a very strict moral code of conduct. They are strictly monogamous, they do not bath or sleep naked. They abstain from smoking, alcohol and eating pork. Shoes are removed when praying and in every place of worship, women and girls cover their hair. The church confesses the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (The latter being understood as both a divine power and a full person like the Father and the Son). The bible is the sole authority on matters of faith and the Ten Commandments are taught and read everyday. The church adheres to the Nicene Creed. It has four sacraments: baptism (by laying on of hands), Eucharist, Marriage and Ordination. The Eucharist is only celebrated three times a year: on 6th April (beginning of Kimbanguist movement), on 25 May (birthday of H.E. Dialungana Kiangani) and 12th October (death of Simon Kimbangu). The clergy consist of ordained men and woman without discrimination. Woman pastors perform every sacrament without restriction.
The Spiritual Leader of the Church (H.E. Simon Kimbangu Kiangani) is assisted by:
- Adjunct Spiritual heads (brothers of the Spiritual Leader)
- Bansadisi (Healers)
- Legal representatives of the churches in various countries
- Regional representatives and their staffs
- Subregional representatives and their staffs
- Parish ministers, evangelists and helpers
- Parish section ministers, evangelists and helpers
Simon Kimbangu was a black consciousness leader who summed up the plight of the Congolese with comprehension. He is often called the Father of Independence in the Congo because he was first to encourage people to peacefully resist the forces of the day and seek political, economical and spiritual freedom. The Kimbanguist Church has a very progression financial support system through ‘offering by competition’. Kimbanguism is an authentically African religion in its own right and not merely a photocopy of Western religion. The religion contains the 5 principles that will lead to Africa’s development as well as the development of impoverished societies globally.
Kimbangu died, incarcerated, on Friday 12 October 1921 at precisely 3pm. Today the Church is led by Kimbangu’s grandson, H.E. Simon Kimbangu Kiangani, eldest son and successor of Dialungana Kiangani who was the custodian of Nkamba Jerusalem.
- Marie-Louise Martin, Kimbangu: An African Prophet and his Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1975
- Presentation on “Conduct of the KimbanguistChurch” by Dr. Bena-Silu, at the World Council of Churches Summit in 1996
Full text submitted by Lebone Lumbu, Cape Town. 2009