What can I say about a book that I read 50 years ago, and really have no desire to reread? It was the publishing sensation of its time, I suppose, andWhat can I say about a book that I read 50 years ago, and really have no desire to reread? It was the publishing sensation of its time, I suppose, and perhaps for the first time in decades got many people in the secular West buying and reading books about theology.
I bought the book for my mother, who had expressed an interest in reading it, and I read it too, mainly to see what the fuss was about. But I was disappointed. John A.T. Robinson seemed to be urging me to stop believing things about God I had never believed in the first place, and to replace them with things I had heard from people I regarded as religious quacks, and rejected.
Nevertheless the book did influence me quite strongly. It helped to being into focus things that I didn't like in Western bourgeois theology, and to look for African threology and liberation theology instead. But that's more about me than about the book, so it's better said on my blog than on GoodReads. ...more
This books describes of a Church of England parish, in Halton, Leeds, became more aware of itself as a Christian community. Perhaps the core of this 1This books describes of a Church of England parish, in Halton, Leeds, became more aware of itself as a Christian community. Perhaps the core of this 1950s revival experienced there was the parish meeting, the idea that the church must meet, and do so more often than at an annual vestry meeting to elect churchwardens and other parish officers and receive reports.
In addition to the parish meetings, the parish also developed house churches, which were the "church in our street". In the 1980s and laater many people began to see house churches as an alternative to the parish church, but in Halton in the 1950s they were seen as an integral part of the parish community.
There were two kinds of house church meetings, "us" and "us plus", with the latter being more missional in scope, to which non-churchgoing neighbours were invited. The essential feature of the house churches was that they were local; they were not eclectic gatherings of people from all kinds of places, but gatherings of people who lived in the same neighbourhood.
Sometimes the Eucharist was celebrate in homes, whole other house church meetings were used for Bible study, or discussion of neighbourhood problems. The parish priest was welcome, but never indispensible. ...more
Twenty years ago I was chatting to Willem Saayman at lunch time in the Unisa cafeteria, and he told me something about his time as a Dutch Reformed ChTwenty years ago I was chatting to Willem Saayman at lunch time in the Unisa cafeteria, and he told me something about his time as a Dutch Reformed Church missionary in Namibia. He was there from 1974-1978, and spent a year in the Okvango, and the rest of the time at Orumana, in the Kaakoveld.
It was fascinating to me, as it told the other side of a story to which I had seen a very different side. He also told me that the Tomlinson Report, which laid out the blueprint for apartheid in South Africa (and the Odendaal Report, which was the equivalent in Namibia) had provided much of the motivation for many in the DRC to become missionaries, and were seen as providing the incentive and the opportunity for Christian mission.
I went in Namibia in 1969, and was deported in 1972. Though we were not exact contemporaries there, it was close enough for us to have experienced the same times, the same physical, spiritual, ideological and political climate. In my experience the implementation of the Tomlinson and Odendaal reports, and the evil ideology behind them, were precisely the opposite to what Willem described to me. They persecuted the church, and obstructed Christian mission at every turn. Those who implemented them seemed determined to destroy the Christian faith and went to great lengths to prevent its spread.
Willem, it seemed to me, knew the story from the inside. He knew both the good and the evil intentions, the good and evil results. I urged him to write it down, to tell the story, because I doubted that there were many other people who were both willing and able to tell it.
In one sense, he has now done that, in this book.
It is short (150 pages), and it surveys the history of mission of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa from 1652 to the present.
Willem distinguishes four "waves" of mission in the DRC: From 1179-1834; from 1867-1934; from 1954-1976 and from 1990 to the present. Each of these waves, or upsurges in interest in mission, had its own characteristics and importance, but the one that interests me most is the Third Wave, from 1954-1976. That was the one that fell entirely within the apartheid period, and was bound up with the ideology of apartheid.
Willem points out that apartheid did not begin in 1948, that its roots began much further back, and that most whites in South Africa were generally in favour of racial segregation in one form or another long before then. But the soil in which apartheid flourished is one thing, the roots and fruits another. In the past, the matters dealt with by apartheid were not central. They were referred to by preceding (white) governments as "the native question". Apartheid, however was the main plank of the National Party's election campaign in 1948. They promised to make "the native question" the main question, and to solve it once and for all. Apartheid became the official state ideology, an outlook, a worldview, a totalitarian vision of society to which everything had to be forced to conform. It was both qualitatively and quantitatively different from what had gone before. In the book Willem tends to play this down somewhat.
He does show how the mission vision of the DRC both shaped and was shaped by apartheid, by showing how it developed in both church and state, and how church and government influenced one another.
And that, in itself, makes this a very important book.
In one sense, it shows the huge gulf that existed, and still exists, between different denominations in South Africa.
The missiology department at Unisa, like many others, has taught the history of Christian mission from the perspective of "the Constantinian Era". I have my doubts about that, and think that is a simplistic judgement (see Notes from underground: St Constantine, Scapegoat of the West), but given its widespread acceptance, one could say that in the 1970s in Namibia, the Dutch Reformed Church was in the Constantinian Era, while at the same time, in the same country, other denominations, and especially the Anglican Church, were in the pre-Constantinian Era, the era of persecution, of government obstruction.
The Dutch Reformed mission in the Kaokoveld enjoyed government favour, and the government tried to smooth its path. In Windhoek a Dutch Reformed minister hosted a pastor from Romania, Richard Wurmbrand, who told of the difficulties of Christians in far-away Romania, while Christians in Namibia were facing the very same difficulties at that very time -- see Notes from underground: The martyrs of Epinga.
A big eye-opener for me in Willem's book was the story of black farm schools, which, it appears. were seen by the Dutch Reformed Church as a missionary opportunity. The Bantu Education Act in effect nationalised church schools for blacks in the 1950s. All black schools were put under the control of the central government, and most of the Christian churches that had lost their schools in this way thought that it was because the government wanted to be sure that the teaching in the schools was politically correct according to the apartheid ideology. An exception was farm schools, which were controlled by farmers.
From the Dutch Reformed point of view, the mission opportunity was provided by mission-minded farmers who opened the schools for Christian teaching, thus providing a mission opportunity.
My experience was somewhat different.
