Original Research

Reforum: A brief but not unimportant chapter in the Dutch Reformed Church’s apartheid saga

P.G.J. Meiring
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2241 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2241 | © 2021 P.G.J. Meiring | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 March 2021 | Published: 02 August 2021

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P.G.J. Meiring, Department of Religion, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

In 1985 when storm clouds were gathering over South Africa, and a state of emergency was declared, a group of members of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) Family, clergy as well as laity, founded an organisation, Reforum. The two-fold aim of Reforum was to provide a prophetic witness against apartheid, calling the DRC to take leave of its theology of apartheid, and, secondly, to work towards the reunification of the DRC Family. The article researches the original Reforum documents, minutes, reports, conference material and letters, that hitherto laid untouched in the DRC Archive, in Pretoria. The programme of Reforum, especially the national and regional conferences held by the organisation over the 7 years of its existence, is discussed. The initial negative reaction of the DRC officials and synods, as well as the critique from some in the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the DRC in Africa that Reforum was not radical enough in its approach, are recorded. The summation, at the end, is that Reforum did play a significant role, albeit humble and short lived, in the annals of the DRC’s apartheid saga. Relevance: The DRC’s apartheid saga, the story of a church that had over many years lived with apartheid and even provided a theological argument for separate development, eventually came to the point where the DRC not only repented of its past, but declared apartheid and the theology of apartheid a sin and a heresy, continues to fascinate historians, including church historians. For South African Christians, clergy as well as laity, it helps explain their often troubled past, as well as present. The often neglected story of Reforum and the role and contribution of the organisation in this process needs to be recorded. Original research: the author provides original qualitative research, using material that had lain untouched in the DRC Archive for three decades. This may be considered to be a preliminary study. The archival material merits more and deeper attention. It may well provide material for post graduate research.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The research is of value for the study of South African general history, South African church history, ecumenical studies, and practical theology.


Keywords

Reforum; Dutch Reformed Church; Uniting Reformed Church of Southern Africa; apartheid; ecumenism; Confession of Belhar; Kairos Document; The Road to Damascus; South African State of Emergency

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