We had a profoundly moving moment last night. The General Assembly approved the addition of the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions. The Belhar Confesssion was developed by our Reformed sisters and brothers in South Africa and approved there thirty years ago, in 1986, as a courageous declaration that became a key statement in the movement to topple apartheid, stating clearly that the gospel demands that we work for the unity of all people regardless of race and oppose anything in church or society that would divide people along racial lines. The GA’s vote last night was the culmination of the multi-year process required to make changes to our Book of Confessions.
After the vote, we were addressed by Rev. Motlalentwa Godfrey Betha of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. He began by saying, “It is quarter to six in the morning in South Africa. I believe that there are those who did not sleep, waiting for this moment.” We were suddenly aware that the world was watching and that our adoption of the Belhar Confession makes a momentous statement that we stand with fellow Christians worldwide in pursuit of racial justice.
The next speaker was none other than Dr. Allan Boesak, one of the heroes of the anti-apartheid movement and co-authors of the confession, who had come to Portland just to be present for this moment. He expressed deep gratitude for the GA’s action, spoke of battles won yet of much still to accomplish, concluding with the triumphant exclamation: “Because of Jesus, we shall overcome!”