In 1976-77 I was an Anglican priest in Utrecht in northern Natal, and found myself manager of several farm schools. These schools were held in Anglican Church buildings, but since the church was no longer allowed to run them, a farmer had to be found who was willing to become the "owner" of the school, and most farmers were not interested and not willing. The Bantu Education Department was forever on our case because many of the schools were on church land, and they said they must be on the farm land. And only children from that farm could go to them, whereas in fact children from several surrounding farms came. In one case the church building was on farm land, and the farmer was an absentee landlord, who owned several farms in the area, and one day he visited the farm and closed the church at gunpoint, and all along the road to the farm were armed police.
So there was a distinct apartheid between the Constantinian and the pre-Constantinian Church in South Africa, and neither side really saw the other. And in Namibia in July 1971 the Lutheran Church crossed from one to the other when it issued an open letter criticising the policy of apartheid, and supporting the position of the World Court that South Africa was occupying Namibia illegally.
In his book Willem barely mentions Namibia, and that is why I gave this book four stars rather than five. It is a very important book, and important to read. But I think the full story has not yet been told, and I still hope that Willem will tell, in the form of a memoir and narrative theology, the story of his time in Namibia. The generation who experienced that is passing, and only they can tell the story.
I'm writing a book, with John de Gruchy, on the rise and decline of the charismatic renewal movement in South Africa, and one of the influences on itI'm writing a book, with John de Gruchy, on the rise and decline of the charismatic renewal movement in South Africa, and one of the influences on it was what Andrew Walker in this book calls the Restoration Movement, and was at one time called, by some, the House Church Movement, but which now seems to be called The British New Church Movement.
The charismatic renewal was a worldwide movement that reached its peak in the 1970s, in which Pentecostal phenomena, such as speaking in tongues, appeared in non-Pentecostal churches, such as Anglicans, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Baptists and others.
I found this book particularly useful, as it provides a history of the movement including its relationship the the charismatic renewal in Britain, and to the "shepherding movement" in the United States. The main aim of the Restoration Movement was to prepare for God's coming Kingdom by restoring the New Testament Church and its ministries.
It could be said that the Restoration Movement is the result of the influence of the charismatic renewal movement on the Plymouth Brethren, though it generally appeared a few decadees before it appeared in other Christian groups. The Plymouth Brethren had been influenced from the start by the dispensationalist teaching of John Nelson Darby, which divided history into various periods, and asserted that things like speaking in tongues disappeared once the canon of scripture was complete, so that Pentecostal phenomena could not be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Thus many of the founders of the Restoration Movement were ex-members of the Plymouth Brethren.
The Restoration Movement retained some aspects of Brethren teaching, however, such as their opposition to what they called "denominationalism".
The path of the Restoration Movement briefly crossed that of the charismatic renewal in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but they parted ways when the Restoration leaders maintained that "denominations" could not be renewed, and that true Christians should "come out" of them, leading to accusations that they were "proselytising" and "sheep stealing".
Some of their teaching was also linked with that of the "shepherding movement" in the USA, especially the teaching on the restoration of the ministry of apostles as describerd in Ephesians chapter 4, and their doctrine of "covering", in which each Christian had to be accountable to someone who was over them in the Lord, so children were accountable to parents, wives to husbands, husbands to their local elders and the elders to the apostles. The apostles covered each other. This was taught by people like Ern Baxter, Derek Prince and Bob Mumford in the USA, and they also visited the UK and influenced the Restoration Movement there with this teaching.
This approach tended to be very authoritarian, though, as Walker notes, in 1976 the Restoration Movement split into two branches, which he called R1 and R2, and the R1 tended to be more authoritarian than R2. The authoritarianism was well expressed by Derek Prince when he said "We do not obey those in authority because they are right, we obey them because they are in authority."
In South Africa the Restoration Movement did not appear in the same form as it had in Britain, but it did have considerable influence on the charismatic renewal movement. Leaders from the Restoration Movement in the UK and the "shepeherding movement" in the USA visited South Africa and spoke at charismatic renewal conferences, and tapes with their teaching circulated more widely. One result was the formation of several new Neopentecostal denominations, often caused by groups breaking away from other denominations. Many of these new denominations were also influenced by things other than the Restoration Movement, such as prosperity teaching, and so the Restoration teaching was mostly present in diluted form.
One of the things that the Restoration Movement claimed to be opposed to was "denominationalism" and so its leaders insisted that it was not a new denomination, but was simply the Kingdom of God. Some of the Neopentecostal churches that had been influenced by its teaching claimed to be "nondenominational". This was regarded as disingenuous by those in other denominations.
Walker tries to deal with this in his book in a chapter headed "Is the Restoration Movement a denomination?"
In a way this is the least satisfactory part of the book, because the word "denomination" has several different meanings. Walker uses it in the sociological sense, where sociologists of religion classify religious bodies as "churches", "denominations" or "sects" according to various criteria. The problem is that the sociological classification does not match the ecclesiological classification, and the differing ecclesiologies of different groups classify them differently. So the denominations that the Restoration Movement distinguishes itself from would probably regard the Restoration Movement as yet another denomination, or series of denominations, having its own recognised leaders, its own distincive teachings, and regarding themselves as distinct from other Christian groups.
I suspect that most "denominational" Christians would think of a "sect" as a smaller group that splits from one denomination, either because of a quarrel, a personality clash, or a doctrinal or policy disagreement, and continues to define itself largely in contrast to the body it broke away from. This differs from the sociological understanding.
Like me, Andrew Walker is a member of the Orthodox Church, and in many ways Orthodox ecclesiology is closer to that of the Restoration Movement than to that of the "denominations", in the sense that the Orthodox Church does not regard itself as a denomination, but as the "One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church". The Orthodox Church too rejects denominationalism, though possibly for different reasons than those of the Restoration Movement. From the Orthodox point of view, "denominationalism" is the understanding that Christianity is one entity of the large class "religion" and that Christianity is a religion composed of smaller units called denominations. The sociological categories are not the same as the ecclesiological categories, and there are several ecclesiological categories that differ from one another.
