A practical theological assessment of the schisms in the Reformed church in Zambia (1996-2001)

Soko, Lukas (2010-12)

Thesis (DTh (Practical Theology and Missiology))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is descriptive research and a practical theological study of the schisms in the Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) that took place between 1996 and 2001 and led to the formation of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the Bible Gospel Church in Africa (BIGOCA). It aims to analyse the historical, global and local contexts as regards these schisms in the RCZ. The research questions are: What led to these splits, how did they happen and how can they be prevented? No measures have been put in place to educate or guard against further schisms. The goal of this study is to propose informed precautionary measures to the RCZ to prevent a recurrence of schisms in future. Chapter 2 describes the faith tradition of the RCZ. Various historical perspectives from the colonial period to those of the current Zambia are discussed in order to provide an understanding of this denomination's identity. It also tries to determine whether her political and missionary legacy has influenced the RCZ's leadership style and structures. Chapter 3 is an attempt to understand the contextual influences that globalization have brought about. The correlation between the global and religious trends affords a perspective on the "why" question of the schisms. Various global and local developments are the major focus of this chapter. It also discusses three levels of influence: macro (the global society), meso (the Zambian society), and micro (faith communities at congregation level). In Africa, the Pentecostal/charismatic oriented Christian prosperity movements have caused one of its endemic problems, i.e. the tension. Within the context of the RCZ tradition and faith practices, the Pentecostal/charismatic tendencies have challenged the long inherited autocratic church leadership styles. Pentecostal/charismatic prosperity movements flew in the faces of the denominationally organized churches with their Western origin, such as the RCZ. Subsequently, Pentecostal/charismatic movements have caused intense conflict in the church between the pro-conservatives and pro-Pentecostals. The police even had to close certain RCZ congregations because of skirmishes. At this stage of the study, a hypothesis became clear: The one-party state, with its autocratic presidential powers, continued the missionary legacy of autocratic rule in the independence and post-independence era, which had a direct impact on church leadership. Rutoro (2007) came to the same conclusion in his research on leadership in the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe. Chapter 4 is descriptive and provides a survey of what the documental sources of the RCZ and the printed media reveal about the schisms. The Synod's recommendations and resolutions from 1996 to 2001 give a clear picture of what occurred, as well as the intensity of the conflict. This chapter also reveals how the RCZ interpreted and handled the situation. Chapter 5 discusses the empirical data-gathering methods and the pilot study. Chapter 6 deals with the interpretation of the gathered data and compares it with the findings of Chapter 4. It is an exercise in triangulation - done after the first five chapters were written and affirmed what Chapter 4 concluded but, because of the narrative part of many of the answers supplied in the open-ended questionnaire, more was learned from it than was expected. From this study, it is clear that the church leadership should focus on understanding the *winds of change* in order to discern the way forward and adapt to leadership styles and challenges. Making theologically informed decisions are an absolute priority for the RCZ. This study recommends that church leadership, at least all the ministers, should be trained in conflict resolution and management and should stay abreast of God's missional praxis in this fast and ever-changing world.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie is beskrywend van aard en is 'n prakties-teologiese evaluering van die skeurings in die Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) wat tussen 1996 en 2001 plaasgevind het, en wat tot die stigting van die Christian Reformed Church (CRC) en die Bible Gospel Church in Africa (BIGOCA) gelei het. Dit beoog om die historiese, globale en plaaslike kontekste met betrekking tot hierdie skeurings in die RCZ te ontleed. Die navorsingsvrae is: Wat het tot hierdie skeurings gelei, hoe het hulle gebeur en hoe kan hulle voorkom word? Geen maatreëls is getref vir opleiding of waaksaamheid teen verdere skeurings nie. Die doel van hierdie studie is om ingeligte voorkomende maatreëls aan die RCZ voor te stel om 'n toekomstige herhaling van skeurings te verhoed. Hoofstuk 2 beskryf die geloofstradisie van die RCA. Vir 'n begrip van hierdie denominasie se identiteit word verskeie historiese perspektiewe vanaf die koloniale tydperk tot dié van die huidige Zambia bespreek. Daar word ook gepoog om vas te stel of die RCA se politieke en missionêre nalatenskap die RCZ se leierskapstyl en strukture beïnvloed het. In Hoofstuk 3 word gepoog om die kontekstuele invloede wat globalisasie mee-gebring het, te verstaan. Die korrelasie tussen die globale en geloofstendensies verleen 'n perspektief op die skeurings se "waarom" vraag. Verskeie globale en plaaslike ontwikkelinge is die hoof fokus van hierdie hoofstuk. Drie vlakke van invloed: makro (die globale samelewing), meso (die Zambiese samelewing), en mikro (die geloofsgemeenskap op gemeentevlak) word ook bespreek. In Afrika het die Pinkster-/charismaties-georiënteerde Christelike welvaartsbewegings een van sy endemiese probleme veroorsaak, naamlik spanning. Binne die konteks van die RCZ tradisie en geloofspraktyke, het die Pinkster/ charismatiese tendensie die lank-oorgelewerde outokratiese kerkleierskapstyle uitgedaag. Die Pinkster/-charismatiese welvaartsbewegings het gestaan teenoor die denominasioneel georganiseerde kerke met 'n Westerse oorsprong, soos die RCZ. Daarna het die Pinkster/charismatiese bewegings intense konflik in die Kerk tussen die pro-konserwatiewes en die pro-Pinkstergesindes veroorsaak. As gevolg van skermutselings moes die polisie selfs sekere RCZ gemeentes sluit. Op dié stadium van die studie het 'n hipotese duidelik geword. Die eenparty staat, met sy outokratiese presidensiële mag, het die missionêre nalatenskap van outokratiese beheer in die onafhanklike en post-onafhanklike era voortgesit, wat ‘n direkte impak op kerkleierskap gehad het. Rutoro (2007) kom tot dieselfde slotsom in sy navorsing op leierskap in die Reformed Church in Zimbabwe. Hoofstuk 4 is beskrywend van aard en bevat 'n oorsig van wat die dokumentêre bronne van die RCZ en die gedrukte media oor die skeurings openbaar. Die Sinode se aanbevelings en besluite van 1996 tot 2001 verskaf 'n duidelike prent van die gebeure, sowel as die intensiteit van die situasie. Hoofstuk 5 bespreek die metode van empiriese dataversameling en die loodsstudie. Hoofstuk 6 handel oor die interpretasie van die versamelde data en vergelyk dit met die bevindings van Hoofstuk 4. Dit is 'n oefening in triangulering – wat gedoen is na die skryf van die eerste vyf hoofstukke. Dit bevestig Hoofstuk 4 se afleidings maar, vanweë die narratiewe deel van baie van die antwoorde wat in die vraelys verskaf is, is meer as wat verwag is hiervan geleer. Deur hierdie studie word dit duidelik dat kerkleierskap op die verstaan van die *winde van verandering* gefokus moet wees om die weg vorentoe te bepaal en die leierskapstyle en uitdagings aan te pas. Om teologies-ingeligte besluite te neem is 'n absolute prioriteit vir die RCZ. Hierdie studie beveel aan dat kerkleierskap, of minstens al die predikante, in konflik-oplossing en –bestuur opgelei moet word, en tred moet hou met God se missionêre praksis in hierdie snelle en steeds veranderende wêreld.

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