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Mandela and the Methodists : faith, fallacy and fact

Forster, Dion Angus (2014)

CITATION: Forster, D. A. 2014. Mandela and the Methodists : faith, fallacy and fact. Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae, 40(suppl.1):87-115.

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The death of Nelson Mandela has once again focused the spotlight on his religious convictions and faith affiliation. Numerous academics, journalists, and interested members of faith communities have asked what Mr Mandela's faith perspective was. It is clear that faith played a part in his life and this was evidenced in the events surrounding his death and funeral. Faith leaders, and in particular Christian leaders (such as Bishop Ivan Abrahams, Bishop Zipho Siwa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu), featured prominently in the public and private events surroundding Mr Mandela's death, memorial service and funeral. Numerous media sources reported that the Mandela family, and Nelson Mandela in particular, were members of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. The Chaplain General of the African National Congress is an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, which also played some part in the role accorded to the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in the public and private moments of ministry surrounding Mr Mandela's death. This article considers Nelson Mandela's faith biography in order to answer the following questions: Was Nelson Mandela a member of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa? What was his relationship to the church and the Christian faith? What lessons can we learn from this for the relationship between the church and the state in South Africa?

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