The Faculty of Theology at the University of Pretoria celebrates its centenary in 2017. This Faculty did not originate from a seminary. It has been a Faculty with full academic status since its inception and is therefore the oldest fully-fledged faculty of theology in South Africa.
The earliest decisive statement about the nature of the Faculty, and which has been eagerly pursued since, was made by the Rev MJ Goddefroy in 1888 when he characterised theological training as of academic deference. This illustrates the character of theological training at the University of Pretoria and explains why the premise of intellectual inquiry is an uncompromised trait of this Faculty.
This has recently been confirmed by the QS World University Rankings by Subject which places Pretoria in position 14 globally in terms of research impact and position 28 globally in terms of citations per paper. This is the highest ranking in Africa and among the top 100 in die world.
The main role players in this Faculty’s hundred-year history have been the Netherdutch Reformed Church of Africa (NDRCA) since 1917, and the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (DRCSA) since 1938. The Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (PCSA) was also involved during the first years. On 1 January 2000, the two separate sections amalgamated to establish the present day multi-ecclesial faculty. In 2002, the Uniting Presbyterian Church joined as a third partner and in 2012 the Uniting Reformed Church of SA also became a full partner of the Faculty. The Faculty is currently officially acknowledged as a training institution by a large number of denominations.
In agreement with the UP 2025 Plan, the Faculty developed a faculty research theme that deals with the challenging concept of ‘Ecodomy’ as an umbrella term for its focus on ‘life in its fullness’. Global justice involves the whole of creation, the human and non-human world. The all-inclusive word Ecodomy articulates the Faculty’s vision and the challenges it will face in the next 100 years. It provides for the reconciliatory diversity that the Faculty embraces and actively promotes in all its research, teaching and learning.
The Centenary Committee suggested for the celebrations the motto, ’Gateway to …’. The Faculty has the mission to practise theology in such a way that the love of God reaches all. The challenge is to recognise that God will always open the gates and, despite resistance, the message will continue on the way of radical inclusivity.
As important as the past hundred years were, the emphasis of any centenary celebrations should be on the century ahead. History is not a destination, but an orientation; it is a prerequisite for responsible triangulation with regard to the future.
Prof Johan Buitendag