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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
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Entries in public theology (42)

Tuesday
Jun022015

Podcast - Prof Barney Pityana on Discipleship and Active Citizenship in South Africa

You can download Prof Barney Pityana's opening Keynote on Discipleship Active Citizenship which was delivered on 2 June 2015 at the Winter School of the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University from this link [mp3 file, 50MB]

The Winter School is hosted by Ekklesia and the Beyers Naude Center for Public Theology in the first week of June each year.  This year's theme is 'Changing the world? An invitation to faithful discipleship and responsible citizineship'.

I apologize for the poor sound quality of the recording.  I recorded it using my cellphone and so there is some ambient and room noise in the recording.  However, it is well worth the inconvenience to hear Prof Pityana's lecture.

I was deeply struck by a few comments that Prof Pityana made. Among them was the observation that the three most prominent public persons in SA at present (President Jacob Zuma, Chief justice Mogoeng Mogoeng and the leader of the official opposition, DA leader Musi Miamani) are all ordained pastors of independent Christian Churches.  Prof Pityana discusses this phenomenon and asks some questions of the type of Christianity that is represented by these persons, and also how this reflects on us a nation.

I'd love to hear your comments, thoughts and feedback!

Sunday
May102015

Wow! So I will be attending the World Economic Forum on Africa next month!

I am not quite sure what 'qualified' me to be invited to participate in the World Economic Forum on Africa that is to be held in Cape Town next month (3-5 June 2015)? However, I am grateful and a little nervous to attend!

I was sent an invitation once before (about a year ago), but was not able to take up the invitation at that time. I felt then, as I do now, that there were others who could serve better in that realm and so I suggested that they invite some other South African academics and business leaders that I have worked with. Sadly the invitation is not transferable. So I thought that was it!

But recently I received another invitation to next months meetings. After checking with my HOD and our Dean if I could be released to go (which they enthusiastically agreed upon!) I completed my registration and received a confirmation of attendance on the same day!

I am not entirely sure what the 3 day meeting will entail. However, I am excited to participate and look forward to learning and bringing a perspective on economics that is shaped by the common good, informed from the ethics of my Christian faith. I have done some work in recent years on economics and justice, written a book and a number of articles on issues such as poverty, inequality, corruption and suffering, but also on faith and work and the responsible purpose of wealth.

I would appreciate your prayers.

You can read about the meetings here:

http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-africa-2015

I will post information and details here as I receive them.

Wednesday
May062015

What hope is there for South Africa? A public theological reflection on the role of the church as a bearer of hope for the future

I discovered today that an article I had written some time ago had been published and made available to the public from the Theological Journal, HTS.

The details for the article are:

Title:  What hope is there for South Africa? A public theological reflection on the role of the church as a bearer of hope for the future

Please follow this link to download a copy from the Journal website: http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/view/2814 

Abstract:

What hope is there for South Africa? What role can the church play as a bearer of hope in South Africa? This article seeks to address these important questions. Firstly, it problematises the contemporary notion of hope in South Africa by showing that it is a complex theological and social concept. Next, a nuanced understanding of hope is presented by adopting a public theological methodology that brings dominant theological perspectives on eschatological hope into dialogue with the most recent statistics about the quality of life in South Africa from 1994, 2004 and 2014. The article proposes that the complexity of Christian hope necessitates an understanding of the present reality that is held in dynamic tension with the desired future – namely a present-futurist eschatology. Finally the article shows that from this vantage point the church, in its various forms and understandings, is able to be a bearer of Christian hope that can contribute towards shaping a better future for South Africa.

Reference:

 

Forster, Dion A. “What Hope Is There for South Africa? A Public Theological Reflection on the Role of the Church as a Bearer of Hope for the Future.” HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies, Original Research: P.G.R. de Villiers Dedication, 71, no. 1 (2015): 1–10.

 

 

If you have a chance (and the stamina!) to read it I would appreciate feedback and comments.  There is an itneresting set of statistical data on living conditions in South Africa.

 

Tuesday
May052015

Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Beyers Naude's life

Today the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University celebrates the 100th anniversary of Beyers Naude's life - a courageous witness to justice, reconciliation, hope and God's Kingdom on earth.

Pictured here (L-R) areDr Horst Kleinschmidt, Prof Denise Ackermann, Prof John de Gruchy, Dr Murray Coetzee who are all friends and researchers in the Beyers Naude Center.

The meeting was opened with a reading from Isaiah 32.1-8, and 15-20. A deep challenge for our current context.

Here is the text:

"See, a king will reign in righteousness
and rulers will rule with justice.
Each man will be like a shelter from the wind
and a refuge from the storm,
like streams of water in the desert
and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.
Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The mind of the rash will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
No longer will the fool be called noble
nor the scoundrel be highly respected.
For the fool speaks folly,
his mind is busy with evil:
He practices ungodliness
and spreads error concerning the Lord;
the hungry he leaves empty
and from the thirsty he withholds water.
The scoundrel’s methods are wicked,
he makes up evil schemes
to destroy the poor with lies,
even when the plea of the needy is just.
But the noble man makes noble plans,
and by noble deeds he stands." ...

"till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
Justice will dwell in the desert
and righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free".

Prof Nico Koopman encouraged us to be inspired by Oom Bey's life to become "faithful disciples and active citizens" for the sake of the healing and transformation of our nation.

Monday
Feb232015

A question of meaning in Law and Religion: Problematizing “the objective normative value system” imposed by judges on the South African Constitution.

Tomorrow the summer school on religion and law will begin at the University of the Western Cape.  I have the privilige of co-presenting the opening paper with Advocate Keith Matthee (a fellow Methodist, Senior Council at the Cape Bar and acting Judge in the High Court).

The Summer School is a collaboration between the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany, the University of the Western Cape, the University of KwaZulu Natal and Stellenbosch University.  This year we will focus on the topic of law and religion.

The title of our paper will be:  A question of meaning in Law and Religion:  Problematizing “the objective normative value system” imposed by judges on the South African Constitution.

Here is the abstract:

In a 2001 Constitutional Court case Ackerman J and Goldstone J stated:

Our constitution is not merely a formal document regulating public power.  It also embodies, like the German Constitution, an objective normative value system.” [1]

Our paper seeks to highlight and discuss a key problem in this accepted approach to the South African Constitution. Namely that this approach incorrectly presupposes only one meaning for concepts such as dignity, equality and freedom and that such meaning is ascertainable by reference to an objective value system contained in the constitution itself.

