Grace and Truth
A Journal of Catholic Reflection for Southern Africa
Volume 35 No 1 April 2018
Editorial: From Conflict to Communion: A Call to Mission and Ministry
Editor: Chris Grzelak SCJ
Maximus the Confessor’s Christian Action: The Transformation of the World
Hope for South Africa: Practical Interventions to Instil and Restore Hope
Spiritual Values for Pastoral Counsellors
Joseph Phiri OMI
Wesley’s Journal: Missing Element in the Formation of Methodist Clergy?
Developing a Strategy for Accountability, Future Planning and Change
Charles Rensburg OMI
Peer Reviewers 2018
Notice for Authors: Grace & Truth Style Sheet
EDITORIAL: FROM CONFLICT TO COMMUNION: A CALL TO MISSION AND MINISTRY
The articles in this edition of Grace & Truth are a collection of papers remaining from a conference organized by St Joseph’s Collaborative Research Group in 2017 on the theme: ‘From Conflict to Communion: 500 Years of Reformation.’ The first set of papers given at the conference, together with other related texts submitted to the journal, was published in the previous volume of Grace & Truth (34 no 3 November 2017), edited by Stuart C. Bate OMI. The focus of the papers of this current volume is on seeking theological, pastoral and ministerial responses to the challenges and struggles which the Church faces in our time, and also in the South African context.
With the continuing commemoration by the Christian Church of 500 Years of Reformation, various church texts have been issued by Lutheran and Catholic ecclesial authorities (Bate 2017:6-9) that call Catholics, Lutherans, and other Christians to ‘turn their faces towards each other’ and engage in theological reflection on the historical event of the Reformation. They are also called to define future agenda of Christian service for the entire human community. Numerous theological conferences, organized around the world, stress the importance of Christians being united in bringing Christian values to society’s dialogue on pressing issues such as: a threatened environment, growing poverty in a world of wealth, migration of people, scientific advancements confronting us with life decisions without ethical principles to guide us, the need to resolve conflicts within nations, when the temptation to use violence has the potential to destroy our planet. The Church is expected to provide wisdom and encouragement to its believers to enter the dialogue regarding these challenging and divisive issues. Unfortunately, today’s Church is crippled by its failure to address fundamental issues within its own institutional structures.
Thus in his address to the Roman Curia on 22 December 2016, Pope Francis focused his words on the need for continuous reform, and while he was speaking of the reform of the Curia, he extended his words to the reform of the Church itself. Reform, Francis said, ‘is first and foremost a sign of life, of a Church that advances on her pilgrim way, of a Church that is living and for this reason semper reformanda, in need of reform because she is alive.’ Or as Vatican II stated: ‘Christ summons the Church to continual reformation as she sojourns here on earth. The Church is always in need of this, in so far as she is an institution of men here on earth’ (UR 6).
One of the key principles of reform is the idea of return, rediscovery, and critical reflection. To reform is not to change one’s nature or modify one’s identity, but to return to the truth of oneself that may have become distorted over time. For Catholics, this anniversary year offers an opportunity to re-evaluate the way the Church responded to the need for reform 500 years ago and to draw out lessons for the ongoing reform required by the Church today. For this reason some of the articles in this volume call for on-going renewal to make the Church more faithful to its mission. The five articles included in this edition cover diverse areas of the life of the Church and attend to issues, situations, challenges and struggles that concern the validity, reliability, and common ecumenical witness to Christian faith in the world and in the African ecclesial context today. We highlight below a few relevant elements from each article.
The edition begins with an article by Rodney Moss entitled ‘Maximus the Confessor’s Christian Action: The Transformation of the World.’ The author shows the importance of Maximus’ theology for contemporary Christians. He argues that the importance of Maximus’ thought for us today lies in the close relationship between ‘his cosmology and his anthropology focused and unified in Christ, the Logos.’ The article concentrates on Maximus’ emphasis on the central position of humanity in the universe, that is, on the human dimension of the cosmos that is filled with the immanence of God. For Maximus, ‘the cosmos is reflected in humanity which is a microcosm of universe. Humanity is thus ordained to be the mediator in the universe’ through Jesus, the incarnated Logos who unifies within himself all existing polarities. Humanity has therefore ‘a well determined mediatorial role, that of fulfilling the vocation of the deification of the universe’ which happens through human growth in holiness. This can only be achieved through some degree of human suffering, ‘a real death to self’, ‘a share in the freedom of the resurrection, the new creation.’
