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Catholicity Challenging Ethnicity

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

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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 Twelve: The Church in an Ethnically-diverse Society

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This thesis is about the catholicity of the Church in relation to ethnicity in South African congregations and churches. Some scholars might argue that it is impossible to compare catholicity and ethnicity. I have found it productive, however, to use key documents from Faith & Order (F&O) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) to investigate how South African congregations and churches dealt with ethnic diversity two decades after democratisation.

The first part of the thesis gave the background to how South African churches have rejected apartheid, and their positions regarding the transition from apartheid before and after democratisation. I continued this part of the thesis by developing my analytical tool about the Church’s catholicity, which has been derived from key documents from the international ecumenical movement. This part of the thesis also described how I studied a number of South African congregations and churches by using an operative ecclesiology. This method has been used to reveal their understandings of the Church by examining their implicit and explicit ecclesiologies.

In the second part of the thesis, I examined several themes in the South African congregations and churches that were productive to analyse in relation to ethnicity. By using an operative ecclesiology I could reveal an ecclesiology that I could test with my analytical tool about the Church’s catholicity. In Chapter Five I described the parishes and churches that I studied. I selected five mainline churches: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, and Apostolic...

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