Original Research - Special Collection: The Church in Need of Change (Agency)

The traditional Afrikaans-speaking churches in dire straits

Erna Oliver
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 75, No 4 | a5577 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v75i4.5577 | © 2019 Erna Oliver | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 27 May 2019 | Published: 29 November 2019

About the author(s)

Erna Oliver, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Christianity is entering another revolution or reformation phase. Five hundred years ago, Luther stood up against the Roman Catholic Church, which started the reformation and the reformed movement, culminating in the birth of the Reformed Churches (RC). Today these RCs are seemingly the victims of the new revolution. The traditional Afrikaans-speaking RCs in South Africa serve as a striking example. The symptoms of these churches correspond to those of a dying church, highlighted by scholars like Rainer, Noble, Niewhof and Mattera. Central to this situation is the fact that the relationship with God and his commandments is no longer the focus point of the churches. Thus, the identity crisis that the churches are experiencing is mirroring the chaotic South African society of violence, corruption and hopelessness. For these churches to turn the death spiral around, a reformation is needed that will transform them into alternative societies of peace and hope, founded on a living relationship with God. This article ends with suggestions on how to turn the tide for these churches, or at least how to start doing something positive to get out of the crisis.


Afrikaans-Speaking churches; Death spiral; Dying church; Identity crisis; Reformation; South Africa; Christianity


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1. The unfinished business of Church history
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