WORLD NEWS: South African Church Still Not ‘Moving Beyond Apartheid’

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A South African church that was suspended from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 1982 because of its support for apartheid is “still not ready for readmission,” leaders of the Geneva-based Reformed group were told.

The Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika (Dutch Reformed Church of Africa), or NHKA, had been excluded from the global Reformed alliance because of the theological and biblical backing the church gave to South Africa’s system of white minority rule that ended in the early 1990s.

The church has applied to rejoin WARC, but the alliance’s executive committee said in 2005 that the NHKA first needed to demonstrate to the churches in South Africa and the world that it has renounced apartheid “fully and completely.”

The Rev. Setri Nyomi, WARC’s general secretary, told the group’s executive committee on May 23 that a WARC team had visited South Africa in March to meet with the denomination.

“Our discussions showed a deep division in the church about moving beyond apartheid,” said Nyomi, a Presbyterian from Ghana, in his report. “It was our determination that they were not ready for readmission.”

In separate comments to the Geneva meeting, Nyomi noted that “there were a few voices that . . . were committed to challenge the leadership of their church.”

Five of the NHKA’s leading theologians, writing in an article in South Africa’s Afrikaans-language press early in March, voiced their “shame and hurt” that the NHKA has not yet officially declared apartheid “unevangelical” and “evil.”

The NHKA’s 2007 general synod had scheduled debate on a motion calling for such a declaration, but emotions ran so high before the meeting even began that the matter was taken off the agenda.

The theologians called for other members of the NHKA to add their names to their dissident declaration, which also acknowledges that apartheid was dehumanizing and caused great suffering that needs to be redressed.

The larger Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa, which was formed as a merger between black and white Dutch Reformed churches, has rejected the racist ideology of apartheid and was earlier readmitted to the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

—RNS

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