Theological rationale for the Church’s role in addressing the current crisis of violence in South Africa

Theological Reflection July 2021 Unrest

Discussion Paper:
This paper has been initiated by the KZN Christian Council and produced by the theological advisory group
which has been advising and supporting the KZN Church Leaders Group through the successive crisis
moments of the last 18 months. This group worked in collaboration with three other theologians from other
provinces for this, the first paper in our series around the July 2021 unrest. It is humbly intended for the use
and engagement of the broader Church in South Africa. As this paper is the first in a series of discussion
papers, we encourage you to join the discussion and engage with it through comments and contributions.
Please engage in the discussion by emailing Professor Kumalo (

SACC Position Statement on the Church and the COVID-19 Vaccine

SACC Ecumenical Theological Task Team – February 8, 2021


The novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has plunged the global community into an extraordinary crisis; turning the world upside down. Life for humanity has grounded to a sudden halt as the Coronavirus takes total control. Humanity has been brought to its knees by the microscopic virus. The personal, social and economic impact of COVID-19 is incalculable, unlike anything experienced by the world in nearly a century. Christians and other people of faith have prayed and continue to pray ceaselessly for God’s intervention. The scientific community has worked around the clock and God is answering our prayers. Thankfully, a vaccine has been developed within a year of the outbreak of the pandemic, which is no mean feat in the history of vaccines. As South Africans we have wondered if no shortcuts were taken to occasion this. Different trusted South African scientists have severally assured us: “The research was done faster with large numbers of people ensuring safety and efficacy measurements were not compromised”; and “The trials were totally ethically and scientifically sound and the licensing completely thorough. The speed of development is really a reflection of the level of scientific advancement we are now at rather than it was in any way recklessly rushed through.” The rollout of the vaccines is already underway and we have a long road yet ahead of us.

Ecumenical Theological Task Team

However, the development of the vaccine has brought a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, confusion and fear among South Africans. Concerns are circulating all over social media, instilling fear and panic in the minds of many. While many are warmly embracing the vaccine, still many are resisting this advance in medical science, and at times.

It is against this background of the apparent resistance to the vaccine and concerns raised by Christians and South Africans in general, that the leaders of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), set up the Ecumenical Theological Task Team comprising theologians from a broad spectrum of the Christian churches affiliated to SACC: Anglican, African Independent churches, Catholic, Charismatic, Evangelical,  Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, and Reformed traditions. They met on Wednesday 3 February 2021, to discuss and come up with a united churches’ response to the COVID-19 vaccine. Chaired by Prof. Simangaliso Kumalo of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Task Team included:

Dr. Vicentia Kgabe, Anglican; Dr Louise Kretcshmar, Baptist: Fr. Sbu Statu, Catholic:
Bishop Ezekiel Mathole, Grace Bible Church; Bishop Thami Ngcana and Bishop Nat Phomana, Council of African Independent Churches: Dr Elijah Mhlanga, Assemblies of God; Rev. Pumla Nzimande, Methodist; Dr Daniel Andrew, Apostolic Faith Mission; Dr Moses Hobe, Full Gospel Church; Rev. Lungile Mpetsheni, Uniting Presbyterian Church; Dr Sandile Ngiba, Evangelical Lutheran; Prof. R. Tshaka, Uniting Reformed Church.


COVID-19 vaccine and “mark of the beast”

Some sections of the Christian community have strongly argued that the vaccine is not from God but is part of the “new world order” governed by the devil and has 666, the “mark of the beast” (Rev. 13:16). Many fear that by taking the vaccine, they will be forced to take “the mark of the beast.”

This association of the vaccine with the beast is based on a wrong and literal interpretation of the book of Revelation and ignores its historical context. Biblical scholars agree that Revelation was written to the seven churches in the first century to address the issue of the Roman imperial cult.

It was thus, situational, personal, and contextual. It was most probably written during the reigns of Emperor Nero and Domitian, the most notorious of the Roman emperors, who were deified and demanded to be worshipped even while they were still alive. Scholars associate “the mark of the beast” particularly with Nero. This is because when transliterated into Greek, the sum of the letters of his name results in the number 666. Thus, the use of the number 666 was coded (hidden) reference to Nero used by a persecuted Church. Emperor Nero’s demand that he be worshipped is also tied to the worship of the beast’s image (Rev. 13:15; 20:4).

The emperor’s image and his claim to be worshipped were also on coins, the medium of exchange, without which one could not participate in the local economy. To buy or sell anything meant participating in pagan worship. By participating in the local economy, one automatically could be said to take “the mark of the beast” at the expense of faith in Christ Jesus. To take “the mark of the beast” therefore meant loyalty and worship, which requires full awareness of what one was doing.

The taking of the vaccine does not demand any Christian to forsake Jesus, as was the case during Nero’s reign. It does not demand complete devotion to anything. Far from causing fear and anxiety among Christians, Revelation actually has a positive message that we should focus on Jesus who is the sole object of worship and embrace the vaccine as a gift for his people during a period of intense suffering, as was the case during the persecution of the early Church by Emperor Nero.

5G and its implications on COVID-19”

There have been widespread social media expressions of concern on the suspected link between the 5G technology and the spread of the Coronavirus which led to unfortunate incidents in which community members in Umlazi, KwaMashu, and Ntuzuma in KwaZulu-Natal set fire to 5G towers in January 2021, claiming that they were responsible for the spread of COVID-19 through radio waves.

Research from reputable organisations such as the International Commission on Non-Ionising Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) has shown that there is no evidence whatsoever that 5G technology spreads COVID-19. There are many countries in Africa without 5G technology, yet the virus is wreaking havoc there too. Viruses cannot travel on radio waves or mobile networks. If anything, let us warmly embrace 5G as it will deliver faster connections and connectivity in our internet age, including advancing in research on future viruses.

Coronavirus was made in a lab”

It has been claimed that the Coronavirus is not an accidental pandemic like other historical pandemics but was engineered in a laboratory by companies so that they could profiteer through vaccines.

This has further been given credence by the speed with which the vaccine was developed and approved for use. There is indeed some concern that big pharmaceutical companies in cahoots with some governments will use the pandemic for massive profits and self-enrichment. There has, however, been no credible evidence that the virus was engineered in a lab. Pandemics caused by viruses have emerged throughout human history, and in the last two decades we have seen the SARS and MERS Coronavirus outbreaks. So, we should not be surprised by the arrival of the COVID-19 virus. On the massive profits, we call on companies and governments to ensure that the vaccine is equitably accessed and for no profit or at low profit. We call on these to share the know-how so that most countries can help to scale up the production of these vaccines and together attain population immunity.

Vaccine and population control”

Another common misconception is that the COVID-19 vaccine is a ploy by the rich industrialized nations or by a cartel of the richest people in the world under the leadership of Bill Gates, or machinations of the empire to reduce the global population through the elimination of the black race. This theory is baseless. In fact, vaccines are not new. Vaccines have been a reality for all of us from birth.

When our children were born, we gladly accepted the vaccines prescribed by hospitals and health clinics without any questions. In fact, most of us still have the marks of the vaccine on our arms. Most of us could have died of diseases such as measles and polio in infancy had it not been for the vaccines we received. In our day, people in malaria prone countries are vaccinated against the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria. The same with yellow fever; to travel to Kenya or Tanzania one needs a yellow fever vaccination certificate.

COVID-19 is a pandemic like any other and the COVID-19 vaccine is a vaccine like any other. Furthermore, COVID-19 does not discriminate. As the numbers tell, currently, there are over two million people who have lost their lives worldwide and a quarter of these is from the global south and 93 219 from Africa; of which, regrettably, some 45 000 are South African. Every part of the world has their share of the pain, let us continue to show global solidarity through mutual support and care for one another as Christ would want us to.

Vaccine and DNA

Another popular circulating mistruth is that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines will alter one’s DNA. It is argued that because the vaccine is genetic material injected into the body, it could somehow mix in with our own genetic material and change it. However, mRNA is not the same as DNA, and it cannot combine with our DNA to change our genetic code. It is also relatively fragile and will only be inside a cell for about 72 hours, before being degraded. mRNA is naturally made by the body; it encodes instructions for our bodies’ cells to make protein. Any mRNA vaccine has the same purpose, to teach and train our bodies to make an immune response toward a particular pathogen. If the pathogen gets into the body, the immune system can attack it.

Vaccines are made from aborted foetus”

Ethical concerns have also been raised, and understandably so, on the production of the COVID-19 vaccine. Many from the pro-life campaign are concerned that the vaccines may have been made from cell lines of aborted foetuses. There is a history of the use of foetal cell lines in the research and development of vaccines for diseases such as hepatitis A, rubella, chicken pox, ebola, shingles, rabies, and the early polio vaccines. As part of that history, some vaccines are said to be present-day derivations of the original scientific research process that developed protein sourced from a foetus. Although there is no evidence that current vaccines are directly made out of foetal tissue, the connection to cell lines related to foetal tissue in the originating of the technology can pose an ethical question. But in the unavailability of alternative measures to save lives in the current public health crisis, the use of the vaccine is morally justifiable to protect people from the killer disease.

Are vaccines safe?

Many people have also raised concerns about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. The safety of the people receiving the vaccine has been a top priority of the vaccine manufacturers. ALL vaccines go through clinical trials to test their safety and effectiveness. There is also rigorous monitoring to see if there are any side effects and will be withdrawn if the side effects are serious. Even if these vaccines were produced very quickly, no steps were skipped on the way. They have already been given to millions of people of all races around the world.

However, some side effects such as fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, fatigue and headaches have been reported. Most side effects happen within the first three days after vaccination and last only one to two days. Besides, all vaccines claim a certain percentage average efficacy. It cannot be lower than 50% effective. Available vaccines have been ranging from about 65% to 95% effective. That means there would be cases that fall outside of the declared efficacy threshold for that vaccine. So far, even with the stated limits of efficacy, the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the side-effects, and are well worth the effort to save lives.

Way Forward

We recognise and appreciate the openness with which South Africans and our congregants have expressed their concerns and even objections to the COVID-19 vaccine. It is healthy for the Church to have a dialogue on such matters. People’s voices must not be silenced but must be heard.

Humanity as co-creators with God

We have been praying for God’s intervention to end the pandemic and for life to return to normal. God moved and inspired our scientists to develop effective vaccines. That way, our scientists are co-creators with God. Christians should view the vaccines as part of the answer to our prayers. The swift effort that has gone into developing effective vaccines is something of a miracle. Christians should see the Spirit of God at work not just in the Church setting but in every sphere of life. Any appropriate medical discovery that can heal the land should be discerned as a present from God. The vaccine is not the saviour but God is. There is therefore, no legitimate Christian reason for refusing to take the vaccine. Let us rather continue praying for God to give our experts, whom God has called, to bring healing and end suffering, to continue to give the experts all that is needed to save lives. As Apostle Paul writes (1 Corinthians 3:9), “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building”; that the words of Prophet Jeremiah might come true for our time: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Sanctity of human life

We have lost too many lives due to the pandemic. Also, we have lost much that makes for livelihoods. Every life is important; and livelihoods help sustain life with dignity. Let us preach and act holistically for the sanctity of human life. COVID undermines not only human life through the lonely death that it visits on individuals and their families; it also occasions havoc on the dignity of the human person as households are plunged into the extremities of poverty and want.

The saving of life requires also the commitment to help create the environment for living in the compassion of God that is manifest in Jesus. He felt compassion for the people, “Because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). The same Christ instructs us, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36). This compassion of Christ impels us to champion life-giving vaccines against COVID-19.

Vaccination: a show of love for our neighbour

Getting vaccinated against the Coronavirus ought to be understood as an act of charity towards other members of our community. Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35). Thus, being vaccinated should be considered an act of love of our neighbour; for it ensures that we shall not be the cause of the infection and suffering of your loved ones. Thus, it is part of our moral responsibility for the common good. Protecting the health of the community takes precedence over individual ideologies. The guiding principle should be the Jesus cause “that they may have life”; saying, “I will take the vaccine not only for what I hope will be the good of my own health, but for others as well.”

The vaccine: a justice issue

As the churches, we will ensure that we advocate for every South African who wants a vaccine to get it, especially poor people, and those who live on the margins of society. We will raise our prophetic voice in ensuring that the process of the distribution of the vaccine is not fraught with corruption as was the case with the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and that all who are found to have committed acts of corruption are dealt with accordingly.

In this context we call for a spirit of global solidarity in access to these vaccines and sharing the knowhow and with preferential options for the global south, which remains poor. In these circumstances we wish to make the moral point that we believe that for the COVID-19 vaccine there should be cause to bypass some of the standard commercial considerations in pricing, and the standard 20-year patent protection period.

A three to five-year protection should be adequate under these special circumstances, especially because, given the worldwide concentrated demand of the vaccine occasioned by the pandemic. This is a justice issue. For this reason we join in the lament that the rich nations of the world are hoarding for themselves inordinate volumes of vaccine supplies, in some cases in multiples of their populations. This is an injustice that the world should not tolerate.

Countering misinformation

An urgent challenge is to counter misinformation. Information is key. Knowledge and wisdom are key biblical ideals, as Proverbs 15:14 instructs: “The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.”

Without accurate and authentic information, people are misled by many discredited and fake tales from outlandish sources.

We need to get as much information as possible from those who are knowledgeable, and we also need to encourage our congregants to seek as much information on vaccines and the pandemic as they can from experts.  That requires us to learn to trust that South African scientists are as good as any in the world; and not be misguided by every quasi-scientific post on the internet. We must popularise also the use of the SACC’s dedicated COVID-19 website – that gives advice and guidance to church and society in various South African languages, based on researched and verified information on matters COVID-19, including the latest on the vaccine.  Let us be the voice of reason that gives hope in a hopeless situation.

Walking the talk

Church leaders have an important role to play in communication about the vaccine and getting people to be vaccinated. Having Church leaders publicly support the vaccine is very important. When Church leaders get vaccinated in public, they make a difference in the fight against COVID-19. That way they can help restore trust in vaccines among their congregants and the broader society. Not so long ago, some church leaders were tested publicly for HIV-AIDS, to dispel the stigma. We can do this again.

Leaders of SACC member churches will offer to take the vaccine in public to demonstrate confidence in the COVID-19 vaccination, for vaccines are a vital part of the solution to the pandemic. There are two known and interconnected ways to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. One is the non-pharmaceutical measures of wearing masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, ventilation and sitting outside to socialise.

The second and more long-lasting measure is the vaccination of enough people to affect a reduction of infection through population immunity. Therefore, Church leaders, should encourage their congregants and their loved ones to take the vaccine and dispel misinformation. With the trust earned, we can tip the balance between trust and distrust, confidence and fear.

Religious freedom

As Christians, we believe in freedom of choice. We should not force the vaccine down the throats of our congregations. Their membership of and standing in the Church should not be affected by the decision that they take on the vaccine.

Cooperation with the Government

The Church should cooperate with the Government in its attempts to vaccinate our people and save lives. We should give the health authorities all the support that they need. We should open our Church buildings to be vaccination centres when called upon to do so.


The development of the COVID-19 vaccine should be viewed as a major milestone in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. The vaccine represents the best hope to save lives in the midst of the pandemic. It will help protect people who get infected with the virus from becoming sick. As more people are vaccinated, population-wide immunity develops, families and communities will be able to gradually return to a more normal routine, thus saving lives and livelihoods. Science is clear at this point that our very best hope is getting as many people as possible vaccinated.

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About SACC

The South African Council of Churches (SACC) is an ecumenical association of affiliated Christian Churches, and blocks of churches such as The Evangelical Alliance, the International Federation of Christian Churches, and the Council of African Independent Churches, with a mandate to lead common Christian action that works for moral witness in South Africa. SACC does not exist for the propagation and the advancement of its doctrinal position, but is the place where our diverse interpretations of our faith come together in action for social justice. It therefore seeks to achieve a visible, just socio-economic and ecological impact, enabled through engaged churches-in-community for a reconciled South Africa and our sub-continent.

