The Network for African Congregational Theology (NetACT) links Presbyterian and Reformed theological institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Prof. Jurgens Hendriks, a founding member of NetACT, writes about the establishment of NetACT: “The idea for such a networking association originated during a meeting of the Overseas Council in Nairobi, Kenya in February 2000, while discussing the relationship between church and theological training. The Overseas Council works to identify, engage, and empower men and women around the world who seek to have an enduring Christian impact within their cultural context and community. We accomplish this through leveraging our expertise, resources, and rigorous assessment processes. This enables us to build global partnerships with seminaries, Bible institutes and strategic ministries worldwide, which produce extraordinary Christian leaders trained to multiply the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The 2000 conference theme was The relationship between the church and theological institutions.


NetACT’s first board meeting in 2001 Lusaka, Zambia

In 2001 members of the DRC family who were present at the Overseas Council meeting in Kenya reconvened in Lusaka and formally established NetACT, a network of Reformed and Presbyterian seminaries. They were the:

  • Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University in South Africa (Prof. Jurgens Hendriks and Dr Johannes Erasmus).
  • Murray Theological College in Zimbabwe (Rev. Henry Murray and Dr Rangarirai Rutoro).
  • Reformed Institute for Theological Training in Kenya (Revs. Ariko Ekitala and Evert van den Ham).
  • Justo Mwale Theological College in Zambia (Rev. Amon Kasambala and Dr Jurie van Wyk).
  • Nkhoma Institute for Continuous Theological Training in Malawi (Dr Hennie van Deventer and Dr J. Lim and Dr Chatha Msangaambe).
  • Namibia Evangelical Theological Seminary in Windhoek (Rev. Zack Pienaar).
  • Zomba Theological College in Malawi (Dr D. S. Mwakanandi and Dr S. M. Nyirenda).
  • DRC Western Cape Synod in South Africa (Prof. Martin Pauw, Mission Secretary).

The first meeting included, in advisory capacity, Prof. Gerard Dekker of the Free University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Dr Ron Hartgerink from the Elmer E. Hartgerink Trust in Michigan (the United States), and Rev. Nico Mostert of the Dutch Reformed Church in Lusaka (Zambia).

Congregational theology

Prof. Hendriks continues: “One of the aims of NetACT is to train ministers to develop leadership on a congregational level. It believes discipleship on a congregational level, as well as during theological training, should play a vital role in the formation of pastors and church members. It is NetACT’s conviction that people who can serve as salt for the earth and light for the world can only be born and nurtured inside congregations. Achieving this goal is seen as a precondition for solving Africa’s problems.” In 2004 NetACT produced a first publication, Studying congregations in Africa, authored by Prof. Hendriks.

NetACT’s office is situated at the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Funds are raised and administered for the benefit of its members. Theological institutions benefited from personnel and infrastructure development, and contextualised theological programmes were developed. NetACT serves as the network-initiated exchange programmes for lecturers between theological institutions.

HIV/AIDS projects and programmes

The first NetACT goal was to write programmes to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa. In 2006 the realisation of how deep the problem lies made NetACT decide to tackle the gender question. There is a need to change cultural attitudes towards women and to think differently about sexual roles. This has become a long-term focal point for NetACT and in 2012 the book Men in the pulpit, women in the pew: Addressing gender inequality in Africa was published under the editorship of Jurgens Hendriks, Elna Mouton, Len Hansen and Elisabet le Roux. Three years later a follow-up book was published, Living with dignity: African perspectives on gender equality (with Elna Mouton, Len Hansen, Gertrude Kapuma and Thomas Togom as editors). This seminal work received the prestigious Andrew Murray–Desmond Tutu prize for theological publications in 2016. The twenty authors from African countries made a remarkable contribution to shifting church boundaries and focusing the church’s missional identity.

Research projects

One of the founding aims of NetACT is to encourage joint research projects among member institutions with, as an outcome, the publication of research results. Various books were published in this regard, and most are available as open-source publications on the NetACT Internet Portal. The most recent research projects were published in two seminal books: African Christian Leadership – Realities, opportunities, and impact (editors Priest & Barine 2017) and African Public Theology (editors Agang, Forster and Hendriks 2020). To enhance the state of African scholarship, the Board of NetACT decided in 2019 to start with a pan African open-source online theological journal where African scholars can publish their research. The African Theological Journal for Church and Society (ATJCS) is currently available online as a peer-reviewed journal.

Theology and information technology

NetACT’s member theological institutions have benefitted greatly from the Internet and information technology. At present, it is involved in a “Multi-School Library Resource Project” which consists of building an internet portal that gives NetACT theological schools access to library search engines, accredited journals, and a wide range of theological literature. The NetACT Internet Portal (NIP) also aims at training librarians to use internet tools productively. A survey is underway to determine the state of internet connectivity and online teaching and learning capabilities at NetACT institutions. The new reality of online learning brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic poses new challenges, but also possibilities for NetACT institutions. Although it is not the task of NetACT to provide connectivity, NetACT can assist via the NIP to provide the relevant software platform where institutions can create their own teaching and learning portals for their respective institutions.


Joining hands in Africa by means of NetACT structures

Dr Daniël de Wet (Witness Ministry), Rev. Hannes Theron (Programme Coordinator), Prof. Nathan Chiroma (Pan-African Christian University Nairobi, Kenya, and Vice Chair of NetACT), Prof. Sunday Agang (ECWA Theologic Seminary, Jos, Nigeria, and Chair of NetACT), and Dr Nico Mostert (Executive Director)

NetACT’s focus is not to grow numerically, but to grow in terms of theological and missional depth in its involvement in church and society. Currently, the network consists of 52 institutions situated in 13 African countries and includes members from Lusophone and Francophone Africa. NetACT currently functions in regions spanning the length and breadth of Africa with the aim of building relationships between theological institutions and pursuing contextual research topics. NetACT’s constitution was adopted to streamline the organisation for optimal functioning as a pan African network on its journey of serving the church and society. At present, NetACT is an open network consisting of members who can associate themselves with the original aims of NetACT. NetACT is not the only theological network on the continent but is one of the biggest networks in collaboration with the All-African Council of Churches and various other networks.



Dr Nico Mostert (Executive Director: NetACT)