Churches tackle Zuma’s ANC

2012-04-07 18:08

South African church leaders and their congregations have felt ­increasingly alienated from the ANC since President Jacob Zuma took office.

Senior clerics have accused the ruling party of trying to impose “state theology” – co-opting church leaders who support the ANC to serve the party.

This is according to a letter to the ANC from Kairos Southern Africa, a group of ministers and theologians.

The document, titled “Theological and ethical reflections on the 2012 Centenary Celebrations of the African National Congress: A word to the ANC in these times”, was delivered to the ANC in February and presented to the party’s national executive committee meeting of March 23 and 24.

More than 300 church leaders and theologians signed the document, Kairos coordinator Reverend Edwin Arrison told City Press.

Authors and signatories of the Kairos document come from a range of traditional churches, which include the Roman Catholic, Methodist, Anglican, Apostolic Faith Mission, Uniting Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, United Congregational, Evangelical Lutheran and Ethiopian Episcopal churches.

In its letter to the ANC, Kairos reminded Zuma’s leadership of how former president Nelson Mandela saw the church as a partner in the reconstruction and development of society, and how his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, developed that relationship into the ­Religious Working Group that partnered with government.

“The latest development, of ­rewards for those who support the ANC, especially during elections, comes closer to the concept of state theology, where some church leaders are at the service of the party in a party political sense rather than at the service of the people.

The prophetic voice dies at the altar of the party and turns church leaders into uncritical praise singers of the party.”

The document decries widespread corruption in the ANC-led government, the ANC’s intolerance to criticism and factionalism.

The head of the ANC’s subcommittee on religious and traditional affairs, Mathole Motshekga, said the ANC still valued the contribution of religious leaders in the same way the party did during apartheid.

“There is no doubt in the mind of the leadership of the ANC that churches should play an important role in society.”

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