Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In memory of Rev Dr MS Pitikoe

Rev Dr MS Pitikoe
Born: 19 March 1939
Died: 29 October 2008

The late Rev Dr Molefi Seth Pitikoe was born on the 19th March 1939 in Hendrina. He was the second child of the late Rev Japhet Mizpha and Mrs Stompie Pitikoe. On 11th January 1964, he was joined in matrimony with Sarie Kruger. They were blessed with five children, two boys and three girls: Moroesi, Billy, Tiny, Lieketseng and the late Butiki.

He did his pastoral work at the following congregations of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in Afrika later known as the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa: Maseru (1963-1964), Evander (1964-1968), Zola (1968) and Tladi (1968) until he was called to higher service.

The late Rev Dr MS Pitikoe had a passion in the quest for knowledge. He started his primary education in Vryheid, he then proceeded to Bethal where he completed his Std 6. He graduated as a teacher at Stofberg Gedenk Skool in 1958 and went on to graduate as a minister from Stofberg Theological College (Pietersburg) in 1962. In 1963 he started with his ministerial career in Maseru (Lesotho).

He acquired his matric and several degrees through correspondence chiefly with the University of South Africa. In 1971 he obtained his post graduate degree at the Free University in Amsterdam (Netherlands) and a PhD in ministry at the Pacific Western University, Colorado in the United States of America in 1979. Over and above his degrees in theology, he obtained a PhD in Naturopathy at the Naturopathy College of South Africa.

He served in the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk in Afrika (NGKA), as scribe of the Regional Synod of Southern Tvl from 1972-1997 and for the General Synod from 1981-1994.

He then served, in the Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa, as Moderator of the Regional Synod of Southern Tvl from 1999-2007 and as Assesor of the General Synod from 2001-2005.

He had a passion for justice and for the reunification of the Dutch Reformed church-family. Being part of the leadership of the then NGKA, he paved the way for the unification with the ‘Sendingkerk’. They would declare in a press statement in 1991, ‘In view of the present time in South Africa, churches are called to give a positive witness with regards to mutual acceptance and reconciliation. The unity of the DRCA and DRMC will present a clear witness that these two churches have ended the sinful separation which was forced upon them for such a long time.’

In one of his last sermons to the Regional Synod of Southern Tvl, he passionately pleaded the church reunification for the whole DR church-family to be seen as a simple act of obedience to Gods call. He read Matt 6: 5 and noted that this is a well known prayer, which we all have known since the days of our youth. He underlined the key verse, which was also the theme for the Synod, ‘may your will be done earth’. ‘What a wonderful place our world would have been if every Christian would simply do this. Our prayers would link up with daily life and we would become more, increasingly conscious of Christ in his life. Our spiritual poverty is because our unwillingness to enter a deep relationship with God, as revealed in Scriptures. It is only if we submit to the will of God, that it will cause spiritual growth. Unfortunately we don’t do it. It might be Gods will for us but we refuses to do it, then we experience conflicting loyalties. Our sense of values becomes distorted.’

He then lamented the fact that for more than 35 we’ve been speaking unity, unity…. We’ve preached unity the late Rev E Buti started this process. It’s now more than 35 years, saying the same thing, hoping that tomorrow unity will come from heaven. But, he stated, in despair, ‘it’s not coming’; why are we struggling, because people are not willing to submit to will of God. We present excuses and my own selfish will becomes first’. Then he spoke a startling word, he stated, ‘I tell you today- we won’t see unification on this earth- some say – give us 3 years- no it will take another 35 years.In our discussions we rather say: my will first and Gods will second. And then we think God must bless us. We however do like Jonah- we’re on a wrong way. So, we know what happened to Jonah. He ended up searching for God in the belly of the whale. Oh, he concluded, we wasted such a lot of money, yet Christ simply said- be one.
Where is the will of God? – I ask you, where is the will of God?
This prophetic sermon seems to be haunting us in our quest for reunification. It haunts those who would constantly remind us of all the difficulties, of all the impossibilities.
Dr Seth Pitikoe died an untimely death, yet his prophetic word still speaks powerfully to this situation in the DRC-family today. May his children see the fulfillment of his hope.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Funeral arrangements of Dr Seth Pitikoe

The funeral arrangments of Dr Seth Pitikoe is as follows:
The service will start at 10am at the URCSA in Tladi.
it is hoped and it was the wish of Dr Pitikoe that the service be simple and short and the family wish to honour this request.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

WCC URGES INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS AND GOVERNMENTS TO UPHOLD THE RIGHT TO FOOD

As "the global food crisis continues to unfold and impact on the most vulnerable in our societies," the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia has called on international institutions and governments to move into swift action.
In a statement on the occasion of the World Food Day (16 October), Kobia has called on international institutions, regional intergovernmental bodies and governments "to address volatility in food and agriculture prices by re-establishing public stocks at national and regional levels". They should also "prevent [agribusiness companies] from abusing their market power" and introduce "legislation at all levels that enshrines the right to food and food sovereignty".

The global food crisis "is not primarily of production, but of distribution and access" and "stems from and reflects a failure to uphold justice and sustainability within an economic system that is driven by the values of greed and materialism," Kobia stated.

In view of this, "churches are called to bring the fundamental links between food, community, ecology and life back into perspective". "The churches need to continue to hold international institutions, governments, corporations and financial speculators accountable for the realization of the right to food and food sovereignty," the statement reads.

Whilst "many churches and their specialized ministries are responding to the crisis," Kobia encourages them to continue their advocacy work and to "renew their commitment to work for genuine land reform - including the redistribution of church lands," as well as to "promote local and environmentally friendly agricultural production".

Full text of the WCC general secretary's statement on the global food crisis:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Press statement of Executive on Boesak and Homosexuality debate

HOMOSEXUALITY DEBATE

The Executive of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa deeply regrets the misrepresentations of the procedures and decisions of Synod on the issue of homosexuality by our former Assessor, ProfDr Allan Boesak. We want to inform the world and our church of the correct information.

