Dutch Reformed Churches Union Act, 1911

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Dutch Reformed Churches Union Act, 1911  (1911) 
enacted by the Parliament of South Africa
Act No. 23 of 1911. Repealed by the Dutch Reformed Churches Union Act Repeal Act, 2008.

Private Act


To Legalize the Union with each other of the Dutch Reformed Churches existing in the several Provinces of the Union of South Africa and to make further provision in respect of the United Church.



(Assented to 25th April, 1911.)
(Signed by the Governor-General in Dutch.)


Whereas it is desirable that the several Dutch Reformed Churches existing in the several Provinces of the Union of South Africa, to wit, in the Cape of Good Hope, Natal, Transvaal, and the Orange Free State, or any two or more of them, should be empowered to unite with each other.

And whereas the various Synods of the aforesaid churches have already adopted resolutions in favour of such union;

And whereas differences might arise in the event of the said churches uniting with each other as aforesaid, in the absence of an Act of Parliament declaring that the said churches have severally the right to enter into such union;

And whereas it is necessary to maintain and declare the rights of the said united church after such union, in and to property theretofore vested in, or possessed by, the said Dutch Reformed Churches as at present existing, or any of them, or the Synods, presbyteries or the congregations thereof;

And whereas it is expedient to confer on the Synod or General Assembly of the united church, to be composed of the several aforesaid churches or any two or more of them, after the union as aforesaid, the right, title, and authority at any time hereafter and from time to time to regulate, alter or contract the constitution and composition of the said Synod, and to establish Provincial Synods, subject to the authority of the General Synod or Assembly;

And whereas it is expedient in the event of such union as aforesaid, to declare the status as regards church membership of coloured persons being members of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Province of the Cape of Good Hope, who may find themselves, or in the event of their being or becoming resident, within any of the other Provinces of the Union, and to continue and maintain the practice and provisions observed and obtaining in such other Provinces with regard to the aforesaid persons;

And whereas it is desirable to confer on the said church united as aforesaid, power and authority to extend beyond the limits of the Union of South Africa;

Be it therefore enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Senate and House of Assembly of the Parliament of the Union of South Africa, as follows:―


Transmission to every Consistory of Synod’s resolution in favour of Union.

1. After the promulgation of this Act the “Moderatuur” (Executive Committee) of each of the Synods of the Dutch Reformed Churches entering into union shall transmit to the consistory (Kerkeraad) of every congregation of the church represented by such “Moderatuur” a copy of this Act together with the resolution adopted by the Synod to which such congregation may belong, in favour of the union of such church with the other churches specified in such resolution, in order that such consistory may deliberate and determine on and respecting such resolution in a duly constituted meeting (“vergadering”) thereof.


Synod empowered to confirm resolution and declare name of United Church.

2. As soon as not less than three-fourths of the said consistories have signified to the said “Moderatuur” of the Synod of their church their approval, of the said resolution, after having determined in favour thereof by a majority of votes at a duly constituted session, it shall be lawful for the said Synod by a resolution adopted by a majority of not less than three-fourths of the members then and there present at a duly constituted assembly:―

(a) To confirm the resolution theretofore adopted as aforesaid;

(b) After agreement previously arrived at with duly authorized representatives of the other said Dutch Reformed Churches, or any of them, so proposing to unite as aforesaid, to declare the name to be borne by the said united church.


Publication of resolution by Governor-General.

3. As soon as the several steps referred to in the preceding paragraph hereof have been taken, and the contemplated union has been brought about so far as the uniting churches are concerned it shall be the duty of the said Synod acting through the Moderator and the Scriba thereof, or the person or persons for the time being acting as such, to transmit to the Governor-General for publication a copy of the said resolution, signed by the said Moderator and Scriba, or the person or persons for the time being acting as such, and thereupon it shall and may be lawful for the Governor-General to publish the same by proclamation in the Gazette and in and by such proclamation to assign to and appoint for the said united church the name theretofore adopted and declared by the several uniting churches as the name of the new united church then coming into being, and the said name shall for all legal and church purposes be the name of the said united church.

