Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae publishes articles in the discipline of Church History/History of Christianity with an African/South African perspective. Published by University of South Africa (UNISA), Research Institute for Theology and Religion.


The Globethics library contains articles of Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae as of vol. 43(2017) no. 2 to current.

Recent Submissions

  • The Life and Work of Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel in Church and Society with specific Reference to the Confession of Belhar

    van der Merwe, Johan M (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    The untimely death of Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel challenges everybody who knew her to reflect on her life and work. One of the outstanding attributes of Plaatjies-Van Huffel was the way in which she "lived" the Confession of Belhar. To her it was much more than a theological document. It guided her life, was the lens through which she looked at church and society and, in the process, became personified in her life and work. This is the focus of the article. It starts off with a short overview of the life of Plaatjies-Van Huffel before it gives a short description of the importance of the Confession of Belhar. How the life of Plaatjies-Van Huffel and the Belhar Confession became inseparable is then described through the three critical areas which are addressed by the Confession, namely unity, social justice and reconciliation. Examples of her leadership in the reunification process between the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) and the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), and press statements on social justice and reconciliation are then used to illustrate how the Confession was embodied by Plaatjies-Van Huffel.
  • Pastoral Ministry from the Margins: Pastors' Wives in Apostolic Faith Mission in Zimbabwe

    Sande, Nomatter; Maforo, Byron (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    This study researched pastors' wives from the Apostolic Faith Church Mission in Zimbabwe as a case study to understand gender-sensitive leadership models in African Pentecostal churches. Women are the majority in both Apostolic Faith Missions and all the churches, hence the focus of pastoral ministry on women. The pastors' wives' contributions to the pastoral ministry are hardly told, as effective ministry is accredited to male leadership. Pastors' wives are not "ordained to the ministry; they are regarded as helpers of their spouses who received a calling to ministry." In reality, pastors' wives bear enormous responsibility for the church by contributing financial and human resources to the ministry. Pastors' wives are not trained; hence, they employ "experiential theology" to meet the needs of their fellow women. The overarching aim of this study was to explore the contribution of pastors' wives to pastoral ministry in the African Pentecostal churches. The study used "pastoral ministry" as a conceptual framework. The study employed a qualitative methodology, and data were gathered through in-depth interviews. The study concludes that pastors' wives' pastoral ministry is a useful tool for church growth and should not operate from the margins.
  • Towards a Future with Greater Freedoms for All: A Historical Theological Engagement with Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel's Contribution to Religion and Law

    Forster, Dion Angus (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    This article engages the work of one of South Africa's foremost scholars in religion and law-the late Prof. Dr Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel. Towards the end of her life, Plaatjies-Van Huffel published a number of important articles on themes related to religion and law. In this article we shall trace the biographical and academic antecedents to these later works. The article shows how her dedication to justice, peace and integrity (to borrow a phrase from the World Council of Churches) developed through particular methodological and theological commitments. The article concludes by offering some tentative insights into where her work may have gone, had she lived to follow the same trajectory of a post-structuralist historiographic engagement with power to deconstruct gender abuse, safeguard minority rights, and cultivate inter-religious cooperation.
  • In Search of the Public Theologian: Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel's Womanist Public Engagement

    Thyssen, Ashwin Afrikanus; Davis, Sheurl (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    Academic theology remains male dominated, both in bodies present and in the research methodologies employed. It is a commonplace to refer to Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel in terms of a foundationally Reformed theologian and church polity specialist. This is often done without adequate attention to the important role that gender played both in her biography and teaching. There is a need to centre our focus on the matter of gender to see how this had influenced her life's work. The roles fulfilled by Plaatjies-Van Huffel were as an African feminist, decolonial thinker, ecumenist and Reformed theologian. It may be helpful, when considering her life's work, to draw these orientations together through a study of her as a public theologian. An exploration into the contours of her intellectual life may thus be helpful for both understanding the life and work of Plaatjies-Van Huffel, and in analysing the continued development of public theology as an intellectual discipline. Such an analysis, nevertheless, must account for her centring of a particular gender politics in the public sphere as a black woman. Alice Walker offers a definition for "the womanist": "A black feminist or feminist of colour ... Appreciates and prefers women's culture, women's emotional flexibility (values tears as natural counterbalance of laughter), and women's strength ... Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female." Plaatjies-Van Huffel embodied this definition by working for unity, reconciliation and justice in the three publics. How may a womanist and public theological reading of Plaatjies-Van Huffel enrich our understanding of her? This article employs womanist theory as a lens through which to read and understand Plaatjies-Van Huffel as a public theologian.
  • Justice through Virtuous Leadership and Decisionmaking. The Witness that was Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel

    Koopman, Nico N. (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    This essay honours Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel. It focuses on her role as a leader and decision-maker. The essay discusses the notion of virtuous decision-making. A brief description is offered of the notion of virtue. Thereafter, the seven virtues, faith, hope, love, wisdom, moderation, fortitude and justice are discussed. Justice is portrayed as the Summum Bonum, the supreme good and ultimate goal. In seeking justice in church and in the world, Plaatjies-Van Huffel was nurtured by the contents of her faith, the Triune God and those who belong to God; by realistic, resilient and responsive hope; by the excellence of love; by wisdom, sensitive intuition, sound judgement, careful discernment; by moderation and temperance; and by the fortitude and courage to make an unfamous decision and to implement it. In her person and example as a pastor, academic and leader, Plaatjies-Van Huffel verifies the notion of virtuous leadership and decision-making.
  • Rethinking Methods to Curb Gender Discrimination in Church Leadership: The Case of Pentecostal Churches in Zimbabwe

    Musvota, Charity (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    The patriarchal structure that has pervaded and replicated itself, not only in the society but also in the church, has raised questions on how the church can get out of this quagmire. Many proposals have been propounded from different angles on the topic in question, and this paper seeks to add a voice to the discourse. The paper assesses the effectiveness of methods used in Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe to address and curb gender discrimination. The research concludes that although Pentecostal churches in Zimbabwe have made concerted efforts to curb gender inequality in the church, the methods used have not been able to effectively mitigate the gender imbalance that previously existed. The research that directed this article was grounded on the Pentecostal hermeneutics theory as well as the African feminist theory. This article acknowledges the valuable inputs of the late Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel, who dedicated her work to the cause of gender inclusiveness and the eradication of social injustices. Her vast contribution, as an academic and minister in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA), reverberated throughout the theological and academic milieu in southern Africa, and indeed in the world. The researcher used a qualitative approach as well as interviews and participant observation to gather data, together with secondary data from published books and journals. The study recommends educating people about the importance of gender balance and the inclusion of gender, a message of inclusion and new practices and traditions, and the creation of a structure for change. Roadmaps and paths for change are to be built. The research will be beneficial to political, social, economic and religious systems to alter the discrepancies in gender discrimination that are propelled by beliefs, a mind-set and culture proponents that seem to derail the value and contribution of women.
  • The Contribution of Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel to the Writing of Church Historiography in South Africa

    Philander, Nathan (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel introduced a fresh method of historical research that enables analysis from specific perspectives. She contended that church historians should pursue not only the meaning of authors' observable written intentions, but rather, when reading texts, distinguish between what is written and what is not written. In this way, the reading of the text provides a coherent structure. Hence, church historians should think from the framework of the decentralisation of the subject and should consequently reject the idea of a self-governing subject. She refined some of Foucault's ideas, applied them to our context and established a framework for historical research by church historians. When this is applied to church history, the emphasis should fall on power as knowledge, as it is traditionally transferred in writing.
  • Born into a World of Hostility and Contradiction: The Role of Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel in URCSA