We want to state the following:
1. The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa is a Church who functions within the Presbyterian Church law system. That means that the church works with meetings and not individuals. Only when a meeting (Synod: General or Regional, Presbytery or Church Council) came to a decision, that decision stands and is the official position of the various structures in URCSA. Any individual within URCSA not mandated to speak on behalf of these meetings within URCSA, would voice their personal opinion and does not speak on behalf of URCSA. A person may rise in Synod or any other meeting of URCSA and make a point, but it will remain a viewpoint, unless an official decision has been taken by majority vote. This point is important to note in the light of the debates at Synod and the utterances of individuals in URCSA specifically on the homosexuality debate and in the public press.

2. Interim Policy on homosexuality (2005)
At the General Synod of URCSA in 2005 the Synod took the following decision ( decision 90) which would be the interim guideline until Synods comes to a final decision:
a) Synod confirms that the Bible is the living Word of God and the primary source and norm for the moral debate about homosexuality
b) Synod acknowledges the diversity of positions regarding homosexuality and pleads that differences be dealt with in a spirit of love, patience, tolerance and respect.
c) Synod confirms that homosexual people are members of the church through faith in Jesus Christ.
d) Synod rejects homophobia and any form of discrimination against homosexual persons.
e) Synod appeals to URCSA members to reach out with love and empathy to our homosexual brothers and sisters and embrace them as members of the body of Christ in our midst.
f) Synod acknowledges the appropriate civil rights of homosexual persons.
g) Synod emphasizes the importance of getting clarity about the theological and moral status of homosexual marriages, or covenantal unions .
h) Synod emphasizes the importance of getting clarity about the ordination of practicing homosexual persons in ministry.
i) Synods assigns the following tasks to the Moderamen:
- Do an extensive study on Christian faith and homosexuality while taking into consideration the above mentioned principles;
- Table a report with recommendations to the General Synodical Commission (GSC) during the coming recess ( 2005-2008);
- And encourage and direct discussions on the theme of homosexuality in URCSA.

3. Mandate and Report on homosexuality
The mandate was to be carried out under the leadership of the previous Assessor, Dr Allan Boesak and his Commission, consisted of Prof. Nico Koopman, Prof. Jeremy Punt, Prof Christina Landman, Prof Rothney Tshaka. According to the decision of the 2005 Synod this commission had to follow a certain process within the church with their. They were instructed to table their report during the recess at the General Synodical Commission (GCS which is the body which handles the affairs of the General Synod while the Synod is not in session) for debate. The report was to be distributed to the Regional Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations for debate. The responsibility of this commission was to direct the discussion on homosexuality in URCSA. The commission unfortunately did not fulfill its task in this regard.

4. Homosexuality debate during Synod:
The report was received only by the delegates (and not by the entire church structures as was the mandate to the commission) and they received it only a few weeks before Synod was to convene. Because of this irresponsible manner in which a report of such importance for the church and its members whose life’s are personally, directly and deeply affected by its final conclusion, the delegates were not prepared to debate this issue properly and make an informed decision. The result was that some delegates reacted to the report on an emotional level and said inappropriate and hurtful things. For these irresponsible utterances by individuals in Synod, URCSA is very, very sorry and makes an unconditional apology to the entire Church and its homosexual members who have been hurt by this. We want to stress these utterances were that of individual delegates and not a decision by the Synod as a meeting. We deeply regret that the commission did not do its work properly in terms of the process that the report should have taken in the URCSA. Synod by decision rejected these utterances and confirmed the integrity of those who worked on this report.

4. The current position of URCSA on the issue of Homosexuality
Synod regards the report as a well prepared report and thanked the contributors to the report. Synod decided that the report should take the route, as was decided by the 2005 Synod, but was not implemented by the Commission on homosexuality. The report and its recommendations are now referred back to the 7 Regional Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations for discussion.
In the meantime the current official position of URCSA on homosexuality is the interim policy as formulated in 2005( decision 90) as stated in point 2 of this press release.

5. Dr Allan Boesak’s statements in the public press.
As the executive we deeply regret the misleading and false statements made by Dr Allan Boesak ( Moderator of the Cape Synod)in the public press, since Friday. The Moderamen would like to clear up the confusing facts that Dr. Boesak put in the public domain. The Report tabled was not Dr Boesaks. It was the report of a commission which consisted of Prof. Nico Koopman. Christina Landman, Prof. Jeremy Punt and Prof. Rothney Tshaka. He only presented the Report on behalf of the commission. For Dr Boesak to claim in the week-end press that” he confronted the Synod (in this report) with an issue and that the Synod was not emotionally or theologically ready to talk about it”, would be to ignore the contributions of distinguish academics to report and claim sole responsibility for its content. He creates the impression that this was an issue between him and the Church/ Synod. Creating the impression that he was he was the champion of a cause and by so doing put the spotlight on himself. Dr Boesak took the issue of the report far too personally, while he was not the sole writer or owner of this report. Once this report was submitted it became the property of the URCSA.

When Dr. Boesak stated in Die Burger newspaper that, “he confronted the Synod (in this report ) with an issue and that the Synod was not emotionally or theologically ready to talk about”, he was absolutely correct. Dr Boesak neglected his duty as the person who was given the responsibility by Synod in 2005 to assemble a commission to work on this report and to ensure that URCSA was emotionally and theologically ready to debate with insight the issue of homosexuality. It was only three years after this mandate was given to him, that he called a commission together in June of this year. One of the members only heard in June of this year that he was a part of the commission. This report was to tabled between 2005 and 2006 at the General Synodical Commission and send to the Regional Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations for debate, because the work was not done, this process was not followed and the church and delegates to the Synod, “was not emotionally and theologically ready” to debate the subject of homosexuality. As chairperson of this commission Dr. Boesak simply did not do his job properly and he must take full responsibility for what happened with this report at the Synod. He must be honest and take ownership for this. He should not shift the blame to Synod, but he should be courageous and mature enough to admit his serious neglect. Dr. Boesak did a disservice to URCSA and its homosexual members in this regard and he puts his fellow commissioners in a very difficult situation. Despite this short space of time in which this report was completed, Synod regards this research on the topic as excellent and worthy of considering.