Another similarity that Walker does not mention, but which strikes me as quite interesting, is that the Restoration Movement is trying to restore some things that have been lost or neglected in Western Christianity, but have continued in Orthodoxy. The "shepherding" relationship seems to have some relationship with the Orthodox notion of having a "spiritual father" (or in some cases, mother, though the Restoration Movement or at least the R1 version of it, seems to insist on male leadership in this).
Yet another is that the Restorationist doctrine of "covering" seems to have some parallels with the Orthodox understanding of "jurisdiction" referring to the spiritual authority of a bishop or patriarch. In some parts of the world, where there are overlapping episcopal jurisdictions, Orthodox Christians might ask "What is your jurisdiction?" in almost exactly the same way as a Restorationist might ask "Who is covering you?"
Walker also notes that the Restoration Movement is sometimes called the "House Church Movement", and that this is a misnomer for two reasons: firstly, though house churches were quite common in the early days of the Restoration Movement, they are now the exception rather than the rule, and secondly because house churches were far wider than the Restoration Movement.
One example of the latter might be the house churches in Anglican parishes in England and elsewhere. This "house church movement" grew in the 1940s and 1950s, and was not linked either to the Restoration Movement or to the charismatic renewal, at least not in its beginnings. There was a similar movement in the Roman Catholic Church called "Basic Christian Communities".
But there were also some unattached house groups in the UK, or some that were loosely attached to Baptist, Evangelical or Pentecostal churches. Walker explains that some of these house churches got involved in the charismatic renewal, and that when, through that, they were exposed to Restorationist teaching, some of them asked one or other Restorationist apostles for "covering".
All this makes the book very useful to me. Though it doesn't mention South Africa more than twice, and then only in passing, it does help to make some aspects of the charismatic renewal in South Africa much clearer....more
I can't really write a review of this book, since I am one of the authors, and also edited the whole text to prepare it for publication. So here's theI can't really write a review of this book, since I am one of the authors, and also edited the whole text to prepare it for publication. So here's the blurb that says what it's about
Healing ministry is becoming more prominent in many different Christian traditions in Southern Africa. In the past, it was largely confined to the 'Spirit-type' African Independent Churches (AICs), where it was (and still is) a recruitment technique par excellence. For these denominations, healing is central to the mission, and the church is primarily seen as a healing institution. In the Western Initiated Churches (WICs), healing was earlier seen as peripheral, but has become more central in recent years.
This book focuses on churches' healing ministries in Zimbabwe, looking at the historical setting and the background to Christianity. The book examines the traditional religion among the Shona people of Zimbabwe, as well as the healing traditions in African independent churches in general. It consists of four case studies of healing in different Christian denominations in Zimbabwe: two African independent churches and two Western-initiated churches (Roman Catholic and Anglican). The book also looks at the wider application of the case studies, and the general implications for Christianity in Africa.
This book certainly isn't the last word on the topic, but Christian healing ministry in Africa has taken many forms, from church-sponsored clinics and hospitals practising Western medicine to travelling tent evangelists conducting healing "crusades" and Zionist prophets giving purgatives and emetics and a whole lot more besides. One can make lots of generalisations and talk in generalities, but where this book starts is with the concrete practice of four different groups, each with its own approach to healing ministry. While they are all located in Zimbabwe, one can find similar examples in other parts of the continent.
Lilian Dube looks at the Zvikomborera Apostolic Faith Church, whose prophet/healer, Agnes Majecha, is known to specialise in neutralising zvikwambo, magical objects that have got out of control. People might buy a chikwambo from a traditional healier as a talisman to ensure health and prosperity, but it tends to become a burden, and then people find it is hard to get rid of it.
Lilian Dube also compares the role of women in healing ministry in traditional African religion and Christianity, using Agnes Majecha as an example of the latter.
Tabona Shoko looks at healing ministry in the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, and especially the ministry of Fr Lazarus Muyambi in the Anglican Church, and Fr Augustine Urayai in the Roman Catholic Church. One of the things I fund quite interesting here was that the Anglican healing ministry was linked to a community of nuns, and that something similar had happened about 1500 kilometres away in Zululand. Tabona Shoko also examines the role of the St Elijah Church, an African Independent Church that broke away from the Lutheran Church.
My task was to try to draw these different strands together and to compare them with healing ministries in other parts of Africa and the world.
The retail price of the book in South Africa is R170.00, and it may be ordered from Unisa Press or its overseas agencies. ...more
Bill Bendyshe Burnett (1917-1994) was an Anglican bishop in South Africa, and was Archbishop of Cape Town from 1974-1981. He was also Bishop of BloemfBill Bendyshe Burnett (1917-1994) was an Anglican bishop in South Africa, and was Archbishop of Cape Town from 1974-1981. He was also Bishop of Bloemfontein and of Grahamstown, and General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC). After his experience of "baptism in the Holy Spirit" he became influential in charismatic renewal circles, not only among other denominations in South Africa, but all over the world. Yet the nearest we have to a biographical source is his autobiography, The Rock that is higher than I, edited privately and published after his death by his wife Sheila.
After reading it, I doubt that he intended to have it published in its present form. It reads like a very rough first draft, which seems to indicate that he was still working on it when he died, and his family had to publish it in an unfinished form.
Fully half the book is taken up with Burnett's early life, and his experiences in the Second World War, especially as a prisoner of war in Italy. This is generally well written, and forms a coherent narrative. It looks as though it may have originally been written for his family, for children who asked him "Daddy, what did you do in the War?" I wish my father-in-law had written such an account -- he too was captured at Tobruk, and escaped from an Italian POW camp.
The second half of the book, which covers his time at St Paul's Theological College in Grahamstown and his ministry as an Anglican priest and bishop, is much more sketchy, consisting of a series of disconnected anecdotes, many of which raise more questions than they answer. This is a pity, since this is the part of the book that would be of most interest to most readers.
I first met Bill Burnett in 1960, when he was Bishop of Bloemfonein. It was the inaugural conference of the Anglican Students Federation (ASF), held at Modderpoort in the Free State snd I attended as a student. Since the conference was being held in his diocese, Bishop Burnett was the celebrant at the first Mass of the conference, in the priory of the Society of the Sacred Mission (an Anglican religious order), and he also read the first paper, on "The theological roots of Anglicanism".
