The quest for being public church : a study of the South African Moravian Church in historical and contemporary perspective

August, Karel Thomas (2003-12)

Thesis (DTh) -- Stellenbosch University, 2003.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study falls within the area of Missional theology, which is a functional thoology. As such, it deals with the function (praxis) and mission of the Church in society. It seeks a better understanding of the functionality of the Church fundamental to the Missio Dei. Since Missional Theology is about the Church's serving function to the community, these functions, viz. mission, proclamation, fellowship, education, growth, habitual change and transformation, are brought to bear on the image of the Moravian Church. Because this study concerns the being and public witness of the Church, it adopted a qualitative approach linked to participatory action research. The research was done diachronically and phenomena were analysed over three periods in the formation of the MCSA: (a) The Missionary era (1737 - 1960), (b) the autonomous Church under apartheid (1960- 1994) and (c) challenges of the democratic dispensation for the United MCSA and its future role in the RSA (1994 and further). Drawing upon these resources, Chapters 3 - 5 examine (based on the epistemological framework designed in Chapter 2) the values, symbols and conceptions of the Moravian Ecclesiastical community in relation to its internal and external environment. It also examines its structures and polity in order to come to a critical understanding of its disposition as a faith community in its interaction with public life. Four presuppositions are established as core principles: The first core principle is that the Moravian Church in SA (MCSA), in its quest for being a public Church, had to act true to its calling as the divine proponent of the reconciled, transformed humanity. The MCSA also had to serve (prophetically and sacrificially) a "broken" society with a view to its transformation, which is essentially its missional quality. The second core principle is that the MCSA in its tendency towards being a public Church had to conform to the theological principles of a public Church. In Chapter 2, based on the three identified publics in which the Church (theology) operates, four relations are applied, i.e. the Church in relation to the State; the Church in relation to market economy; the Church and people's empowerment; and the Church and public values - the quality of human life. Subsequently these configurations of the Church are used to design an epistemological framework according to which the public role of the MCSA throughout its history was established. The third core principle is that the Church, given its context, had to act according to the challenges and needs of that context. The historical analysis of the MCSA helped to establish how it-contributed to the public discourse within those contexts. However, in order to establish how it could contribute in future, the MCSA was evaluated according to a reasonable, contemporary social contextual analysis . (in chapter 7), which was imperative. In Chapter 7, the fourth core principle is developed as the outcome of the investigation in the preceding chapters. In order to be an adequate public Church, the MCSA had to harness the potential of its members by training them, equipping them for justice ministl)', which would provide the Church with the much-neglected public ministry. Based on the historical findings, guidelines were designed to assist the church in training its minista-s and congregations for public witness. There is no simple shortcut formula for developing an effective congregational-based public (advocacy) ministry. It requires the congregation to be bold in its vision, committed to its mission, willing to give significant time, energy and resources, to be a risk taker, and to work in partnership with its larger community (macro environment). Most of all, it requires faith in the knowledge that God's righteousness and justice will prevail. The most practical advice is spiritual - to live the belief that justice is central to our calling as Christ's witness in the world - even in the public arena!

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie val binne die area van Missionere Teologie wat 'n funksionele teologie is. As sulks het dit te do en met die funksie (praxis) en missie van die kerk in die samelewing. Dit poog om die kerk se funksionaliteit fundamenteel tot die Missio Dei te verstaan. Terwyl Missionere Teologie gaan oor die kerk se dienaarsrol in die samelewing, is die volgende funksies, t.w. sending, getuienis en proklamasie, gemeenskap, opvoeding, groei, gewoontes verandering en transformasie toegepas op die beeld van die Morawiese Kerk in Suid-Afrika. Weens die feit dat hierdie studie te make het met die wese en publieke getuienis van die kerk, het dit 'n kwalitatiewe benadering aangeneem wat noodsaaklikerwys gekoppel is aan deelnememde aksie navorsing. Die navorsing is diakronies gedoen en fenomene is oor drie periodes in die formasie van die Morawiese Kerk geanaliseer: (a) Die sendingperiode (1737-1960), (b) die outonome Kerk onder apartheid (1960-1994) en (c) die uitdagings van die demokratiese bedeling vir die Morawiese Kerk in SuidAfrika en die vereistes vir sy Publieke rol (1994-). Met die informasie wat hieruit voortgevloei het, het die projek in Hoofstukke 3-5 (gebaseer op die epistemologiese raamwerk ontwerp in hoofstuk 2) die waardes, simbole en opvattings van die kerklike gemeenskap ondersoek in verhouding tot haar interne en eksterne omgewings. Ook haar strukture en beleid is ondersoek met die doel om tot 'n kritiese verstaan te kom van haar gesitueerdheid in haar interaksie as geloofsgemeenskap met die publieke eksterne omgewing. Vier voorveronderstellings is vasgestel as uitvloeisel van die navorsmg en dien as kernbeginsels: Die eerste kernbeginsel is dat die MKSA in sy strewe na 'n openbare kerk, getrou moes optree aan haar roeping as die goddelike proponent van die versoende, getransformeerde mensheid en profeties en opofferend 'n "gebroke" samelewing dien met die oog op sy transformasie, wat wesenlik die kerk se sendingsaard is. Die tweede kernbeginsel is dat die NrKSA in haar geneigdheid na 'n openbare kerk, haar moes skik (konformeer) volgens die teologiese beginsels van 'n openbare kerk. In hoofstuk 2, gebaseer op die drie ge'indentifiseerde publieke waarbinne die kerk (teologie) haarself manifesteer, is 4 verhoudings waarin die openbare kerk staan ge'identi:fiseer, naamlik die kerk se verhouding tot die Staat, die mark-ekonomie, menslike bemagtiging en tot openbare waardes - die gehalte van menslike lewe. Vervolgens is hierdie gestaltes van die kerk benut om 'n epistemologiese raamwerk te ontwerp waarvolgens die openbare rol van die MKSA in haar geskiedenis blootgele is. Die derde kernbeginsel was dat die kerk moes optree volgens die uitdagings en behoeftes van die konteks. Die historiese analise van die MKSA het gehelp om vas te stel hoe die kerk bygedra het tot die openbare dis~oers, al dan nie, in daardie kontekste. Die navorser is egter genoodsaak om die MKSA te projekteer teen 'n verantwoordelike sosiaal-kontekstuele analise in hoofstuk 7 om te kon vasstel hoe die kerk verder haar hydrae kan maak in die openbare arena. In hoofstuk 7 was die vierde kernbeginsel ontwikkel as uitkoms van die navorsingsprojek in die voorafgaande hoofstukke. Dit behels dat die MKSA, om 'n genoegsame openbare kerk te wees, die potensiaal van haar lidmate moet benut deur hulle op te lei I toe te rus vir openbare bediening. Daar is geen eenvoudige, kortpad formule vir die ontwikkeling van 'n effektiewe, gemeente-gebaseerde, openbare geregtigheidsbediening nie. Dit vereis dat die gemeente dapper moet wees in haar visie, toegewyd aan haar missie (sending), gewillig om beduidende tyd, energie, en bronne te verskaf, bereid moet wees om risiko 's te neem en om in verbondsvennootskappe te werk met sy makro omgewing. Ten diepste vereis dit geloof in die wete dat God se geregtigheid en regverdigheid sal stand hou. Die mees praktiese aanbeveling is geestelik - om in die geloof te lewe sodat regverdigheid sentraal staan tot ons roeping as Christus se getuies in die wereld- selfs in die openbare arena!

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