Gloria Marsay in her article ‘Hope for South Africa: Practical Interventions to Instil and Restore Hope’ reflects on the prevailing difficulties within South African society, that is, poverty, inequality and unemployment. These disempowering challenges are no longer the results of race in South Africa but of an increasing gap between rich and poor that ‘contributes to ubiquitous feelings of helplessness and hopelessness among both privileged and disenfranchised people.’ The author suggests possible ways to ameliorate these challenges through hope-filled pastoral care interventions. She argues that especially hope, characterized as a strength or skill which can be learned, and which is lacking among many South Africans, can become a powerful liberating force. Strengthening one’s hope is actually nurturing a psycho-social-spiritual immune system. The article constitutes a powerful ecumenical call to all Christian traditions in South Africa that have always ‘urged their member churches to bring politics, economics and theology together to transform society according to God’s vision of abundant life for all.’
Joseph Phiri’s article ‘Spiritual Values for Pastoral Counsellors’ seeks to propose a number of values (a sense of justice, compassion, respect, and humility) for pastoral counsellors in their ministry in helping others with their emotional, marital, or interpersonal life problems. Those values are defined as constitutive, guiding principles, obtained from one’s tribe, family, or spirituality. The author argues that for many, who seek help from pastoral counsellors, their own spirituality and the spirituality of counsellors are of great importance. Counselees want their counsellors to be explicit about their spiritual values in counselling sessions. He insists that counsellors must therefore be aware of the importance of the above spiritual guiding principles in their own lives, develop them, and share with counselees. The article ends with recommendations to clergy and parish workers to seek more training in pastoral counselling and in creating environments of transforming relationships.
The paper which follows, is exploring ‘Wesley’s Journal: Missing Element in the Formation of Methodist Clergy.’ Drawing on research done into the evangelism praxis in the Methodist churches of Cape Town, Martin Mostert shares with readers his findings on limited ‘interaction of Methodist ministers with the thought and praxis of their founder, John Wesley.’ The author’s analysis of Wesley’s narrative methodology and pedagogical intentions lead him to the conclusion that ‘the contemporary Methodist church has lost a crucial dimension of the early movement: plentiful, routine interaction with the alternatively faithed, and articulate communication of the Gospel.’ The author argues or the importance of re-evaluation of the founding documents of the movement, especially John Wesley’s Journal. He proposes ‘the inclusion of the Journal in the formation of Methodist ministers’ and makes practical suggestions about how this might be accomplished. The paper constitutes an encouragement to read the Journal and to make it a part of spiritual growth and preparation for ministry among God’s People.
The remaining article of Charles Rensburg ‘Developing a Strategy for Accountability, Future Planning and Change’ speaks about the concerns for governance within the life of the Church which require integrity within the activities of its mission. We are living in times when the Church is more vocal and ready to draw attention to the weaknesses of the clergy. The laity demands reforms within the ecclesial community which must be taken seriously so as to avoid the risk of division within the Church. The author examines ‘the growing concerns of a lack of transparency within the financial management of resources within the Church’and proposes ways to address them. He advocates ‘for the development of an accountability relationship at all levels’ as a model for accountability within the Church. Such a model will give strength to the quality of the Church’s mission, will hold the clergy accountable for its actions, and create a culture of self-correction, and diminish clericalism.
Although these articles require further research in the specific areas of study in the ever changing contexts of the Church and South African society, a call is made to reflect on the concerns of the Church’s mission and ministry. Areas of investigation in these articles should be seen as indicators for necessary reform and renewal in the life of the Church.
Bate, S.C. 2017. Editorial. Grace & Truth 34(3):4-11.
Francis, Pope 2016. Presentation of the Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia. Thursday, 22 December 2016. Available at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/december/documents/papa-francesco_20161222_curia-romana.html, accessed 10 November 2018.
UR. Unitatis Redintegratio. Decree on Ecumenism. 21 November 1964. Available at http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decree_19641121_unitatis-redintegratio_en.html, accessed 10 November 2018.