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We need to take better care of Sister Earth

2011/09/10 by Danie Mouton No Comments »

Ds Chris Steyn, van Aliwal-Noord, publiseer die volgende essay van Richard Rohr (‘n Franciskaanse Katoliek) op sy Faceboek-blad.  Die Franciskaanse Orde is natuurlik deur Franciskus van Assissi gestig.  Ek gee die artikel hier volledig weer:

As a priest of the Franciscan Order, the very first European “invaders” in the States of New Mexico, Florida, Georgia, Texas, and California. I think we have been around long enough to see both the good and the bad that we brought with us. We usually found it congenial to live among the Native peoples of the new world, because they already shared our vision of both a simple and a communal life. In fact, they often taught us how to live it!

Now we see that these ancient values of living close to the earth, and in union with natural creation, are no longer highly prized values in our world or in our country. In fact, we Christians, Catholics, and Franciscans have given little moral leadership to any alternative vision. Strange, considering St. Francis’ daring and clear commitment to nature, simplicity, and non- violence. Strange, considering God’s covenant with Noah, the animals, and “all of creation.” Strange, considering Jesus’ loving observation and praise for the sparrows, the lilies, “living waters” and “rich soil.”

If the nations that built on the Judeo-Christian heritage do not soon see the work of earth care and climate change as a moral and spiritual imperative, one wonders how we will have any moral authority left? As St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Nature is the primary and most perfect revelation of the Divine.” This “Bible” of creation existed for billions of years, and sustained us long enough so we could write the next Bible. For St. Francis, the natural world was not an object to be objectified but a fellow subject that he reverently addressed as “Sister” and “Brother.” Our capital city of Santa Fe is named after him, so there must be a special invitation for us in this “land of enchantment.”

It is sad that we Christians have become so individualistic in our notions of what God is saving that we gradually whittled it down to tiny human groups who always happened to be just like ourselves. Our God became very small in the process, we smaller yet, and the physical world the least of all. There

was little room or appreciation for the wonderful “new earth” that the Bible sees as the very ending (Revelation 21:1) of salvation history.

Jesus told his followers that we would be judged on how we treated “the least” of the brothers and sisters. It seems the very things we all, without exception, share in common—the one earth on which we walk, “Sister Water” who sustains us all, “Brother Sun” who gives life to absolutely everything, have themselves become the very least sisters and brothers of all. It’s rather unbelievable.

Would it be strange, or would it be totally predicted, that these literal “fundamentals” would be the very issues that could bring us all down, bring us all together, or bring us to a universal and all inclusive holiness?

 

Here, wat doen U nou?

2011/09/03 by Danie Mouton 1 Comment »

Ds Carl Crouse van die NG Kerk Grasvoëlkop vertel van die spanning rondom die loods van hul KankerHOOP projek op Vrydagaand, 2 September 2011.  ‘n Koufront met buitengewone hoë windsnelhede het Port Elizabeth heeldag geteister, en om alles te kroon het ‘n groot deel van die stad kort na 16:00 ‘n kragonderbreking ervaar.  Hy vertel self:

“Ons (NGK Grasvoëlkop) het gisteraand ‘n kankerHOOP projek aangepak. Agt maande se gedagtes en beplanning. Iets wat ons vir die laaste twee maande amper daagliks aan gewerk het – en wat ek onophoudelik aan gedink en oor stres het!

“Die beplanning en verwagting was groot gewees. Etes, kunstenaars, getuienisse, uitstallers, geskenke en sertifikate vir die 45+ personeellede van die kankersale wat sou kom. ‘n Kerslig stap na Hospice. Donderdag was een van die mooiste dae van die jaar gewees. Die gedagtes is: “Dankie Here! Ons vertrou u vir net so mooi dag môre.”

“Toe kom Vrydag. Die teenstelling kon nie groter nie. Ons het mos almal gebid. Baie gebid. En vertrou. Die wind sal gaan lê. Maar nee. Die markee tent kan nie op nie. Plan B word later plan C en so voorts.

“‘n Uur voor ons moet begin gaan die krag af.

“Die verkeer is chaos, die weer is guur, dis Vrydagaand! Wat gaan oorbly van ons planne?

“Die gemeente trek saam. Kerse word in sakke opgemaak en ingedra. Generators word gereël. ‘n Battery aangedrewe luidspreker / mikrofoon word gehaal. Gas lampe en stowe verskyn.

“Uitstallers dag op, mense daag op, koffie, pannekoek en kos word verkoop.  Die personeel kom (meer as 30 van hulle en selfs ‘n paar dokters). Die kerk lyk mooier as wat dit nog ooit gelyk het. Ernstig, ek oordryf nie. Die “vibe” is een van entoesiasme. Die kerk was nog nie in jare so vol nie. Ons het lig, ons het klank, ons het ‘n klavier, ons het mense.

“Die grootste teleurstelling word die twee mense wat gesê word dat hulle gaslampe nie meer nodig is nie!!

“Die Here voorsien dat my voorganger Samuel en sy vrou Logy daar kan wees, sy vul op die laaste nippertjie in vir die persoon wat hul storie sou vertel en toe moes onttrek. Met humor en hartlikheid vertel sy van haar stryd teen kanker.

