For the past few decades, the reunification of the DRC Family was time and again placed on the agendas of the meetings of these disconnected churches, but it sounded like shortwave reception on a cheap transistor radio with a broken aerial. The signal was bad, and there were lots of crackle and noise, without any meaningful dialogue and firm resolutions to indicate that a united church was even close to a reality.
When one look at the title of this article, the question arises: Why talk about uniting Afrikanerdom, but reuniting the Dutch Reformed Church? The answer is both simple and complex. In order to answer that question, it is necessary to have a very brief look at the history of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. However, keep in mind that, even though they carry different name-tags, it is still the very same church that came with Jan van Riebeeck to the Cape. It is like cutting the carcass of a lamb up in four quarters. The different parts get different names like left-forequarter, right-hindquarter etc., but even apart, they still constitute the same lamb.
Right at the beginning there was no reason at all for racial tensions in the church, because the members were all Dutch and white. The moment ‘people of colour’ was admitted, baptised, confessed, the scene started to become disturbed. Nothing was yet official, but the Big Separator (Diabolos) quietly started with His Great Commission. Believers were driven into two camps. The ‘whites’ were regarded as ‘born again Christians’, while the ‘people of colour’ were perpetually regarded as ‘heathens’, in spite of them being bound by the very same Baptism, Confession, and sharing in the same Undivided Lamb at Holy Communion. However, Satan always aims high, and this was only the first step of the DRC, crossing the Red Sea and starting a very long journey into the spiritual wilderness.
Then separation started to creep in officially:
The Presbytery of Cape Town of the DRC met on 29 April 1829 to deal with an enquiry of the Somerset West congregation with regard to the administering of Holy Communion to what they called ' persons of 'colour'. The question to be considered was, whether 'persons of 'colour', who were confirmed and baptized, should be allowed, together with 'born again Christians’ (white people), to take the Lord's Supper or whether these people should take the Holy Communion separately.
At the 1857 Synod of the DRC this question of segregation or not, was dealt with and paved the way for church separation and racism in practice. The Synod of 1857 spoke with a double tongue and that indicate clearly that they could not take a clear stand on issues of Biblical principle. They said YES this and Yes the other. Their inability to take a qualified stand on the issue, paved the way for church and societal apartheid. The decision of the DRC Synod reads as follows. 'The Synod considers it desirable and according to the Holy Scripture that our heathen members (non-whites) be accepted and initiated into our congregations wherever it is possible; but where this measure, as result of the weakness of some, would stand in the way of promoting the work of Christ among the heathen people, then congregations set up among the heathen, or still to be set up, should enjoy their Christian privileges in a separate building or institution'.
This decision paved the way for the 'final solution' for this heathen problem, with the establishing of the first racially separated church in 1881, called the Dutch Reformed Mission Church for 'coloured' people(DRMC- Sendingkerk). After this the DRC would establish racially separated churches for Black people, which were called Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA) and for Indian people, called the Reformed Church in Africa (RCA).
That this theology of apartheid became entrenched in the DRC, became clear when 'Kerkbode' official Newspaper of the DRC, wrote in its editorial in September 1948, after the National Party came to power on an apartheid policy platform, 'Apartheid is a Church policy'. This policy meant in South Africa, white supremacy and all the other races were inferior and they were dealt with in an inferior manner. The result was the oppression of the non- white people of South Africa and the privileged position of white people. Church (DRC) and state were inextricably linked in an unholy union. The state received moral and theological backing for its unjust and apartheid policies from the DRC.
World Alliance of Reformed Churches' (WARC) response (August 1982)
After decades of struggle from the side of the Black Reformed Churches to rectify the situation, the issue of racial theology and practice in South Africa was taken to the meeting of the World Alliance of Reformed Church's (WARC - August 1982) General Assembly in Ottawa Canada, because the DRC, DRMC, DRCA and the RCA, were members of WARC. Dr. Allan Boesak of the then DRMC, was asked the WARC to deliver a speech on the situation in South Africa. In a speech titled, ' He made us all but, .. Dr. Boesak argued his case against racism and apartheid. He pointed out that the WARC had a responsibility towards it member churches in South Africa, who suffered under the apartheid theology and policy. Boesak put the DRC and other white Reformed Churches in the middle of this debate, he said, ' As far as the white member churches are concerned, they have direct responsibility and the power to change the situation fundamentally if they want to. They should be addressed in terms of that responsibility and in terms of the historical development of apartheid as it has been directed by the Churches. The WARC should accept the challenge to address the meaning of an apartheid that has been under girded by the Gospel and presented as commensurate with the Reformed tradition.
In its response the WARC said that:' the white Afrikaans Reformed Churches through the years have worked out in considerable detail both the policy itself and the theological and moral justification for the system. Apartheid is therefore, a pseudo-religious ideology as well as a political policy. It depends on a large extend on this moral and theological justification. The division of the Reformed Churches in South Africa on the basis of race and colour is being defended as a faithful interpretation of the will of God and of Reformed understanding of the Church in the world'.
The WARC declared that the situation in South Africa constituted a status confessionis- which means that the WARC regard this issue on which it is impossible to differ without seriously jeopardizing the integrity of our common confession as Reformed Churches.
On the basis of this situation the WARC made the following declaration. 'We declare with the black Reformed Christians of South Africa that apartheid (separate development) is a sin and that the moral and theological justification of it is a travesty of the Gospel and, in its persistent disobedience to the Word of God, a theological heresy'.
