Original Research - Special Collection: Christina Landman Festschrift

South African Presbyterian women in leadership in ministry (1973–2018)

Graham A. Duncan
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 1 | a5180 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i1.5180 | © 2019 Graham A. Duncan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 July 2018 | Published: 12 February 2019

About the author(s)

Graham A. Duncan, Department of Church History and Church Polity, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, South Africa


The issue of women in the ministry has been a vexed one historically. In many denominations, the ordination of women has been represented by some form of struggle, which culminated in the first ordinations of women during the second half of the 20th century. This article investigates the process towards the ordination of women in two Southern African Presbyterian denominations – the Bantu Presbyterian Church of South Africa (renamed the ‘Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa’ in 1979) and the Presbyterian Church of South Africa (renamed the ‘Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa’ in 1958), prior to their union in 1999 to form the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa. This article focusses on women in leadership in ministry, not exclusively on women ordained to the ministry of ruling or teaching elder (minister). It begins with an historical overview and proceeds to an investigation of developments in the two relevant denominations. The terms ‘leadership’ and ‘ministry’ are used separately and together and are considered to be synonymous. The article uses primary sources from the records of both denominations considered and suggests that the process was gradual and progressive as the worth of women in leadership was recognised following the general acceptance of the biblical and theological arguments.


Bantu (Reformed) Presbyterian Church of South Africa (BPCSA); Elders; gender; Ministers; Presbyterian Church of South(ern) Africa (PCSA); Uniting Presbyterian church in Southern Africa; women


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