Texts of a DRC-NGK-broschure:
On the 6th of April, 1652, Jan van Riebeeck founded a refreshment station for the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope. With Van Riebeeck the (Dutch) Reformed Church also came to the Cape. The coming of the Huguenots in 1688 and the arrival of the British Settlers in 1820 added greatly to the European population as well as to the membership of the church and as the congregation moved inland, the number of congregations gradually grew. When the first synod was convened on the 2nd of November 1824, it was attended by representatives from 14 established congregations.
Contact with the indigenous people provided a unique opportunity for mission work and education, but the contribution of the church in these fields was however limited by a shortage of ministers. To fill the need, ministers were recruited from Scotland and the Netherlands. During the Great Trek that took place in the thirties of the 19th century, a large percentage of the population moved across the northern border of the Cape Colony (the Orange River) into the regions which would later be known as the Free State, Northern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Gauteng, North West and Limpopo. As a result, many new congregations were formed, and the need for ministers became even greater. At the same time the wave of liberalism that washed over Europe, stimulated the need for DRC ministers to be trained locally, and the first Theological Seminary was founded at Stellenbosch in 1859.
At first the Cape Synod was the only synod of the DR Church but as a result of the conflict about liberalism in the church and subsequent court cases, representation of delegates outside the Cape Colony was terminated in 1862. Churches in the other territories constituted their own synods, viz. Natal in 1864, Orange Free State in 1865, and the then Transvaal in 1866. In the latter territory, however, a different form of "General Church Assembly" had already been established as early as 1853. Efforts to unite the different synods after the establishment of a political union in 1910, were unsuccessful.
Church unity was eventually achieved in 1962, and the General Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church was founded.
Various indigenous churches grew out of the mission work of the Dutch Reformed Church. In the years following 1948 and the institution of the policy of apartheid, the relationship between the Dutch Reformed Church and these churches was often seriously disrupted. Since 1994 the ideal of unification with the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church in Africa and the Reformed Church in Africa has gathered momentum although a lot of work still remains to be done.
Throughout the last decades of the twentieth century the Dutch Reformed Church paid serious attention to the relationship between church and society. This resulted in the publication of Church and Society (1990) and the rejection of apartheid by the DRC in 1986.
Ecumenical relationships are established when churches engage in inter-church discussion through their representatives. This can occur between two or more churches on an ad hoc or a permanent basis. The Dutch Reformed Church maintains ecumenical relationships with other churches by way of dialogue or various degrees of official agreements.
In terms of Article 68 of the Church Order, "… the church endeavours through its assemblies to co-operate with other churches in a responsible manner to deliver a joint message and to stand for the maintenance of Christian principles …" The closeness and manner of co-operation is determined in each case by the degree of agreement regarding confession, church government, worship services and the Christian way of life as the Dutch Reformed Church sees it.
This desire for co-operation is far more than the mere human need for fellowship: it stems from the nature of the church and is sustained through the Word and the working of the Holy Spirit. Urged by the Spirit the DRC strives to establish sound ecumenical relations with other churches.
Although the General Synod decides on the nature of the official relations with ecumenical bodies, informal contact regarding biblical and theological matters is possible also with those churches and religious groupings with whom the DRC has no official connection.
The DRC is convinced that the church is a community of people who receive reconciliation from the hand of God and having been reconciled with God and one another through the blood of Christ, church members and churches are obliged to take the ministry of reconciliation further and to serve one another in a spirit of love and peace.