Nazareth Baptist Church

Nazareth Baptist Church (Alternatively called "The Nazarite Church" "iBandla lamaNazaretha") is an African Initiated Church founded by Isaiah Shembe 1910.[1]

It has approximately 4 million members.[2] The religion bans smoking, drinking, adultery and fornicating.[3] It reveres Shembe as a prophet sent by God to restore the teachings of Moses, the prophets, and Jesus.

It was divided into two groups after the 1976 death of Johannes Galilee Shembe. The larger group was led by Bishop Amos Shembe until his death in 1995, while Rev. Londa Shembe led the smaller group.[4]

As of 2009 it was divided into three factions in KwaZulu-Natal and one in Gauteng.[5]

The religion uses endangered leopard skins as part of their ceremonies, which some activists are trying to stop or replace with synthetic leopard skin.[6]

On the 18th of October 2016, the KwaZulu Natal High Court in Durban declared Vela Shemba the legitimate leader of the Nazareth Baptist Church after a protracted court battle which had dragged on since 2011.[7]


The Shembe begin each year with a Holy pilgrimage to iNhlangakazi or Khenana Mountain, on the first Sunday of the New Year. It is said that Isaiah Shembe was drawn to the area where the Holy Spirit told him to start the Church.[8]

They also hold a month-long celebration in Judea near Eshowe every year in October, where members gather to receive the blessings of Shembe.[8]

World Cup legal challenge

In early 2010 the Nazareth Baptist Church claimed that the vuvuzela horn, used by fans attending football matches in South Africa, actually belongs to their church. They threatened to pursue legal action to stop supporters from playing the vuvuzela at the South African World Cup,[9] but no legal proceedings were initiated.


  1. Fisher, Jonah (16 January 2010). "Unholy row over World Cup trumpet". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
  2. "In pictures: South African pilgrims". BBC. 21 January 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
  3. McGregor, Sarah (October 31, 2006). "Charismatic Shembe thriving". Daily News. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
  4. "Isaiah Shembe and the amaNazarites". University of Calgary. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
  5. Memela, Mhlaba (30 June 2009). "Shembe house torched - Nazareth faction leader fears for his life after attack". Retrieved 2010-01-16.
  6. Shembe snarl at mock leopard skin
  7. "Vela Shembe comes out victorious in church leadership battle". News24. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
  8. 1 2 "On a Shembe Pilgrimage". South African Tourism. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
  9. Fisher, Jonah (16 January 2010). "Unholy row over World Cup trumpet". BBC Sport. Retrieved 2010-01-16.

External links

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