Church must bring communities together

Belinda Bantham -- Fri, 10/12/2018 - 11:10

Church must bring communities together

“The church is profoundly irresponsible as it disconnects itself from the realities on the ground.”

The Methodist Church’s Bishop Paul Verryn was blunt when he said the above during a recent North-West University (NWU) Pastors’ Conference.

Pastor Verryn was a guest speaker at the conference hosted by the Faculty of Theology on the North-West University’s campus in Mahikeng.

The well-known cleric is recognised for his work in oppressed communities and with migrants who live in the shadow of violence.

The relevance of the church in post-apartheid South Africa came under the spotlight, with the focus on the church’s role in curbing violence in the run up to the 2019 general elections.

Bishop Verryn said the most dangerous recipe for violence is the growing gap between stinking rich and poor South Africans.

Bishop Varryn, also a character in an upcoming book about the late ANC stalwart Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, says for far too long the church has been silent on issues of injustice. He believes that no organisation is better poised than the church to bring communities together.   

NWU political analyst Dr Piet Croucamp said he is not convinced that the church has played much of a role in situations preceding violence. He said South Africa’s strong institutions have done well to entrench democracy and thus curb major electoral violence. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in particular had done a good job.

Dr Croucamp said he foresees no political violence during the 2019 polls, but issues of poverty and unemployment - especially among the youth - are causes for concern.

According to the South African Council of Churches (SACC) church leaders urged the council in 2015 to focus all efforts on transforming the fortunes of the poor. This would have contributed to the reduction of the gross inequalities. 

 Bishop Paul Verryn, a guest speaker at the NWU’s recent Pastor’s Conference, talks about how the church should bring communities together.