Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/rss.php?pid=1017-049920190003&lang=en vol. 45 num. 3 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/img/en/fbpelogp.gif http://www.scielo.org.za <![CDATA[<b>The Call for African Missional Consciousness through Renewed Mission Praxis in URCSA</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300001&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) has since its inception always celebrated its prophetic and missional heritage from all the avenues of the black church. However, it remains crucial to reflect whether this can be ascribed only to a few individuals and whether the struggle against injustice was nurtured on "grassroots" level. The black churches in their own right have certainly made significant contributions during the apartheid years. However, the impact of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) on the black wing of the church, in terms of its mission thought and practice, will still be felt by the newly established church (URCSA) for some years to come. Therefore, this contribution focuses specifically on the mission praxis that has been apparent in the DRC in the Cape since 1652, but it will also subsequently discuss various historical developments in terms of mission thought and practice within the DRC family until 1994 and beyond-the 25 years since the existence of URCSA. The article will provide a fragmentary historical account aimed at presenting an idea of the thought and practice of mission before and after the establishment of URCSA. This paper argues- as part of a critical reflection on the said period-that URCSA should position itself in such a way that it does not perpetuate the patterns of mission thought and practice of the past. It would be crucial for the church to avoid the objectification of mission, as well as being too comfortable to focus on forming external partnerships, without tenaciously and intentionally establishing a praxis of African "missional consciousness" in URCSA. <![CDATA[<b>Belhar, Liturgy and Life?</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300002&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Celebrating 25 years of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) inevitably calls for further exploration of how to live and love the Belhar Confession. I shall argue that, within the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC), we have discussed the acceptance of the Belhar Confession at great lengths, with hardly any suggestions of prayer and worship with the Confession itself. Much has been written in academic literature on the relationship between the Belhar Confession, the rule of faith (doctrine), and the rule of life (ethics). Yet, it is surprising that there is hardly any literature on its relation to the rule of prayer (worship). Writing from a very specific social location, I argue and suggest that our deepest challenge and opportunity, at present, is to explore how to receive, embody and celebrate the Belhar Confession by exploring its rich and varied liturgical potential and use for Christian worship throughout the entire liturgical ordo. Bathing the liturgy in the joyous words of the Belhar Confession might help us find new impetus in discovering and receiving each other anew. <![CDATA[<b>Van 1619 na 1857 en 1986: 'n Lyn van Dordt na Belhar?</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300003&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Die vierhonderdjarige herdenking van die Sinode van Dordrecht 1618/19 en die vyf en twintigste herdenking van die totstandkoming van die Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk in Suider Afrika-geleenthede wat beide in 2019 gevier is-lei natuurlik tot 'n vraag na die verband tussen hierdie twee historiese gebeurtenisse. In die historiese ontwikkeling van die afsonderlike kerke in die "NG Kerkfamilie" het 'n bepaalde vertolking van die verkiesing uit genade alleen, soos die Sinode van Dordrecht daaroor beslis het, 'n belangrike rol gespeel. In hierdie historiese proses van afsonderlike kerkvorming was die besluit oor afsonderlike nagmaalviering deur die NG Kerk se 1857-Sinode n waterskeidingsmoment. Dit het nie net rondom die nagmaalstafel nie, maar in die totale kerklike inrigting 'n skeiding tussen belydenis en kerklike bedieningspraktyk gebring en uiteindelik die deur geopen vir die teologiese regverdiging van apartheid. Die 1857-besluit het dus uiteindelik tot gevolg gehad dat die Belhar Belydenis van 1986 die lig gesien het. Die Belhar Belydenis sluit weer doelbewus aan by die sentrale leerstuk in die Gereformeerde tradisie, naamlik die "verkiesing uit genade alleen." Die NG Kerk se onvermoƫ en onwilligheid om die Belhar Belydenis te aanvaar, bly 'n tragiese realiteit.<hr/>The fourth centenary celebration of the Synod of Dordrecht 1618/19, as well as the twenty fifth commemoration of the birth of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa-both having been celebrated in 2019-naturally leads to the question of the relation between the two historical events. In the historical development leading to the formation of separate churches in the "Dutch Reformed Family of Churches," a distinct interpretation of election based on grace alone, as decided upon by the Synod of Dordrecht, played a major role. In this historical process of the formation of separate churches the 1857 synod decision by the Dutch Reformed Church has been a watershed moment; it not only brought a separation between people around the Lord's table, but also a division between confession on the one hand and the practical ministry embodying the confession on the other hand. The 1857 decision eventually led to the necessity of the Belhar Confession in 1986. The Belhar Confession deliberately seeks a linkage to the central Reformed doctrine of "election by grace alone." The Dutch Reformed Church's inability and unwillingness to accept the Belhar Confession remain a tragic reality. <![CDATA[<b>A Quarter Century of Democracy and the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300004&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This