Proponent Ashwin Thyssen is a Capetonian from Eerste River who was born in 1996. “In a sense, I’ve always been a city kid,” he says.

But who is this interesting person who has such a keen interest in philosophy, politics, law, and ideas that shape the world in which we live, and who has a fascination with Afrikaans poetry, particularly the works of Nathan Trantaal and Ronelda Kamfer?  

Prop. Thyssen and his brother, Ronaldo, were raised by his mother, Veronica, and her sister, Kathy Brown. As a child, teenager and later as an adult the following people have had the most profound impact on him. “First, it would have to be my mother, Veronica,” he says, “for her perseverance and courage. Second is my brother, Ronaldo, who displays genuine compassion and care; he is always placing the needs of others before him. In addition to my mother and brother, my biological family, there are also two persons of my chosen family – Prop. Rachel Linderoth inspires me greatly because of her patience and willingness to learn (and be challenged by this learning). Finally, there is Prop. Jayson Gribble who encourages me through his commitment to being held accountable, creating the conditions for honest friendship, and truly honest living.”  

For his primary school education Prop. Thyssen attended Stratford Primary in Eerste River after which he went to Hottentots-Holland High School, in Somerset West, where he matriculated in 2014.

“Much like the Biblical character Timothy, I grew up Christian,” says Prop. Thyssen. “I do not recall a time when I was not Christian; nor a time I did not have faith (though doubt remains a constant companion, as is the mysterious journey of faith). Still, I must say, my piety is greatly influenced by my devoutly Reformed family – who instilled the love of and for God in me. Quite honestly, I do not think I would have readied myself for ministry without their aid and support.”

When asked why he decided to become a pastor, Prop. Thyssen says, “As early as at the age of twelve I recall an intense awareness of my calling. So, I had always entertained the idea of pastoring. By the time I had to decide which career path I would follow, it was not much of a difficult decision – in fact, I chose the church with relative ease. Still, it is noteworthy the profound impact the ministry of Rev. Freddie Steenkamp (my mentor) has had on me. He stewards his calling and ministry with authentic grace and admirable professionalism, always acknowledging that he is (and we are) doing God’s work.  

“I set out to pursue theology at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Theology, graduating with the Bachelor of Divinity degree in 2018. Thereafter I registered by the Master of Theology programme, also at Stellenbosch University, which I graduated cum laude in 2020.

“My master’s research focused on the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the church, and how it may assist us to create spaces that affirm the lives and loves of LGBTI+ people (those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and other gender, and sexual minorities).”

Since mid-2020 Prop. Thyssen has been working on his doctoral degree, which he is still pursuing. This study is concerned with how theology has and continues to speak about LGBTI+ people, and how this is linked to race and racism.  

And his dream for the Church? Prop Thyssen explains, “Dietrich Bonhoeffer, when defining the church said: ‘The church is Christ existing as community.’ My dream for the church, particularly the ecumenical church, is to be present in communities, contributing to the common good. The dream I have for URCSA is a day when we are not burdened by financial limitations; that the work of ministry may be carried out with a fresh vision and inspired by the heart of the Gospel. Finally, for the future congregation with whom I will co-labour, I dream of those beautiful Latin words Vivat crescat floreat! (May it live, may it grow, may it flourish!) Alongside the members of that congregation, I hope to work towards its flourishing, because then we would be the communion of the saints, the fellowship of the holy – those existing as a community.”  

There are a few things Prop. Thyssen enjoys more as much as reading and writing. “In a true sense, these two acts challenge me to be and become my full self,” he says. “When I am not reading and writing, I enjoy hosting friends and family for a meal engaged in wholesome conversation, that is challenging and thought-provoking. As an extrovert, I am also most alive when around others, my hobbies are usually shaped by being social.”

Contact Prop. Thyssen at ashwinthyssen@sun.ac.za or 072 512 2062 for more information.