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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 Two: Church Rejecting Division


In several documents, conferences, and consultations from the early twentieth century, South African churches and the ecumenical movement have questioned ethnic divisions in the Church. In this chapter I will portray how the churches and the ecumenical movement have reacted to the separation of the human community, and outline their approach to a just Church and society. This chapter should be regarded as background to understanding the South African context before and after democratisation.

Firstly, I will examine the ecumenical movement’s rejection of apartheid before democratisation. It is primarily based on documentation from ecumenical conferences and consultations held in South Africa before democratisation. Secondly, I will examine ecumenical consultations and the TRC’s Faith Communities Hearing held after democratisation. In this part I have mainly made use of documentation from the TRC, churches’ submissions, and audiovisual materials and transcripts from the Faith Communities Hearing in East London in 1997. A large part will look at the churches’ submissions to and responses at this hearing. The churches’ submissions and responses are central because they illustrate the churches’ positions when the society was segregated, and how they regarded the future.

2.1 Declarations, Conferences and Consultations before Democratisation

Discrimination against people who were not ‘White’ had been going on since colonisation, and also in the two Boer republics and the two British colonies.1 The situation did not change after the negotiations between the Boer republics and the British parliament, when the Union of South Africa was...

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