    Kgatla, Selaelo Thias (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel was born, bred and ordained as a minister of the word and sacraments in a notoriously patriarchal society. Besides the racial yoke of apartheid in the country of her birth, she also had to carry the burden of sexism, misogyny, machismo and marianismo in her daily life. Without compromise, but with a deep sense of gentleness, boldness and respect, she confronted and spoke the truth to those who held important leadership positions. Plaatjies-Van Huffel demanded a moral response from church leadership to the oppression of women in the church instead of an expedient, easy or selfish response. She was the first woman to be ordained in and appointed to the leadership of the church after a long wait for ordination. Her confrontation of patriarchy and its surrogates carried a connotation of bravery, and of risk to her career, reputation and livelihood. After her admission to the full ministry of the church, she climbed the ranks as a church leader, both locally and internationally. This article articulates Plaatjies-Van Huffel's work, role and contribution in her ministry within the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) and in the ecumenical movement until her untimely death on 19 May 2020.
  • A Socially-engaged Theological Response to the Historic and Structural Nature of Food Insecurity in South Africa

    Naicker, Linda; Molobi, Victor M.S. (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2022-01-01)
    Food insecurity in urban South Africa is situated in both historic and contemporary factors. This article argues that there is a need to reimagine and reconceptualise national, socio-ecclesial and theological responses to urban food insecurity in South Africa. We contend that the global and enduring nature of food insecurity is indicative of the violence of hunger and poverty and can be viewed as structural violence. While the church has since its inception been involved in feeding the hungry, the structural and systemic nature of food insecurity requires more nuanced theological responses and reflections. As a prophetic voice, the church and theological reflection and action are important partners in conversations, dialogue, measures and interventions geared towards the eradication of hunger and food insecurity in urban South Africa. A descriptive and evaluative method of enquiry was adopted in order to identify the historic structural and systemic factors that perpetuate food insecurity in South Africa. This article concludes that social inequality, economic disenfranchisement and poverty are as a result of structural inequalities that amount to structural violence inflicted on the most vulnerable of society.
  • Marriage and Culture within the Context of African Indigenous Societies: A Need for African Cultural Hermeneutics

    Baloyi, Gift Thlarihani (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2022-01-01)
    This article discusses the challenges which the institution of marriage faces within the African indigenous societies. Marriage is understood to be one of the most vital mechanisms in maintaining the consistency of all societies on earth. Scholars, such as John Mbiti, understand marriage to be a drama in which everyone becomes an actor or actress and not just a spectator. While this sounds truly ideal, the reality is that most Africans understand marriage to be an institution primarily knotted within African cultural norms and traditions with disparity roles between the couple. The article argues that such an imbalance unleashes toxic masculinity and manhood ideologies which are chiefly designed to deny women the rights to be fully actresses in the theatre of marriage. It also argues for the need of liberative frameworks within which to challenge the dominative traditional and cultural dogmas which are creating disparities between men and women in marriage. Musimbi Kanyoro's cultural hermeneutics model is employed to suggest a way forward to create an equal partnership between men and women in marriage.
  • Appropriating and Exploiting Dreams as Technology in Kgasane's Narrative of Conversion

    Mokgoatsana, Sekgothe; Sebola, Moffat (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2022-01-01)
    The study of mission history is seldom reported through imaginative literature, drama in particular, and dreams as a technique to justify conversion into Christianity. This article is based on a literary work, Kgasane, named after a Molobedu kinsman who is credited with sowing the seeds of Christianity in Bolobedu and the establishment of the Medingen Mission station of the Berlin Missionary Society. The article examines how the writer, Makwala, uses dreams as a divine revelation; an agency used to convert Kgashane. Though fictional, the narrative concerns itself with a factual tale that has dominated the Lutheran Church in the Northern Transvaal. The dreams represent various instances of multivocality and heteroglossia that this article hopes to unravel. The article uses an Afrocentric approach to the study of dreams, with touches of Jung as part of the theoretical framework. The design of the article is qualitative, using purposively selected literary works as secondary data. The choice of the work, Kgasane, is informed by the topical nature of its content within the Berlin Missionary Society and its application as the first written narrative to explain the story of a local martyr within the Medingen Mission.
  • Neither White nor Black: The Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the Colour Issue (1881-1982)

