Sunday, June 07, 2009

Public Theology: The South African Experience

Some of you may know that I won the lottery a few months back--along with 18 or so others (see pic below for a snapshop of our first meeting) from across Africa and North America--with an all-expenses paid trip to South Africa to study Public Theology. The seminar is sponsored by the Nagel Centre at Calvin College, and facilitated by Bob and Alice Evans of the Plowshares Institute. The idea is to bring scholars together to learn from South Africa's experiments with connecting Christian faith to nation-building and democratic transformation.

The next few blogs reflect on my experience with the team, and on the new, NEW South Africa (post-Mbeki). Most readers of my blog will know that I lived in South Africa for most of the 1990s, completing my doctoral studies under John de Gruchy at the University of Cape Town. Our travels will begin in Johannesburg and end in the Cape, at Volmoed, a retreat centre where de Gruchy is currently theologian-in-residence.

Our group will also be facilitated by Tinyiko Maluleke, one of the most exciting of the new generation of South African black theologians. We will visit churches, the Constitutional Court, memorial sites, NGOs, and other places. I'm excited about what we'll learn and discuss--but also cautious as there's always the temptation to turn the church, and theology, into a servant of a particular political/ideological agenda. And even with the best intentions, there's also the temptation to think that the Kingdom of God "is within our grasp, as long as we have hands to clasp" (with apologies to Dr. Seuss). No: the kingdom is always coming, and always gift.

Stay tuned for more!

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