This dissertation examines racial transition toward heterogeneity in three Seventh-day Adventist congregations in South Africa. This dissertation aims to uncover social factors involved in this change as well as to set forth a theological direction with application to the local faith community.
The first section examines recent studies and literature on multiracial congregations, indicating a possible breakdown between theory and practice. Using insights from Kuhn, Gadamer, Habermas, and Geertz, a critical correlational approach is proposed using narrative, community-based praxis, dialectical thinking, and eschatological vision. The theological methods of Groome and Browning are combined to suggest a four-phase approach to practical theological research.
The second section undertakes an ethnographic study of three Seventh-day Adventist congregations on the outskirts of Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg. Congregations are examined through the fourfold lens of history, identity, process and program. All three congregations are then compared and analysed. Differences between various racial groups are examined and congregational challenges and resources identified. It is shown that while positive racial attitudes exist, underlying black distrust, white fears and other reconciliation issues need to be addressed. Common challenges include continuing racial change, mission and identity issues, evangelism issues, leadership issues and worship issues. Helpful resources in the congregations include an accepting culture, a common language, strong leadership, members with previous multicultural experience and an attractive worship service. Cultural adaptation is analysed through a psychological model (―W-Model‖) and a congregational model, both of which indicated tensions between assimilationist and integrationist patterns.
The third section critiques the sociological approach through a theological hermeneutic. Hospitality to the stranger is proposed as an alternative narrative for handling transition to diversity, and is compared with existing narratives of difference and unity. The witness of Scripture shows both the need to embrace otherness as well as how central hospitality is to God‘s mode of interaction with His created order. The implications of this embrace are explored in terms of other theological models of identity and otherness, reconciliation, the missio Dei and the kingdom of God.
In the final section a model of showing hospitality to the stranger is examined in terms of the following movements: (a) the invitation or welcome, (b) providing the gift, (c) feasting at the table, (d) sharing stories, (e) providing a room, and (f) becoming part of the household. The goal is to show how to grow in intimacy without destroying identity. Tensions in the practice of hospitality to the stranger are examined: risk is balanced against opportunity, identity against otherness; boundaries are worked out in a context of sacrifice. Nevertheless, in spite of these paradoxical tensions, it is seen that in this narrative there is potential for bringing diverse communities together based on an ethic of self-giving and mutual acceptance.
Alan Parker, "Towards Heterogeneous Communities: Understanding Transitional Processes in Seventh-day Adventist Churches in South Africa," (DTh diss., Stellenbosch University, 2004).
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