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Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae

On-line version ISSN 2412-4265
Print version ISSN 1017-0499

Studia Hist. Ecc. vol.34 n.2 Pretoria Dec. 2008


"Good mission policy is good state policy in South Africa": The influence of the Tomlinson Report on racial separation in church and state at the dawn of apartheid



Willem Saayman

Department of Church History, Christian Spirituality and Missiology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa




The author studies the development of the single, multiracial Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) into a "family" of 10 racially separated churches, especially in the light of the findings of the Tomlinson Report, published in 1955. The Commission wanted to bring the relationship between mission policy and state policy in South Africa (SA) into line with (and indeed under control of) the apartheid policy of the National Party. The author concludes that the DRC instituted the first racially separated church in 1881 on the basis of the practical situation whereby black and white members had grown into separate congregations as a result of the 1857 decision. In the 1940s and 1950s an ideological-theological justification started developing based on German missiological thinking as articulated especially by Keysser and Gutmann. The author finds that the Tomlinson Commission based their findings and recommendations on a mistaken view of African Christianity in South Africa at that time. The findings of the Tomlinson Report did, however, seem to confirm the ideological development taking place, thus strengthening the hand of those wishing to introduce a theological justification for racially separated churches ex post facto. As a result serious damage was done to the credibility of the Church and Christian mission in South Africa.



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