The result of such an approach is that the constitution becomes imbued with theological meaning and power and so oversteps its bounds from being a protector of religious freedom and an arbitrator of religious rights, to holding a normative theological position alongside, or even in conflict, with religious groupings in South African society. 

The problem can be illustrated by means of a comparison of the different conclusions reached by the South African and German legal systems about whether an unborn child is “life” as envisaged in the equivalent provisions in the two constitutions.

Our paper will argue that the following could serve as a contribution towards addressing this legal theological problem:

  1. See the bill of rights for what it should be, a legal document regulating public and private power and not a document for imposing a specific worldview (“objective … value system”) on society.
  2. In every legal decision judges must recognize the role of their own worldview, inclusive of those who hold a worldview that they would describe as agnostic or atheist,  as an authoritative point of reference, (or value system) when they seek to give content to concepts such as dignity, freedom and equality.  This is of particular importance if the judge concerned in her own daily life draws upon a normative religious source, such as the Bible, Quran or some other commonly accepted religious/philosophical document or code.
  3. The various religious communities, inclusive of the atheistic and agnostic communities, must be allowed and encouraged to exercise their unique role when it comes to developing, critiquing, or explicating the “normative value system” referred to in the quote above. In this process the role of the state/courts/law should be to regulate these religious communities inter alia with a view to curbing any abuse in the exercise of this unique role.

I will post feedback on the paper, and the paper itself (once it is published). So please do check back here for more information.

Here is a list of the papers that will be presented:

Tuesday 24 February

8h45-9h15

 

Arrival and registration

9h15-9h30

Bernard Martin (Dean of Law, UWC)

Opening and welcome

9h30-11h00

Dion Forster (SU, Systematic Theology) and Keith Matthee (SU)

A question of meaning in Law and Religion:  Problematizing the objective normative value system contained in the South African constitution.

11h00-11h30

Tea

 

11h30-13h00

Wilhelm Gräb (HU, Theology):

 

Religious Implications of a Constitutional Democratic State: Why the Secular Differentiation is not True and What the Religions can Contribute to Law and Justice in a Constitutional Democratic State

 

Jacques de Ville (UWC, Law)

The khōric Constitution

13h00-14h00

Lunch

 

14h00-15h30

Rosa Schinagl (HU)

Love – a law or an inner drive?

 

Asharaf Booley (UWC, Law)

Women and Islam: An Overview of the Marital Contract and Practices found in Muslim Countries

15h45-16h30

Phillip Öhlmann (HU)

“Faithful men don’t beat their wives?” Measuring religiosity as a determinant of individual actions and social capital

17h00-18h45

Agustín Fuentes (Notre Dame)

Dean’s Distinguished  Lecture (UWC Library Auditorium):

Deep roots for justice, law and religion? The significance of cooperation, compassion and imagination in human evolution

 

Wednesday 25 February

9h00-10h30

Simanga Kumalo (UKZN, Practical Theology):

Religious Organizations and African Immigrants in post-apartheid South Africa: The Case Study of Central Methodist Mission and Bishop Paul Verreyn

 

Miranda Pillay (Religion and Theology, UWC)

Abortion, Law and Religion

10h30-11h00

Tea

 

11h00-1230

Ian A Nell (SU, Practical Theology)

 

Towards a deeper understanding of “Just Leadership”: Engaging Beyers Naudé

 

Johan Cilliers (SU, Practical Theology)

Poverty and Privilege: Re-hearing sermons of Beyers Naudé on religion and justice

12h30-14h00

Lunch

 

14h00-15h30

Mbhekeni Nkosi (UWC, Ethics)

Conceptual clarification of the German restitution model:  South Africa as a case study

 

Grischa Schwiegk (HU) 

Secular distinctions and the problems of ground and motivation in “secular” law – theoretical considerations

15h30-16h00

Tea

 

16h00-16h45

Manitza Kotzé (UWC, Religion and Theology)

Biotechnology, bills and belief: Justification, self-realisation or domination?

19h00

William Storrar (CTI)

Cilliers Breytenbach (Faculty of Theology, HU)

Michael Weeder (St Georges)

Panel discussion (St George’s Cathedral): International perspectives on Religion, Law and Justice

 

 

Thursday 26 February

 

9h00-10h30

Demaine Solomons (UWC, Religion and Theology)

Justice and Reconciliation: Antagonists or soulmates? The Kairos Document Revisited

 

 

Muneer Abduroaf (UWC, Law)

The impact of South African case law on the status of Muslim women: An analysis of court decisions versus the current (2010) Muslim Marriages Bill provisions

10h30-11h00

Tea

 

11h00-12h30

Lana Sirri (HU)

The tensions between ancient and modern interpretations of Islamic law, based on the work of Kecia Ali Sexual ethics and Islam-

feminist reflections on Qur’an, Hadith and jurisprudence

 

Hendrik Bosman (SU, Theology)

“The dialectic of religion and law according to the memories of Moses in the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament”

12h30-14h00

Lunch

 

14h00-15h30

Andreas Feldtkeller (HU)

“Justice in Islam between Tradition and Modernity. Some Thought in Dialogue with the “Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi”

15h30-16h00

Tea

 

16h00-17h30

 

Open discussion of conference theme

18h30-

Conference Dinner

Life sciences building

 

It looks like an exciting program with a lot to think and talk about!

References:

[1] Please see the quote in, Ackermann, L. 2012. Human Dignity: Lodestar for Equality in South Africa. Juta and Company Ltd. p.28.

Friday
Feb132015

John de Gruchy devotion on Authentic, Hopeful, Action (AHA) in South Africa

Please find a devotion delivered by Professor John de Gruchy (extraordinary Professory of Systematic Theology at the University of Stellenbosch) on Thursday 12 February 2015.

To find out more about the AHA movement please follow this link.

AHA

James 2:14-18

"Faith without works is dead!"

