The interdependence of public witness and institutional unity in the Dutch Reformed family of churches
AbstractThe Belhar Confession of the then Dutch Reformed Mission Church officially approved in 1986 confesses that the unity of the church should be made visible. Very little has since then come of this visible unity in the family of Dutch Reformed churches. Since 1996, however, new impetus has been given to the effort to bring about institutional unity. It has especially been in their ministries of public witness and service that these churches succeeded to a large extent to give visible and institutional expression to their unity. This would hopefully enable the churches of the Dutch Reformed family to play a more effective public role in the present South African society. They, however, face two serious restrictions in this regard: the limited scope for churches to play a public role within the new liberal democratic dispensation in South Africa and the limited motivation to play a transforming public role in the churches of the Dutch Reformed family. In the article a few pre-conditions for playing an effective public role the churches of the Dutch Reformed family have to meet are discussed. The most important one is that these churches should achieve full institutional unity as soon as possible. The conclusion of the article is therefore that the interdependence of institutional unity and public witness is a reality they will have to deal with effectively if they want to move forward.