“Dit word ‘n besondere aand. Die uitstallers is opgewonde.  Die mooiste verhale word vertel. Die personeel word bederf en mens kan sien wat dit vir hulle beteken.  Ek is gevul met verwondering en waardering: die liggaam werk saam.  Die kerkgebou self word die simbool van hoop – rustigheid, warm verhoudings, sagte lig te midde van die donker en storm buite.

“Die Here is in beheer.  Dit word bevestig toe die krag aangaan toe ons letterlik die laaste dinge uitdra en die kerk wil sluit.

Ons aand word ‘n storie om te vertel.

“KANKER en HOOP is nie twee woorde wat natuurlik langs mekaar kan staan nie. Hulle is soos pole van magnete wat mekaar wegdryf. Wie is ons om te wil waag om hulle een woord te maak? Voorbarig?

“Ons weet dat die pad met kanker ‘n baie moeilike pad is. Dinge loop nooit glad nie, daar is altyd slegte nuus, altyd teenkanting, altyd teleurstelling, altyd uitdaging. So wie is ons om te verwag alles moet seepglad verloop. Wie is ons wat wil sê ons wil hoop verkondig en ons raak dikbek met die eerste teken van probleme!

“Ons storie word ‘n storie van HOOP. God wys dat Hy in beheer is, dat Hy steeds seën, dat Hy sal besluit oor weer en krag soos Hy goeddink. Moenie dink dat Hy nie skyn in donkerte of swak is as daar nie krag is nie!

“Jesus se opstanding en die hoop wat Hy daagliks bied, word verkondig – ‘n paar Jode, Moslems en Hindoes het ook hierdie aand die getuienis van ‘n nederige gemeente oor hul Lewende Here gehoor en gesien. Here, U is goed.

“Ons wil so gou moedeloos word.

“My gedagtes gaan uit na miljoene Christene wat daagliks in die vreeslikste omstandighede leef. Ek is tans besig om te leer van volharding en inspanning en opoffering en dissipelskap. Dis nie iets wat in ons kultuur groot is nie, en wat ‘n lui en afgewaterde Christenskap veroorsaak.  Dankie Here vir hierdie klein lessie. Help my om getrou te wees.

“Here, U is goed.”

 

Waar word jy vanjaar gebore?

2010/12/02 by Danie Mouton 1 Comment »

Gebore op die verkeerde plek?  Meeste van ons sou dalk in Sandton, of in ’n Londense ryksmansbuurt soos Kensington gebore wou word.  Dalk as lid van ’n beroemde koningsgesin?

Jesus is in Betlehem gebore, ’n geringe plekkie.  Nie in Jerusalem, die stad van konings nie, maar so 14 km van die koninklike teiken af, in die nederige Bethlehem.

Die Mfengu-stam, ’n Xhosa-groepering, is in die 18e eeu deur die Britse goewerneur in die Grensgebied “geplaas” (rondom Oos-Londen, King William’s Town, Stutterheim) as buffer tussen die Britse settlaars en die Xhosas.  Mfengu beteken “bedelaar”.  Ons ken hulle vandag as die Fingos.  Hulle was op verskeie maniere die slagoffers van die Zulus en die Xhosas, sommige sê hulle was Xhosa-slawe.

Die Mfengu is met Britse dwang na nuwe geboorteplekke verskuif.

Desmond Tutu is ‘n Mfengu. Hy kom dus uit ‘n baie lae gerekende stam. Sy krisis is dat hy boonop in die ou Transvaal gebore is. Jy word nog laer gereken as jy buite jou tradisionele stamgebied gebore is. So goed soos mense wat van Nasaret en Bethlehem kom.

Verkeerde stam, verkeerde geboorteplek.

Hoe leer sulke mense die Here dank vir die “plek” waar jy gebore is, en hoe ander bekeer word van die plek waar hulle gebore is (as dit Sandton, Houghton, Kensington of Stellenbosch is?). Hoe moet jy gered word uit jou stam, of bevry word van jou (sf)stam(ming)?

Max du Preez sê hy is in die Vrystaat gebore en het daar grootgeword. Daarom is een van sy voorvaders – hy kies hulle – ook Moshoeshoe, die briljante Sotho opperhoof wat die Sotho deur vergifnis en die skep van sosiale gemeenskap tot ‘n nasie verenig het.

Dit laat my dink: kan ek ook vir my bykomende geboorteplekke kies? Dalk Bethelehem?  Kwazakehle?  Sharpeville?  Langa?  Robbeneiland?  Golgota?

En kan ek deur hierdie keuse die kersverhaal of Filippense 2 beliggaam? In navolging van Jesus?  Vra my geloofskeuse, wat God in my werk, om op Kopbeenplek en in die leë graf gebore te word, nie van my om oor en oor gebore te word, te identifiseer, met die plekke wat die Geneesheer deur my aanraak nie?

Waar gaan ek vanjaar gebore word?  Met wie gaan ek assossieer?  Onder wie se nood gaan ek my skouer plaas?

 

Al op die randte, in die kantlyne, ontplof die Christelike geloof

2010/11/03 by Danie Mouton 1 Comment »

“Die intense beplanning het toe nie die verwagte resultate opgelewer nie.  Die optimistiese voorspellings van waar, hoe en met watter strategieë die evangelie die wêreld sou verower, het nie so gerealiseer nie.”