Pessimists say that the cup is half empty; and optimists, that it is half full.  Some people are pessimists by nature.  For them the world, the Hermanus town council, and the church are hopelessly falling apart, South Africa is going to the dogs (don't ask me what dogs have to do with it!), the government is totally corrupt,  people always let you down, young people have no discipline, tomorrow is going to be worse than today -- even when they hear good news they automatically add a negative comment, "yes, but!".  Optimists also seem to be optimists by nature.  South Africa is getting better, the dogs don't bite and snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them, people are always so nice, young people are a pleasure, and what a great day it is today despite the heat and south-easter, it could be worse.  It is easy to understand why people are pessimists, especially in circumstances such as we see every day on TV.   "It is," Bonhoeffer wrote shortly before his arrest, "more sensible to be pessimistic, disappointments are left behind, and one can face people unembarrassed.  Hence, the clever frown upon optimism."  But then he goes on to praise optimism because it is:

a power of life, a power of hope when others resign, a power to hold our heads high when all seems to come to naught, a power to tolerate setbacks, a power that never abandons the future to the opponent but lays claim to it, 

Pessimists may keep our feet on the ground but optimists keep hope alive.  But perhaps it would be best if we were all realists who accepted the way things are, for good or ill, and then got off our butts to make things better, neither bemoaning nor turning a blind eye to what is wrong or bad.  In the end, does it really matter if the glass is half empty or half full ?  What matters is whether we are going to do what needs to be done to fill the cup to the brim.  If we are not working to make the world a better place, things will get worse whether we are pessimists or optimists.

There were plenty of prophets of doom in the Old Testament.  The difference between a true prophet and false one was that whereas the true prophet told the political and religious leaders how bad things were and they had better change their ways, the false prophets always said things were just fine, "peace, peace, when there was no peace."  But the true prophets were actually being realists.  They were not just saying how bad things were, they were calling on people to change, to change their attitudes, change their hearts and minds, and start doing things differently.  The same was true of Jesus,  Jesus laid it on the line when speaking truth to power, when castigating the religious hypocrites of his day, and the corrupt rulers in the Temple and the Palaces of Jerusalem and Tiberias.  He did not have much faith in their willingness to change.  But he saw possibilities for healing and change in seemingly hopeless situation.  He saw the good in people rejected as irreligious, isolated because they had contagious diseases, shunned because they were tax-collectors and prostitutes, or simply ignored because they were poor.  He did not give up on them.  He exuded the power of life, and  hope.

The apostle James was clearly a realist.  He knew about the great gulf between wealth and poverty in his day but decided to do something about it.  To those who said they believed in God but did nothing to help the poor he retorted "faith without works is dead" and went on to say "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith."  Sparklekid Theo likewise tells us "Just get on with it!"  Yes, politicians are corrupt, the power outages are unacceptable, the conditions in the township are bad, but let's get on and do something to make life better for everyone.  That attitude releases the power of life and hope.  And there are many such good news stories being told today around South Africa that demonstrate this in big or small ways.  Listen to one from the kindergarten across the road from Volmoed:

January 2015 kicked off with great excitement and a school filled with 38 little children, some more happy than others to join our school.  Our classes bursting at their seams with small little faces eager to embark on this new exciting path of their lives.  From our 38 students 4 are from Hamilton Russell Vineyards, a number from farms in the area and then a host of children from Zwelihle.  Two of our 3 teachers will continue their education this year via Klein Karoo and I am so excited to see how quickly they are developing, not only in their teaching abilities but also in their confidence.

Immediately after the conference held in Stellenbosch last September to celebrate my 75th birthday, a group of participants got together and decided to do something about poverty in South Africa.  They called the project AHA! which stands for "Authentic, Hopeful Action."  They were realists who  did not simply want to talk about change but to act in ways that made a real difference to the lives of the poor.  I was not at that meeting, but I was made the Patron of AHA.  This means that even though  my "shelf-life" is coming to an end I can cajole people into doing things that might make a difference in the lives of poor people.   

The AHA website has many practical suggestions that could make a difference, some of them we could all do without too much effort.  For example if you don't already, you can give R 5 to the garage attendant whenever your car is filled.  This won't fundamentally alter the material conditions in poor communities, but if each garage attendant at Engen down the road got R5 from  five people a day, he or she would earn at least a R100 extra per week.  Multiply that by 10 garage attendants and that would mean a R 1000 would find its way into the life of the township!  And then multiply it across the country at every filing station! 

The list of possibilities whereby we can help make a difference to the lives of other people through authentic, hopeful action is endless if only we put our minds to it and get on with it.   At the very least we could go onto the AHA webpage, or talk to Theo over coffee,  to find out what even those of us whose shelf-life is short can do.  This is surely better than talking ourselves into a state of despair about the state of the nation!  Whether congenitally pessimists or optimists, let us be realists.  Poverty is a crime against humanity, especially in a country where there is so much wealth. We don't need a AHA moment or movement to tell us.  But we do need to act authentically and hopefully, and maybe.  some help to know what we can do, to show by our works what our faith means.  Instead of saying AMEN or ALLELUIA today, let  us all shout  "AHA!" 

John de Gruchy

Volmoed 12 February 2015

Friday
Feb132015

Theology and Public Life - Confronting poverty, unemployment and inequality

Please find a copy of the speech given by Dr Mamphela Ramphele at the Stellenbosch University Faculty of Theology open day on the 2nd of February 2015.

INTRODUCTION

We are privileged to be able to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of South Africa’s finest sons, Beyers Naude, born on 10th May 1915. It is fitting that his alma mater has honoured him by amongst others, namingthe Centre for Theology after him and organizing this Annual Lecture to reflecton Theology and Public life.  

Beyers lived his life as a spiritualsearcher for “the truth“.  The search for“the truth” during the dark days of apartheid brought him face to face with thechoice between obedience in faith to God or subjection to the authority of thechurch’s doctrines.  The Dutch ReformedChurch’s doctrines of the time were heavily tainted by chauvinist and racistideology that supported and promoted the socio-economic exclusion of blackcitizens.  This doctrine undermined the pillarson which humanity stands – the fundamental truth that all humans are created asequals in the image of God. Beyers Naude chose obedience to God and paid theprice of social disapproval and exclusion by the Afrikaner establishment. 

Today is an opportune moment for us toreflect on our own journeys as people of faith. We need to examine the extent to which we have made the kind of choicesthat affirm our faith in the equality of humans and commitment to building asociety characterized by Ubuntu – thehuman connectedness that binds us together as equal members of the human race.  Ubunturequires us to confront the legacy of socio-economic and political exclusion ofblack people by a white power structure.   The persistence of Poverty, Unemployment andInequality is a result of our failure to establish the human connectedness thatis essential to making Ubuntu a way oflife.   We are yet to see ourselves inthe faces our fellow human beings made in the image of the God we worship.

