The World Council of Churches (WCC) is mourning the death of Rev. Prof. Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, a South African pastor and academic who was currently serving as the WCC president from Africa since 2013. She passed away on 19 May.
Plaatjies van Huffel was known as a transformative church leader in sub-Saharan Africa.
Her significance was not only rooted in her leadership positions, her many theological publications, and her lecturing status, but could also be found in her active participation in processes to transform society.
In 1992, she was the first female minister to be ordained by the then Dutch Reformed Mission Church, later the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa. She obtained a first doctorate in theology from the University of South Africa on the topic “Women in the Theological Anthropology in the Afrikaans Reformed Churches (2003)” and then a second doctorate from the University of Pretoria in 2008.
She taught Church History and Church Law at the Faculty of Theology Stellenbosch University and was a co-minister at the Uniting Reformed Church in Scottsdene, Kraaifontein. She acted as actuarius (church law expert) of the Cape Regional Synod and as vice-moderator of the General Synod of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa.
She was born in Prieska in 1959, as the second of seven daughters of Johannes Jacobus Plaatjies, a headmaster at several primary schools in the Northern Cape, and Jacoba Johanna Plaatjies, a housewife. She matriculated in 1977 at Bergrivier Senior Secondary School in Wellington in the Boland. She first embarked on a teaching career, after completing her teacher’s diploma at the University of the Western Cape in 1978. In 1986 she enrolled at the University of the Western Cape in order to be trained as a minister in the Dutch Reformed Mission Church. After further studies she was licensed by the curatorium of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church.
She is survived by her husband, Rev. Dawid Van Huffel.