Church backs Boesak in reunification ambition

Johannesburg, South Africa - The Dutch Reformed Church is standing by Allan Boesak and his plan to accelerate a union between the white and black branches of the church.

This is despite resistance from members of the Aasvoëlkop church in Northcliff, Johannesburg, who object to the involvement of their minister - the Reverend André Bartlett - with Boesak.

Boesak was found guilty of theft and fraud by the Cape High Court in March 1999, a verdict which upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeal in May 2000. He was given an official presidential pardon this year.

Bartlett said the decision to go ahead with the reunification process with Boesak, despite resistance from the congregation, had been decided by the parish's church council on Wednesday and announced in church on Sunday.

It is called the Reformed Confessional Movement.

Bartlett said there had been a "fairly quiet response" from the congregation to the decision.

"Our idea is not to promote unification in a confrontational manner."

"The movement is a free one. I think people thought that my involvement and the support of the church council meant that people automatically became members," Bartlett said.

He said both he and Boesak wanted to work towards the reunification of the Dutch Reformed Church, which currently was segregated into four racially based groups: the Dutch Reformed Church, the Uniting Reformed Church, the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa and the Reformed Church in Africa.

They represented the white, coloured, black and Indian populations respectively.

"We want to promote reunification in a new way on the basis of the Belhar Confession," Bartlett said.

The Belhar Confession is the rejection of religious belief that calls for people to be segregated because of race.

Dr Molefe Tsele, the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, said it was time for people to stop holding Boesak's past against him.