Our Theme: Confronting Poverty,Unemployment and Inequality gives us an opportunity from a Theology andPublic Life perspective to reflect on the texts of great thinkers about this brokennessin the human connectedness in our society. It is also an opportunity for us to recommit to healing ourselves asindividuals, our communities and our society as a whole.  In this lecture I would like to reflect onthree points:

1)   Thatthe process of Confronting Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality is inextricablylinked to the restoration of the moral health of individuals and the health ofour political community.

2)   Thetough choices that Spiritual Leadership faces in responding to the call topromote the structural transformation that is fundamental to uprooting Poverty,Unemployment and Inequality.  

3)   Theneed to nurture the Green Shoots of a new Struggle for True Liberty

 

CONFRONTING POVERTY, UNEMPLOYMENT ANDINEQUALITY

Our society is struggling to come to termswith the essential structural transformation that is required to build thecountry we committed to establish to make freedom a reality in the daily livesof all citizens.  The growing poverty, persistentunemployment and yawning chasm of inequality are symptoms of a society withdeep wounds and excruciating social pain for those on the wrong side of thedivide.  The euphoria of 1994 blinded usto the reality of the extent of transformation and healing needed to build thenon-racial, non-sexist and just democratic society envisaged in ourconstitution.

We need to confront and dismantle thesocial structures, that enabled a minority to exploit a majority of ourpopulation, that remain intact to date. For example our cities remainsegregated. Dormitory townships are supporting the prosperity and comfort ofthe well to do areas with their labour, consumer spending and taxes.  Take the case of staple food items such asbread.  A recent analysis shows that atownship such as Soweto with approximately 2million poor and unemployed people spendabout R10m per day on sugar-laced bread amounting to R3.65bn per year.  All that money leaves Soweto and billionsmore from other townships. Ultimately leaves South Africa as repatriatedprofits of multinational bread companies. This economic model can only generatepoverty for the majority and super wealth for the minority that owns most ofthe capital in our economy. 

Our education and training systems stillchurn out poor quality outcomes for the majority of children and young people.This leaves them ill-prepared to seize the labour market and self-employment opportunitiesin our economy.  The productivity of oureconomy suffers from the poor quality human capital.  The humiliation of life in poverty in themidst of conspicuous consumption is a source of re-traumatization, a disabling senseof worthlessness, anger and frustration. The social instability, brutality of violence and extent ofself-sabotage in those dormitory townships are a direct result of thestructural violence the society visits upon them daily.  This violence and social instability willincreasingly spill into well to do areas of our towns and cities.

The celebrated Indian Economist, C.T.Kurien, laments the pursuit of wealth at the expense of those excluded andexploited.  He urges the global communityto confront the traditional economic model. He is concerned about the reduction of humanachievement to monetary achievement. In virtually every field from technologyto spirituality success is increasingly measured in terms of a monetary number.The relentless pursuit of these numbers has taken its toll on social processeseven as it has led to the over exploitation of natural resources without even apassing thought to the needs of future generations.  He defines poverty as “the carcassthat remained from wealth acquisition.”  SampieTerreblanche brings this concern closer to our own situation: “In South Africa we can regard (black)poverty as the carcass left over from (white) acquisition.”[1]

Inequality generated by this economicmodel and the disrespect that goes with it, adds salt to the wounds of thosewho have to endure its burdens.  Thesocial fractures occasioned by the triple burden of poverty, unemployment andinequality undermine our connectedness as a human community.    

What are we to do to contribute to theprocess of structural transformation that is essential to healing the socialpain and wounds of our society as people of faith and citizens and peopleobedient to God in Faith? I am encouraged in this exploration by the congruencebetween the views of St. Augustine, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dag Hammarskjold andRabbi Jonathan Sacks on the freedom we have as human beings to choose how tolive as creatures designed for connectedness with other humans.   Allthese thinkers link human freedom to action in the service of others.

Augustinians place a strong focus on sinas “attempts to flee from other humans,and also from God, (as) the really fundamental characteristic of what sin is. It(sin) is an attempt to treat others as objects so that we do not have toconfront what it would be like to treat them as humans and be exposed to theirclaims upon us as humans.”[2]  

Both Bonhoeffer and Hammarskjold (who werecontemporaries born in different parts of Europe) define sin asself-centeredness – to be curved in upononeself.  Freedom in their view isinseparable from unreserved service. Freedom “is a freedom in the midstof action, and the action required is the action to serve others.”[3] For both of them the life of aChristian is that of one who lives and acts in the midst of the needs of theworld.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in his wisereflections on Freewill had this to say: "Whenlife becomes cheap and people are seen as a means to an end, when the worstexcesses are excused in the name of tradition and rulers have absolute power,then conscience is eroded and freedom lost because culture has createdinsulated space in which the cry of the oppressed can no longer be heard."[4]

 The exclusionarysocial structures of the apartheid exploitative system designed to create “insulated space in which the cry of theoppressed could not be heard”, sadly remain intact to date.  Many of us living in the leafy suburbs ofmajor towns and cities can not, and do not, and will not hear the cry of thosestill living with unspeakable pain of poverty, unemployment and inequality.  We flee – physically and symbolically fromthe places where we would have to confront the claims that our fellow humansmake on us as a connected human race.   

Not unlike “the pre-conversion” BeyersNaude, we have found it difficult to challenge the establishment, because weare of it.  Those in government authorityand in leadership positions in the private sector are part of us.  We are a part of networks of support andpatronage that operate amongst those seen to be loyal to the political andeconomic establishment.  

Many of us as people of faith have foundourselves caught in the horns of a dilemma. How to be supportive of a newgovernment led by struggle heroes, whilst being obedient to God in faith and beingon the side of those crying under the burden of persistent injustices in theirdaily lives?  How do we remain true to ourobedience to God in faith in a society that seems to have come to tolerate continuedpoverty, unemployment and growing inequality? How do we challenge impunity in public life by the very people alongside whom we fought against the impunity of the apartheid system?  How long is long enough to begin to demandaccountability in public life as non-negotiable?

