Original Research

The semper reformanda principle under scrutiny in a South African context: A case study of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa

Graham A. Duncan
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 40, No 1 | a1966 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v40i1.1966 | © 2019 Graham A. Duncan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 January 2019 | Published: 24 October 2019

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Graham A. Duncan, Department of Church History and Church Polity, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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The semper reformanda [always reforming] principle has been fundamentally ignored by the Reforming tradition since it was conceptualised. The growing cadre of those who support a fundamentalist disposition believes in the durability (perdurance) of the tradition in the form in which they promote it, although little of this is traceable to the Reformations or its promoters. They, unlike their 16th-century Reforming predecessors, are stuck in a literalistic mode of thinking which seeks to preserve and promote a static timeless faith which is applicable in all contexts for all time. Their literalism enables them to evade and avoid in-depth study of the text, the context and the contemporary context. This form of interpretation has taken root in Africa. It is challenged by the dynamic processes of contextualisation and inculturation whereby the gospel is incarnated in each context it encounters as it has done from the beginning of the Christian church. This article engages with primary sources of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) and the Fellowship of Concerned Christians in the broader contexts of the human sexuality debate and theological education as it investigates the ahistorical/static and dynamic/fluid theological views that inform contemporary thinking.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: This article is interdisciplinary in the sense that it transcends the theological disciplines of Church History, Church Polity, Dogmatics, Practical Theology, African Theology and Missiology. The topic indicates the relevance of an inter-disciplinary approach in order to produce an inclusive, integrated and well-rounded approach within the broad field of hermeneutics.


fundamentalism; Fellowship of Concerned Christians Fundamentalism; inculturation; semper reformanda; Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa


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