The Church and development in the new South Africa : towards a theology of development

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The Churches in South Africa played a vital role in the dismantling of apartheid. However, since the establishment of the new democratic government the Church seems to have retreated into denominational and ecclesiological interests. The Church claims that it was forced into the liberation struggle because all our (political) leaders were either in exile or imprisoned. And now that our leaders have been elected into political office it is their responsibility to build a new South Africa. This research takes issue with the latter view. It is our claim that the Church has an even greater role to play now in the development of the new South Africa. The task of the Church is not only to break down unjust structures but to also build new ones. The task of the Church is to point to the "Kingdom of God. " Development has captured the central stage of history and it is also a key word in the new South Africa. This ambiguous process is often depicted as the crucible through which all societies must pass and, if successful, emerge purified: modem, affluent, and efficient. Is this what development is all about? Is this the Christian understanding of development? By defining the Christian understanding of development as humanisation this research offers its central thesis: The Christian Church has always had a notion of development and under girding this is a theology (of development) that the Church has not fully understood or adequately embraced. Hence it is no longer a question of whether the Church must be involved in development instead it is the question of: What kind of development must the Church engage? This research prepared the way for a "theology of development" by: (1) offering a comprehensive discussion on the concept and theories of development (Chapter Two), (2) showing development as an integral part of the mission of the church in history (Chapter Three) and, (3) examining Biblical material on the poor and pointing to a preferential option for the poor (Chapter Four). Then in Chapter Five, in using a qualitative research design that is explorative, descriptive and contextual, we looked at two local churches and their attempts to transform (develop) their communities. In doing the latter we were able to identify, from within these communities, theological themes that contribute to a Theology of Development. These theological themes were then further explored and discussed in Chapter Six as we attempted to formulate a theology of development Having proved our central thesis in this research, that the Christian Church has always had a notion of development and having established a rheological mandate for development, what remained is to see how the Church is challenged in the area of development. Thus in the concluding Chapter we more specifically looked at the Church in the new South Africa and her role in the development of the country.

Bibliography: pages 333-365.