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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 Eleven: Congregations’ and Churches’ Ministries and Work towards Poverty Eradication


Some of the congregations studied for this research had become more ethnically diverse, while other congregations had not changed significantly since democratisation. Changed socio-economic conditions were the main cause for increased ethnic diversity in the congregations. The previous chapter showed that the churches’ organisational structures or networks were important to a certain extent in increasing ethnic diversity in parishes of a predominantly different ethnicity.

This chapter will investigate the contribution of congregations and churches to social change. Various forms of sharing can be identified as a way of reducing ethnic barriers in churches and in the wider society. There is one Christian communion, and its members are called to eradicate boundaries so that ethnic diversity can be shared and received in every part of the Church. New economic possibilities in previously underprivileged areas can facilitate increased ethnic diversity. This chapter is based mainly on interviews with church councils and church leaders, and on diverse congregational publications.

Firstly, I will explore activities and ministries that the congregations undertake in their communities and in the wider society. Secondly, I will investigate whether the congregations and churches are engaged in poverty eradication as part of reducing ethnic barriers between people in the Christian community.

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