Author: Kuperus, Tracy
Date published: April 1, 2011
Religious institutions have played a critical role in the poUtical changes in South Africa during the twentieth and twenty-ftrst centuries. Christian churches and mterdenomUiational organizations, Ui particular, depending on the context, affirmed or condemned apartheid, and numerous Christian organizations have contributed to the process of South Africa's nation-buüding experience through, for example, participation m the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and civic education efforts. Although scholars have provided considerable insight regarding the churches' role m the poUtical process during the apartheid era, the material devoted to reUgion and poUtics Ui the post-apartheid era is not as abundant. This essay seeks to rectify this unbalance by exploring the poUtical role and democratic contribution of four churches or church-based organizations within South Africa Ui the post-apartheid era, namely, the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK- a.k.a. the Dutch Reformed Church or DRC), the South African CouncU of Churches (SACC), Rhema Bible Church, and the Zion Christian Church (ZCC).1
It will address questions of the foUowing nature: What is the poUtical voice and pubUc engagement of the NGK, SACC, Rhema, and the ZCC in a democratic South Africa, particularly related to issues of macro level pubUc policy advocacy?2 Does the poUtical involvement of churches in a democratic South Africa differ significantly from the apartheid era? And fmaUy, do churches and mterdenominational organizations, as key civü society actors, help or hinder the consolidation of democracy in South Africa?3 The answers to these questions lead to intriguing conclusions: Churches are stiU active m the poUtical arena; theU political involvement, however, is far more diverse and less binary than it was during the apartheid years. Moreover, South Africa resembles many other churches m the Global South regarding the growth and the rising poUtical influence of evangelical, Pentecostal, and independent Christianity.4 Finally, the contribution of all forms of South African church-based organizations regarding the consoUdation of democracy must be assessed on a contextual basis, leading to an outcome of churchbased societal engagement that does not always serve the poUtical interests of society as a whole. In other words, the impact of South African church-based organizations regarding the consoUdation of democracy is decidedly mixed.
This essay is organized as follows: after a brief overview of some key debates regarding democratization, civil society, and Christianity in the African context, it describes and examines the poUtical role of four churches or interdenominational organizations m a democratic South Africa. It concludes by offering an assessment of the democratic contributions of Christian churches and interdenominational organizations in contemporary South Africa.
Churches as Civil Society Actors in the Context of Democratization
In the early 1990s, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa experienced democratic transitions whereby authoritarian regimes adopted multi-party democracies due to domestic and international pressures.5 South Africa's democratic transition in the early 1990s- gradual, inclusive, and characterized by successful pact-builduig- is noted as one of the success stories within the continent. Indeed, South Africa emerged out of a deeply divided and volatile poUtical context Ulto a stable, non-racial liberal democracy.6
Few dispute the miracle of South Africa's transition, but what about the process of democratic consolidation? What is the status of South Africa's democracy and what are its future prospects? Within the African continent, South Africa is understood to have one of the strongest democracies and to be effectively governed. On the latter front, it consistently ranks among the top ten countries, according to measurements that track safety and security, the rule of law, transparency, and socio-economic development.7 And indeed, South Africa has experienced many positive developments since 1994- steady economic growth, poUtical stability, and a legitimate government, to name a few. These successes, however, mask some serious challenges regarding South Africa's democracy, including persistent poverty and growing income inequality, fragile poUtical institutions, one-party dominance, and ineffective state capacity Ui the face of a badly managed health care system and an under-resourced poUce force- all of which indicate the unsettled nature of South Africa's democratic consoUdation.8
Civil society has become an important factor in understanding regime change because many claim that civü society strengthens aheady existing democracies and/or demands democratic change from authoritarian regimes.9 Concerning democratic consoUdation, mainstream scholars, such as Larry Diamond and E. Gyimah-Boadi, suggest that civil society hinders democratic consoUdation when it is co-opted by the state, pursues marginal, narrow interests, serves the needs of eUte actors, or promotes intolerance and distrust. On the other hand, civü society contributes to democratic consoUdation when it maintains an autonomous relationship with the state, fosters civility, holds governments accountable, provides an empowered space for marginaUzed groups, and promotes the welfare of the populace at large.10
Churches and reUgious groups as a whole represent a distinctive strand within civü society Ui that they provide one of the more encouraging signs of an invigorated civü society in the Global South. Christian churches and theU national associations have actively fought authoritarianism and supported democracy in African countries as diverse as Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, and Nigeria.11 But what about theU role m consoUdating democracy? Considerable debate among scholars emerges on the question of the churches' role regarding democratic consoUdation.12
On the one side, scholars such as Paul Gifford point to mainline Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic church as being more in tune with issues of structural justice in the African public arena compared with then counterparts. Evangelical churches tend to focus on personal and public integrity, while the newer Pentecostal churches emphasize a "faith gospel" that detracts from issues of structural injustice. For Gifford, African countries are in desperate need of socio-political restructuring. Although evangeUcal and Pentecostal churches may offer evidence of cultural dynamism, the individualistic and sometimes triumphalistic nature of their religion, he argues, will likely not bring about the social change needed for political reform or democracy's consolidation in Africa.13
Scholars Jeffrey Haynes and Terence Ranger disagree with the analysis as portrayed by Gifford.14 Ranger's earlier work, for example, argued that the international, resource-rich, and centralized nature of mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches helped them ful the political vacuum of the 1980s and challenge authoritarianism in the early 1990s. However the decentraUzed churches of the newer evangelical, independent, and charismatic churches may offer more in the way of consolidating democracy compared with the mainline churches. Independent and evangelical churches are inherently participatory and democratic in nature, and because they are in tune with local reaUties and contribute to social restructuring, they may be able to build the social capital necessary for consolidating democracy.15
Only specific case studies can help answer the question of whether Christian churches and national organizations contribute to democratic consolidation in the Global South. Can South Africa shed light on this debate? How do churches and religious organizations, as important elements of civil society, respond to the ongoing process of South Africa's democratization? What is their political voice, and does their public engagement help or hinder democracy's consolidation?
To answer the questions above accurately, there would need to be a thorough examination of the poUtical role of the four featured bodies (NGK, SACC, Rhema, and ZCC) at the macro, intermediate, and micro levels of analysis. That is because the public engagement of religion includes action at all these levels, including, among other things, public policy statements by reUgious hierarchies, congregations sponsoring HIV-AIDS forums m theU neighborhoods, religious leaders addressing socio-economic issues m newspaper editorials, and rituals associated with pubUc events such as funerals. In this essay, however, I will be concentrating on the political role of the NGK, SACC, Rhema Bible Church, and the ZCC as expressed at the macro level of public policy advocacy. Two reasons explain this choice. One, a focus on the macro level of pubUc poUcy advocacy among churches in the post-apartheid era offers a good comparison with the apartheid era, and two, pubUc policy statements produced by religious actors are often regarded as the most visible representation of pubUc engagement within a society. In Robert Wuthnow's words, poUcy statements, carefully crafted, seek to influence "the pubUc arena directly. The news media are expected to give these papers wide coverage, and religious leaders hope in the process to influence not only theU own adherents but also the public officials who set the direction of national policy."16
Of course, public pohcy advocacy does not represent the majority of poUtical responses by Christian churches in their socio-cultural context. Exploration of the intermediate and micro levels of pubUc reUgion would certainly offer a more holistic picture of the relationship of reUgion and politics in South Africa. It is, nevertheless, helpful to begin an examination of church-state engagement in South Africa with a focus on the poUtical role of prominent Christian organizations in the critical area of pubUc policy advocacy.
The Political Role of Churches in Post-Apartheid South Africa
According to the 2001 Population Census data, 79.8 percent of South Africa's population claims to be Christian.17 A breakdown of the main Christian groupings (i.e., mainline denominations, African independent churches, and Pentecostal/Charismatic churches) shows a gradual decime in mainline denominations and an increase in the numbers of African independent and Pentecostal/charismatic members- trends that mirror the growth of Christianity in the Global South.
