Tuesday, March 04, 2008

James Buys, who is the man ?

This is a time to reflect in the role and impact of some-one like James Buys. Who is he in the bigger scheme of things ?

In a sense one could argue that the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, the church that came as a result of the merger between the Ned Gereformeerde Kerk in Africa and the NG Sendingkerk, owe its current existence to the role of people like the late, Jameson Buys. Yes, we affirm and believe that God is at the heart of the existence of the church. The Belhar Confession states it clearly,
We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for his church by his Word and his Spirit, as he has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.

In this quest, God uses people, obedient people, who discern his voice and leads the way,
even though the authorities and human laws might forbid them and punishment and suffering be the consequence.

It is in this context that we need to value his role and impact. He hails from Riverlea congregation, Johannesburg, the Southern Transvaal, where the Buys-home was the space where a small 'Sendingkerk' congregation, facing the brunt of the notorious Group Areas Act, found her feet, but also its here where he heard God calling. During his childhood he was hospitalised for some time, but God healed him and after that he had a conviction in his heart to serve the Lord in the full-time ministry. Even an academic scholarship to study overseas, after matric, did not sway him from this course. He therefor studied theology at the University of Western Cape and soon made his impact in the struggle against apartheid. For this faith stance he was in solitary confinement by the apartheid police, harassed by the authorities, but remained faithfull to the oppressed people and congregations he served.

The unification of the URCSA in 1994, as well as that of the then predominantly coloured, Association of Christian Students, with the white Christian Students Association to form the Uniting Christian Students Association, was certainly some of the highlights of Buys's public ministry. In the context of the complex re-unification process within the DR Church-family, he remained one of the sharpest thinkers and his unflinching commitment to the Confession of Belhar remains one of his legacies. This confession, which still speaks so powerfully to the challenges that we face today, was in a sense the guide by which we can measure his public leadership and moral authority. He remained committed to the end.

The impact of his untimely death however remain to be seen. Currently we are at a loss of words. The whole church, but also our unfolding secular democracy are however reminded of the frailty of all of us, as co-pilgrims carving out our journey towards a new heaven and new earth. We are reminded of the words of the apostle Paul on many occasions, exhorting congregations to pray for him and the other ministry leaders (1 Thes 5:25, 2 Thes 3:1 and Heb 13:18). We remain fragile in need of the grace of God, to sustain us, even at our lowest points. May we again find comfort, Father, in you alone. May we find grace to light the way, my we find You. This is our prayer for our sister Angela and the children, for the extended families, for our church and country.
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