In the afternoon he read a second paper, on "The Church of the Future". He said that people are generally unsuccessful in relating the rapid advance in technical knowledge to what really matters. The Church must bring a theological basis back to the centre of our lives. Intellectuals are out of touch with modern theologians. People must become more aware of the theological purpose of what they do in everyday life. Many church buildings in this country are mock-Gothic and out of touch with reality. This could be rectified if architects knew what a church is for. The church should use modern skill, knowledge and materials to build more functional buildings. In music we wallow in Victorian slush -- as far as art is concerned, the church is wearing clothes which are out of date. Modern art is symbolic, and ideally adapted to the use of the church. In the experimental liturgy there is no blessing -- the congregation is told to go out into the world and "be the church." The Church of the future must be reunited, and the Ceylon scheme of reunion is a good pointer in this direction. Denominational apartheid is an evil which must be remedied. The Ceylon scheme will keep the ancient scheme of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. The Church must become indigenous in each locality, but this must not be paramount, as the word "Anglican" seems to suggest. The emphasis is often too much on "Anglican" and too little on "Communion". The church over the whole world is too "Anglican" -- too "English". How can we be indigenous and yet remain Catholic? Nationalism must not cause us to lose our Catholic principles. We must really BE the people of God. The Church must be built around the altar, font and pulpit as the buildings are. We must live as if we really are in the dying and rising community which is the Church. You do not become a Christian and then join the Church. We are baptised into a body, a community - the Church, which is the Body of Christ. We must become what we are by virtue of our baptism. The altar and pulpit enable us to do this. We are Christians, and we must become what we are. We neglect the Holy Spirit too much. One cannot see God and live - our preaching must say this, but because we are dying with Christ, we must also rise with him. Worship is not merely one of the things the Church does - the Church is a worshipping community. We place our lives and all that we have on the altar, and receive all this back to become the Body of Christ. The perfect union with Christ will come at the Last Day - at the consummation. At every Mass we are waiting for the bridegroom.
As an impressionable teenager this made a great impression on me, which is why I made extensive notes, and included them in my diary. I also later discovered that much of what he described and was advocating as part of Anglican faith and practice was already there in the Orthodox Church, and had been all along, but that is part of my story, not his.
One thing that has puzzled me a little was that when they prayed for the bishop in the Diocese of Bloemfontein, they used his middle name, and prayed for "Bendyshe our Bishop", yet in Grahamstown and Cape Town it was his first name that was used, "Bill our Bishop". A minor point, perhaps, but one that one hopes to find explained in an autobiography, and it is things like this that make the book seem like a published first draft rather than a finished work.
In the chapter dealing with his time at St Paul's Theological College in Grahamstown, in the immediate postwar period, Burnett notes that he and the other students were influenced by the theology that had begun to emerge from the resistance to Nazism in Germany, and says that he was more impressed with Paul Schneider than with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, though he does not compare their theology or give reasons for his preference.
Perhaps he intended to expand on this later, and this too gives the impression of a rough draft. But then he says (p. 123), "If I were to write about every parish or diocese in which I have ministered I would have to write many books. I give notice that I have no intention of doing so."
And so his ministry as assistant curate at St Thomas's Church in Durban and as school chaplain at Michaelhouse is covered in less than a page, which contrasts sharply with the amount of detail in his account of his life as an escaped POW. His time as Vicar of Ladysmith is similarly sketchy, dealing only with a description of some of the tramps who came to the vicarage asking for help. This is supplemented by a letter in an appendix; the letter, from John Henderson, a parishioner in Ladysmith, describes how Bill Burnett influenced him and others to train to become Anglican priests. The sketchiness, however, leaves one with the impression that Bill Burnett did not value parish ministry very highly.
The same applies to his description of his ministry as Bishop of Bloemfontein. There are a few disconnected anecdotes, but nothing of substance. When Burnett was nominated as a possible candidate for Archbishop of Cape Town one priest in the Diocese of Bloemfontein commented, "Very few of the people here with whom I have discussed the matter want Bishop Burnett. As you know he was bishop here and I have yet to find any clergy or laity who look back with much pleasure to the time of his episcopate. The CSM and AA sisters found it a traumatic experience to coin an Americanism. No doubt he has gained in maturity and judgement since then: but his present ? enthusiasm for Pentecostalism continues to make him a dubious character in the eyes of some."
In the light of that, it is interesting that Burnett has only positive things to say about the Community of St Michael and All Angels -- that they ran "a splendid little school" and made a great contribution to the development of the nursing profession in South Africa. So one is left wondering what the "traumatic experience" could have been.
In this chapter, too, however, an element of bitchiness appears, which grows stronger as the book proceeds. He describes the way in which English-spealing Anglicans and some Afrikaners distanced themselves from the policy of apartheid, and says "These people and their friends of whom Miss Louisa Marquard was one, distanced themselves completely from the apartheid philosophy and practice, and, in some cases, this meant leaving the Church as well. Their predicament and sufferings were unknown to people such as Archbishop Joost de Blank, and Bishops Trevor Huddleston and Ambrose Reeves, who did not have the opportunity given to us and for which we thank God as we remember the courage and integrity of these friends."
This again raises more questions than it answers. Why did their distancing themselves from the apartheid philosophy and practice mean "leaving the Church"? And what is the significance of their predicament and sufferings being unknown to the bishops mentioned, none of whom was ever Bishop of Bloemfontein, nor did they ever have any pastoral ministry there? It just comes across as a very nasty piece of innuendo. Trevor Huddleston (who was not a bishop during Bendyshe Burnett's time as Bishop of Bloemfontein, but was responsible for training the novices at the Community of the Resurrection's mother house in Mirfield, England), wrote a book, Naught for your comfort, in which he criticised the philosophy and practice of apartheid, and described the effects of the practice as he observed them as a pastor in Sophiatown, and the ethnic cleansing which took place there in the mid-1950s. The implication seems to be that if he had known of the way in which Burnett's Free State friends had distanced themselves from apartheid, Huddleston would not himself have criticised it. That doesn't make any sense, so why mention Huddleston's name at all at this point? This kind of bitchiness does not seem to be evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, but rather of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-23). I know this because I myself have often fallen into the same temptation.
At this point Burnett owes it to his readers to say what it is that these bishops said or did to cause him to mention their names here. Perhaps he might have done so if he had lived long enough to prepare the book for publication, but as it is the reader is left hanging, wondering what is going on.