During the apartheid years, the political role of Christian churches was defined by whether they affirmed, condemned, or tried to offer a neutral position vis-à-vis the apartheid state.18 South Africa churches today interact with a democratic state that respects religious pluralism rather than an authoritarian state that upholds Christian nationalism. This poUtical shut has corresponded with some dramatic changes in the profile of Christianity in South Africa, noted in James Cochrane's work. These changes include new "leadership patterns, the new dominance of forms of Christianity not bound to the original mission churches, the rise of neoPentecostal influence, the confusion of identity and purpose in the ecumenically-aligned churches, and a shifting local social imaginary."19
Many of these changes will be explained in more detail below, but the most significant shut in the profile of Christianity in South Africa revolves around the reversal of status regarding the SACC and the evangelical churches. More specifically, the SACC, whose role in politics was dominant during the apartheid years, has become considerably weaker in a democratic South Africa, while the evangelical/charismatic movement, often positing a "neutral" political position during the apartheid years, has emerged much stronger in terms of political positioning. To explore these developments further, we turn to a detailed description of the four case studies noted in the beginning of the essay.
The NGK's Political Role: Inconsequential, but not Absent
The Afrikaner Reformed churches hold the dubious distinction of having supported apartheid in the previous political dispensation.20 Of the three main Afrikaner Reformed denominations, the NGK was the largest and most influential, with 1.7 million members-representing 65 percent of the Afrikaner population in 1985. Dubbed "the National Party in prayer" during the apartheid years, the NGK was linked to the legitimation and support for apartheid during Nationalist rule.21
Although the NGK advanced a neo-Calvinist, ideological justification for race policy as early as the 1930s, numerous documents during the years of apartheid illusteate the NGK's ongoing theological and biblical support for apartheid. For example, the General Synod's 1974 report entitled Human Relations and the South African Scene in the Light of Scripture stated, "A poUtical system based on the autogenous or separate development of various population groups can be justified from the Bible."22 In addition to providing the moral underpinning of apartheid, the NGK was able to influence public policy "completely out of proportion with the number of members" in areas of education, public morality, and welfare when leaders of the NGK had "silent meetings" with government officials or served on government statutory bodies where discussions on poUcies beneficial to Afrikaners occurred.23 In sum, the NGK during the years of apartheid played a key role m justifying and legitimating apartheid through its co-optation by the state, and it emphasized the preservation of Afrikaner interests more than structural democratic reform in the political arena.24
As one might expect, the NGK's political role has experienced significant change in the new South Africa. If the NGK during the years of apartheid spoke with confidence on public policy issues or in support of the government during the years of apartheid, its voice today is muted. The reality is that the NGK no longer has the political platform to speak out on issues in the form of a relationship to a ruling party. Moreover, it has been reluctant, at times, to speak out on socio-political issues due to its loss of credibility. There has even been a conscientious effort within the NGK to allow ecumenical organizations like the SACC to opine on socio-poUtical positions on the NGK's behalf. In the words of Coenie Burger, former moderator of the NGK,
I knew we lost credibility due to our support for apartheid, so we had to change tactics . . ..There were some poUtical issues that arose and I often took the issue to the SACC, so they could "speak" for us. There were some individual NGK statements during my tenure, but generally, we tried to make statements with the SACC and URCSA [Uniting Reformed Churches in Southern Africa], so we would have more credibility.25
Besides a more muted poUtical voice, the NGK's political voice is more divided today as compared with the apartheid years. After apartheid's demise, the NGK, like other Afrikaner institutions, was forced to reassess its nature and identity. Piet Naude argues that this reassessment led to "a dramatic 'pluralization'. . . in a very short time period."26 No longer could the NGK be considered one church. There was now diversity in theological thought (e.g., Reformed, evangelical, liberal, post-modernist) as well as "congregational differentiation: examples are mega-city-churches, so-called community churches, traditional suburban and rural churches, and experiments in small alternative houses or family churches."27 The NGK's diversity regarding theological perspectives and worship styles has contributed to a multiplicity of public engagement inside the denomination, although two forms dominate, namely, the NGK as "preserver of the flock"28 and the NGK as a "promoter of societal transformation."
For most of the 1990s, the NGK's public policy advocacy, whether expressed through synodical statements, bilateral meetings with political leaders, or Kerkbode editorials, was as a "preserver of the flock." Its position on socio-political issues reflected the concerns of NGK members-alarm regarding "the high incidence of violence and crune, the abolishment of the death penalty, the discrimination against members that is conducted in the name of affirmative action," and the loss of Afrikaans as an official language.29 Less attention was given to issues that were important to the government at the time, for example, poverty, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), or the equitable distribution of resources in education.
The NGK's reluctance to embrace transformative poUtical change in the 1990s was demonstrated most clearly in its position toward the TRC. Although initially supportive of the TRC, the NGK struggled to submit a statement on the role it played during the apartheid years and hesitated, but eventually sent, a representative to the TRC hearing on faith communities.30 In a critical analysis of Kerkbode articles on the TRC m the 1990s, Christine Anthonissen points to the overall pattern of skepticism expressed toward the TRC within the NGK: Would the TRC be one-sided? Why should the nation pour its energy into an experiment like the TRC that focused so heavily on the apartheid suis when "new morality" concerns (e.g., violence, crune, abortion, pornography) desperately needed attention? Although intended to bring national healing, would not the TRC be too traumatic for the country? In Anthonissen's perspective, the Kerkbode articles skirted principled engagement with the nation-building exercise because the NGK "was concerned about stating its own views and defending its own positions."31 Thus the church missed an important chance to participate in the reconciliation experiment.
A change in leadership in the 2000s led the NGK to embrace a more inclusive public engagement. At the 2002 General Synod, the NGK recommitted itself to the African continent and South Africa's political transformation. It also acknowledged the need to engage with issues like poverty and HIV/ AIDS as well as the more traditional concerns of white South Africans like crime and violence.32 Another example of the NGK's shut away from defensive engagement on public policy was the NGK's submission to parliament regarding amendments to the Marriage Act and the law enabling civil unions for homosexual couples. Rather than expounding on the biblical defense of heterosexual marriage, as many would have expected the NGK to do, the submission acknowledged the variety of positions within society and among Christian communities regarding homosexuality and urged the government to respect religious freedom, including churches that supported a heterosexual structure of marriage, in the process of devising a new bill.33
Besides tackling public policy issues in a more inclusive way, the NGK recommitted itself to ecumenical relations in the early 2000s. It sought restoration, was restored into the SACCs fold in 2004, and it pursued unification talks within the Reformed family of churches. Differences between the NGK and URCSA regarding the unconditional acceptance of Belhar by the NGK were seemingly resolved in 2006-making the prospects for its acceptance at the NGK local churches higher than ever before.
More recently, however, it appears as though the NGK's public engagement may be shifting back to a position as "defender of its flock." Fust, unification talks with the Reformed family of churches have stalled after a newly constituted NGK moderature expressed less desire for "organic unity" with URCSA.34 The NGK's reluctance to pursue church unification is the most obvious sign of the NGK's most recent shift, but other evidence exists- from the backlash to the NGK's submission on the Marriage Act to efforts that seek to expose "liberal theological forces" at the School of Theology at the University of Pretoria (the so-called "Evangelical Initiative").35 As Jonann Symington, previous editor of the Kerkbode states, "The NGK is in the headlines again at a fairly steady rate, but for all the wrong reasons, and for all the wrong issues!"36
In sum, the NGK's political voice is far more muted in democratic South Africa compared to the apartheid years. Although the NGK has broken its relationship of co-optation with the state, becoming a more autonomous civil society actor in a democratic South Africa, its political role since 1994 has been fairly inconsequential due, in large part, to its divided nature and its long-standing commitment to being a "preserver of the flock." When the NGK assumes the role of "preserver of the flock," it is regarded by many observers as being on the sidelines of political and social transformation in a non-racial South Africa- an assessment to be explained in more detail in the concluding section of this essay.
