He died from pancreatic cancer on Tuesday.
Bishop Brian Abrahams of the Moravian Church of SA said Wessels served in various congregations of the church, on its regional board and in commissions.
“Chris Wessels believed in justice and righteousness in all spheres of life and he dedicated himself to the upliftment of the poor and marginalised, the building of a better society, and the dismantling of the evil system of apartheid under which we suffered, and for this he was incarcerated by the security police,” said Abrahams.
Wessels lectured at the Moravian Theological Seminary and retired in January 2000 after 30 years of dedicated service but continued serving part-time at congregations.
A close friend and comrade in the anti-apartheid Struggle, Melvin Bruintjies, said: “Chris was never afraid to walk an extra mile to assist and make his own contribution in accelerating the fight of the people against apartheid.
“We approached him in 1987 to house uMkhonto weSizwe operatives with ammunition and he made his church facility in Elsies River available to us to do the change-over with the combatants. That was one of the most courageous acts, which I will never forget, from him and his wife, Nabawaya ‘Nabs’ Wessels,” said Bruintjies.
The family were at Wessels’ bedside when he died at home in Woodstock.
Wessels was the youngest of eight siblings. He was born on January 16, 1935 in Genadendal, where he schooled before graduating as a teacher in Port Elizabeth.
His son, Christopher Wessels, said: “When I was born he was in and out of prison and on one occasion in solitary confinement for 69 days in 1976.
“We are shaken, but also privileged to have spent time with him over the last six weeks after he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”
Delivering an accolade on behalf of the Moderature of the Calvyn Protestant Church of SA, Reverend Steven-John Bam said: “The Calvyn Protestant Church mourns with the entire nation the passing of church leader.
“He was an emeritus minister of the Moravian church who played a critical role in the fight against apartheid.”
Memorial services have been planned for November 22 at the Moravian Hill Chapel in District 6 with a wake at the Moravian Church in Genadendal. His funeral will take place there on November 24.