Questions and Answers

Questions and answers regarding the theological training and the training of ministers of the GKSA

These short frequently asked questions and answers do not intend to give in-depth reasons for the answers. This can be obtained from the Curators on request. The Curators’ executive board only wants to give short answers to questions that are currently often asked by members.

  • Whose responsibility is it to train and educate the ministers for the GKSA?
    Training students with a view to the ministry of the Word is under the sole rule of Christ, the Head of the church. Therefore it is a matter of the Churches by the Churches for the Churches. This means that theological training may only be determined by the Word of God. Called Office bearers (theological professors) teach theological students (called candidates) according to a curriculum approved by the Churches. No other influences of any nature or source may determine the character and content of the training. For this task, the GKSA set up a Theological School (the TSP) and professors are called by the Churches to oversee this training, among other things.
  • Why do our prospective ministers (candidates) study at the NWU?
    To ensure the academic quality of the training, the Churches decided from very early on that it must meet the standards of university training. Since the establishment of the PUK (1921), candidates could receive degrees in Theology from this institution. In 1945, a contractual agreement between the GKSA and the PUK/PU vir CHO was that the professors at the TSDP would also be lecturers in the Faculty of Theology and that the university would grant degrees in theology to our candidates as enrolled students.
  • Is this decision of the Churches grounded in principle?
    This decision was made because of practical considerations. At the time, the Churches considered that the agreement was not in conflict with the principle that the Churches are responsible for the training of ministers, but a responsible way of complying with it. It was stated in the motivation of the decision at Synod 1945, for example, that the agreement was based on a bond of trust between the Churches and the PUK which arose as a
    daughter of the TSP. The Churches had a say in the curriculum and were able to make the professors available to the PUK to teach it.
  • What was the task that was given to the TSP if the University took care of the academic teaching?
    The PUK, at that time the PU for CHO and since 2004 the NWU handled the academic teaching. The selection, teaching and guidance of candidates with a view to ecclesiastical examination and vocation to serve as ministers was and is still handled by the TSP. The Churches cannot carry out their task of training ministers for the GKSA without the TSP.
  • Why can our prospective ministers not study at the NWU anymore
    Technically speaking, our future ministers can still study at the NWU. The current candidate 1 to 5 students are indeed still doing it this way. However, the NWU formally notified in 2019 that certain provisions of the current agreement, known as the 2006 agreement, based on the education law and statutes of the NWU pose a risk to them and that they will consequently no longer be able to comply with these provisions. The NWU is also no longer going to appoint our professors as lecturers by profession. Normal labour law practice will be applied for the appointment of NWU theological staff. Although the education that our students currently receive is still predominantly Reformed, we as churches will be less and less able to guarantee this within a few years.
  • What happened to the agreement with the NWU?
    The NWU gave notice at the beginning of 2023 that they are terminating this agreement. However, the 2006 agreement stipulates that the provisions contained therein will continue to apply for three years after notice of termination.
  • What alternative did the Churches provide for this situation?
    Synod 2018 instructed the Curators to investigate the desirability of having their own academic institution. Since 2018, the NWU has insisted that the Churches set up such an academic institution, with whom an academic agreement could be concluded under certain conditions. The Curators then decided to set up an academic institution and register it as a non-profit company according to the authorities’ requirements. It is known as the Reformed Theological Academy (RTA). General Synod 2023 accepted this
    establishment and instructed the Curators to develop the RTA to its full potential, which includes the RTA developing and accrediting qualifications and programs necessary for the training needs of the GKSA.’
  • Who are the Curators?
    The Churches elect by way of the Regional Synods in the year preceding the General Synod, Curators for a service period of three years with a view to the provision for, the care of and the supervision of the service of ministerial training. They are consequently responsible for implementing decisions about theological and ministerial training and ensuring that the theological and ministerial training takes place. Their assignment is given by the General Synod and they report to the General Synod.
  • Was the establishment of the RTA necessary?
    The ministerial training is and remains the responsibility of the churches. The awarding of degrees is also indispensable. The ideal is therefore to have our own academic institution over which we have full control, which can award degrees that meet national and international standards.
  • Does this mean that the TSP will disappear?
