Original Research - Special Collection: Impact of Reformed Theology

Teologies nagedink oor W.J. Snyman as ekumeniese teoloog

Jan H. van Wyk
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 2 | a2548 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i2.2548 | © 2020 Jan H. van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 October 2019 | Published: 03 June 2020

About the author(s)

Jan H. van Wyk, Die Eenheid vir Reformatoriese Teologie en die Ontwikkeling van die Suid-Afrikaanse Samelewing, Fakulteit Teologie Noordwes-Universiteit Potchefstroom, South Africa


Although Snyman was not an active publisher and his written heritage not impressive, one could argue that what he did publish, especially when his contribution on synodical level is considered, makes him one on the most influencial theologians, and especially ecclesiologians in the GKSA during the 20th century. In the first place, one could refer to his contribution with regard to the relation between the so-called ‘younger’ and ‘older’ churches in the GKSA. It was because of the insights of Snyman that the first General Synod of the Reformed Churches in Southern Africa met in 1965, after the ‘older’ Synod of the Reformed Churches in South Africa took that decision in 1964. This Synod, however, came to an end in 1992, but revived in 2009 with full status. Secondly, it was on the inisiative of Snyman that the intermediate commission of the three Afrikaans churches started communicating, because the Synod of the GKSA repeatedly decided that church disunity was sinful. Thirdly, Snyman stimulated the origin of the Reformed Ecumenical Synod (RES - later called Council) in 1946, because he was convinced that the unity of Reformed churches cannot be stopped by oceans. Snyman wanted this RES to function as synod, taking binding decisions and not only giving advice which should later be rectified by the different national synods. Although he rejected the volkskerk model and replaced it with a volkerekerk model, he was criticised that his ecclesiology was not free from volks elements. A second point of criticism was that he did not consider (enough) that church unity does not start from the ‘top’ (the synod), but from the ‘bottom’ (the local congregation). This last criticism was the main reason for the termination of the first General Synod in 1992.

Judged within the context of his time, which was typified by radical political and church apartheid and viewed against the background of the separation model, which was dominant in the GKSA before 1950, we should really appreciate the ecclesiological contribution of Snyman. It was an effort to ground ecclesiology on Scripture and on Christ, in order to transform the church of Christ to be a servant in the coming of the kingdom of God in South Africa.


Koninkryk; Kerk; Kerkeenheid; Kerklike verskeidenheid; Kerklike verdeeldheid; Snyman


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