Theology of Coronavirus-by Georg Scriba

KZNCC ecumenical response to covid-19

A.  Challenges:

  1. The Covid-19 pandemic is a world-wide disaster and therefore has to be fought on a world-wide, global scale.
  2. The Covid-19 pandemic has probably only started in South Africa and more disaster frameworks will have to be implemented immediately:
  3. Seeing and listening to the news from other countries we need to be ready for all eventualities and worst-case scenarios:
  4. As someone quipped sarcastically: at least no one is again contemplating to flee or emigrate from our country, the trouble seems to be similar around the whole world

The Medical Challenge:

What we would wish and pray for from a purely human point of view of medical expectations:

  1. That the medical world fraternity discovers a working vaccine against the Covid-19 virus;
  2. That other medication (as against Ebola and SARS) can quickly be adapted as a possible cure and made widely available;
  3. That the antibodies of those who have survived the Covid-19 could be developed into a vaccine or medication to assist those who are ill;
  4. That those who survived Covid-19 could assist with the care of those who are ill;
  5. That the government quickly erects new hospitals: e.g. negotiating with SAA to use some of their (now) empty hangars for make-shift hospitals;
  6. That retired/ retrenched or private doctors and nurses and available helpers be trained to man these hospitals;
  7. That a large number of respirators or ventilators be imported from exporting countries; OR

That if this is not possible, car manufacturing and assembly plants may quickly change to produce such medical machinery;

  1. That a large number of protective clothing and masks be imported; OR

That if this is not possible, textile workers and similar manufacturers produce millions of face masks for protection of medical staff and the general public;

  1. That sanitizers, water and soap can become available for the general public

Summary of other Challenges

The complete lock-down is to implement a break so that the virus can not spread rapidly through society, but make the curve of contamination more gradual and therefore more manageable.

Instead of “social distancing” we should rather speak of “physical distancing”, as the vast communication by technological means is not “social distancing” but rather “social interaction and communication”.

Many citizens are able to survive in the lock-down status in their own homes, old-age homes and institutions.

Others do not have or see this possibility, because they live on the streets, in squatter camps, shacks and squalid housing facilities.

The outbreak of fear, frustration and violence can therefore be expected.

Policing and the firm maintenance of law and order by the defence force might be inevitable.

The same might occur due to the deteriorating economic situation as small and medium businesses have to close down and even big businesses are in dire straits.

Financial assistance by the government and  will hardly be able to be enough to break the cycle of poverty, of need, for a longer period of time.

B. Our general possibilities

  1. Government might have implemented the lock-down in time to hinder the virus from spreading too fast;
  2. As the global interaction of different countries (e.g. through world-wide travel) is one of the causes for the rapid spread of the virus, so global interaction of information, of progress in medical research to combat the virus, in giving good (and not false) advice, of common decision throughout the world can be a chance for overcoming the pandemic. It is a sign of our committed fight against it that even otherwise opposing political parties can work together and pull the yoke of this danger together.

C. Our Christian Response

  1. The biggest challenge is that of fear. Fear can have a protective function (that we either flee from or stand firm and fight a situation). At present it is being used world-wide to promote the strict adherence to the law or laws that are implemented by most of the different governments and leaders of the world. The protective function of the law is to save lives, but also to educate people who cannot see the direct effect of a virus and cannot understand its possibility of spreading throughout a country’s population.
  2. Fear and the law can at present unite the different factions in society to a combined and unified response to the danger within our midst. Coravid-19 is not only a concern of the Chinese or Italian, it is not a matter of only the ANC or the DA or the EFF, it is not only a temptation of the faith for Christians or Muslims or Jews alone. The disaster spans the rainbow nation in our country of races, creeds, of gender, of rich and poor, in that sense it is an “equaliser” (as someone quoted).
  3. However fear and the law can also be destructive in letting us give up, become desperate and despondent, depressed, without hope, wishing for an end and therefore contemplating death. As no one knows how the corona pandemic will play itself out it leads to much uncertainty, depression and destruction of hope, faith and love.
  4. In this time of trials, temptations, of troubles and even utter distress, the call “Do not be afraid – do not fear” is one of hope, of standing up again, of inspiration and vision. It is a frequent call in Scripture by God, Jesus, angels, prophets and apostles, witnesses and messengers. Someone counted its occurrence in the (KJV?) Bible as 365 times, once per day during the year. And Karl Barth is said to have maintained it to be the gospel in its shortest form.
  5. Most Christians and other Religious leaders are generally giving their support to the government for its attempt to break the increasing spread of the virus among their communicants by cancelling church services and other church activities for the coming month or a certain period which will be determined by the spread or containment of the virus.
  6. Churches as other faiths are determined not to defy the regulations and orders given by the government as it needs a combined effort of all to stand firm against this pandemic.
  7. This decision makes it so difficult for believers of all faiths, because they all stress that God has created the world and everything in it and so is in charge of the world (and therefore also of the virus). Some would however prefer to see the expansion of this deadly virus as the work of the devil/ Satan which has to be opposed with signs of steadfast faith by those who may be called “onward Christian soldiers”.
  8. Most religious communities emphasize signs of greeting, of heartfelt acceptance, of welcoming the stranger, of a spiritual and pastoral community which extends empathy to all. Its spiritual message of unconditional acceptance is not only spoken, taught and preached but also shown through signs of love, by shaking hands and hugs, blessing those who are being married, the confirmed, the laying on of hands on the sick. It belongs to our Christian culture to participate in funerals and other rites of life including not only the closest family, but the community at large, also with physical and not only spiritual signs.
  9. The president’s call for restriction is especially difficult in that one of the greatest festivals of Christians (and Jews) falls into this period of absolute restraint, Easter. Here we celebrate the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, overcoming the destructive powers on earth. And in contrast, our participation in this restraint, of cancelled church services, can be viewed as that of fearful Christians, hiding behind closed walls, afraid to sing their songs of praise and jubilation, but rather remaining in the sombre lamentation experience of Good Friday.
  10. It is Christian to care about our neighbours and therefore we must, as Christians, lead by example, take up our cross and avoid contact with others. So we might have to sacrifice some of our greatest gifts, eg of letting our light shine in the darkness of the world, by finding new ways of doing that, not only by trying to save the lives of other Christians but for the whole of humanity. Christian churches and congregations will discover ways and means of celebrating their faith, hope and love without compromising the safety of others.
  11. It is a time to contemplate our role on South African life, of praying and supporting all those who have to carry the burden of public responsibility, be that in governing our country, in keeping up law and order, in maintaining safety for travellers on roads, air and sea, for doctors, medical staff and carers, who have to bear the extra load of caring and put themselves at risk of infection in such a fear-driven environment with empathy and health consideration.
  12. In the forefront of Christian prayer and support should be the families, single parents and communities that are called to look after children and learners at home, those who are now home-employed and also those who have to remain in the public domain to safeguard the general running of life in our country in this time of trials and temptations.
  13. Although we can worship together even if we are not in the immediate contact with each other, many forms of communication exist and make combined worship possible even if new ways of doing this have to be discovered. Let us not panic but thank God for what we have. Thankful people who do not stress, are generally healthier than those who worry and fear excessively.
  14. In consultation among themselves and other churches, Christians and congregations may discover new ways of praising God, of celebrating together and preparing liturgies and written sermons for services held in the houses like the early Christians. This might be a time to discover anew the priesthood of all believers. People can then share some thoughts on the sermon at home, something they usually cannot do on Sunday.
  15. It might be a good time to practise Lent – letting go of certain so well-known and traditional rites (e.g. for Easter) and meditate on Christ’s way of suffering for us and having quality time with close people. The experience of Easter in the darkness of death and fear, of the hope and faith in a new life might be better remembered than what we always experienced at Easter in the past.
  16. On the internet, on facebook, whatsapp and other media encouraging words, Bible verses, paradigms, psalms, hymns, music and even encouraging humour and jokes have been spread in a motion of defiance against the fears of our times


D Call by the As KwaZulu Natal Christian Council and the ecumenical movement;

–        We encourage our people not to be afraid but rather to take necessary precautions as outlined by the Department of Health.

–        We encourage Church leaders to be specific in guiding their congregations to prevent Corona Virus infections as outlined by the Department of Health.

–        We encourage our congregations in all the church rituals and pastoral activities to be hygienic in ways to stop the spread the Corona Virus.

–        We discourage any form of stigma that may arise out of the Corona Virus pandemic.

The grace of God is abundant to take us through this pandemic.

We encourage all churches to pray for all the affected and the infected.

Isaiah 41:10 “… Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…”

Remember in John 16:33 Jesus says: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment (self-discipline) – 2 Timothy 1:7. As Christians, we are called to be wise and spread good precautionary practises.

  1. Anthology of Thoughts of Encouragement

The art of small steps (A prayer by  Antoine de Saint Exupery ) (written in the Plural)

We do not ask for miracles and visions, Lord, but strength for every day. Teach us the art of small steps: Make us sensitive for the right use of our time.

Grant us sensitivity to find out what has to come first, what second. Let us realize that dreams do not profit, neither about the past nor the future.

Help us to do the next thing as well as possible and to realize the present hour to be the most important one.

Keep us from the naïve belief that everything ought to go smoothly in life.

Give us the sober judgement that difficulties, failures, defeats, setbacks are an obvious part of life, by which we grow and mature.

Remind us that the heart often goes on strike against reason. Send us someone at the right moment who has the courage to tell us the truth in love.

We know that a lot of problems cannot be solved quickly. Give us patience.

Grant us  the necessary imagination to deliver a parcel of kindness at the right place, with or without words.

Keep us  from the fear we could miss life. Don’t give us what we want but what we need.

Teach us  the art of small steps. Amen.

Supporting our government in Prayer:

We should support all those in leadership, as they ask us to do. On 16 September 2019 at Grace Bible Church President Ramaphosa sang: “If you believe and I believe and we together pray the Holy Spirit must come down And Africa will be saved”. He closed his announcements with the “Thuma Mina” “Send me Lord” and the country’s national anthem: “Nkosi sikelel I’Afrika”.

The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971).

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.

Prayers to help medical staff

Besides pastoral and faith support for the general public, we  may include also prayers for staff and patients, including prayers and support which they might use for the dying.

For that we are proposing to go along the 7 Words of Jesus on the cross:

  1. Forgiveness and freedom from the past: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”:
  2. Salvation and God’s unconditional acceptance against all expectations: “Today you will be with me in Paradise”;
  3. The invaluable support of family and friends: “See, your mother! See your son!”
  4. Being nearest to the Saviour, when we experience God’s silence and distance:”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  5. Supporting small signs of physical or spiritual assistance:”I am thirsty”;
  6. Letting the Saviour complete what is left behind as broken, shattered (life, work, relationship):”It is accomplished”;
  7. Handing over our lives into God’s hands: “Father into your hands I commit my life”.

We may not have a strong faith in God  but we might have a feeble, insecure faith in a strong God – that is enough!

During the plague in the time of the middle ages

Luther’s Letter on “Whether one may flee from the deadly plague or from dying” of 1527/8 may be helpful also in understanding the situation of fear and anxiety we are living in in our present time.

Maybe very fitting is the advice Luther gave: “Use medicine; take potions which can help you; fumigate house, yard, and street; shun persons and places wherever your neighbour does not need your presence or has recovered, and act like a man who wants to help put out the burning city. What else is the epidemic but a fire which instead of consuming wood and straw devours life and body? You ought to think this way: “Very well, by God’s decree the enemy has sent us poison and deadly offal. Therefore I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine, and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance infect and pollute others, and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.” (I remembered that we used the whole Luther booklet in the time of HIV-AIDS pandemic at the LTI and the then School of Religion and Theology, and how our students used it to “deal” with our situation of fear and anxiety. I summarised the booklet and the responses of the students in an article in the Journal of Theology in SA (No. 126, 2006).

Although the pandemics of the Plague – HIV/AIDS – Coravid-19 are all different, yet some basic advice Luther gave can be transported into our situation.

I do wish you God’s assistance and support:

that the seed of hope may grow in the light of God’s promise,

that the seed of faith may break through hardened soil day by day to bring its harvest,

and that the seed of love may be implanted into the people of this country and the world so that its fruit will grow and be plentiful for everyone.


Georg Scriba 31.3.2020



A Theology of Strangers & Migration


Theology of Strangers and Migrat

19 October 2018

Dr Mogashudi Lucas Ngoetjana

Deputy CEO : Theology (KZNCC)

Abstract: The image of God among people remain intact, only their relationship becomes distorted because of fallen-ness. Jesus crossed the divine to the human, the Jewish to the Gentile, the men to the women, and the healthy to the sick and was prepared to die for that. Giving in to the acts of xenophobia is an expression of cowardice and spinelessness.

Introduction: Examining theological reflection in an age of migration, ‘[Groody] focuses on four foundations of a theology of migration and refugees: (1) Imago Dei: Crossing the Problem–Person Divide; (2) Verbum Dei: Crossing the Divine–Human Divide; (3) Missio Dei: Crossing the Human–Human Divide; and (4) Visio Dei: Crossing the Country–Kingdom divide. As a call to cross borders and overcome barriers, migration is a way of thinking about God and human life and an expression of the Christian mission of reconciliation”. Among other contributors to the reflection of theology of strangers and migrant it is Groody (2009; 2004) and Botha (2013) who are much engaged in this presentation.

Imago Dei: Crossing the Problem–Person Divide: “The Judeo-Christian tradition,” as the U.S. Catholic bishops have noted, “is steeped in images of migration,” from the migration of Adam and Eve out of the garden of Eden (Gen 3:23–24), to the vision of the New Jerusalem in the final pages of the New Testament (Rev 21:1–4). In the book of Genesis we are introduced to a central truth that human beings are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26–27; 5:1–3; 9:6; 1 Cor 11:7; Jas 3:9). This is not just another label but a way of speaking profoundly about human nature. Defining all human beings in terms of imago Dei provides a very different starting point for the discourse on migration and creates a very different trajectory for the discussion. Imago Dei names the personal and relational nature of human existence and the mystery that human life cannot be understood apart from the mystery of God” (Groody 2009: 643).

Mind that the migration of Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden was because they were expelled for disobedience (Gen. 3: 20 – 24). Though expelled, they were accorded the dignity which is betrothed to humanity – the Lord God Made tunics of skin and clothed them (:20). Though from then henceforth their life outside the garden was going to be different from that inside the garden, the image of God in them was not taken away (5: 1 – 3; 9: 6).

Both men and women of all nations are made in the image of God. According to the theology of equality and gender: “Women and men are co-substantial, co-equal and co-existent just as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit are in the God-head in the Trinity. Women and men are created in the image of the same God, as one flesh and one spirit (Gen. 1: 26 – 29; 2: 7, 23). Women and men are made of the same material substance. The choice of gender and human sexuality or sexual orientation is not a human privilege – meaning humans have no privilege of choosing their gender from conception. This applies to everyone migrant or host nationals.


Being human precedes what gender people are given from conception. In other words humans are human first before their given gender and sexual orientation. Gender is not essential to being human. All actions and thoughts informed by gender to define what is human are theologically baseless. All of us migrants and pilgrims are such secondary to being human made in the image of God.

Views that gender is worthy of being male against the worthlessness of being female which are informed by traditional culture and theology must be challenged. Men must wrestle with the idea that gender does not define what is human, but the principle of life or the Image of God does” (Ngoetjana 2015: 1 Unpublished).

“The expulsion from Eden of Adam and Eve, the original imago Dei, and their border-crossing into the land beyond, names the human propensity to move toward a state of sin and disorder (Gen 3:1–13). Sin disfigures the imago Dei, resulting in a fallen world that creates discord in relationships. The territory into which the Prodigal Son migrates and squanders all his worldly wealth (Lk 15:11–32) symbolizes this barren terrain; it is a place that moves people away from the original creative design into a place of estrangement from God, others, and themselves” (Groody 2009: 648).

Though Groody says sin disfigures the imago Dei, it seems it is the relationships that are disorientated. Seemingly, outside the Garden, Adam and Eve no longer relate from the perspective of innocence now that they know the difference between good and evil and are “like one of Us”  to know good and evil” – says the Lord. The image of God seems to go on unabated even in the state of the fallen-ness humanity finds itself (5: 1 – 3; 9: 6). The image of God remains unscathed in every human being but the relationship between people change because of fallen-ness.