Dr Boesak’s accusation as reported in die Burger on Monday that, URCSA committed treason against Belhar, is an accusation that the Uniting Reformed in Southern Africa does not take seriously. URCSA has not made any decision on the report and specifically where the report deals with the Belhar Confession. Dr Boesak is simply sensational in his utterances. He has no grounds for such an accusation, because there was never a decision taken or a value judgment made by Synod ( as legally constituted meeting who can take decisions, legally) on Belhar and homosexuality. His accusation is highly irresponsible and misleading.

Dr Boesak creates the impression in the Week-end Argus that URCSA has come to a decision on Homosexuality when he is quoted , “ I cannot accept the church’s decision and stand as a representative. I will remain on as an ordinary minister. I will cannot defend such a decision.” No decision was made on homosexuality, except the decision to refer the report for proper discussion as was the intention and decision of the general Synod of 2005.

Dr Boesak has vilified the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa and its Synod for no valid reason and spoke untruths about the actions of this Church of God. We as a Church will not call on him to retract these untruths, but we leave him with his conscience before the Almighty God and we pray to God that Dr Boesak, will use his God-given gifts for a righteous cause.

This is the final public engagement of URCSA on this issue. We will now go back to our Regional Synods, Presbyteries and Congregations, to direct and deal pastorally with the issue of homosexuality in the spirit of the 2005 decision. We call on the whole of URCSA to start talking and debating.

This press release will be read throughout URCSA on Sunday to put the issue in perspective and to remove all confusion and false statements.

ISSUED BY THE EXECUTIVE:

Prof . ST Kgatla ( Moderator)
Dr. Mary –Ann Plaatjies –van Huffel( Assessor)
Dr. Dawid Kuyler( Scribe)
Rev. M. Godfrey Betha ( Actuarius)
Rev. Reggie Nel
Rev.MP Moloi
Dr. Henry Platt.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

PASTORAL LETTER URCSA GENERAL SYNOD 2008

PASTORAL LETTER FROM THE FIFTH GENERAL SYNOD OF URCSA TO THE CONGREGATIONS OF URCSA IN SOUTHERN AFRICA

Dear Sisters and brothers

We greet you in the Name of our Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who gathers, protects and cares for his Church by his Word and his Spirit, as He has done since the beginning of the world and will do so to the end.
One hundred and eighty-five delegates from all the regional Synods and presbyteries in South Africa, Lesotho and Namibia met at Prestige College near Hammanskraal. The theme for this fifth General Synod was: “Unity in diversity.” Our Moderator, Prof. Thias Kgatla in the opening service reminded us from 1 Cor 12 that we as a church is the body of Christ and that in Christ body there is unity in diversity. We as members of the body of Christ are diverse but our diversity is necessary to serve one another in order that the body can be one. All of us are important in the church. No one should ever feel inferior. God has given every member of his church a gift to serve the rest of the body. We had the privilege that Prof. Daan Cloete led us every morning in Bible study to expound this theme according to the gospel of John. Congregations will soon be able to buy this bible studies in book form so that all may reflect together on this important issue.
The delegates represented the diversity of URCSA members. Young and old, male and female, people with a range of educational background, from different economical backgrounds, different language groups and representing different race groups met as one in Christ.
Together we asked God to guide us to give answers to the challenges facing the congregations in Southern Africa.
We would like to share with you the important issues that we had to deal with.
Church unity within the DRC family was on our table. We had to take a difficult decision regarding our unity with the DRC. Over the past years we were covenanting with the DRC to unite and many meetings were held to find a way forward. The decisions of Achterberg on how we should proceed with unity were given to the congregations of both churches for their comments. We took note with sadness that in the DRC congregations responded negatively towards the acceptance of the Belhar Confession in a new church and their understanding of a church unification model of a Joint General synod is not acceptable to us. We have always maintained that church unity should be an organic model in which we are one church. It was in the light of the DRC decisions that we felt that their decisions has placed an unbearable burden on the integrity of the church and brings into question our deepest held convictions on the call of the Gospel with regards to the unity of the church and our faith as expressed in the Confession of Belhar.
We therefore decided to put a moratorium on the re-unification talks between the URCSA and DRC on a national level until the DRC is serious committed and ready for unity talks, but we also decided that we will invite the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to come and facilitate the process of re-unification between URCSA and DRC.
Because we are serious about unity we did not close the door to congregations and members of the DRC who eagerly wants to unite with URCSA. Regional Synods, presbyteries and congregations are still encouraged to continue with the existing efforts towards unification that are done in faith and with integrity, in obedience to the call of Christ and on the basis of the acceptance of the Confession of Belhar so that these efforts can remain as signs of hope, reconciliation and love to the fulfilment of justice, the edification and witness of the church and the glory of God.
We will also arrange for a public occasions where members and ministers of the DRC and the rest of the DRC can publicly support, identify with and undersign the confession of Belhar. We propose this as a way to continue meaningful progress with regard to church unification as URCSA understand it. This will open new possibilities for our walking this road together.
We also approved the memorandum of understanding between URCSA and the DRCA in which we will try and find a way out of the deadlock of court cases.
Internal unity
We as a synod took time to reflect on our internal unity and in the light of the positive experience we had when we openly talked about what is happening within URCSA, the synod decided that it will appoint a task team to provide the church with a strategic plan regarding the process of internal unity that will include clear guidelines to all levels of the church (from congregations to Synods) as well as ministries. It is our prayer that the delegates to this synod will bring back to congregations, presbyteries and regional synods the knowledge and experience that they have gained in this regard.
Scales of Remuneration
The General Synod approved the remunerations scale as presented and further decided to mandate the permanent SMFA to draw up formula/guideline on the scale. Congregations are encouraged to remunerate ministers not below the recommended scales.
Greetings from overseas churches
Meeting at Hammanskraal we had the privilege that delegates from churches in Europe and America attended and brought greetings. Amongst our guests were: Rev Marc Loos of the United Protestant Church in Belgium; Prof James Seawood from the Reformed Church in America; Rev Dietmar Arends from the Evangelical Reformed Church in Germany; Dr Gerard Dykstra, Executive Director of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and Dr Bas Plaisier of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. All our guests came to tell how they accepted Belhar and how Belhar is guiding them in their situations. This brings the question: Why is the DRC reluctant to accept Belhar while other churches praise Belhar?
Challenges for URCSA.
We invited speakers to help us reflect on important challenges we are facing. Rev Basil Manning addressed us on racism and what we should do. He gave us the OUMA way. Take Ownership of racism; Understand what we mean by racism and how it is functioning in our church; Motivation - The command to love should motivate us; and Action. What is it what we should do?
Dr Johan Burger addressed us on crime and challenged us to make a difference. Bongiwe Dumezweni-Ntakumba helped us to understand the importance of leadership in the church and rev Averell Rust directed us how we should respond to economic justice. Our delegates have been given handouts on these topics that we urge them to use in the local congregations and presbyteries.
Theological training
This year we celebrate centenary of theological training for black ministers and evangelists. Prof Kritzinger has helped us to reflect on the past 100 years of theological training but also to look forward. Delegates will be bringing with them a booklet in this regard that can help congregations to reflect. The synod approved that besides theological training at Stellenbosch and Pretoria, a ministerial formation centre can be established in Bloemfontein at the University of the Free State.