No publication at instance of one Synod only.

Provided always that it shall not be incumbent on the said Moderator and Scriba, or the person or persons for the time being acting as such, to transmit such signed copy of the said resolution to the Governor-General, until they are satisfied that a similar confirming resolution has been duly adopted by the Synod of at least one other of the said other churches, nor shall any such proclamation as aforesaid issue until there be proof laid before the Governor-General that the Synod of at least one other of the said churches shall likewise have duly transmitted for publication in manner aforesaid, a copy duly certified as aforesaid of a similar resolution passed by such Synod.


Repeal of Ordinance 7 of 1843, and Act 9 of 1898 (Cape), and Act 36 of 1909 (Natal).

4. (a) On and after the aforesaid publication by the Governor-General and in the event of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Province of the Cape of Good Hope being one of the uniting Churches embraced in the proclamation of the Governor-General, Ordinance No. 7 of 1843 (of the Cape of Good Hope) entitled “An Ordinance for repealing the Church Regulations of the 25th July, 1804, and enacting others in their stead”, and “The Dutch Reformed Church Ordinances Amendment Act, 1898, and Ordinance No. 16 of 1845” entitled “An Ordinance to amend Ordinance No. 7 of 1843”, shall become and be repealed, except as to acts done, rights acquired or liabilities incurred before the date of such Proclamation. Provided, however, that section two of the said Ordinance No. 7 of 1843 shall not be hereby repealed. Provided that in the event of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Province of Natal being one of the uniting Churches embraced in the proclamation of the Governor-General Act No. 36 of 1909 of the Colony of Natal shall be taken to be and is hereby repealed.

Certain laws, rules, and regulations to remain in force.

(b) The laws, rules, and regulations, other than the aforesaid Ordinance and Act, duly and severally in force at the taking effect of this Act in each of the said uniting churces shall, save in so far as they may be opposed to or inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Act, remain in force in and for the churches thereby respectively affected, until other provision has been duly made by the said united church in lieu thereof.

Civil rights preserved.

(c) All the civil rights theretofore possessed by and pertaining to each of the said Dutch Reformed Churches entering into union, and, as regards the Dutch Reformed Church of the Cape Colony, inter alia, defined and secured the said Ordinance and the said Act, shall inhere in and be possessed by the said united church ; and such united church shall likewise be liable to the duties at present imposed on each of the said churches.

Rights of property — in whom vested.

(d) All rights of, to, and respecting the ownership, possession or administration of property theretofore belonging to and vested in each of the said uniting churches, or its Synod, or any Presbytery or consistory thereof shall be, and be deemed to be, duly vested in the Synod, Presbyteries and consistories of the united church and the name of the united church shall be, and be deemed to be, substituted for the name of each of the said Churches, in like manner and to like effect, in all the above cases as though such substitution were in each case literally and actually effected.

Provided―

The O.F.S. Ministers Sustentation Fund and Grey College Fund remain for use of congregations interested.

(1) that the Ministers Sustentation Fund of the Dutch Reformed Church in the Orange Free State Province as existing at the date of the aforesaid proclamation by the Governor-General, and likewise a certain fund belonging to the said church and known as the Grey College Fund, as existing at the said date, shall severally be and remain for the use and purposes of the congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church, embraced in the united church herein contemplated and being within the said Province; and

Properties, etc., vested in Presbyteries and Consistories remain as vested.

(2) that all properties, funds and endowments vested in any Presbytery or Consistory as aforesaid or in any other church body and not under the control of the respective Synods of the uniting churches shall remain the property and be under the control of the said bodies respectively.


Title deeds of property, transfer of property.

