FROM CAIRO TO CAPE TOWN - A SOLDIER FOR CHRIST
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7
Bishop Stephen Bradley was an evangelist and church planter of extra-ordinary dedication and perseverance. He was a founder of Youth For Christ in South Africa and the primary human instrument in building up the Church of England in South Africa as a Gospel preaching, Bible-loving denomination.
On 2 July 2003, Bishop Bradley passed into eternity - at age 94. At his Memorial Service at St Peter's in Fish Hoek on 8 July, hundreds gathered to salute this faithful and courageous man of God. Bishop Bell, who led the service, described Bishop Bradley as a Godly man, a man of prayer and a disciplined man who had truly fought the good fight, finished the race and kept the faith. Bishop Frank Retief who had also been mentored by Bishop Bradley preached an evangelistic sermon. He declared that the finest way we could honour the memory of Bishop Bradley was to surrender our lives to Christ as he had done.
Stephen Carlton Bradley was born on 4 April 1909 in Cairo, Egypt. His parents were missionaries with the Egypt General Mission. In 1918 at age 9 they traveled by boat to Australia. The only way they could afford the journey was to enlist as crew members of the ship. Stephen Bradley, at 9 years old, served as a cabin boy on that voyage.
When he was studying for the ministry at Moore College in Sydney, Stephen Bradley was embroiled in controversy and suffered ongoing persecution for his evangelical convictions. At that time Moore College was very liberal and quite hostile to Stephen Bradley's evangelistic activities and prayer meetings. At one time a local newspaper declared in a banner headline: STUDENTS PRAY FOR DEATH OF PRINCIPAL.
As Stephen Bradley's name was mentioned in the newspaper article as the leader of the student prayer fellowship, the Principal called him into his office. Stephen Bradley explained that they were praying for his conversion - that God would either convert the Principal or remove him. Those who knew him said that Stephen Bradley never wavered, he was not afraid of speaking out, he was valiant for truth - a watchman on the walls.
Well, in fact, within the year the Principal died of cancer. Before dying he called for Stephen Bradley and admitted that he had lost his way and had indeed needed to come to Christ. The entire Council of Moore College changed and the College became thoroughly Evangelical.
When Reverend Stephen Bradley first came to South Africa in 1935 to be a missionary to the Zulus, he was given a call, literally at the dockside while disembarking, to be the pastor of Christ Church in Addington, Durban. The Zulus at first rejected Stephen Bradley because he was "too young", however, when his veterinary skills with cattle enabled him to successfully treat many of the infected cattle of the Zulus, the people began to flock to him. As he later described it - "It was not so much the people but the cattle that started to line up"!
When the Second World War broke out, Stephen Bradley enlisted in the South African Army. In 1941, dissatisfied at being so far from the fighting, he joined a ship of Italian Prisoners-of-War en route to Australia. There he enlisted in the Australian Army.
He was made a Chaplain and set about winning souls for Christ. This soon landed him in trouble with the authorities as his driver - a Roman Catholic - informed against him, reporting that he was also ministering to Roman Catholics - not confining his activities to the Protestant soldiers. At one time Stephen Bradley, even though a chaplain and a captain, was confined to barracks. Soon he got himself reassigned as an instructor in the School of Jungle Warfare in Canungra. He was later deployed to New Guinea and spent 17 months in appalling conditions fighting the Japanese - sometimes in intense hand to hand combat in the jungles, during which he was badly wounded in the face.
After the war, in 1945, Stephen Bradley returned to South Africa and threw himself with renewed vigour into building up the Church of England in South Africa. He served as pastor of Holy Trinity Church - which was then in Harrington Street near the castle, but which later had to be moved to the Gardens. He established St Andrews in Pinelands. He served as the only Curate to all the CESA churches in the Transvaal. He was consecrated Bishop of the Church of England in 1958. From 1965 to 1984 he served as Presiding Bishop of CESA.
When a pastor defected from the Church of England in South Africa to the CPSA, and closed down Christ Church in Pinetown, Bishop Bradley loaded up his Volkswagen and drove down from the Transvaal to re-open the work there. It was at Pinetown that Frank Retief served as a Curate under Bishop Bradley. When Frank Retief asked what transport he would have for the visitation ministry, Bishop Bradley replied: "God gave you two good legs". Mrs. Shirley Bradley described Frank Retief in Pinetown as like a Pied Piper, he was immensely popular with the children following him everywhere. Once he led someone to Christ - Frank Retief was an unstoppable evangelist.
Bishop Bradley had a great missionary vision and worked steadfastly to plant churches in Rhodesia and South West Africa. He regularly ran week-long Bible schools for pastors and evangelists of all denominations in Ovamboland. When the Church of the Province of South Africa (CPSA) excommunicated several newly-converted pastors and their congregations in Ovamboland, Bishop Bradley took them in and gave them Bible training. Even during the war years Bishop Bradley drove in Operational Areas in South West Africa and Rhodesia - in areas endangered by landmines and ambushes - to plant churches and provide ongoing discipleship training.
In Cape Town, Bishop Bradley was known as a tireless evangelist conducting daily street outreaches on the Grand Parade - opposite the City Hall. He handed out Gospel literature and preached the Gospel daily - and also trained others to continue this work. Bishop Bradley often conducted Youth Bible Camps and he taught his people to walk. Many times he led the youth up Table Mountain.
In KwaZulu the pastors remember Bishop Bradley walking, in the rain, up and down the hills and mountains to reach remote congregations for Sunday services.
Bishop Bradley took a clear stand against the liberal World Council of Churches and its support for Communist dictatorships and terrorist groups.
Bishop Bradley had: "In no way affiliated to the World Council of Churches" printed on every CESA bulletin, pamphlet and letterhead. He battled for truth and upheld the principle of God's Word above all things. He never lost his zeal for winning the lost to Christ. In describing the Church of England in South Africa, Bishop Bradley declared: "This church knows what we believe and what we stand for." His strong Reformed convictions gave him direction, courage, steadfastness and perseverance against all odds.
On the tribute bulletin produced by Bishop Bradley's family he is described as: "A husband, father and grandfather who loved unconditionally, walked in obedience, witnessed in truth and served the Lord faithfully."
Bishop Stephen Bradley stands as a vigorous and faithful servant and soldier of Christ who won many to Christ and laid solid foundations for many congregations. He is an inspiration, an example, an encouragement and a challenge to us all.
"Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy 2:3
Dr Peter Hammond