Verbum Dei: crossing the divine–human divide

“The sojourn of the Verbum Dei into this world is riddled with political and religious controversies, many of which are connected to narratives about migration. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus enters the world amid a drama involving documentation (Lk 2:1–5). In Matthew’s account, Jesus and his family must flee a threat that endangers their lives, making them political refugees (Mt 2:13–17, a parallel to a foundational migration in biblical history, Exodus 1). In John‘s Gospel, many have trouble believing in Jesus precisely because of the place from which he emigrates (Jn. 7:41–43, 52). In a fallen world, human beings find many compelling political, legal, social, and religious reasons to exclude—and reject—the migrant Son of God” (Groody 2009: 649).

The world over humanity is subjected to counting and documentation as it happened in the book of Number and during the times of Jesus. All the laws, protocol and charters that have to do with migration are political instruments Jesus had to subject to as well. But crossing the divine to the human must have been an ordeal of humiliation and shame (Phil. 2) – of being obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross – a Kenosis experience.

Crossing the divine to the human also means being embedded into a context. The root from which the word contextualisation comes is shedding light on what it means. The word context, from which ‘contextualisation’ is derived comes from the Latin root ‘contextus’, which means, weaving together. The light which is shed shines clearly when one realises that contextualisation has to do with the whole of a given context woven together. In a single context are many people, experiences, regulations, institutions, sub-cultures, ideas, and things. All the uncountable components of a context have roles they play in shaping people, society, trends, history, culture, and ideas. Contextualisation looks at all that and brings out reasons and meanings for problems and answers. This is applicable to faith life and any other discipline of life. Jesus was in many ways a migrant who did not shy away to be embedded into a context in which he was meant to be born for the purposes of God.

How can we then discriminate against each other for our biggest context is the Universe? Our own planet and its continents are a geographical Mohorovicic discontinuity coincidence. Our national boundaries are just a convenience of political expediency and opportuneness.  For example, they are creations of the corruption of the partition of Africa colonisation, Christianisation and so called civilisation of people of the third world?       Jesus crossed the divine to the human, the Jewish to the Gentile, the men to the women, and the healthy to the sick and was prepared to die for that. Giving in to the acts of xenophobia is an expression of cowardice and spinelessness.

Karl Barth (quoted by Groody) writes of “the way of the Son of God into the far country.” He does not explicitly use the term “migration,” but his reflections are a way of speaking of God’s crossing over into the dark territory of a sinful, broken humanity. What distinguishes the Christian God from other, false gods, Barth notes, is that they are not ready for this downward mobility, “this act of extravagance, this far journey.” Through the Verbum Dei, Jesus’ kenosis and death on the cross, God overcomes the barriers caused by sin, redraws the borders created by people who have withdrawn from God, and enters into the most remote and abandoned places of the human condition. No aspect of a theology of migration is more fundamental, nor more challenging in its implications, than the incarnation. Through Jesus, God enters into the broken and sinful territory of the human condition in order to help men and women, lost in their earthly sojourn, find their way back home to God” (Groody).

Visio Dei: crossing the country–kingdom divide

“The imago Dei, verbum Dei, and missio Dei are all based on the visio Dei. The notion of visio Dei is based in large part on the Matthean beatitude, “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). This blessedness has been debated throughout history” (Groody). In addition to pledging allegiance to a particular country, the visio Dei brings out that one’s ultimate obedience is to God alone, which leads one beyond any national and political boundaries to ultimate fidelity to the kingdom of God” (Groody).

What is the point of seeing God in heaven? The poor and marginalised want to see God now transforming the world for the good of all. The beatitudes must not be used for pietistic imagination. The Lords prayer demands that The Lord give us our daily breads and forgive our debts – not our sins – but debts.

“A theology of migration seeks to articulate a renewed vision of God and human life as it is lived out between the eschatological horizon of faith and unbelief and a historical horizon of justice and injustice … throughout the tradition visio Dei holds in tension two apparently contradictory biblical claims: some texts affirm that God can be seen (Gen 32:30; Isa 6:5; Mt 5:8); others deny it (Gen 32:30; Exod 33:20; Mt 11:27; Jn 1:18; 6:46; 1 Tm 6:16; 1 Jn 4:12). Like imago Dei, visio Dei is also much debated throughout history, particularly about how the vision of God deals with the relationship between this life and the next”.

Innocent III spoke of three kinds of vision of God: corporeal, veiled, and comprehensive. “The corporeal vision belongs to the senses; the veiled to images; the comprehensive to the understanding” (Innocent III, Sermon 31, PL 217, coll. 598–96 in Groody).

The visio Dei comes into focus in the person of Jesus Christ and the kingdom he proclaimed. The kingdom of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love, and peace brings people into a different kind of social and ethical territory. It is based not on geography or politics but on divine initiative and openness of heart, leading to a different kind of vision of the current world order, where many of the first are last and the last first (Mt 19:30; 20:16; Mk 10:31; Lk 13:29–30).

Jesus clearly taught that many of the values and metrics people employ to measure others will be inverted and that the excluded will be given priority in the kingdom. The kingdom calls people into movement, making church members exiles on earth, strangers in this world, and sojourners en route to another place. The word most frequently used for sojourner in the New Testament is paroikos, from which is derived the English word “parish” (Eph 2:19; 1 Pt 2:11). In Philippians 3:20 Paul describes Christians as living in this world but carrying the passport of another world: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The author of Hebrews speaks of the journey in hope toward a different place: “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one that is to come” (Heb 13:14).

Missio dei: crossing the human–human divide

“The missio Dei is to restore the imago Dei in every person through the redemptive work of the Verbum Dei. The universal message of the gospel is directed to all nations and all peoples, and it is concerned with all aspects of human beings and the full development of every person. The church, through the power of the Spirit, takes up the Great Commission of Jesus by migrating to all nations, proclaiming the Good News of salvation, and working against the forces of sin that disfigure the imago Dei (Mt 28:16–20). In addition to the foundational ministries of Peter and Paul, tradition holds that such missionary endeavours led James to migrate to Spain, Phillip to Asia, and Thomas to India” (Groody).

Bibliography/ References/ Sources

Botha, N A. 2013. A theological perspective on migrants and migration focussing on the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Missionalia (Online) vol.41 n.2 Pretoria Aug. 2013.

Groody,  Daniel, CSC, ’86, 2004. A Theology of Immigration

Groody, D G, C.S.C 2009. Crossing the divide: foundations of a theology of migration and refugees. Theological Studies.

Ngoetjana M L. 2015. The Economics of Jesus. Unpublished.


KZNCC on Theology of Disability: Texts of Promise and wellness

KZNCC Logo NPO number: NPO 119-523

27 January 2016

KZNCC on Theology of Disability: Texts of Promise and wellness

Issue No. 1

You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:14)

To people living with disability the KZNCC writes a Theology of Disability openly confessing that it is doing it from the sightlessness of the so called ‘abled people’. In this pastoral letter to both the so called ‘abled’ and the ‘disabled’ people we share our reflections the liberation theology of disability. We will release a series of subtopics on this subject as is indicated in the last paragraph of this letter. For now let us look at the liberatory side of the theology of disability and follow up later with others.

Emancipatory Biblical and Theological Views on Disability

The inclusivity of People with Disability (PWD) is seen in God’s plan for the restoration of the Israelites. We find God assuring the remnant of His people, Israel in Babylon that the land of their captivity would be restored to them and that they would return back to Jerusalem: “See, I will bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the ends of the earth. Among them the blind and the lame” (Jeremiah 31:8, 9). Micah 4:6-7 sets out God’s plan concerning the people of Israel: “In that day,” declares the Lord, “I will gather the lame, I will assemble the exiles and those I have brought grief, I will make the lame a remnant, and those driven away a strong nation.” The eternal kingdom, which God will establish, will favor above all others the weak, the lame, and the outcasts. They are God’s chosen ones, his remnants” (Etieno 1988).

Isaiah 35: 1 – 10 is one more emancipatory text of the Promise of Wellness: Joy of the Redeemed.

In the old Testament, these verses show that in the restoration God ensured that all PWD would also be brought back. God did not want the blind and the lame left behind but to be restored. There is no indication that the people living with disability is a punishment from God as a result of their sin or perhaps even their parents’ sins.

When we look at the New Testament, we see that Jesus healed everyone thereby implying that anyone who has faith. The passage in John 9: 1ff is very liberating. It is the one which teaches that the blindness of one blind person is not because he or his parents have sinned but that the glory of God might be manifest.

Examples are many; the man who’s blind in Mark 8 asked Jesus for healing; he showed faith and Jesus healed him. The woman with unending menstruation showed faith by touching Jesus’ gown and she was healed.

Paul also wrote about how his own personal infirmity, the thorn in the flesh he calls it, his weakness, which is a term for sickness in the ancient world. He says that this is a positive thing and that he’s perfected in his weakness.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9. In these Bible verses disability serves positive functions for Jesus, the disciples and by extension, the Christian communities. It is for us now to change our minds and attitudes towards PWD. The church and all institutions of society must begin to embrace PWD. PWD should not be seen as a problem but a blessing to all humanity.

Generally as it may apply in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and other cultures there is a way in which vulnerable and disabled people would be neglected though this may not be seen as such in these modern days. “Vulnerable children would not be exempted nor excluded from participation in African institutions of passage. Besides the semblance of the romantisisation of African traditional communities, though there was a level of marginalisation and negligence of vulnerable children on the part of some, it was not the norm. Vulnerable children in African stories are portrayed as saviours and heroes of their people”1(Ngoetjana 2013 Research on African Models of Caring for Vulnerable2 Children in Traditional Communities: Towards a Proposal for Caring for Vulnerable Children in Modern Communities).

Churches in KZN are encouraged to consider deepening the positive theology of disability through involving them in every aspect of church life. There must not only be sermons about disability but must let PWD, to teach, and preach in the church.



This is Issue No.1. of the Theology of Disability. Issue No. 2. will be about: Disability and Sin: A Hamartiological Problem. Issue 3. will be about: The Healing Narratives in the Gospels and Disability. Issues No. 3 will be about: Theology of Disability and Interdependence. Issues No. 4. will be about Disability, Accessibility and Knowledge of God. Issues 5. Disability, personalization and the personification of God. Issue No. 6. GOD ad God are ultimate symbols of religious imagination.

1 Conversation with Dr. D. Dziva, Programmes Director of the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council on the 01st March 2005. The researcher is looking out for such African stories on vulnerable children.

2 The definition of vulnerability in this research seeks to include the physical, the psychological, the spiritual and sociological aspects. Should there be other relevant aspects of vulnerability, this research will endeavour to include them, more so as they relate to vulnerable children.


Theology of Human Sexuality in the Context of HIV and AIDS

Theology of Human Sexuality in the Context of HIV and AIDS

12 December 2015

Dr L M Ngoetjana


This presentation can be divided into two main areas in which the topic of Human Sexuality in the Context of HIV and AIDS have been discussed. One area is that of the theological and the other the psychosocial perspectives of Human Sexuality. The theological part seeks to argue that humanity is but one homo sapiens despite of a given gender or sexual orientation. The perspective of social psychology takes its departure from the general agreements of its research on human sexuality and social roles and behavioral orientation applied in the context of HIV and AIDS.

Gift from God: Approaching the subject of human sexuality in the context of HIV and AIDS, it is perceived that humanity and the whole existence of being as reality encountered is better expressed as a gift from God. The notion of the existence of God is not in question in this task but the realization that human sexuality in the context of HIV and AIDS is perceived reality as we cognitively assume and wrestle with it.

In this perception we realize that the whole of the human being, body, experience, perception, spirituality and all that constitute it is intrinsically and inextricably sexual as well. The gift from God that is human sexuality is indestructible in mortality. As human beings live, they are holistically sexual beings. External experiences such as infection and affection with HIV do not necessarily extinguish the essence of human sexuality.

Human Sexuality – Gift and Responsibility

Human sexuality is one of the beauties of Gods creation (in Knox-Seith, E. 2005: 34). It is so wonderful and fulfilling especially when practiced as far as it is humanly possible within the prescripts of God which comes with the repercussions and responsibilities of such an engagement. Human sexuality should involve the whole human being, spirit, soul and body. Addition it must be carried with the respect due to its sacredness and glorious beauty.

Human sexuality demonstrates the mighty works of God worthy of respect, care. Besides the questions of procreation and pleasure, it is a practice where the mighty works of God can be made manifest by this Gift through the process of coition, conception and birth.

On the other hand this Gift of God is one very susceptible to abuse. The commercialization and commoditization of human sexuality is one of the major abuses of this beautiful gift. Business in human trafficking is base and mundane. It is a form of abuse and misuse of human sexuality.

The demonization of human sexuality as seen in some of the religious teachings and practices is equally unfounded. Human sexuality is given by God and must simply just not be used or abused for other needs of extreme human gratification.

Gender and the substance of the human flesh: A Theology

Women and men are co-substantial, co-equal and co-existent just as the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit are in the God-head in the Trinity. Women and men are made of the same material substance. The selection of gender is not a human privilege. A gender is not essential to being human. So all actions and thoughts informed by gender differentiation are theologically baseless.

Views on Gender and the Essence of Being

Views on gender and the essence of being such as the worth of being male against the worthlessness of being female which are informed by traditional culture and theology must be challenged.

Men must wrestle with the idea that gender is not constitutive of the essence of being but the principle of life or the Image of God is. Platforms created for Men’s Forums must make this debate towards the transformation of culture and theology possible.

Gender HIV and AIDS in the context of human sexual activity

Infection and being affected by HIV does not remove sexual desire. People infected and affected with HIV must not be deprived from sexual activity. People infected and affected by HIV must be encouraged to practice safe sex. Human sexuality must be practiced in the best interest of the entire humanity.

Gender and socio-political, religio-cultural inequalities

What about gender issues in the time of Jesus? His society was patriarchal; male and female roles were sharply differentiated, with women’s roles centering on the family and home. A woman who could not have children felt deep shame (as in I Sam. 1: 12) Widows were especially vulnerable. Divorce was easy (for the man)”.

A rabbinical custom was to thank God daily, as a man, that you had not been born a woman, slave or foreigner. Religions leaders were not permitted to speak to women in public; religion did not value women’s spiritual contributions” (icmdahivinitiative). “Jesus broke with these assumptions and traditions. He extended honour and respect to all women. Women experienced the power of His miracles. He taught that women were equal to men in the sight of God. Jesus taught that women could also receive forgiveness of sin and the gift of salvation by grace. Jesus taught that women can be his followers and fully participate in the Kingdom (sic) of God. In an era where women could not be legal witnesses Jesus caused that they be his witnesses (Lk in the. 24: 9 – 11).

Gender, stigma, HIV and AIDS

Stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and mis-action (SSDDIM) are six related evils that continue to either frustrate or slow down our HIV&AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, and impact mitigation efforts” (Gideon).

Silence about sexuality (Knox-Seith, E 2005: 11 ff v.1) in our time does not help anymore. We must begin sex talk at home as early as possible addressing the topic according to the level of the maturity of our children and in social spaces which are providing the necessary freedom to talk about sex. We must cross the boundaries of fear and prejudice and enter the sphere of freedom and responsibility when it comes to matters of human sexuality.

Research Report of KZNCC (2009): Comprehensive Report’s Practicable Key Recommendations

The KZNCC research was about The Sociological and Religious Experiences of People on Antiretroviral Treatment: Concern for Human Dignity, Problems of Access and Affordability, Programmes of Counselling, Supervision and Care. A follow-up research was done to measure the impact and progress made since the first one done in 2006. The follow-up research was done in 2010. The Executive summary of the 2010 research report read as follows:

The general findings of the research presented a positive picture. The interviewees it is revealed are happy in the manner in which they are personally living with HIV and a adhering to the ARVs. They paint a very positive picture about the change in attitude of the places of worship and fellow worshippers. They are elated by the way in which households and members of the households are supporting and journeying with them and the same positive feeling is expressed concerning the health institutions and practitioners who have created a caring atmosphere for PLWHA and people of ARVs”.

The key recommendations were presented as follows:

1. Though the majority of the people interviewed feel that PLWHA and being on ARVs is not a punishment from God the 11% which feel it is so need attention as well. The message of the grace, the love and care of God must be presented with more vigor and urgency. Conduct Bible studies, theology of HIV, gender and care.