paper focuses on the role of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) in the South African society during the past 25 years of its services to God, one another and the world. Firstly, the paper provides a brief history of URCSA within 25 years of its existence. Secondly, the societal situation in democratic South Africa is highlighted in light of Article 4 of the Belhar Confession and the Church Order as a measuring tool for the role of the church. Thirdly, the thermometer-thermostat metaphor is applied in evaluating the role of URCSA in democratic South Africa. Furthermore, the 20 years of URCSA and democracy in South Africa are assessed in terms of Gutierrez's threefold analysis of liberation. In conclusion, the paper proposes how URCSA can rise above the thermometer approach to the thermostat approach within the next 25 years of four general synods. <![CDATA[<b>Reformed, Reunited, Remixed: How URCSA's Christian Youth Ministry has Reimagined Missional Ecclesiology in Southern Africa since 1994</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300005&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en On our continent various former mission churches, like the Uniting Reformed Christian Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), struggle with the quest of becoming an African church. In this article I tell the story of how the Christian Youth Ministry (CYM), through its self-identification, has reimagined "church" within its own structures, especially since 1994 when URCSA united. I relate this to the quest for a missional ecclesiology in southern Africa. The article shows how the CYM self-identifies as a uniting movement, as the voice of youth, as a congress movement, but also as a networked space for diverse identifications. URCSA, but also other churches on our continent, are challenged with this re-imagination towards remixing an alternative future. <![CDATA[<b>To Build a New Church Together? Exploring Interdisciplinary Dialogue with a Christian Women's Ministry: Addressing Patriarchy in URCSA</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300006&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en There are many routes to address patriarchy in faith communities. This article asks the question whether one particular Christian Women's Ministry, that of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), can empower black women to address gender justice. It utilises a historical-narrative approach to interpret the goals, functioning and impact of this ministry in terms of its own primary documents. The findings point to the potential of such a dialogue, yet also highlight the complexities with regard to impact analysis within a denominational context. Some strides have been made, but this article shows there is still a need to work together to build a church where-besides putting policies and programmes in place-the church should prophetically address injustice and seek witness to the partnership between women and men. <![CDATA[<b>A History of Gender Insensitivity in URCSA</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300007&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article utilises autoethnographical methodology to dissect the history of gender insensitivity in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). According to Carolyn Ellis (2010), autoethnography is an approach to research and writing that seeks to "describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)." Ellis (2004) states that autoethnography refers to writing about the personal and its relationship to culture. This paper utilises self-reflection to explore anecdotal personal experience and to connect this autobiographical story to wider understanding of gender in URCSA. Sandars (2009) defines reflection as a "metacognitive process that occurs before, during and after situations with the purpose of developing greater understanding of both the self and the situation ..." This article concentrates on research grounded in personal experience. It aims to sensitise readers to issues of identity politics in URCSA. It will highlight experiences shrouded in silence within URCSA, and deepen knowledge about the struggles that women in ordained positions within URCSA have had to endure. Foucault (1982) describes three types of struggles: either against forms of domination; against forms of exploitation; or against that which ties the individual to himself and submits him to others. The article deconstructs the relationship between text and theory, praxis and context, and presents an alternative interpretation. It highlights central themes regarding women in ordained positions within URCSA, but focuses more on the sub themes: from ordination to academia; ordained women in leadership positions, the gender equity policy of URCSA; a milestone never embraced 1994-2005; inclusive language and the draft worship book of URCSA; women as delegates to ecumenical gatherings. <![CDATA[<b>A Woman's Journey with the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa: 25 Years</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300008&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The methodological insights of autoethnography allow the author to write her story in critical-emphatical engagement with the structures and cultures within which her story unfolds. Her story as the only white woman minister of the Word in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) is told as one in which organisational, political and ethnic cultures were in constant creative conflict. An unexpected continuity of intercultural co-operation is established throughout the story of her journey with URCSA over the past 25 years of its existence. Six decisive turning points in her life are described. The first is when she was called to the ministry at the age of 15, several years before women were ordained in the local family of Reformed churches. The second was when she started studying with the liberation theologians of the 1980s. The third was