Homosexuality
The synod tabled this important issue with a report by a task team led by Dr Alan Boesak. A Thorough debate took place and in the end he synod decided to re-affirm its decisions of Pietermaritzburg (2005). As a church we acknowledge the diversity of positions regarding homosexuality and plead that differences be dealt with in a spirit of love, patience, tolerance and respect. We again confirm that homosexual people are members of the church through the faith in Jesus Christ. We again rejected homophobia and any form of discrimination against homosexual persons. We appeal to URCSA members to reach out with love and empathy to our homosexual brothers and sisters and embrace them as members of the body of Christ in our midst.
The synod also decided: to refer the report and its recommendations to the Regional Synods, Presbyteries and local congregations for discussion. Please make sure you read the report and discuss it.
Yearbook
The General Synod urges congregations, Presbyteries and Regional Synods to send the correct information between 1st August and 31st September every year for publication in the Yearbook.
General Secretary for URCSA
The synod in principle approved that such a position be created to help the church in its daily operations.

We greet you in the precious name of Christ our Lord! Celebrate the unity in diversity!!!!

The executive is also representing the regions AND FOR THE FIRST TIME A LADY ON THE EXECUTIVE!!!! We are proud that the executive also represent unity in diversity.
Moderator:Prof ST Kgatla (Northern)
Assesor: Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies - van Huffel(Cape)
Scribe: Dr Dawid Kuyler (Free State and Lesotho)
Actuarius: Rev Godfrey Betha(Phororo)
Rev Reggie Nel (Southern Transvaal)
Rev MP Moloi (KZN)
Dr Henry Platt (Namibia)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Decisions of General Synod, URCSA

The General Synod, at Hammanskraal met in exitement, but also expectation, because many key decisions were to be made. From the onset Prof Allan Boesak indicated that he would not be available for elections, because of personal and national commitments to the country. The General Synod elected the following to serve in the recess:

Moderator: Prof Thias Kgatla (Northern Synod/ Noordelike Sinode)
Assessor: Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies-Van Huffel (Cape Synod/ Kaapland Sinode)
Scribe/Skriba: Dr Dawid Kuyler (Free State & Lesotho Synod/ Vrystaat & Lesotho Sinode)
Actuary/ Aktuarius: Rev Godfrey Betha (Phororo Synod/ Sinode)
Dr. Henry Platt (Namibia Synod/ Namibiese Sinode)
Rev/ Ds. Philemon Moloi (KwaZulu-Natal Synod/ Sinode)
Rev/ Ds. Reggie Nel (Southern Transvaal Synod/ Suid-Transvaal Sinode)

Decisions on re-unification process:
The General Synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, meeting in Hammanskraal (September 29 to October 5, 2008),

Affirms
1. The call for the unity of the church of Jesus Christ and especially at this time of the Dutch Reformed Church family as a call to obedience and a response to the prayer of Jesus Christ (Jn. 17) which the church desires to fulfil with all our heart;
2. This call to unity, reconciliation and justice as inescapable gift and obligation laid upon us by the Confession of Belhar;
3. Our continuing commitment to this unity as expressed in the decisions and actions of successive synods of this church at both general and regional synod level and as expressed also by the constant efforts towards unity at the level of presbyteries and commissions of the church and congregations on the basis of our common acceptance of the Confession of Belhar wherever possible;
4. Our desire that the unity of our churches of the Reformed family in South Africa should be expressed in organic unity reflective of the Presbyterial model and be structurally recognisable and spiritually strong;
5. Our firm conviction that the Confession of Belhar should be part of the confessional basis and identity of the newly formed denomination.

Takes cognisance of
1. The 2004 DRC General Synod decision which read: “…N VERENIGENDE KERKVERBAND VAN SELFSTANDIGE PLAASLIKE GEMEENTES. Ons stel voor dat die presbiteriaal-sinodale kerkregeringstelsel as model vir die organisering van die nuwe een kerkverband gebruik word. Dit beteken dat al die gemeentes as selfstandige gemeentes ingevoeg word in ringe, sinodes en een algemene sinode. In die proses moet ruimte gelaat word vir onderhandeling, nuwe moontlikhede en ‘n groei na mekaar” and the challenge put to URCSA by the said synod to respond accordingly;
2. The consistent endeavours toward church unity as reflected in the efforts of the church since 2005, namely Esselen Park (2006), Bloemfontein (2006), and Achterberg I and II (2006 and 2007), as well as in the reports from regional synods, and thanks the moderamen, the general Synodical Commission and the regional synods for the hard work;
3. The reports emanating from the General Synod of the DRC (2007) and of the “Resolutions of the Moderamen (expanded) on Church Reunification” (11-12 June 2008) where the view is expressed that while the Confession of Belhar “has significant value and sentiment for URCSA and some members of the DR Church”, for the “majority member and congregations of the Dutch Reformed church the Confession of Belhar is not acceptable as fourth confession”. (3.2)
4. The fact that as regards a model for unification, the expanded moderamen proposes that “Achterberg III deliberates about the possibility to consider, as an interim measure, a joint synod of the four member churches” with all four member churches send representatives to this “Joint Synod”.

