The role of English-speaking churches in South Africa : a critical historical analysis and theological evaluation with special reference to the Church of the Province and the Methodist Church, 1903-1930

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

PART ONE elucidates the theoretical basis of the study and its assumptions. After surveying South African church historiography and concluding that synchronic political economic history is seldom integrated into the Church story, it is argued that critical social theory should inform church historiography. An historical material framework is adopted and the relationship of theory and practice established... PART TWO, the bulk of the study, analyses the churches in context. To set the scene, the missionary period of the nineteenth century is discussed in relation to Victorian expansionism, concluding that, whatever their value, the missions were closely tied in to imperial interests and the penetration of capital, fundamentally altering the indigenous societies. This leads to a brief consideration of race and class in the South African political economy. A class definition is adopted that allows for fractions within the dominant capital-labour dichotomy. Finally, an overview of the first stage of industrialisation follows in respect of primitive accumulation, gold mining, farming, alcohol and domestic workers. With that background to the 1903-1930 period clear, extensive archival material is used to describe and analyse the churches in relation to their political economic context. The focus is the Church in industrialisation, including the shaping of its practice, polity and theology by the conflicts and interests of foreign and national capital... PART THREE returns to the earlier theoretical framework in order to found a theory of religion and theology. David Tracy's notions of the limits-to human agency and the limits-of experience locate the religious phenomenon in relation to empirical-analytic and historical-hermeneutic sciences. Questions of meaning, meaningfulness and truth are introduced. Utilising Theodore Jennings, William Lynch and Paul Ricoeur, the structure of analogical imagination is explored and applied to Bernard Lonergan's investigation of insight, to be finally related to religion as a way-of-being-in- the-world. Lastly, the culminating chapter pursues ecclesiological directions, within a historical material framework, applicable to a Church caught in social contradictions but anticipating an emancipated world, and concludes with a definition of the Church-at-the-limits.

Bibliography: pages 442-458.