Christian Institute of South Africa (CISA)

The Christian Institute of South Africa (CISA) was formed in August 1963, with Rev. C.F. Beyers Naud as a Director. The establishment of CISA followed the Cottesloe Consultation of Church leaders in December 1960 to discuss the influence of apartheid on the church. At this meeting all churches agreed that apartheid posed a threat for the practice of religion. A few months later the Dutch Reformed Church renounced this position and withdrew its membership from the World Council of Churches (WCC). This undermined the progress the church collectively had made in challenging apartheid and retarded diluted the impact of church action against the Native Laws Amendment Bill of 1957. The amendment known as the ?church clause? gave the Prime Minister power to forbid the attendance of Black South Africans in various places including church services. This forms the backdrop to the formation of the CISA.

Long before CISA was formed the state had begun harassing those church members who openly opposed apartheid. Some priests were detained and some, especially non-South Africans, were deported. Despite this intimidation many church leaders responded with greater challenge and defiance of government policies. They continued to work within African communities and invited Black congregants to White churches.

After the state made public the Native Laws Amendment Bill, the Anglican Bishop, Rev. Geoffrey Clayton wrote a letter to the Prime Minister:

The Church cannot recognise the right of an official of the secular government to determine whether or where a member of the Church of any race... shall discharge his religious duty of participation in public worship or to give instructions to the minister of any congregation as to whom he shall admit to membership of that congregation. Further, the Constitution of the Church of the Province of South Africa provides for the synodical government of the Church. In such synods, bishops, priests and laymen are represented without distinction of race or colour. Clause 29 (c) makes the holding of such synods dependent upon the permission of the Minister of Native Affairs. We recognise the great gravity of disobedience to the law of the land. We believe that obedience to secular authority, even in matters about which we differ in opinion, is a command laid upon us by God. But we are commanded to render unto Caesar the things which be Caesar`s, and to God the things that are God`s, and not Caesar`s, and we believe that the matters dealt with in Clause 29 c) are among them

The state?s harassment of CISA intensified in the 1960s, when the police raided offices and houses of members of the institute. The CISA challenged this with a letter of complaint to the Head of the Security Police. Beyers Naude and Professor A.D. Pont also pursued defamation actions against the state that they eventually won in the Supreme Court.

In 1972 the Prime Minister instructed the investigation of CISA, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), and the National Union of South Africa Students by the Parliamentary Select Committee. Two years later the Minister of Justice Jimmy Kruger declared CISA to be an affected organisation, thus cutting off the organisation?s funding lifeline.

This action by the government did not stop CISA from challenging apartheid. In the journal Pro Veritate, prominent religious leaders continued to be outspoken.

Last updated : 02-May-2013

This article was produced for South African History Online on 30-Mar-2011