1652 The Dutch form a station at the cape of South Africa and introduce slavery.
The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa is formed.
1806 Cape Town becomes a British colony.
1857 British settlement expands, claiming land in the north and east of the country.
The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRCSA) decides to have separate services for “colored” members (though discrimination at the Lord’s Supper is already occurring).
1881 The Dutch Reformed Mission Church (DRMC) is established by the white Dutch Reformed Church for people of color.
1910 Diamonds and gold are discovered in South Africa, which soon becomes a British “dominion.”
1948 Apartheid becomes a legal institution for racial segregation in South Africa.
1951 The Dutch Reformed Church in Africa (DRCA) is established for “blacks.”
1978 The DRMC and DRCA decide to work for unity, a goal that will take sixteen years to fulfill.
1982 The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) calls apartheid a heresy and suspends the membership of the white DRCSA. WARC declares a status confessionis concerning apartheid. (Status confessionis is a Latin term meaning “that which is foundational for belief and behavior and must be affirmed by professing members of the church.”)
Later that same year, the synod of the DRMC (meeting in Belhar) declares a status confessionis regarding apartheid and drafts what becomes known as the Confession of Belhar.
1986 The DRMC formally adopts the Confession of Belhar as its fourth standard of unity, alongside the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort.
1988 The DRMC asks the Reformed Ecumenical Council (40 small, Reformed congregations that now are part of the World Communion of Reformed Churches) to study the Belhar and decide whether the REC (not its individual denominations) should adopt it.
1990 President F. W. de Klerk of South Africa works with Nelson Mandela to dismantle the apartheid system. Synod 1990 of the CRC concludes that the Belhar is in harmony with the Reformed faith as a body of truth, and has no objection to its inclusion “in the list of Reformed confessions in the . . . REC constitution” (Acts of Synod 1990, p. 625).
1994 First democratic election is held in South Africa. Nelson Mandela wins, and the African National Congress gains power.
The DRMC and the DRCA unite to form the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA).
1995 The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is established in South Africa.
1998/2002 The URCSA challenges the CRC to adopt the Belhar as its own.
2006 Representatives from South Africa’s Dutch Reformed churches (DRCSA and URCSA) meet for the first time to discuss reunification.
2007 The Reformed Church in America (RCA) challenges the CRC to study the Belhar Confession.
2009 The CRC synod proposes that Synod 2012 adopt the Belhar Confession as a fourth confession of the CRC.
2010 The general synod of the RCA officially adopts the Belhar Confession as its fourth confession.
2012 The Christian Reformed Church adopts “the Belhar Confession and its accompanying documents (the Accompanying Letter from the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa and the joint statement of the RCA and CRC) as an Ecumenical Faith Declaration,” recommending it “to the churches for study and for incorporation of its themes into their discipling and liturgical ministries” (Acts of Synod 2012, p. 767).
2015 Synod instructs the CRC Board of Trustees “to ensure that denominational Ministry Support Services, Faith Formation Ministries, and Worship Ministries provide consultative Belhar Confession assistance to congregations and make related materials available through their service, marketing efforts, and web-based access” (Acts of Synod 2015, p. 647).
2016 Synod proposes that the Belhar Confession be recategorized as a contemporary testimony. (Acts of Synod 2016, p 914).
2017 Synod endorses the proposal from Synod 2016 and re-categorizes the Belhar Confession as a contemporary testimony. Thus, the Belhar, as a contemporary testimony is understood as “a dynamic statement of faith that serves the CRCNA—its congregations and members—as an important statement that speaks to essential matters in a given time period. It is useful for study, faith formation, teaching, and worship. As such, it must periodically be reviewed if it is to speak contemporaneously and perhaps be revised if authorship belongs to the CRCNA or be provided newly revised accompanying explanatory material if authorship belongs elsewhere.”