Thursday, August 16, 2012
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South Africa has a rich and complex history of Church-State relations. It is diverse, telling a story of how the Church was used as an instrument of colonisation, how sections of the Church endorsed policies of segregation, but also how other parts of the Church fought a long and brave battle to see the Apartheid regime toppled. It has been almost two decades since the end of Apartheid and as change is ringing in the social, political and ecclesiastical spheres of South Africa, it is necessary to revisit the notion of Church-State relations in this country. Coming from a past where the Church held a dominant position in society - both in the promotion of, and in the resistance to, the Apartheid system - the Church now finds itself in a new context; namely a Constitutional Democracy. In this setting its voice has to compete with other voices, its power is limited since it is merely one role-player in a society which is trying to find its feet. What does this mean for the identity, place and role of the Christian Church? What is the responsibility of the State to the society which it serves? This collection of essays seeks to address these questions. It does so by listening to prominent voices which have spoken, and still speak boldly on this topic, voices reflecting how Church- State relationships have influenced the social structures and systems across the globe. It offers some suggestions for a prudent Church-State relationship in South Africa, which will enable the formation of a society which can enjoy its freedoms in the context of justice, selflessness and hope. In these pages the reader will discover that the State has a greater responsibility than simply overseeing the implementation of government policies. Moreover, the Church has a greater role to play than merely being concerned with spiritual matters. It is argued that the Church and State cannot be the same entity, nor should
the lines between Church and State be blurred, for this will lead to the distortion of both the Church and State thereby diminishing their primary functions. At the same time, social justice, the dignity of all
people and the moral formation of a nation depend on a Church-State relationship that is critical, honest, transparent and which will not shy away from collaborating when such work is clearly for the benefit of society as a whole. This book is not the final word on Church- State relationships, but aims to encourage
n ew d i s cove r i e s a n d co n t i n u e d conversations on what it means for the Church and the State to be effective and relevant in the South African context. The essays offer a diverse range of perspectives, and although these are not the only voices to be heard, they will stimulate conversation, benefitting society at large.