Aan die woord is prof Scott Sunquist vandeesweek in Port Elizabeth oor die wêreldwye verspreiding van die Christelike geloof.  Hy het gepraat tydens ’n post-Lausanne gesprek oor die groei van die evangelie in die twintigste eeu.  Sunquist, ’n Presbiteriaan, beklee ’n leerstoel in World Christianity by die Pittsburgh Teologiese Seminarium in die VSA.

“Om die waarheid te sê, die beplanning is vér oortref,”vervolg Sunquist, “maar op plekke in die wêreld waar dit nie voorsien of verwag is nie.”

Sunquist verwys natuurlik na die wêreldwye sendingkonferensie in 1910 te Edinburgh.  Die sendingwêreld was optimisties dat die Christelike geloof beskawing sou bring na verskeie plekke in die wêreld.  Maar vir Afrika was daar nie veel hoop nie.  Trouens,uit Afrika was daar by Edinburg 1910 net een verteenwoordiger, en niemand uit Suid-Amerika nie.  Dit sou in die 20ste eeu twee van die kontinente word waar die Christelike geloof letterlik sou ontplof.  Ook in China en in lande soos Nepal was daar verrassende, nee verstommende, groei in die geloof.  Alles in die kantlyne, op die randte van kerklike beplanning en verwagting.

Dit leer ons dat die missie in die eerste plek God s’n is.  Die groei van geloof is ’n werk van God, waarby mense ingeskakel is, maar wat nie met menselike tegnologie vasgevang of geprojekteer kan word nie.

Scott is ’n katalogus van stories.  Hy het vertel van dramatiese bekerings van Moslems in verskeie lande, dikwels op grond van gesigte en drome, maar ook weens die oordra van die evangelie. Op baie plekke word mense, wat nie kan lees of skryf nie, met merwaardige resultate bereik bloot deur Bybelverhale te vertel.

….Sy voordrag het groot belangstelling in PE ontlok.  Predikante en sendelinge van alle denominasies en groepering het dit bygewoon.  Daar was lewendige diskussie, ook informeel met dié wellewende, dinamiese professor.

Scott Sunquist se lesing is op ons webblad beskikbaar – klik hier.

 

The Christian Identity of Congregations and the Struggles of the DRC: Past, Present and Future

2010/06/09 by Danie Mouton No Comments »

The metaphor, “struggle”, is indeed appropriate for the long and chequered history of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa. It brings to mind Paul’s admonition in his letter to the church in Philippi:

“Live your life in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, … standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel. … For he (God) has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well – since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (Ph 1: 27-30, NRSV).

The Christian identity of congregations, understood in a trinitarian, missional way (as Paul does in his letter to Philippi), indeed implies struggle. This struggle should always be rooted in the gospel, and be guided by proper spiritual discernment. In the many struggles of the DRC penultimate concerns often led the church astray. We need to continually pray Paul’s prayer at the outset of the same letter:

“And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Ph 1: 9-11, NRSV).

Let us then endeavour to enquire discerningly about the Christian identity of the DRC and it’s past, present and future struggles.

1.  The Christian Identity of Congregations

How would one describe the Christian identity of congregations?

Alan Hirsch, asking why the early Christian church (and the Chinese underground churches) grew so remarkably, answers: “All genuine Christian movements involve at their spiritual ground zero a living encounter with the One True God ‘through whom all things came and through whom we live’ (1 Cor 8:6)…. A God, who in the very moment of redeeming us, claims us as his own through Jesus our Savior” (Hirsch 2006:84).

Hirsch explains how underground Christians movements are stripped form religious clutter, e.g. institutional conceptions of the ecclesia, and are forced back to the core of the message, which they then are able to communicate along primarily relational lines. The core is found in the “substance of genuine biblical monotheism – an existential encounter with the one God who claims and saves us” (2006:86).

Hirsch argues that the confession of Jesus as Lord and Saviour is grounded in Israel’s belief that Yahweh is Lord. Shema Yisrael, “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:4).

The incarnation informs and restructures the practical monotheism of the Old Testament around the central character of the New Testament, Jesus Christ. Our loyalties are now to be given to the Revealer and Saviour. Jesus’ message of the kingdom is the triune God’s claim upon us. It is expressed in by confession: Jesus is Lord. This has serious implications for the identity of the church:

Our identity as a movement, as well as our destiny as a people, is inextricably linked to Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity. That is what makes us distinctly Christ-ian.

At its very heart, Christianity is therefore a messianic movement, one that seeks to consistently embody the life, spirituality and mission of its Founder. We have made it so many other things, but this is its utter simplicity. Discipleship, becoming like Jesus our Lord and Founder, lies at the epicentre of the church’s task. … It also means that in order to recover the ethos of authentic Christianity, we need to refocus our attention back to the root of it all, to recalibrate ourselves and our organizations around the person and work of Jesus the Lord. It will mean taking the Gospels seriously as the primary texts that define us. It will mean acting like Jesus in relation to people outside of the faith…” (2006:94)

This thumbnail summary provides us with a hermeneutical framework to guide us through our discussion of the past, present and future struggles of the DRC in relation to its Christian identity.

2.  The DRC as Christendom church

As technical term, Christendom Church refers to the privileged position of the church at the centre of power in society, a position the church in the West enjoyed since the Christian faith became the official state religion of the Roman Empire in 391 A.D. The reformation did not change this basic position (Keifert 2006:30v).