2. Teach people about the importance of discloser so that they can be supported properly.

3. Give attention to a remnant of nurses who still make stigmatising comments regarding PLWHA and people on ARVt. These nurses, some of them are not educated about this challenge. They comment negatively about PLHWA and on ARVt saying in public at a place of health service – why do you cough so much? Why do you always have a running tummy? What are you eating? These comments are suggestive. Pay attention to the nurses who have stigma. Pay attention to the promises of giving food parcels in vain. Patients need to be honest to nurses about their status. One must not say I have a headache without saying at a properly demarcated place I have this condition – either living with the virus or on treatment. Begin an investigation on the allegation that some health workers still people’s CD4 counts from files for ulterior motives. Organise an exposure visit by the church – pastors.

4. More support groups must be initiated in places of worship. The pastors still need education and information on HIV

5. KZNCC must extend this research to the whole province and compare regional findings, reasons and recommendations.

6. KZNCC must conduct provincial workshops with this research methodology to empower regional emerging researchers

7. Increase more awareness in churches by having a systematic programme of PLWHA and people on ARVt to address the churches on Sunday services.

8. KZNCC must have along side with HIV education and exposure a programme of distributing food parcels especially to people of ARVt.

9. Continue doing workshops to educate the religious sector on HIV and AIDS. Encourage churches to form support groups. Churches must be encouraged to visit people at home. Churches must be encouraged to give both spiritual and material support.

10. This report must be made available to traditional leaders, political leaders, implicated government departments and churches to implement recommendations best suited for them.

11. Individual fellow worshippers must be encouraged the more to give and make an added effort to support PLWHA and those on ARVt. The churches must run workshops on awareness of the myths and forms of denial some people are entangled in and try to dispel such myths.

12. The churches who are working in the area of HIV and AIDS must seek to be in partnership with the health care institution and contribute their share of the fight against HIV and AIDS.

13. Equal emphasis and effort must be given to attending to the elderly people when it comes to dealing with the issues of HIV and AIDS. Conduct family camps of HIV and AIDS including and involving the elderly as well.

14. Run workshops for nurses to help them create a situation where people can easily disclose their status. The same workshops could be run for families and doctors.

15. KZNCC commence with food production projects – fruit and vegetable gardens etc

Gender, Human Rights and Constitutionalism

Especially in the traditionally conservative cultures and theology, it has been muted out that the new Constitution which enshrines the Bill of Rights for all and promotes equality of men and women before the law and in all walks of life, like access to education and employment opportunities has emasculated men. With more debate and mutual education and enlightenment, men are beginning to realise that some tenets of patriarchal structures were indeed oppressive to women and that there is a need to transform and change for the well being of all.

Masculinity and Infidelity

The perception that men who have many mistresses are heroes while women can not do the same and have praise must be challenged. In the context of HIV and AIDS among many methods of preventing new infections the message of fidelity must go through. We just need to keep on spreading messages of prevention including one of faithfulness. The typical cultural proverbial “Isoga” (a man with many mistresses) must be challenged at least at a debate level. The protagonists of Isoga must loose the debate. In other words much that we have emphasized the use of condoms we must equally emphasize the importance of Abstinence, Being Faithful, and Reducing Multiple sexual partners in our fight against HIV and AIDS (Green 2003: 53ff)

Masculinity and Economic Inequality

The manipulation of women by men through control of the means of living must be overcome by empowering women to become economically independent. It is in God’s plan that humanity must work for a living and not be denied the opportunity to do so for both men and women. Structurally, the quest for involvement and activity of women in the mainstream of the economy and meaningful participation of women in political decision making positions is being realised in a visible way. Masculine economic structures must be transformed to accommodate women and their lifestyle. Women must not be disadvantaged in fulfilling their God given way of living.

Masculinity and Cultural Categorization (Izingane = Children)

The classical categorization of women as children must be addressed in the men and gender theological and cultural debates and discussions. In the world where HIV and AIDS is widespread, men and women can do better by treating each other as adult and behaving likewise and so jointly cooperate in safe sex and together fight the scourge of HIV and AIDS. Persistent has been the cultures and theologies of keeping a woman at her place, in the kitchen. And resilient has been the theologies of ‘a woman is made for a man thinking’. These theologies and cultures promoting the idea of the inferiority of women must be challenged. In the context of HIV and AIDS women must be emancipated to participate in civil life and church leadership structures and have their voice heard when matters of human sexuality are debated and discussed even on an academic level.

Masculinity as Empowerment through Re-Appropriation

The notion of the unrelenting appropriation of socialization propaganda (enhancing chauvinism and patriarchy), negative in most cases as it has been when it comes to helping in the fight against HIV and AIDS must be re-appropriated to carry positive messages about the pandemic. Much that traditional structures must be challenged to transform in the age of freedom and human rights; while we do so indeed, the Men’s Forums should be helping men to begin to be positive and helpful in fighting HIV and AIDS as men in leadership today.

Emancipating interpretation of scripture

Women are core players, or fellow players in the game of life and sex. Women, are not just victims of circumstances. Women are also making choices in life. I guise even in the context of masculinity, men, gender and HIV and AIDS. Women are bringing their own hermeneutic and value to theology and human sexuality. And the principles of health and healing found in the scriptures hold and are relevant to both our contextual theologisation and evidential findings of empirical scientific inquiry. In summary, clean living, clean behaviour, clean environment, clean water, clean food, clean sex, clean relationships, clean hands, clean clothes an clean habits are a partial answer to the combat of HIV and AIDS”.

HIV not a Virus of the Scriptures:

The challenge of HIV and AIDS, in inference is related to the texts of disease and healing in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is not the virus nor the syndrome found in the scriptures. HIV and AIDS is our modern challenge. We can only relate the virus and the syndrome in inference to the scriptures. What we are learning here is that we are beginning to do a theology of HIV and AIDS, and care more and more.

Social Psychology – General Agreements in the Context of HIV and AIDS

General agreement exists about characteristics of men and women in various groups despite differences in sex, age, religion, marital status and educational level” (Severy, B and Schlenker, 1976: 139).

Characteristics descriptive of men are more highly valued that are characteristics description of women” (Severy, B and Schlenker, 1976: 139).

The positively valued masculine characteristics may be grouped together to form a profile which includes competence, rationality and assertiveness. On the other hand, the positively valued female characteristics may be grouped together to form a profile which includes warmth and expressiveness” (Severy, B and Schlenker, 1976: 139).

“ … sex-identity differences are considered “desirable” by college students, “healthy” by mental health professionals, and “ideal” by both men and women” (Severy, B and Schlenker, 1976: 139).

Gender Typing is about categorising things as masculine or feminine. Self-presentation is about display of gender as ones prominent part. The use of gender to structure elements of social life has been basic. Gender typing has a characteristic of impression formation about self as male and female.

Gender Stereotypes is belief about personal attributes of women and men. There are also cultural and personal stereotypes. Cultural Stereotypes is exposure to sex images presented by our culture. Personal stereotypes are our own unique beliefs about the attributes of groups of people such as women and men.

Behavioral Theories in Social Psychology

Behavior Learning Theories are about Association, Classical Conditioning, Reinforcement, and Observational Learning (models/ Imitation/modeling) (Sears, 1988: 8ff)

Cognitive Theories: Are about Perception of the social situation; formulation of Thought; Beliefs about a situation; The importance of the social environment as perceived by the individual; perceiving in groups; Social Cognition (examines perception and encoding of social information, studies integration and classification of information, examines social memory, i.e. how individuals store, retrieve information about people and social events). Cognitive approaches focus on current perceptions, current interpretations, not the ‘reality’ of the situation ((Sears, 1988: 10)

■ “Motivational” Theories: Are about the individual needs or motives. Theorises that human needs influence, human perceptions, attitudes and behaviour. “The core idea is that situations can create or arouse needs which, in turn, lead people to engage in behaviors to reduce the need” (Sears, 1988: 12)

Decision Making Theories: Are about people calculating the costs and benefits of various actions and pick the best alternatives in a fairly logical way ((Sears, 1988: 12). Incentive theory is one about weighing pros and cons and then adopting the best one.

Social Exchange Theories: Are about the behaviour of two or more people who interact with each other. Social Exchange Theories built on Learning Theories and Decision making Theories. The social exchange is about interacting concerning the costs and benefits, pros and cons of their ultimate decision and action. “Social Exchange Theory analyses interpersonal interaction on the basis of costs and benefits to each person of possible waysa they can interact” (Sears, 1988: 13)

Role Theories: Are about the role each person will play within norm of society. “The social structural perspective emphasizes that individuals, like actors, play out pre-existing scripts – prescribed social rules of behaviour – i.e. social norms” (Sears, 1988: 14). On the other hand the “interactional perspective views people as characters improving and constructing their own social scripts” (Sears, 1988: 14).

Psychological Masculinity, Femininity, and Androgyny (and the Undifferentiated) -An Analysis:

Gender self concept: How much am I masculine, feminine, androgynous of undifferentiated? (Sears, 1988: 443)

The Psychologically Androgynous : ( Greek – Andro = male; Gyne = female): – about combining attributes (Sears, 1988: 443)

A Two-dimensional model of psychological masculinity and Femininity

High Masculinity


Low Femininity


High Femininity



Low Masculinity

Behavioral Flexibility = Androgynous: It is concluded that an androgynous persons are best able to adjust in most social situations because they exhibit strong characteristics of being male and female. The opposite thereof being that of undifferentiated persons. On the other hand the persons who fall in the second and fourth quadrant would be the normative male and female of a heterogeneous society

Socialisation: Socialisation is the manner in which society influences its members to think, behave and act according to their way of doing things in terms of mainly their gender. Other words socialisation is gender and class stereotyping. Certain questions and phrases are almost set to streamline and socialize members of society. In certain circumstances such as child birth often a question is asked: What gender is the newly born one? What shall be his/her name? What colour clothing shall we buy for the baby? “Boys don’t cry”? Such questions have their accompanying set of responses and counter responses such as: So and so has worked; or we thank God for the newly born. One can almost guess that the former and the latter are responses for a boy child or a girl child respectively.


Edwards, Phil (2008). How Does Ethics Relate to Theology, Pastoral Care and Current World-view.

Green, E. C. 2003. Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries. Westport, Connecticut, London: Praeger

Kalmina-Zake, Dana (sa). Pastoral Care and Protestant Theology. Latvia

Knox-Seith, E (ed.). 2005. 2005. One Body: North-South Reflections in the Face of HIV and AIDS. Vulume 1. Nordic – FOCCISA Church Cooperation: Christian Council of Norway.

Knox-Seith, E (ed.). 2005. 2005. One Body: North-South Reflections in the Face of HIV and AIDS. Vulume 2. Nordic – FOCCISA Church Cooperation: Christian Council of Norway.

KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (Sa): Training Manual for the KZNCC on Men, Gender and AIDS: Focusing Men For Change (Towards Transformation of Behaviour and Attitudes in an HIV/AIDS Context. Pietermaritzburg: KZNCC

Lester, Andrew D (2005). Angry Christians: A Theology for Care and Counseling. In Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2005 by Clrke, Jody H. Louiseville: Westminister John Knox Press

Ngoetjana, M L (ed.). 2010. A Followup Research on Experiences of People Living with HIV and AIDS (PLWHA) (Unpublished Report). Pietermaritzburg: KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council

Sears D O, L A Peplau and S E Taylor. 1988. Social Psychology 7th Edition. New Jersey, Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Severy, B and Schlenker. 1976. A Contemporary Introduction to Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill Company –of-Psychology-and-Theology-Christianity article.asp



Theology of Simplicity

A Theology of Simplicity: Challenges of Simple Lifestyle and Affordable

and Dignified Funerals

“Listen to this, you who rob the poor and trample the needy! You can’t wait for the Sabbath day to be over and the religious festival to end so you can get back to cheating the helpless. You measure out your grain in false measures and weigh it out on dishonest scales. And you mix the wheat you sell with chaff swept from the floor! Then you enslave the poor for a debt of one piece of silver or a pair of sandals” (Amos 8: 4 – 6 New Living Translation)

Generally what the prophet Amos is saying about how business was carried out during his time is relevant to our time. He laments the fact that it is the poor who suffer the results of unfair business dealings. In our time the funerals and burials of our loved ones have been turned into unfair business deals. The grieving families are being strained by unnecessary expensive funerals. The funeral houses are proliferating and prospering. The poor are ripped off unjustly.

Aim of this Theology of Simplicity and Promotion of Eco-coffins

The aim of this Theology of Simplicity and promotion of Eco-coffins is to encourage communities to pursue a simple lifestyle and will for burial with simplicity and dignity using an eco-coffin. Expensive funerals with the consequence of often huge burdens of debt are discouraged. Instead, burials within the material means of the family are promoted.

What is a theology of simplicity in relation to dignified funerals and eco-coffins?

A theology of simplicity considers continuing human relationships and wellbeing before, during and after a loved one has been buried. It encourages simple and dignified funerals which preserve the quality of doing a funeral using just basic necessary requirements.

It is the object of a theology of simplicity to justify and promote a simple yet dignified lifestyle. Simple living and affordable and dignified funerals and burials are in line with most religious teachings.

In reflecting on simplicity theologically, we approach the subject from different perspectives. First we look at the life of Jesus, then at various theological concepts: the process of God becoming human (incarnation), the self-emptying of Christ (kenosis), fellowship (koinonia), and service (diakonia).

The Life of Jesus

The life of Jesus was such, simple and clarifying who God is. Jesus came to bring life in fullness (Jn 1,16), but this did not mean accumulation of or a focus on material wealth but a fulfilled life through fulfilling relationships with God and fellow human beings (Mk 12,28-31) with service as a central element (Mk 9,33-35). Indeed, Jesus warns repeatedly about the danger of material wealth (Mt 5,19-24; Mk 10,24f). Instead, as he lived himself a simple life, he taught his disciples likewise (Mt 10, 9f). Rather than trusting in earthly riches, he taught trust in God’s providence (Mt 6, 25-34) and a pilgrim existence (Lk 9, 57-62), which implies the absence of clinging to earthly riches.

God became human in Jesus Christ (incarnation)

Incarnation means God in Jesus Christ becoming human, coming into the carnal, dressing on creation, putting on creatureliness, entering into the perceptual, adopting a particular culture, becoming part of a certain social group, being born inside its religious evolution and belief systems, participating in its political life, dwelling in the flesh and freely and willingly subjecting into the limitedness, frailty and weakness of being human (Jn. 1: 1 – 14; Phil. 2: 5 – 11). It is significant that God chose to become human in utter simplicity in Bethlehem as son of simple people (Lk 2, 4-6).

God in Jesus Christ chooses a life of self-emptying service (kenosis)

In Kenosis (Phil. 2: 1ff), Christ relinquishes the divinity, the omnipotent (all powerful) to take the form of a servant. The divine being simplified into a human servant and a slave. Jesus willingly becomes an obedient one to the point of the death on the cross. And God honored this self-emptying and raised Jesus from the dead.

God in Jesus Christ relates to humans in fellowship (koinonia) and service (diakonia)

God in Jesus Christ came to fellowship and to serve humanity and in turn when humanity accepts His gesture we are in turn in fellowship with Him and serving one God and one another together with Him (Jn. 13: 1ff). The simplicity of leadership or servant-hood leadership is demonstrated when Jesus takes a towel and a bowel of water and washes the feet of His disciples. In this simple service of washing the feet of the disciples Jesus demonstrated His love for the disciples.

The Role of Communities in Funerals and Burials

In African traditional communities death and bereavement was a communal responsibility. One task of the community included making preparations for the burial and bearing the costs of the funeral. The burden was not left with the bereaved family alone. The community brought water, food and firewood to the bereaved homestead, and assisted in all funeral chores and costs. Unfortunately this practice has been abandoned, and in its place has surfaced the custom of the bereaved family having to bear the full costs of feeding all who come to mourn including funeral and burial costs.

In order to address this issue, KZNCC encourages families to discuss and take a position on how they will conduct their funerals of their members, so as not to plunge the family into debt. Practically, we encourage church members to write a will which states that they want to be buried in a simple and dignified funeral using an Eco-Coffin to reduce costs. The communities must rethink their role in the funerals and that is to assist the bereaved family pastorally, spiritually, and materially.

What are Eco-Coffins?

Eco-Coffins are cost-effective coffins that are made of wood from ‘alien invasive’ trees, which is trees that are not indigenous to South Africa and are damaging to our natural environment, mainly because firstly they are taking over space to the detriment of indigenous plant species; and secondly they also use a lot of ground water with negative consequences to our ground water levels.

