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Catholicity Challenging Ethnicity

An Ecclesiological Study of Congregations and Churches in Post-apartheid South Africa


Erik Berggren

This book deals with the relationship between the catholicity of the Church and ethnicity. Churches confess their «catholicity» – which means that they declare that their members belong to one community; but at the same time, the churches are often internally divided along ethnic lines. South Africa was a divided society under apartheid, which also shaped the churches ethnically. The legacy of apartheid continues to cause division between people through inequality, injustice, skewed power relations, and marginalisation. The author presents an analytical tool that has been derived from key documents of the Faith and Order movement and the World Council of Churches concerning the catholicity of the Church. In addition, he tests the catholicity of the Church against an operative ecclesiology of South African congregations and churches twenty years after the dismantling of apartheid.
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Chapter One: Introduction


South Africa is probably one of the most diverse countries in the world. Some people have even described South Africa as a continent in a country because of its enormous diversities. There are seas and deserts, mountains and fields, poverty and wealth, peace and violence, and people from many parts of the world. South Africa must have been one of the first multi-ethnic places in the world, but with a complex history that has produced a society full of contrasts. The extremes make the country very interesting but, at the same time, very challenging.

South Africa was colonised early in the European colonial period, and people were segregated according to background from the start. Its origins may be found in the first efforts of different people to live peacefully together, and in particular in the British attempts to systematise government and reconcile contrary interests.1 When the National Party came to power in 1948 and began to implement its racially discriminatory policies, it legalised what had been going on for a long time. After the election of 1948 a more explicit path to a discriminatory society appeared in South Africa, and the term ‘apartheid’ was coined. No single area of society was exempt from the influence of discriminatory policies. Even the religious life was supposed to be included, but protests from the churches meant that this was never applied to the text of the law.2 One of the central apartheid laws established certain territories and places of...

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