A man was critically injured in a shooting incident at a church in Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape, on Sunday.
About 23 members of the church were arrested after 90 minutes of violence and confrontation, police said.
What was supposed to have been a church service turned ugly at the Palmerton circuit of the United Methodist Church of Southern Africa, about 10km from Lusikisiki.
About 100 people worship at the church.
Captain Mduduzi Godlwana, of the Lusikisiki police, said preliminary investigations showed that the trouble started when some worshippers asked the Reverend Mongezi Dlanjwa to hand over the keys to the church and to the mission house because his five-year term as minister had ended.
Godlwana said Dlanjwa resisted and allegedly used foul language.
It was then that some congregants allegedly assaulted him inside the church.
Police said it was suspected the pro-Dlanjwa group left the church and returned with unknown men in three vehicles.
"Seconds later gun shots were heard inside the church. We collected 18 spent cartridges from various types of pistol. We also confiscated five firearms from church members for ballistic tests," said Godlwana.
He said the confiscated firearms were licensed.
A church elder was seriously injured in the mayhem and was taken to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, said Godlwana. He said no other serious injuries were reported.
He said 23 people, including Dlanjwa, were arrested and a case of attempted murder was being investigated.
He said the arrested congregants would appear in court once charges against them had been formulated.
Godlwana said a similar incident happened at another church three years ago.