A Reputed South African Monolith Turns Multiform

South Africa’s Reformed churches last month called on the Pretoria government to convene an all-races national convention, where leaders of the different groups could “work out a new political and social dispensation” for the country. The move, in direct opposition to government policy, came at a regional consultation of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC)—a meeting that included two of the three Afrikaans member churches as members, and the third as an active observer.

Dutch Reformed (NGK) and Nederduitch Hervormed (NHK) delegates did not necessarily support this or other controversial decisions made by the multi-denominational gathering. The black-dominated assembly, with several white delegates of non-Afrikaans churches, consistently voted approval by wide majorities of stands critical of the NGK-bolstered government. Black, Colored, and Indian daughter churches of the NGK—until recently keeping a low profile in their criticism of church policy on racial matters—clearly moved to a more independent, outspoken posture. Delegates of the NGK and NHK, finding themselves isolated, repeatedly either voted against the majority, or abstained.

The five-day consultation was prompted and underwritten by the Swiss Federation of [Reformed] Churches. It was the most representative church gathering in South Africa since the 1960 Cottesloe conference, and the first WARC meeting there in twenty-five years.

The assembly called for an end to segregated education in South Africa, repeal of the ban on racially mixed marriages, the right of black workers to belong to registered unions, and support of “that which is positive” in the Black Consciousness movement. The assembly also labeled ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.