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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 Six: Reconciliation as Part of the Church’s Ministry


The WCC and the SACC supported the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a contribution to the reconciliation of the human community after several decades of ethnic division in South Africa. Reconciliation was a way to deal with the past and to help lead the country away from a divided past to a future built on reconciliation and national unity. The previous chapter showed, however, that congregations were still struggling with the legacy of apartheid two decades after democratisation.

This chapter will explore the ministry of reconciliation as part of church’s practices. Firstly, I will examine how the congregations were influenced by the TRC and how they perceived reconciliation in their communities. I will focus on the legacy of the TRC, and then on reconciliation from a general perspective. Secondly, I will analyse whether reconciliation was reflected in the congregations’ vision and mission statements. These statements capture the congregations’ primary objectives and purposes, and reveal whether reconciliation is central to their practices.

6.1 Congregations as Communities for Reconciliation

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