A Kairos Moment for the Methodist Church of Southern Africa? Engaging Nationalism and State Theology in the Democratic South Africa

Dion A. Forster

Abstract


This article considers whether South Africa’s largest mainline Christian denomination, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, is in danger of embodying or propagating a contemporary form of “state theology.” The notion of state theology in the South African context gained prominence through the publication of the Kairos Document(1985)—which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015. “State theology” is deemed inappropriate and harmful to the identity and work of both the Christian church and the nation state. It is a form of national ideology that subjugates Christian identity and witness to the political ideals of the nation state. Is this still a threat today? This article offers some insights into the complex relationship between the state and the church in contemporary South Africa by comparing it to Christianity under the apartheid regime. It problematises the current relationship between the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) and the governing African National Congress (ANC) by citing some concerning examples of complicit behaviour between powerful individuals in these two bodies, in the run up to the most recent national elections. The MCSA’s polity and doctrine on church and state relationships are considered before some critique and warning is offered in the light of the 1985 Kairos Document.


Keywords


Kairos; Nationalism; Church and State; Political Theology; Methodism; John Wesley; Ethics; Methodist Church of Southern Africa; Ecclesiology;

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