The following chapter deals with Burnett's time as General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, which is again marred by bitchiness, as he describes the arrest and trial of Dean ffrench-Beytagh, and concludes by saying that he went to England "where he was able to bask in the glory of his anti-apartheid stance".
It was when Bill Burnett was at the South African Council of Churches that it collaborated with the Christian Institute in drafting the "Message to the people of South Africa", which was a theological critique of the ideology of apartheid, and described it not merely as a heresy, but as a pseudogospel. He quotes part of a summary of it in his book, and says, "This is simply a small taste of our 'Barmen Declaration'. It angered the National Party Government and, I suspect, bored the English-speaking people, and it changed nothing."
I don't think the last statement is true. Black Christians who read it said it was nothing new, it was something that most black Christians knew. It was the whites who needed to read it, they said. And for whites who read it seriously, it posed a choice: choose this day whom you will serve, the false god of apartheid, or the Lord. Even those who denied that there was such a choice did not remain unaffected. For some, even some in high positions in the National Party, a seed of doubt was planted.
Bill Burnett was elected Bishop of Grahamstown, and in 1972, soon after he moved there, he experienced "baptism in the Holy Spirit", which revitalised his ministry. While in Grahamstown he introduced the Human Relations and Reconciliation Programme, to challenge racism in the church, and this involved setting up "challenge groups" that would challenge instances of racism.
The charismatic renewal movement in the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown started with a priest in Queenstown, Peter Campbell, and once the bishop himself had been "zapped" it spread rapidly in the diocese, and Burnett tells of instances where clergy who were initially sceptical were drawn in. He was asked to give a testimony at the South African Congress on Mission and Evangelism in Durban in 1973. The Congress, organised by the South African Council of Churches and African Enterprise, an interdenominational evangelistic organisation, marked the first large meeting of "evangelical" and "ecumenical" Christian bodies in South Africa, but the Pentecostals and Roman Catholics were not really included. Bill Burnett and David du Plessis, however, introduced a Pentecostal element.
Bill Burnett was elected Archbishop of Cape Town in 1974, and clergy from Grahamstown who were asked about it were generally more positive than those of Bloemfontein, cited earlier. They thought his pentecostal experience had made him a better pastor.
In Cape Town the Archbishop's residence, Bishopscourt, became a centre of renewal, and developed a community. Several young men who thought they might be called to ordained ministry went to stay there to test their vocations. Burnett describes how dying parishes were revitalised, and people were healed. But when the synod of the big and unwieldy Diocese of Cape Town refused to divide it into smaller and more easily manageable ones, Bill Burnett resigned, and devoted himself to the Support Ministries Trust, which he founded to promote charismatic renewal in parishes, and internationally in a simialr organisation called Sharing of Ministries Abroad (SOMA). In some places the book appears to muddle these two. He travelled widely, attending renewal conferences, and conducting retreats and seminars. Much of this part of the story is told in short pericopes, lacking details, especially of dates and people involved. Even where people's names are mentioned, we are told little about them or their background.
The book ends with a kind of polemic against "liberation theology", which Burnett seems to have equated with the "Kairos Document", which was produced in late 1985, and signed by a number of clergy and lay leaders of various denominations, and then circulated. Burnett does not quote from the "Kairos Document", nor does he even describe its content, but criticise it, leaving the reader to guess what exactly he is criticising. I would say that many of his criticisms are valid, but what he is criticising is not "liberation theology", and so his criticisms in effect create a caricature of liberation theology. He is doing, by implication, what he implies that Bishops de Blank, Huddleston and Reeves were implying against his friends in the Free State. This implied cricisms of implied views for implied criticisms of other views becomes far too nebulous, and by the end of the book it appears that Bill Burnett had lost the plot, and so the charismatic renewal ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper, running into the sand and leaving little to show for itself.
I don't think this book does justice to Bill Burnett, or to his role in South African Christianity. The first part is well told, but, apart from some formative experiences, does not relate to the second. The second, describing his ministry as a priest and bishop, is scrappy and badly told, though it is evident that his ministry had three phases: the first, developing theological convictions expressed in the "Message to the people of South Africa"; the second, receiving the power of the Holy Spirit to live according to those convictions in joyful freedom; and the third, a kind of withdrawal into embitterment and carping criticism, with the joy apparently dissipated, which also seems to affect the way the rest of the story is told.
There really needs to be a full biography that will look at both the good and the bad points to do justice to Bill Burnett and his ministry, and the way it influenced the church and society or failed to do so.
Three British authors who were all involved in the charismatic renewal movement examine it theologically over a period of thirty years. They come fromThree British authors who were all involved in the charismatic renewal movement examine it theologically over a period of thirty years. They come from different theologicasl backgrounds, and so contribute from different perspectives. Tom Smail was originally Presbyterian when he became involved in the renewal, and later became Anglican. Andrew Walker was raised as a classical Pentecostal, and later became Orthodox, while Nigel Wright is a Baptist.
The book is in four parts. The first is the testimonies of the authors, describing their own involvement in the charismatic renewal, and how it affected their own spiritual growth.
In the second part the authors each give a theological interpretation of the charismatic renewal. In some ways this is the most important part of the book. When the charismatic renewal began in the non-Pentecostal churches in the late 1950s and early 1960s there was a tendency for charismatics to adopt Pentecostal pneumatology, often quite uncritically. In some cases this proved quite divisive. Pentecostal pneumatology sometimes was incompatible with the existing pneumatology of a church, and so some argued that new wine needed new wineskins, and several broke away to form new denominations, hence the rise of Neopentcostal churches.
Smail, Walker and Wright, however, try to interpret their charismatic experiences in terms of the theology of their own traditions, and thus try to have a more balanced theology, not separating pneumatology from the rest.
The third section is devoted to certain aspects of the charismatic renewal that have proved controversial or have caused problems in other ways.
Tom Smail deals with worship, and notes the disjunction between charismatic worship and the rest of Christian worship. Nigel Wright deals with prophecy, and those who isolated prophecy and claimed it as a special spiritual gift. He deals with the so-called Kansas City prophets, who also influenced the Vineyard movement. Andrew Walker discussed miracles, and especially the temptation to use alleged miracles as crowd-pullers, and a form of showmanship, whereas they should rather lead us to see and desire the holiness of God.