The Dutch Reformed Church came to South Africa with Jan Van Riebeeck in April 1652. It was the only church allowed in the new Dutch outpost, and remained in this position until 1795, when the colony fell into British hands. In the case of the Dutch, the state was the senior partner in the Christendom-fusion and regulated the church in no uncertain terms. Even after 1795, government continued to appoint a political commissioner to attend all church council and other governance meetings to ensure that government’s interests and policy prevailed. This situation came only to an end by 1843.

The Christendom-partnership meant that the Christian identity of the church remained subjected to the political interest of the Dutch governor. This is an important factor for an initial lack of organised missionary work by the church.

With the rise of Afrikaner nationalism in the 20th century and the gaining of political power by the Afrikaner, the DRC once again enjoyed the de facto status of a Christendom state church. During this period the church failed the gospel once again.

The ministry of the DRC was therefore traditionally that of a typical Christendom church, far removed from the ecclesia as a missional Jesus movement. It was powerful, and did not need:
●  to cross boundaries,
●  to build relationships with outsiders, or
●  to cultivate apostolic leadership.

The new political dispensation from 1994 led to a radical and sudden disestablishment of the DRC. Because of its close ties to the previous government, e.g. its
●  role in the formulation of government’s racial policies,
●  involvement in the formulation of numerous apartheid laws, and
●  chaplaincy of military action, aimed at maintaining political power,
the DRC had to endure tremendous shame when the full extent of state sponsored violence, crime and thuggery surfaced during the truth and reconciliation process.

The struggle to come to terms with this disestablishment still defines present reality in the DRC. A loss of membership, social status and financial hardship, illustrated by congregations struggling or dwindling and dying in areas where the church once flourished, underlines the painful reality of its marginalisation. The loss of the power to shape public reality in partnership with government remains a bitter pill to swallow.

One way of coming to terms with new realities is to completely disengage regarding public responsibility by fleeing into faith as a privatised, individualised spiritual-religious experience. There is also a loss of confidence regarding public witness. What guarantees do we have we will not get it wrong again?

A responsible church will embrace its liminality in a time like this, deliberately allow itself to be stripped of its institutionalised Christendom view of the church, and rediscover its identity as serving messianic movement. It’s a time to willingly embrace the dessert-experience, where we can re-connect with the gospel-story, can rediscover the missional God, can be refreshed by a renewed calling, and from where we can be sent into the world on a newly discovered mission, true to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord.

3.  Church, missionary work and ethnic diversity

It is also true that the DRC understood itself right from the beginning as responsible for missionary work. It was expected of pastors and comforters of the sick to share the faith with heathen. It took, however, more than a century for strategically structured missionary work to start.

At first, individual members took responsibility to instruct the Hottentotte and other indigenous people like the Khoi in God’s Word. The first Hottentot, a woman called Krotoa, was baptised in 1662. Slaves were instructed in the Christian faith at the daily family devotions. Slave-owners were generally not eager to have slaves baptised, for the simple reason that adult slaves were set free after their baptism and public confession of faith (Marais 1984:30v).

For the first two hundred years new converts from the Hottentotte, Bushmen and slaves to Christianity became members of the local church. No special provision was made for separate ministry to them, and they shared in the table community when the Lord’s Supper was celebrated.

Towards the end of the 18th century the dawn of missionary zeal manifested in Europe and spread to the Cape Colony. Local congregations took their missionary task seriously. Various missionary agencies, mostly from abroad, but also a South African mission society (founded in 1799), became partners for the church’s missionary calling.

The first Synod of the Cape Colony (1824) instituted a special missionary office, with an ordination to administer the sacraments to heathen converts in the congregations formed through their missionary endeavours. These converts (all of them people of colour) would now become members of separate congregations. This was not a separate church, for when a member departed to an area where no such mission congregation existed, his membership was transferred to the local DRC congregation. The missionary societies also contributed to this pattern of separate ministry, for missiological reasons.

Since 1824 two ministry strategies towards converts existed: the one was to assimilate converts into existing congregations, and the second one to differentiate – the formation of separate congregations with separate buildings or foundations (Marais 1984:80; Van der Watt 1980:112).

During the 19th century prejudice against people of colour, always present right from the beginning in 1652, rose dramatically. In this vein a few rural congregations asked in 1829 for separate facilities for black converts, especially at the Lord’s table. Synod refused, saying that the Lord’s Supper should be administered to all baptised members “without distinction of colour”. (Smit 2007b:28).

It was at the Synod of 1857 where the principle of separate places of gathering for people of colour became official church policy, due to the infamous “weakness of some”. This “weakness” was the refusal of white people to celebrate holy communion in the presence of people of colour. The decision of 1857 is recognised today as a pivotal point in the development of the DRC’s mission policy, and in the later development of the ideology of apartheid.

The concession of 1857 soon became standard practice, and eventually determined the church order. The policy of separate ministry led to the NG Mission Church (founded 1881) and later the black DRC in Africa (1915) and the Reformed Church in Africa for people of Indian ethnic origin (1970’s).

What started out well – congregations doing missionary work and assimilating converts into their ministry – ended in a nightmare due to racial and cultural prejudice.

Let us fast-forward to present reality. Today, the DRC is involved in a tense struggle to undo these unbiblical choices of the past in a process of church re-unification.

