Rev. Dr. Allan Boesak
© 2012 SCUPE
It almost didn’t happen. But in 1968, a segregated branch of the Dutch Reformed Church ordained Allan Boesak, a 22-year-old man of “mixed race,” to become a minister in South Africa.
He became a leader against the former policy of apartheid (racial separation) in South Africa. However, Boesak nearly dropped out of his theological education due to the attitude of the white teachers towards the all-black student population.
A white minister, Beyers Naudé, who had been cast out of the denomination for his anti-apartheid position, convinced the young Boesak to stay.1 Boesak remained, became active in the African National Congress, and helped bring an end to the racist policy that changed a nation.
Accomplishing a very powerful action, “in 1982 Boesak persuaded members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches to declare apartheid a heresy and to suspend membership of the white South African churches; he served as president of the alliance from 1982 to 1991.” 2
Apartheid ended in the early 1990s and Boesak continued to pursue politics and raise money for his charity, Foundation for Peace and Justice. For the latter he served a one year sentence for misappropriation of funds, but was pardoned in 2005 by South Africa’s president.
The conviction and a personal struggle may have cost him an ambassadorship to the United Nations, but despite a mixed reputation, his early work to end apartheid is still celebrated.
One pastor in the South Africa, Francois Mulder, says he was impressed when he heard the very charismatic Boesak speak to a church-wide gathering.
About 10 years ago, I talked to Mulder after addressing our church synod (assembly) and thanked him for a fantastic talk where he said, ‘This is not your church or mine – it belongs to Jesus Christ!’
Mulder shares the value of Boesak’s statement, “I was particularly impressed by his unapologetic mention of Jesus Christ where in our church the theological liberal tendency is to vaguely talk about God only.” 3
Rev. Shane Whisler serves as Parish Associate at NorthPark Presbyterian Church. He holds a journalism degree from Oklahoma University and attended Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Together with his wife, he has two thoughtful teenagers and a menagerie of animals.