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South African Spirituality
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Celia Kourie and Louise Kretzschmar, Eds.
Christian Spirituality in South Africa (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa:  Cluster Publications, 2000, 208p.)

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In 2006 I read several books by Christian mystics or monastics, mostly in the middle ages.  In the first few days of 2007, I was glad to find this book on the shelf which deals with current views of spirituality in Africa.

A Name
One reason I bought the book was the name of Louise Kretzschmar.  Dr Kretzschmar is a German Baptist scholar whose work I have read earlier in editions of the Journal of the Winter School of Theology, published by the Baptist Convention College, Soweto.  This was an annual journal comprising the presentations and discussions on various themes, focusing on the developing of churches of the Baptist Convention of South Africa.  See my reading list for last year.

Kretzschmar was the primary editor of three of these journals, and was the secondary editor of a previous edition.  These journals represent an annual convocation of Baptists from around the country who come together in discussion which focus on various theological and practical themes facing black Christians in the new, post-apartheid South Africa.

The Editors
Dr. Kretzschmar is a professor of Theological Ethics, Gender Studies and Spirituality at the University of South Africa, and is chairperson of the Governing Board of the Baptist Convention College in Soweto.  Celia Kourie is Associate Professor in the Department of New Testament at the University of South Africa and writes extensively in the fields of mysticism and spirituality.

African Spirituality
This book provides an excellent collection of essays by the editor and others, reflecting on the expressions of spirituality among Christians of various kinds in South Africa.  Some of the essays address the denominational characteristics of approach to the spiritual life.  They include the "indigenous" churches, some of which have developed as variations from the early mission churches.  Others are more traditionally African in practice and belief, but express themselves in the basic terms of Christian theology and biblical characters and terminology.

African Independent Churches
In recent years there has been growing interest in a systematic analysis of the Zionist or other African independent churches in South Africa, as well as the broader phenomenon of similar churches in other parts of Africa, called in some circles African Independent Churches.  This term has somewhat fallen out of use, with other terms being sought to represent a more positive view, or more representative of the self-identity of these African cultural expressions of Christian faith.

The term used in Kenya and some other countries is African Institutional Churches.  In Kenya they are organized into an association of denominations, called the Assocation of African Institutional Churches. This assocation of African indigenous Christian churches operates along the lines of the National Christian Council of Kenya or the All Africa Conference of Churches, comprised primarily of more mainline Christian churches all over Africa.

In this book such churches are referred to as African Initiated Churches.  There is a wide range of these African culture-focused churches, ranging from close alignment to western churches and their theological expression, to very African with mostly traditional African spiritist practices, expressed in borrowed Christian terminology, and incorporating Christ and the saints in the picture.

Spiritual Direction
Also represented in this book are the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions.  I learned a new term in this book, "Spiritual Direction." From the essays, it appears this term is used in the Catholic and Anglican traditons. The term describes a relationship of usually one-to-one spiritual mentorship. As described by Patricia Fresen (Roman Catholic), it sounds like what I know called "spiritual mentorship" or "accountability partnership" or other terms involvement the word "discpleship." This may involve various approaches and programs of spiritual discipline. Alternative terms suggested by these writers are "spiritual accompaniment" (Fresen) and "spiritual companionship" (Francis Cull, Anglican).

Francis Cull provides an excellent historical and theolgical survey in presenting Anglican Spirituality. This stream affects many New World tradiitons, so this is particuallrly helpful in seeing streams that might have entered Africa through the Protestant missionary movement. Cull provides some helpful facts and clarifies some uncommon influences and events in the Reformation and post-Reformation period in Engliand that help us undertstand the English spirutual tradition. He references the four primary English medieval mystics.

Valuable Resource
This is a valuable book useful for personal growth, spiritual challenge, information on the Christian scene in South Africa and an introduction to South African Christian scholarship.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[TXT] Julian of Norwich, Medieval English Mystic
[TXT] Mysticism and Christian Unity
[Review] Practicing the Presence of God
[Review] Recurring Classic of Western Christian Mysticism

This book is not available on Amazon.com.
You can see it on the Africa Book Centre Online Catalogue.
See all my reviews on Amazon.com
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Many other books have review notes with the reading list entry


First written 12-14 January 2007
Finalized and posted on Thoughts and Resources 15 January 2007
Last edited 17 March 2007

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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