For these reasons, the Department for Water and Forestry is supporting an initiative to use the wood from alien invasive trees to make coffins and other furniture. Using Eco- Coffins is therefore both having an eco-logical as well as an eco-nomic impact, making a
contribution to conserve our God-given natural environment, and being sensible in terms of their cost-effectiveness. In addition, the production of Eco-Coffins contributes towards creation of jobs and transfer of carpentry skills.

The Eco-Coffins project is a response to the problem of expensive funerals by contributing to affordable, dignified and simple funerals and burials. The Eco-Coffins project is an expression of a theology of simple and dignified funerals. A theology of simple funerals using Eco-Coffins commences and progresses to answer questions of faith in relation to funerals and burial. The ideas brought forward in this paper are intended to be the start of an ongoing process of theological reflection within the ecumenical church on what it means to have dignified funerals in the present context of South Africa.

Simple living is possible. Simple lifestyle is appreciable. And simple funeral or burial should be encouraged to be part of our present culture. The Eco-Coffins project seeks to put quality before quantity at our burials. It seeks to add value and dignity towards our funerals. It seeks to restrain possibilities of the burden of debt caused by expensive funerals. So why not use Eco-Coffins?

25 June 2009

Revised 29 July 2009

Revised 8 September 2009


Contextual Bible Studies on Religion and Governance Booklet


A Project of the Religion and Governance Programme at the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZuluNatal Christian Council Consortium

October 200

Copyright © by the School of Religion and Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZuluNatal Christian Council Consortium


This booklet contains a number of Bible studies held by the Religion and Governance Programme in the School of Religion and Theology at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council Consortium. The overarching objective of the project was to raise awareness on issues of good governance in a democratic society to both students and the public at large. The hope was that such awareness would generate both orthodoxy and orthopraxis, resulting in lobbying, advocacy, and prophetic action on the part of the church and its membership.

This booklet is split into five chapters:

  • Chapter One A delineation of themes which came out of the response papers written by the participants on church, state, and governance in a democratic society of South Africa.
  • Chapter Two Bible study outlines addressing some emerging themes.
  • Chapter Three Bible seminars conducted by participants in their respective constituencies with the aim of raising consciousness on issues of good governance in a democratic South Africa.
  • Chapter Four Liturgies that are appropriate for a variety of settings in the context of raising awareness on issues of good governance.
  • Chapter Five Consists of our reflections and conclusions as a School as we engaged with issues raised by the participants.



The land issue

The issue of land remains a thorny issue for the South African Government. White settlers came to South Africa in 1652 and systematically dispossessed the indigenous black population of their land. This dispossession reached a crescendo in 1913, when the majority of the black population were driven away from their fertile arable lands and were crowded on non­productive lands, where they were exposed to the miserable conditions of poverty, food shortages, disease, and even death. This historical imbalance has never been rectified, and as such many black South Africans are still without land and continue to suffer regardless of the democratic South Africa that was installed in 1994. The church is urgently called upon to engage the South African Government on issues of land redistribution so as to improve the lives of the majority black population.

Poverty and destitution

The problem of poverty and destitution is inextricably linked to the issue of landlessness. While the Republic of South Africa is one of the African giants in terms of economic and infrastructural development, poverty still bedevils the nation, especially the black population. The South African Government must introduce a deliberate black empowerment programme to minimise poverty and suffering among its peoples. The problem of poverty and destitution is clearly demonstrated by the massive establishment of informal settlements. This is contrary to the United Nations “Universal

Declaration of Human Rights” (1948) which clearly states that shelter is one of the alienable rights of every citizen of every country.

Inequitable distribution of resources

While South Africa is considered as one of the richest countries in Africa, it is characterised by an unfair distribution of resources. We continue to have an economic system that is not tailored to eradicate the gross imbalances of the past. Instead, the prevailing economic policies seem to perpetuate the economic system inherited from the apartheid regime. The church therefore should challenge the government to correct such imbalances.


While we acknowledge that South Africa has good infrastructure such as roads and electricity, it is noteworthy, that there is a critical shortage of housing. This is clearly demonstrated by the huge population that continue to live in informal settlements. Such a situation calls for a radical and deliberate building programme that will ensure that enough accommodation is provided for the poor. The church should challenge the government and the private sector to join hands in providing housing for the poor.


The church and the government should have programmes to educate the population on HIV and AIDS, so that we can eradicate stigmatisation, victimisation and isolation of those living with the HI-virus. Another programme can be targeted at behaviour-change especially among the youth. The child grant scheme introduced by government must be reviewed for it seems to encourage unprotected sex among the youth in this world of HIV and AIDS. The government should make it a
point that those living with the HI-virus must have easy access to Anti-Retroviral (ARV) medication.


There is a very high rate of unemployment in South Africa. The government is called upon to be creative and to make sure that they pursue policies that attract foreign investment as well as skills development programmes so as to boost employment opportunities. The church should challenge the government to introduce unemployment and job-seekers grants as well as the Basic Income Grant (BIG).


Crime in South Africa has reached alarming levels. The church should call upon the government to take serious measures in a bid to eradicate crime. The South African Police Service (SAPS) must be both competent and professional so that each case receives maximum attention. Issues of missing dockets must be stopped forthwith. While there are many cases that take too long to be resolved in the courts of law, justice delayed is justice denied. A mechanism should be found to accelerate the judicial processes. Serious and prohibitive sentences must be handed down to offenders. The church must raise awareness among South African citizens not to harbour criminals and to cooperate with the SAPS where necessary.

Drug and alcohol abuse

The church and government must partner each other in organising campaigns and programmes to educate the youth on the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Where possible, moral rearmament programmes must be introduced in society. The government also should criminalise the selling of drugs
and alcohol to young people and stiffer punishments must be handed down to offenders.

Gender equality

The church and government must come up with programmes to educate society on issues of gender equality, in which the males are challenged to be able to see women as their counterparts and not as objects of abuse. There should be a deliberate move to empower women and to give them leadership positions in society. This means our education system must be tailored in such a way that it does not denigrate women. In other words, a culture should be created that is accommodative of all, regardless of gender.

Teenage pregnancy

The church and government must introduce programmes that alleviate teenage pregnancies in schools. There is need for education among the youth on the challenges that are associated with unplanned pregnancies. It must be noted that the state child grant scheme which the government introduced seems to encourage teenage pregnancy.

Shortage of hospital staff

The South Africa Government continues to lose medical practitioners to other countries due to poor remuneration and unattractive working conditions. The government must review the salaries, allowances, and working conditions in a bid to retain its qualified personnel. Additionally, if South Africa is to retain its doctors and nurses, then the problem of overcrowding in state hospitals and clinics may also be alleviated.


The church should challenge the government to deal accordingly with corrupt officials across the board. A case in point is the Ministry of Home Affairs, where corrupt officials are fraudulently issuing foreigners with residency permits or South African identity documents and passports. In addition, the church should challenge the government to improve service delivery in this ministry.

Compensation for the victims of apartheid

While the government introduced the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), there is a feeling that it should have gone further and demanded that the perpetrators of such crimes against humanity pay reparation to their victims.


The church should participate in government policy-making by submitting recommendations on issues that have a bearing on people’s lives. For example, the church should participate in preparing budget allocations, both at a national and provincial level.

Leaders with integrity

The church should challenge the government to take into cognisance the competence of the people elected and appointed into public office, so as to maximise service delivery. More importantly, the church should act as the moral custodian of the nation, challenging immorality in all its forms, especially with regard to government officials.



Theme #1: The land issue

Bible text: 1 Kings 21:1-16

What is the text about?

  • The text is about two conflicting land tenure systems.

o Jezebel, the wife of the king represents a system in Phoenicia where the land belongs to the monarchy, and whose office was vested with absolute power.

o King Ahab of Israel represents a system borrowed from Israel’s neighbours where land belongs to the monarchy against the popular egalitarian order, where land belongs to Yahweh who made sure that every tribe, every clan and every family in Israel had access to it. o Naboth the Jezreelite represents ancient Israel’s understanding of land, which maintained that land belongs to Yahweh and whoever holds it does so as the deputy to Yahweh and every member in Israel has access to it.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Naboth the Jezreelite
  • King Ahab
  • Jezebel the Phoenician wife of Ahab
  • Nobles and elders
  • Two witnesses
  • The crowd
  • Yahweh (God)

Abuse of power and corruption

  • King Ahab and Jezebel abused their power by plotting the death of Naboth, killing him and taking over his land.
  • The king Ahab ignored the traditional understanding of land which taught that everyone should have access to it, and where the buying or exchange of land was contrary to the ordinances of Yahweh.
  • The use of the King’s seal on the letters that communicated the plot to eliminate Naboth was an act of corruption.
  • To engage the king’s messengers in sending out letters was itself an act of corruption and abuse of power.
  • The use of two false witnesses by the king’s wife is another indication of the extent of corruption and abuse of power by the monarchy.
  • To involve the elders and the nobles of the community in the elimination of Naboth again was an act of abuse of power.
  • To call the community into fasting in order to justify the elimination of Naboth was a pious fraud and abuse of a religious rite.

Application of the text

  • Do we encounter such issues in our communities?
  • If so, how do we deal with them?

o The prophetic ministry of the church should come into play. The church should engage the South African Government on matters of land appropriation, expropriation and land redistribution.

o The church is duty bound to conscientise its membership on issues of land redistribution,

through Bible studies, sermons, deliberations and liturgies.

o The church must support and empower the “Naboth’s” of our communities in their resistance against all forms of oppression and exploitation.

o The church must conscientise its constituencies

against the excesses of government.

o The church must support civil organisations

which are involved in lobbying and advocacy. o The church must desist from supporting abusive tendencies by government.

Theme #2: The equal distribution of resources

Bible text: Acts 6:1-6

What is the text about?

  • The text concerns the distribution of resources between the Hellenists and Hebrew widows.

o There was discrimination against the Greek- speaking widows and favouritism of Hebrew- speaking women.

o The early church decided to elect people who would administer the distribution of resources among these two distinct groups.

o Such people were selected according to their

given capacities.

o The apostles agreed to share responsibilities by creating the office of a deacon, so that the apostles could continue to preach the Gospel of Jesus of Christ unhindered by other important matters of social justice which are inseparable from the preaching of the Gospel.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Hebrew-speaking widows
  • Greek-speaking widows
  • The apostles
  • The elected officials

Why were these women widows?

  • The husbands could have died due to many causes, for example:

o Some could have died in wars

o Others could have died in state building projects

o Some could have died due to the shortage of food

o Some could have died due to contracting diseases

o Others could have been victims of crime.

What paradigm of governance do we envisage in this?

  • This is a model of a good governance that listens to the plight of the people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender and social status.
  • The leaders deliberately took action to correct the misnomer.
  • They elected seven respected Greek nationals to oversee the distribution of these resources. This demonstrates the ability to delegate responsibilities by the leaders.
  • They elected people according to their gifting and capacities.
  • While this story is an epitome of good governance, it fails to recognise gender equality, in issues of leadership.

Application of the text

  • There is a certain caricature both within the churches and government, in which people are elected without considering merits or capacities but because of who they support.
  • People are elected because they are rich without considering their suitability to the post.
  • Some people are elected because they would have tithed better than others, albeit their character is incongruent to the expected faith.
  • Sometimes in government, people are elected because they offer brides to the electorate, or because they are feared.
  • Some people are elected on racial, tribal, ethnic, class, or creedal grounds.

The role of the church

  • The church should invoke its mandate of prophetic ministry.
  • The church should deal with elections within its structures to ensure that the elected have capacity to deliver.
  • The church should design programmes that aim at educating the electorate, on qualities of possible candidates for leadership posts.
  • The church should be able to transcend beyond artificial tribal boundaries and help all people in need.

Theme #3: Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem Bible text: Nehemiah 2:1-20

What is the text about?

  • The text is about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Babylonians who took the oppressor elite of Israel’s society into captivity.

o King Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah permission to

go back and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. o Nehemiah is concerned and takes the initiative

and asks permission from the King. o Jerusalem was considered to be the residence of Yahweh (God). The problem for the Jews was that land for them became holier nearer Jerusalem; and more profane further away.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • King Artaxerxes
  • Nehemiah
  • Nissan
  • Asaph
  • Sanbalat
  • Horonite
  • Tobia
  • Geshem
  • The people of Jerusalem
  • Yahweh (God)

Short explanation of selected characters

  • There was a group led by Nehemiah that supported the reconstruction of Jerusalem.
  • There was a group led by Sanbalat, Tobia, and Geshem, who were against the reconstruction of the city.

Application of the text

  • The church should be concerned with the moral, economic, social, and political decadence within our communities; it must come up with programmes that are aimed at alleviating such problems.
  • The church should be prepared to face opposition and be able to move on with its programmes.
  • The church like Nehemiah must take the initiative in designing programmes that are meant to introduce change in our communities.
  • We acknowledge that King Artaxerxes was prepared to listen to the plight of the Jews as well as to provide resources for the reconstruction programme; this should act as a model for the current leaders of our various communities.
  • The church should step out from its sanctuaries and into the public arena to address the needs of society.
  • As Nehemiah restored national identity, the church is called upon to participate fully in the restructuring and restoration of our societies ravaged by tribal and racial divides.

Theme #4: Oppression and suffering

Bible text: Exodus 3:7-10

What is the text about?

  • The text is about the enslavement of the Israelites by the Egyptians.

o It is about their suffering in Egypt.

o It is about their cry to God for freedom.

o It is about God’s response to their cry.

o God promises them land and freedom.

o God called and commissioned Moses to deliver the children of Israel.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Israel
  • Egyptian taskmasters
  • God
  • Moses
  • Other nations

Application of the text

  • The church’s mandate is to call for the liberation of the oppressed.
  • The church should call upon the government to alleviate suffering and misery of all its peoples.
  • The government must introduce an economic system that ensures a fare and equitable distribution of resources.
  • The church must be able to listen to the voice of the suffering and to take their voice seriously.
  • The church should identify with the poor and suffering since God identified with the poor and the suffering so that God could liberate them.

Theme #5: Poverty and destitution

Bible text: Ruth 2:1-19

What is the text about?

  • The text is about two poor widows.

o They became poor after the death of their husbands.

o One of the widows went to Boaz’s field in

order to glean.

o Ruth found favour in the eyes of Boaz’s and was permitted to glean grain.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • Naomi
  • Ruth
  • Boaz
  • The gleaners (farm workers)

Application of the text

  • The church should challenge the government to make sure that the poor are catered for.
  • The church and the government must make sure the widows are provided for in the best possible way.
  • The church and government should make sure that the widows are able to retain property after the death of the spouses and this includes land.
  • The government should have contingent measures to address the problems of the less privilege.

Theme #6: Taking care of the children Bible text: Mark 10: 13-16 What is the text about?

  • The text is about Jesus embracing children.

o The disciples were steeped in the Jewish culture

of the day which looked down upon children. o Jesus introduces a radical shift in paradigm. Who are the characters in the text?

  • Jesus
  • The disciples of Jesus
  • Children
  • God

Application of the text

  • The church and government should make sure that children are cared for.
  • People who abuse children in any form should receive stiff sentences.
  • The SAPS units that deal with crimes associated with children should be child-friendly.
  • The government must make sure all children have access to schooling.

Theme #7: Politics and Theology of the belly

Bible text: John 6:1-11

What is the text about?

  • The text is about five thousand people who are hungry.

o It talks about how these people were fed by Jesus.

o The text talks about sharing the little that they had.

o The little boy that owned five loaves and two

fishes was willing to share with others.

o The disciples were of the view that food could only be found in the city, and hence they argued that Jesus should allow people to go back home to eat.

Application of the text

  • The church must be innovative and initiate feeding schemes for the poor.
  • Members of the community who are financially well- off should learn to share with others.
  • The Government should come up with policies that ensure the equal distribution of the limited resources available.
  • Companies and business people should participate in the sharing of what they have with those who have not.

Theme #8: On corruption Bible text: Luke 16:1-9

What is the text about?