Beyers Naude, as a member of the AfrikanerBroederbond, faced the same dilemma when it became obvious to him that theAfrikaner establishment was committing atrocities such as the Sharpeville Massacre,and the systematic denial of the human dignity of his fellow citizens simplybecause they were black.  He too was toldto be patient by his friends, the likes of Rev Bertie Brink, who said: “Brother Beyers, I just want to advise youthat it is going to take years and years before our church realizes thatapartheid cannot be spiritually justified. Therefore, we must be patient.”[5]   

In our midst today are also peoplecounseling patience.  There are thosesuggesting that 20 years is too soon to expect transformation to have the desiredimpact on the lives of people living in poverty, unemployment and suffering thepain and indignity of inequality.   Many others are saying that 20 years is toolong for those children who still do not get the high quality early childhooddevelopment they need to lay the foundations for success in life.  More and more are saying that 20 years is toolong for those cohorts of young people – black and poor - 50% and more of whomdrop out of our school system due to poor quality teaching and learning intheir foundation years.  

Young people are saying that 20 years istoo long for those who against all odds, make it into the minority who qualifyfrom high school, yet end up without opportunities for higher education andskills training to prepare them for successful careers in the 21stcentury.  A growing chorus says that 20years is too long for the thousands of women and children who die unnecessarilyin childbirth due to poor quality health services despite the science andresources we have to stop the carnage.   

Like Beyers Naude, we face the choicebetween obeying God’s call to us to respond to the demands of our fellow humanbeings to make true liberty visible in our society or continuing with thestatus quo.  We are challenged to admitthat true liberty is not divisible – we cannot be free when the majority of ourfellow human beings remain un-free.  Wehave to tackle both the structural and psychological impediments to connectingthe moral health of individuals and the health of our political community withthe goal of true liberty for all.   Wehave to accept that a corrupted polity will effectively corrupt its citizens,and corrupted citizens will effectively corrupt their polity.     

We have made the big mistake ofjettisoning the psychological dimension of the struggle for true liberty in1994.  People who have been deeplywounded by decades of humiliation by political and socio-economic exclusion,cannot simply stand up and dust themselves up and move on.  The superiority and inferiority complexes ofracism and sexism, as well as the assault on the culture and self-image ofblack people, have left a multiplicity of deep wounds to heal on theirown.  A healing process is needed toacknowledge the wounds, apply the balm of truth speaking between perpetratorsand victims, and dismantle the structures that continue to wound millions ofblack people.  

Reconciliation can only come from puttingright that which has gone wrong (structural transformation).  As citizens and as Faith Based Leaders wewere too hasty to declare victory, especially after the Truth and ReconciliationCommission (TRC) process in the late 1990s. We left too many wounded people, who are the majority population, totheir own devices by excluding socio-economic violations of human rights fromthe TRC process. We have also not followed through with the minimalist reparationsproposed in the TRC Report.

What is needed is a new business model forour economy.  We need to rethink andtransform the socio-economic structures of our cities to stop the haemorragingof cash from the poorest to the wealthiest parts of our urban landscapes.  We need to address the cost of poverty in transportcosts, time away from families and lack of leisure and other facilitiesessential to enhancing the quality of life for poor people. We need to advocatefor, and champion larger investments in quality public services to enhance theoutcomes of education and health for all citizens.  

We also need to be open to innovations inpower generation technologies that focus on renewables and new human settlementmodels that integrate residential and industrial/commercial productiveactivities.  Our economy can only growfaster and in a more sustainable way by adopting models that promote the utilizationof the talents and energies of all able bodied people willing to participate inbuilding ours into a great society. 

We need to dismantle our “insulatedspaces” and be present in the lives of those wrestling with the triple burdenin our midst.  We need to listen to thecry of those black people plunged into self-hatred because of the dailyhumiliation and denigration they continue to endure.  We need to understand that destructivebehavior including self-sabotage, in personal, community and public life of ournation, is a direct result of the psychological liberation work yet to be done.  

Too many white people remain burdened by asuperiority complex that distances them from their fellow human beings.  There are too many white people who stilljustify the legacy of privilege they continue to enjoy as an entitlementresulting from their superior education, skills and harder work.  There are still too many men who believe thatthey are entitled to lead rather than recognize the complementary strengthswomen bring to leadership.

Beyers Naude, as founder and head of theChristian Institute, was one of the first white people in the 1970s torecognize the importance of psychological liberation through raising the consciousnessof both black and white people about the impact of racism and socio-economicexclusion on human relationships.  Beyershad benefitted from Afrikaners consciousness raising and solidarity action toheal the psychological wounds of humiliation Afrikaners suffered at the handsof the British.  He supported the BlackCommunity Programs (BPC was the development arm of the BCM) to model practicalmanifestations of self-reliance to drive black led sustainable developmentprojects.   

The gap left by the neglect of psychologicalliberation has been filled by, amongst others, the new churches.   Theyoffer salvation for those suffering the pain of being in the margins of society.   Some of these new churches, despite theirlimited human and material resources, are answering the call to hear the cry ofpain by being present in the daily struggles of poor people. 

But many of these new churches aremega-businesses with global links to centers in the USA and SouthernAmerica.   They offer a prosperity ministrybased on transactional relationships involving significant financialcontributions and unquestioning obedience to the authority of church leaders.   The level of desperation and loss ofself-esteem of the congregants involved is reflected by the extent to whichthey engage in further humiliating acts such as eating grass, drinking petrolor slavish submission to abusive church leaders.   How do we stop the sin of fleeing from theclaims these desperate fellow humans are making on us as humans? 

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF LEADINGSTRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION

Dag Hammaskjold’s life of public serviceas Secretary General of the United Nations in the Cold War era of the 1960s, isan inspiration we might draw on in this exploration of our own healing journeysas we confront the challenges and opportunities of structural transformation ofour society.  Hammarskjold’s life of publicservice was anchored on the search for life’s meaning.   This search led Dag to conclude that the wayby which one finds life meaningful is the way of experience; one seeks meaningby “daring to take the leap intounconditional obedience you will find that ‘in the pattern’ you are liberatedfrom the need to live ‘with the herd’. You will find that thus subordinated, your life will receive from Lifeall its meaning, irrespective of the conditions given you for its realization”.[6]

The liberation from ‘the need to live with the herd’ and enjoyment of the benefits ofbeing a member of the Afrikaner Broederbond, is what enabled Beyers Naude toleap into “unconditional obedience”to God.  The question for us today is howwe are to liberate ourselves from ‘the needto live in the herd’ and commit ourselves to tackling the structural andpsychological obstacles to true freedom for all South Africans?  The church at various stages in its life,including during the struggle for freedom from apartheid, anchored its missionon the connection between the moral health of individuals and the health of ourpolitical community.  