Church re-unification proves to be a very difficult, complex task. The current strategy focus on the integration of formal governance structures, while cultivating organic unity at all levels in a unified church.

The process is under pressure. A recent process of consultation in the DRC (towards the end of 2007) suggests a 50/50 split in support for a unified model of church governance. The Confession of Belhar remains a stumbling block for many members in the white DRC. Huge support for mutual ministry projects exists, and mutual ministry endeavours are steadily growing as normal ministry practise in the DRC-family of churches.

There is work to be done. Because congregations are self-theologizing units, we need to guide and to challenge them to develop a theology of Christian unity. How does unity relate to the very nature of God? What is the link between church unification and the basic plot of the gospel? How does the mission of the church relate to unity?

Church unification presupposes a radical formation of Christian community across all kinds of racial and other barriers. The re-unification of governance structures, is but a small part of the radical transformation involved in being born by faith in the Lord Jesus into the one family of God. A radical unity of being together, of sharing in each other’s lives as we share in the life of the trinity, is what the Gospel calls for.

4.  Church and apartheid

The present struggle to re-unify the DRC Family of Churches comes at the end of the period of the unfortunate theological justification of apartheid by the DRC.

Between 1924 and 1938 the ideal of apartheid as total segregation was formulated. It was a period of social upheaval. The poor-White problem was increasing. Urbanization caused social and psychological dislocation for formerly rural Afrikaner people and a sense of rivalry with black people also flooding to the cities and mines.

Local Afrikaner theologies developed to support and popularise nationalistic notions. Particularly important was the role of neo-Calvinism. The emphasis on pluriformity in creation, stressed by Abraham Kuyper, a Reformed theologian in the Netherlands, played a major role. Each race had a God-given responsibility to maintain its identity. Each “people” was “chosen” for a specific “calling”. Accordingly each people also had a natural right to survival and self-determination.

A series of church, ecumenical and missionary conferences from the 1920’s to the 1940’s dealt with the challenge to organise Afrikaner political and economic power. Representatives of Afrikaner churches increasingly appealed to government for laws to protect the rights to cultural, ethnic and national survival and self-determination. Scriptural “proofs” were provided to legitimate the ideology. There was a clear development from pragmatic support for segregation and separate churches for missiological purposes to a full-scale theological framework giving biblical sanction to a total ideology. Gradually “nation” was used as a hermeneutical tool. The church was seen in terms of the nation. The unity of believers was regarded as a spiritual reality only (Smit 2007:27-39).

Once again, we meet a church which compromised its Christian identity.

A long and hard church struggle against apartheid ensued, in which Reformed churches played an important role. The DR Mission Church rejected the ideology of apartheid in 1978 as in conflict with the gospel’s message of reconciliation. In 1982 the DRMC declared a status confessiones and drafted the Belhar confession, confessing God as the God of one church, of reconciliation and of justice. In 1994 the DRMC and DRCA united to form the Uniting Reformed Church, with a church order explicitly based on the Belhar Confession.

The tide also slowly turned in the DRC in the years since 1980. In 1986 racism was declared a sin by the General Synod of the DRC. Prof Willie Jonker publicly confessed the sin of apartheid on behalf of the DRC at the Rustenburg ecumenical church meeting in 1990. In 1994 General Synod decided to seek unification with the other members of the DRC Family of Churches.

The struggle in the DRC against the ideology of apartheid is not yet complete. The church officially confessed its sin and repented of its theological justification of apartheid. It deserves ample recognition for this courageous act, but racism still remains a reality in the church.

We are in dire straits as a South African nation. We need leadership from the church. The recent walg-video of the shaming initiation of black workers in an Afrikaner hostel at the University of the Free State testify to the fact that churches failed to teach it’s young, those born right at the end of the apartheid era, what it means to be non-racial and to treat all people as being created in the image of God.

We need a reconnection to the biblical narrative, we need to be shaped by the Son of God who became flesh in order to serve us and to bring us all in communion with God, taking away our shame and our sin.

5.  Church and modernity

A few concluding remarks on the DRC and modernity. Modernity influenced the church at various junctions in its past, e.g. in the 19th century when critical European enlightenment theology were popularised in South Africa by DRC-pastors, a scenario which currently repeats itself.

Three examples of challenges posed by modernity:

1.  The private / public split of modernity may trap churches in a spirituality focused on the self, the inner needs and fulfilment of the individual believer. This may be true of liturgy and worship, and may support new forms of apathy regarding South African realities and public life.

2.  Developments within critical theological scholarship in the 19th century impacted in recent times on the DRC. It strengthens the idea of a disenchanted world (Max Weber) and may further processes of secularization.

3.  In the economic sphere the free market in the form of global capitalism seems to be the reigning idol (Smith 2007a:12). The consumer society may prove to be a much more powerful force in the spiritual formation of people than the gospel.

6.  Concerning the future

What lies ahead? What is God’s preferred future for the church, the future that focuses our obedience to the Lord Jesus?

The DRC is currently officially is a Season of Listening – listening to God, to each other, to outsiders and those marginalised for various reasons. Listening is the proper discerning leadership skill for times like these. It signifies a proper humility.

The DRC needs a fresh understanding and deep experience of being called and sent by God to the South African context. It needs to be shaped by the gospel of the Son of God who did not hesitate to become a slave, willingly giving up everything He had in order to free us and bring us into the shared life of the Trinity.

