MALAWI: CRISIS TIME
August 1, 1991 Issue
by Jerry L. Cutter
As reported in the early history of the church in Malawi, the first great crisis that occurred involved the deportation of the first European missionary, brother George Hubert Hollis the first from South Africa, in 1915. Since then, three other crises have occurred, one in 1964, another in 1969 and the final one in 1989. This article deals with the first of these three. My final article will detail how my part of the work was accomplished.
E.G. SEVERE DISFELLOWSHIPPED
To many of us in the beginning, the name Severe and the church in Malawi were almost synonymous. He had a modest education, and was intelligent and shrewd. He also was by far the most powerful African church leader this writer has ever known. His potential for good was great. However, great men are not always good men, and to our sorrow, this proved to be true of Severe.
When brother James Orten and I arrived in Nyasaland (Malawi) in early April of 1964, almost immediately we discovered the following about Severe: 1) He no longer was brother E.G. Severe; he was Reverend E.G. Severe. This information was displayed on both his house and briefcase. 2) Severe was having the preachers under his control to sell yearly membership cards to members of the church. He in turn received half the proceeds, and the other half was kept by the preachers. 3) We soon learned he was guilty of adultery. 4) And we discovered he had written the brethren in Great Britain a lie of huge proportions that resulted in his receiving money.
Severe showed no repentance, but rather proceeded to sin yet more, having found a new source of income. After six months together in 1964, James Orten and I returned to America. Immediately though, I made arrangements to return to Malawi, and my family and I arrived for an extended stay, beginning in November, 1964.
In order to save the work, it was necessary to break with Severe completely. There was no way to build a work around this sinful, and unrepentant, brother. I will now quote from the withdrawal letter.
"Charge number one: adultery. Mr. Severe has been fined fifteen pounds in Nunde Local court for fostering an illegitimate child (a child I personally saw, but has since died-jlc). The case was first heard on June 25, 1964. The appeal was heard February 10, 1965. The case has now been closed and the original verdict has been upheld by the appeal court. For further information write Mr. Muphuwa, President of Nunde Gourt, Nunde Local Court, Chiradzulu, Malawi. Ask about E.G. (Ghimenya) Severe, Box 562, Limbe, Malawi, case #168-64."
"Charge number two: lying for money. The following is a quotation from a religious paper called the 'Scripture Standard', published by Mr. A.E. Winstanley, 43A, Church Road, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, England.
"Mr. E.G. Severe wrote: 'It is with deep regret that the church at Wendewende reports the sad deaths of our beloved brethren Mathias Montfort, Anny Kacingwe, and Harry Kapiri, who died here on 29th Sept., 1962, when the church roof fell while in the progress of the service. Then seven who were seriously injured are receiving medical treatments at St. Joseph Hospital in Ghira Azula Hospital. We have not as yet heard from the doctors of either hospitals as to their present condition. Brethren who visited hospitals this morning say that there is hope they will all recover.
"The church at Wendewende has been mainly responsible for expenses incurred in the transportations of the casualties there and back from the hospitals. The bill tolls up and there is very little received from some congregations. Yet the church at Wendewende is financially poor to meet all that is required by the hospitals. Whilst we bitterly weep for those that lost their lives in this sad accident. We are also touched with pity for those who are still undergoing pain in the hospitals and the financial burden so pressing. Our appeal is for you to pray and help in this sad moment of ours...', Signed: E.G. Severe.
"The accident just recorded never happened. For further proof one may check with witnesses or go and view Wendewende church personally. Moreover, it should be remembered that this article was not a mere slip of the pen by Mr. Severe. Rather it was a specially concocted lie designed to get money. From this lie he received more than fifteen pounds (about U.S. $50). He has never repented."
Severe's new source of income was from the brotherhood that G.W. Mickey of Tulia, Texas, is associated with. This group is anti-pastor, two cups, no Sunday School. When I heard Severe had joined with Mickey through his new founded paper called The Reasoner, I wrote a letter outlining Severe's sins, and requested his paper. I never received the paper or a direct reply. However, through this paper, and for the next several years, were and Mickey made a game of slurring me, and of lying about the work in Malawi.
Mickey had asked Severe about my charges, and Mickey wrote in his paper that Severe had repented in a meeting in Sept., 1964, and he then proceeded to compare Severe's case and repentance with King David's in the Old Testament. There was only one problem: At the meeting where Severe said he repented and confessed his sins, I was there, and Severe neither repented, nor confessed, because he wasn't even present.