Imagine if people of all faiths were tomake 2015 the year of breaking down the edifice of socio-economic structuresthat perpetuate poverty, unemployment and inequality in the contexts we livein!  People of Faith across the religiousspectrum have historically been involved in advocacy for social justice and as actorsin socio-economic development projects, especially education and health care.  What stops the church today from respondingto the desperate needs for quality education, health care and promoting humandignity in our homes and communities?

There are inspirational stories emergingfrom across our country of citizens doing extraordinary things with limitedresources.  Take the example of civicengagement of retired people in Hermanus, in the Western Cape, who havecommitted themselves to transforming the local schools in the poor township ofZwelihle into high quality places of teaching and learning.   Enhancing education quality is transformingthe mindsets of those involved on both sides of the divide.  It sets the stage for dismantling the dividesin Hermanus between masters and servants, opening the gate towards rebuilding asociety of equal citizens.

Other citizens in Gauteng and Mpumalanga aresimilarly helping to make excellence affordable to poor communities through lowcost private schools.  Forgingpartnerships between poor public schools and better-resourced schools, is alsoworking wonders in enhancing performance across the board.  These are not, and should not be acts ofcharity. These are citizen responses to building a society we can all be proudto live in. 

Imagine if citizens of Stellenbosch wereto step outside their comfort zones to support the push for quality educationfor every child in settlements on your doorstep such Khayamandi!  The knock-on effects would includecollaboration between the very high net-worth residents and the poor people ofKhayamandi. Together they would build a re-connected healing community ofStellenbosch, where human dignity is celebrated at home, at work and in thewider community.  The same amazing thingscould happen if Cape Town leafy suburban citizens would dare to reconnect withtheir fellow humans on the Cape Flats.

The over-60s in our society are anunder-utilized resource. Theis resource could be harnessed to tackle structuralconstraints to sustainable socio-economic development.  Many citizens in this age group have a wealthof experience, scarce skills and independent financial means.  Imagine connecting our huge youth base – thelargest proportion of our population (59%) under 35 years – with the almost 10%of our population who are retired and still energetic!   The enthusiasm and energy of youth inspiredand nurtured by mutually supportive relationships with older generations couldbecome a winning proposition for our society. 

The linking of hands to innovate andexperiment with new business models to accelerate economic growth, educationand training as well as job creation, could see us turning round our moribundeconomy into a thriving one.  We could turnthe challenges of the triple burden into an opportunity to build bridgesconnecting us as fellow human beings.  Becomingmore attentive to the needs of our fellow human beings and learning from oneanother, are the ingredients needed to build a more prosperous, inclusive and stablegreat country together. 

GREEN SHOOTS OF A NEW STRUGGLE FOR LIBERTYFOR ALL?

There are encouraging signs across ourcountry that people of faith are waking up to their responsibilities andrecommitting to obedience to God in faith. First, many individuals are openly searching again for appropriateresponses to the growing social justice challenges in our midst.  The courage to engage in a new struggle onthe side of poor people is being championed by a growing number of faith-basedleaders.   

The South African Council of Churches(SACC), that played a seminal role in proclaiming liberation theology andsupport for the struggle for freedom, is being revived after years ofneglect.  Leaders such as Rev FrankChikane, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Ms. Hlope Bam, have stepped up to the role ofgiving the SACC revival a boost.  Here inthe Western Cape The Religious Leaders Forum led by Rev Xola Skosana is gearingup for a stronger prophetic voice and greater responsiveness to the cry ofthose living on the margins of our society.

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa has also taken a bold step by putting a stop to its priests acting as Chaplainsto the ANC.   The Chaplaincy of the ANChad become controversial in its support of the ANC’s claim to “being of God”and therefore deserving support from God-fearing citizens. 

The Archbishop of Cape Town, ThaboMakgoba, has also come out in support of actively standing with thosemarginalized by poverty and indignity.  Hehas called for 2015 to be a year of “renaissanceof the spirit and the reconnection with the values of our constitution and ourspiritually guided families …… You have the chance to shape our country’sdestiny.  Destiny is not a matter ofchance, but a matter of choice.”[7]

There are other encouraging initiativesafoot as well.  The Authentic HopefulAction (AHA) had a soft launch in December 2014 to mobilize action against thetriple burden of poverty, unemployment and inequality.  It draws its strengths from the Second KairosInitiative that presented an open letter to the ANC leadership in 2012,challenging the persistent social injustice and growing corruption ingovernment.  The success of AHA willdepend on its ability to ignite the imagination and energy of citizens and thefaithful to mobilize a sustainable social movement for a new struggle forsocial justice.

The successful sprouting and blossoming ofthese green shoots depends on the extent to which they inspire citizens acrossthe spectrum to rise to the challenge and opportunity of building a movementfocused on uprooting poverty, tackling unemployment and inequality.   The question for you and I here today is howwe respond to the call to obedience as we go back to our bases?  Are we ready to ”take the leap of obedience” and start the process of dismantlingthe socio-economic barriers we have built in our own lives or those weperpetuate to insulate ourselves from our fellow human beings?  Are we ready for the journey to reconnectwith our fellow human beings?  

CONCLUSION

Let me conclude by bringing in the voicesof young men from Khayelitsha whom we seldom have the opportunity to listen to.   They are part of a group supported by aninitiative by two traditional ballet dancers that enabled them to escape theclutches of gangs to rebuild their lives They are exceptional in theirperformance as dancers moving gracefully in a celebration of ballet and Africandancing motifs.   The untapped talentamongst these young people is immeasurable. Let me share with you the lyrics of a song they composed during oneevening during a weekend away organized by their mentors:

 

Ndiyoyika

Ndiyabuza kaloku, yini

na sibulalana sodwa

Bayaphi ubuntu

 

Sesisele sisodwa

simunamunana nak’ilahle

baphi na abadala

ndiyabuza kaloku.

Sifuna wena Mama nawetata

Uyabanda umzi ongena

mfazi

 

Kwanele ma-Africa

Kwanele bantwana

Bo’mtonyama

Masibambaneni

 

I’m afraid

I’m asking why are we

killing each other, where

is our humanity

 

We have been left alone

Trying to find answers

Where are the elders

I’m asking

We want our mother

and father

A house with no woman

is cold

 

It’s enough my fellow

Africans

It’s enough sons and

daughters of the soil

Let’s unite

How are we to respond to these voices?  We have the power, theresources, the experience and models of success, to root out poverty,unemployment and inequality.  The keyquestion is whether we are willing to make the choice to respond and expressour obedience to God through service to these young people and others in ourmidst so we can restore our human connectedness.   