being appointed as a theological professor amidst exclusively male colleagues. The fourth was working with the ill and desolate at a state hospital in preparation for a second doctorate. The fifth happened when she was ordained in a Zulu-speaking congregation in Mpumalanga. The sixth covers her experiences in the leadership of the church the past decade. Throughout, the emphasis is on the outsider-insider experience of both critically and sympathetically engaging with the Afrikaans culture in which she was born, and the black and brown cultures into which she was co-opted. <![CDATA[<b>The Reception of Belhar in the Dutch Reformed Church</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300009&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article asks anew the question of the reception of the Belhar Confession in the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC). In the first part, the question of reception is asked. It is argued that reception inter alia has to do with the receiving and acceptance of one another. In the second part, the question of receiving is asked in light of Richard Kearney's carnal hermeneutics. The third part focuses on Esselenpark. It is argued that although the reception of Belhar was not the main focus of Esselenpark, at least for a moment, the DRC was in a way able to begin to apprehend what it might mean to really receive and accept one another. The argument is not that the reception of the Belhar Confession is not of utmost importance for the DRC. The argument is also not that Esselenpark is the one and only moment that the DRC and URCSA did receive and accept one another. The article merely tries to make sense of how sense itself might allow the DRC, of which I am part, to really receive and accept Belhar. <![CDATA[<b>The (Non) acceptance of Belhar in the Dutch Reformed Church: Analysing Synodical Debates of 2011 and 2013</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300010&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article analyses the open session debates on the Belhar Confession at the 2011 and 2013 General Synod meetings of the Dutch Reformed Church. It identifies six key themes that repeatedly emerge from arguments made by delegates, namely: 1) accepting Belhar for the sake of the youth and future of the church; 2) Belhar as guide in the mission of the church; 3) Belhar as challenge to racism within the church; 4) Belhar and its relationship to liberation theologies; 5) the role of members in formal adoption of a new confession; and 6) adoption of confessions in ways which would not make them binding on all. From these themes three matters, which remain outstanding in terms of how the Dutch Reformed Church engages with the Belhar Confession, are raised: 1) the relationship between mission and racism; 2) the history of heresy and its implication for the present; and 3) the implication of and response to black and liberation theologies. These matters are identified as challenges given particular meaning in light of the emphasis on local congregations and members of the Dutch Reformed Church when discussing the Belhar Confession. <![CDATA[<b>Twenty-fifth Anniversary of Church Unity between former DRMC and DRCA, 1994</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Church unity between the former Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA) took place in 1994 under particularly difficult circumstances. South Africa was on the brink of civil war, as the oppressed majority of the country was pressurising the apartheid regime to surrender to their legitimate demands for a democratic dispensation. The regime was relentless and violently resisted any change that would franchise black people. The struggle involved political, social, economic and religious dimensions and many people lost their lives as a result. It was under these circumstances that the DRMC and the DRCA forged ahead with church unity. The most enabling means for survival in the struggle for unity of the two churches was their faith in God as expressed in the Belhar Confession. This article explores the circumstances under which church unification was forged between the two Reformed churches and their eventual unity in 1994, as well as the concrete steps they took in their ritual of unification. <![CDATA[<b>URCSA as an Impossible Community</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300012&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This article explores the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), argues it as an "impossible community" and deliberates its existence as an "impossible possibility." The argument stems from the arrival of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) as a faith, and eventually, a community called a church. The article contends that under normal circumstances, URCSA should not be in existence, yet it has survived for 25 years. The reasons for this survival shall be explored and argued. The Reformed doctrine, church history, and the composition of the church are employed to prove why I speak of an impossible community or an impossible possibility. The reasons provided shall form the basis of why we should celebrate the existence and sustenance of URCSA as an impossible community. <![CDATA[<b>The Incomplete Circle: Dialectics of Social Structure and Theological Conviction for Greater Unification in the DRC Family (1994-2016)</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300013&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en This essay proposes that despite an ingrained awareness in the Uniting Reformed Church and the other members of the Dutch Reformed Church family that church division was born from socio-political and theological factors, the orientation of all parties to the unification process was to prioritise the theological conviction side and downplay the socio-political, allowing it to function surreptitiously and essentially undermining the possibilities for greater progress. This essay will highlight the discourse of church assemblies indicating the trends and arguments