General Assembly Reflections: “Belhar Is Now Us” by Greg Klimovitz


There are particular historical moments when you want to say, “I was there.” Last night was one such moment.

Alan Boesak celebrates the passage of Belhar. Photo: Michael Whitman

Alan Boesak celebrates the passage of Belhar. Photo: Michael Whitman

As the 222nd General Assembly approved an amendment to include the Belhar Confession in the Book of Confessions- we were there. When Reverend Godfrey Bretha of the Uniting Reformed Church of South Africa, from whence the confession came, tearfully addressed the Assembly- we were there. When Dr. Allan Boesak, who co-authored the confession in the midst of South African apartheid, spoke to Presbyterians in Portland- we were there. As faithful commissioners, observers, delegates, ecumenical partners, and observers from all over the nation and world joined hands and sang, “we shall overcome”- we were there.

The Belhar Confession is the first confession from the global south to be included in the Book of Confessions and unites us with the global church in a new and profound way. “The reach of Belhar is far wider than its original context,” Godfrey Bretha reminded the Assembly.

This reach now includes us. Belhar is now us. The same Spirit that moved our sisters and brothers to break the chains of apartheid now dares us to do the same in the midst of pervasive racism in our cities and nation. The same call to unity and love for one another now sends us to be agents of reconciliation in our congregations and communities. Belhar’s charge to be peacemakers and justice seekers now frames our work in the midst of violence fueled by hate.

The incorporation of Belhar into our Book of Confessions was a courageous move that has taken many years; I am beyond grateful to have been in the room when it happened. Our greatest tribute to and celebration of our sisters and brother who wrote the beautiful and prophetic confession is to now go and live it. “I can’t tell you what’s in my heart tonight,” remarked Dr. Boesak, “but I know this, because of Jesus, we shall overcome.”

Please click here to download a PDF of the Belhar Confession  to share with your congregations: TheBelharConfession

Please click below to view a video from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

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