Obituary: Theologian Victor Bredenkamp led a life of service

2011-02-04 00:00

PROFESSOR Victor Bredenkamp has died at the age of 82 after a long illness.

Bredenkamp was born in 1928 in Benoni where his father was a miner on the gold fields.

After matriculating from Benoni High School in 1944, Bredenkamp was employed for three years in the public health department of the Benoni Municipality. Then he felt himself called for the Methodist ministry.

Growing up in a Christian home during WW2, Bredenkamp said he felt called to “a ministry of reconciliation, to challenge people to be more understanding and tolerant of the aspirations of other races and cultures”.

Bredenkamp studied theology at Rhodes University, obtaining a BA in 1951. He took a church post in Nigel and in 1953 went to run the high school, training college and fine art school at Indaleni Missionary Institution near Richmond.

In 1955 he completed an honours degree in theology at Oxford university in England, obtaining an MA in 1959.

Bredenkamp married Marie Lemmer in 1953 shortly after being ordained in the Methodist church.

In 1956 he was posted to the Methodist churches in Victoria Road and Prestbury, and in 1957 moved on to serve the Kloof and Pinetown congregations. He was also made chaplain of Kearsney College.

He later joined the combined Epworth-Kearsney board of governors on which he served for many years.

Bredenkamp was appointed a lecturer in the department of divinity at the Pietermaritzburg campus of the then University of Natal in 1960.

In 1965 he was selected from a highly competitive international field to be South Africa’s first religion fellow at Princeton University, where he obtained an additional masters degree and then a doctorate in philosophy.

In 1976 he was appointed head of the department of divinity, a post he held until 1988. During this time the department developed an interest in the major world religions and in 1983 the department was renamed the Department of Religious Studies.

Bredenkamp also oversaw the development of a theological studies programme that in 1988 led to the creation of the department of theological studies. This later became the School of Theology.

He served two terms as dean of the Faculty of Arts, was a member of the university senate for 15 years and chairperson of the ceremonials committee for nearly a decade, being responsible for arranging the annual graduation ceremonies.

After his retirement from the university in 1990 he and his wife directed a Rotary adult literacy project in KwaZulu-Natal.

This work saw them both recognised with awards from Rotary International, Bredenkamp receiving Rotary International’s highest honour, the Service Above Self Award.

Bredenkamp also served on the advisory board of Grey’s Hospital and was a member of the Grey’s Hospital ethics committee. He also served on the Pietermaritzburg and District Council for the Care of the Aged (Padca) committee.

He leaves his wife, two daughters, Renee and Ingrid, a son, Andre, and two grandchildren, Nathan and Liam.

A memorial service will be held in the chapel at Epworth School at 2.30 pm on February 9.

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