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Public Lecture: Prof V Vellem & Prof G Duncan (4 Oct)

What to protest against/for
500 years later?

Two Reformed voices from South Africa


Steve Biko’s charge that the meaning of Christianity is dangerous if it continues to burden those already burdened remains a heavy cross on my shoulders, whenever I think about my father’s ugly black bag on that Christmas Day. If I were to go to Mamelodi to make a ‘noise’ to the people who drink petrol: ‘repent, the kingdom of God is near,’ I would come back and ‘destroy’ my denomination’s pulpit upon the ‘wagon’s’ return to the church hall!  I would ‘destroy’ the pulpit after encountering a body sprayed with doom...
One of the most inspiring heritage in what is usually designated as Associations or Guilds in black churches, is the praxis of isixeko ("street revival"). In this talk the praxis of isixeko will be used as a case study. Reflecting on the meaning of isixeko for reformed faith since 1492 on the African continent in particular, I will address the central question of our joint presentation, namely "What to protest against/for 500 years later?"
Prof Vuyani Vellem
Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda ("the church reformed, always reforming") has become a popular slogan. However, the origin of this principle is problematic. More importantly, it has been fundamentally ignored by the Reforming tradition since it was conceptualised. Answering the question: "What to protest against/for 500 years later?" requires taking into account the current (in)ability of the Reforming tradition to see the need for change.
The growing fundamentalist wing within Reformed churches believes in the durability of the tradition in the form in which they promote it, though little of this is traceable to the Reformation itself or its promoters. Contemporary fundamentalists, unlike their sixteenth century Reforming predecessors, are stuck in a literalistic mode of thinking which seeks to preserve and promote a static timeless faith, a faith applicable in all contexts for all time. Their literalism enables them to evade and avoid in-depth study of the text and the contexts – both textual and contemporary. This form of interpretation has taken root in Africa. It is challenged by the process of inculturation whereby the gospel is incarnated in each context it encounters as it has done from the beginning of the Christian church.
Prof Graham A Duncan

Event Details

Wednesday, 4 Oct 2017, 19h00 

St Augustine's Auditorium
53 Ley Road, Victory Park, JHB

*** Free of charge, although a cash donation 
to St Augustine would be appreciated ***



Prof Vuyani Vellem
DipTh (Federal Theological Seminary), BTh(Hons) (University of Fort Hare),
MSocSc (University of Cape Town), PhD (University of Pretoria)

Prof Vellem s an Associate Professor in the Department of Dogmatics and Christian Ethics and Director of the Centre for Public Theology at the University of Pretoria. He has held a number of positions in his career. As pastor in the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA) he became its first black General Secretary from 2004 to 2008 and then moved on to become Deputy General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) before he joined the University of Pretoria in 2010. Since 2015 he has been teaching a postgraduate module in African Theology at St Augustine College.
Prof Vellem has authored numerous journal articles, book chapters and social commentaries on various faith-related issues. He has presented papers and participated in a number of international Conferences.
He has continued to advocate for justice, and is a specialist in Liberation Theology. He focuses his research interests on themes such as Christianity and Democracy, Christianity and Economics, and fields such as Ecclesiology, Public and Liberation Theologies, and Spirituality.



Prof Graham Duncan
BEd / BD (University of Aberdeen), MTh (University of Durban),
MTh / DTh in Missiology (Unisa), PhD in Church History (University of Pretoria)

Prof Graham Duncan is a Professor Emeritus at the Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria. Prior to his retirement in 2014 he was the Head of the Department of Church History and Church Polity at the same Faculty. He has successfully supervised 13 Master’s, 15 Doctor’s degrees and has mentored one Vice-Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Fellowship. He is the author of two major books Lovedale – Coercive Agency: Power and Domination in Mission (2003) and The Native School that Caused all the Trouble: A History of the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa (2011, co-authored with Philippe Denis). In addition, he authored a great number of articles and book chapters in both international and local publications. In 2013 he was chosen as "Lecturer of the Year" by Faculty of Theology students, while Church History and Church Polity was deemed the best department in the Faculty of Theology.
The same year he was awarded a C rating by the National Research Foundation (NRF). For 15 years he has been an Evaluator and Chair of Evaluation panels for the Council on Higher Education (CHE) and was appointed to the Specialist Panel for Religion and Theology of the NRF in 2015.  He is a member of the South African Missiological Society (SAMS) and the Church History Society of Southern Africa.
He was licensed to preach the gospel by the Presbytery of Aberdeen in the Church of Scotland and was ordained a minister of the Bantu Presbyterian Church of South Africa (to be renamed the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa [RPCSA] in 1979) in 1978. Apart from his ministry and pastoral work, he has taught at Albert Luthuli College of the Federal Theological Seminary of Southern Africa (Fedsem) and the Faculty of Theology at the University of Fort Hare. Prof Duncan was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of South Africa for 2004-2005. In all this time he has remained active in congregational work and has served a number of congregations in the Presbytery of Tshwane.
He is a member of St Augustine's Senate and a part-time lecturer in Church History in the BTh programme offered at the College.
He is married to Sandra. They have three children.