5. When and after such union as aforesaid has been brought about it shall not be necessary to alter, or cause to be altered, the title deeds of and respecting any property of the said united church, but in the case and in respect of any transfer of such property which shall take place after such union as aforesaid, such transfer shall be effected in the name or in favour of the name or names substituted or deemed to be substituted as aforesaid, provided that it shall be and continue lawful for the several congregations of the said church in the Transvaal,Transvaal congregations. in respect of any transfer of property which may take place after the said union, to adhere to, and employ for purposes of description and registration, the name or names of the congregation theretofore attaching to and employed by such congregation.


Actions by and against persons in whom church property vested.

6. It shall be lawful for the person or persons in whom, by the laws, rules and regulations of any of the said uniting churches respectively for the time being the possession or administration of any buildings, lands, funds, moneys, goods or effects belonging to any congregation or Presbytery or to the Synod or General Assembly shall respectively be vested, to sue and be sued in all actions and suits relating to any matter or thing by any such officer or officers respectively possessed or administered as if the same were his or their private property, and in any criminal proceeding the property of any of the matters or things aforesaid may be laid in the person or persons who in any civil action or suit might sue or be sued in respect thereof.


Doctrine and government of Church.

7. The said united church shall be and remain a church exercising its discipline and government by consistories, Presbyteries and a Synod or General Assembly and acknowledging, receiving and professing, in regard to the doctrine thereof, the doctrines contained in the Confessions of Faith and Formularies of Uniformity, namely, the Netherlands Confession of Faith (Confessio Belgica), the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort, approved and confirmed by the Synod of Dordrecht in 1618 and 1619; and if any questions or divisions regarding church government, discipline or doctrine should, after the coming into being of the said united church, arise between any members or reputed members of the said church, or of any congregation, consistory, Presbytery, or Synod, or General Assembly of the same, then those persons adhering to and professing respectively the said discipline and government and the doctrine of the said Confessions and Formularies shall be deemed and taken as against all persons who shall adhere to and profess any different discipline, government or doctrines to be the true congregation, consistory, Presbytery or Synod or General Assembly as the case may be of the said church, and as such of right entitled to the possession and enjoyment of any funds, endowments, or other property or rights by law belonging to the said church. or to the congregation, consistory, Presbytery or Synod or General Assembly, in which any such questions or divisions shall have arisen.

Provided nevertheless―

Finality of Synods declarations with regard to matters of doctrine.

(a) that in every case in which the Synod or General Assembly of the said church shall declare or shall have declared, by resolution duly taken in that behalf, that any particular doctrine or matter of doctrine or statement of doctrine, whether the same is then in controversy or not in controversy, is in conformity with, or opposed to (as the case may be), the doctrine of the church as in this section defined the declaration of the Synod in that behalf shall be final, and shall be accepted in every court of law as conclusive and irrebuttable evidence of what constitutes the doctrine of the church in respect of the doctrine, matter, or statement forming the subject of such declaration as aforesaid;

Power of Synod to alter composition, etc., of Synod.

(b) that it shall and may be lawful for the Synod of the said united church at any time hereafter, if and when it shall deem fit and proper to do so, to alter the constitution and composition of the Synod thereof by limiting the number of members attending the same and so providing for a “Synodus Contracta” and by altering or modifying the system under which members are returned or deputed to such Synod, or by making provision for the inclusion in such Synod (whether as heretofore constituted or as altered as aforesaid) of other persons as members, not being persons of a class at present holding sitting in any of the Synods of the aforesaid churches, or by any or all of the above means or by any other mode which it shall deem fit and proper; and the action of the said Synod in respect of any such alteration or modification as aforesaid, duly effected in accordance with the laws, rules and regulations obtaining in that behalf at the time shall not be liable to be impeached or questioned in any court of law on the ground that vested or other rights have been interfered with, or previous practice and usage departed from, or on any other ground whatsoever; and it is hereby expressly declared that such Synod so altered or modified as aforesaid in any respect as aforesaid shall for all purposes, legal and otherwise, be deemed to be the duly constituted and proper Synod of the said united church;

Power to constitute Provincial Synods.

