Kerkvisitasie in die Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika : 'n teologies-etiese studie
Erasmus, Jacobus Johannes Jurgens
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This study encapsulates a theological-ethical study of church visitation. It was focussed on the GKSA and wants to make a contribution towards an ethical implementation of church visitation in the GKSA and elsewhere. Church visitation within the GKSA can be described as a regular, precautionary shepherding visit to all churches in the jurisdiction of the classis, by two experienced visitators to take cognisance of the service, order and teaching; as well as to show the concern of God for His church and every member of the congregation in order to admonish, comfort and strengthen them. The aim is to promote harmony (not chaos), to uplift so as to stimulate (not demolish) and to expand the Kingdom of God (not to subdue it). Throughout history the church visitation was contantly engaged in a struggle as to how church visitation should take place so that the Word and Confessions and during the Sinod of Dortrecht (Netherlands) in 1618/1619 an order was formulated. A part of this Order is Church Order Article 44 which provides for the opportunity of church visitation ecclesiastically, as well as the instructions as to how (includes ethically) it should be done. In the GKSA this Dordt Church Order was accepted in 1862. Although church visitation is organised according to Church Order, it is an action that is ethically grounded arising from the love and care of believers for each other and for God and His Church. This care and concern appears intermittently in the Word, as for example: Acts 15:36 (the locus classicus of church visitation): "a while later Paul said to Barnabas: "Let us go and see how it is going with the believers in all the cities where we have proclaimed the Word of God." Church visitation can be termed a caring strategy wherein visitations look with compassion as to how it is going in the churches. It is a pastoral visit where love is exhorted, comforted in faith and strengthened in hope. In Revelation 2 and 3 it is found that Jesus Christ as the real Visitator moves between His churches. He comforts, admonishes and strengthens seven of His congregations. The congregations are eventually representative of all churches over all the centuries. Ethically, attention is paid to motive, aim (objective), mean (Word) and consequence. On the basis on which the Lord of the Old and the New Testament focuses upon when He visits His Church, as was understood by the Church throughout the centuries, it is ethical guidelines and a model for church visitation in the GKSA and its broader disposal.
- Theology