Original Research - Special Collection: Synod of Dordrecht (1618-1619) - Important missiological perspectives

Lessons from the Synod of Dordrecht (1618–1619): A missional hermeneutic for the decolonisation and Africanisation of the curriculum

Pieter H.J. Labuschagne
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 53, No 3 | a2482 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v53i3.2482 | © 2019 Pieter H.J. Labuschagne | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 May 2019 | Published: 23 October 2019

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Pieter H.J. Labuschagne, Missiology Department of South African Tehological Seminary, Bryanston, South Africa


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Abstract

About 400 years ago, the status quo of the church in the Netherlands was threatened by the Remonstrant uprising, which was met with vehement reaction from Calvinists. The situation got out of hand when the parties failed to find an amicable resolution, which led Prince Maurice of Nassau to interject and call a synod to resolve the conflict. Maurice switched sides shortly before the start of the Synod to assure maximum economic and political gain. Due to this political influence, the outcome of the Synod was practically determined even before the first session started: the Remonstrants were defeated, Calvinism was imposed, and Maurice got his political victory. Regrettably the failure of the church to deal with an internal matter, led to interference by the state. Although the Synod of Dordrecht had its unique context and raison-d’être, it was not different to the way in which many church conflicts have been handled throughout history. It is important to learn lessons from the Synod of Dordrecht so that we can handle contemporary challenges better. One such challenge is the call for the decolonisation and Africanisation of education in South Africa – also of the theological curriculum. When opposing parties do not listen to each other, there is no chance of resolving their differences. There are lessons to be learnt from the Synod of Dordrecht and from intercultural engagement that can help us to find an approach to our problems that is collaborative and not patronising. Instead of arguing the matter from opposite extremes, we need to create an epistemic community of role players, ensuring meaningful encounters. This could serve as the basis of a missional hermeneutic for change; a missional hermeneutic of mutual acceptance and collaboration. The theological differences, expressed at the Synod of Dordrecht, is still passionately debated today and causes as much division as the original conflict. If we deal with contemporary issues in the same way as the Synod of Dordrecht did, we cannot expect different results. A missional hermeneutic, based on the missio Dei with mutual acceptance and collaboration, is needed.

Keywords

Missional hermeneutics; Intercultural; Decolonisation; Africanisation; Synod of Dordrecht.

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