For the first time in 30 years, South African churches from across the theological, political, and racial spectrum met together last month to discuss reconciliation and their role in the future of South Africa.
Approximately 230 delegates and observers gathered November 5–9, representing 85 organizations, including the Dutch Reformed Church (NGK), which for years supplied the theological justification for the government’s policy of apartheid; the South African Council of Churches (SACC), a strident opponent of apartheid; and evangelical and Pentecostal groups, which, for the most part, have avoided political debate.
Together they denounced apartheid as sin. But specific actions to dismantle the system of racial segregation remained points of debate. A formal declaration issued at the end of the five-day conference stated: “Some of us are not in full accord with everything said in this conference, but on this we are all agreed, namely, the unequivocal rejection of apartheid as a sin.”
Held at Rustenburg, a resort about 50 miles outside of Johannesburg, the conference took as its theme “Towards a United Christian Witness in a Changing South Africa.” It was chaired by SACC general secretary Frank Chikane and Louw Alberts, an NGK layman who served for 34 years as president of South Africa Youth for Christ and chairman of the 1973 Billy Graham crusade in South Africa.
Michael Cassidy, founder and president of Africa Enterprise, delivered the opening address at the conference. He was also named chairman of the statement-drafting committee.
Hopes for unity were bolstered on the second day of the conference by a surprising confession from Afrikaner theologian Wille Jonker. Setting aside for a moment his prepared speech, Jonker, a professor ...1
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