Joan Wakeford was born in East London, South Africa, in 1928. Her mother had complications with her pregnancy so came to East London to be with her mother who was a midwife for Joan's birth. Joan's father went to Canada seeking work and Joan moved to Johannesburg with her mother around the age of 3. Joan became gravely ill with typhoid fever at that time and miraculously survived. After a few years, Joan, her younger brother and mother moved to Durban on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Joan spent much time swimming at the beach and started high school here, even as she became of her mother's drinking problem. After fighting in the World War II in northern Africa, Joan's father returned to try to live with the family once again. But her mother's alcoholism seemed to get in the way and her parents divorced. At this time Joan went to be with her grandmother and aunt in Port Elizabeth where she lived from ages 14 to 18 and finished high school. Then she returned to her mother in Durban.
The family was Anglican, but not church-goers. When Joan was 18 years old, she attended a Full Gospel Church where she had a life-changing experience. Her family was not supportive of her new religious life. Still Joan found God calling her into ministry and was sent by the Full Gospel Church to Japan to work with their American affiliates, the Church of God. She served there for five years. While in Japan she met an American who observed that Joan appeared to be more effective in ministry with Americans and suggested she consider living and working there. In 1961, following legislation establishing the apartheid system, South Africa broke relations with Britain and Joan's visa expired. Unable to return to South Africa, Joan went to the U.S. where she attended the Foursquare Gospel Bible College in Los Angeles. She graduated, was licensed and ordained, and traveled as an evangelist throughout the U.S. and Canada. Then the Greater Los Angeles Sunday Schools asked her to return to South Africa as the director of the National Sunday School Association in Natal and Free State with headquarters in Durban, Joan's hometown. Joan returned to Durban and served there two years.
In 1966, Joan returned to Japan to work but faced difficulties with U.S. Immigration. She was a South African, resident of Canada, working with an American organization and living in Japan. Joan decided to seek residency in the U.S. but faced a 20 year waiting list of South African seeking U.S. residency. Then she learned of a program, euphemistically called the "brain drain," that gave priority to professionals seeking U.S. residency. Because she was ordained she met the qualifications and became a U.S. resident.
Having established her U.S. residency, Joan returned to South Africa to connect with a woman to whom she was deeply drawn but had maintained a very secretive relationship for years because of Joan's religious position. Joan spent the next several years traveling back and forth between the U.S. and South Africa developing this relationship.
By 1979 Joan decided to settle in the U.S., be more open about her sexual identity and relate to the Metropolitan Community Church (MCC). Her partner decided not to leave South Africa at that time; the breakup of this relationship was very painful for Joan. She became co-pastor of the MCC congregation in Dallas, Texas, with the Rev. Don Eastman for two years and then became pastor of the Austin MCC congregation for another two years. While in Austin, Joan met Sharon Boatman with whom she began a 23-year partnership.
Joan helped establish the Mid-Cities (now Trinity) MCC in Arlington and was interim pastor for MCC Corpus Christi. The Corpus Christi congregation wanted her to become their permanent pastor, but Joan was feeling restless. At a conference with other clergy, Joan shared her vision of beginning a specialized ministry that would allow her to travel and minister to developing communities of faith. Some of her colleagues pledged financial support to establish Joan Wakeford Ministries. Joan and her partner Sharon entered into this new faith venture. Joan traveled and ministered in different churches and denominations in the U.S. and in South Africa over the next several years. She assisted the Rev. Nico Kleynhans in establishing a church in Cape Town, South Africa, that became Good Hope MCC.
Sharon died in June 2005. Joan retired back in the Dallas, Texas, area to write her memoirs which were privately published (CreateSpace) in February, 2011, as Letters from Joan: The Autobiography of Joan Wakeford. Joan died in July 2017.
(This biographical statement provided by Joan Wakeford; death notice from Mark Bowman.)
Biography Date: February, 2010
MCC | Pentecostal | Clergy Activist | South Africa | Wakeford, Joan
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