In this monthly series, we hand over the blog platform to IAM’s staff to share their own journeys, stories, and insights in their own words. Though our journeys are all unique and individual, many of us share common challenges and dilemmas as we simply attempt to lead our lives as people of faith while loving whom we love.
Louis van der Riet is an ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, where he serves on task teams that work towards gender justice and racial reconciliation. He holds a PhD in Systematic Theology from Stellenbosch University and Vrije University Amsterdam. Louis joined the IAM team as a Process Coordinator in January 2022, working in the Faith Partnerships programme in mainline denominations, universities, and seminaries, doing facilitation, research and resource development at the intersection of gender, sexuality and religion. Here is Louis’ story in his own words.
Only the Divine matters,
And because the Divine matters,
– “What matters”, Fr. Thomas Keating
The question of how God matters has been central in my life. I have asked this question from an early age, and have been drawn to spaces where other people have chosen to take God seriously. This has led to great joy, but also great disillusionment, and perhaps no subject has been more important for me on this journey than the question of identity. Questions of spirituality and identity have shaped my public involvement in academics, the church, and in broader society.
The first seven years of my life were spent in three very different contexts. I was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa, the youngest of my parents’ four sons. When I was three years old, we moved to Canada for a couple of years, where I started my schooling at the age of five. We returned to South Africa in 1995 and lived in Grahamstown for three years before settling in Cape Town in 1997. I completed matric at Stellenberg High School in 2007, before heading to Stellenbosch University to study theology (BTh, MTh, MDiv, PGDip, PhD).
My eventual decision to be ordained in the Dutch Reformed Church, while openly identifying as gay, has radically impacted my own formation. The time spent in congregational ministry (2019-2021) afforded me first-hand knowledge and experience in working toward the recognition, celebration and participation of LGBTIQ+ people in faith communities.
I value learning and the development of people, and working as a process coordinator for IAM is an extension of what I have discerned to be my vocation.
My own postgraduate research has been geared towards understanding the engaged and public nature of truth-telling and of theological literacy, especially as it relates to issues of race and human sexuality. I consciously continue to reflect on the position from which I act, and the ways that my own context and identity cast both a light and a shadow on doing advocacy work and training on the African continent today.
I have also been trained in Spiritual Direction, which has been an enormous gift in my own formation, and a pathway of recognition of God’s love that is present in all of creation.
When I am not engaged in these abovementioned passions, I am likely to be in a second-hand bookstore, on a mountain top, or drinking wine with friends. I am easily persuaded by good coffee, pastries, and buffet breakfasts!