The SACCs Political Role: Still Critically Engaged, but Marginalized
The South African Council of Churches (SACC), representing roughly half of all Christians in South Africa through its twenty-seven member churches and organizations, is an ecumenical organization "committed to expressing ... the united witness of the church in South Africa, especially in matters of national debate and order."37
Unlike the white Afrikaans churches, the SACC took a leading role in the struggle against apartheid, serving as one of the main conduits of anti-apartheid activity in the 1980s.38 Its critical engagement with the apartheid state was built upon earlier forms of resistance, m 1968, the SACC, issued the controversial "Message to the People of South Africa" that declared that apartheid was an unjust political policy and contrary to the biblical message of reconciliation.39 By the mid-1970s, theologians Desmond Tutu, Alan Boesak, and Manas Buthelezi were ascending in the SACCs leadership and offering a critical voice through the development of Black Theology, with its particular emphasis on the poor and the hope for liberation.40 Throughout the 1980s, as political oppression increased, the SACC stepped up its opposition. It provided support for conscientious objectors to military service, commended international economic sanctions, and resolved that churches should withdraw from cooperation with the state in all those areas and organizations where the law of the state contradicted the law of God's justice.41 The SACCs actions were often directed toward transforming unjust power structures and developing and mobilizing the resources of the oppressed, mainly black, communities.
The SACCs political role during the 1970s and 1980s, then, was largely critical and prophetic. It stood in opposition to the apartheid state and it promoted the needs of marginalized communities. Its poUtical role was influential both within the global ecumenical arena (World Council of Churches's Programme to Combat Racism) and the South African-based liberation struggle. In fact, many would argue the SACC was one of the most visible, aboveground civil society actors sustaining the liberation struggle in the 1980s through its leadership presence m organizations and movements like the United Democratic Front, politically charged funerals (of key liberation figures), and the Defiance Campaign m 1988.42
In some respects, the SACCs poUtical role in South Africa today is not significantly different than it was during the apartheid years. The SACCs positions on many pubhc poUcy issues indicate the survival of the SACCs critical and prophetic voice. Its advocacy for economic justice- for example, its significant leadership m the People's Budget Campaign that presents a people-centered, redistributive economic vision compared with South Africa's fiscaUy conservative, elitist-driven economic framework,43or its consistent opposition to arms deals based on the fact that military spending diverts money from much needed developmental projects- demonstrate the continuation of the SACCs commitment to dismantling unjust structures and to promoting the needs of marginalized South Africans.
Perhaps the most significant change regarding the SACCs political role centers around its diminished influence withm the African National Congress (ANC). The SACC was "sympathetic to the ANC during the apartheid years, endorsing the Freedom Charter as a document that embraced a just vision of the future, and supporting the aims and goals of the liberation struggle instead of presenting a Christian 'third way.'"44 Not only did the SACC support the ANCs general aims, many ANC leaders reaffirmed then commitment to 'liberation-oriented' Christianity in the 1980s and welcomed the use of church buildings and congregations within the prophetic Christian tradition to advance the cause of liberation. If the SACC was fairly influential and deeply appreciated within the broader liberation struggle and within the ANC during the apartheid years, its political role within the new South Africa is much diminished and sometimes marginalized. Indeed, James Cochrane says, "Ecumenical churches and agencies ... have suffered a serious loss of influence and voice in the public square."45
Evidence of the latter can be seen in the ANC-led government's resistance to SACC positions on foreign policy issues related to Zimbabwe to the government's continued promotion of market-based growth models in lieu of the SACCs preferred redistributive economic plans. But perhaps the most recent and best evidence of the SACCs diminished status within the public arena can be seen in the SACC being sidelined during the formation of the National Interfaith Leaders Council (NILC)- a mass-based interreligious group intended to partner with the government m terms of improving service delivery regarding the provision of basic services luce water, electricity, and housing-in mid-2009.46 In an August press release, the SACC stated that it was "neither informed of, nor invited to the recent formation of the NILC."47 The exclusion of the SACC from the initial meetings of NDX is remarkable considering the SACCs historic commitment to eradicating poverty and empowering the marginalized. How and why has the SACC, an organization to which the ANC turned to in the struggle years and to which, in some ways, the ANC-led government would turn to as a natural political partner today, arrived at this diminished political status?
Some of the reasons lie in developments external to the SACC. More pointedly, the ecumenical movement worldwide has weakened considerably- not only in terms of reach and pubUc impact, but also because of a "crisis of vision, mission, and mandate... in a post cold war era."48 Ecumenically oriented churches outside of South Africa and a variety of other philanthropic agencies provided major support (financial and otherwise) to the SACC during the apartheid years, but since the birth of democracy in South Africa, interest and support has dropped considerably.
Moreover, in a religiously pluralist and democratic state, the SACC has had to share the public space with Pentecostal, charismatic, and evangelical churches that are often technologically savvy, connected with the grassroots, and increasingly willing to engage the government on poUtical issues. The latter churches are more newsworthy in a democratic South Africa. John de Gruchy, a South African theologian and ecumenical leader, says,
During the 1970s and 1980s, we [the SACC] couldn't keep the media way. The media was interested in our message because we were anti-apartheid. But things are different in a new South Africa. Take churches talking about HIV/ADS. If the SACC talks about the issue, the SACC is not heard, but if evangeUcal churches talk about it, the media picks up on it. why? Evangelical involvement in poUtics is new and interesting. The SACCs political voice isn't new or interesting.49
Along with changes m global Christianity that have contributed to the SACCs diminished poUtical voice, it is important to note developments internal to the SACC. Fust, quite a few prominent leaders left the SACC (and other like-minded organizations like the Institute for Contextual Theology) for academic or governmental positions after 1994. As a result, a considerable overlap exists between the SACC and the ANC-led government in terms of positions on policy issues. Indeed, the political shift in South Africa from an apartheid state to a democracy contributed to an identity crisis within the SACC. How would the SACC weather this political change? Would it be a social partner to the government, a critical watchdog, or both?
For some in the SACC, there was (and is?) a desire to retreat and "let the church be the church again." Those taking this position, particularly prominent m the early years of democratization, argued that the SACC faced a liberated and democratic South Africa with politicians in office who embraced the same causes as the SACC. This meant the SACC no longer needed to confront government; instead, it could embrace a supportive political role.50 These voices, however, did not represent the SACCs official position-a position that has evolved from "critical solidarity" to "critical engagement" over the years.51 The important but subtle differences between these positions made it clear that the SACC intended to support the government in nation-building exercises in social justice and the common good were upheld, but because the SACCs solidarity ultimately rested with the poor, the SACC reserved the right to criticize the government if the poor were being marguialized or human rights were being trampled. And while the SACC has indeed supported the government in efforts of nation-building since 1994 (the SACC was one of the TRCs strongest proponents),52 its advocacy stance on issues such as economic justice, explained above, debt relief, and the environment, or its consistent opposition to arms deals, indicate the tenacity of the SACCs "watchdog role."
Indeed, the SACCs insistence on maintaming its "watchdog status" vis-à-vis the government may be another reason the SACC is currently being sidelined in the political environment. The ANC-led government has made it perfectly clear over the years that it prefers South African churches adopt a supportive, partnership role with the government in nation-building efforts in lieu of a watchdog role.53 Even the newly minted Zuma administration, through the voice of Vusi Mona, formerly the media spokesperson at Rhema Church but now one of Zuma's communications directors, has called on churches to be "unequivocally committed to collaboration with the government" in the new service delivery project fostered by NILC.54 Is the government less willing to work with the SACC because it represents an organization that has resisted collaboration and maintained a more critical witness vis-à-vis the government on public policy issues compared with other religious actors in South Africa?
