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More on the SAMS congress and other stuff

31 March 2011

This time last week I was at the SAMS (Southern African Missiological Society) Congress at the Stella Street Dutch Reformed Church in Waterkloof. I described some of the papers in the previous post. Since then I’ve been working on the book on the history of the charismatic renewal movement in South Africa that I’ve been doing with John de Gruchy. We hope to go down to the Western Cape after Pascha and spend a few days with him working on it, and visiting friends and family.

I’ve also been re-indexing Fr Athanasius’s DTh thesis, so he can hand in the final copies. Apparently he worked on the final version, to insert the changes recommended by the examiners, in Microsoft Works, which stripped out all the index markings.

For anyone interested, here’s a bit more about the SAMS Congress…

Tinyiko Maluleke’s paper was followed by Jerry Pillay — when I first saw his name on the programme I thought it was my old friend Gerald Pillay from the Unisa Church History department, but he turned out to be someone quite different. He reported on the World Council of Reformed Churches meeting at Grand Rapids, and thought that church unity discussions would progress further and faster if they concentrated on missiology rather than ecclesiology. At lunch time I was sitting at the same table as Jerry Pillay, and he expounded on those views further, and he seemed to think that ecclesiological questions, like episcopacy, should be swept under the carpet. I think it would end up being a wasted effort, because while they are trying to join six denominations and have been doing so for 40 years, another 6000 new denominations have started.

I wandered off to join Andries Louw and Reggie Nel at another table, and we discussed Libya. Reggie had been a strong proponent of a “no fly zone” over Libya, while Andries and I had strong reservations about it. Andries thought that violence was not the solution to violence, and I thought that the record of Western military intervention over the last 20 years, in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, had been so disastrous that they could only make a bad situation worse.

After lunch Peter Tarentaal spoke on the 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Mission and Evangelisation in Capetown. Among other things he mentioned that it was widely representative, but also noted that the Pentecostal/Charismatic groups were under-represented (were there any Zionists there, I wonder?) and the agenda was heavily influenced by the US Conservative Evangelicals. This would make it difficult to discuss Prosperity Theology, if its Neopentecostal proponents were not there.
After tea Reggie Nel read his paper on postcolonial theology. He distinguished between “post-colonial” with a hyphen, which refers to the chronological period after colonial rule, and “postcolonial” without a hyphen, which I’m still not altogether clear about, not having read Edward Said’s book, though Reggie says he finds that inadequate. He quoted a lot from Frans Fanon and Steve Biko and referred to “internal colonialism” which has to do with deep-level mining needing cheap labour, which I’m not sure is helpful in understanding South African history — it just seems to add a further complicating layer of interpretive theory.

Brian Konkol, an American Lutheran who has been working in South Africa, told a story about a visiting American evangelist who was preaching to the choir and got no response, so his interpreter changed the story in translation, and the evangelist got his hoped-for response and went away happy. His report on his visit to his sponsors back in the US would be a public transcript, but there is a hidden transcript that he was not aware of. Usually the public traqnscripts are those of the rich and powerful, and the hidden transcripts are rarely revealed because the weak and powerless are unwilling to take the risk.

Afterwards talked to Carl Brook and Harold le Roux until supper time, about new monasticism and various of the things that had been said during the day. As supper sat with Carl and Susan Nganga from Kenya and Kamua Musolo from Congo. Susan was doing her doctoral thesis on xenophobia, and a lot of the xenophobic violence had occurred soon after she arrived in South Africa.

On Thursday morning I presented my paper on Theological Education and Training for Ministry and the difference between them, pointing out that most of what is written on the topic is clericalist, and that training for ministry is too often restricted to training for “the” ministry, as if there is only one, and that much of what is written on the subject assumes that it is the same thing as “clergy education”. If you are interested, you can see and download the paper here.

The street outside our back gate, Sunday 27 March 2011

On Sunday we cancelled our Mamelodi church service. It was pouring with rain, and it seemed unlikely that anyone would be going out in it, and in addition roads were flooded, and it could be dangerous. Nothing like the floods in Queensland, but still quite spectacular, and our whole garden was one huge puddle, and the road running past our back gate was a running river.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 31 March 2011 4:26 pm

    Regarding sweeping ecclesiology under the carpet, which is, regrettably, an attitude I have come across far too often (sigh!), I was reminded of Metropolitan John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon’s words (that I posted recently) that the “de-individualization of Christ is in my view the stumbling block of all ecclesiological discussion in the ecumenical movement.”

    The differences are indeed greater than many westerners, especially Protestants, seem to appreciate.

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