Anabaptist theologies in South Africa – Continuing the Conversation: Conference Invitation and Call for Papers

In 2013 the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA) organized a first round table of presentations and conversations focusing on Anabaptist theologies in South Africa. This first round of conversations was held at Volmoed Retreat Centre near Hermanus, and included the voices of John de Gruchy, Bonolo Makgale, Allen Goddard, Graham Philpot and Tony Balcomb, as well as international contributions from Andrew and Robert Suderman and Joe Sawatsky. After this first round of presentations and conversations we recognize that the theme was far from exhausted. Thus, we are opening a call to participate in a second Anabaptist theologies in South Africa conversation.

Anabaptism as a theological tradition has not had a long history of having an official representative, as in an institutional denomination, in South Africa the same way as other church denominations. While an exploration in “Reformed”, “Anglican”, “Catholic” or even “African Independent” theologies would have various visible ecclesial traditions with substantial histories in the South African context as a starting point, this has largely not been the case or the model when it comes to Anabaptist involvement in South Africa.

Yet to conclude that Anabaptist theology is absent from the South African theological context would be a mistake. There has been various ways and examples in which Anabaptism and its importance has been present within the South African context. The importance and influence of Anabaptism can be found in the articulations of Conscientious Objectors during apartheid, who drew, among other things, on Anabaptist thoughts when stating their rationale for refusing conscription; the work of theologians such as David Bosch, John de Gruchy, and others, who drew on Anabaptist thought in an attempt to articulate a response to Apartheid; supporting nonviolent ways in struggling against the realities of oppression, injustice, and violence; and so forth.

Several other themes also emerged in the first round of conversation regarding Anabaptist influence in South Africa. These include: questions pertaining to peace in a country plagued by violence, the value of kenosis (or “self-emptying”) in contemporary culture and how this is embodied. Other questions pertaining specifically to Anabaptist ecclesiology were also raised: where do we find these “alternative communities” and what form would churches who draw on Anabaptism take in South Africa? Do we need congregations or a more explicitly institutional presence that identifies with this tradition in South Africa?

The Anabaptist Network in South Africa would like to explore and deepen the understanding of Anabaptism’s past, present and future in the South African ecclesial and political theology landscape. We invite participants to prepare and present papers that focus on the past, present and future of Anabaptist thought and practice in South Africa.

In addition to the themes that emerged out of the first round of discussion, the following might also provide a starting point for reflection.

1. How has Anabaptism influenced theologies during the struggle against Apartheid. These could include reflections on those explicitly indebted to Anabaptism, or revealing how voices from various traditions found resources in Anabaptism which was drawn upon to articulate a theological response to Apartheid.

2. How does Anabaptism currently influence South African theology? For example, some churches that have Anabaptist roots (e.g., Brethren in Christ churches) have been planted in South Africa; some who, in seeking to respond to the wake of the relationship between church and state under Apartheid, have turned to voices like John Howard Yoder to provide an alternative approach to questions of politics, and so forth. In what way can Anabaptism influence South African theology and the different challenges that continue to exist in post-Apartheid South Africa?

3. What might the future of Anabaptism in South Africa look like? How do traditions influence each other while we are becoming more and more wary of the denominational divisions we have inherited? How does Anabaptism in dialogue with various theological traditions in South Africa look like? Is there an emerging “African Anabaptism” of which we need to take note?

The conference is structured to emphasize and prioritize the conversations happening between participants. As such we allow for extensive discussion of papers, believing that communal reflection is of the utmost importance in doing theology. We also know that rich reflection is stimulated by deep thinking that individuals bring to the conversation, and we therefore invite papers exploring the themes above. Each paper will be allowed 25 minutes for presentation, and 35 minutes for discussion.

Those interested need to submit a short abstract of 150 words to Cobus van Wyngaard (cobus.w@gmail.com) before July 31, 2014.

Conference details:

Click here to register!

The conference is open to anyone who is interested in the theme and conversation, not only those who will be presenting papers.

Date: 13 October (14:00) – 15 October (15:00), 2014

Place: Skogheim Conference Centre (http://www.skogheim.org.za), Port Shepstone (travel arrangements from the Durban airport can be arranged). Those who wish to arrive a day early or sleep another night must book with Skogheim directly.

Cost: R 1000 (this covers conference fees, lodging and meals. It does not account for travel costs.) Those who provide full payment for the conference by August 13, 2014 receive a 10% discount (i.e., only R900 needs to be paid).

Payment details: Payments can be made to the ANiSA bank account:

Bank: Nedbank
Branch #: 134025 (Hayfields)
Account name: ANiSA
Account #: 1008722650

Please send payment confirmation to Cobus van Wyngaard (cobus.w@gmail.com).

We are seeking to provide an equal opportunity for those who may not be able to afford the entire cost of the conference. If you are in a position in which you cannot afford to pay for the entire conference and need a subsidy please contact Cobus van Wyngaard (cobus.w@gmail.com). Note: subsidies will go towards the cost of the conference, not the costs of travel to the conference.