The last two chapters, written jointly by the three authors, deal with the so-called prosperity gospel and the "Toronto blessing". They critcise the theology of the "prosperity gospel", which they consider verges on heresy. The discussion of the "Totonto blessing", in which people laugh uncontrollably and sometimes make animal noises, takes the form of a panel discussion or conversation between the three authors. While they do not oppose it, they seem to think that it has "jumped the shark", as they say in show business - gone over the top.
While it concentrates on the British scene, the charismatic renewal was sufficiently widespread to make this book useful for anyone seeking to understand the movement. ...more
This book was a trip down memory lane. It is the story of the Christian Institute of Southern Africa, which was founded in 1963 and banned by the SoutThis book was a trip down memory lane. It is the story of the Christian Institute of Southern Africa, which was founded in 1963 and banned by the South African government in 1977. Its short 14 years of existence were full of drama and excitement, which grew out of things that people often regard as dull, like theology and the study of the Bible.
The Christian Institute was intended to be a grassroots ecumencial organisation, and it began when some theologians of the three Afrikaans Reformed Churches in South Africa began to have doubts about the theological justification of apartheid which those denominations were giving to support the National Party government's policy. That was in the late 1950s, and the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town in those days, Joost de Blank, who was of Dutch ancestry, believed that the policy of apartheid was evil, and he demanded that the Dutch Reformed Churches be expelled from the World Council of Churches unless they renounced it. The result was a consultation between WCC staff and the South African membet churches in Cottesloe, Johannesburg, in 1960. The NG Kerk representatives and the other member churches got on fairly well, and issued agreed joint statements, though the Nederduitch Hervormde Kerk representatives dissented (the NHK was theologically liberal, but politically conservative).
The government was furious, and the NGK representatives at Cottesloe found themselves out on a limb. Both the NGK and NHK withdrew from the World Council of Churches, and fell into line with the government position, supporting apartheid. Those who attended the Cottesloe consultation, and others who thought like them, looked for other ways of maintaining ecumenical contacts, and the result was the formation of the Christian Institute. Denominations might join councils of churches, but individuals could join the Christian Institute, even if their denominations had no official ecumenical contacts. Beyers Naudé, the minister of the NGK congregation at Aasvoelkop (Northcliff) was asked to be director, and the synods of his church vindictively defrocked him as a minister for doing so.
This is told in some detail in Walshe's book. Those who founded the Christian Institute were members of the Dutch Reformed Churches, and mainly of the largest of them, the NG Kerk. But the Institute was also resolutely opposed by the leaders of those churches, through the power of a secret society, the Afrikaner Brotherhood (Broederbond), which, like the Freemasons, sought to gain control of key positions in church, state and society, in order to advance their interests, and what they saw as the interests of the Afrikaner people. They ensured that anyone who sympathised with Naudé and the others did not dare to do so openly.
Other denominations had no such constraints, and the formation of the Christian Institute was welcomed by them, and ecumenically-minded clergy joined the institute, as did some laity, mostly urban whites of a liberal inclination. The government saw the Christian Institute as a threat primarily because its founders were white Afrikaners, which were the government's core constituency. It was a threat because it could weaken their supporters' faith in the rightness of the ideology of apartheid.
For most of the 1960s this was the main thrust of the work of the Christian Institute; it was to persuade Afrikaners that apartheid was unChristian. But other denominations needed to hear the message too. The propaganda for apartheid grew in intensity, and was aimed at the whole population. In 1968 the Christian Institute, in conjunction with the newly revitalised South African Council of Churches, issued "A Message to the People of South Africa" a statement of exactly what was theologically wrong with apartheid. While it provided useful ammunition for polemics against the defenders of apartheid, on the whole neither the Message nor the polemics changed anyone's mind. Many blacks who read the Message agreed with it, but said, "We know this, and have known it for a long time. It is whites who need to hear it. Take it to the whites."
But the whites weren't listening, for the most part, and a new generation of blacks developed Black Consciousness and Black Theology and a new determination to change the system. In the 1970s more blacks joined the Christian Institute, and in October 1977 it was banned.
Peter Walshe has told the story pretty well, I think, though there are some interesting omissions of things that I was very familiar with and closely involved in, but I have to some extent made up for them in my contribution to Oom Bey for the future, a collection of essays on the significance of the witness of Beyers Naudé for the future of South Africa.
One of the things that Peter Walshe mentions, but does not bring out strongly enough, was the tension within the Christian Institute between bureaucratic centralism on the one hand, and a mass movement on the other. The Message to the People of South Africa had sparked the vision, among some people at least, of a Confessing Church, similar to that in Nazi Germany. At the time the Message was released, several "Obedience to God" groups were formed, that could have been the nucleus of such a confessing church. But the leaders of the Christian Institute thought that this might weaken their insistence that they were not a church, and weaken still further their already non-existent links to the Dutch Reformed Churches.
I and some others pointed out that in Natal there were many black people, mostly peasants, who have been members of the recently-disbanded Liberal Party. If they were recruited as members of the Christian Institute, and encouraged for form small interdenominational study and action groups, it could become a mass movement, rather than all the action taking place in offices in Johannesburg. According to Walshe, the Christian Institute leaders started to move in that direction around 1976, by when it was too late. But he does not mention that they had an opportunity to do so in 1969, but let it slip. And some rapidly-growing youth groups in Durban were also effectively disowned by the Christian Institute head office because some in the head office, like Bruckner de Villiers, though it might interfere with his plans to form a new political party to the left of the National Party but to the right of the already right-wing United Party.
The Christian Institute did a lot of good work, and helped to stir quite a lot of Christians to action, but at some crucial points it also failed to follow up the action effectively. That, however, was not a unique failing of the Christian Instiotute. It was common to most Christian groups and organisations in the country. ...more
I read the first edition of this book by John de Gruchy, a Congregational minister and academic, about 25 years ago, soon after it was first publishedI read the first edition of this book by John de Gruchy, a Congregational minister and academic, about 25 years ago, soon after it was first published. It deals with the struggle of the Christian Churches against apartheid in South Africa, and so to a certain extent it is the story of my life, and that of many Christians who lived through that period in South African history.
