Anti-Apartheid Activist and Theologian, Allan Boesak, Believes Baptists Are at the Heart of a Resurgent Ecumenical Movement In Reconcilation

Theologian Allan Boesak (second from right), campaigning in 1994 with South African leader Nelson Mandela, sees in Baptists hope for justice and reconciliation movements. (Guy Tillim/AFP/Getty Images)
Theologian Allan Boesak (second from right), campaigning in 1994 with South African leader Nelson Mandela, sees in Baptists hope for justice and reconciliation movements. (Guy Tillim/AFP/Getty Images)

Allan Boesak is a native South African and Reformed Church pastor and theologian who worked shoulder to shoulder with Nelson Mandela and others to defeat apartheid. He is a passionate advocate of the reconciliation and ecumenical movements and is a top expert on liberation theology.

And Boesak is also this: a big fan of Baptists. So much so that in the 1990s he was baptized — while a member of a Presbyterian church — in an African-American Baptist congregation in Oakland, Calif., as a show of solidarity for the tradition. His whole family went along.

“We were baptized into that church not as a political tactic, but … to build a relationship and to understand what ‘ecumenical’ means.”

Even today — as the Desmond Tutu Chair of Peace, Global Justice and Reconciliation Studies at Butler University and Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis — Boesak’s connection to Baptists remains strong.

“I am on the road three weekends a month and I preach in all sorts of places all over the country,” said Boesak, 69. “Many of them are black churches, mostly Baptist.”

Boesak will continue that streak this month as the keynote speaker for the New Baptist Covenant luncheon at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s General Assembly in Atlanta. The luncheon is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. on June 26.

“My spiritual bond with the Baptist church has grown,” said Boesak, who still worships in a Presbyterian church.

Baptists were leaders in the American civil rights movement and some continue today to nurture what is left of an emaciated global ecumenical movement. In fact, they are among some of the strongest signs of that movement’s eventual resurgence, he said.

“I think the New Baptist Covenant is that kind of movement, and I think it will continue to grow around issues that really matter,” he said.

Boesak’s perspective is one steeped in advocacy for social, economic and political justice and the importance of reconciliation in humanitarian causes. He became one of South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid leaders, working alongside Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the late Nelson Mandela.

At 36, Boesak was exposed to the world’s ecumenical stage when he was elected president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which boasts more than 70 million members from 100 nations.

But Boesak describes Jesus Christ as his main mentor in these causes — especially in ecumenism.

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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press
Jeff Brumley

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