An alternative explanation that might elucidate the current sidelining of the SACC in the political arena rests in shifting political alignments within the ANC, with Jacob Zuma now as party leader. Evidently he cannot completely trust the SACC to be his loyal poUtical partner. Some have suggested that the SACC got too close to the ANC faction led by Thabo Mbeki over the years- evidenced by the SACCs lack of criticism regarding Mbeki's disastrous position on HIV/AIDS or the movement toward democratic centralism within the ANC.55 SACC leaders have acknowledged mistakes in this regard. Tinyiko Maluleke, current president of the SACC, says,
We lost our credibility when some of the SACC folks or mainline church thinkers ended up working for the government (e.g., Frank Chikane, Molefe Tsele) and then we were too poUte to criticize their errors .... In some ways, we look like we're in bed with the government.56
More recently, a number of high-profile leaders that had been associated with the SACC, notably Mvume Dandala, the former Methodist presiding bishop, and ecumenical leader Allan Boesak, ran for office under the banner of Congress of the People (COPE), an opposition party formed in 2008 made up of Mbeki aUies.57 These moves only cemented the perception in the minds of some ANC members that the SACC was more supportive of Mbeki than Zuma.58
Although the SACC has certainly missed some opportunities regarding prophetic engagement since South Africa's democratic transition, its record over fifteen years is fairly consistent. It tries, albeit imperfectly, to be faithful to the vision of a more just, participatory democracy in a new South Africa. Its public profile, although significantly diminished from the previous political era, is still vitally important in South Africa. As John de Gruchy states,
Maybe the role of the mainline, ecumenical churches/SACC is the critical role. They won't be popular or be invited into the circle of power. Their range of issues (e.g., poverty, homosexuality) is important. Church growth won't happen, but maybe these issues will eventually end up in the churches that do have political clout.59
In sum, the SACCs political voice continues to be shaped by a critical stance on many public policy issues related to its advocacy on behalf of the marginalized.60 The SACC also seeks to maintain its autonomous status vis-à-vis the government, but its poUtical influence as a religious actor that the ANC Ustens to and respects is diminished, even marginalized, in a democratic South Africa compared with the apartheid years.61 Ironically, a church that promoted "apolitical" engagement during the apartheid years has strengthened its political position in a democratic South Africa. It is to this case study that we now turn.
Rhema's Political Role: Engaged, but Potentially Co-opted
Rhema Ministries, started in 1979 by Ray McCauley, was a reflection of the white-oriented Christianity of the "Charismatic Renewal Movement in South Africa during the late 1960s and the mid1970s."62 From a congregation of thirteen people in 1979, Rhema Bible Church has grown to 45,000 members today and ranks as one of the most prominent "prosperity gospel" churches in South Africa.63 Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Rhema's history is its intentional and high profile political involvement since the early 1990s, a surprising development considering its apolitical stance during the apartheid years.
In general, white evangelical churches, like the Baptist Church, the Assemblies of God, and Rhema Bible Church, emphasized personal salvation and imminent return eschatology that translated into a minimal desire for immediate socio-political engagement during the apartheid years.64 Literal interpretations of Romans 13 also meant evangelical churches tended to preach order and respect to the government of the day rather than rebellion. If Christians were to engage in resistance, it should have been against communism, the "social gospel," and atheism.65 The political role of Rhema, then, during the apartheid years rarely questioned, and often supported, the policies of the apartheid regime.66
At the Rustenburg Conference m 1990, Ray McCauley made a dramatic turnaround when he confessed the errors of Rhema's apoUtical and pietistic stance during the apartheid years and resolved "to play an active and positive role ... in the new South Africa."67 As a prominent church leader, McCauley contributed to South Africa's democratic transition by serving as a political broker between the ANC negotiating team and individuals (e.g., Brigadier Gqoza and Chief Buthelezi) who were reluctant to joui the peace process.68 After South Africa's democratic transition, McCauley maintained his commitment to numerous pubUc initiatives, for example, "the Stop Crime Campaign, ...the Moral Summit of 1998, ...and the Cape Peace Initiative, which attempted to bring gang leaders together to stop gang violence."69 Moreover, McCauley has provided leadership in ensuring that Rhema Ministries offers a wide variety of social development programs. Its "Hands of Compassion" ministry, for example, offers substance abuse rehabilitation programs, literacy teaming, and employment opportunities for the purposes of empowering the poor and marginalized in South African society.70
Events in 2009 only confirm McCauley's poUtical engagement in the new South Africa. McCauley has been involved with a number of newsworthy responses and actions- for example, inviting ANC leader Jacob Zuma to Rhema Bible Church a few weeks before the 2009 national elections, welcoming the National Prosecuting Authorities decision to drop charges against ANC President Jacob Zuma in April 2009, and "breathing a sigh of relief ' at a Judicial Service Commission review that dropped misconduct charges against a Zuma ally, Western Cape Judge Hlophe.71 Moreover, it is Ray McCauley who in July 2009 launched the National Interfaith Leaders CouncU (NILC), a mass-based interreligious group intended to partner with the government in improving service delivery.
This overview of the political involvement of Ray McCauley and Rhema Ministries in public policy advocacy indicates that the poUtical role of Rhema has changed considerably over the decades. From an apoUtical stance that skirted poUtical engagement during the apartheid years, Rhema's leaders today actively promote poUtical involvement, working to "align their evangelical following with South Africa's progressive direction under the ANC."72 This latterday stance could be the result of a genuine change of political perspective or of more opportunistic and pragmatic considerations.73 Whatever the case, Rhema, representing a large and influential charismatic-evangelical grouping within South Africa, has embraced a significantly different approach to politics than it did during the apartheid years.
Another significant difference between Rhema's public engagement during the apartheid years and its latest role at the forefront of NILC is its potential to promote more than white, middle-class interests in the socio-political arena. Anthony Balcomb has written a convincing portrait of Rhema, showing that however much Rhema "encourages its membership to become positively engaged in the transformation of society,"74 its ability to actuaUy nurture democracy is limited. The reason comes down to race. For as much as Rhema boasts of a "multi-racial" ministry, it is still "largely white and middle-class in composition" and unlike some of the older Protestant denominations, it has "little impact on the black community."75 In essence, Rhema's white, middle-class composition means it is unable to "enhance the sociopolitical cooperation and harmony-essential to the effectiveness of democracyacross South Africa's ongoing racial divide."76
But could McCauley's new role as leader of NILC change things?77 Since McCauley's new political platform is much bigger than Rhema, perhaps McCauley, representing the strength of the multi-racial charismatic-Pentecostal phenomenon in South Africa-notably its ability to mobilize the grassroots and build social capital- can embark on projects that can nurture South Africa's democracy in the realm of social development among a diverse constituency. Ray McCauley himself says, "Our expertise is to mobilize thousands of churches across the country to get involved with partnerships at grassroots level, with counrils, mayors, and so forth to help them deliver."78 John de Gruchy affirms the potentially positive role of NILC when he says the following, "If McCauley can do service deUvery, that's all to the good, for the country and church as a whole!"79
Despite the significant differences regarding the political role of Rhema during the apartheid years and the new South Africa, there are some key similarities as well. Rhema again finds itself rarely questioning, and often supporting, the regime or policies of the ruling government. It is widely agreed that the NGK lost its credibiity due to its collusion with the NP government during the apartheid years. As civil society actors, churches and church leaders can play a positive role in democratization only if they maintain an autonomous voice vis-à-vis the government. Can McCauley maintain the church's autonomy?
At this point, it is not clear. From inviting Jacob Zuma to Rhema prior to the election and actuaUy refusing to allow other poUtical leaders the opportunity to address his congregation to stating the NPA ruling m Jacob Zuma' s favor was "a victory for the rule of law" when it was a far more ambiguous outcome80 to producing a media statement on behalf of NILC m support of the JSC ruling on Judge Hlope from ANC Headquarters,81 McCauley seems to be cozying up to the ANC. Where is McCauley's voice, for example, when ANC leader Julius Malema utters words that insult women? Or where is McCauley's voice when ANC politicians purchase luxurious, expensive vehicles using government funds? To date McCauley's voice has been absent on these and other matters making it appear as though his poUtical voice is partisan and selective.82 Rather than being an honest broker among pluralistic reUgious voices, one that seeks the common good for all in a new South Africa, McCauley (and the Pentecostal-charismatic churches) could, through NILC and other socio-poUtical arrangements, be co-opted to do the government's bidding- a detrimental outcome for the consolidation of South Africa's democracy.
The ZCCs Political Role: Nationally Aloof, Locally Reconstructive?