  • The text is about the stewardship of money

o The manager is accused of wasting the owner’s possessions.

o To secure his future, the manager becomes corrupt.

o He reduces the debts relating to two debtors. o He does the above so that these people will accept him in their homes if he is dismissed because he does not have the power to till the land and to beg.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • The rich man
  • The shrewd manager
  • The first debtor
  • The second debtor

Application of the text

  • People who are corrupt abuse those who are in problems, like the two debtors.
  • Corrupt people use their positions to buy favour, position, and even protection from the law and police.
  • The church and government should beware of such people in our communities.
  • Some members of parliament and even church people ascend to positions of influence through scandalous means.
  • The church is called upon to support advocacy and lobbying against such corruption.

Theme #9: The injustice of homelessness

Bible text: Amos 3:14-15

What is the text about?

  • In the text God complains about the rampant injustice in Israel.

o Israel’s rich people are challenged, especially those who own multiple houses, some for winter and others for summer.

o God complains about the luxurious living standards of the rich, in full-sight of the poor who are subject to excessive suffering and misery.

Who are the characters in the text?

  • God
  • The rich
  • The poor
  • The prophet

Application of the text

  • God calls upon the church to take action against the excesses of luxury, yet there are critical cases of misery.
    • The Church must lobby the government against ownership of multiple houses, while others do not even have one.
    • There are many people within society who have summer and winter houses, while others live on the streets.




Topic #1: The Lord’s Prayer

Bible text: Matthew 6:5-15; Luke 11:1-4

Seminar Facilitator: Rev. Georg Scriba

In his introduction, the seminar leader emphasised that in the Lord’s Prayer we find support and assistance for our everyday life and remembering God’s constant care for us. But we also find encouragement and power to resist the forces of evil which stand against us in many ways. He explained that the Gospels contain two versions of the Lord’s Prayer. One from the Matthew’s Gospel and the other from the Luke’s Gospel. He pointed out that the Luke’s version is shorter than the Matthew’s version and probably the more original version as Jesus prayed it. However, because Matthew has two more petitions added to that of Luke, the number of petitions rose to seven. He therefore decided to use that of Matthew for our Bible study.

He stated that as with the Ten Commandments, the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer relate to our relationship with God as the vertical beam of the cross. The next four petitions represent the horizontal beam of the cross, our relationship with each other. With its seven petitions this prayer not only fits the seven days of the week, but also “the seven ages of humankind,” i.e., the stages of personal life and of the church. As a result, Rev. Scriba apportioned the seven petitions from the cross into seven days of the week as follows:

  • Sunday: “Our Father in heaven, Your name be hallowed”

Jesus approached God in his prayers in a new way. He calls God “Abba” which in Aramaic is equal to “daddy.” It is an intimate address to a trustworthy person. The Christian life begins with this fundamental request, that God’s name, praise, invitation, and word be spread and hallowed. Sunday is also the day in which we celebrate, sing and make music to the Lord, celebrating God’s majesty, sharing in fellowship and Holy Communion and commemorating Jesus’ resurrection. In addition, those who have no father or who might have had negative experience with an abusive father might address God in another appropriate form such as a “Mother” or “Friend.”

  • Monday: “Your kingdom come”

At the beginning of the working week we think of our own areas of responsibility, that which is our own, the areas we decide on. God’s kingdom is to come also into our everyday life, the working week. One’s kingdom is the area in which one has responsibility. For a pastor, the pulpit is her/his kingdom. In addition, we ask God for his leadership in our lives and in those in leadership in where these oppose his kingdom and persecute his church. Against tyrannical rulers this petition is a prayer of protest: God’s kingdom stands over human instituted kingdoms, or forms of state power.

  • Tuesday: “Your will be done”

We all have our own will, desires and ambitions which can determine our attitudes to others, e.g., by taking control, by misusing our strengths and status in society. A young person naturally has to find freedom their own will power from the security of home to stand up against the challenges of the world. However, a young person also has to know where the limitations of ones own freedom and will-power lie, i.e., where
they endanger the freedom and lives of others. We are to constantly question our own motives against the revealed will of God.

  • Wednesday: “Give us today our daily bread”

The middle of the week reminds us of the middle of our lives, when we are active in our work, in our families, in social and political affairs. Our “daily bread” includes the daily work and running of society and the church, including health, wealth and prosperity, a good political dispensation, peace etc. The old rules of the monks which stated, “Pray as if your work does not count” and “work as if your prayer does not count” applies. One achieves nothing without the other. This is a call to prayer and action, waiting in prayer upon God for insight, and yet not passively, but in an active sense.

  • Thursday: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us”

In days of reflecting on profits and losses, what is the outcome of all work and achievement? It is time when we reflect on what we have and have not achieved. We pray for those who accept responsibility and confess also the sins of others and ask for forgiveness. But we should distinguish between true repentance and forgiveness on the one side and the call for or humbling attitude of submission in the disguise of forgiveness on the other. It should be noted that the forgiveness of sins brings new hope every day.

  • Friday: “Save us from the time of trial”

Friday reminds us of Jesus’ suffering and death. In our lives it might be the time of retirement, or of tiredness setting in. It can also be a time of temptation or suffering. We think of those ill with AIDS and being infected with HIV, as well as the many orphans. We live in days of trial and temptation in
the context of rampant unemployment, a rising crime rate, corruption and violence, the rape of women and misuse of children. We pray for just law enforcement and an impartial judiciary, for a ministry of compassion, for doctors, nurses and medical staff, for people trained in pastoral ministry and diaconal work, for people who emphasise qualities such as trust, commitment, conscientiousness, preparedness to assist and help.

  • Saturday: “Deliver us from evil”

The speaker emphasized that on Saturday we think of the end of the week, the end of life, the end of a millennium, the end of this earth. We have fears of death and destruction. In fact, we want to resists all forms of evil. Evil may here be translated as things which are evil, or the evil one, the devil=D-evil and his many disguises. At this point we pray for steadfastness, comfort and proclamation of the risen Lord and request strength also by receiving the comforting Holy Communion with one another.

The division of the petitions in the Lord’s Prayer into seven days was also seen to be related to the seven words of Christ on the cross. He argues that the seven words of Jesus on the cross might assist us through the different stages of dying and grieving, such as: non-acceptance, shock, isolation, anger, negotiation, depression, outpouring and acceptance. He outlined the seven words of Christ on the cross and asserts that Jesus thereby shows us the possibility of the following:

  • To free ourselves from hurt by forgiving;
  • Of assisting those who stay behind;
  • Of opening heaven to those who realise that they are lost;
  • Of accepting the small signs of loving help even from strangers;
  • Of that walking through the dark vale feeling God has abandoned us;
  • Leaving the unfulfilled matters in the hands of him who accomplished life;
  • Placing our life into the Father’s hands.

He ended with doxology which he said that is a typical ending of every Jewish prayer and was thus added when Christians prayed the Our Father. “For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours now and forever” relates to the beginning of the prayer and summarise the prayer with its Amen which is equal to “Yes, it shall be so.”

After his presentation, the participants asked questions. Among the questions asked was: Should just because people have their experiences change the gender of a person to suite their needs? This question arises from the fact that the presenter said that some women or people because of their experiences in life use she for God. To the speaker, that is not a problem to him. He divided the participants into groups to discuss one of the petitions. That was done and each group came up with a prayer and action. They are as follows:


Churches, families under guidance of your kingdom and will. Taking care of the poor and needy, thereby bringing in the kingdom of God.
Wisdom and understanding, three dimensional wills: my own, of others, and of God. Freedom of myself and others as Moses freed the Israelites.
Necessary skills for production of food, employment and change in economy. Skills development and workshops.
Speak out against injustice, joined force with powerful, greed, pray against misuses. God’s vision to empower people to resist temptation, support the poor and needy.
Empower us to care for HIV infected people and people living with AIDS; restore the morals of humanity. To assist those infected, care for them and give them love. Giving them hope that there is life after HIV and AIDS. It is never the end.
Free those who are fearful to stand for truth. Conducting workshops on hope to the people.


In conclusion, one can see that the Bible addresses people in different ways depending on who and where one may be. We can relate to God in different ways. One of the papers given to the participants has a key drawn on it. This key was divided into three components: horizontal, vertical and a round hub at the right end of the vertical position. He told the participants to make use of this ‘keep on opening doors’ that need to open and to close the doors that need to be closed.


Topic #2: Jesus and economics

Bible text: Mark 12:38-13:5

Seminar Facilitator: Mrs. Immaculee Nyiraneza

Having read the Bible passage, the facilitator asked the following three questions:

  1. What is the text about?
  1. Who are the main characters in the text?
  • What is the relationship between the characters?

The participants were divided into groups to discuss the first and second questions. After the group discussions, the findings were presented group by group:

  • Group III was of the view that looking at what is happening in South Africa, the text is about Jesus associating himself with the poor. The characters in the text includes: Jesus, widow, teachers and Jesus’ disciples.
  • According to Group IV, the text was about economy because the story was between the rich and the poor. It was also about the law, poverty, democracy and temple. They assert that people that are oppressing the poor should know that there is time for freedom of the people. In addition, the main characters are teachers of the law and the rich, poor widow, Jesus’ disciples and Jesus.
  • Groups I and II agreed with the other groups on both the first and second questions.

On what was the relationship between these four characters, the responses from the groups were as follows: according to the members of group one, all the characters had relationship with Jesus because they all go places of worship. Jesus was a leader and a teacher to the disciples. But there was oppressive relationship between the rich and the poor, which resulted in a
win/lose relation. The relationship between Jesus, the poor and the rich was the same, but Jesus rebuked the rich for the way they deal with the poor. Group IV was of the view that the relationship between the four characters can be seen as that of pride vs. humility, wealth vs. poverty, materialism vs. spirituality. The report given by the group two on the relationship between the rich and the poor showed that the rich were mismanaging the poor, while the poor perceive the rich as better people, thereby cannot relate to them. The group three showed that the relationship between Jesus and his disciples was that of teacher-student relationship, and to the poor it was compassion.

According to the facilitator, the contextual Bible study is to help understand the Bible. Therefore, in our context today, what is the relationship between the rich and the poor? How is it? Where do the rich get their wealth from? What should be our response? What should be the response of the church towards the relationship between the rich and the poor? In response to these questions, the members of group four maintained that the relationship between the rich and the poor in our context is that of exploitation. The rich get their riches from the poor through exploitation. This exploitation could be in monetary form or through knowledge. For example, they do take research from the poor and make it their own. The poor do the research and the rich take it and make it their own information. Though they pay the poor for providing the information, but the amount is always very little. They suggested that the response of the church should be on educating the people on the way to be human and their willingness to earn a living. The church should organise programmes to educate the rich on the need for fair dealings with other people. Furthermore, the lazy ones should be ready to work. However, the group one point of view as it concerns the relationship between the rich and the poor is that of winner/loser. For example, the mining company, when they arrived, they remove the people from their land without paying
them. The workers in mining industry receive small money from the company owners. In the government establishment, government officials front their family members for contracts. They argued that the church should stop exploiting people through their pastors. This is because pastors today exploit their members. One of the participants narrated how he attended a service in one of the churches and the pastor told his members that he needed R600 for groceries before he could preach. Therefore, it is needful and important that the church should speak out against exploitation by having workshops to inform people on how to get out of exploitation and encourage those exploited to stand for their rights.

The members of Group III were in agreement with what other groups have said, but added that the rich do get their wealth by robbing the poor. They called for advocacy for the poor and the promotion of equality. But according to the members of group two, rich people dictate how life should be without consulting the poor. To them it is exploitation. Furthermore, decisions in the church today are mainly based on material, the committee members are the rich people. In fact, the rich dis- empowers the poor. They called on the church to listen attentively to the needs of the poor. In addition, the church can intervene by going into the community and see how they can help the people with sustainable livelihoods.

In conclusion, the facilitator told the participants that they can use the Bible to engage with the issues on economy. The facilitator encouraged the participants to go home and use this Bible study in their churches and communities.

Topic #3: The economics of Jesus in SADC politics

Bible text: Luke 19:30-48

Seminar Facilitator: Dr. Lucas Ngoetjana

  • What is the text all about?
  • Who are the characters in the text and what do we know about them?
  • In what way is the story illustrating diaconal work?
  • How can we respond to this challenge in our context— communities/churches?

Speaking about Jesus and the New Testament society, he alluded that the images of Jesus as revealed in the text read showed that Jesus was an authoritarian commander, triumphant king, violent revolutionary and teacher. He went further to speak about the conditions and significance of the temple during the time of Jesus. Jerusalem was the centre of every thing and the temple was the most important area. He stressed that within the temple, the holy of holy was the most important place as it was the holiest place. Followed in the same other is the priest place, the place for the Jewish Men, Jewish women, the proselytes (which was less holy). However, he asserts that the temple lost its religiosity, its redemptive vision and religious hope. The temple was the largest employer in the region with 1000 priest and 1800 workers. In his own word, the temple was just like our Malls today with shops around. It was the biggest place of investment. When Israel conquered the land through their conquest, the original land owners were displaced. So the place was not commercially viable and economically isolated by the Transjordan highway. They were politically hostile with their neighbours. The temple produced robbers, Essenes and Zealots etc.

According to the speaker, the categories of the poor produced by the temple were as follows:

  • Loss of spiritual, cultural and political identity
  • No land, no property, no means of production
  • No jobs, people deep in debt
  • Exploitation of labour
  • Wage earners economy
  • Beggars, the blind aged, women, children workers and the physically challenged

The socio-political conditions in Jerusalem at that time were bad. Politically, there was violence of Roman occupation, violence of Pax Romana, violence of the military, violence of indirect rule, violence of taxation and tithes and violence of the judicial system. Religiously, there was violence of holiness system, of Pharisaic holiness, violence of Essenes withdrawal and violence of Sadducee collusion with Roman forces. It did not end there, but rather touches the cultural aspects of life. According to him, the cultural condition also amounts to the violence of Roman culture, Greek culture, Persian culture, Babylonian culture, Canaanite culture and of the Egyptian culture. On the economic side, there was violence of land dispossession, tithes, the temple, Herodian rule, absentee Lords, and the Roman capital. Furthermore, there was violence of tax collectors and of wage labour. Moreover, the social conditions were also bad. There was division and racism (Jew/Gentile/Roman/Greek/Aramaic/Canaanites/Samaritan/He mharatz).On wealth, there was division between the rich and the poor and ultimately, the violence of the cross, rupture with the course, the just dying for the unjust.

It was on this context that the New Testament emerged. The society produced the difficulties in those days. It was therefore the condition of poverty that gave birth to Jesus. He maintained that whenever there is dire need, deliverance comes. Therefore, it is important for us in our days and context to do something to change the course of life. That is one reason we are here for this training.

This session was closed with prayers for Zimbabwe which were written in groups and submitted to Dr. Ngoetjana for uploading onto the internet.

Topic #3: Diaconal work

Bible text: Matthew 25:31-46

Seminar Facilitator: Ms. Bongi Zengele

The facilitator started by asking the participants to explain what they understand by the word ‘diaconal.’ Some responded by saying that it means: church work within the community, amalgamation of churches or collaboration of churches. Some were of the opinion that it means service, working together, helping people (the voiceless people), capability building.

  1. What is the text all about?
  2. Who are the characters in the text and what do we know about them?
  • In what way is the story illustrating diaconal work?
  1. How can we respond to this challenge in our context – communities/churches?

In response to the first question, the participants varied in their answers. Some of the answers given were as follows:

  • Contribution of believers.
  • The unbelievers and their success at the end of the story.
  • Two groups of people—believers and unbelievers.
  • Setting of standards of what was expected to be done.
  • It was about equality—everyone is equal before God.
  • It was about outreach—reaching out to people.
  • Consequences of doing good and doing bad.
  • The reward for doing good things.
  • Facing the challenges.

After the response to the first question, Participants were divided into groups to discuss on the rest of the questions. At
the end of the group discussions, the participants came together again to present their findings or answers to other questions. The following were the outcome of the group discussions:

  • Group IV was of the view that two characters are the son of man and people (represented by sheep and goats). According to this group, the title of Son of Man refers to the humanitarian side of Jesus. He is pro-poor. On the one hand, sheep are obedient and listen to the voice of the shepherd. They are also united. On the other, goats are not obedient; they scatter all over the place and do not care. Therefore, they sum it up by saying that what the sheep does is what diaconal is about.
  • Group III differed in its opinion. According to this group, the characters in this text include Jesus, nation, community (righteous and non-righteous), father and angels.
  • Group II agreed that the characters include Jesus, the righteous, the non-righteous (evil) and poor people.
  • Group I believed that characters in the text included Jesus, goats, sheep and the poor/needy. So the responses of these groups are similar.