Declares
1. With deep distress that these latest decisions of the DRC represent a disturbing departure from our understanding reached at Esselen Park and the “Points of Consensus” reached at the Achterberg consultations. These decisions renew the rejection of the Confession of Belhar as part of the confessional basis of the new united church to which we aspire;
2. With sadness that this remains the case even after the substantial concession on the manner in which the Confession of Belhar should be approached made by the URCSA General Synodical Commission at the Esselen Park meeting in 2006;
3. With deep disappointment that neither in the decisions of the DRC General Synod, nor in the most recent resolutions of the Expanded Moderamen has the “Covenant Toward Church Unity” as formulated and accepted at Esselen Park, and put before, and accepted by the regional synods of URCSA as a new, common theological basis for church union, featured in any recognisable way;
4. That by reintroducing the Confession of Belhar as a matter of political contention and the most visible and most objectionable barrier to church unification, the DRC is in significant variance with its own decision regarding the Confession of Belhar and the confessional basis of the new united church;
5. And that by this action the DRC has in effect turned away from the “Covenant toward Church Unity” agreed upon at Esselen Park and has invalidated the grounds upon which URCSA has taken its decision on Belhar as a gesture of reconciliation and obedience;
6. That the proposed model of unification, the so-called “Joint General Synod” has nothing in common with the model of organic unity according to Presbyterian principles proposed by URCSA and until now the model under discussion accepted by the DRC; is in fact a revamped “federal model” URCSA has consistently rejected over the years. It is a model that accepts, and reinforces the racially divided nature of our Dutch Reformed churches and represents a fundamental denial of what URCSA stands for and is expressed in the Confession of Belhar and our understanding of Reformed Ecclesiology.

Therefore Synod decides
1. That such decisions place an unbearable burden on the integrity of the church and bring into question our deepest held convictions on the call of the Gospel with regard to the unity of the church and our faith as expressed in the Confession of Belhar;
2. That the Confession of Belhar is not just of “sentimental value” but is an irreplaceable gift to the church of Jesus Christ in this country and abroad as well as an authentic expression of Reformed theology for our times and contexts and as such honoured and accepted by churches in the Reformed family across the world;
3. That the conviction of the church remains that the Confession shall not be forced upon anyone and should be willingly and gratefully accepted by those convicted by the truth that it embodies;
4. That the General Synod puts a moratorium on the re-unification talks between the URCSA and DRC until the DRC is serious committed and ready for unity talks. General synod mandates the executive to invite WARC to come and facilitate the process of re-unification of these churches who are members of WARC. This request is based on the letter of WARC dated 11/08/08.
5. That inasmuch as the same convictions are held by the DRCA and the RCA this decision holds for those two churches as well;
6. That the faith, courage and work of regional synods, presbyteries, commissions of the church and local congregations be respected and honoured by encouraging them, where all efforts towards unification are done in faith and with integrity, in obedience to the call of Christ and on the basis of the acceptance of the Confession of Belhar, to continue with these efforts; to thereby remain signs of hope, reconciliation and love to the fulfilment of justice, the edification and witness of the church and the glory of God.
7. The Synod requests the Moderamen to call for a public occasion where members and ministers of the DRC and the rest of the DRC Family can publicly support, identifies with and undersigns the confession of Belhar. We propose this as a way to continue meaningful progress with regard to church unification as URCSA understand it. This will open new possibilities for our walking this road together.


The General Synod then also decided:
The General Synod asks the Moderamen to draw up a resolution to be submitted to the DRC with regards to the greetings brought by their moderator, Prof P Strauss. In this resolution Synod expresses our total disappointment in the way these greetings has been conveyed with special reference to the personal attack on our Moderator, Prof T Kgatla. These greetings undoubtly had a negative impact on our synod’s discussion on the issue of unity with the DRC
It is our humble conviction that the DRC should repudiate Prof Strauss as their official representative for the manner in which these greetings has been conveyed.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What the NG Kerk moderator has to say about re-unification

The NG Kerk moderator, Prof Piet Strauss has been on Afrikaans radio, RSG, last night, to speak on church-re-unification. Click here to listen to it

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CWM elects new executive

The Christian Women's Ministry in the region has elected a new executive, with Mrs Elsie Mokgoebo as the new chairperson. The vice-chair is Mrs Lekota, the secretary Mrs Madimabe with Mrs Nel as vice secretary. The treasurer remains Mrs Mokoena. The wisdom and strength from God is prayed over the executive for their role ahead in leading women, but also, in carving out new conversations on what it means to be women and Christian in Southern Africa.

CWM STvl in session

The CWM is gathering in Henley-on-klip, to reffect on their work, but also on what God is saying for the woman today. Dr LenkaBula from UNISA challenge woman to look deeper on issues of Justice and inclusivity.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pentecostal message from WCC


The Presidents of the World Council of Churches has released a messaage of hope and encouragement to the churches for the season of Pentecost 2008. This message relates to the challenges we face, but its also a re-affirmation of the work of the Holy Spirit in the midts of the churches. The message may be found here

Monday, April 21, 2008

Welcoming the stranger is not optional: WCC

South Africa, experience a disturbing and repulsive surge in crude xenophobic violence. It is reported that last week in Mamelodi-East, over 600 people were on the rampage, looting and destroying homes belonging to 'foreigners'. This is not unique and seemingly there are indications that the South African Polic services are also playing a role in fueling the flames.

It is in this respect that the World Council of Churches' (WCC), most recent consultation on Emigration and hospitality to the strangers is most relevant, if not urgent. In a report called, The Changing Ecclesial Context: The Impact of Migration on Living together, released by the WCC and the Middle East Council of Churches, it is stated: 'Migration is a fact of life. It is as much an instinct to survive as it is an inevitable consequence of globalisation. We can neither turn our backs on it, nor control it'.
Further, they conclude, 'Migrants are not commodities, illegal aliens or mere victims. They are human beings. Migrant rights are human rights. We must respect the human dignity of every migrant and give holistic consideration to their needs, their strengths and the economic, social and cultural contributions they make to society. Above all, we must stand in solidarity with migrants and migrant churches, accompany them and include them in the decision-making that effects and governs their lives'.