A focus on the African Independent Churches (AICs), which can be described as African-founded churches with both African traditional and Pentecostal-type traits,83 is essential if we are to grasp the "emerging global face of Christianity."84 In South Africa, AICs loom large in terms of size, constituting 40.8 percent of Christians and 47.6 percent of black South Africans.85 The largest of the AICs is the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) with close to five million members- by far the largest single denomination m South Africa.86
Similar to the evangelical-charismatic churches described above, AICs were thought to have adopted an "apolitical" stance vis-à-vis the government during the apartheid years.87 While many AIC leaders discouraged political participation, some AICs actually seemed to accommodate the Nationalist government. The ZCC, for example, was charged by those on the left as being explicit collaborators with the apartheid regime due to the visit by President Botha Ui 1985 to a large ZCC gathering in which Botha addressed the crowd about the need to be obethent to government.88 Others have argued that a more comprehensive picture of the ZCC, if one removes the anomalies of Botha's visit, illustrates the protest character of independent churches.89 From this perspective, the ZCC "functioned as a haven m the heartless world of white political power, urban stress and economic exploitation,"90 offering avenues of cultural protest m the form of transformative rituals that allowed for the healing of oppressed lives. The ZCC, then, from this author's perspective, presented an ambiguous poUtical role during the apartheid years- it offered personal and communal resistance to a white-dominated society, but its nonconfrontational, macro-level political witness meant that it did not pose a threat to the apartheid regime.
The ZCCs poUtical role in the post-apartheid era has not changed considerably. It still remains nationaUy aloof-direct public engagement with or in macro political events is mostly absent- but many scholars have argued that the strength of the ZCC (and other AICs) is its influence on society "from below."91 Some believe, for example, that the ZCC contributes to the cultivation of social capital (i.e., the normative values citizens share) that helps strengthen democracy. AICs like the ZCC create trust and cooperation among their members within then tight-knit, disciplined church organization as they care for each other in uncertain environments.92 The values embedded in these interactions form the moral foundation of society that UidUectly strengthens South African society. Another way churches like the ZCC contribute to the consoUdation of democracy in South Africa is by acting as agents of community development. The ZCC and other AICs have a remarkably strong local presence that offers great potential for socio-economic enhancement.93 Finally, churches like the ZCC encourage members to make significant lifestyle changes, like abstaining from alcohol and drugs or honoring hard work, that contribute to the social and economic mobility of individuals in South Africa's economy.
Unfortunately, evidence also confirms the negative "below ground" influences the ZCC may have in the socio-poUtical realm. For example, as surely as the ZCC contributes to the building of trust and cooperation among its communities, it also contributes to the forwarding of exclusivity, authoritarianism and patriarchy that hurt efforts at consolidating democracy.94 In addition, for some Christians in South Africa, the fact that the ZCC does not take bold pubUc positions on national issues central to its membership, like poverty, HIV/AIDS, or violence, diminishes its credibility and the significance of its local witness.95 Tune will tell if the ZCC will become an important, albeit indirect, partner in the support of South Africa's multi-religious, multi-cultural democratic society, an observation to be commented upon further in this essay's final section.
The Ambiguous Relationship between Christianity and Democracy in South Africa
So what does the examination of the poUtical voice and pubUc engagement of prominent church and uiterdenominational organizations reveal regarding reUgion and poUtics in South Africa and the relationship between Christianity and democracy? We begin with a brief review of the significant changes in the profile of Christian churches in South Africa since the end of apartheid.
Under the apartheid regime, the NGK operated as a state church, the SACC operated as a struggle "church," while the majority of African independent and evangeUcal churches either supported or did not overtly chaUenge the status quo. Under a democratic regime, the NGK's poUtical role is inconsequential but not absent, the ZCC is nationally aloof but locally formative, and the SACC and evangeUcal churches- albeit maintaining many similarities with the apartheid era, namely, the SACCs poUtical voice is still contextually prophetic and Rhema's poUtical engagement appears co-opted- have experienced dramatic shifts in terms of macro level poUtical status. More specifically, the SACC, whose role m politics was faUly influential within the liberation struggle and the ANC during the apartheid years, has become increasingly marginalized in a democratic South Africa and within the ANC-led government, while the evangelical/charismatic movement, whose role in poUtics was much weaker compared with the SACC or the NGK during the apartheid years, has emerged stronger in terms of poUtical positioning in a democratic South Africa.
One of the outcomes, the muted and inconsequential poUtical role of the NGK, is not surprising, given the demise of apartheid and the loss of its political platform. A second outcome, the growing appreciation of African Independent Churches luce the ZCC, whose political role has not changed considerably, opens up new avenues for pubUc and private socio-poUtical engagements in a democratic South Africa. The most dramatic turnaround in church-state relations since the apartheid era involves the diminished political role of the SACC within South Africa and the more notable political presence of evangelical churches like Rhema.
An overview of the changes in the profiles of South African churches and uiterdenominational organizations illustrates that churches are still active in the political arena; however, their political involvement is far more diverse and less binary than it was during the apartheid years. But what do these changes signify regarding South Africa's democratization? As mentioned earlier, it is generally understood that actors Ui civil society, such as religious associations, help contribute to democracy's consoUdation when they maintain an autonomous relationship with the state and, among other things, foster civility, hold governments accountable, and promote the welfare of the populace at large. How effective, then, are South Africa's church and interdenominational organizations, as examples of civil society, in building or consolidating democracy? Based on the evidence provided Ui this essay, and cdready alluded to m the case study analysis above, the impact of South African church-based organizations regarding the consoUdation of democracy is decidedly mixed.
The NGK, for example, involved with debates regarding its identity, more often than not promotes issues that serve its constituency, the Afrikaners, more so than the South African populace as a whole. The NGK was only reluctantly involved with the TRC Ui the 1990s, and it continues to resist church unification m the Reformed family across racial lines. These patterns, plus the NGK's relatively narrow expression of socio-poUtical interests, show that the NGK continually misses opportunities to build a strong platform for its Afrikaner constituents to be committed, constructive partners in the process of South Africa's multi-ethnic democratic consolidation.96
What about the ZCC? Although this essay cautions against the tendency to romanticize the "below ground" contributions of AICs, this author also acknowledges the important role that the ZCC embraces whenever it assists marginalized communities Ui meeting then basic needs. This outcome, whenever it happens, by AICs or other reUgious communities, needs to be recognized as contributing toward the moral and social foundation of South Africa's democracy. But how should the ZCCs lack of leadership within the formal, pubUc level on important matters like the ADDS epidemic or poverty be interpreted?97 On the one hand, one can acknowledge that public engagement m a democracy makes room for a variety of responses from reUgious associations. Not all churches, for example, need to be politically involved at the macro level, thus allowing for the ZCCs relative silence on such matters.98 Although this argument certainly explains the ZCCs valuable local political involvement, given what we know about the crucial role that religious organizations can play in holding governments accountable in the process of building democracy, the nationally aloof role of the ZCC at the macro level dirninishes its amazing potential as a civil society actor. Because of its considerable presence and credibility within marginalized communities, the ZCC could potentially be doing much more than it is m terms of shaping pubUc policy debates, playing the role as a social partner, a critical watchdog, or even some combination vis-à-vis the ANC-led government, rather than remaining relatively absent on the national scene.
Rhema's increasingly influential political voice also reveals a mixed picture. On the one hand, Rhema has been involved with projects (e.g., Hands of Compassion) that encourage its members to promote the welfare of the populace as a whole. On the other hand, Rhema's recent socio-poUtical engagement (e.g., involvement with NILC or interactions with Jacob Zuma) offers evidence of its co-optation by the ANC-led government, one of the more destructive state-civü society outcomes regarding democracy's consoUdation. If Ray McCauley, a church actor with considerable access to ANC leaders, is not willing to hold the ANC-led government accountable, which religiously-based civil society actor will? Moreover, U Rhema is maximizing this latest project (i.e., NILC) to strengthen the position of the more religiously intolerant elements of the evangelicalcharismatic tradition in the pubUc realm, the values of reUgious pluralism could be seriously weakened in the new South Africa.99
The SACC must also be critiqued for missing opportunities to hold the ANC-led government accountable when it had extraordinary access to the Mbeki regime. On the other hand, the SACC probably offers the most laudable witness regarding a reUgiously-based civil society actor playing a positive role regarding democracy's consolidation. It has tried over the last fifteen years, through pubUc pronouncements on arms deals, meetings with government officials on issues like Zimbabwe, or projects luce the People's Budget Campaign, to hold the ANC-led government accountable to a vision of public justice that promotes the welfare of the populace at large, but particularly of those who are marginaUzed. The SACC also cultivates a poUtical culture of tolerance, respect, and civUity among a diverse populace. As noted above, the SACC certainly falls short of this goal, and in size, resources, and influence vis-à-vis the ANC, it is a much diminished organization today, which means its potential to impact public policy debates is, unfortunately, negligible, but its active support for and encouragement of participatory democracy remains largely intact.