To quote Alan Hirsch again:

We need to refocus our attention back to the root of it all, to recalibrate ourselves and our organizations around the person and work of Jesus the Lord. It will mean taking the Gospels seriously as the primary texts that define us. It will mean acting like Jesus in relation to people outside of the faith…” (2006:94)

Bibliography

Hirsch, A 2008. The forgotten ways. Brazos Press: Grand Rapids
Keifert, P 2006. We are here now – a new missional era. Allelon Publishing: Eagle
Marais, DF 1984. Die Sinode van 1857 en die instituering van afsonderlike kerkverbande onder leiding van die NG Kerk: ‘n Sending-historiese verantwoording. Unpublished M.Th. dissertation.
Smit, DJ, 2007a. Mainline Protestantism in South Africa – and modernity? Unpublished paper.
Smit DJ, 2007b. Essays on public theology. Sun Publishers: Stellenbosch.
Van der Watt, PB 1980. Die NG Kerk Band 2. NGKU: Pretoria

 

Mediese Navorsingsraad stel Tweede Oorsig oor Jeug en Risiko-Gedrag vry

2010/04/29 by Danie Mouton No Comments »

In opvolging van hul eerste verslag (2002) het die Mediese Navorsingsraad pas hul tweede nasionale verslag oor Risiko-gedrag by Jongmense bekendgestel (April 2010).  Interessant genoeg het die risiko-gedrag rondom seksualiteit afgeneem, maar op ander terreine weer toegeneem.  Die media-verklaring gee ’n kort oorsig en word hieronder volledig weergegee.

Die verslag volg op ‘n opname onder 10,270 hoërskoolleerders van Grade 8 tot 11.  Dit handel oor die voorkoms van gedragspatrone wat vir jongmense ‘n risiko inhou rondom siekte en swak gesondheid.  Die opname en verslag het onder leiding van ‘n navorsingspan van die Gesondheidsbevordering Navorsing- en Ontwikkelingseenheid van die Mediese Navorsingsraad plaasgevind, met prof Priscilla Reddy as hoofnavorser.  Dr Reddy sê: “Hierdie ondersoek gee ‘n wetenskaplike prentjie in die omstandighede waarmee jongmense gekonfronteer word terwyl hulle in Suid-Afrika opgroei.  Deur die stressore te identifiseer wat ‘n impak op hierdie sleutelkomponent van ons samelewing maak, word ons in staat gestel om kosbare hulbronne optimaal aan te wend.”

Uit die mediaverklaring:

Following the first Youth Risk Behaviour Survey in 2002, this survey investigated behaviours related to infectious diseases (sexual risk behaviour and hygiene), injury and trauma (violence and traffic safety), mental health (depression, suicide related behaviour, substance use), and chronic diseases (nutrition and physical activity). The data from the YRBS surveys may contribute useful evidence as government plans its long term strategy by showing trends in behaviours that place youth at risk for disease and ill health.

Some positive developments

The 2008 survey showed significant reductions in risky sexual behaviour. Fewer school learners had ever had sex (from 41% to 38%). Of those who had sex, the number of school learners that had two or more sexual partners in their lifetime significantly reduced (from 45% to 41%), and less learners had one or more sexual partners during the past three months (from 70% to 52%). Also, of those who ever had sex, the incidence of sexually transmitted infections significantly reduced (from 7% to 4%), while consistent condom use increased slightly (29% to 31%).

Increasing health threats

The survey showed clear reductions in physical activity, increased threat to mental health and unsafe traffic behaviour. A significant increase in physical inactivity (38% to 42%) and TV watching for more than 3 hours per day (25% to 29%) was observed. Regarding mental health, more learners made one or more suicide attempts during the past six months (17% to 21%). Regarding unsafe traffic behaviour, more learners drove a vehicle after drinking alcohol in the past 30 days (8% to 18%) and were driven by someone who had been drinking alcohol in the past 30 days (35% to 38%).

Gemeentes behoort hierdie verslag behoorlik te bestudeer. Die volledige verslag en ’n kort bekendstellingspamflet is op die MNR se webblad beskikbaar.

 

Congregation and tradition

2010/03/23 by Danie Mouton No Comments »

As congregations journey towards God’s preferred and promised future, the question must be asked: how do they deal with their tradition? Tradition here in the sense of broader theological tradition, but also in terms of their congregational habits and customs. Various possibilities exist, e.g.

  • Part of our Protestant heritage is to be apprehensive of tradition.  Church tradition, it was feared, might overrule Scripture as the dominant force in the life of the faithful;
  • Modernity shames the past, therefore future possibilities and new developments always seem to be better. Progress is the name of the game.  To be old and traditional is almost to be backward, and to be closed to exciting new possibilities.

Prof John de Gruchy

Against this background I listened attentively at prof John de Gruchy, emeritus-professor in Christian Studies at the University of Cape Town, lecturing today (23 March 2010) in Port Elizabeth at a seminar for pastors.  He spoke at length about tradition.

Tradition, he said, is what is handed down to us; we all stand in a particular tradition.  It points to the Holy Spirit leading us over centuries in the truth.  How do we understand truth?  How do we built on what was given, revealed to and confessed by earlier generations of faithful people?  Our identity and ethos is shaped by our tradition. The ecumenical tradition is what binds all Christians together.

