Frederick Robert Edward Shaw was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on 1 January 1936. Rev Shaw felt his first sense of direction as a child of about three years of age when attending worship in the Pretoria Central Methodist Church where he was baptised. The minister was the Rev Dr JB Webb. This was sealed when at the age of five, at around midday, when God showed him in a vision his life’s end, towards the end of his days on earth. He knew that he had been called to the ministry. During his primary school days, he tried to lead school friends to a purer life. At about 14 years of age, he was given a Sunday School Class at the Gezina Methodist Church. He wrote his first Theological and Sunday School Teacher’s Examinations which were for adults and came second in the country. At the age of fifteen, while reading Roy Hession’s Calvary Road, he became deeply convicted by the Holy Spirit of being a hell-deserving sinner. By God’s grace, he was forgiven and born again into the Kingdom of God. Until that time, he had never given a speech or recited to the class, and privately requested the teachers not to ask him to do so, but rather just to give him a naught. The Holy Spirit now gave him utterance and he began in earnest to commend His Saviour to his school friends. Later, several of them entered the ministry of the Church. During school breaks, most of the students, some mischievously and others in sincerity, asked him and a friend, who now also had become a fervent believer, to preach to them. As virtually all the students gathered around them, the principal became concerned and asked their respective fathers to stop them, but they continued and instead shared God’s word with the school principal. The principal, Mr MS Green, later became a full-time minister of the Anglican Church. From the age of 16 to 18, Rev Shaw led the Intermediate Guild at the Wesley Church, which was attended by about 100 young people mainly his age. He also formed a Mission Band (not a musical one!) which took several Church Services in Pretoria. Lionel Kelbrick, Hudson Victor and John Rodda were among those who participated in the band. He and Hudson took over a Sunday School at West End Pretoria and also the Good Hope Mission, an independent congregation. While still at school, he preached amongst all races at missions and open air services, and engaged in person to person evangelism. One such mission was near Nebo in Sekhukhuneland. On his way home, he would pass through the little town of Middleburg at three or four in the morning.
At nineteen, he passed his first year Local Preacher’s Examination and became a preacher on trial at the age of 20. In 1957, he wrote his Candidate’s Examination for the Ministry in London. He was able to hold two services on the Sterling Castle – a passenger and mail ship of the Union Castle Line. He was also asked to preach at a Methodist Church in London, and then on his return trip, he once again took two services on the Edinburgh Castle. He was accepted for the ministry in the October Conference of the Methodist Church in 1957, but was immediately asked to establish and pastor a church at Edenvale. He became their first minister, although officially he was still a Probationer. He nearly pulled out of the ministry because of the number of Asian Flu, meningitis and Polio victims, and the many funerals that he had to perform. He was left without any guidance or training to do this, but by God’s grace and mercy, the work flourished. When the work was strongly established and a minister appointed, the conference sent him as a first year probationer to Otjivorongo, Namibia, for 1958.
He was, however, stationed by the Superintendent Minister Rev Stanton as his assistant in Windhoek and preached there, and at Usikus, a railway junction with the narrow gauge on the fringe of the Namib Desert. He also preached in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, Gobabis and Keetmanshoop. Here 28 out of 33 ducktails were converted but only after its leader sought to stab Rev Shaw in the chest one night. God brought him instead to his knees and he let go of the dagger. Today this very man supports several pastors and he himself is a pastor in Johannesburg.
In 1959, Fred was sent to revive a dying work in Umkomaas. Here he nearly lost his life again on two occasions. He was firstly involved in an accident in which a much larger car smashed into his, spinning his car around and nearly sending him over the edge of a precipice. Later, during the 1959 Natal South Coast floods, he went to help members of one of his congregations. At night while crossing the Illovo Bridge it began to collapse in the centre, but God came to his rescue and pushed him across just in time as the bridge slid into the turbulent waters. He pastored the Methodist Churches at Umkomaas, St Winifred’s, Warner Beach and Illovo Beach. He also preached at Doonside, Amanzimtoti, Athlone Park, Bethesda Mission, Scotborough, Renishaw, Umzinto, Margate, Pietermaritzburg, Durban North and Maclear, Transkei. He assisted the Department of Social Welfare in the region and began practical studies in Psychology and Social Studies.
