Dominee firm on apartheid confession
South NEWS. November 15 – 21, 1990. P.3
STELLENBOSCH academic and Nederlandse (sic) Gereformeerde Kerk (NKG – sic) member, Professor Willie Jonker, stood firm this week on his dramatic confession of guilt “for the sin of apartheid” at a major church conference in Rustenburg last week.
He was spontaneously forgiven by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Jonker believes his confession – which provoked a biting criticism from former State President PW Botha – was in line with his church’s standpoint on apartheid.
The former NGK dominee said he regretted the response of some critics but believed the majority of church members supported his stand.
“I believe as a Christian that the people of this country should reconcile and church can play a major role in this,” he said.
“But in order to do this, the churches which are presently divided will haveto reconcile with each other.”
Jonker said the NGK had defended the ideology of apartheid for decades and has had “second thoughts” in the past decade.
A professor of theology at Stellenbosch University, Jonker has a long history in the NGK.
He was born into the church and served it for 12 years as a dominee.
He was not a delegate of the NGK at the National Conference of Churches but had been invited as a speaker.
He said while most of the delegates realised that all the churches had to leave the meeting with a common approach, there was a lot of suspicion and distrust among delegates, particularly towards his church.
“I could understand their feelings, and that is why I stood up and confessed.
“I was not instructed by my church to do so and I had not consulted the delegation of my church.
“I did so in my personal capacity but I believed that because our synod in Bloemfontein this year had decided apartheid was unjust, I could speak on behalf of my church. I am grateful that the officials of the church present at the conference supported me.”
Jonkers said he had a positive response from church members since his outspoken confession.
The process began by the church at the Bloemfontein synod was getting support from its members.
“Those members who took the trouble to contact me have responded positively, especially the youth,” he said.
“People seem to have understood my motives and are saying this should have happened a long time ago.”