In our own context, it remains an indictment agains us as church, where we have failed our brothers and sisters, who fled their countries and now (again) have to flee South Africans, in fear of their lives. For us, as church of Belhar, welcoming and siding with the Zimbabweans, Congolese, Somalis and Sudanese remains at the heart of our witness. Indeed, welcoming the stranger is not optional.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meeting for unification within NG Church-family

There will be a meeting between the Moderamens of URCSA (Southern Tvl) NG Kerk (Western Tvl) and Highveld Synod (NG Kerk) in order today, 17 April 2008, to expedite the re-unfication process, between black, coloured and white churches, sgaring the same confession, yet still divided on the basis of race. A breakthough in thes regions would send out a powerful message to the rest of the country, given the fact that these regions ( of the NG Kerk) repressent some of the most ardent supporters of seperate churches and opposition to re-unification. Indeed we need to trust a pray to God for wisdom and a break through, because this indeed will give a hopeful signal.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

URCSA is 14 years.... teenager years

Teenagers, some would say face the most difficult stage in their development. This is a time for stepping out of the well-known spaces, exploring new identity, but also choosing new values systems for the future. This is scary as well as daunting. The URCSA since her birth, on 14 April 1994, in the Synod-Centre, Belhar is also at a stage of redefining who we are and where we are going. This is a daunting task, but it is a task that has to be done and pursued with vigour and urgency. In a sense the earlier stages has been aimed at clarifying vision, dealing with the issues in the wake of unification and now we need and face a new challenge of public witness in the postcolonial context. This is also exiting and indeed we will aim to reflect on it more on this blog.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

GODSPROFETE OF HOFPROFETE-ALLAN BOESAK

Prof Allan Boesak just celebrated 40 years in fulltime ministry. Herewith his sermon at the service which commemorated this lifetime achievement:

Op 24 Februarie sal dit veertig jaar gelede wees dat ek as bloedjong predikant in die Paarl bevestig is. Ek het as teks vir my intreepreek 1 Konings 22:14 gekies, die vlammende woorde van die profeet Miga ben Jimla teenoor koning Agab: “Sowaar as die Here leef, ek sal sê net wat die Here my beveel om te sê!” Dit teenoor die begeerte en die druk van maar liefs 400 “hofprofete” om by die afgesproke “Godspraak” van die meerderheid in te val, die koning na die mond te praat en hom te verseker dat sy planne ook God se planne is.
1968 was die einde van ‘n beslissende dekade: Poqo, die slagting van Sharpeville, die Rivonia- en die Hoogverraadverhore en die begin van die Robbeneiland-mistiek; Cottesloe, Beyers Naudé, die Christelike Instituut en die slag om die siel van die kerk. My gemeente moes sluk aan die bitter vrugte van die Groepsgebiedewet. Díe teks het my aangegryp. Ek wou praat oor wat ek gesien het as die groot versoeking en keuse waarvoor die kerk staan: Godsprofeet of hofprofeet. Ek het toe vir die eerste keer die kerk beskrywe as “die inkarnasie van God in die wêreld”. Ek het elke woord bedoel; maar wat, in my jeugdige vuur, het ek toe geweet van wat so ‘n keuse inhou, en wat dit sou kos?
In hierdie week van terugskouing, nadenke en nabetragting lees ek van Terry Crawford-Browne, die Christen-aktivis teen oorlog, wapenvervaardiging en wapenhandel en sy stryd met ons regering. Vir die soveelste keer vat die Minister van Finansies, Trevor Manuel, vir Crawford-Browne hof toe oor die voortslepende saga van die R60 bijloen se wapenaankope, en oor wat die minister sien as aanhoudende aanvalle op hom en die regering. Wat ons vandag alom die “wapenskandaal” noem (en dit ís dit ook) is nie al wat Crawford-Browne drywe nie. Sy diepe besorgdheid is dat die regering sy grondwetlike pligte versuim deur die prioriteite wat hy stel, soveel geld verspil op wapens wat die land nie nodig het nie en sy verpligtinge teenoor die armes nie nakom nie. Wat hierdie afgetrede internasionale bankier ontstel is nie net die fiskale onsinnighede nie, maar die doelbewuste keuses van ons regering, wat die vervaardiging en verkoop van wapens insluit. Wat hom dryf is nie haat of ego nie, maar die Christelike oortuigings waarvoor hy openlik staan. Hierdie man is ‘n profeet. Hy was dit in die anti-apartheidstryd, en hy is dit vandag nog. Sy aandeel destyds aan ons veldtog vir internasionale finansiële sanksies teen die apartheidsregering het hom sy loopbaan gekos. Toe al moes hy die keuse maak: Godsprofeet of hofprofeet. Hy maak dit weer, en die prys wat hy betaal is nie gering nie.
In 2004 het die einste Trevor Manuel die kerke ernstig aangespreek oor hul stilswye oor publieke sake, iets “van die laaste tien jaar” sê hy, “wat my die meeste pla”. Dié uitdaging vir die kerk is volgens hom om soos in die verlede “die inkarnasie van God in die Suid Afrikaanse konteks te wees”. Dié gewigtige woord het my beskaamd na my intreepreek teruggevat. Trevor is waaragtig reg! In antwoord daarop het ek toe geskryf dat Trevor die UDF-aktivis weet waarvan hy praat en dat ons sy woorde ter harte neem; dat hy die profetiese kerk meegemaak het, maar dat hy hopelik ook verstaan wat hy vra. Dat hy dus weet wat om te verwag as die kerk in Suid Afrika inderdaad haar stilswye breek en weer die “inkarnasie van God” in Suid Afrika word; kies om eerder Godsprofeet as hofprofeet te wees.
Dis ironie op ironie. Noudat die kerk wel profeties optree, wel die stilte breek en sê “net wat die Here wil” en nie soos die regering verlang nie, is dieselfde minister erg ontstoke. Wees versigtig waarvoor jy bid, wil ons vir Mnr Manuel sê. Ook dít is egter nie verbasend nie: reeds Calvyn het ons gewaarsku dat regerings net gevlei wil word en enige teregwysing haat. Crawford-Browne is in hierdie saak die profeet wat die kerk te bang is om te wees. Hy vlei nie en praat nie na nie; hy vra deurdringend na die verband tussen ons wapenhandel en –aankope en die lot van die armes. Met Calvyn glo hy dat as regeerders “hoog in hul torings” geen notisie neem van die geroep van die noodlydendes nie, hulle “hiermee onomwonde gewaarsku word dat sulke oogluikende misdadigheid nie ongestraf sal wegkom nie”. Maar hierin - ek sê dit tot ons skande - is hy meer kerk as die kerk wat oor die armes ween, maar in al ons institusionele gestaltes oor hierdie lewensbelangrike saak amper geen sinvolle woord te sê het nie.
Sal ek die teks nou weer preek? Jaseker. Die sake vandag is anders as in 1968, maar die uitdagings, soos die Woord, is dieselfde. Soos ook die keuse: Godsprofeet of hofprofeet?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Series for Pentecost services available in Afrikaans