The new edition brings the story up to date, and also has a couple of chapters and a postscript by John's son Steve de Gruchy, whose tragic death last month in an accident leaves a huge gap in South African theological studies.
Perhaps the postscripts to the second and third editions can serve to summarise to book and its significance. One of the criticisms of the first edition was the gaps in the story, for example that it omitted much of the effects of Bantu Education, the Freedom Charter and the Treason Trial. Another criticism was that it focused on race rather than on class, and so focused on the church struggle against racism and apartheid rather than against colonialism and capitalism. So, as Steve de Gruchy says
Precisely because the way we understand our history is shaped by that very history, and because we choose to tell certain things in certain ways and not other things in other ways, the writing of history is as shot through with politics, passion and prejudice as the subject matter itself.
He goes on to point out that the book in its original form was not intended as a complete church history, but primarily as a theological reflection on the social and political issues confronting the church in South Africa. This explains some of the gaps. But the book also did fill a gap in historical knowledge, and stimulated a great deal of other writing, so it should not be undervalued as a work of history.
Steve de Grushy also notes that it is so preoccupied with the grand narrative that it omits the micro-narratives, and this is certainly something I was aware of when reading the book. It is the story of synods and statements of church leaders and ecumenical gatherings. It hints at, but does not follow up, the struggles of ordinary Christians in their everyday lives. The history of the gatherings is important -- the Cottesloe Consultation in 1960, which led to the Dutch Reformed Churches leaving the World Council of Churches. Statements like the Message to the People of South Africa, the Belhar Confession and the Kairos Document, significant as they are, are, in a sense are just punctuation marks in the story of the struggle.
Even the Christian Institute, which was formed in the wake of the Cottesloe Consultation to provide an opportunity for individual Christians to meet with others ecumenically when their denominations (especially the Dutch Reformed Churches) had withdrawn from official top-level ecumenical contact, tended to become an ecumenical bureaucracy. At one point in the early 1970s some friends and I contemplated publishing a cartoon strip showing showing an overseas visitor (from the headquarters of the International Christian Conspiracy in Geneva) visiting South Africa to see the South African Church at first hand. And so he undertook a safari. But this safari did not need a 4x4 vehicle, much less foot-slogging over rough terrain. It could all be accomplished travelling by lift from floor to floor in a building in Braamfontein in Johannesburg, and feeling, when he left the building on the ground floor, that he had seen all that there was to be seen of the church in South Africa.
And there is a sense in which this book is like that. It's a tour of the headquarters building, but shows little of what was going on on the ground. Yet the tour of the headquarters does form part of the history, as do the statements that were produced by synods and conferences and consultations. And it is good to have that part of the history recorded, and the theological reflection of that part of the story. The very fact that this book has had to be reprinted and updated shows what an important contribution it makes, and there is nothing quite like it.
But a lot of the rest of the story has yet to be written.
As for the issue of race versus class, I am always reminded of a friend of mine, the wife of an Anglican priest working in South Africa, who had grown up in a working-class housing estate in the north of England. And she always used to say, "When South Africa has finally sorted out the problem of the blacks and the whites, the real problem will emerge: the haves and the have-nots."
I was reminded of this when I attended one of those consultations, which merits a paragraph in the book:
The extent of this white backlash was one of the reasons why the SACC (South African Council of Churches) convened a Consultation on Racism at Hammanskraal in February 1978 (actually February 1980). Born out of the frustration and anger felt by black theologians who saw little evidence of change a call was made on 'all white Christians to demonstrate their willingness to purge the church of racism'. This was followed by an ultimatim that: 'if after a period of twelve months there is no evidence of repentance shown in concrete action, the black Christians will have no alternative but to witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ by becoming a confessing church.'
One of the things that struck me most about the Consultation was that most of those who attended were male, they were clergy, and they were above all middle class. It was a consultation of the haves, comfortable middle-class clergy, meeting in a comfortable conference centre, eating plentiful quantities of well-prepared food. And when, at the end, the question came up of how to payfor it, it was proposed that it should come from a fund for the poor, because it was, after all, for their benefit.
One of the interesting things, to me at any rate, that came out of the conference was that at least some people seemed to take it seriously. One of the instances of racism identified at the conference was racism in church names, and within a couple of years the Bantu Presbyterian Church and the Tsonga Presbyterian Church had changed their names.
Another thing that struck me at the Consultation was that the biggest barriers to communication did not arise from race or class but from denomination, or, more precisely, ecclesiology. Everyone present had a different picture of the church in their minds, which did not necessarily correspond to the picture in the minds of others. For Methodists, the "church" was a huge impersonal centralised authority known as "conference". It was connexional. For Anglicans, it was the diocese, with a bishop you could talk to, and each diocese differing from all the others. For Lutherans it was still dominated, at that stage, by the missionary/pastor divide -- ie colonialism. And for the Reformed it was still dominated by the idea of "own" (eie -- own people, own church, own affairs, defined by race), even among those who rebelled against it. And it was in the Reformed context that the notion of the black confessing church was born and proposed.
So the book is a snapshot, a bit like a series of pictures of icebergs drifting with the current. But the bits you can see are only a small fraction of the whole....more
The First Book of Enoch was fairly well known in the first century, and accepted by both Christians and Jews. It is a composite book, made of severalThe First Book of Enoch was fairly well known in the first century, and accepted by both Christians and Jews. It is a composite book, made of several books joined together, but all deal with the visions of Enoch, the great grandfather of Noah.
Book of the Watchers -- I Enoch 1-36 (BW) Similitudes of Enoch -- I Enoch 37-71 (Sim) Astronomical book -- I Enoch 71-82 (AB) Book of Dreams -- I Enoch 83-90 (BD) Epistle of Enoch -- I Enoch 91-105/6/7 (EE) Apocalypse of Weeks -- I Enoch 93:1-10; 91:11-17) (AW) Animal Apocalypse -- I Enoch 85-90 (AA)
This book deals with the oldest of these, The Book of Watchers. It is a scholarly text, and studies how the book was received by Jews and Christians at various times in their history.