(c) that it shall furthermore be lawful for the Synod or General Assembly of the said united church, if at any time it see fit and proper so to do, to provide for the creation and constitution of Provincial Synods within such territorial limits, for such purposes, with such composition, constitution and powers, and subject to such regulations and restrictions as may be declared delegated and fixed by the said Synod, or Assembly duly assembled at any time and duly acting in accordance with its laws, rules or regulations.


Power of united church to extend beyond limits of Union — representatives of congregations beyond such limits.

8. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any other existing law, the united church shall not be deemed to be confined to the limits of the Union of South Africa, but may by laws, rules, or regulations lawfully made from time to time extend beyond the said limits, and incorporate or include congregations without the said limits conforming to its doctrines and confessions, and may for securing and controlling such extension by such laws, rules or regulations provide for the admission to any of its duly constituted Assemblies of representatives of congregations worshipping beyond the said limits and conforming as aforesaid, provided that every congregation so represented, and every member or representative thereof, shall in all respects in like manner be amenable and conform to and abide by the constitution, laws, rules and regulations of the said church as though such congregation were worshipping within the same limits.


Status of certain coloured members declared.

9. No coloured person, being a member of the Dutch Reformed Church of the Colony or Province of the Cape of Good Hope, shall be entitled, by reason of such membership or of the passing of this Act or of the union brought about thereby, to claim membership of the united church in the event of his finding himself, or of his being or becoming resident, in any of the adjacent Provinces and so long as he shall remain without the boundaries of the Province of the Cape of Good Hope; but his status as regards such membership in the adjacent Provinces shall be the same as, and be regulated and determined by, the status of coloured persons as regards such membership in such of the other Provinces within the Union as he shall find himself or be or become resident in:

Provided that for the purposes of this section the “Provinces” shall be taken to be coterminous with the “Colonies” severally constituting the Union as initially provided.


Power of Synod to alter or improve rules, etc.

10. It shall be lawful for the Synod or General Assembly of the said united church from time to time duly assembled and lawfully acting in accordance with its laws, rules or regulations to add to, annul, alter, enlarge, and improve any of the laws, rules or regulations then and theretofore obtaining and in, force; provided that any law, rule or regulation of the said Synod or General Assembly repugnant to or inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Act shall be null and void.


Interpretation of certain terms.

11. For the purposes of this Act the following terms shall have the meanings herein respectively assigned thereto, save as may be otherwise required by the context:―

(a) The term “Dutch Reformed Church” shall include the Nederduits Gereformeerde Churches in the Province of the Cape of Good Hope, Oranje Free State and Natal and the “Nederduits Hervormde of Gereformeerde” Church in the Transvaal and any seminary, college, school, or other institution belonging to, or administered by, any of the Dutch Reformed Churches entering into the union contemplated by this Act.

(b) The term “rights” shall include powers, privileges and immunities.

(c) The term “property” or “properties” shall include all buildings, lands, funds, moneys, goods, effects, assets, or claims to property, or rights of action, of what kind soever, whether in possession, or expectancy, nothing excepted; and shall include any property held by or in trust for, or for the purposes of, any school, scheme, or mission, or special object of the said uniting churches or any of them, or any payment or subsidy heretofore and still payable to or for any Minister, functionaries or purposes of the said churches, or any of them out of any Colonial treasury or out of any public treasury of the Union of South Africa.

(d) “Synod” shall in the event of the establishment of Provincial Synods, be taken to mean the original and empowering Synod of the said united church as distinguished from any Provincial Synod.


Coming into force of Act — effect of proclamation.

12. This Act shall come into force on promulgation thereof in the Gazette, and the union thereby contemplated and the united church thereby provided for shall come into being and take effect and be of force and be legally recognized for all purposes on and after the proclamation by the Governor-General hereinbefore in section three referred to.


Title of Act.

13. This Act may be cited as the Dutch Reformed Churches Union Act, 1911.

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