    Fortein, Eugene A. (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2022-01-01)
    This study investigates the role and understanding of race, particularly "Coloured" identity on the formation and life of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church. Particular focus is given to how the DRMC has dealt with and responded to the colour issue since its inception. An attempt is made to indicate how the history of the DRMC and "Coloured" identity in South Africa are inextricably bound up together. More emphasis is placed on "Coloured" being perceived as neither White nor Black and how the initial critique from the DRMC comprised of "Coloureds" being "less" than White, but superior than Blacks. The study concludes with the influence of Steve Biko and the Black Consciousness Movement on the DRMC.
  • From Orthodoxy to Orthopraxis: A Theological Analysis of the Seventh-day Adventist Engagement with Development, Relief and Humanitarian Crises in Zimbabwe in the 21st Century

    Mlambo, Morris (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2022-01-01)
    This article explores the role of the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) in development and relief work in society, assessing whether it is guided by orthodoxy or orthopraxis in the wake of human rights violations. It traces the history of the SDA's involvement in Zimbabwe's development, relief and humanitarian processes, checking its stance on prevailing human rights abuses. It delineates whether or not the SDA's apolitical and non-social activism is due to the influence of the Millerites' theological and philosophical concepts within the SDA. We should do theology for the people, and that calls for orthopraxis more than orthodoxy. The SDA's missiological responsibility should not be limited to the pulpit, failing to cater for the prophetic voice challenging social ills. In pursuit of this, the article employs social sciences in unpacking structural societal functions of the church in its quest to be relevant. A biblical and doctrinal reflection of the SDA will be utilised in this analysis. The pastoral theology of the SDA, which is more grounded on the people's concrete experience, will be interrogated. This work will analyse socio-economic problems in Zimbabwe and show the efforts of the SDA to bring change and transformation to the lives of suffering Zimbabweans. The relevant question is: Could it be possible for the SDA in Zimbabwe to sustain a withdrawal and non-participation stance against the backdrop of this crisis? The SDA's withdrawal stance as a Christian denomination has not had much influence on the development and political processes compared to other Christian institutions in Zimbabwe. Because religion saturates the existence of Africans, the enquiry of religion and development is very significant. This article argues that the prophetic voice of the SDA and its missiological responsibility have been deployed during the crisis years in Zimbabwe.
  • The Modern Church as Not-for-Profit Organisation: Is it not Time for the Church to Become More Strategic?

    Boya, Kgaugelo Sammy; Chiloane-Phetla, Germinah Evelyn (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2022-01-01)
    For many centuries, churches have continued to play critical roles in society's spiritual and social lives. As is the case across the globe, millions of Christians throughout South Africa continue to seek spiritual upliftment in churches. For this research, a qualitative research method was employed by means of semi-structured interviews. The research was conducted among churches within the Gauteng province of South Africa. Data were analysed through the use of the ATLAS.ti software. The findings suggest that innumerable benefits can be realised by modern churches if proper strategic planning process tools are in place. Productivity and a clear sense of direction are the leading attributes. The study recommended that more research and advocacy work still need to be done to heighten the significance of using strategic planning process tools in church management settings. This may enable the preservation of the rich history of the church.
  • Mission as Hospitality: Imitating the Hospitable God in Mission, E. L. Smither

    Duncan, Graham A (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
  • Between African and American Neo-Pentecostalism: An Examination of the Link, Influence, Merits and Demerits

    Orogun, Daniel; Pillay, Jerry (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    This article is based on a research study that investigated the influence, merits and demerits of the link between African and American Neo-Pentecostalism. The study employed a qualitative research method through which 40 contemporary African Neo-Pentecostal leaders (drawn from South Africa and Nigeria) were interviewed. Additionally, given that most charismatic faith and miracle African Neo-Pentecostal leaders in focus took their roots from American Neo-Pentecostalism, two medical doctors (who equally serve as African Neo-Pentecostal lay ministers), were interviewed to investigate a mother-child link. This was done to ascertain the possibility of existing traits being passed on. Alongside the historical link, the interview findings show that African Neo-Pentecostal leaders display a continuous link and traits from their American Neo-Pentecostals mentors. Thus, they exhibit such traits in theology and other practices. Subsequently, the research study established that the influence of American Pentecostalism engenders more demerits, and the researchers proposed the need to constantly de-emphasise the Americanisation of the gospel in Africa. In order to achieve this, some relevant recommendations were made, proposing that African Neo-Pentecostals need to be separated from a toxic foreign culture and should "self-exist," thereby making room for African uniqueness in contemporary Neo-Pentecostal practices.
  • John William Colenso's Collection of Psalms and Hymns for St Peter's Cathedral, Pietermaritzburg: Context, Analysis and Christological Implications

