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Clifton Kirkpatrick named to a special PC(USA) committee to study Belhar Confession

by Louisville Seminary | Nov 01, 2012

Clifton Kirkpatrick, Visiting Professor of Ecumenical Studies and Global Ministries at Louisville Seminary, will help lead a special committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in considering whether the Belhar Confession, a Christian statement of belief with roots in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, should be included in the church’s Book of Confessions.

The Special Committee on the Confession of Belhar was authorized by the 220th General Assembly (2012) to study the confession and make a recommendation regarding its inclusion in the Book of Confessions and provide education about it throughout the church. Kirkpatrick will be co-moderator of the Special Committee along with Ruling Elder Matilde Moros, of the Hudson River Presbytery.

“The women and men who have accepted the call to serve on this Special Committee will help to educate the church on the historical, theological, and contextual background of this confession in the Reformed family,” said Rev. Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012) of the PC (USA). “We have in its two co-chairs, Clifton Kirkpatrick and Matilde Moros, leaders committed to the Reformed tradition in all its diversity.”

Kirkpatrick, an ordained minister in the PC (USA), is a major leader in the global ecumenical movement having completed a six-year term as President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches. He also served as the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly from 1996-2008. At Louisville Seminary he teaches courses on the ecumenical movement, world mission and evangelism and polity. He is also part of the faculty leadership team for “Doors to Dialogue,” a Seminary-wide effort to ensure that all graduates are equipped to minister in a world of religious difference.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to lead this effort to make the Belhar Confession much more widely known in the PC (USA) and potentially to add it to our Book of Confessions,” said Kirkpatrick. “Belhar is a wonderful, prophetic statement arising from the witness of faithful Christians against apartheid in South Africa, and it challenges churches all over the world, including the PC(USA), to live up to God’s call for the Christian community to be a community of reconciliation, unity, and justice.”

The Belhar Confession was originally written in Afrikaans in 1982. It was adopted by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) in South Africa as a confession of faith in 1986. It addressed the sin of racism through apartheid and the issues of unity of the church and unity among all people, reconciliation within church and society, and God's justice. It is now one of the "standards of unity" of the new Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA) and has been adopted as a confession of faith by other Reformed churches across Africa and most recently by the Reformed Church in America. It aided in the reconciliation among Reformed churches in Southern Africa and the process of reconciliation within the nation.

If the Special Committee recommends inclusion of the Confession of Belhar in the Book of Confessions and the 221st General Assembly (2014) approves the proposal – it will be sent to the presbyteries for approval, of which a two-thirds majority is required.

For a full listing of the members of the Special Committee and additional information about its work, read here.

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