Subprogramme Leader: Prof Vhumani Magezi
Focus: This subprogramme focuses on research and approaches that integrates public theology, practical theology and church/Christian transformational/developmental approaches. It also reflects on how the church could perform a transformational/developmental role as part of civil society in a manner that it genuinely derives from its foundations within a context of a changing world. It probes what it means to be church (i.e. operative ecclesiology) in South Africa, Africa and the world in view of the prevailing challenges.
Objective: The challenges experienced by people in many communities in Africa and globally require multifaceted and innovative responses. There is increased concern that the current theologies and approaches in South Africa and Africa are inadequate to address the African challenges such as dictatorial leadership, political and ethnic conflicts, violence, homophobia, xenophobia, migration and displacement, poor service delivery, poor health systems and limited health access, etc. In such a situation, prophetic public theology focuses on a vision of a redeemed and new society (habitat) of people with new habits (habitus) who engage in challenging public issues of their time. Public theology is about the role of Christians in the public as well as the public’s theology. Public theology is beyond mere theological refection. It relates to living out theological beliefs and values. It is about life. It entails Christianity that breaks from the closet to be visibly engaged with the public; id est, the agora. Public theology is not institutionalized theology but it is theology that seeks discourse with social situations and human contexts. Public theology is not a replacement or rebranding of practical theology. Rather, practical theology finds its expression in public theology. Public theology facilitates dialogue between the theological discourses and overlaps with ecclesial and contextual theologies. The focus on Public Practical Theology is to encourage theology and the church to reflect and engage with key social issues. This entails joining hands with other theologies that seek to holistically address challenging issues in society. In doing so, it is noted that the church has a mission. The church as constituted by people of God has vocation both as individual human beings and as an institution. The church has a responsibility to offer the message of salvation to mankind and transform everyone and every system that hinders the continuous coming of the kingdom of God.