Thursday, February 25, 2010

Eulogy for Prof Steve de Gruchy-UKZN (School of Religion and Theology

The University of Kwazulu-Natal, Vice-Chancellor released the following eulogy for the late Prof Steve de Gruchy.

Steve de Gruchy was born on 16th November 1961 in Durban, South Africa, later moving
with his family to Cape Town and matriculating from the South African College High School
(SACS) in 1979. He continued his studies at the University of Cape Town obtaining a MA in
Religious Studies, a STM from Union Theological Seminary, New York, and a DTh at the
University of the Western Cape in 1992. His doctoral thesis focused on the themes of justice
and liberation in the work of the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
As a young man, Steve’s commitment to issues of justice and liberation were evident in his
involvement in the Students’ Union for Christian Action, as a youth pastor at the Rondebosch
Congregational Church, as a religious conscientious objector refusing to serve in the South
African Defence Force during the 1980s, and finally as an ordained minister in the United
Congregational Church of Southern Africa in Athlone, Cape Town. Committed to both faith
and social action, Steve became Director of the Kuruman Moffat Mission Trust in 1994.
During this time he was engaged in establishing a number of projects to alleviate poverty,
curb illiteracy, and promote theological education, becoming fluent in speaking Tswana.
In 2000 Steve was appointed as the Director of the Theology and Development Programme
at the School of Theology at the then University of Natal. At the time, this fledging
programme was small and little known and Steve has built this programme to be recognized
throughout the African continent as a relevant and contextual centre of post graduate study.
With a strong commitment to the Ecumenical movement he has participated in a number of
consultations and commissions of the World Council of Churches, World Alliance of
Reformed Churches and the Council for World Mission.
Appointed Associate Professor in 2005 and later full Professor in 2008, Steve’s stature as a
scholar grew enormously over the past decade with numerous publications in the field of
theology and development, more recently in the area of public health and issues of water
and climate change. He was passionate about the way in which communities need to regain
their dignity and focus on their assets in order to become more fully human. He has
supervised numerous students who know and love him as a committed and critical scholar,
pastor and friend. In 2008, Steve became Head of the School of Religion and Theology at
the merged University of KwaZulu-Natal. Colleagues have thrived under his decisive and
brave leadership. He was always full of new ideas, ready to relieve tension with a joke, and
determined that the School of Religion and Theology would be a centre of excellence within
the University.
Those who are close to Steve also know that scholarly and activist pursuits are not his only
love. He is a gifted musician, loves walking in the Drakensberg, and always enjoys
socializing with friends. Married to Marian, and with their three children, Thea (18), David
(15), and Kate (11), the family loved outdoor adventures. It was on one such adventure that
the life of Steve de Gruchy was taken by the very waters (pula) he spoke so passionately
about. South Africa has lost a son of the soil. The South African church has lost a key
theologian. The Ecumenical Movement has lost a prophet. And the University of KwaZulu-
Natal, and particularly the School of Religion and Theology, has lost an astute administrator,
dedicated academic, an agent of transformation, and a caring friend. We mourn his loss.

(This Eulogy was prepared by the School of Religion and Theology-UKZN)
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