An overview of SAMS 2010

January 18, 2010

I attended the South African Missiological Society’s (SAMS) yearly meeting from 13-15 January. It was my first time there. I went, as well as presented a paper, because of the theme: “A missional church in Southern Africa 1999-2009 A Moment of Truth?”. But I guess I went more specifically because of the way in which the call for papers was formulated on the Missionalia blog, which referred specifically to “emerging churches”, and since I knew of felt like younger voices, and the voices of those active in the blogosphere, had an obligation to participate at the conference.

Jonathan Jansen opened the conference. I had respect for him in his days at the University of Pretoria, but basically only from the few articles he wrote in the University newspaper that I read. I never heard him speak, or read his books before. He made no secret of the fact that what South Africa needs is racial integration, and he will do he’s part, but that churches who still proceed with segregated worship is not helping. Going so far to say that the Dutch Reformed Church is irrelevant (and this in front of a mostly white crowd).

Of the 12 papers presented four came from the South African Partnership for Missional Churches. Nelus Niemandt, Jurgens Hendriks, Danie Mouton and Frederick Marais (together with Xilele Simon or the last part of the paper). These first four names are all senior voices from the Dutch Reformed Church. Four papers was presented by bloggers (not that this mean they actually form a category in the conference, but they do seem to point to a somewhat different path. Myself, Reggie Nel, Tom Smith and Guillaume Smit.

Four other papers I won’t really mention, either because they talked about some totally different from the above eight papers (Christof Sauer and Billy Gama), I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say (Pastor Des, who talked about something he called emerging/missional), or I didn’t attend (Willem Saayman, which I am really really sad about, because from what I gather from the tweets, he really can help the emerging and missional conversations in South Africa along).

The first eight papers I mentioned all talked in some way about emerging and missional churches. Reggie Nel mentioned in a paper read at last year’s joint New Testament and Missionlogy day-long conference on “The Missionary Task of the Church” that he perceives a difference between those in Southern Africa clustered under the missional banner, who are mostly drawn by the Dutch Reformed Church, and then especially the above mentioned partnership, and those who identified with emergent (I would differ from him, I think emerging is actually the term being used in South Africa), who he says is about a generation or two younger than the first group, and who’s conversation are framed by blogs and social networks.

This doesn’t mean that you won’t find much that overlap between the two groups, there is a lot in common. Neither does it mean that either of the group can be captured in one definition, I think both have a variety of voices grouped under an umbrella term. But I do believe some of the different nuances came out at the conference, although a much deeper analysis of the papers would have to be made to actually point them out. When I do get written copies of the papers I might make an attempt at this.

Steve Hays asked four questions of SAMS participants, which I will answer tomorrow:

1. What do you think was the best paper/presentation?

2. Please give an abstract of the most important points.

3. What was the most important/significant thing you learned at the congress
(not necessarily from the paperts — chatting to people over coffeee late at
night often yields better insights)

4. Were you inspired to do anything as a result of the congress? If so, what?

If you attended, why not answer it as well, on your blog or in tomorrow’s comment section.