The Department of Church History and Church Polity has attempted to keep its research focus in line with the strategic plan of the University of Pretoria and the Faculty of Theology’s theme of Ecodomy. We approach Church History from the perspective of context, interpretation, application and relevance. In this regard we subscribe to UP’s aim to “Make today matter”. In relation to these objectives we have three (3) Research Projects: African Christianity and Development, Reformed perspective on Social Justice and The Church and Poverty. Since the Project on Poverty which is headed by Prof. J. van der Merwe, is also integrated in the other two projects mentioned, this report will not say much about it.
Prof J. Pillay is spearheading the project on African Christianity and Development. This project is relatively new (2015) but it has already gained momentum with a few publications in accredited journals both nationally and internationally, e.g. Calvin’s understanding of Ecodomy and its implications for the Church in South Africa Today (2015, HTS)) and Ecumenism in Africa: Theological, Contextual and Institutional Challenges (2015, Ecumenical Review). We are working with scholars in other universities in South Africa and Africa at large and ecumenical organisations and NGO’s on this subject. This is of utmost relevance as we address key socio-economic, political and religious challenges in Africa such as poverty, HIV and AIDS, political corruption, religious violence, etc. A conference is scheduled for November 2016 to deal more extensively with this theme and arrangements have been made for publishing the material that would emerge from this conference. This is going to be a huge contribution to addressing issues and challenges in Africa. It will also contribute immensely to UP’s focus on africanisation and transformation.
Dr Wim Dreyer is leading the project on Reformed perspective on Social Justice. This project which deals with public theology issues is linked to his RDP research and connected with the Johannes a Lasco Institute in Emden, Germany. He has presented papers in 3 conferences: 1) in Zurich at the International Conference on Calvin Research, 2) in Potchefsroom at CHSSA, and 3) in Stellenbosch with the International Conference on Public Theology in association with the Beyers Naude and Desmond Tutu Centres and he has produced 7 peer reviewed articles. Titles of some of these publications are Calvin on church and government (2010), Journey from isolation (2011 - Book Chapter), Die NHKA en apartheid (2013), Wanneer een twee word (2014), The real crisis of the church (2015); South Africa: The early quest for liberty and democracy (2015); In pursuit of Justice: Albert Geyser's story as told by the media (2016); Church, mission and ethics. Being church with integrity (2016); John Calvin as 'public theologian' (2016). In these contributions the theology of John Calvin and Karl Barth as public theologians served as orientation. The topics covered in this project are crucial and relevant as they examine current public issues and offer a historical and theological reading of these.
In terms of Dr Wim Dreyer’s recent research outputs (2010-2016), it could be grouped under the headings 'Public Theology' and 'Practical Ecclesiology'
1. Public Theology: This is inked to his RDP grant and the Hardenberg Fellowship he holds with the Johannes a Lasco Institute (Emden). The registered title of the RDP research is Reformed perspective on social justice.
2. Practical Ecclesiology: In the field of Church Polity he focused on the ecclesiological basis for church orders suitable to the 21st century. As part of this project 1internationally peer reviewed monograph will be published with AOSIS during 2016 under the title: Praktiese Ekklesiologie. Kerkwees in die 21e eeu. It also resulted in a PhD (2011, University of Pretoria) as well as 1 conference paper at the International Church Polity Conference and 5 peer reviewed articles: Histories-vergelykende ekklesiologie (2011); 'n Multi-dissiplinere benadering tot praktiese ekklesiologie (2011); Missional ecclessiology as basis for a new church order: A case study (2013); 'n Heilige, algemene kerk (2015); Johannes Dreyer (1500-1544). Die Hervormer van Herford (2016). In this research an attempt is made to develop a methodology for practical ecclesiology which is fundamentally multi-disciplinary. It also assisted the completion of a new church order for the NHKA. It will be presented to the General Assembly in September 2016, and this will also conclude this research project.