Mamphela Ramphele

Active Citizen

2/2/2015

 

[1] C.T. Kurien, Wealthand  Illfare — An Expedition into RealLife Economics, Books forChange, 139, Richmond Road, Bangalore-560025. Rs. 390. Terreblanche, S. AHistory of Inequality in SA: 1652-2002, University of Natal Press, 2002p413.  

 

[2] A Conversations With CharlesMathewes, Ass Professor of Theology at the University of Virginia andauthor of A Theology of Public Life, Cambridge, USA, 2007, Boisi Centrefor Religion and American Public Life, Boston College, USA.

[3] Dag Hammarskjold’s White Book – An Analysis of Markings,p129, Gustaf Aulen, 1969, Fortress Press.

[4] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks,Covenant and Conversations 5775 one Ethics, Freewill

[5]  Beyers Naude, My Land vanHoop, Human and Rousseau, 1995:43

[6] Dag Hammaskjold, Markings, p114, as quoted in An Analysisof Markings , Gustaf Aulen, p35, Fortress Press 1969.

[7] Time for a New Struggle,Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, Sunday Independent, 11/1/2015

Monday
Jan262015

Invitation Stellenbosch Theology Day - Dr Mamphela Ramphele on poverty, inequality and joblessness in South Africa

Dear friends,

I would like to invite you to attend the Stellenbosch University Faculty of Theology Open Day on 2 February 2015.  There is no cost and it promises to be an interesting and topical day of input and reflection on some of the current issues we face in South Africa.

You are also more than welcome to attend the opening service of the Faculty of Theology at the Stellenbosch United Church on 1 February 2015 at 19:00.

Please see the details below.

Best regards,

Dion

The annual Theological Day, which is the start of the academic year of the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University (SU), will take place on Monday 2 February 2015 from 09:00 – 13:00 in the Attie van Wijk Auditorium at the Faculty of Theology, 171 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch. The theme for the day is: Theology and Public Life: Facing the Challenges of Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality.

Prof Nico Koopman, dean of the Faculty of Theology will introduce the theme, followed by Dr Mamphela Ramphele who will deliver the keynote address. Rev Malcolm Damon, executive director of the Network for Economic Justice, Prof Ronelle Burger from the department of Economics, SU and Prof Piet Naudé, director of the SU Business School, will make further inputs during the panel discussion.

In 2015 we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Beyers Naudé’s birth, and the topic for the Theological Day is well in line with his concern for a theological and prophetic response to public life, including socio-political and economical aspects. In 2015 we also participate in the 30th anniversary of the Kairos Document which is known for its prophetic message. Last year at the Theological Day former minister Trevor Manuel spoke on the National Development Plan, followed by responses by theologians and church leaders. This year we want to continue this conversation: How should Christians, churches and the ecumenical movement respond to the giant challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality? Hopefully this can contribute to a process of further mobilization and theoretical and theological depth. 

Attendance is free and all are welcome! Limited parking is available at the faculty and guests are advised to park in The Avenue or on the banks of the Eerste River (opposite Paul Roos Gymnasium). Please allow ample time for traffic.

The welcoming church service of the faculty will take place on Sunday 1 February 2015 at 19:00 at Stellenbosch United Chrurch, 8 Van Riebeeck Street, Stellenbosch. Dr Dion Forster will deliver the sermon and Dr David Hunter will be the liturgist.

Enquiries: Helette, e-mail hvdwest@sun.ac.za, tel 021 808 3255.

Saturday
Dec202014

Are 'whites' South Africa's problem?

 A good friend of mine, Sanda Fata, posted a quote on his timeline last week that caused me to reflect and think very deeply. I respect Sanda and so trust his perspective. Here is the status that Sanda posted:


Most white South Africans don't want to be part of South Africa, but all they want is huge stake of South Africa (Nkosivumile Gola) uvuthiwe mntanam.
The statement above touches on two very sensitive issues, namely the massive issue of inequality between South Africa's citizens, and of course the painful and ongoing issue of race politics.

 

I am convinced that the issue at stake in South Africa is not a race issue (race classification and the empowerment of one race and denigration of another is the cause of our problems, and so it cannot be our solution). As I prayed, and thought about this issue I wrote the following response to Sanda.

Comrade Sanda Fata - thanks for sharing this. It caused me to think deeply. I agree with part of the statement of Comrade Nkosivumile Gola. Indeed there are certain South Africans who want a larger stake of the nation at the expense of others, and I am afraid that in large measure they are white South Africans. However, I think that it is a mistake to tie the struggle for emancipation and transformation to race. It is a mistake because it is wrong and so in the long run it will be futile. We cannot base our struggle on something that people cannot choose or change. The core of the issue here is not whiteness, it is something more powerful, something about which people can make choices and can actually choose to change. Apartheid ideology did its best to problematise blackness. We can see how wrong that was. I contend that it is a mistake to judge persons based on something they did not choose and cannot change. So, what should we do? In my view our struggle should be a class struggle. There are South Africans of a certain class that subjugate others through their choices, their consumption of resources, their desire for power and wealth at all costs, their denial of human dignity (and so also human rights). These South Africans are white, but they are also brown and black. It is their choices around class that are problematic (hence I contend that a class struggle is necessary, and not a race struggle). A class struggle emerges when there are competing social and economic interests between people in society (such as access to health care, education, dignified work, a living wage, the right to flourish). These choices can be changed by the classes who hold wealth and power, and so I feel we need to spend our energy, time, and creativity addressing the class issue rather than the race issue. History has shown that race struggles are based on prejudice (about something that people cannot choose or change) and so they never succeed. Persons who appeal only to race do so because it is very easy to blame the 'other' who is different from ourselves, but it is a mistake since there are poor whites, poor brown people, as well as wealthy black people, powerful black people etc., I would encourage you to look at this great book by my friend Joerg Rieger We hope to have him visit South Africa again soon: Rieger, Joerg ed. 2013 Religion, Theology, and Class: Fresh Engagements after Long Silence New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan http://www.amazon.com/Religion-Theology-Class-Engagements-Approaches/dp/113735142X

At the core of my argument is that South Africans need one another. Our diversity is a gift. I am convinced that we need each other in order to forge a better future for all, we cannot attempt to make things better by once again polarising persons along the lines of race. Moreover, I am convinced that social and economic issues are central to the struggle that we face in South Africa today - indeed, suffering is still almost entirely a reality among our black sisters and brothers. However, it is not their race which causes this suffering, it is our economic and political choices. Inequality is a class issue, not a race issue.

