Churches mark anniversary of statement calling racism a sin

World Communion of Reformed Churches
News Release

26 September 2011

Churches today are marking the 25th anniversary of a declaration that racism is a sin. The declaration known as the Belhar Confession was adopted by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa on 26 September 1986. The confession, issued in the context of the anti-apartheid movement opposing the country’s legislation that segregated people by race, attracted wide attention from churches and secular organizations.

A message to mark the anniversary issued by WCRC General Secretary Setri Nyomi says: “The World Communion of Reformed Churches deems the Belhar Confession as one of those gifts to the church worldwide which is still relevant today – not just to the South African situation of the 1980’s. There is much to be done yet for the justice and reconciliation theme it so eloquently articulates.”

The message is addressed to the moderator of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (UCSA) Thias Kgatla. In 1994 the Dutch Reformed Mission Church and the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa united to form the URCSA.

The Belhar Confession declares: “We believe that separation, enmity and hatred between people and groups is a sin. Therefore, we reject any doctrine which in such a situation sanctions in the name of the gospel…the forced separation of people on the grounds of race and color.”

In church terms, a confession is a declaration before God and the world of what the church believes.  As such, it defines the criteria for church membership.

Formal adoption of the Confession continues to this day with representatives of the Reformed Church of America (RCA) and the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) voting in meetings held in June 2009 in the United States to accept the Belhar Confession as a foundational statement of belief that defines the terms of church membership.

The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa is still unable to affirm the Belhar Confession and is therefore a “suspended member” of the WCRC pending acceptance of the document.

Read the full message by Nyomi, addressed to the Moderator of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa.

Find the Belhar Confession and a worship service based on the Confession.

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