As a result of Severe and his sins, we broke with him completely, and in effect started the work all over. We made it known we would no longer be associated with Severe, or with any church that was associated with him. It was as simple as that. No public scenes, no writing campaigns, no shouting matches, or great meetings and no government involvement.
Beginning in early 1965, all the churches working with us were registered through P.O. Box 573, Blantyre. It was soon after this that brother Bennie Cryer and family joined in the work, and from that moment forward it began to take on great growth.
SEVERE'S FALL AND DEATH
Severe twice tried to have me deported. He wrote a complaint against me to the government. A high official in the G.I.D., and personal friend of mine, warned me of an investigation, and an impending interview. I was cleared.
The next incident involved a preacher Bennie and I discovered had been selling church membership cards. The preacher was privately rebuked. The preacher went to Severe, and Severe made a complaint to the Native Authority in that area against me. I was subpoenaed to appear in an African court. I am sure other Europeans have had this experience, but none to my knowledge. I had never met this N.A. before. Court was held under a tree, and many observers were present. I presented the case of the church simply and kindly, explaining the church, like the N.A., had rules, and it was simply a matter of a church member violating a church rule, and being rebuked. The Lord was good to us, and the NA. picked up on my approach and began to excoriate Severe and ended up ordering him out of his court, and the area, and said he didn't want to see him again. The N.A. at a later time attended our services when we were in his area, invited me to his home, and even wrote me after I returned to America. This incident, which occurred in July 1966, was the last time I ever saw Severe.
While my wife, Pat, and I were living in Australia in 1983, I received a strange letter. An elder of the Woodstock Church of Christ, Woodstock, Georgia, brother Cal Arquitt, of the cups and Sunday School persuasion, wrote me requesting information on Severe, "specific or in a general nature." Severe was investigated carefully and thoroughly. From a letter dated June 20, 1984, and written by E.G. Severe to "Dear Brother Floyd Ault," we quote in part: "I am happy to receive your letter that gives the reasons that lead to the withdrawal of my support or which caused my support, Ray's, Sam's and S. Kapango's support to be stopped... my support is withdrawn for no reasons."
Space will not allow the full letter to be quoted. He defends a brother fighting, his son buying a motorcycle, and comes to point four. "6. Jerry Cutter caused the division (does this sound familiar?). He hated me bitterly. When the churches in U.SA. forced him to discuss the differences with me I refused..." He goes through the charges I and several others made against him. Further, he says: "7. I do not oppose those who use more than one vessel..." "8. I do not oppose those who teach the bible to different classes..." "9. ..Many groups of brethren in U.S.A., Australia, Africa, Jamaica, Newsland (sic) are in full fellowship with me." He said he repented of his sins in 1968.
What caused this great investigation, involving two brotherhoods? While visiting Malawi in the mid-1980s, brother Lendal Wilks (cups, no-Sunday School persuasion), told me part of the reason Severe was tapping two brother-hoods at the same time for support. When he mailed his report on one occasion he made the blunder of putting the letters in the wrong envelopes.
Severe could not lie himself free. Thus on March 26, 1985, Severe wrote the following letter to "Dear Bro. Floyd Ault," and it is handwritten. Severe wrote: "I write to put my case before you, the brethren at Jackson Ridge and Woedsfield congregations that charges which were made against me by the former missionaries to Malawi were true. I honestly and frankly repent and confess my sins. I therefore ask you and all the brethren there to forgive me and pray on my behalf for the remission of my wrongdoings. Please read the charges to the brethren... Bro. Floyd, please, write to all who made the charges against me to forgive me and pray for me for the remission of my sins." Signed: E.G. Severe. So ends the sad and tragic story of E.G. Severe, except for his death.
He became sick in 1989, and apparently had recovered. Suddenly he took a turn for the worse and died. He was in his early 60s. The following death notice was put in the Blantyre Times by his family. "Thanks. Rev. E.G. Severe died on 21-03-89. Laid to rest on 23-3-89. The Severes wish to express heartfelt thanks to Bro. Kent Dickenson of USA various denominations in Mu
The whole course of our mission work changed in the rejection of Severe in 1964. How the work began to be accomplished after this will be explained in our next article.
Jerry Cutter 1991 OPA Main Page HOME