The DRMC at its Synod later that year followed in the footsteps of the WARC and declared a status confessionis. The Church realized that in a situation like this you have to confess anew to the truths of the Bible in the light of the pseudo gospel. The DRMC decided to draw up a Confession in order to do that. It was a confession in concept form, which was distributed to the whole church for comment and was to be finalized at the next Synod in 1986. At the 1986 Synod of the DRMC the Confession was accepted and called the Belhar Confession 1986. The name Belhar in the Confession refers to the Suburb of Belhar (in the Cape) where the Synod met. This Confession was also adopted by the DRCA. When the DRMC and the DRCA unified in 1994, forming a new church, namely the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), the confession became part of the confessional basis of URCSA. During the DRMC'' Synod in 1990, a monument was erected and dedicated to the occasion of the acceptance of the Belhar Confession by the then Moderamen. (Note: This extract is from BELHAR HISTORY English text written by Adele van der Merwe, taken from the internet)
(Rev. Daniel Kuys)
Sources: Apartheid is a heresy: Editors: John de Gruchy and Charles Villa-Vicencio
Acts of Synods: DRMC - 1982, 1986
Acts of Synod: URCSA Unification Synod 1994
Newpaper clippings: 1982 etc
Apartheid- The First Death:
It can thus be clearly seen that the vehicle of Afrikanerdom was made up of loose parts right from the start, never reaching the assembly line. Afrikanerdom will have to be united. On the other hand, the vehicle of the DRC was originally ONE, but it was taken to the scrapyard where it was disassembled. Thus the DRC will have to be reunited. Now the next question would be: Will acceptance of the Belhar Confession by the (white) DRC be the magic wand that will reunite the Church on the uttering of the ‘Adakedabra’? Apparently not! The ‘white’ church did not unanimously adopt Belhar. Those who did not agree or abstained will just start a new ‘Great Trek’ and find more agreeable pastures somewhere else. The Lord of the Church quite obviously does not have the final say in the matter.
Be it as it may, there is more to this matter than meets the eye. One has to ask why this question of reunification has dragged on for so long. Was it merely the Satan fuelling the ‘colour’ hatred? If so, can one assume that Satan is sovereign? Indeed not. Satan has only temporal power. He is bound by Time, like any other time-based being or even non-being. He could be an obstacle in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Nehemiah, but when the predetermined time of 70 years has passed (see Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9) his time was up and his plans were nullified. Nobody could lay a finger on Jesus of Nazareth, but when the time was right, He went to Calvary like a lamb to the abattoir. The Antichrist will be revealed on time, in spite of the prayers of believers to keep his coming postponed. His destruction by the ‘breath of the Lord Jesus’ is also determined by the Hand of Time (2The.2:8). Time is like one gigantic black hole. Nothing, but nothing escapes the confines of Time- not even Death!
Similarly, Apartheid and its Associate, the DRC, are bound by Time. 1994 was only the dismantling of official Apartheid, removing it from the Law, but definitely not from the people’s hearts. 1994 can be regarded as the 1st death of Apartheid. The 2nd death is imminent for this monster with many heads, many crowns and many tentacles.
Apartheid- The Second Death: The question here would be straightforward: why can’t God just kill the monster and get it over and done with? Again, the answer isn’t that simple. God is Author of the History of mankind, and God alone will determine the time allotted in His Master plan for the execution of His determinations. The extermination of skin-Apartheid is a forgone conclusion, but there is a greater Apartheid Monster that has to be annihilated: Christianity-Apartheid. And God has determined that the execution of these two monsters will be carried out simultaneously, with the dwarf skin-Apartheid leading the giant Christianity-Apartheid to the gallows.
In order to understand the term Christianity-Apartheid, it is necessary to describe the history of Christianity in just one paragraph. One read about the start of the Christian Church in Acts chapter 2. However, the same Satan that carried on with his work in the DRC immediately started to inject his poison in the newly found Church. Subdivisions started to surface, which had to be soothed by councils (Act.15), pastoral letters and firm counselling by the Apostles and their co-workers. Then the Roman Catholic Church hijacked the Acts2 Church, somehow keeping the factions together, but very soon the Church split into east and west. The western Church carried on by fits and starts, but by 1517 the bubble bursted, some passengers stopped the bus and got off. Then the breakaway accelerated, and by 1652 the DRC was only one splinter from the tree of the original Church.
Now the time has arrived for the disintegrating trend of the Christian Church to be reversed. The ripples start where the stone plunges in the dam. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue started to disintegrate where the stone struck its feet. The reunification of the Christian Church starts with the reunification of the Apartheid DRC. The reunification of the DRC will not be accomplished by the Belhar- or other Confessions, or even the Apostolic Creed! We have to think bigger than the confines of the DRC Family. We have to think global, we have to think eschatological, and we have to think NEW! We have to go to the reuniting conference table in total submission to God, and ask Him to lead us in drafting a Universal Confession for the Church. Every subdivision of the DRC will have to OFFER their members and their possessions as “living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” (Rom.12:1) Uniting Afrikanerdom a command of Christ: However there is just one word of caution, before we venture off to the Altar of burnt offering: “Therefore if you offer your gift on the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Mat.5:23, 24). No matter how we will try to juggle this command, we will never get away from the essence of the matter. It’s no good saying you have nothing against your brother. The question is: does my brother have anything against me? Put yourself in your brother’s shoes. Would you have had anything against HIM if HE stole your identity and called YOU degrading and slurring names like “coloured”, “kleurling” “mixed race”, etc. Would YOU have liked to be regarded as a lesser or inferior human being? Those are the questions we have to answer honestly, before we can even remotely think of reuniting the DRC.