The contest for Reformed identity in South Africa during the church struggle against apartheid

  • John De Gruchy
Keywords: Reformed Churches and identity, Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk, Reformed identity, Struggle against apartheid, Belhar and Kairos


In this essay I examine the way in which Reformed identity became a site of struggle in South Africa amongst churches with a Reformed ethos during the years following the Cottesloe Conference in 1960, and remained so until the ending of apartheid. The essay is divided into three parts roughly corresponding to the three decades between 1960 and 1990. In the first part the focus is largely on the NGK as it was perceived both from the outside and within its own ranks. In the second part the focus is on the emergence of an alternative, more ecumenical Reformed identity which challenged the hegemony of the NGK as representative of the Reformed tradition. In the third part the focus is on how this alternative Reformed identity consolidated its character and at the same time was increasingly acknowledged within sections of the NGK preparing the way for the changes that would happen in South Africa after 1994.
The Reformed Churches in South Africa and the struggle for justice: Remembering 1960-1990