The reflections of the past few days on my own being an Afrikaner draw to an end… for now. It’s been a week since that transforming moment, when a black Kenyan transformed this Afrikaner into an African theologian.

While some liberal Afrikaner’s would easily identify themselves as being African, I’ve always been a bit cautious. Maybe I’ve seen too much of Africa, to know that in many ways I don’t fit. Maybe it was my involvement with the many philosophical conversations within the Emerging Church conversation, and the realization that these words have little to do with Africa. This was my experience at Amahoro as well. While it is popular for young Afrikaners to reject their past by saying that they had nothing to do with Apartheid, if I want to be in Africa I cannot say this. In Africa I cannot reject my past, I cannot be totally individualistic, what my people did is part of me. This said before I even start looking at all the practical ways in which Apartheid is still part of my daily life, in where I live, how I live etc.

The question that I struggled with was: How can an Afrikaner whose people were responsible for Apartheid become an African theologian? The people with whom I struggles through this was some fellow Afrikaners, but especially some Kenyan friends I made. I felt like I needed to ask permission to take part in constructing an African theology. After telling our story, the story of our people, proud at times, standing guilty at times, one of my new Kenyan friends said these words: “You need to come to Kenya and come tell your story! Our people need to hear that someone can admit that they were wrong.” Those must have been some of the most liberating words I’ve ever heard!

Suddenly our place in this conversation seemed so clear. We do not take part in this African conversation by forgetting Apartheid, by forgetting our past. We do not take part in this conversation in spite of Apartheid. We take part in this African conversation by remembering our past. By telling our story, so that this may never happen again. All over Africa one group oppresses the other. It’s not about white against black, but about the have’s against the have-not’s (as we said at Amahoro). I become an African theologian not by leaving my Afrikaner identity behind, but by taking sides with the have-not’s, with the oppressed, and doing this as child of the iconic oppressor of the past.

After my own post yesterday, and Tom’s response on it, maybe today would be a good day to post on something that’s lying heavy on my heart. For a long time now I’ve been asking myself what the contribution of South Africans should be towards a global theological conversation, also the emerging conversation. More and more I realise that we need to ask what a local South African theological conversation would look like if we’d like to see what our contribution globally can be.

South Africa seem to be a good off-set point for a number of emerging thoughts. This seem to make sense to me, someone like Leonard Sweet refer to the perfect storm when describing the change that came in his society, and which results in a change in church. This metaphor seem strike a bell somewhere with people in our church (see for example Nelus Niemandt’s use of it in Nuwe Drome vir Nuwe Werklikhede, as well as the use of this in the name of a book under the redaction of Stephan Joubert, Die Perfekte Storm). But maybe our storm look somewhat different, it’s post-apartheid, it’s political turmoil, neo-nationalism, combined with postmodernism, a technological revolution, and the perfect storm which Sweet and others have described.

I found it quite shocking a while ago to see how the thoughts of Alan Hirsch gets eaten up by 40 and 50-something pastors in of our denomination. Like they are completely disillusioned with the fact that everything has changed, and that it seems like the church they grew up in made a big mess of everything, and maybe a mid-life crisis also plays a role, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, this guy coming out, telling them that the institutional church is a great big mess, and that it’s possible to simply do it in another way, seem to be taken as a life-saver almost uncritically.

South Africa is a challenge. We experience a storm. I think this is a big part of the reason why the emerging writers seem to strike such a natural chord with us. Obviously another is the fact that we are also experiencing the same things they are.

But our local challenge is also very much different. We live in the extreme tensions between rich and poor, which America, Europe and Australia do not know. We experience violence and crime in a way that I don’t think the communities in which these people write can understand. AIDS is a door-step reality and not something of which we read in books. We have a boiling pot of different cultures and westerners is a minority, not a majority. These are some of the local struggles, maybe you can add some more.

I use the word emerging in the title as a verb (wrote something on thisa long time ago as well). The changes occurring ask that our theological response need to be emerging. Emerging from something, towards something new. But our challenge are different from that of the big voices in the emerging conversation, and our response need to be different.

It was in a module I had with prof Piet Meiring back in 2005 that I was introduced to third world theology, and also African theology. More and more I’m realising that we need to listen to African theology in our search for a South African theology. Yes, we need to listen to western theology as well. I cannot help but be western, and this is what I will carry into the conversation. But there are other voices in South Africa that must add to the music.

More and more we seem to hear this need for a South African theology. Mynhardt for example ask for a response to specific local issues, and Tom for a proudly South African theology. Before getting some fancy speaker from a far-away country (with all due respect to many people from far-away places who have had a very positive influence on my own thinking), maybe it’s time we get together in search of a South African theology. Maybe it’s time we just start the emerging conversation in a South African context. Who will take part? How will this look? What would the most important things be?

And when we start discovering our local relevance, I believe we will have a lot to contribute in a global conversation…