A Journey with a Status Confessionis. Analysis of an apartheid related conflict between the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, 1982-1998
This dissertation deals with the conflict between the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) - the worldwide Reformed movement - and the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRC) regarding the latter's support for and theological legitimizing of apartheid. One of the strongest measures possible was taken when the issue in 1982 was declared a Status Confessionis and the Dutch Reformed Church was suspended from the fellowship. To declare a Status Confessionis is to declare it an issue on which it is not possible to differ without seriously jeopardizing the integrity of the common confession as Reformed Churches. When the DRC in 1998 is said to have fulfilled the three conditions raised in 1982 they are welcomed back into the fellowship again. Between these years a vibrant, sometimes fierce, debate was ongoing involving not only the DRC and the WARC, but the so-called DRC mission churches, (i.e. the non-white churches emanating from the DRC), the ecumenical movement on national and international level, and many more. The conflict took place within the social, political and ecclesial setting of a rapidly changing South Africa. Although not a dissertation about apartheid, it - as a result of its all-encompassing influence on everything in South Africa - is an important underlying factor. To be able to handle these broad perspectives I have used Edwards W. Said's contrapuntal thinking. The main part of the dissertation is five chapters dealing with the conflict from five different angles - each of which adds new insights to the basic questions. I pose two sets of questions. One is dealing with the three requirements the WARC demanded the DRC to fulfil; what they really meant, whether they were fulfilled and about why the WARC despite much hesitation accepted the DRC back. The other is centred on a reflection on to what extent the DRC'S apartheid policy and its relation to its so-called daughter churches could be understood as a consequence of its mission policy. For reflection on the last question I make use of David Bosch's thinking around the emerging ecumenical missionary paradigm. Among the five chapters there are two - about the WARC and the Status Confessionis issue, and the question concerning whether the DRC really is changing – that stands out as being especially central. Still, in January 2010, the unity between the DRC and the former non-white churches, aimed at by way of the measures taken by the WARC, has not been reached. The symbolic saying 'the ball is now between the goalposts' can be questioned.
Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation
Keywords:HUMANITIES and RELIGION; Status Confessionis; goalposts; mission; ecumenism; Belhar confession; World Alliance of Reformed Churuches; Dutch Reformed Church; South Africa; contrapuntal; apartheid; reformed; post-colonialism; church unity
Date of Publication:01/01/2010