The impact of reformed missions on the origin, growth and identity of the Reformed Church of East Africa, 1905-2000

Van Zyl, Jacobus,1962- (2001-03)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2001

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Mission work was done consecutively by two Reformed missionary enterprises in Kenya and led to the establishment of the Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA). The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRC), which established congregations amongst South Africans who had come to Kenya from 1905 onwards, played an important role during the phase of church- planting: initially through a spontaneous congregational outreach towards the local people of western Kenya during the 1930s and subsequently through formal missionary action which began with the calling ofBB Eybers as a full-time missionary in 1944. Thus the foundations were laid for the establishment of what is today the RCEA. Before Eybers left in 1960 three congregations had come into existence under the auspices of the DRC. The second phase of the missionary endeavour began in 1961 with an agreement between the DRC and the Reformed Mission League in the Netherlands (RML) whereby the latter was asked to continue the work started by the DRC. The Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA) was formally instituted in 1963. Despite almost a century of activities, a thorough investigation of the history of the founding of this Church has not yet been done. Due to the fact that information regarding this topic has been widely dispersed to different parts of the world, and that it was written in several languages, there is a real danger that such information may be lost or become irretrievable. Considering this situation, the aim of the study was to investigate the history of the RCEA and to determine the influence of the two missionary enterprises on the current identity of the RCEA. The mission's objectives, policies and methods implemented by the South African DRC until 1961 were compared to the objectives, policies and methods used by the Netherlands RML as from 1961 until the present day. The study then attempted to determine what effect these two enterprises with their respective and varying emphases had on the formation and development of the RCEA. An identity analysis of the RCEA was undertaken to determine the influence of the two missionary enterprises on the current identity of the RCEA. In various respects this identity reflects the influence of the DRC in South Africa and the Reformed Mission League in the Netherlands on the RCEA. It appears that the impact of the Missions is evident in a variety of aspects of the church life of the RCEA. The ecclesiastical model introduced by the DRC and continued by the RML remained dominant in the RCEA. The fundamentals of Reformed theology (sola scriptura., sola gratia, sola fide), the church concept (proclamational), the style of communication, the worship and the liturgy reflect the lasting influence of both missions on the RCEA. The findings were evaluated from a critical missiological perspective to indicate what the effect of the dual involvement of the two Missions was on the RCEA. Still, the RCEA is no carbon copy of either of these missionary enterprises. The identity of the RCEA developed within the culture and context of the people of Kenya amongst whom it was established and, as such, formed a Church unique in its own right.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die ontstaan van 'n inheemse gereformeerde kerk op die ewenaar, die Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA), was die gevolg van sendingwerk wat opeenvolgend deur twee gereformeerde sendinge in Kenia gedoen is. Die Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk in Suid-Afiika (Ned. Geref. Kerk), wat sedert die begin van die twintigste eeu gemeentes onder Suid-Afrikaners gevestig het, het 'n belangrike rol gespeel gedurende die kerkplantingsfase. Dit het aanvanklik plaasgevind deur 'n spontane gemeentelike uitreik-aksie na die plaaslike bevolking in Wes Kenia gedurende die 1930s. Dit is voortgesit deur formele sendingwerk wat in 1944 begin het toe BB Eybers as voltydse sendeling beroep is. Gedurende Eybers se dienstyd is die grondslag gele vir die kerk wat vandag bekend staan as die Reformed Church of East Africa. Voordat Eybers in 1960 weg is, het drie gemeentes onder die toesig van die Ned. Geref. Kerk ontstaan. Die tweede fase van die sendingaksie het in 1961 met 'n ooreenkoms tussen die Ned Geref. Kerk en die Gereformeerde Zendingsbond in Nederland (GZB) waartydens laasgenoemde gevra is om die werk oor te neem. Die Reformed Church of East Africa (RCEA) het in 1963 tot stand gekom. Alhoewel die vroee geskiedenis van die RCEA byna 'n eeu gelede begin het, is 'n deeglike ondersoek aangaande die ontstaan en ontwikkeling van die kerk nog nie gedoen nie. Weens die feit dat inligting oor hierdie onderwerp oor verskillende dele van die wereld verspreid is, en in verskillende tale geskryf is, bestaan die gevaar dat hierdie inligting verlore kan raak. In die lig hiervan was die doel van die studie om die geskiedenis van die RCEA na te gaan en te bepaal watter invloed die twee sendingaksies op die huidige identiteit van die RCEA gehad het. Die sendingdoelstellings, -beleid en -metodes van die Ned. Geref. Kerk tot in 1961 word vergelyk met die doelstellings, beleid en metodes van die GZB vanaf 1961 tot en met 2000. Die studie probeer bepaal watter effek die twee sendingaksies met hul onderskeie aksente op die ontstaan en ontwikkeling van die RCEA, gehad het. Die bevindinge is geevalueer vanuit 'n kritiese missiologiese perspektief. Dit was nodig om 'n identiteitsanalise van die RCEA te doen ten einde die invloed van beide die Ned. Geref. Kerk in Suid-Afrika en die Gereformeerde Zendingsbond in Nederland op die kerk te bepaal. Die navorsing het getoon dat die impak van die twee sendingaksies die identiteit van die RCEA inderdaad in 'n groot mate bepaal het. Die ekklesiologiese model wat eie is aan die Ned. Geref. Kerk en deur die GZB voortgesit is, is ook kenmerkend van die identiteit van die RCEA vandag. Die grondslae van die Reformasie (sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide), die kerkbegrip (verkondigingsmodel), die kommunikasiestyl, die erediens en die liturgie weerspieel die voortgaande invloed van beide sendingaksies op die RCEA. Hierdie bevindige is geevalueer vanuit 'n krities-rnissiologiese perspektief om aan te to on wat die effek van die invloed van die sendingaksies op die RCEA was. Nogtans is die RCEA nie 'n blote deurslag kopie van een of beide van hierdie sendingaksies nie. Die identiteit van die RCEA het ontwikkel binne die kultuur en konteks van die mense van Kenia onder wie dit gevestig is. Sodoende het 'n Kerk met 'n eiesoortige karakter ontstaan.

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