The 1986 Confession of Belhar from South Africa
The first document for consideration in the current triennium is the Confession of Belhar from South Africa, which claims our common humanity in the Gospel.
This Confession was written in the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in 1982 and formally adopted in 1986. During the Apartheid era, its calls to unity spoke to the segregations in South Africa and, after 1994, it provided the demanding terms by which the DRMC and the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa would form a Uniting Reformed Church. Strikingly –and relevant to our purposes – although speaking into that situation, the confession never describes the political situation of South Africa directly. Indeed, not even the word apartheid itself is used. Instead, the confession probes deeply into the reconciling nature of the gospel and uses its light to expose and critique a divided church.
With the Confession of Belhar we see the deep pain – the cry of the heart at the origin of this work. Reading the letter that accompanies it makes this pain very clear. In considering this confession we need to honour its story and hold its history respectfully. And while there are most certainly prophetic summonses within it which call us to walk together in our time and place, it does come from a different time and a different place. The distance between its world and ours is close enough to challenge and delight us, and far enough to illuminate those parts of the life of our church in need of reconciliation.
This document has been adopted in other Christian contexts not directly affected by the particularities of South African apartheid, perhaps because it so clearly begins with an exposition of the gospel. It is presented for consideration by the Uniting Church in the hope that we may be pointed afresh to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Rachel Kronberger, Convenor, Assembly Continuing Witness Task Group
The Continuing Witness Task Group has developed these liturgical resources for presbytery worship as you engage with the document.
Questions for Discussion
The link below takes you to a form containing questions for discussion. Please complete the form to provide your feedback to the Continuing Witness Task Group.