In conclusion, this examination of reUgious organizations in South Africa undercuts the sweeping generalizations about Christianity and democracy made by scholars like Paul Gifford and Terence Ranger. To argue, for example, that the inherently participatory worship style and structure of evangelical-charismatic and independent churches cultivates the social capital that supports democracy or that the hegemonic structure of mainline churches causes them to uphold the status quo is far too sunpUstic. Rather, it is far more accurate to acknowledge the contextual, varied, and ambiguous relationship between Christianity and democracy as suggested by scholars like Paul Preston.100
But beyond denouncing the sweeping generaUzation made by scholars assessing Christianity and democracy, one could propose a more nuanced version of Paul Gilford's thesis regarding the South African case study of macro-oriented pubUc engagement. That is, while mainline Protestant churches and interdenominational organizations like the SACC continue to offer a relatively mature socio-poUtical voice m the public arena compared with then peers, developments within churches like Rhema indicate that evangeUcal churches also have the potential to help strengthen South Africa's democracy when they embrace a poUtical vision that moves beyond personal morality and group interests to one of the broader welfare of the nation. However, the co-optation of prominent evangelicals in South Africa by the ANC-led government means that this opportunity has not yet been fully grasped.
Since the relationship between Christianity and democracy in South Africa is uncertain and varied, South African church and uiterdenominational organizations, particularly the increasingly influential evangeUcal churches, have plenty of room for improvement in fostering good governance. From this brief examination of theU current witness, we can see that they must continue to work hard at:
* maintaining a critical, independent voice vis-à-vis the government,
* developing sound principles of poUtical engagement,
* building ecumenical bridges in public affaUs discourse, and
* affirming the pubUc role of theology.
These tasks are easier said than done. But there is a hopeful element within South Africa's religious approaches to public affairs. The nation has a tradition of prophetic response. When particular church organizations fall short of maintaining an autonomous voice vis-à-vis the government and serve their own interests instead of the public good, there have always been theologians, activists, and religious organizations that powerfully contest the current reality, offering what Ann Loades calls a "politics of grace," which speaks the truth to power but also voices hope for transformation and reconciliation, drawing on "all the resources of our imagination and sympathy we can muster" Ui an effort to build a stronger, unified society.101 As long as South African churches foment a "politics of grace," they will contribute positively to the consolidation of democracy. The journey will be long and arduous, but as this essay has indicated, we have seen glimpses of this hope within each of the case studies.
1. This essay focuses on formal Christian institutions. Christianity in South Africa is quite diverse, so it is difficult to capture a truly representative group, but here we have the start of one, at least among Protestants. It features, respectively, the largest of the Afrikaner Reformed denominations, the premier ecumenical Protestant grouping dominated by the older English-speaking mainline denominations, a large and influential charismatic-evangelical network, and the largest of the African Instituted Churches (AICs). The case studies reflect racial and theological diversity, but they were also selected for comparative purposes, namely, was the church a weU-known poUtical actor in the apartheid era and, if so, what does its poUtical activity look like in a democratic South Africa?
2. The poUtical voice and pubUc engagement of a church could also be referred to as its poUtical role. Although my assessment of different church's political roles is fairly descriptive, I have tried to measure a church's poUtical voice by whether it is muted or active, status quo or prophetic. PubUc engagement at the macro level is assessed by a church's relationship with the state (co-opted or autonomous) and the issues it promotes, among other things. What this paper does not address directly, are the factors contributing to a church's poUtical response, some of which include theological commitments, class and racial make-up of laity, historical interactions with the state, church poUty, and sociopoUtical context. FinaUy, I tend to concentrate on how churches are responding to (and shaping) the political environment, but, of course, the inverse also happens and needs further investigation.
3. Democratic consoUdation is a critical concern for emerging democracies. It is the lengthy process of strengthening democracy, and it involves sustaining democratic elections and other democratic measures (e.g., an independent judiciary) over time without reversal. For more on democratic consoUdation, see Michael Bratton and Nicolas van de WaUe, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transition in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998). To begin a review of South Africa's decidedly mixed picture of democratic consoUdation, see Rod Alence, "South Africa after Apartheid: The First Decade," Journal of Democracy 15, no. 3 (2004): 78-92.
4. For purposes of this essay, I acknowledge the definition of evangeUcal provided by Anthony Balcomb that highlights bibUcal authority, personal conversion, the centrahty of evangeUsm, and personal piety. See A Balcomb, "Evangelicals and Democracy in South Africa," Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 109 (March 2001): 4 - 5. A more encompassing definition of evangeUcal is provided in the work of David Bebbington.
5. Much has been written on democratic transitions. To begin an overview of democratization debates in Africa, see E. Gyimah-Boadi, Democratic Reform in Africa: The Quality of Progress (Boulder: Lynne Rienner PubUshers, 2004).
6. For more on South Africa's democratic transition, see Timothy Sisk, Democratization in South Africa (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
7. Caiphus Kgosana, "South Africa Stays at No. 5 in African Governance Index Ratings," Cape Times, October 6, 2009.
8. For more on these issues, see Jo Beali et al., "Fragüe Stabüity: State and Society in Democratic South Africa," Journal of Southern African Studies 31, no. 4 (2005): 681-700; Berry Bearak, "South Africans Vote, Expecting Few Big Changes," New York Times, AprU 22, 2009; and Glynnis Underhül and Yazeed Kamalthen, "Crime up, Confidence Down," Weekly Mail & Guardian, September 24-October 1, 2009.
9. Civil society, an ideaUy autonomous sphere located between the state and the individual, refers to the associations and societal spheres engaged in activities like economic production, civic education, and social networking in an effort to preserve social identity, reach coUective goals, demand governmental responsiveness, or hold government accountable. Civü society can include but is not limited to trade unions, churches, women's groups, and cultural organizations.
10. See Larry Diamond, "Civü Society and Democratic ConsoUdation," in The Bold Experiment: South Africa's New Democracy, ed. Hermann GiUomee et al. Johannesburg: Southern Book PubUshers, 1994), 48-80; E. Gyimah-Boadi, "Civü Society in Africa," Journal of Democracy 7, no. 2 (1996): 118-32; and E. Gyimah-Boadi, Democratic Reform in Africa: The Quality of Progress (Boulder: Lynne Rienner PubUshers, 2004), 99-119.
11. Paul Gifford, ed. The Christian Churches and the Démocratisation of Africa, (Leiden: E. J. Bruì, 1995).
12. What foUows is a discussion among African scholars. For an overview of others who have contributed to this debate, particularly the prominence of Latin American scholars, see Paul Freston, Evangelicals and Politics in Asia, Africa and Latin America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 110-13;298-311.
13. Paul Gifford, African Christianity: Its Public Role (Indianapolis and Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1998), 306-48.
14. For Haynes's argument, see Jeff Haynes, Religion and Politics in Africa (London: Zed Books, 1996), 7, 133, 181.
15. Terence Ranger, "Conference Summary and Conclusion," in The Christian Churches and the Democratisation of Africa, 14-35; and Ranger, "Introduction: Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa," in his Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa, 3-35.
16. Robert Wuthnow, Producing the Sacred: An Essay on Public Religion (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 79.
17. Jurgen Hendriks and Johannes Erasmus, "Religion in South Africa: The 2001 Population Census Data," Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 121 (March 2005): 91.
18. For a detailed examination of church-state relations in South Africa, see John de Gruchy and Steve de Gruchy, The Church Struggle in South Africa (London: SCM Press, 2005).