When Christianity first appeared, its historical origin was in Second-Temple Judaism. The first temple was built by King Solomon, and was destroyed when the leading Jews were taken into exile in Babylon. When Babylon was conquered by Persia, Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem, and the temple was rebuilt under Ezra. This was the temple that Jesus and his disciples knew.
Second-Temple Judaism had many different schools and sects. The Pharisees and the Saducees, mentioned in the New Testament, were among the better-known. But the Second Temple was destroyed in AD 70, when the Romans put down a Jewish revolt, and the only Jewish Schools and sects that survived for a long time after that were Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.
The Book of Watchers was generally accepted by the early Christians, and was quoted by the New Testament book of Jude. Among the Rabbinic Jews, however, it was rejected.
The Book of the Watchers is an apocalypse from the third century BC, which describes Enoch's ascension to heaven and what he saw there. It also describes the "Watchers" (egrigori), the "Sons of God" of Genesis 6:1-4, who are accused of corrupting humankind through their teachings of metalworking, cosmetology, magic, and divination.
These Watchers are fallen angels, who are led by Semihazah and Asael, and the book expands on the somewhat cryptic references in Genesis 6:1-4.
The later parts of I Enoch, however, have a different emphasis. They concentrate on the sexual sins of the angels, rather than their teaching illicit and corrupting knowledge. They lusted after the daughters of men, and breeding with them to produce a race of giants, the Nephilim. It is unclear whether these all perished in the Flood, but the spirits of those that did perish remained on the earth, and became the demons that plague the human race.
Rabbinic Judaism rejected this view, and gradually adopted the view that the "Sons of God" of Genesis 6:1-4 were purely human, and one interpretation was that they were children of Seth rather than children of Cain, and the stories were told to discourage intermarriage. Later Christian interpreters tended to adopt the Rabbinic Jewish interpretation, though in the medival period some Jews returned to the idea of the "Sons of God" as angels, described in 3 Enoch, a much later work.
That's a very inadequate summary of 277 pages of text, and not being an expert on ancient texts, it would be foolish of me to try to give a scholarly review of it.
What I find interesting are some of the ideas that the book promotes or preserves, and the way it was used by 2nd-century Christian apologists, like Justin Martyr. He developed an interesting theology of religion, which modern "theologians of religion" don't talk about much, but which would have made a great deal of sense to Christian converts from Greco-Roman paganism in the 2nd century.
According to Justin, the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon were these very Watchers, fallen angels.
Justin's understanding of these Enochic traditions, however, is informed by an innovative interpretation of the identity of the fallen angels and their sons. Reading the Book of Watchers' association between the spirits of the Giants and present-day demons through LXX Ps 95:5 ("all the gods of the nations are daimones"), Justin asserts that these figures are the very gods celebrated in Greek myths and worshipped by the Romans who ironically persecute Christians for their alleged atheism and impiety.
By equating fallen angels and demons with the pagan pantheon, Justin is able simultaneously to explain and to undermine Greco-Roman traditions about the gods by reading them through the lens of Enochic traditions about the Watchers (Reed 2005:164-165).
The tales told in pagan mythology about the Olympian and other gods having sexual relations with humans are, according to Justin, also derived from the stories told in the Book of the Watchers.
Justin not only recast the angelic descent myth to speak to the situation of Christian persecution, but he did so in terms that rendered it accessible to accessible to an audience of former pagans. He cites the Greek myths much as he uses the Jewish scriptures, claiming that the truth therein can only be exposed by a certain mode of reading. Just as his anti-Judaism is founded on the inversion of the Deuteronomistic approach to biblical history, so he offers a distinctively Christian variation on the euhemeristic and allegorical interpretation of Greek myths by learned Greeks and Romans: the tales about the impious deeds of gods and sons of gods actually attest the activities of the fallen angels and demons, and the legends about their divine deeds are really fictions that the demons invented about themselves in a petty imitation of the true prophecies about Christ.
Much the same can be said of Justin's approach to Greco-Roman religion: pagans already acknowledge the role that daimones play in the cosmos; what he tells them is that all daimones are evil (i.e. "demons" as in the Jewish and Christian understanding of this Greek term). Likewise, his denunciation of pagan sacrifice and idolatry echoes Greco-Roman philosophical critiques of popular religion, and his assertion of the fallen angels' role in transmitting corrupting skills and knowledge grounds its plausibility in myths about divine and semi-divine culture-heroes. When read through the lens of Justin's historiographical and demonological approach to the history of human culture, his retelling of the angelic descent myth resonates with the cultural expectations of Gentile Christians, even as it serves to confirm their choice to reject their pagan past -- a choice here elevated to the level of a decision to free themselves from demonic enslavement and ally themselves with Christ in the cosmic battle against evil (Reed 2005:186).
One thing I thought was rather a pity is that, apart from a passing reference in a footnote, there was no mention of the reference to "Sons of God" in Deut 32:8 or Job 38:7, and no reference at all to Psalm 82.
A thing that I found interesting was that the fallen angels promoted the cosmetics industry, the arms industry, and magic and divination, and these led to the earth being filled with violence, which in turn led to the Flood.
And something I found interesting about this was that back in 1993, when I worked in the Editorial Department of the University of South Africa, we organised tutorials on distance teaching methods led by one Fred Lockwoood, of the Open University in the UK, as part of our contribution to "transfomation" - changing Unisa from an apartheid indoctrination machine into a real university. The "old guard" at Unisa were furious with us for doing this.
But when Fred Lockwood came, it was clear that he despised the humanities, and regarded them as useless, and for his examples of teaching methods chose a subject he regarded as more useful -- which happened to be Cosmetology. It wasn't a subject that was taught at Unisa, and if looking for a subject of more practical use than the humanities, perhaps food production might have been better. But no, he chose a subject that, according to the Book of the Watchers, was first taught by fallen angels.
I was also interested to learn that the Greek name for Watchers -- egrigori was the origin of the word "egregores", which has been used by some to mean a group that takes on its own character, with the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. So a collective entity like a nation can have a "national spirit", which in this sense is an egregore, and the Orthodox ikon of the Tower of Babel shows these national spirits, the angels of the nations, "sons of gods" of Deuteronomy 32:8, the egregores, or egrigori, the principalities and powers of Ephesians 6:10-12. ...more