In the most recent issue of the People’s Post, dated May 7, 2013, a story was published on the RCSS entitled “New Chu[r]ch bells are ringing.” This exposure of the church plant is of great concern to the Reformed Church Bellville council, which is overseeing the church plant. This is because the news piece contains blatant misrepresentations, misleading ambiguity and an unnecessary tone of negativity.
On behalf of the Reformed Church Bellville, I would like to use this public forum to set the record straight. First off, we sent the People’s Post a church council approved press release on which to base their news story, to which they paid little or no attention. (A copy of the press release can be found below.) Subsequently to their receiving our press release, I received a phone call from one of the journalists, who proceeded to ask me a number of questions, which I did my best to answer. Following our phone call, I asked to see the final draft of the story before publication. This request was declined. But I was nevertheless assured I could review any direct quotes for accuracy. This promise was not kept.
Hence, the following are two aspects of the People’s Post story that need most urgent clarification for the sake of the Reformed Churches in South Africa (RCSA) and its witness to the gospel:
1. I am quoted as saying:
“People are tired of the lack of depth at some of the mega-churches, that are very superficial.”
We are concerned that this comment is unnecessarily offensive to neighbouring churches, as well as making us out to be conceited. In the phone interview, I recall saying that in my experience some people are disillusioned by the superficiality of some mega-churches in the area, particularly when it comes to corporate worship. Nevertheless, we are by no means of the mindset that such churches are devoid of any redeemable traits or are necessarily of no benefit to folk attending them. What is more, we regret the note of criticism on which the article begins.
RCSS does not want to be known for what we are against, but rather what we are for, which is the Great Commission given by our Lord Jesus to make disciples of all nations. We are eager to pursue church unity wherever possible with those who share this vision, while also evidencing the three marks of a true church: which are the pure preaching of the Word; the pure administration of the sacraments; and the exercise of church discipline (see Belgic Confession of Faith 29.)
2. It was written:
“Jooste is not blind to the history his church has with the apartheid government.” And then I am quoted as saying: “There are many negative connotations attached to the church, such as the apartheid legacy, but I’d like to see more ethnic diversity in the church and more people walk with God.”
For one, the RCSA never gave official sanction to apartheid policy. Unfortunately, it has suffered from being lumped together with the Dutch Reformed Church, which did officially support the Afrikaner nationalist government (but has since repented of its heresy). The RCSA has not been perfect when it comes to ethnic and cultural diversity, but the same can be said of almost every denomination in South Africa, and abroad. With all this said, why even raise the subject of apartheid to begin with?!
What is more, the “negative connotations” I reference, beyond apartheid, are things like our conservative position on worship style and the non-ordination of women. We don’t think our positions are negative, but rather Biblical. It is the democratic and innovative spirit of our popular culture that thinks otherwise.
Again, we regret the overall negative emphasis of the story. There is no doubt a place for polemics and unearthing blemishes in the church’s history, just not in a press release for the launching of a new church! There is so much on this website and in the press release below that lends to appreciating the potentially positive contribution of RCSS to the reformation and renewal of the church in the southern suburbs of Cape Town. We hope and pray that you may indeed find this to be the case, and that you might come and find out in person on Sunday.
:: Press release ::
Reformed Church planted in Southern Suburbs
RONDEBOSCH – A new English-speaking Reformed Church is being planted in the leafy suburb of Rondebosch, Cape Town, by former resident and Rondebosch Boys’ High School old boy, Simon Jooste. Under the oversight of the Reformed Church Bellville – a congregation of the 150-year old Reformed Churches of South Africa (RCSA) – the Reformed Church Southern Suburbs (RCSS) is part of a growing denominational effort to make the riches of the confessional Reformed tradition accessible in the English language. To this end, the RCSS has been holding worship services every Sunday morning at the well-known 2nd Rondebosch Scout Hall in Lea Road since January this year.
According to Jooste, the idea of planting an English-speaking Reformed Church in the southern suburbs started to take shape at the end of 2011, when he and the Reformed Church Bellville discovered they had a similar desire. Together, the mother church in Bellville and the English-speaking Jooste hope to see the birth of a self-sustaining daughter church in the next two to three years.
“Our vision for the church plant is that it be an English-speaking ministry hoping to attract people from diverse ethnic and racial and generational backgrounds,” says Jooste. In addition to diversity, the RCSS sees itself as providing an alternative to the theologically innovative and entertainment-driven experience that so often passes for church today.
In the words of Rev. Coen Vrey, the minister of the mother church, Reformed Church Bellvile: “The planting of a church is a relatively new undertaking for the Reformed Churches in South Africa. This is therefore an exciting development. For the Reformed Church Bellville it is humbling to know that the almighty God is using us alongside Simon in the growth of his church.”
What makes the RCSS unique among other English-speaking churches in the southern suburbs is its commitment to the theology and practice of the sixteenth-century Reformed confessions and the early Ecumenical Creeds as faithful summations of what the Bible teaches. According to Jooste, Christians today are not the first ones to interpret the Bible. Therefore, the Reformed tradition has chosen to read Scripture in conversation with the best of church history. This does not preclude the possibility of theological development and refinement in continuity with the past.
With his recent Phd research, Jooste hopes to make a contribution to discourse on the relationship between Christianity and culture, while maintaining critical continuity with the past. How do Christians make sense of their faith in South Africa’s new liberal democracy?
Among the historic Christian teachings that Jooste hopes the RCSS will help recover today is the central Scriptural truth that sinful humankind is made right with God by grace alone through faith alone. He also wishes to see believers return to worshiping God in simplicity, reverence and awe. Jooste says, “What the church needs today is a modern reformation, which necessarily involves her liberation from servitude to the dictates of popular culture.”
Jooste is a born and bred Capetonian and after receiving a scholarship after school to play tennis in the United States of America, continued to reside there for 15 years where he received his seminary education and practiced for a number of years as the equivalent of a chartered accountant. Jooste returned with his wife and two boys to South Africa in August 2010 to commence further studies and explore the possibilities of church planting. He graduated with a Phd in theology from Stellenbosch University in March this year. Every Sunday he seeks to help people (re-)discover Christ, his gospel and his church.
Worship services take place each Sunday at 9:30am at the 2nd Rondebosch Scout Hall (6 Lea Road) Rondebosch. All are welcome.