19. James Cochrane, "Refraining the PoUtical Economy of the Sacred: Readings of Post- Apartheid Christianity," in Falling Walls: The Year 1989/1990 as a Turning Point in the History of World Christianity, ed. Klaus Koschorke (Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2009), 95.
20. These churches included the NGK, the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk (NHK), and the Gereformeerde Kerk (GK). The "NGK family" was divided into churches for whites, coloureds, blacks, and Asians. The poUtical voice of the so-called "daughter churches" diverged considerably from the NGK, with the NGSK, or NGK for "coloureds," in particular offering a prophetic voice against the theology of apartheid and the government in the 1980s. See Allan Boesak, Black and Reformed (Johannesburg: Skotaville Publishers, 1984); or J. Christoff Pauw, Anti-Apartheid Theology in the Dutch Reformed Family of Churches (Amsterdam: Free University Academic Dissertation, 2007).
21. Tracy Kuperus, State, Civil Society and Apartheid in South Africa (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999), 166. Today the NGK's membership is 1.5 million members, representing 39 percent of white Christians. See Hendriks and Erasmus, "Religion in South Africa: The 2001 Population Census Data," 93.
22. Human Relations (Cape Town: DRC Publishers, 1976), 71.
23. Etienne DeVilliers, "The Influence of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC) on Public Policy during the late '80s and '90s," Scriptum 76 (2001): 52-53. De Villiers also points out that significant voices of political reform arose within the NGK in the 1980s.
24. For more insights into the NGK during the years of apartheid, see Kuperus, State, Civil Society and Apartheid in South Africa, or Johann Kinghorn, "The Theology of Separate Equality: A Critical Outline of the DRCs Position on Apartheid," in Christianity Amidst Apartheid, ed. Martin Prozesky (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990).
25. Interview with Coenie Burger, Stellenbosch, South Africa, September 10, 2009. URCSA is a merger of the former coloured and African "mission churches" of the Dutch Reformed Church.
26. Piet Naude, "Constructing a Coherent Theological Discourse," Scriptum 83 (2003): 195.
27. Ibid. It would be a fascinating and worthwhile exercise to examine the political engagement of these various types of congregations at the local level.
28. See Julie Aaboe, "The Other and the Construction of Cultural Identity: the Case of the DRC in Transition," (PhD diss., University of Cape Town, 2007), 201.
29. De Villiers, "The Influence of the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC)," 59.
30. Piet Meiring, "The Dutch Reformed Church and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," Scriptum 83 (2003): 250-57.
31. Christine Anthonissen, "A Critical Analysis of Reporting on the TRC Discourses in Die Kerkbode," Scriptum 83 (2003): 273.
32. Coenie Burger, "The Dutch Reformed Church Looks Ahead," Challenge 78 (September/October 2004): 9.
33. NGK Presentation to the Portfolio Committee of the Department of Home Affairs Regarding the Amendment to the Marriage Act: Response Regarding the Civil Unions Bill, October 3, 2006. Document received by author from Ben du Toit, Stellenbosch, South Africa, August 5, 2009.
34. Moreover, the NGK moderature presented a survey to URCSA showing that the Belhar Confession was not viewed favorably by the majority of NGK congregations. See Report of the Executive Committee on Church Unity to the Fifth General Synod in Session on September 29 to October 5, 2008 in Hammanskraal. These actions led some in URCSA to wonder how authentic the NGK's earlier commitments to reunification were. Document received by author from independent researcher, Stellenbosch, South Africa, October, 2009.
35. See, e.g., "'Marriage Act' Proposal Causing a Stir," Die Kerkbode, October 27, 2006; or "Dialogue on Resurrection Continues," Die Kerkbode, November 17, 2009.
36. Interview with Johann Symington, Welgemoed, Cape Town, August 26, 2009.
37. "About the SACC," accessed November 11, 2009, http://www.sacc.org.za/ abouthtml.
38. Peter Walshe, Prophetic Christianity and the Liberation Movement in South Africa (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: Cluster Publications, 1995). While the SACCs leadership was engaged in the struggle against apartheid, the laity of mainline churches, often captive to a culture of white privilege, was not necessarily supportive of its actions. See, for example, Charles Villa-Vicencio, Trapped in Apartheid: A Socio-Theological History of the English-Speaking Churches (Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1988). The divide between church leadership and laity most likely exists within each of the case studies in this essay.
39. John W. De Gruchy, The Church Struggle in South Africa, 2nd ed., (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 120.
40. See David Chidester, Religions of South Africa (London: Routledge, 1992); or Bonganjalo Goba, An Agenda for Black Theology: Hermeneutics for Social Change (Johannesburg: Skotaville Publishers, 1988).
41. Walshe, Prophetic Christianity, 111-14. See also Tristan Anne Borer, Challenging the State: Churches as Political Actors in South Africa, 1980-94 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998).
42. Walshe, Prophetic Christianity, 123.
43. Doug Tilton, "The People's Budget Calls for a New Anti-Poverty Program," Challenge 68 (April 2002): 4-5. Numerous articles in Challenge from 200007 illustrate the SACCs consistent efforts at promoting economic justice, from articles on the People's Budget to its support for a Basic Income Grant to calling for a variable rate VAT. The SACCs Public Liaison, Doug Tilton, and the Ecumenical Service for Socio-Economie Transformation (ESSET) were instrumental in these campaigns.
44. Tracy Kuperus, "Building Democracy: An Examination of ReUgious Associations in South Africa and Zimbabwe," Journal of Modern African Studies 37, no. 4 (1990): 657.
45. James Cochrane, "Research Challenges on Religion in South Africa," in Religion, Politics, and Identity in a Changing South Africa, ed. David Chidester et al. (New York: Waxmann Munster, 2004), 229.
46. "National Interfaith Leaders Council," Unpublished document, July 28, 2009. Document received by author from Roy Harris, Brackenfell, South Africa, August 20, 2009.
47. "S. African Council Uneasy of Exclusion from Zuma's Interfaith Group," Ecumenical News International, August 20, 2009.
48. Tinyiko Maluleke, "Ecumenism Seeking Justice in and for Our Times," address to the Conference of the Christian Council of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia, August 16, 2009, 4. Document received by author from Tinyiko Maluleke in August 31, 2009.
49. Interview with John de Gruchy, Stellenbosch, South Africa, August 13, 2009.
50. Simanga Kumalo and Daglous Dziva, "Paying the Price for Democracy: The Contribution of the Church in the Development of Good Governance in South Africa," m From Our Side, ed. Steve de Gruchy et al. (Amsterdam: Rozenberg Publishers, 2008), 175,181. See also Allan Boesak, The Tenderness of Conscience (Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2005), 133-70.
51. See Dirk Smit, Essays in Public Theology (Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2007), 65-67; or Cochrane, "Refraining the Political Economy," 5-7. See also Barbara Bompani, "Mandela Mania: Mainline Churches in Post-Apartheid South Africa," Third World Quarterly 27, no. 6 (2006): 1137-49.
52. Kuperus, "Building Democracy," 658.
53. See Boesak, The Tenderness of Conscience, 159-70; or Kumalo and Dziva, "Paying the Price," 177. See also Bernard Sprong, "A New Role for the Churches," Challenge 78 (September/October, 2004): 20-21. In the latter article, Thabo Mbeki's address to the SACCs 2004 Triannual Conference, in which he directly urges the SACC to shun the "watchdog" role and take up a "partnership" role, is recounted.
54. VusiMona, "The Third Wave," City Press, August 15, 2009, http://152.111.1. 87/argief/berigte/citypress/2009/08/17/CP/18/Mona-Augl3-Faith.html. Vusi Mona writes the editorial in his personal capacity, but his links with both Zuma and McCauley suggest otherwise.
55. For more on democratic centraUsm, see Anthony Butler, "How Democratic is the African National Congress?" Journal of Southern African Studies 31, no. 4 (2004): 719-36.
56. Interview with Tinyiko Maluleke, Stellenbosch, South Africa, August 31, 2009.
57. Both Boesak and Dandala, incidentally, have ended their commitments to COPE.
58. Mmanaledi Mataboga, "Why the ANC Dumped the Council of Churches," Mail & Guardian, September 18-23, 2009. Indeed, one government spokesperson, said "relations between the ANC and the SACC had deteriorated because of suspicion that the SACC was becoming 'a springboard' for the oppositionCOPE, m particular."
