Renounce Apartheid first, South Africa Church told

Not being able to renounce apartheid has cost a South African Church its re-admission to the world’s biggest Reformed alliance.

The executive committee meeting of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) in Geneva has declared that “it is not yet ready to admit” the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika (Dutch Reformed Church of Africa), or NHKA to the alliance as the Church has not renounced apartheid "fully and completely”.

The NHKA was excluded and suspended from WARC in 1982 because of the theological and biblical backing the Church gave to the system of white domination under which South Africa was governed from 1948 until the early 1990s.

General Secretary of WARC the Rev Setri Nyomi, who presented his report to the executive committee meeting in Geneva this week, noted that a WARC team visited South Africa in March 2009 to meet the denomination and the meeting they had with the Church showed “deep division within the NHKA”.

"It was our determination that they were not ready for readmission," said Nyomi, a Presbyterian from Ghana.

However, the general secretary admitted, "There were a few voices that were committed to challenge the leadership of their Church."

Five leading NHKA theologians expressed their “shame and hurt” in Afrikaans-language press in early March that the Church had not yet officially declared apartheid "unevangelical" and "evil”, Ecumenical News International was quoted as saying.

In 2007 the NHKA's general commission, or synod, had a motion calling for such a declaration on its agenda. But emotions ran so high before the meeting even began that the matter was taken off the agenda.

The theologians called for other members of the NHKA to add their names to their dissident declaration, in which it was also acknowledged that apartheid was dehumanising and caused great suffering which had to be redressed.

NHKA first applied to rejoin WARC in 2005, but the alliance committee said the Church needed to demonstrate to the churches in South Africa and the world that it has renounced apartheid "fully and completely".