Cape Dutch Christendom and its legacy

Nieder-Heitmann, Jan (2012)

CITATION: Nieder-Heitmann, J. 2012. Cape Dutch Christendom and its legacy. Dutch Reformed Theological Journal, 53:163-173, doi:10.5952/53-0-204.

The original publication is available at


As a general concept, Christendom (corpus Christianum) – and particularly the phenomenon of patronage – are useful tools to understand the relationship between churches and cultures, and between political and civil society. This is particularly true of Western churches, but also of former Western colonial possessions and churches within them. In Christendom, patronage is usually associated with privileges bestowed upon a church by the state (political society) – state control over church/es in its realm. However, civil society and a culture, too, can assume patronage over a church, threatening the latter’s integrity and prophetic witness. The colonial Cape (Dutch Reformed) Church’s character was formed by powerful political patronage to the extent that it found it difficult to live and witness under the sole patronage of its crucified Lord. Ever since, it also continually sought to align itself with one or more of the above mentioned powers in South Africa.

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