Revisiting “Church and Society” after a quarter of a century – a critical reappraisal

  • Andrie Du Toit
Keywords: Apartheid, “Church and Society”, “The Confession of Belhar”, Cottesloe, Dutch Reformed Church, “The Open Letter”, “Ras, Volk en Nasie”, “The Reformation Day Confession”, “Kerk en Samelewing”, “Die Belydenis van Belhar”, Ned Geref Kerk, “Die Ope Brief”, “Die Hervormingsdaggetuienis”


Apart from the more immediate catalysts for “Church and Society” such as the Reformation Day Confession, the Open Letter, the suspension of the Dutch Reformed Church from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Confession of Belhar, also the legacy of Cottesloe, the demise of “Ras, Volk en Nasie”, contributions of the Cape Synod, pressure from overseas Reformed institutions and growing internal misgivings about apartheid, should be kept in mind. Two divergent currents met in “Church and Society”, causing it to become a document of compromise. Theologically, it improved on its predecessor, but its ambivalent character subjected it to severe criticism. The most basic strategic mistake in “Church and Society” was the exclusion of the rest of the Dutch Reformed family. The Dutch Reformed Church was not yet ready to confess apartheid unreservedly as sin. Finally, it is suggested that our present situation urgently calls for a new, prophetic ecclesiastic directive, but then one coming from the Dutch Reformed family as a whole; still better: from one united Dutch Reformed Church.