The series for Pentecost 2008, is available, only in Afrikaans for now. The theme is Families in the power of the Spirit and can be downloaded here, as a pdf file. Should you have problems with the pdf format, please leave a comment with your email address and we will be willing to email it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

NG Kerk rejects Belhar

The NG Kerk still rejects the Confession of Belhar and puts the re-unification process in danger. The Beeld reports that the leadership of the NG Kerk met, to discuss the feedback from their congregations. The article, however states that the leadership now wants to approach the rest of the NG Kerk family to discuss the road ahead and push for a 'oorkoepelende' General Synod.

Nico Botha reflects on Good Friday and Human Rights Day

In his most recent contribution in the Beeld, prof Nico Botha, reflects on the significance of the connection between the Good Friday and the Human Rights Day. This year these two days is on the same date. He however reflects on the link between the cross and Sharpville. His article which is entitled, Christene durf nie anderkant kyk nie, (Christians dare not look the other way)is a salutary reminder of the fact the Christianity, at heart is a remembering faith, a faith that draws hope from the cruel death of Jesus Christ, a faith that lives in the shadow of the cross. This is also at the heart of our understanding of reconciliation- not a forgetting of the cross, but drawing from the hope that is find in redemptive suffering.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Where do we stand on church unity ?

In a recent press release, prof. Thias Kgatla speaks our on the current church re-unification process. He deals with the public statements of prof.Piet Strauss, but also the vexing problem of Belhar. The article can be view here

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pray for Paul Ntshumayelo

Paul Ntshumayelo, dynamic church planter and key thinker in urban ministry has had another setback on his health. It is hoped that he will recover to again lead the church in building viable communities, but also in leading the church in Gauteng and beyond.

The broader church community is asked to keep him in our prayers and also his young family and ministry. May he receive healing, but also much needed rest.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Workshop in churchgrowth and churchplanting: Orange Farms

The challenge of church growth has not always been central to the self-understanding of churches in the Reformed tradition. Add to this, the context of Orange Farm, a mega township on the Vaal and you might think that some-one is delusional. Not so with Dr Paul Ntshumaeylo, scribe of the Southern Transvaal Regional synod, but also church planter of note.

The conversation on churchgrowth, within missiology is a very controversial one. Many argue that this is a relic of the colonialist missions theology, most evident in the work of Donald McGavran and missiologists, primarily from the US. It however remains a question, how we are to pursue healthy congregations in a new missionary context, where new townships and residential areas render existing congregational boundaries irrelevant, if not redundant. It is in this context where these concepts becomes not only relevant, but also critical in being an authetically missional church.

Dr Paul speaks from experience as well as deeper theological reflection which culminated in the doctoral thesis under the supervision of Prof Piet Meiring at the University of Pretoria. His growing congregation on the Vaal hence will host a workshop on Church growth and Churchplanting on the 8 March 2008. At this workshop another young scholar and holder of a Kampen scholarship from the Northern Theological Seminary, Rev Boitumelo Senokoane, from the Lakeside congregation, will also speak on this topic.

Hope towards unification amongst NG family, is fading

Hope towards a united NG Kerk is fading. In an article in the Rapport, yesterday, Pieter van Niekerk, minister in the Cape Regional synod of the URCSA suggest that the process is in peril. Under the heading, Die Hoop vervaag oor een NG Kerk, he suggest that the current political climate as well as the election of Prof Piet Strauss, in particular his position with regards to the confession of Belhar, might have played a part in the fact that hope is dissipating. He suggests that processes on local level is possibly the way to go, but that there should be a conversation on the question at what point do we let go, cut our losses and pursue unity with churches in the rest of Africa, who are ready and 'geesdriftig' to pursue this witnessing calling.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Allan Boesak speaks on churchunity

Prof Allan Boesak, outspoken advocate for re-unification within the NG family of churches, will speak at a workshop, in Johannesburg on 8 March 2008. The workshop being planned by ecumene ministries of the NG Kerk (Hoëveld) and URCSA (STvl), will also host Dr Nelus Niemand, from the NG Kerk and Rev Vic Pillay from the Reformed Church in Africa, the 'Indian' wing of the 'family'.

The question of re-unification is a hotly contested one and members of the various churches have different view on this. Recently the NG Kerk in Namibia, except 2 congregations, wholly rejected the Confession of Belhar. This was in line with the various other Regional Synods, who did the same. This evidently put a stumbling block in the process and the way ahead. The Moderamina of the two Gauteng Synods met last month and also later this week to plot the way forward.

