Original Research

Johan Heyns en Beyers Naudé as profete teen die Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk se steun aan apartheid: Heyns van binne, en Naudé van buite die Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk

Piet J. Strauss
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 56, No 1 | a2860 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v56i1.2860 | © 2022 Piet J. Strauss | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 April 2022 | Published: 19 September 2022

About the author(s)

Piet J. Strauss, Department of Historical and Constructive Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa


Johan Heyns and Beyers Naudé as prophets against the Dutch Reformed Church supporting apartheid: Heyns prophesising from within and Naudé from without. Both Johan Heyns and Beyers Naudé came from a strong Dutch Reformed and Afrikaans background. Both supported and motivated a policy of apartheid in the Dutch Reformed Church and South Africa in their earlier years. As for Naudé, this conviction changed in December 1960 at the Cottesloe consultation of the World Council of Churches in South Africa’s member churches. Heyns changed in the early 1980s on the matter. In October–November 1980, Heyns initiated a public witness linked to Reformation Day in which the apartheid of the time was strongly criticised. This witness made an appeal on churches in South Africa to preach the gospel aimed at the full development of all citizens as people created in the image of God – be it in an inclusive society. In promoting his viewpoint, Heyns remained in the Dutch Reformed Church. Besides being an occasional controversial participant, he had a measured influence on the two documents, ‘Church and Society 1986’ and ‘Church and Society 1990’. In these documents, the Dutch Reformed Church, for the first time, spoke out against the way in which apartheid was implemented. As moderator from 1986–1990, Heyns was at the centre of events when the Dutch Reformed Church was welcomed back into Protestant ecumenic circles after apartheid. In these years, Heyns was a strong and visible force in the Dutch Reformed Church to change its stance on apartheid. He used reform from within to achieve this goal. Unlike Heyns, Naudé opted for critique on the Dutch Reformed Church and apartheid from the outside. As a vehicle for this, he founded his Christian Institute in 1963 and eventually left his church, with the effect that he was excluded from assemblies in the Dutch Reformed Church that decided on matters such as apartheid. It became impossible to find any sign of Naudé’s influence on decisions and declarations of assemblies such as presbyteries and synods against apartheid in the Dutch Reformed Church. Heyns used the norm in Reformed churches that a Reformed church should be reformed from within. In this article, the influence of both Heyns and Naudé on the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church to change its stance on apartheid is analysed by means of a study of literature. The purpose is to determine the more effective method of the two for ecclesiastical change. Heyns operated from within and Naudé from without. Heyns became the chairman of the General Synod which spoke out against apartheid in practice, but the church closed its ranks against the critique of Naudé.

Contribution: Considering that both Johan Heyns and Beyers Naudé were members of a congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church as a Reformed church, the question is what the influence of reform was on their stance against apartheid. Both were regarded as prophets against the support of their church during apartheid. In this process, Heyns worked from within his church and Naudé from without. The method of both in this matter is investigated and evaluated. This article fills a gap in theological-historical scientific studies in this regard and adds an own interpretation to the issue.


Dutch Reformed Church; church and society; Heyns and Naudé; Christian-Afrikaner families; Heyns’s reformation


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