Mission Crossroads

FAL 2017

Mission Crossroads is a three-time-a-year magazine focused on worldwide work of the PC(USA). It offers news and feature stories about mission personnel, international partners and grassroots Presbyterians involved in God's mission in the world.

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12 Fall 2017 single individual in this country can have a life of decency and of dignity. Which means that we have to look at everyone's basic needs: the rights of children to be properly educated, and the rights of people to have good health care and a proper roof over their heads." Pieter feels that Belhar also requires URCSA to work ecumenically to expose corruption in government and to lift up the need for economic justice. Last year, URCSA's leadership sent a pastoral letter to all congregations urging members to consider how racism and H aving first visited South Africa in 1984, when the struggle against apartheid was reaching a crescendo, I was overjoyed to be present at the 222nd General Assembly when, aer nearly a decade of study and debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formally embraced the Confession of Belhar and acknowledged its profound capacity to illuminate our calling as followers of Christ. But the hard part was just beginning. e real challenge is not simply to clear the constitutional hurdles necessary to add Belhar to our Book of Confessions; it is to live out Belhar's commitments to unity, reconciliation and justice in our personal and institutional life. No one appreciates this more than our partners in the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). In 1994, two branches of the Dutch Reformed community — one of them the denomination out of which Belhar originally emerged — merged to form URCSA, overcoming more than a century of segregation. e process of family reunification remains unfinished, however. e historically white Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) has stopped short of accepting Belhar, while URCSA views such acceptance as essential to a common future. "So we've tried to build relationships at various levels," said the Rev. Pieter Grove, moderator of URCSA's Cape Synod. In the Cape, URCSA and the DRC have established joint offices for diaconal ministry and for public witness and mission work. "In very important ministries, we are working together," Pieter observed. "It's a slow process, but I think people are growing together and getting to know each other's worlds." It is also a difficult and uneven process. "We are constantly challenged, almost defeated, by our social situation, because apartheid segregated us physically and geographically. And, of course, we can't underestimate the differences of culture," Pieter noted. "In the [Western and Northern] Cape, people of color and white people essentially have one culture. We are Afrikaans-speaking [in URCSA and the DRC]. In the Eastern Cape, our church is mostly Xhosa-speaking." However, URCSA's Cape Synod brings people together across these linguistic and cultural boundaries. Pieter feels this creates "possibilities to really find substance to our unity. In the other parts of South Africa, it's much more difficult [to find unity]. e cultures are quite far apart." ese gaps are even more apparent in the larger society. "Currently in South Africa, there's great tension between white and black, and racism is still prominent," Pieter said. "When you step out of the church into the 'real' world, you are confronted by the walls of massive privilege on the white side, and real, deep poverty," he explained, citing South Africa's official unemployment rate of 27.7 percent. "e vast majority [of the jobless] are black people. So we have to accept that people will feel frustrated and resentful that some have seemingly everything and others have so little. … We cannot live with this inequality anymore." "I foresee the defeat of racism only under circumstances where we create a more egalitarian society … where every Belhar: Living it out Douglas Tilton Allan Boesak, a co-author of Belhar who was moderator of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church when the confession was adopted in 1986, applauds the 222nd General Assembly (2016) for its overwhelming 540–33 vote to make the Confession of Belhar the denomination's 12th recognized confession. The historic vote came 30 years after the Confession of Belhar was adopted by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church during its battle against apartheid. Michael Whitman

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