Embodying the politics of Jesus: A theological conversation

Introduction

Since 2013 the Anabaptist Network in South Africa has hosted an annual theological conversation where Christians interested in exploring the ways of Jesus, activists, church leaders and theologians gather for three days of reflection and discernment. This conversation has become a place where a radical Christian faith has been explored for its implication for the church in South Africa. While the 2013 and 2014 conversations explored Anabaptism in South Africa with an emphasis on time – the past, present and future of Anabaptism in the South African context – the 2015 conversation will focus on a particular theme to draw our conversation together.

The Anabaptist Network Theological Conversation is a place where those individuals, congregations or members of denominations connected to the Anabaptist network, as well as others interested in exploring a faith informed by Anabaptism or a form of Christian practice at a distance from the politics of the state and positions of power, may connect in order to reflect together on what it means to follow in the ways of Jesus in this place and at this time.

 

2015 Conversation Theme

The Politics of Jesus, a phrase best known as the title of a book by John Howard Yoder, has at times been used by some who find that the political implications of following Jesus faithfully causes an inherent tension with the systems of violence and oppression which seek to rule this world. While some forces seek to limit political options to various political parties which describe themselves as alternatives to each other, insisting on the possibility of the politics of Jesus is a refusal to allow party politics to take sole ownership of what it means to be political. Is it possible to reconsider what the politics of Jesus would be for our time and place?

But the politics of Jesus was never a mere abstract idea. The politics of Jesus is embodied politics. For centuries it has often been assumed that the place where this is embodied has been called the Church. But is everything called church an embodiment of the politics of Jesus? Too often the churches have been vehicles for political processes which not only carry little resemblance of anything which may be described as Jesus’ way of life, but which actively opposed what the gospels proclaim. Indeed, in this way we also recognize the ways in which John Howard Yoder himself failed, as we all do in some way, to faithfully live out his own critique of power that others have found so insightful and life altering. Where do we see signs of the ways of Jesus – the politics of Jesus? How do we work for a community which embodies Jesus’ alternative politics? Is there an identifiable community which embodies the politics of Jesus or is the politics of Jesus embodied only in specific times and places, often unplanned and identifiable only with the clear vision provided by hindsight?

Regardless of our answers to these questions, something more basic is calling for our attention: what exactly do we mean when we speak of the politics of Jesus? Does the politics of Jesus call for the same response regardless of the context? Recognizing the social-political context and consequences of the ways of Jesus in his time, how do we relate what proved to be a principled way of life to our particular political, social and economic situation in South Africa in 2015? What can we learn from other attempts at embodying Jesus’ politics?

Perhaps it is important that we also consider the concrete examples of embodying the politics of Jesus in South Africa. Where do we find places where the church, communities of Christians, or even those beyond the sphere of the institutional church, embody Jesus’ alternative politics in tension or even opposition to empire, state or capitalism – if these are indeed the powers which describe the dominant politics?

This theological conversation aims to explore these questions, but also allow the conversation to develop beyond these questions as we reflect on embodying the politics of Jesus.

 

Call for papers and contributions

The ANiSA Theological Conversation aims to stimulate conversation rather than present research. We therefore invite a brief proposal of 150-300 words for contributions which will stimulate our communal discernment in how we can pursue and embody Jesus’ alternative political vision – an alternative way of living in relation with one another – in this time and place. Our conversation and communal reflection is considered to be of the utmost importance in doing theology.  Each contribution will therefore be allowed 25 minutes for presentation, and 35 minutes for discussion.

Interested participants may submit proposals to Cobus van Wyngaard (cobus.w@gmail.com). Please indicate your interest as soon as possible, and send your proposal before 14 September 2015.

 

Conference details

Date: 14 - 16 October 2015

Venue: Heron Bridge Retreat Centre (see directions below)

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 September 15, 2015 receive an “Early Bird” discount and only need to pay R900.

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 Andrew Suderman (aksuderman@gmail.com).

 

We seek 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 (however, arrangements can be made with others).If you are interested in giving more so that we may provide subsidies, or if you would like to simply financially support such events, please feel free to do so.

 

ADDRESS:

36 R114, Nietgedacht

2055, Guateng

South Africa

(Just north of Johannesburg)

 

DIRECTIONS

FROM THE SOUTH:

From the “concrete highway” (N1/N3) take the William Nicol/Fourways offramp, and travel out to Fourways.  At the Montecasino corner take the sliproad left into Witkoppen Dr.  Turn right at the first robot (Cedar Road.)  Travel for approx. 8kms. At the T-junction, turn right (sign says Pretoria).  After 2 kms, cross the river, and turn right into the HeronBridge gate.

FROM THE NORTH:

From the R28/N14 (Pretoria/Krugersdorp highway) take the R512 (Lanseria Airport) offramp and follow signs to Randburg.  At the trafic light (Lion Park Cafe) turn left.  Pass the Lion Park on your right, pass Cedar Road and small shopping centre (Lion Park Produce) on your right, cross the river and turn right into the HeronBridge gate.

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