With respect to the third question,

  • Group IV asserted that what the sheep does is what diaconal work is all about.
  • Group I was of the opinion that it was about social work. This includes ministering to those who are hungry, sick, lonely, in prison, spiritual and physically challenged. The church should therefore be practical and not theoretical on these issues. The church should speak out for the voiceless people. In addition, the church should be the place of hope for the community.
  • Group III thought the story is illustrated diaconal work through hospital visit, prison visit, and acceptance of strangers.

The facilitator asserts that we need to lobby all the spheres of government to deliver the services needed by the society. There is need to address poverty, health, education, justice issue, law enforcement and infrastructural development. The church must therefore develop programmes which will address their members’ needs for their development and upliftment.

In responding to the fourth question, it was agreed that the church will respond through advocacy work. The church should be the church of the poor and not the church for the poor. There is also need for capacity building and that God is working in and through us. The church should help to create a friendly environment comfortable for every person. At this point the facilitator thanked the participants and told them that they did very well and should keep it up.

Topic #4: Models of Democracy, Administration of Justice and Good Governance

Bible text: Exodus 18:13-27; Acts 6: 1 – 8.

Seminar Facilitator: Dr. Simangaliso Kumalo

There were seven questions that the speaker asked the participants to engage with. The lesson of the Bible Study was based on the governance of people by Moses. The speaker highlighted that Moses was using a dictatorship method in governing the Israelites. Jethro the Priest who was also his father in-law came as an outsider to instruct Moses on how the people should be governed. Moreover, the speaker explained three types of leadership, the first one is Authoritarian Leadership, the second one is Laissez-faire Leadership and the third one is Democratic leadership. Jethro encouraged Moses to involve people in his leadership. The new system came
with Jethro, where there is sharing of responsibilities and people understood their roles. At the end the story was related to our context today.

Six questions were raised by from the text:

  1. What is the text all about? Responding to this question, participants made useful contributions in identifying what the text is all about. Among the contributions are that the text is about sharing of responsibilities/duties, good service delivery, leadership, identification of the peoples need, apartheid, responding to the conflict, question of gender, elections, mobilization, inequality, complain and response, and economy. These are the issues participants identified as being the crux of the text.
  2. Who are the actors in this text? In responding, the participants identified the following people as the actors: widows, the elected, disciples/apostles, Greeks and Hebrews.
  • What form of leadership did we find in the text? The view of the participants was that the twelve apostles served as councillors, with Peter as the key spokesperson or chairperson.
  1. What role did the followers played? They identified their problems. They took action on the identified problems by identifying the right office to knock at, and reported the injustice.
  2. What role did the leaders played? They created space for the people to come and express their views. In addition, they respected the views of the people and laid down criteria to be followed for election.
  1. What does the text teach in terms of leadership/governance? According to the participants, the text portrays weak leadership council in the sense they could only wait to hear the people complain before doing the right thing. They lack procreative. In
    addition, the text teaches that the Church should not be quite in leadership/governance issues, but rather participate actively for good leadership/governance to emerge. The text also shows the gap between the council and the grassroots, as a result, they did not see what was taking place in the community. This should not be so. Nevertheless, the text as well showed the wisdom of the leaders by their response to the issues raised by the people. Furthermore, involvement of people is a sign of empowerment. We also see gender insensitivity (patriarchy).

Topic #5: Marginalised voices – Inventing spaces, Invited spaces and Invading spaces to facilitate active citizenship.

Bible text: 1 Samuel 8:1-22

Seminar Facilitator: Dr. Simangaliso Kumalo

  • What is the text about?
  • Who are the actors?
  • What is God’s response to the request?
  • Is there any relevance of this text in today’s monarchical system of governance?
  • What is your conclusion of monarchy as the system of governance?

The Bible study session started with songs of praise and worship, after which a word of prayer was offered by one of the participants.

Before looking into the text, the facilitator in person of Dr. Kumalo spoke of four different spaces. According to him, the spaces are:

  1. Invited space This is when government invites one
  2. Invented space We invite government to speak with them
  • Invaded space When government invade the space without invitation
  1. Involved space When the church seat with government to agree on a certain activities. In this case, both are equal partners. It is a negotiated space.

He was of the view that the church should be working for the involved space. This is for a longer time, not for a short period. He cited what his church (the Methodist Church of Southern Africa) is doing in Durban. According to him, the church organises for people infected with HIV to receive ARVs and supplements in their church after church service at the sixth floor of the church building. These drugs are supplied by the government. It serves them better than the pains they experience by leaving their working place when they are due to collect their medications.

Who are the characters in the text?

A number of actors were mentioned. They include: God, Samuel, Samuel’s sons, the people (Israelites), and elders of Israel. On what is the text about, various answers were given by the participants. The text is about good governance, about management of community, change of leadership, corruption and justice, about monarchy, the people need someone that will lead them to war because they were threatened by wars around them. The next question was on Samuel’s response to the people. He was displeased with the people because to him it amounts to the rejection of God’s leadership and demand for human leadership. Although Samuel was protecting theocracy—God’s rule, however, he was as well protecting his own interest as a leader.

What was God’s response?

God said to Samuel, why do you worry? They have not rejected you but me (God). God told Samuel to listen to them.

In fact, God gives the will to choose leadership system. He was also aware of the injustices that were coming from Samuel’s family. Give them a king. And what will this king do to the people? The text outlined numerous behaviours or actions of the king as follows:

  1. The king will take their sons and make them soldiers, forcing their sons to be soldiers. He will set up systems and groups to represent him in their communities. But is there anything wrong on that? There is nothing wrong in that if he does not threaten the freedom of the people. However, God was saying that their freedom will be controlled and limited.
  2. The king will make the people to work in his field. This is what is happening in Swaziland. Every November/December men works in the field of the king of Swaziland while the king will be enjoying his life with his many wives and children. This has been taken to be a culture. If you are a good Swazi, you must go to the king’s farm and work.
  • The king also will take their daughters as slaves. Taking South Africa as a case study, there is a law that one cannot take a child under eighteen years to be wife. But the kings’ point to the young girls they want. Kings will use this text to justify their actions. In Swaziland, there is a festival called “reed dance” where beautiful girls come to dance in front of the king and the king picks a wife from them. The king will not pay labola (bride price) as others will do.
  1. The king will take away their lands and fields – remember the story of Ahab and Naboath on the issue of vineyard.
  2. The peoples best fields will be given to the king’s officers
  3. They will be slaves
  • They will cry to God because of the king and God will not help them. It is not saying that to have a king is

wrong, rather if care is not taken, having king will ruin the people. God gave kings the right to rule, but the people should not allow kings to enslave them. In fact, democracy and monarchy should not enslave people. viii. What is the challenge of this text to us today?

Topic #6: The Widows Offering

Bible text: Mark 12:41-44

Seminar Facilitator: Prof. Gerald West

The process explained and issues raised

Prof. West conducted a Bible study in a democratic way where everybody participated; this being different from the norm in the church where ministers tell congregants what the Bible says as if they are the only ones who can hear God speaking.

The following six questions were asked:

  1. Read Mark 12:41-44. What is the text about?
  2. Now read Mark 12:38-40, the text that immediately precedes Mark12:41-44. Are there connections between 12:41-44 and 12:38-40? What are they?
  • Now read Mark 13:1-2, the text that immediately follows Mark12:41-44. Are there connections between Mark 12:41-44 and Mark 13:1-3? If so, what are they?
  1. Jesus comes to the temple at Mark 11:27 and leaves the temple at Mark 13:2. In this literally unit who are the main characters or groups of characters, what do we know about them, and what are the relationships between them? Draw a picture of the relationships between the characters in the temple. What does your picture say about the literary unit as a whole?
  2. Summarise in one sentence Mark’s message in this literary unit.
  3. What does this Bible study say to your context?

vii. What will you do in response to this Bible study bearing in mind that the temple that Jesus was attacking was a place of social, political, cultural, economic and religious issues of his time.


Liturgy #1: On poverty and destitution Sermon Text: Luke 16:19-31

Call to worship


Dear God look down upon the starving world, the homeless men, women, the widowed, and the children. God give us caring hearts. We admit we come from heartless world. Pictures of starving children hardly give us burden, the appeal for charity leaves us cold. Forgive us God. We are so eager to make our own lives comfortable while others suffer hunger and want.

Grant to your afflicted children, O Lord hope in their hearts and peace in their mind. Grant us who have enough of this world, the spirit to share with those that do not have.

For all who are starving God we ask for your saving mercy, help us to help them, move the government and the churches to give relief and to fight for their justice. In Jesus Christ. Amen.


At this stage a hymn or spiritual song that carries the message of the theme can be sung, which includes issues of destitution, misery, suffering, isolation, neglect, as well as hope.


What is the text about?

  • In the text there are two different worlds depicted, the terrestrial world and the celestial world.

o There are two worlds depicted: the world of the

poor and the world of the rich.

o In the world of the rich there are all kinds of foods, expensive clothing, expensive housing, expensive mode of transport, good health and life is just luxurious.

o In the world of the poor there are all kinds of suffering, there is no food, no clothing, no shelter, no means of transport beside foot, poor health and life is very miserable.

o Whilst the tables of the rich are covered by all types of appetising food, the poor survive by scrounging in dust bins and dumping areas often in competition with dogs and other animals.

o While the life of the rich man is characterised by nourishment, which means good health, long life expectancy, the life of Lazarus is punctuated by grinding poverty, malnourishment, disease and premature death. o The text says when Lazarus died he was carried by angels into heaven and when the poor man died he was buried and ended up in hell.

o The call for relief by the rich man was denied in the afterlife by Abraham.

Application of the text

  • The existence of massive poverty and suffering alongside massive wealth and luxury is indicative of a flowed economic policy.
  • This text teaches us to be able to share with those that do not have.
  • The text challenges us, to be able to assist the ill of our communities. People who live with HIV and AIDS, people suffering from cancer, and other diseases must be catered for.


  • The church and the government should come together, and work to eliminate poverty and suffering amongst the people.

Prayer of commitment

A prayer should be offered commending the poor to God and asking God to change the hearts of the rich so that they can be enabled to share with the poor. In addition, the church and State should be commended to God in prayer so that together they may be able to change the economic structures that perpetuate poverty.

Closing prayer

A prayer should be offered asking for strength and courage from God for people to go and transform society.

Liturgy #2: On Worker’s Day

Sermon Texts: Isaiah 61:1-9; Luke 1:46-54


The minister greets the congregation in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Purpose of the service

Brothers and sisters, today we join together as we commemorate and remember those who fought for the rights of workers in our country. We are aware that the struggle of workers is not yet over as there are other areas where workers are not yet free, for example conditions of service, salaries, and allowances to mention but a few.

Call to worship

The Lord God loves justice, and hates robbery and injustice (cf. Isa. 61:8)


  • A prayer that encompasses the conditions of workers, that talks about their salaries and their allowances.
  • The prayer must ask God to give human hearts to employers so that they can really become considerate when they pay their workers.
  • The prayer must remember the workers who died on duty.

First Scripture reading

  • Isaiah 61:1-9 Second Scripture reading
    • Luke 1: 46-54


The hymn must prepare people to remember those who work for a little or no remuneration at all.


What is the text about?

  • The text is about God who is concerned with justice.

o The same God opposes robbery.

o God who calls upon people to love one another. o God who takes the side of the oppressed descended and intervened to rescue the oppressed.

o God came to proclaim the period of grace in which all are put at the same level as in the jubilee year.

o He came to comfort the mourning.

Application of the text

  • The church as the ambassador of God must ensure that justice permeates all sectors of the society.
  • Those that have robbed others must pay back.
  • The church and government should listen to those that are groaning in pain.
  • The workers should receive sustaining salaries and allowances so that they may be able to take care of their families.
  • The employers should be challenged to make a deliberate move to better working conditions, to ensure the safety of workers at areas of work is guaranteed.
  • The employers must insure their workers so that in case of accidents they receive maximum treatment from the medical institutions.
  • The rights of all workers should be respected.

Closing prayer

The prayer must include specific prayer requests by workers. Blessing

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us now and forever Amen.

Recessional hymn

Fight the Good fight, Christ is your strength.

Liturgy #3: Peasants, Proletariat and Workers’ Day Sermon Texts: Matthew 20:1-16

Worship session

Three worship choruses were sung which introduced people into the atmosphere of worship.

Opening prayer

A prayer that focuses people on the purpose and essence of the day was given.

Text of the day

Matthew 20:1-16


What is the text about?

  • The text is about people who were seeking employment.

o The text features a different groups of labourers who were engaged at different times. Some at 9am and others at noon some at 3pm and some at 5pm.

o At the time of payment they received the same wages.

o Those who had worked the whole day complained why they received the same wages with late comers.

Application of the text

  • Employers must listen to the complaints raised by workers.
  • It was unfair to pay labourers who had worked for one hour only the same wage with those that spend the whole day working.
  • If the employer wanted to be generous, with these labourers he should have applied his generosity across.
  • This parable repudiates the doctrine of meritocracy, and as a result the workers were justified to complain against the farm owner.
  • People should be remunerated on pro rata basis.
  • The church and the government should make sure that the expertise of the workers should be remunerated.

Addresses by invited speakers

  • The purpose of the day was explained
  • The guests were introduced
  • A speech was delivered on behalf of municipalities
  • A speech was delivered on behalf of the Government
  • Music
  • Speech on behalf of workers
  • Speech from the Guest speaker
  • The speech covered the following:

o Problems faced by South African Workers o Problems of unemployment o Death at work places

Vote of thanks

Appreciated all who attended and the contribution of workers in the country

National Anthem

The service was closed by singing national anthem.

Liturgy #4: Gender equality Sermon Texts: Genesis 1:27-28

Theme of service

Gender equality Hymn

A hymn or spiritual song that highlights issues of gender equality

Scripture reading Genesis 1:27-28 What is the text about?

  • The text tells us that God created women and men in God’s image.

o The text tells us that the male and the female

are created equal.

o Both were given the responsibility to procreate o There were given dominion over the whole created order.

Application of the text

  • The church must acknowledge the equality between men and women which is God Given.
  • The church should educate the community including the government to respect this created order by God.
  • Humanity has been given the responsibility to take care of the created order.


A prayer that asks God to empower people to be able to accept that women are not inferior to men.


Offers a choral piece which encourages people to demonstrate equality between different genders.


Offering of the day was given and the proceeds were dedicated to women programmes.

Prayer for the offering

A prayer was given to thank God for his providence.

Closing prayer and benediction

The meeting was closed with words of benediction


The socio-economic and political context of the Bible in many ways resembles the context of Africa in general and South Africa in particular. As a result, the Bible provides an entry point in understanding the social and moral dynamics of our society. It is on this premise that the Bible can be used as a resource for understanding and dealing with issues that continue to weigh heavily on the people of South Africa and beyond. This said, it is noteworthy that South Africa, prior to the establishment of democracy in 1994, employed the Bible to serve selfish and parochial interests. The State theologians of the day worked tirelessly to prove that the kind of racist state that they advocated for, was theologically justifiable. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans chapter 13 was the text of choice that was often used to silence citizens even in the face of abusive and discriminatory laws. This text was interpreted as meaning that every government is coroneted by God and as such must be obeyed by everyone.

This motif was broken by the authors of the Kairos Document which sought to prove beyond all doubt that Romans 13 had been read out of context and was thus criminalised. They went on to chart a new paradigm where the Bible was used to liberate as opposed to oppress people. It is this understanding that redefined the relationship between church and state in South Africa as being one of critical solidarity. It seems therefore to us that the work of the Religion and Governance Programme in the School of Religion and Theology is invaluable in so far as it radiates this philosophy of critical solidarity. Indeed, in refusing to be just another academic discourse, we deliberately foreground critical engagement and solidarity as a powerful tool towards individual and communal transformation.

The other strength of the Religion and Governance Programme is that it impacts on the consciousness of both influential and ordinary people. It creates a responsible mindset for those in positions of authority and creates a way of thinking that is satisfied by nothing short of justice to all for those who are so governed. It is this equation that can result in a just society where the rights of individuals are considered sacred.