Tradition not only represents the handing down of faithful responses to the Word and the Spirit.  There is also customs and cultural hindrances towards the gospel in our tradition.

Tradition needs to be feared when it boxes us in, when it is hindering new life.  The Charismatic tradition can be seen as a reaction to us boxing the Holy Spirit in.  We will ignore the challenge to our boxing-in at our own peril.

How do you discern where tradition plays which role in the church – life-giving or boxing-in?  Certain indicators helps us, says De Gruchy, mentioning two:

  • When the church is not on a mission as a reconciling community, proclaiming the good news and living in the dynamics of being good news to others;
  • When church-life becomes a closed system, focused on itself, such as the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. read more…
 

Beliggaming en sintuiglikheid as konneksiepunt

2010/03/05 by Danie Mouton 3 Comments »

Hoe konnekteer gemeentes met die mense rondom hulle?  Op so ‘n manier dat daar aanknopingspunte bestaan vir die evangelie om mense in gemeenskap met Christus en sy kerk in te sluit?

Vandeesweek, tydens ‘n kursus vir predikante, laat Frederick Marais die groep “plons”.  Ons vaar die strate van Port Elizabeth binne om met mense te gaan gesels en te hoor: “Wat maak jou trots om ‘n Suid-Afrikaner te wees?”.

Vooraf maak ons ‘n lysie van ons aannames oor wat mense sou antwoord.  Ons het verwag gebleikte Afrikane sal sê hulle is nie juis trots op die land nie, en dat baie jongmense redelik hooploos sal wees.  ‘n Paar van die ander aannames was reg, maar hierdie twee heeltemal verkeerd!  Regdeur die spektrum is mense trots op die land van hul geboorte, trots op die gawes en moontlikhede van die land, dankbaar vir familie- en sosiale bande.  Eintlik roerend, hoewel daar ook enkele negatiewe stemme was.

Ewenwel, seker die sterkste motief vir trots op die land – by oud en jonk, ongebleik, medium-gebleik en volledig-gebleik – is die konkrete moontlikhede van die land.  Die sonskyn, klimaat, lewensstyl, verhoudinge, buitelewe, natuurskoon, berge, wild, grasvelde, struike, bome en bosse.

Wat iemand laat opmerk:  Suid-Afrika het ‘n sintuiglike kultuur.  Ons put die wonderlikste behae uit die konkrete moontlikhede van ons land. read more…

 

Luther se oggend- en aandgebed

2010/03/04 by Danie Mouton No Comments »

Felix Meylahn van die Evangelies-Lutherse gemeente in Port Elizabeth deel onlangs die volgende gebede met ‘n groep predikante:

Luther se oggendgebed

In die Naam van die Vader en die Seun en die Heilige Gees (maak ook die teken van die kruis).

Ek dank U, hemelse Vader, deur Jesus Christus, U geliefde Seun, dat U my in hierdie nag teen alle skade en gevaar behoed het.

Ek bid U: Bewaar my ook vandag teen sonde en alle kwaad, sodat al my doen en lewe U kan behaag.  Want ek beveel myself, my liggaam en siel en alles, in u hande.  Laat u heilige engel met my wees sodat die bose vyand geen mag oor my verkry nie.

Amen.

Luther se aandgebed

Ek dank U, hemelse Vader, deur Jesus Christus, u geliefde Seun, dat U my vandag genadig behoed het.

Ek bid U: Vergewe my al my sondes, waar ek onreg gedoen het, en behoed my ook genadig in hierdie nag. Want ek beveel myself, my liggaam en siel en alles in u hande.

Laat u heilige engel met my wees sodat die bose vyand geen mag oor my kry nie.

Amen.

 

Die kode van een tyd en plek

2010/02/20 by Danie Mouton No Comments »

Sy pa was ‘n spoorwegwerker, sy ma ‘n nooi Potgieter, en hy het op Middelburg in die Oos-Kaap grootgeword.

Time Magazine beskryf hom as die belangrikste lewende toneelskrywer.

Athol Fugard, oor wie dit gaan, vertel dat hy “net die kode van een tyd en plek (veral die Oos-Kaap) ken”.  Hy sê: “Ek kan op ‘n straathoek staan hier in Nieu-Bethesda of in my ou Port Elizabeth.  Ek kan kyk en ek kan ‘n geloofwaardige scenario aanmekaarslaan vir die ou swart vrou wat haar kaalvoet haas om betyds te wees vir die laaste bus, vir die sakeman wat in sy BMW verbyry.”  Met verwysing na die VSA, waar hy die laaste 20 jaar woon, sê hy dat hy niks weet van hierdie wêreld waaruit die Amerikaners kom en waarheen hulle op pad is nie. (Onderhoud met Willemien Brümmer, Die Burger 2006-05-26, soos aangehaal deur Hermann Giliomee in By van 2010-02-21)

Geloof en konteks

Dit is ‘n cliché om te sê gemeentes moet hul konteks, hul leefwêreld ken.  Tog val dit my op hoe ons daarmee sukkel. Ons gee hoog op dat mense aan huis besoek word, en dat die prediker die wêreld van die hoorders van die Woord ken.  Dit is ongelooflik belangrik.

Maar wat maak ons met hierdie kennis?

