When I finished school in 1975 I experienced a clear call to fulltime ministry within the Dutch Reformed Church, the church in which I grew up. However, in the mid-seventies women had been excluded from ordained ministry and all positions of leadership within the DR Church. It was with great pain that I decided to follow an alternative career path by studying psychology. I continued my participation in the church of my youth, but became increasingly frustrated with the way in which my church so seldom recognises laypersons as theological agents in their own right. I developed a very successful practice as psychologist and found my work a very meaningful way of expressing God’s love and compassion in the world.
However, my life was dramatically impacted by the drastic changes that started happening in our country at the beginning of the nineties. It had the effect of robbing me of a lot of the “certainties” that had formed part of my everyday existence up until that point. I was extremely disillusioned to realise the extent to which the Dutch Reformed Church, with it close ties to the National party, had supported apartheid. The injustices and the social problems that stemmed from apartheid pained me deeply. I could no longer be passive and ignore my responsibility to participate in restoring some of the injustices to which I contributed as a white Afrikaner and member of the DR Church and through benefiting so much from the privileges I had taken for granted all my life. I knew that I had to be and do church in a different way. My participation and care with South Africans who have been affected by the evils of apartheid has become my way of doing church.
The opportunity to become involved in “academic theology” came in 2001 when I became the supervisor of students of pastoral therapy for the Institute for Therapeutic Development. I took the opportunity to reflect on my own practice from a theological perspective by enrolling for the MTh in pastoral therapy through UNISA. I completed my research reflecting on the caring work that I participated in with the Strand Muslim community and graduated with distinction in 2002. I have become more familiar with the work of contextual and specifically feminist theologians and this has been extremely helpful in finding a voice for my own experiences and to develop frames of understanding for some of what I had been experiencing and witnessing.
Through my growing awareness of the powerful strand of prophetic, liberating thought within Christian tradition and particularly in the Bible, I have come to understand that God is calling me to counter racist, discriminatory and patriarchal traditions and practices within the DR Church – right in the midst of where the majority of my people, the white Afrikaners, still worship. This is neither an easy nor a comfortable call. In 2006, at the age of 49, I served in an office of the church for the first time. I served as an elder and became vice- and later chairperson of the church counsel of the Helderberg Dutch Reformed congregation in Somerset West, a leadership that is still male dominated.
I was co-opted to serve on the executive of the regional synod in 2007 – a step to redress the gender imbalance within the leadership structures – where six men and one woman were serving when I joined. My participation in the synod of the Western and Southern Cape provided me with opportunities represent this synod on General Synod level in a task team for gender and diversity.
At the synod meeting in 2011 I was elected onto the executive of the regional synod. I am currently representing the synod of the Western and Southern Cape on the moderamen of the General Synod. I co-ordinated a task team working on Human Dignity which culminated in a publication in April 2013.
I continued my studies in Practical Theology at the University of Stellenbosch under the supervision of Prof Daniel Louw and completed my DTh (Practical Theology) with a dissertation entitled: Pastoral participation in transformation: A narrative approach in November 2011.