An online memorial service for Rev. Prof. Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies-van Huffel drew family members, friends, colleagues and students who mourned the passing of the World Council of Churches (WCC) president for Africa. Plaatjies van Huffel, known as a transformative church leader in sub-Saharan Africa, passed away on 19 May.
WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom, in a message during the service, said she found it difficult to fathom, let alone accept, that her dear colleague is actually gone.
“We cannot argue with our Creator God, who holds our timelines,” said Abuom. “But Prof. Mary-Anne, as a pioneer and visionary leader, inspired us to begin a journey together, reflecting on the future of ecumenism, and we will miss her wisdom and her witness.”
Abuom reflected on Plaatjies-van Huffel’s lifetime of breaking down barriers and healing the breach. “I see faithful and self-critical service to the church,” said Abuom. “And I see contributions to church history, law, and theology.”
Less obvious, said Abuom, is the suffering Plaatjies-van Huffel endured along the way, the frustrating struggles for justice and well-being for women in church and society that consumed her days.
“Prof. Mary-Anne has served, since 2013, as the World Council of Churches President for Africa, and Africa’s struggles for justice were at the heart of her life and commitments,” said Abuom. “She embodied the best in us.”
Plaatjies-van Huffel’s commitment to justice shaped and sharpened her Christian discipleship, said Abuom. “I believe her remarkable life is an invitation to see the unity of the church in the quest for fully inclusive communities, to hear the perpetual call to reform and renewal of church and society, to respond with joyful hearts to the summons to the difficult but life-changing conversion that God asks of us,” said Abuom. “We are proud and grateful to God for Mary-Anne’s life and witness.”