H. Russel Botman was lauded at a memorial service earlier today in South Africa. Botman passed away unexpectedly in his sleep at the age of 61 last week.
Botman, most recently the rector at Stellenbosch University, was deeply involved in educational and ecumenical work throughout his life, including working with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), a predecessor of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).
“I was always amazed by his deep faith, humility, service, love for the church and desire to work for a better world,” said Jerry Pillay, president of the WCRC. “He possessed this natural ability to speak truth to power in the most diplomatic way yet exercising the ability to be prophetic.”
In his message at the service Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the WCRC, said, “If God’s creation was not experiencing that fullness of life [given by the Lord], Russel could not stay silent. His life story is filled with life giving actions which demonstrate his profound understanding of our Lord’s self-understanding of why He came. His stance for racial justice, for justice in the economy, for climate justice, for gender justice and for inclusion of all God’s people in God’s economy are all expressions of this commitment.”
Former South Africa presidents Thabo Mbeki and FW de Klerk and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu were among the hundreds who attended the service.
Nyomi called on those gathered to draw inspiration from Botman’s life: “We can continue the work of unmasking the forces of injustice in our communities and engaging in actions that clearly say, ‘A different world is possible.’ Bringing this hope through transformation was Russel’s lifelong commitment. You and I can use this occasion, inspired by the person we are saying farewell to, to commit ourselves to being God’s instruments of transformation. This will bring hope to many.”
For the WARC Botman was co-chair of the International Reformed-Roman Catholic Dialogue from 1998 until 2006. He was also a consultant in the WARC’s covenanting for justice process in the early 2000s, which contributed to the creation of the Accra Confession.