United Reformed

United Reformed Storyline

Date What was presented/adopted? Key aspects to note:
1986 The process in the Uniting Reformed Church began at the 1986 when the

GES and GKS reports were discussed in detail during the General Synod of the then Dutch Reformed Mission Church.

The reports from the international church conferences Gereformeerde Evangeliese Sinode (GES) and Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland(GKN) were discussed in depth. In these report homosexuality and the position of gay ministers and members were reflected on for inclusion in to the Dutch church structures. By the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC later URCSA) the overall feeling was that homosexuality was a problem of the European church that was trying to impose a theology on the South African church that was not acceptable.

There was huge critique at the time against the fact that the European churches (specifically Holland) was trying to include gay ministers and church members into the church. This was theologically unacceptable to the Dutch reformed Mission Church (DRMC, later URCSA).

This synod later became known as the synod where the Confession of Belhar was accepted as one of the confessions of the DRMC.

This synod also became know in the DRMC as the synod that reached the Kairos in the Apartheid South Africa.

1990’s During the early 1990’s the issue of homosexuality was placed on the back

burner due to the changes that were taking place in the country.

It was a time for confession and the Belhar confession and the broader community of churches’ response to Belhar was anticipated.

The country was going through a number of political changes.

1994 The discussion regarding homosexuality was placed back been on the URC’s agenda and still is.
2005 At the General Synod of URCSA in Pietermaritzburg in 2005 the Synod took a decision (decision 90) which would be the interim guideline until Synods comes to a final decision:

Interim Policy on homosexuality (2005)

a) Synod confirms that the Bible is the living Word of God and the primary source and norm for the moral debate about homosexuality

b) Synod acknowledges the diversity of positions regarding homosexuality and pleads that differences be dealt with in a spirit of love, patience, tolerance and respect.

c) Synod confirms that homosexual people are members of the church through faith in Jesus Christ.

d) Synod rejects homophobia and any form of discrimination against homosexual persons.

e) Synod appeals to URCSA members to reach out with love and empathy to our homosexual brothers and sisters and embrace them as members of the body of Christ in our midst.

f) Synod acknowledges the appropriate civil rights of homosexual persons.

g) Synod emphasizes the importance of getting clarity about the theological and moral status of homosexual marriages, or covenantal unions.

h) Synod emphasizes the importance of getting clarity about the ordination of practicing homosexual persons in ministry.

i) Synods assigns the following tasks to the Moderamen:

– Do an extensive study on Christian faith and homosexuality while taking into consideration the above mentioned principles;

– Table a report with recommendations to the General Synodical Commission (GSC) during the coming recess ( 2005-2008);

– And encourage and direct discussions on the theme of homosexuality in URCSA.

To date (2012) this remains the interim policy of the URCSA. However, it was only at the following synod that a task team was put together to write a report on theological reflections on homosexuality.

A decision was made that a task team be put together to compile a report on the theological reflections on the issue of homosexuality. The task team was made up of Dr’s. Allan Boesak, Rodney Tjaka, proff. Nico Koopman, Jeremy Punt, Christina Landman.

2006 At the Cape Regional Synod an extensive discussion took place which as led by prof Daan Cloete. During this discussion prof Daan Cloete tried to give more content to parameters to the 2005 interim decision. There were decidedly more differences in opinion when there was an attempt made to give the decision more content.
2008 At the 2008 synod in Hammanskraal the report was tabled by Dr Allan Boesak to the synod. The report was not received very well. Some points of criticism regarding the process from members, clergy and academics in URCSA:

  • There were no gay people on this task team and also no people from an opposing viewpoint.
  • Even though the synod decided that the report was supposed to reach congregations and presbyteries for discussion before the following synod, this did not happen.
  • The report was viewed as a very good report but one-sided. The decision that was made by the synod was that the other viewpoint has to be ondersoek as well before a decision regarding homosexuality can be made.
  • The report was only received by synod participants during this synod and therefore could not be read beforehand.
  • At the end, the report was compiled only by Alan Boesak and not the whole task team.

During the interim Abe Pieterse – a final year theology student – came out the curatorium of the URC. Their decision was that he was not allowed to be legitimized by the church in order to be ordained as a minister. The curatorium did not respond to his letter for reevaluation in 2009. (He has sent a letter to the curatorium again for re-evaluation of his position in 2012 for discussion at the synod in 2012.)

2010 The decision made by the Cape Synod in 2010 follows:

Synod members received the report from the GS in the agenda. The meeting did not discuss the matter or the contents of the report. The meeting accepted the following proposal by the moderature, to allow for a process to deal with the matter in the URC Cape regional synod in line with the decisions of GS 2005 and 2008.

1. The moderature decided that the General Synod Report on Homosexuality should appear in the Agenda Book for the regional synod in order to be available for presbyteries and congregations, in line with the applicable General Synod decisions of 2008, so that they may be able to engage with the content.

2. Reflection on the matter in the Cape regional Synod will be guided and facilitated by the Core Ministry for Proclamation and Worship (CMPW) and in particular by the Task Group for Doctrine

3. The presbyteries and congregations are requested to discuss the report and to serve the CMPW of the Regional Synod with their perspectives and findings before 30 June 2011, in order for a report by the regional CMPW via the SC to be supplied to the CMPW of General Synod.

4. The Task Group for Doctrine and Current Affairs as well as the Task team of General Synod on Homosexuality will be requested to assist presbyteries and congregations in this process and Current Affairs.