Original Research - Special Collection: Change agency in a 21st-century South Africa

Johan Heyns and critique in the Dutch Reformed Church against apartheid: The moderator a prophet?

Piet J. Strauss
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 74, No 3 | a4965 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v74i3.4965 | © 2018 Piet J. Strauss | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 March 2018 | Published: 16 July 2018

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Piet J. Strauss, Department of Church History and Polity, Faculty of Theology, University of the Free State, South Africa


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Abstract

Johan Heyns was the moderator of the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church from 1986 to 1990. This church was known as a moral and theological supporter of apartheid until the 1980s. In 1980 Heyns was, for the first time, involved in public critique against the pro-apartheid stance of his church. He took an influential part in writing a new document that criticised apartheid and was accepted by the General Synod of 1986. Heyns was elected as moderator or chairman of this synod. The years from 1986 to 1990 became the busiest of his life. He became the leader in his church’s defence of the new document Church and Society in and beyond South Africa. In order to get back into the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and to stay on in the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, the Dutch Reformed Church decided to depart from its apartheid ways. Heyns’ message on apartheid was shaped by his Reformed approach to life, in which he chose reform as the method for change.

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