In 1960, he began his theological studies at Rhodes University. He soon started the Rhodes University Evangelistic Union because the SCA had become politicised. This became the largest Christian Body on the campus. He held a most successful mission with Rev Dick Lucas and Dr Michael Green from London University, England. At around this time he had another very close encounter with death as he was washed out to sea at Port Alfred. His friend, Henry Sterley, who was washed out to sea with him, stretched out his hand and caught hold of him as he came up for what felt like the last time. The Lord turned the tide and they were brought back to shore.
During his second year at university, he was deeply distressed and confused by ungodly men whose lives, beliefs and instruction aggressively contradicted all that he knew, loved and held sacred in the Word of God. He could not avoid, however, questioning inwardly every word he read in the Bible and every thought concerning God and His word. If he was not intellectually and psychologically one hundred percent convinced of what he preached and believed, it would be fraudulent and immoral for him to preach, so he gave it up. Six months later, God out of His great mercy reached out to his distressed and desolate soul. In the very early hours of the morning, he awoke and felt the presence of God in his room and knew that he had to take time off from his studies and if there was a God He would speak to him. The next morning, he booked into a small private hotel in a town not far away where he asked God if in fact He was there to speak to him. Halfway through the next day, out of His tender love and great mercy, God made a covenant with him which still stands and is alive to this day. God made him very aware of the time when he believed God fully and God trusted him. Now God required him to accept that He could not be separated from His Word. He required him to believe the Holy Bible to be His Word from cover to cover whether or not it made sense. God would then trust him sufficiently to reveal His precious word to him. He would do this in such a way that no one would be able to gainsay what he said. That covenant was sealed that day and he went back to university and was able to fearlessly challenge every falsehood that was taught or printed in books.
Before his ordination in 1964, he was already deeply concerned about his denomination’s participation in the World Council of Churches. He strongly opposed all moves towards organic church union. He saw that this would call for serious compromises that would make the Church weak and ineffective. Strength does not come from unity but from the truth. In August 1974, God awoke him at 02:00 and spoke very clearly to him. He told him that He was going to:
o Lead him through a path strewn with temptations and difficulties like he had never known before;
o Provide him with all that was required for the task that lay before him;
o Keep him in perfect peace; but that he must keep his eyes fixed on Him.
He soon came into direct conflict with the entire ecumenical movement and for ten years opposed them worldwide and called all churches then, and still does to this day, to come out of this apostate body – a body that has hijacked the Church of Jesus Christ and which is a body in its own right but is not representative of Christ’s body – the Church, but rather opposes it.
He married Nanette McNaught in 1964 and moved to Beaconsfield Kimberely, where he was told to close the church down. It seated 350-400 people, but at best only 35 attended. After six months, however, the church was much too small with many people standing outside the windows and doors. In 1964-1968, he was sent to Mtubatuba, and started several small congregations in outlying areas. Fred and Lisa were born in Durban in 1966 and 1968 respectively. In 1969 Rev Shaw was invited to minister in Pretoria, but because of the imminent collapse of the Middelburg Church, the conference asked him to consider taking on this rather formidable task, to which he agreed. In 1969, Heidi was born in Middelburg.
In August 1974, the Christian League of Southern Africa was founded and was a world-wide movement in the defence of the faith countering the psychological warfare in religious matters as contrived by the WCC and their sanctions. Together with Father Arthur Lewis of the Rhodesian Christian Group, he led a massive protest march through London and addressed thousands at Trafalgar Square. Rev Shaw was the unofficial advisor to Prime Minister Vorster on all religious matters. He was also the Honorary President of The South African Theological College for Independent Churches and also of the Reformed Independent Churches Association.
In 1980, after serving the Methodist Church of Southern Africa for twenty-five years, he could not get them to confirm to him privately or publically that:
– They still believe in the reality of a transcendent God made known to us in the Lord Jesus Christ;
– They still believe in the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God and not as the first of the new humanity;
– They still believe in the Bible as the inviolable Word of God;
– They still believe that the main mission of the Church is to save men from sin through the redeeming blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and not from political structures;
– They still believe that Christianity is incompatible with Islam and communism.
Consequently, with much grief and pain, he could no longer afford to have his ordination, which is of God, recognized by such an apostate Church.
He found an enthusiastic reception in the USA and Canada on each of the many visits he made to that region. These included a full preaching programme, lecturing at some universities, and daily engagements with the press, radio and television. While contemplating the pastoring of a congregation in California, God made it very clear to him that he loved the few in Middelburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa, where He wanted him to be. These folk sought to establish a non-ecumenical and traditional Methodist Church. The Reformed Wesleyan Methodist Church as a Christ-confessing Church in a Christ-denying World came into being. This was on Sunday 28 September 1981.