Church unity and social contexts : the ecumenical debate on ecclesiology and ethics

Mahokoto, Sipho Sidwell (2014-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study is motivated by challenges arising from decades’ long debates, conversations and tensions regarding church unity within the ecumenical movement and also amongst the Reformed churches locally and globally. This study seeks to investigate the role that church unity can play in relation to social contexts. This study argues that there is no adequate ecclesiology without ethics, and – theologically speaking – no adequate ethics without ecclesiology. Church unity can play a significant role in society, especially with regard to socio-ethical issues regarding peace, reconciliation and justice. Furthermore, regarding the visible unity of the church, this study proposes a meaningful and purposeful unity and ecumenism as the church’s contribution through witness and service in the world. Church unity is not just about abstractly fulfilling the dream of being one, holy church, but rather about claiming and seeking a unity that has significance for social contexts. Put differently: koinonia and martyria, communion and witness, community and confession, the body of Christ and the embodiment of justice are tightly interwoven. This study will focus on ecclesiology and its relation to ethics as articulated in the discourse of the World Council of Churches (WCC) project on Ecclesiology and Ethics, as well as on the discourse on (church) unity, reconciliation and justice around the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa’s (URCSA’s) Belhar Confession. This study will explore the tensions between the Faith and Order commission (which focuses on Ecclesiology) and the Life and Work commission (which focuses on Ethics) and also how the tensions between ecclesiology and ethics were dealt with. As means of healing these divisions, this study will discuss the Church and World study document of the WCC which affirmed that the unity of the church cannot be disconnected from its witness and service in the world; the Santiago conference on Koinonia in Faith, Life, and Witness, where the notion of koinonia played a fundamental role in bringing ecclesiology and ethics together; and, in addition, the three WCC consultations under the themes: Costly Unity (Rønde), Costly Commitment (Tantur) and Costly Obedience (Johannesburg), where the interrelations between ecclesiology and ethics were further explored. Key theological notions that played a role in the attempt to bridge the gap between ecclesiology and ethics will also be indicated. A comparable debate on the call for church unity took place and continues to take place in the South African context, especially amongst the Dutch Reformed family of churches. The reality of divisions in South African context will be explored. The Belhar Confession articulates the relationship between ecclesiology and ethics very clearly with its focus on unity, reconciliation and justice. Belhar affirms that there is no reconciliation without justice, and no justice without reconciliation; these concepts are inextricably interwoven. For a meaning and purposeful church unity, so this dissertation argues, you need both reconciliation and justice. Both the Ecclesiology and Ethics debate of the WCC and the Belhar Confession debate regarding (church) unity, reconciliation and justice affirm that ecclesiology and ethics belong tightly together. This study investigates, enhances, and ultimately affirms this claim.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die beweegrede vir hierdie studie is gegrond in die uitdagings van dekade-lange debate, gesprekke en spanninge rakende kerkeenheid binne die ekumeniese beweging sowel as binne die plaaslike en internasionale Gereformeerde kerke. Die studie worstel met die betekenisvolle rol wat kerkeenheid kan speel in verhouding tot ons sosiale kontekste. Dit betoog dat daar geen voldoende ekklesiologie sonder etiek is nie en – teologies gesproke – geen voldoende etiek sonder ekklesiologie. Kerkeenheid kan ‘n belangrike rol in ons gemeenskappe speel, veral ten opsigte van sosio-etiese kwessies rondom vrede, versoening en geregtigheid. Verder, rakende die sigbare eenheid van die kerk, stel hierdie studie ‘n betekenisvolle en doelgerigte eenheid en ekumenisme voor waardeur die kerk haar bydrae kan lewer deur middel van getuienis en diens in hierdie wêreld. Kerkeenheid is juis nie om afgetrokke uitvoering te gee aan die droom van een, heilige kerk nie, maar dit gaan eerder oor die aanspraak en soeke na ‘n eenheid wat betekenisvol is vir sosiale kontekste. Anders gestel: koinonia en martyria, gemeenskap en getuienis, kerk en belydenis, die liggaam van Christus en die beliggaming van geregtigheid is ten nouste verbonde. Die navorsing sal fokus op ekklesiologie en die verhouding daarvan tot die etiek, soos uiteengesit in die gesprek van die Wêreld Raad van Kerke (WRK) se projek rakende Ekklesiologie en Etiek. Daarmee saam ook die gesprekke rondom (kerk) eenheid, versoening en geregtigheid (etiek) binne die Verenigende Gereformeerde Kerk in Suider Afrika (VGKSA) se Belhar belydenis. The navorsing stel ondersoek in na die spanning tussen die “Faith and Order” kommissie (wat fokus op Ekklesiologie) en die “Life and Work” kommissie (wat fokus op Etiek). Dit stel ook ondersoek in na hoe die spanning hanteer was tussen ekklesiologie en etiek. In ‘n poging om die verdeeldheid te heel bespreek hierdie navorsing die “Church and World” se dokument van die WRK. Hierdie dokument bevestig dat die eenheid van die kerk nie losgemaak kan word van getuienis en diens in die wêreld nie. Voorbeelde hiervan is geillustreer tydens die Santiago konferensie wat gehandel het oor Koinonia in Faith, Life, and Witness en wat duidelik gewys het dat koinonia ‘n fundamentele rol speel om etiek en ekklesiologie saam te bring.. Die drie WRK konsultasies - onder die temas Costly Unity (Rønde), Costly Commitment (Tantur) and Costly Obedience (Johannesburg) – het die verband tussen ekklesiologie en etiek verder ondersoek. Sleutel teologiese terme wat ‘n rol gespeel het in hierdie poging om die gaping tussen ekklesiologie en etiek te oorbrug, sal ook aangedui word. ‘n Vergelykbare debat oor die rol van kerkeenheid het plaasgevind in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks, veral binne die Nederduitse Gereformeerde familie van kerke. Hierdie debate gaan steeds voort. Die realiteite van skeiding in die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks sal ondersoek word. Die Belhar belydenis verwoord duidelik die verhouding tussen ekklesiologie en etiek, met die fokus op eenheid, versoening en geregtigheid. Die Belhar belydenis – so argumenteer hierdie studie – bevestig dat daar geen versoening is sonder geregtigheid nie, en ook geen geregtigheid sonder versoening nie. Hierdie konsepte is ten nouste en onskeibaar verweef. Hierdie navorsing argumenteer dat beide versoening en geregtigheid nodig is vir ‘n betekenisvolle kerkeenheid. Beide die Ekklesiologie en Etiek debat van die WRK sowel as die Belhar belydenis wat aan (kerk)eenheid, versoening en geregtigheid aandag gee, bevestig dat ekklesiologie en etiek bymekaar hoort. Hierdie studie ondersoek, versterk en bevestig hierdie aanspraak.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95943
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