Original Research

The Dutch Reformed Church as a prominent established South African church: In transition towards the 21st century

Pieter Kruger, Johan M. van der Merwe
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 38, No 1 | a1698 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v38i1.1698 | © 2017 Pieter Kruger, Johan M. van der Merwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 September 2016 | Published: 14 September 2017

About the author(s)

Pieter Kruger, Department of Church History and Polity, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Johan M. van der Merwe, Department of Church History and Polity, University of Pretoria, South Africa


The Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk) is in transition because of the influences of the more recent South African epochs of democratisation, Africanisation and globalisation. The histories of these epochs extend over more than 20 years and have had a significant influence on the church. The Dutch Reformed (DR) Church changed institutionally because its place and influence within society changed considerably as a result of political and social transformation since 1994. The ongoing process of Africanisation that accompanies these transformations brings certain reactions to the bosom of the church via the experiences of its members. Most are Afrikaners being more inclined to westernised social frames of reference. Ironically, these people are more susceptible to the effects of globalisation, especially secularisation, which transposes the religious set-up of the DR Church into an open and individuated system. These developments pose major challenges to the DR Church in the sense that it has to reconsider how it approaches society, what it can contribute to the ecumenical church, why it is necessary to reflect on its denominational identity and what its academic, theological endeavours in these regards entail.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article has an interdisciplinary scope because the multiplicity of the present-day calls for interdisciplinary academic reflection. For the purpose of this article, Church Historiography helps to systemise recent ecclesiastical developments within the DR Church. To clarify the influences of these developments on the DR Church, sociological premises are incorporated to describe them within a broader social context. References to the conducted empirical study serve to explain respondents’ (members of the DR Church) social and religious constructs regarding these ecclesiastical and sociological phenomena.


Dutch Reformed Church; Social transformation; Secularisation; Religious pluralisation; Ecumenism; Public Theology


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