Original Research

The Rustenburg Church Conference of 1990: A call to the churches in South Africa after 30 years

Johan M. van der Merwe
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2232 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2232 | © 2021 Johan M. van der Merwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 March 2021 | Published: 09 June 2021

About the author(s)

Johan M. van der Merwe, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The Rustenburg Church Conference took place in 1990, 30 years after the historic Cottesloe Church Consultation of 1960. Both these conferences had a huge influence on the history of the churches in South Africa. Thirty years after the Rustenburg Conference, this article suggests that the current context of South Africa calls for another church conference. To motivate this, the events and the declarations of the Rustenburg Church Conference of 1990 are revisited. Firstly, the article starts with a short overview on the organising of the conference. Secondly, it revisits the important confession of Prof. W.D. Jonker on apartheid and what he said on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Afrikaner people. It then recalls the lesser known but not less important declaration by the women at the conference before moving on to the main declaration, which was made after the conference. The question that is then asked is what this important historical event means for the current situation in South Africa. It is suggested that the churches in South Africa are called to take the initiative to organise a Lekgotla where churches and other civil organisations can come together to discuss and address the challenges in South Africa. Racism, poverty, education, violence against women and children and corruption are specifically named as issues that should be addressed. The article concludes that given the current situation in South Africa, the churches have arrived at another Kairos moment.

Interdisciplinary implications: The research in this article challenges other disciplines in theology, sociology, education and law to join the quest for workable solutions. This should be done with specific reference to research on the current problematic events in South Africa, namely poverty, corruption, racism, violence against women and the needs of children and land issues.


Rustenburg Church Conference 1990; Lekgotla; confession; apartheid; violence against women; corruption.


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