59. Interview with John de Gruchy, August 13, 2009.
60. Jo Mdhlele, "A New World," Challenge 87 (September 2007): 21.
61. Admittedly, the SACCs macro level influence has diminished in a new South Africa, but a focus on the intermediate and micro level of SACC member churches might bring to light the amazing dedication of SACC member churches to grassroots public actions (e.g., HIV-AIDs programs, literacy training, economic enterprise) that is much appreciated by the ANC-led government.
62. Glen Thompson, "Transported Away The Spirituality and Piety of Charismatic Christianity in South Africa (1976 - 1994)," Journal of Theology for Southem Africa 118 (March 2004): 131. Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity has grown considerably in South Africa. The 2001 population census depicts 7.3 percent of the Christian population belonging to Pentecostal/charismatic churches, although the percentage is probably higher given serious compilation errors. See Hendricks and Erasmus, "Religion in South Africa," 91. It is important to note that black and white Pentecostal/charismatic worship and sociopolitical outlooks vary considerably. My focus on a white charismatic church like Rhema is rooted in its visible macro-oriented political involvement since the early 1990s.
63. Niren Tolsi, "Inside Rhema: For Church and Country," Mail & Guardian, November 13-19, 2009.
64. Anthony Balcomb, "Evangelicals and Democracy in South Africa-Helpers or Hinderers, Another Look, Another Method," Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 109 (March 2001): 10.
65. See Anthony Balcomb, "Left, Right, and Centre: Evangelicals and the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa," Journal of Theology for Southern Africa 118 (March 2004): 147-48.
66. Thompson, "Transported Away," 137.
67. See Ray McCauley, "IFCC Submission," TRC Faith Community Hearings, November 18, 1999 (personal document).
68. Anthony Balcomb, "From Apartheid to the New Dispensation: EvangeUcals and the Democratization of South Africa," in Evangelical Christianity, ed. Terrence Ranger, 201. See also Thompson, "Transported Away," 140-42.
69. Balcomb, "From Apartheid," 201. McCauley's position on a number of issues is far more "liberal" than many of his counterparts. For this reason, many evangelicals do not support McCauley's political activism. The African Christian Democratic Party, for example, promotes more fundamentalist political positions on issues (e.g, abortion, homosexuality, death penalty). See Balcomb's work for more on the ACDP as well as the variety of evangeUcal poUtical expression in South Africa.
70. E. M. K. Mathole, "The Charismatic Evangeilcal Response to Poverty in South Africa," (PhD diss., University of Pretoria, 2005), 274-81.
71. Ray McCauley, "Is God Too Dainty and Delicate for Politics?," Mail & Guardian, March 19, 2009; "McCauley Congratulates Zuma," Cape Times, April 6, 2009; and "McCauley Concerned by Hlophe Saga," Cape Times, September 6, 2009.
72. Balcomb, "From Apartheid to the New Dispensation," 203.
73. Evidence for the latter includes McCauley's late "conversion" in 1990, when he had nothing to lose and much to gain, by aligning himself with South Africa's political changes, as well as his outreach to high-profile ANC members throughout the years, including Frank Chikane, Carl Niehaus, Mathole Motshekga, Vusi Mona, and Jacob Zuma.
74. Balcomb, "From Apartheid," 203.
75. Ibid., 204.
77. It is important to remember that NILC may not be effective or influential. It could be as politically inconsequential as the National Religious Leaders' Forum in South Africa or the U.S. White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
78. Quoted in Chris Brown, "So Many Questions," Sunday Times, August 2, 2009.
79. Interview with John de Gruchy, August 13, 2009.
80. "McCauley Congratulates Zuma," Cape Times, April 6, 2009.
81. Jacques Rousseau, "Prayer to Cherish Diversity," Mail & Guardian, September 18-23, 2009.
82. J. J. Tabane, "What is Pastor Ray Up To?," Mail & Guardian, September 20, 2009.
83. Hennie Pretorius, "Ukhonza Phi na? Comments on Church Typology," Traditional Religion and Christian Faith, ed. G. Lademann-Priemer (Hamburg: Verlag an der Lottbek, 1993), 135-47. Considerable debate regarding AICs revolves around definitions, typologies, and reasons for their origin. To begin a review of these debates, see Dawid Venter, "Concepts and Theories in the Study of African Independent Churches," in Engaging Modernity, ed. Dawid Venter (Westport: Praeger, 2004), 13-43. The development of AICs sometimes has been seen as part of the story of evangalicalism, but in this paper I treat AICs as separate from the mainly Western-oriented evangelical Christianity of South Africa.
84. Tinyiko Maluleke, "Pushing the Boundaries in AIC Studies," in Zion and Pentecost: The Spirituality and Experience of Pentecostal and Zionist /Apostolic Churches in South Africa, by Allan Anderson (Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2000), ix.
85. Hendriks and Erasmus, "Religion in South Africa," 91.
86. Ibid., 98. The ZCC case study, far shorter than the other three, serves more as a counterpoint due to a poUtical engagement model that seems to intentionally defy modern public-private, church-state dichotomies.
87. Walshe, Prophetic Christianity, 110.
88. Freston, Evangelicals and Politics, 172-73. Matthew Schoffeleers's scholarship makes the strongest argument regarding the collaborationist nature of AICs during the apartheid years. See, e.g., J. M. Schoffeleers, "Ritual Healing and Political Acquiescence: The Case of the Zionist Churches in Southern Africa," Africa 61, no. 1 (1991): 1-25.
89. The work of Jean and John Comaroff and R. Petersen stress the impUcit protest character of the AICs broadly or the ZCC spectficaUy. See, for example, the Comaroffs' work, notably Jean Comaroff, Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance: The Culture and History of a South African People (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); and Jean Comaroff and John L. Comaroff, Of Revelation and Revolution, 2 vols., esp. vol. 2, The Dialectics of Modernity on a South African Frontier (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991).
90. Walshe, Prophetic Christianity, 110.
91. See Robert Garner, "Religion as a Source of Social Change in the New South Africa," Journal of Religion in Africa 30, no. 3 (2000): 310-43.
92. See Garner m Engaging Modernity, ed. Venter, 84.
93. Hennie Pretorius's book Drumbeats (Pretoria: UNISA Press, 2004) offers a wonderful window into the beUefs and practices of the Zionists in the Cape Flats as well as their efforts in community welfare. A similar book is needed on the ZCC.
94. Khotso Kekana's article, "The ZCC: 82 Years of Mystery and Secrecy," in Challenge magazine (June/July 1992) explains some of the patriarchal and authoritarian values of the ZCC. The ZCC, in essence, operates like other reUgious organizations that forward both negative and positive social capital values. My argument is not to denigrate the ZCC specifically but to caution against romanticizing it.
95. For commentary on the public silence of the AICs, see Adam Ashcroft, Witchcraft, Violence and Democracy in South Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005), 192.
96. Jonathan Jansen, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Free State, made a similar pronouncement regarding the NGK in the latter part of 2009.
97. Freston, Evangelicals and Politics, 298.
98. Along these lines, some might argue that churches like the NGK should be allowed to pursue the interests of a narrower constituency within the broader mantle of South Africa's democracy for the sake of retaining minority rights.
99. Interview with Alan Boesak, Stellenbosch, South Africa, November 16, 2009.
100. For examples of this more nuanced approach, see Freston, Evangelicals and Politics, 281-321; and Ranger, Evangelical Christianity and Democracy in Africa, 3-35.
101. James Cochrane, "Religious Pluralism in Post-Colonial Public life," Journal of Church and State 42, no. 3 (Summer 2000): 454.
TRACY KUPERUS (BA, Calvin College; MA, PhD, University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign) is associate professor in the International Development Studies program at Calvin CoUege, Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is author of State, Civil Society, and Apartheid in South Africa: An Examination of Dutch Reformed Church-State Relations. Her articles have appeared in Christian Scholars Review, Journal of Modern African Studies, and Journal of Church and State. Special interests include state-civil society relations, democratic transitions, and religion and politics in southern Africa.