NWU inaugural lecture: probing the notion of contextualising practical theology

By Phenyo Mokgothu and Nolwazi Xulu

North-West University (NWU) academic in the Faculty of Theology, Prof Alfred Brundson, presented his inaugural lecture on 13 October 2022 at the NWU’s Mahikeng Campus.
The title of the lecture was “Are we there yet? Probing the notion of contextualising practical theology and pastoral care in a post-Covid glocal African context.”

In his lecture Prof Brundson probed the state of contextualising practical theology and pastoral care in an African context against the background of persisting Western epistemologies and the decolonisation discourse. 

Prof Brundson said a brief historical overview of practical theology and pastoral care in South African higher education articulates its European epistemological framework, rendering its appropriateness within the African context questionable.

“The notion of contextualisation refers to making theology relevant in a particular context,” he added.

“This approach is chosen above approaches such as Africanisation and indigenisation, as it retains the normative function of Scripture instead of culture. It recognises some of the challenges created by a dialogue between Western and African notions of practical theology and pastoral care. It subsequently engages practical theological models aimed at inter-contextual dialogue such as a postfoundational model for doing practical theology,” said Prof Brundson.

“It underlines the need for conducting practical theology from an ethical stance which is intent on exploring knowledge outside Western frameworks in search of a more appropriate practical theology that can stand in service of pastoral responses that is tilted towards the African context in a more authentic way,” he added.

According to Prof Brundson contextualisation will remain an ongoing process due to the fluid nature of the African context, and the fact that the dawn of the post-Covid era presented urgent agenda points, rendering the journey incomplete. “Three areas for future practical theological and pastoral consideration are highlighted. These are the consequences of intensified socio-economic realities, implications of the disruption of traditional religious culture, and post-Covid challenges to higher education.

“Using a glocal lens, which is mindful of both local and global needs,  will be the best way forward for the contextualisation project, recognizing Africa as part of the global village," concluded Prof Brundson.

About Prof Alfred Brundson

Prof Alfred Brunsdon obtained his PhD in practical theology (narrative pastoral counselling) from the University of the Free State in 2007. He continued his research as postdoctoral fellow at the NWU’s Faculty of Theology between 2008 to 2010. After a short period as part-time lecturer at the then Department of Theology on the Mahikeng Campus, he was appointed as an associate professor in 2012.

Prof Brunsdon’s research focus developed in the field of contextualising practical theology and pastoral care in an African context. His subsequent publications focused on a re-imagination of practical theology and pastoral care in this context against the background of the enduring decolonisation discourse in higher education. 

He is the editor/co-editor of two books and regularly presents papers at national and international conferences. Prof Brunsdon is currently a C2 National Research Foundation-rated researcher.

He has chaired a variety of faculty committees and is currently serving as faculty coordinator for teaching and learning. 

Prof Brundsdon

Prof Hennie Goede, executive dean of the Faculty of Education, Prof Alfred Brundson, and Prof Sonia Swanepoel, deputy vice-chancellor for community engagement and Mahikeng Campus operations.

Submitted on Wed, 10/19/2022 - 09:08