which level of justice
February 1, 2008
Each year the Theological faculty at Pretoria hosts a theological conversation as it’s “faculty opening”. It’s usually quite well-attended by ministers from our church, but this year they held it a few days later, after classes has started, and we also had a number of students attending. Or maybe it was because Prof Allan Boesak was speaking, whatever the reason, this year the event was very well attended.
Allan Boesak and Etiene de Villiers (professor of Ethics at UP, but not as well-known as Boesak), was the main speakers, and the topic was “Can the Dutch Reformed Church still play a role in South Africa”. Their deliveries can be found in about a week at teo.co.za. Both answered “yes”, but both said that then some things in our church would have to change. For the emerging people reading this, you would have enjoyed it, lot of Kingdom talk, lot of justice talk.
But what really caught me was that both talked about the role of the broad church in broad society. They talked about the problems of HIV, globalization, economic capitalism, environmental destruction (on a large scale) and poverty (on a global scale), and the role of the church in this. It was all about the relationship between church and government etc. On the other hand, the conversation in many congregation is more and more focusing on the local community. Poverty in the people living among us, unemployment in people around our congregation etc. The local issues.
I’m struggling to see how these two sides get together. People talking about the larger role of the church in society is, I believe, addressing the real problems. People focusing only on local level tend to sometimes miss the real problems of society, and rather focus on some petty things we see. Not that these are not important. We need to look after old age homes, and be nice to those working for us. But these is problems that are threatening to kill a world, and local congregations seldom seem to talk about this. But people talking about these large societal problems seem to miss the people, they don’t talk to those in congregations, the people who need to address these issues, rather, they talk about the role of the “church”, church being so broad that many times I can’t see what that would mean for my own ministry.
If we can get these two things together. The broad societal problems, yes, on a global level, and the role of the local congregation in this, then I believe we can start changing things. I love what is happening in thousands of local congregations who start looking at their direct context, addressing the issues in their communities, but sometimes they would need to look past their own horizons, and then someone would need to know what they would do then.