Die meeste leiers wat ek ken, gebruik hierdie kode bloot om polities-korrek te manevreur tussen:

  • al die familietwiste,
  • die onverhandelbare voorkeure van lidmate,
  • die verborge skandes wat nie genoem mag word nie, en
  • om aanstoot te vermy.

Mens kan hulle ook nie kwalik neem nie.  Baie dominees en kerkraadslede oorleef bloot omdat hulle political animals is wat weet watter patriarge en welke oortuigings nooit aangevat moet word nie.  Dis noodsaaklike oorlewingskennis,  veral wanneer jy die patriarge leer ken, en gemeenskappe se robuuste tegnieke – waarmee hulle profete wegwerk – in aksie sien.

Waarom die kode van een tyd en plek ken?

Eugene Peterson beklemtoon dat Jesus ons roep om ‘n lokale en spesifieke lewe te lei.  Jesus leef elke dag saam met ons en lei ons tot dissipelskap in ‘n lokale en spesifieke plek.  Só kom sy koninkryk.

Nogmaals: Jesus vorm ons deur sy Woord en sy Gees op ‘n plek en in ‘n spesifieke tyd.

Die uitdaging is dus dat die geloofsgemeenskap deur die evangelie gevorm word.  Die opdrag vir gemeenteleiers is om dinge te doen wat die kode, die DNA, van ‘n tyd en plek transformeer sodat die Jesus Way (Peterson) geïnkarneer kan word.

Die koninkryk kom naby, en breek deur, in die kode van een tyd en plek.  Daarom moet ons aansluit, lokaliseer, die tyd en plek ken en join sodat ons getransformeer kan word.

Om saam gevorm te word

Ek kan onthou hoedat ek, terwyl ek as student vakansies op die destydse SA Spoorweë en Hawens se rangeerterreine gewerk het, dikwels gewonder het hoe ek die evangelie gaan toepas op mense soos hierdie.

Dit was die fout.  Ek kon nie regtig antwoorde kry nie.

Eerste probleem:
Terwyl ek die evangelie wou toepas op “mense soos hierdie”, het ek nog nie by hulle aangesluit nie, nog nie die kode verstaan en omarm nie.  Nog nie gelokaliseer nie, die mense nog nie lief genoeg gehad om deel van hulle te word nie.  Letterlik nog nie genoeg ‘n vriend van tollenaars en sondaars geword nie.  (“Skuus, ek probeer nie sê die rangeerders was slegter as ander nie, dit was net ‘n wêreld wat ek glad nie geken het nie, en wat nie maskers opgesit het vir dominees-in-wording nie.  Sommige van hulle het besondere vriende geword – sien ‘n paar foto’s.)

Tweede probleem:
Mens kan die evangelie nie rasioneel beheer nie –  asof dit “ek” is wat deur ‘n proses van teologiese kundigheid rasioneel kan uitwerk wat die evangelie “vir hulle” beteken nie.  Terwyl jy nog op hierdie punt staans, kan jy net destruktief moraliseer. Die vorming van die evangelie kom deurdat jy saam met hulle weerloos voor die aansprake van die Woord staan, en sáám gelei word om die evangelie uit te leef.

Eers wanneer jy die kode ken en as dissipel saam met mense leef – die scenario in Fugard se woorde hierbo – kan jy saam met die mense deur die evangelie gevorm word.

Die rol van die regte gewoontes

Die vorming deur die evangelie is ‘n tydsame proses.  In hierdie proses is die navolg van geloofsvormende gewoontes die regte ding om te doen.  Prosesse soos Woon in die Woord, lectio divina, en…

Stories vertel as geloofsvormende gewoonte.  Verhale oor die gemeenskap, uit die gemeenskap, verhale waarin mens fyn luister na wat gebeur en waarmee die Here besig is.  Waarderende verhale wat veilige ruimtes, nie-beskamend, skep waarin ons die Here se genade leer ken en verstaan. Verhale wat die “kode van hierdie tyd en plek” beliggaam, en waarin ons soos speurders vra hoe die Here hierin betrokke is en hierdeur werk.

Pasop om die misterie en verwondering uit die stories te haal.  Pasop om van die kode van hierdie tyd en plek ‘n bron van moraliserende strooi te maak.  Kerkmense en dominees is tog baie goed hiermee.  Dan is dit steeds jy wat in beheer is.

En onthou dat alma die reg het om stories te vertel.  Hoe meer ons die stories opdiep van diegene wat nie in die gemeente of gemeenskap in posisies van mag is nie, bv die dames in die tuiste vir bejaardes, die plaaswerkers, die onbelangrikers en onbenulliges, soos Fugard se kaalvoetvrou hierbo, sal ons die kode van die tyd en plek leer ken.  Dit vat nogal die kuns van veilige ruimtes skep om die stories in die eerste plek te hoor.

Dit neem tyd, verwondering en baie stories – wat op ons gemeenskaplike geloofsvormende reis verbind word met die verhale uit  die Bybel, om die kode van hierdie tyd en plek te transformeer tot die ritme van die evangelie.  En in hierdie proses word ons self as predikante getransformeer.  Ons het ook hierdie bekering nodig.

As bonus:  een van die mense wat plaaslike stories goed baie goed kan vertel, is Michelle Faure van die Langkloof (Joubertina)