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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 Four: Ecclesiology in Practice


In the previous chapter, I described a catholicity that was based on Faith & Order and World Council of Churches documents, and that will be used as a normative theory of catholicity.

This chapter will present an explanation of an ‘operative ecclesiology’ derived primarily from the French theologian Yves Congar. An ‘operative ecclesiology’ illustrates how the Church can be studied through its documents, statements, resolutions, and creeds, but also through its various practices. I will describe the methodological foundation that was applied to the studied South African congregations and churches.

Firstly, I will discuss how the Church can be studied through different kinds of ecclesiologies. Secondly, I will describe the ‘operative ecclesiology’ and give a definition of ‘practices’. Thirdly, I will explain how I conducted the case study through interviews, observation, and the study of documents.

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