I would love to hear your perspective.

Wednesday
Nov192014

Evangelism and Public Theology

Last week I was asked to write an article for the Lausanne Global Pulse on Evangelism and the Christian response to Global (and local) Corruption and its relationship to poverty. I shall add a link to it here when it is published.

In my reading I came across this wonderful quote by the eccumenical theologian Lesslie Newbigin. It was quite challenging and profound:


It is not so often acknowledged that evangelism means calling people to believe something which is radically different from what is normally accepted as public truth, and that calls for a conversion not only of the heart and will but of the mind. A serious commitment to evangelism, to the telling of the story which the Church is sent to tell, means a radical questioning of the reigning assumptions of public life. It is to affirm the gospel not only as an invitation to a private and personal decision but as public truth which ought to be acknowledged as true for the whole of the life of society.

Lesslie Newbigin Truth to Tell (p.2).

I was left with the question, can the Christian's response to issues of justice be considered as the work of evangelism?

I think it can, particularly if one understands 'evangelism' as facilitating the reality of God's good news (and 'goodness') for the world (rather than just preaching the content of the good news, or Gospel). I am convinced that our proposition of what the Gospel is, finds fullness of meaning when persons (and creation) begin to experience something of what God's goodness is.

Some years ago I wrote an academic article entitled "Prophetic witness and social action as holiness in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa's mission" which locates this argument within a historical and missional context. You can download the article here and follow my line of reasoning. I also attempt to argue for the location of mission and evangelism as activities of Christians and the Church within the public sphere (to use Martin Marty's terminology). In this sense evangelism as social action (or even social action as evangelism) is a form of Public Theology.

Monday
Oct272014

Public Lecture: Dr David Field - John Wesley as Public Theologian

UPDATED 28 October 2014.

Last night Dr David Field delivered a wonderful lecture on John Wesley as a Public Theologian under the auspices of the Beyers Naude Center for Public Theology in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University.

Some friends asked that we record the lecture since they were not able to attend.  David kindly agreed.

You can download an MP3 copy of the lecture here.  You can download a copy of David's Powerpoint Slides from this link.

Please only use these slides and the recorded lecture for private use.  If you would like to make use of them in any other way please contact me and I will put you in contact with David to get his permission.

Details on the lecture and on David Field are found in the original post below.

Dr. David N. Field, the Methodist e-Academy - John Wesley as Public Theologian

A Critical Dialogue with a view to Contemporary Praxis

While John Wesley is primarily known for his work as an evangelist and founder of Methodism, towards the end of his life when he was a respected religious leader, he addressed a number of political issues taking on the role of what we would today call a public theologian. He wrote on economic policy, the American War of Independence, constitutional struggles in Britain and the slave trade. His pamphlet Thoughts upon Slavery provides fascinating example of public theology, which while deeply rooted in Wesley’s theology uses the language and ideas that seek to address a more pluralistic audience.  The presentation will provide a brief analysis of Thoughts upon Slavery, followed by critical engagement with both his ideas and the way he sought to communicate them. Finally it will make some proposals as to what can be learnt from Wesley for contemporary public theology.


David N. Field is a South African presently living in Basel, Switzerland where he is the academic coordinator of the Methodist e-Academy which is an online education project which provided supplementary education for people preparing for ordained ministry in Methodist Churches in Europe and further education courses for pastors and lay leaders. He is a research fellow at Unisa and at the Australasian Centre for Wesleyan Studies, a member of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Studies and the secretary of the Association of Methodist Related Theological Schools in Europe. He has represented the United Methodist Church’s Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe in ecumenical discussions on theological education and was a faculty member of the Global Ecumenical Theological Institute in Busan Korea in 2013. He is a graduate of the University of South Africa and the University of Cape Town. His Ph.D. research was on eco-theology in the Reformed Tradition.  He has taught systematic theology and theological ethics at the former University of Transkei and at Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe. His main research interest lies in Methodist theology and ethics, and is he presently working on a long term project seeking to develop a contemporary Methodist political/public theology and a theological ethic rooted in the Methodist tradition. In addition he has research interests in eco-theology, the theology and ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and various theologies of liberation particularly those that have emerged in Southern Africa.<

Wednesday
Sep102014

South South partnership - Brazil and South Africa / Public Theology

This week I have been in Sao Leopoldo in Brazil at Faculdades EST for the bi-annual conference (this year focussing on religion and the media).  It forms part of the South South partnership that exists between Faculdades EST and some Universities in South Africa (these include the University where I teach, Stellenbosch University, as well as UNISA, UKZN and even a colleauge from the University of Cape Town).

South Africa and Brazil share a number of similar aspects in our social, political and economic history and current reality.  Both have suffered under oppressive regimes.  In both instances the Church and religious organisations played a significant role in helping to end the oppression.  Liberation theologies, public theologies and post colonial theologies are common discourses in both settings.  Of course they are not the same - there are many obvious, and some less obvious, differences in the two contexts.  However, there are great opportunities for mutual enrichment and support.

Thus far the partnership has involved the exchange of academic staff, exchange of Masters and PhD students, and projects which have resulted in publications (such as the book that will be launched tomorrow evening, and the set of publications in English that will go into the Journal of Theology for South Africa JTSA).  Language is something of a barrier, since we only have one colleague from South Africa who speaks Portuguese, and only a few colleagues from Brazil that speak English.  I have committed to try and learn Portuguese in the years ahead so that we can serve the partnership better from our side.

It has been wonderful to hear the debates and inputs on public theology, liberation theologies, and a variety of contextual and post-collonial theologies.

On Thursday evening for fly back to Sao Paulo to have a meeting with the Vice Rector of International Affairs at USP.  USP and Stellenbosch have an institutional agreement that is now being developed into a South South partnership between the two Universities.  USP is one of the largest, and most prestigious, Universities in South America.

This post contains a few photographs taken on the trip.  One is of me and one of my former students, Ndikho Mtshiselwa.  It was great to see him here.  Among the other colleauges were Prof Nico Koopman, Prof Rothney Tshaka, Prof Rudolf von Sinner, Prof Reggie Nel, Dr Pieter Grove, and Dr Elaine Nogueira-Godsey.