Welcome to the Colloquium for Church History and Historical Theology in South Africa

A network of South African church historians and historical theologians committed to source-based critical research and analysis

In the wake of a conference on the 400-year commemoration of the National Synod of Dordrecht, held in Bloemfontein on 27 May 2019, Proff. Dolf Britz, Erik de Boer and Dr. Gert Duursema developed an idea to create a Colloquium for Church History and Historical Theology (Colloquium Historiæ Ecclesiasticæ) in South Africa which brings together scholars (both established and aspiring) in these fields. The aims are to

·          coach Ph.D. candidates, with emphasis on church-historical and historical-theological methodology,

·          develop a program of decolonizing South African church history as an academic discipline,

·          establish a network of church historians and historical theologians who are committed to the same method of source-based critical analysis;

·          identify partners (institutions of higher learning, archives, historical societies, etc.) with which our group and TU Kampen can cooperate.

Prof. Dolf Britz has recently been appointed as Visiting Professor at Theological University Kampen with the goals of

a. his program of Academic writing and

b. to co-supervise Ph.D. students from South Africa.

At TU Kampen he is part of the Neo-Calvinism Research Institute (headed by Prof. George Harinck) and the Centre for Dutch Reformation Studies (CDRH – headed by Prof. Erik de Boer). This facilitates the creation of a church historical working community in South Africa which brings together students of Prof. Britz and Prof. De Boer who have become established scholars and those who are working on a research proposal or on a dissertation.

The rationale for the establishment of the envisaged colloquium and network is informed by the academic program of the CDRH. This program is not limited to research relating to Theology, Religious Culture and Ecclesial Practice in the Netherlands, but can also incorporate the worldwide footprint of Dutch overseas activities since 1600, in particular the protuberant religious aspect that characterised this global enterprise, bringing into the program themes related to colonialism, migration and religion. It therefore can include the theological-critical study of the religious impact and reception in shaping colonial settings in Africa, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Japan, Sri Lanka and the United States.

The participating African branch of the CDRH is led by the colloquium and is resiliently sustained by Prof Britz’s lifetime of source-based research on the history of the church and theology in Southern Africa. It continues the founding work of Prof. Eddie Brown. The Brown-Britz approach is deeply committed to a theological-critical study of the extant primary sources. This method consents to a reliable decolonization of existing church historiography characterized by its categorized assumptions, and provides the needed scope and range of trustworthy historical and theological knowledge, research and publications that will i.a. inform theological training and ministry in Africa in the years to come.

The program naturally makes provision for the input and participation of postgraduate students and church historians who can make a contribution to other and or related themes, such as Reformation and post-Reformation studies and South African church history more generally, the editions of and teaching on the Canons of Dordt in Africa, the theological-historical analysis of the Church Order of De Mist (1804), differentiated mission-historical trajectories, the impact of neo-Calvinism, etc. It is the hope of the Colloquium that the results of such research will be published in recognized church-historical journals.