It is hoped that this conversation will give direction, but more so perspective on the relevance of this process for a time such as this. It is hoped that new impetus could be gained to re-unite the NG Kerk, for witness and ministry in Southern Africa and beyond. There recent statements by Kobus Gerber on the NG Kerk's commitment to South Africa, is dependant on dealing with the lasting, embarrassing legacy of ecclesial apartheid

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Conference on worship and Liturgy

The Practical Theology Society will be hosting a conference on 16-17 Jan 2008, Liturgy on the edge. It sill be open to all and the costs will be R 40 per person per day. It will take place at the Theo van Wijk Auditorium, at UNISA, Pretoria.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Conference on hopegiving faith communities in Southern Africa

We are exited to announce that the next SAMS congress will be held on the campus of the North West University in Potchefstroom/Tlokwe from 23-25 January 2008 in tandem with the Biennial David Bosch Memorial lecture, on the 23 January 2008 !

Since the Edinburgh 2010 organizing committee has asked SAMS to take responsibility for the commission called "The development of Christian communities in contemporary contexts", the SAMS business meeting agreed to focus in the following two congresses on gathering and analyzing stories of vibrant and sustainable Christian communities in Southern Africa. The theme for the 2008 SAMS was fixed as "Mission in humility and hope: Stories of hope-giving Christian communities in Southern Africa." It was also agreed that hope-giving has al ot to do with healing and reconciliation, so that a concerted effort will be made to gather stories of healing and reconciling communities. In the congress these stories will be told, analyzed and compared-in terms of a consistent interpretive framework- to discern trends and patterns in the mission praxis of these communities. SAMS members and other interested partners are hereby invited to submit proposals of a hope-giving community, person or social movement whose story they would like to tell in the January congress.

Nico Botha calls a new kairos for the church

The church, in particular the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, face a new moment of truth, according to Unisa Professor Nico Botha, and local pastor in the Middelburg congregation. Prof Botha, writes, under the heading, Die Kerk se uur van waarheid, in the Afrikaans daily, the Beeld, reflecting on the recent 52nd ANC conference in Polokwane. He opines that Polokwane signals a victory for democracy, not only within the ANC, but also the country, which poses a challenge for the church at large. The question he poses is: How democratic is the church ? He looks at various dimensions of this question namely: the scandal of churches still separated on the basis of race and skin colour ( some churches still struggle to condemn apartheid as sin!); the oppressed position of women and children (still) as non-voting, hardworking, non-people in our churches, seniors and people with disabilities, but then his focus: the poor and the needy. He believes that Polokwane has brought about a shift in favor of the poor and unemployed.

Whilst some in the current government hail the economic successes, the question is for whom? Indeed, this is a kairos for the church to expose a system that destroy our living environment, and where the inequalities still prevailent is entrenched. What is called for a system where priviate intiative is supported, whilst at the same time the exploitation of a few halted. It is in this context where he calls, in particular the URCSA to stop forcing Belhar down the throats of people and start to choose unequivocally for the poor and needy.

This article, of course raise a lot of isssues, not only for Service and Witness, for Diaconal services and Barmhartigheidsdienste, but also for the general state of our church and our prophetic witness. Some commentators are of the opinion that the new leadership of the ruling party simply represents a new face of disgruntled members. The question seems to be what concrete proposals for policy changes in the economic policy as well as labor policy will be forthcoming. Like Botha, it seems that we will have to be circumspect of new political faces and critically analyze the concrete policy proposals that are on the table. Because, indeed: the cry of the poor and needy calls the church to take a stand... where God stands.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Vacancy for MD at Institute for Urban Ministry, Tshwane

The Institute for Urban Ministry invites applications for the post of Managing Director. The successful candidate would offer:

• A solid understanding of and proven competence in:
o NGO management
o Contextual / Community Ministry
o Theological Education
o Institutional Development

A remuneration package of up to R120 000 per annum is available.

The core activities of the Institute for Urban Ministry are training for Urban Ministry, Networking the Urban Church and telling the story through Publications. IUM is situated in Pretoria Central, has students across South Africa and West Africa, and networks internationally with significant Urban Movements. Closing date: 31 Jan.

Contact: Sakkie Kloppers, Tel: 012 -325 9474, Fax: 012 -3250517, E-mail: sakkie@ium.org.za

unity talks between NG Kerk and URCSA

Unity talks between the Gauteng-South regions of the NG Kerk and the URCSA got underway, yesterday, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Representatives from the various executives met in a spirit of openness and faith, but also in hope to build momentum for this key challenge.

It was noted that in the midst of uncertainty in Southern Africa, the post electoral conflict in Kenya as well as many other challenges, the challenge of church-unification and reconciliation remain critical. The groups agreed to work towards one central administration system and nerve center, to boost the caring together idea, with some practical projects, but also to work towards united ministries. This will be accomplished by building a solid foundation, on the word of God, sharing a common vision and maintaining and building strong relationships. In the course of this year a possible regional convent is in the pipeline, as well as joint ventures to make a real difference in the region.

May we pray for grace and a new momentum in this quest, this mission... giving concrete body to the lofty faith commitments in our confessions

Monday, January 7, 2008

Challenges for the church to deal with in 2008 !

As the festivities dies down, we are reminded of the real challenges that lies ahead, as a church, but also as faith communities, from Africa. The outburst of violence in Kenya, the Taylor trial in The Hague, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan are salutary reminders of the relevance of our mission towards unity, reconciliation and justice.

Social commentators warn that military solutions does not hold promise in the quest for peace. It is indeed at this point where faith communities need to play a key role. The tidings of peace on earth, is a call to own up to our complicity in an imperialist gospel, that aims to destroy the other, but also to commit to action towards challenging this false gospel. It's a call for us as church to practice what we preach. We cannot alienate one another, abuse power and become another predator, fleecing the flock.

This place an imperative on us, towards sound and transparent administration, towards serving the needs of the poor, oppressed and needy. The quest for unification with the NG Kerk, should serve the quest for true justice and healing. Indeed, in a world of death and threats of more bllod on the streets, we need to affirm that....
we believe
• that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice
and true peace among people;
• that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the
God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged
• that God calls the church to follow him in this; for God brings justice to
the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry
(Belhar, Art 4)

This is the gift that we can bring to the world, humbly and faithfully, this year.

In short...