    Bethke, Andrew-John (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    In 1866, Bishop John William Colenso published a collection of hymns which he compiled for use at St Peter's Cathedral in Pietermaritzburg. He had recently returned to Natal from England after defending himself in the legal debates which surrounded his status as Bishop of Natal. His controversial commentaries on Romans and the Pentateuch had been the catalyst of his denouncement by his metropolitan bishop, Robert Gray. While Colenso had been in England, Gray had visited the Diocese of Natal. While there, he introduced the recently published Hymns Ancient and Modern to parish churches. Colenso was a strong critic of Hymns Ancient and Modern, mainly on account of its ritualist tendencies, and he was annoyed to find that Gray had introduced the book in his absence. In response, he created a collection of hymns, a number of which he edited in order to conform to his evolving Christology. The collection sparked something of a media frenzy both in Natal and Britain, so much so that it was still being discussed four years after Colenso's death. This article provides the historical context of the collection and its subsequent revisions; an analysis of its contents, paying special attention to hymns that were modified in some way; and a critique of the letters and reviews the collection received in the press. The article suggests that Colenso's notoriety ensured that the collection received far more attention than it warranted. In essence, it served as a proxy battle ground for deeper concerns about the impact of biblical criticism on Christology.
  • What Does Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel Have to Say to Silent Partners of the Reformed World?

    Zeze, Willie S. (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    This article is a contribution to the Festschrift in honour of the late Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel. The author is mindful of the sensitive nature of such writing, especially for her close and extended family members. However, all would agree that though she passed away on 19 May 2020, she still has something to say to women as silent partners. As part of commemorating her life, talents, achievements and contributions, this article specifically addresses the following question: What does Plaatjies-Van Huffel have to say to women who aspire to serve as leaders in the patriarchal Reformed world? I will defend in due course the notion that though she is deceased, she continues to speak. In addressing the question, this article is divided into four parts. The first part recounts her life with a special focus on her education and pastoral academic career. The second part identifies her sources for the practice of church law and church government. The third part comments on her ecclesial political duties in the patriarchal Reformed world, while the fourth part examines her understanding of the hermeneutical causes of challenges facing Christian women, particularly in their attempt to respond to their calling to lead the liberated and unliberated churches and society. The concluding part draws some of her important messages to women who aspire to serve as leaders in the patriarchal Reformed world, where patriarchy is defined as a social system that promotes hierarchies and awards economic, political, and social power to one group over others.
  • Church Media and Reconciliation in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA)

    Baron, Eugene (The Church History Society of Southern Africa, 2021-01-01)
    In honour of Mary-Anne Elizabeth Plaatjies-Van Huffel, this article is dedicated to her last endeavour, "to reflect on the road travelled" of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). Plaatjies-Van Huffel became outspoken against the lack of internal unity in URCSA, especially after the retraction of her nomination as Actuarius at the URCSA Cape Synod elections in 2018. In this regard, the article focuses particularly on reconciliation in URCSA with a focus on the role of the church media as a medium for reconciliation. The paper will focus on the media reporting of the DRMC church newspaper, Die Ligdraer, between 1990 and 1994 on church unification between the DRCA and the DRMC as a case study to reflect on what role church media can play in the internal unification processes in URCSA. The author conducts a rhetorical analysis of the DRMC's newspaper, Die Ligdraer, and its role in the facilitation of unification between two churches (DRMC and DRCA), with different ethnic and cultural traditions that became reconciled and united in the context of political transition within the broader South African context.

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