    Not. The TSP takes care in line with synod decisions for the selection, training and supervision of the official training of the candidates. The RTA as an academic institution will, also still in line with the decisions of synods since 1945, manage the academic training of theological students. It will remain so in the future.
  • Under whose management or supervision does the RTA fall on a practical note?
    The Curators have the task of looking after the training of prospective ministers. This involves the academic as well as the official training. The Curators also supervise the training of the RTA.
  • Can a company be the property of the Churches and be under the control of a church assembly such as the Curators?
    The Companies Act of 2008 states that a company can be set up without members. For the GKSA, this means that such a company exists as an institution within the GKSA. Its management is appointed by the Curators, and the Curators report on the RTA every
    three years during the General Synod. The churches together in the General Synod can then instruct the Curators to make certain amendments to the Deed of Establishment to ensure the Reformed character of the RTA. With this, the academic training of prospective ministers is based on Scripture, Confession and Church Order.
  • Is there another way out besides the RTA to award academic degrees?
    According to South African legislation, an institution that wishes to award degrees must set up a company that registers with the Department of Higher Education and Training as a Private Higher Non-Governmental Institution. Foreign institutions that award degrees in South Africa must also register with the Department and their degrees must also be accredited and registered on the National Qualifications Framework.
  • What requirements must be met to register as a Private Higher Education Institution?
    The institution must be financially sustainable. It must have the capacity to be able to manage itself, and it must have the academic ability to be able to present the teaching and to be able to award the degrees. The qualifications must meet the standards set by the Higher Education Quality Committee of the Council on Higher Education, in other words, our students will acquire qualifications that are recognized nationally and internationally.
  • Is there a danger that the state can then prescribe you what to teach?
    A private educational institution like the RTA must develop its curriculum by the purpose for which it was established. The Higher Education Quality Committee is the statutory accreditation body that determines whether the curriculum meets the minimum academic standards so that a student can obtain a recognized degree. They also conduct audits to make sure that institutions adhere to the standards. This prevents students from being left with grades that are worthless. However, the Quality Committee does not interfere with the content of the curriculum. It is also never transferred to the state. It is and remains the property of the RTA!
  • When will the RTA start lecturing?
    The RTA is in the process of developing curricula. Some of the curricula will soon be submitted for accreditation screening. As the Lord will, all the necessary programs will be finalized by the end of 2026 when the agreement with the NWU expires. Then the RTA will be fully responsible for the training of the GKSA students.
  • Meanwhile, what becomes of our prospective students’ studies?
    The training of ministers for the Reformed Churches in South Africa takes place at the Theological School (TSP). A student who completes the ministerial training receives the candidate certificate from the Theological School with which he can report to a Regional Synod for examination and vocation. At the same time, there is the academic path, with a B.Div and M.Div degree as requirements. The GKSA is in the process of registering the Reformed Theological Academy (RTA) with the Department of Higher Education and other bodies, but that process has not yet been completed. Meanwhile, the agreement between the GKSA and NWU remains in place until December 2026 and it is therefore currently still the designated route to obtain the B.Div and M.Div degree. The first years of 2024 are additionally taught with short learning courses. The candidate 6 students do block courses at the TSP and according to Synod Decision, they do practical work in congregations.
  • Who will be responsible for the remuneration of the professors?
    The professors are called by the Curators. Their care is, according to the instructions of the Churches, the responsibility of the Curators. This responsibility can, at present, be fulfilled in collaboration with other educational institutions, such as the RTA and NWU.
  • Is the direction that the GKSA is taking with ministerial training in line with the circumstances in our country and the needs that exist?
    It is the prevailing trend to move away from public to private higher education institutions. The success of such institutions is determined by the quality of teaching. As a Reformed institution with high academic standards, the RTA is very well positioned within the South African academic environment. The approved curriculum meets all the requirements set by the Churches. It is Reformed through and through.
  • Is the RTA economically feasible?
    Current cash flow studies show that it is. General Synod 2023 also decided as follows: “That the ecclesiastical estimates and funds for Theological Training and the Theological School be made available to the RTA per the financial regulations and rules”. The further expectation is – and discussions have already taken place – that several other institutions also want to send students to the RTA. These tuition fees, with the money allocated by the Synod to the Curators, will be used for the expenses of both the TSP and RTA.