The Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia (DRCN)
(Ned Geref Kerk in Namibië)
A Synoptic Introduction
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The first members of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) entered Groot Namakwaland (Great Namaqualand) – the territory which was later to become the independent Republic of Namibia – in the eighties of the nineteenth century.
In the years 1888 to 1893 the spiritual needs of these people were met by clergy from the Cape.
A congregation of the church was founded in Upington in 1893. At that time Groot Namakwaland was organised as a ward of the said congregation.
On August 6, 1898 the first congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church was founded in Duitsch Zuidwes‑Afrika (the present Namibia) when the Groot Namakwaland‑ward was transformed to an independent congregation with the same name. This congregation consisted of two wards, one for the Warmbad area and one for the Gibeon area.
By the turn of the century, more than 50% of the white population in the Gibeon area was members of this church. On November 13, 1902 this resulted in the moving of the administrative centre of the Groot Namakwaland‑congregation from Warm-bad to Gibeon, as well as the renaming of the congregation to Gibeon. At the same time a second congregation, Moria, was founded in the Grootfontein area.
From this modest beginning, the Dutch Reformed Church grew to the present 44 congregations with 22500 members (of which approximately 6000 are children) and 60 pastors in Namibia.
Although there is an intimate bond between the Dutch Reformed Church and the Afrikaner people, the Dutch Reformed Church does not consider itself to be a national church in the sense that church and nation are identified as one.
In fact, belief in the God of Holy Scripture as expressed in the three Formularies of Unity is the only condition for belonging to a Dutch Reformed congregation as congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE ORGANISATION OF THE CHURCH
1 Local congregation
The smallest comprehensive unit in the church is the local congregation. The ecclesiastical authority in the congregation resides with the church council consisting of at least 6 adult church members under the chairmanship of the local pastor. Council meets at least quarterly.
As already stated, the Dutch Reformed Church comprises 44 congregations at this stage.
As expression of the Dutch Reformed denomination, nearby congregations are organised in a presbytery. Each congregation is represented by their pastor(s) as well as one member of the church council per pastor. The presbytery meets annually and has supervisory, celebratory and advisory functions. The responsibility for the founding and dissolving of congregations also resides with the presbytery.
Presently four presbyteries are organised in Namibia.
Congregations in a certain geographical region are organised in a synod. Thus the 44 congregations in Namibia constitute the synod of Namibia, commonly known as the Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia (DRCN).
Synod is formed by every pastor as well as a member of the church council for each pastor, from the local congregations. Synod meets every four years under chairmanship of the Moderator to discuss matters of common interest to the local congregations and to co‑ordinate the ministry with regard to missionary work, ministry of compassion, doctrinal and contextual matters, youth matters, etc. In the recess between synodical meetings, the executive committee (also referred to as the Moderamen) handles urgent matters. However the Moderamen is only authorised to reflect the resolutions of the synod. It is only synod in meeting that may speak on behalf of the Dutch Reformed Church in Namibia!
There are currently 10 synods of the Dutch Reformed Church ‑ nine within the boundaries of the Republic of South Africa, and the one in Namibia.
4 General Synod
A still wider expression of the Dutch Reformed denomination is the General Synod. It is constituted by a proportional number of pastors and members of church councils from each of the 10 synods and meets at least every four years.
General Synod stipulates church policy regarding, inter alia, the edition of the Bible translation to be used, the church ordinance, liturgical forms and hymnals.
THE DRCN AND THE GENERAL SYNOD
Although the DRCN has full autonomy, it is essentially one with the Dutch Reformed Church in the RSA. This unity is of utmost importance to the DRCN, because it enables the church to participate in deliberations on inter alia Bible‑translation, matters concerning the church ordinance, liturgical matters and ecumenical contact with reformed churches world wide. Furthermore it gives the DRCN access to the pastor’s corps of the Dutch Reformed Church in the RSA. This is of essential importance as it is impossible for the DRCN to train its own ministers locally.
THE DRCN AND THE FAMILY OF DUTCH REFORMED CHURCHES
In its mission outreach the Dutch Reformed Church with its Western origin and tradition has since the previous century followed a policy of establishing separate churches for converts from the indigenous peoples of Africa and from other cultural groupings. In this way the extensive family of Dutch Reformed Churches was established. It comprises 15 member churches (with a total membership of more than 2,8 million people) in the RSA, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Malawi, Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia, Mozambique, Botswana, Zaire and Portugal.
In Namibia the DRC‑family manifests itself in the DRCN and the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa.
By virtue of their historical ties in a common origin, their mutual belief in and commitment to the same God and his Word, and by virtue of their acknowledgement of the same Reformed confession and church government, the churches of this family are in essence one.
Although these churches are institutionally separate, the confession of the unity of the church calls them, as a matter of great concern, to give a more comprehensive visible expression of their essential unity.
The DRCN subscribes to the ideal of one church bond among the family of Dutch Reformed Churches. The structure, in which this unity must be expressed, is being determined through discussions with the parties concerned.
FOUR AFRIKAANS REFORMED CHURCHES
The existence of four Afrikaans Reformed Churches paves the way for confusion.
It should be noted that the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk), the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, the Gereformeerde Kerke and the Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk (APK) are four completely different churches.
THE DRCN AND THE COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN NAMIBIA (CCN)
Since the founding of the CCN right up to the independence of Namibia, there has been no official liaison between the Dutch Reformed Church and the CCN. Fortunately this has changed since 1990.
The DRCN has initiated preliminary talks with the CCN and an official meeting took place in October 1993.
In December 1995 the DRCN obtained observer status in the CCN. Pastors of the DRCN frequently participate in the proceedings of various committees.
In March 2000 the Annual General Meeting of the CCN granted the DRCN full membership of this ecumenical body.
These developments give reason for great joy!
Declaration of Calling
In 2003 the Namibian Synod accepted the following as a declaration of calling:
1. We believe the living God has committed Him to us. We embrace this commitment. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ brings wholeness and peace. Christ transforms us into prophets who proclaim this gospel in all spheres with integrity. We bear testimony to this hope that lives in us.
2. Jesus has commanded us to love one another. As Jesus loves us, we should love each other. When we love each other, everyone will know that we are his disciples. In obedience to our King, Jesus Christ, we reach out to all Chirstian with a view on cooperation, working towards the coming of the Kingdom of the Lord.
3. God calls us to live the fullness of Christ’s love here in Namibia. We do it as priests through actions of real service and sacrifice. We are called to what we are in Christ: to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
4. We believe in Christ who rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits on the rigth hand of the Father, from where He shall return in glory; Whose Kingdom is eternal. Therefore we enter the future with hope and expectation.
We have a Lord. We are His Church. We have a future.
First Edition: October 1995
Second Edition: June 1998
Third Edition: March 2000
Fourth Edition: September 2005
Fifth Edition: November 2006
Sixth Edition: June 2013