Duly actualised, the themes highlighted in this booklet will contribute to the building of an egalitarian and democratic South Africa. For us, top on our list, must be the issue of land which continues to haunt the poor black population of South Africa. The people of South Africa will continue to remain dependent until they have full access to land which is an inalienable right for every citizen. The church must continue to be the torch bearer in this regard until the land is delivered to the poor.

Furthermore, the church must not be co-opted by government; otherwise it will soon lose its prophetic voice. In addition, the church must not be married to the rich; otherwise it will become a perpetual widow without any rights.

Issues of HIV and AIDS, gender inequality, poverty, and housing, to mention a few, remain existential issues. The church must consider these as evil and the result of sin, which Christ through his death can transform. Consequently, the topical issues contained in these brief studies must be incorporated in the church’s Bible studies, as well as its liturgy. For example, pastors and lay preachers must talk about HIV and AIDS at weddings, funerals and graduation ceremonies.

Issues of corruption and bad governance have authored the failure of Africa. These have become a cancer upon our
fledgling democracy. The Religion and Governance Programme must continue with all vigour to equip Christians with skills to denounce corruption at every level. Religious people must stand together on moral grounds higher than those devoid of faith, and must lead by example by uprooting all undemocratic tendencies and promote justice and peace for all.

Religion must be used to create a society that affirms an egalitarian society. Indeed, when God created woman and man, God was signing a promissory note that all would be equal before God. It is on this basis that we continue to applaud and uphold the work done by the Religion and Governance Programme.


Theology of the poor Brazilian Voices

Brazilian Voices of Liberation


[from interviews and writings. Notice the types of social, political, and economic criticisms these liberation theologians make.]

Document 1: Clodovis Boff [Servite priest and theologian, living in Rio de Janeiro. In 1964, he and other young seminarians prayed their rosaries in the streets to thank the military government for saving them from communism and anarchy. After studying in Europe, where he met exiled students, workers and political prisoners, Clodovis returned to Brazil, passionately opposed to the military dictatorship. He studied, he reflected, he learned. He and his brother Leonardo became two of Brazil’s leading liberation theologians.]

“I began to reflect on the Bible, church tradition and dogmas starting from this optic of the poor. All of my thought became fermented by this massive, dark, heavy oppression of the poor. Really, the birthplace of liberation theology is the meeting of faith with poverty and oppression. It is when you, as a person of faith, meet the poor of the favelas and ask, “What’s the meaning of God here? What does it mean to be church?” From this collision of your faith and concrete reality, liberation theology is born! At the core, this is a very prophetic theology, carrying on the thinking of the prophets: “You

are oppressing the widow and orphan! Your hands are stained with blood!”

Once awake, you are sensitized intellectually and spiritually—your prayer, even religious life is marked by the cry of the poor, the hope for a new society. Now, this experience of the poor is nourished by and becomes rooted in real communities of poor persons. We’re bound with two knots—our alliance with the poor and our work at the base. After ten years of absorbing this, you no longer need ideological reasons to explain that the cause is Just. The reality of oppression began to be part of your blood and skin. A reason beyond all reasons! This is why, when you delve into this alliance, this option, you go unto death. Unto death. Until martyrdom.

The spirit of a revolutionary is born from this contrast between our ideals and the reality around us that doesn’t match them. This awareness of reality gives faith a courage to confront criticism, persecution, death threats, prison. Even within the community, the order or the church, people don’t understand you. They think

you’re crazy, sick, radical— even subversive! But you don’t let yourself be
bothered by this because the very cause takes hold of you. It sustains you.

This reality also gives faith a very incarnational, concrete meaning. You say, what do these poor people want? For them, the Reign of God means a piece of land, a piece of bread, even a simple literacy program. But, the people

also dream of a new world, a kind society, universal love. They hope and believe that the rich will convert and will help them.”

Document 2: Leonardo Boff [Perhaps the most published and certainly the most publicized Latin American liberation theologian. The Vatican silenced Leonardo from May 1985 until March of 1986 in response to his book, Church: Charism and Power. The silencing guaranteed him afar broader hearing than he ever imagined.]

This is what liberation theology is—the effort to reclaim and develop the political dimension of Gospel faith in order to reinforce the struggle of the poor. The poor were the first subscribers of the Gospel. Jesus became poor. Until now, the political dimension of Christianity has reinforced the established powers. The bishop was always allied with the governor, mayor and other authorities.

The core of liberation theology is profoundly “theologal”—that is, rooted in the very nature of God. You see, there’s an immediate relationship between God, oppression, liberation: God is in the poor who cry out. And God is the one who listens to the cry and liberates, so that the poor no longer need to cry out.

I tend more and more to use the category of “the one

who cries out” rather than “the poor.” Everyone cries out. A woman starting a new life, a marginalized black woman, a child who can’t go to school because of hunger—they’re all crying out! My question is: Who listens to the cry of the poor, to the cry of women, the cry of those who are suffering?

Liberation theology is born from this effort to listen to the cry of the oppressed— even the rich person who cries out because they’re in despair! The person who suffers from an empty life must also be liberated and listened to. God also listens to them! Jesus cried from the cross and God resurrected him. It is only passing through the cross, through the crying out, that God can say, “Everything is going to be OK.”

Being home to the Amazon and to liberation theology, do you believe that Brazil has a unique role in articulating the issue of ecology in a theological framework?

Brazil has an important role for two reasons. First, the Amazon is a global issue, and second, the Amazon isn’t empty—it’s inhabited by Indians! And the Indians are threatened with extinction. We discover among them the value of a people of God who have their own language and world vision, a way of being human that integrates men and women, people and nature. These values teach us how to live more richly as human beings. They also show us how to live in the tropical rainforest and extract resources without damaging the ecosystem. We can be friends to


In Latin America, our key contribution is to assert that the first ecological aggression is misery. Poverty is the most dangerous thing for the environment because poor persons pollute water and take down trees just to survive. At the roots, this is a conflict of power in the church: Who rules and what are the means of participation.

The grassroots of the church in Latin America, also in the U.S. and Africa, are becoming aware that they are the church, not merely customers. So they’re participating in liturgy and ministry and all of the sudden they say, “We want to participate in the decisions of the church as well!” Then the powers-that-be say, “You can’t because you are not priests. The bishops and priests decide in the church!”

The traditional theology of Rome says that the clerical institution is the well of Christ and is thus untouchable. So the clerical body retains all power in the church and administers this power “for” the lay people, never “with” the people. And the people don’t have the right to their own ecclesial projects and dreams! They have to dream what the clerics dream.

Along with this is a theological problem. I believe that Rome is afraid of God— afraid of the free God of the

poor, a Trinitarian God. The model of the Trinity allows the church, in fidelity to itself, to incorporate the people and adopt a democratic, participative way of being. For me, this crisis of fear will decide if the church is going to be a fortification of authoritarianism, machismo and exclusivism, or if it will be a church

open to women, laity and the poor.

Now, for the past thirty years a certain journey has profoundly transformed the Latin American church and the bishops. That is, the ecclesiastical authorities who wield power have become pastors, walking with their people, suffering,
persecuted, denounced, some killed. They earned a great moral authority alongside the people. They allowed themselves to be evangelized by the people.

Rome sees that this process is more and more irreversible. So either the whole church will begin to change in response to this journey, or this “heretical” process has to be sectioned off in order to preserve the institution as it is. So, for example, they condemned me and my book on the church as a “praxis that induces the people to act heretically.” They don’t analyze the doctrines, they only pay attention to the change in praxis, in participation, which can change the structure of the church. Ultimately, this is a problem of power.”

Document 3 by Mev Puleo 1963 [“The struggle is one: voices and visions of liberation”. This document offers some historical background and information on the Church conflicts inspired by Liberation Theology.]

“In this Brazil we find tens of thousands of base ecclesial communities (comunidades eclesiais de base—known in Brazil as “CEBs”), where women and men reflect on the Word of God, which empowers them in their struggle to make the Reign of God a reality here and now. Here we find scores of prolific, committed liberation theologians reflecting on questions of faith starting from the reality of their people who are impoverished and oppressed. Here we find the National Brazilian Bishops Conference (known as the “CNBB”), second in size only to that of the U.S. For twenty years the CNBB has issued documents defending the people’s rights to land, food and political participation. Most strikingly, this is a church that has experienced profound conversion, a church whose authenticity is proved by the blood of its many martyrs.

Brazil’s military takeover in 1964 inspired nuns and priests to take to the streets, praying the rosary in gratitude and carrying banners that said, “The Church thanks God that the military saved us from communism!” Within a few years, however, the severity of government-sponsored repression provoked an outcry from the church hierarchy. Not unlike other military dictatorships in

South America in the 1960s and 70s, Brazil’s military government carried out the torture, ‘disappearances’ and summary executions of thousands of dissidents and grassroots activists during these decades. Church workers and community animators (lay ministers who organize grassroots communities) appeared on death lists because of their work with students, farmers, Indians and workers. The blood of nuns, priests and lay catechists soon mingled with that of lawyers,
unionists, students and peasants committed to the struggle for justice.

For the next twenty years under military rule, the Catholic church provided the country’s only relatively safe space for community organizing, since labor, student and political movements were outlawed or crushed. Championing the cause of human rights, the church took up the prophetic tasks of denouncing the injustice and abuses, and announcing the Reign of God—not an otherworldly kingdom, but a Reign that takes root in the soil of human community, equality and dignity.

This was an era of conversion and commitment for the whole of Latin America. During the 1968 Latin American Episcopal Conference (Conferencia General del Espiscopado Latinoamericano, generally known as “CELAM”) in Medellin, Colombia, the conttnent’s Catholic bishops made the historic declaration of a preferential option for the poor. This option, theologically based on a

belief in the God of life who draws close to those in the grip of death, was reaffirmed at the 1979 CELAM gathering in Puebla, Mexico, and has been echoed since then by the World Council of Churches and many other religious bodies and congregations. In 1971, Peru’s mestizo pastor and theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez, published the ground-breaking A Theology of Liberation, which was followed by hundreds of theological and pastoral works from the liberationist perspective, many from Brazilians, both Catholic and Protestant.

This line of pastoral practice and academic reflection has disrupted the status quo of both church and state. While Pope John Paul II has affirmed the preferential option for the poor (which he also calls the preferential “love” for the poor), the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, has issued two instructions warning of certain dangers in liberation theology (1984, 1986). Moreover, the Vatican has given warnings to more than a dozen Latin American theologians and bishops and has criticized the CEBs for subverting the proper authority structure of the church. The CDF also silenced Brazilian theologian Leonardo Boff [see interview below] from May 9, 1985, until March 29, 1986, in reaction to his provocative critique of

Vatican power, Church: Charism and Power. After seven more years of relentless harassment and censorship, Boff, finally left the Franciscan priesthood, but not the church, to teach and write without constraint.

The Vatican trend of suspicion, criticism and censure continues in the appointments of conservative bishops throughout Latin America; the 1989
closing of a seminary that was committed to the option for the poor in Recife, Brazil; the 1989 division of the archdiocese of Sao Paulo, a severe blow to the advanced network of CEBs; the censoring of the “Word-Life” project which was publishing interpretations of the Bible informed by poor communities; and repeated interventions to both censor and control the Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR).

These struggles are not won alone, but in communion with God and in community with one another. In their struggle for life the people of God are one— peasants, poets, professors, bishops, great-grandmothers. One in their passion for God, one in their risking of death for the cause of justice. One with us as we take up the same struggle for life, against death in all its forms. For this book also seeks to be a bridge between peoples North and South, companions in the struggle, fellow followers of the way.

The struggle is both individual and social. For many in the First World, death may wear the mask of alcoholism, cut-throat competition or an inner emptiness in the midst of material abundance. Here, life may be fostered by support groups, solitude and simpler lifestyles. Yet these

individual afflictions are reinforced by social structures, the same structures that oppress the poor.

For the growing number of disenfranchised in the North and the masses of marginalized abroad, death comes in the form of hunger, joblessness, systemic oppression. Here, life is won in the victories of community organizing, political pressure, strikes and demonstrations. Yet the exploited poor and social activists also have hungers of the heart—hungers for intimacy, meaning and consolation when social projects fail.

For holistic liberation, the struggle must reach both the individual and the

societal, it must embrace the personal and the political. As Bible scholar Carlos Mesters says, “We may start at different points, but we arrive together. The struggle is one struggle.”

Document 4: Maria de Silva Miguel [a great-grandmother to six young children, two of whom live with her. She started writing poetry when she was sixty-five, and now writes songs for her church and for political demonstrations. A national Brazilian religious magazine recently published one of her songs of struggle, ”The People is Poet.” Maria is active in the land movement, the health movement, the local Bible study group and is passionately involved in local
women’s groups. Born of slaves, Maria is deeply concerned about the continuing

oppression of blacks in Brazil. Roughly fifty percent of Brazil’s population is black, most of them descendents of slaves. Brazil officially abolished slavery in 1888.]

“The People is Poet” By Maria da Silva Miguel

“One day a woman cried, “I am a Warrior!”

and the echo of her voice was heard beyond the borders.

I am Woman-Mother and Warrior,

the stove is no longer my limit.

I am called queen of the home,

but I am greater than ocean and sea.

I am Mother, I give life,

I am a Woman, Pain.

I am a Warrior, a Bird—I sing!

I raise up my people and pull them out of slavery,

my name is Liberation!

Whoever wants to find me, I’m not only in the home,

I’m in the struggle, I’m a Warrior!

I am Black, I am Poor, I am Old and nearly Illiterate,

Everyone knows me—

I am the remnant who dreams of happiness and love I am merely Maria Miguel!”

Document 5: Salome Costa [A feminist and free thinker, longs to study theology and, if the Catholic church allowed, would seek to become a priest. Like many other people of faith with few material resources, her education comes mostly from Bible meetings, grassroots

workshops and seminars. Salome is very active in the church community of the eastern part of Sao Paulo’s periphery. Many feminist theologians in Latin America, the US, and elsewhere, have taken inspiration from Liberation Theology.]

“I’ve been involved with the church for twenty-five years—that’s half of my life! Not just attending mass, which I’ve done since I was a child, but participating, especially in the small communities. I lead Bible meetings and liturgies, and participate in the formation of lay ministers. I also work with the grassroots movements—especially the struggle for health care, day care and women’s groups. In the CEBs we don’t just listen to the priest preach, but we participate in
the Word. That is, we can’t stay just praying inside of the church.

Some churches, especially the Pentecostals, tell the people not to participate in the grassroots struggle! They think that the church alone is everything, that the Reign of God is only within, that life is only praying, only spiritual. No, we have to have action. We have to go outside of the church to search for life! This is in the Gospel.

“The struggle” is the survival of the people. Through the struggle we discover the strength we have. We are

searching for life. For survival. And no one is going to “donate” this life to us. If we sit around waiting for it, it will come too late. We have to search for it and claim it!

You see, a small group of people dominate our system—the business people with all the wealth in their hands. And the great masses of poor people aren’t aware! Once we discover that we’re important as persons, we’ll begin to struggle. That’s how we’ll get out of poverty!

We call our Bible meetings “street groups.” We go out of the church and into the streets to gather families and reflect on the Bible in the light of our lives. And the situation of our lives is horrible! In the favela [urban slum], one tiny hut has twelve or fifteen people living in it. It’s awful! To have food, the mother has to work, and many women are single mothers because the men leave them, so she has to leave her children unattended, and then the children get into trouble with drugs and street life. These are really big problems.

In the Word of God you discover that these things aren’t right. For example, you discover your street isn’t paved. So, the street group animates the neighborhood people to struggle for this improvement. We don’t only pray with the families, but we do things—together. You see, when you discover faith, you’re involved in politics. That is,

when you are searching for life, you’re engaged in a political act.

The poor are so marginalized and exploited by the politics of the government! So, the church should be involved in politics in this sense: walking with the people who are searching to improve their lives, searching for the life of God. Reading
the Gospels has always encouraged me. In the Gospels we discover that God is always on the side of the poorest, the most marginalized, those who don’t have any value in society’s eyes. Jesus testified to this with his whole life. This is what happens in the church!

In the small community of poor people we feel the presence of God because we know each others’ lives and struggles. We can continue without getting discouraged. My hope is that we always dwell in this faith. In this struggle. Faith and struggle. The church provides the communion we need to go out and struggle for what we need to live.”