The President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, Jerry Pillay has said “We give thanks to God for the progress made by churches of the Reformed family in overcoming major hurdles on the path to unity in the last two years”. Pillay praised the leaders of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa and the Dutch Reformed Church for their commitment to the vision and the hard work it takes to respond to God’s gift and calling for unity.
Jerry Pillay was speaking at the end of the visit to South Africa by the WCRC South Africa Task team from September 29 to October 2, 2013. The team led by Pillay also included the General Secretary, Setri Nyomi, as well as Sabine
Dressler of The Reformed Alliance in Germany and Oscar McCloud of the Presbyterian Church (USA). The team had meetings with the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), the Dutch Reformed Church (NGKA), the Reformed Church in Africa and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa. These four churches have been engaged in reunification talks for over a decade.
The team felt encouraged about what they heard from the four churches. The major challenges that created mistrust and stalled the process for a long time seem to be dissipating. The South African churches informed the visiting team that the URCSA and DRC had signed a Memorandum of agreement in April 2013 which outlines clearly the way forward and takes full account of the Belhar Confession, restorative justice, and reconciliation. The leaders of both churches acknowledged the work of mediation carried out by the President Jerry Pillay over the last four years as cardinal for the breakthroughs that have been achieved.
In the presence of the WCRC task team, URCSA and DRC reassured RCA and DRCA of their commitment to journey together with them in a spirit of respect and sensitivity so that once their governing structures confirm that they can be on the way towards reunification, the process will be healthy for all of the four churches.
Commenting on the meetings, Sabine Dressler of Germany said, “Although there are still some points of challenge and difficulty between URCSA and the DRC, I am encouraged by their enthusiasm in the decision to go ahead with unification. The attitude expressed by the leaders makes a difference.”
The Task team also held discussions with the leadership of the Nederduitse Hervormde Kerk van Afrika (NHKA). This is the church that remained suspended from the WCRC. The Moderator, Wim Dreyer welcomed the team warmly and led in informing the team on recent decisions that the NHKA has made. It was very clear that although the church has been through many painful challenges including the departure of about thirteen congregations from the denomination, the NHKA has taken most of the key decisions needed to open the doors towards readmission to the World Communion of Reformed Churches. The decision of readmission itself can only be taken by the Executive Committee of the WCRC.
According to Oscar McCloud of the USA, “The NHKA has come a long way, and they are struggling with pain in the process of doing the right thing. On condition that they continue on this path, a recommendation for their readmission into the WCRC would be helpful.”
The General Secretary of the WCRC, Setri Nyomi, described both processes that the team engaged in while visiting South Africa signs of the movement of the Holy Spirit. He said, “We will continue to journey with our sisters and brothers in South Africa as they move closer and closer towards being the post-apartheid church God has called them to be in South Africa today, proclaiming the Gospel faithfully and providing exemplary leadership in the quest for Christian unity and commitment to justice for all.”
The meetings made it clear that the WCRC and the South Africa member churches are committed to journeying together for Christian unity, for overcoming the legacies of apartheid and for actions that usher in justice for all. They all made fresh commitment to continue in prayer for one another.