relating to unification. It will secondly draw on the reflections of the Afro-American philosopher Cornel West to cast light on the tasks of any church unification process that strive to enhance both reconciliation and transformation. In the light of the theoretical framework of West, it will proceed to posit certain tasks that the unification process must address in order to make any sustained progress. <![CDATA[<b>Where have all the Prophets Gone? URCSA 25 years Later: Re-Acquainting with Prophetic Theology in Post-apartheid South Africa</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300014&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) was formed in 1994 as a merger between the former Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA). URCSA, as the bearer of the Belhar Confession, has always stood within the tradition of Prophetic Theology. This article upholds the presuppositions that the prophetic nature of Black Liberation Theology impacted on the reasoning of the authors of various anti-apartheid documents like the theological declarations of the Belydendekring and Alliance of Black Reformed Christians in Southern Africa (ABRECSA), the Kairos Document and Belhar Confession; and with the advent of our democracy, URCSA not only lost her Kairos conscience but parted with Prophetic Theology-hence the title of this paper. Issues like state capture, corruption, the expropriation of land without compensation, poverty, racism, and so forth are all issues plaguing our young democracy and require a clear theological response. This article argues for renewed acquaintance from the church, URCSA, with Prophetic Theology, which will enable the church to not only speak prophetically but to challenge the status quo. Prophetic Theology is much better prepared to engage with the challenges posed in post-apartheid South Africa because it is grounded in a hope that is unprepared to accept the world as it is. <![CDATA[<b>25 Years of Ministerial Formation Praxis in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa: How Belharic Have We Become?</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300015&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en Since the inception of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) in 1994, the issue of theological education has occupied a key place in the meetings of General Synod. This article analyses the development and implementation of URCSA's ministerial formation programme over the past 25 years through the lens of the Belhar Confession. It examines the extent to which not only the curriculum but also the practices of ministerial formation have become driven, guided and shaped by the commitments inherent in the Confession of Belhar. Due to space constraints, this paper uses only Article One of Belhar as an interpretive and evaluative lens and focuses only on the Northern Theological Seminary in Pretoria, hoping thereby to stimulate further reflection in a similar vein. <![CDATA[<b>The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Rev. James Buys at the Microphone</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300016&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en On October 19, 1997, Rev. James Buys presented the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa's submission to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He firstly reported on the extent to which URCSA, through its theology and activities, contributed to the violation of human rights during the years of apartheid, especially referring to the church's stance on the notorious Group Areas Act, the government's Labour Policy, the Mixed Marriages Act and the chaplain services. For all of this, a heartfelt apology was rendered. Buys, secondly, reported on the decisions and actions taken by URCSA during the 1970s and 1980s to resist apartheid, ranging from prophetic statements by individuals and synods, to eventually taking an active part in the struggle against apartheid. The role that the ecumenical community inside as well as outside South Africa had played to encourage and empower URCSA to define its message and actions, was also mentioned by Buys. Concluding his statement, Buys discussed URCSA's recommendations for the process of reconciliation in South Africa. The author, who was present at the Faith Communities Hearing when Buys addressed the TRC, added a number of personal remarks pertaining to URCSA's statement and to the role that URCSA is called to play on the road to reconciliation and nation-building in the country. <![CDATA[<b>Reflecting on URCSA25</b>]]> http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1017-04992019000300017&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en On October 19, 1997, Rev. James Buys presented the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa's submission to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). He firstly reported on the extent to which URCSA, through its theology and activities, contributed to the violation of human rights during the years of apartheid, especially referring to the church's stance on the notorious Group Areas Act, the government's Labour Policy, the Mixed Marriages Act and the chaplain services. For all of this, a heartfelt apology was rendered. Buys, secondly, reported on the decisions and actions taken by URCSA during the 1970s and 1980s to resist apartheid, ranging from prophetic statements by individuals and synods, to eventually taking an active part in the struggle against apartheid. The role that the ecumenical community inside as well as outside South Africa had played to encourage and empower URCSA to define its message and actions, was also mentioned by Buys. Concluding his statement, Buys discussed URCSA's recommendations for the process of reconciliation in South Africa. The author, who was present at the Faith Communities Hearing when Buys addressed the TRC, added a number of personal remarks pertaining to URCSA's statement and to the role that URCSA is called to play on the road to reconciliation and nation-building in the country.