Leaders meet to revisit ‘Kairos Document’, reimagine prophetic voice of Church in SA

Participants in a gathering in Pretoria this week to revisit the 1985 Kairos Document. They are, from the left, Prof Credo Mangayi (UNISA), Prof Klippies Kritzinger (UNISA), Rev Frank Chikane (WCC), Prof Kgomotso Masemola(executive dean UNISA), Prof TD Mashau (host, UNISA), Rev Moss Ntlha (TEASA), Pearl Kupe (Christian Leaders Forum). Behind Pearl Kupe are Pastor Sipho Mahlangu (ELC) and Rev M Moatlhodi (ELC)

Pear Kupe reports on a conference in Pretoria on Tuesday and Wednesday this week where leaders reflected on the historic Kairos Document and on the prophetic role of the Church in South Africa today

The Kairos Document is a Christian and biblical commentary that was written on the political crisis in South Africa in 1985.

It was issued by an ecumenical group of theologians and pastors in Soweto and based predominantly in the townships and was a call to action. 

The document challenged the Church’s response to the prevailing political environment of the time. The word Kairos was used to reflect “a moment of truth and moment of grace and opportunity”. 

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You can read about the Kairos document online at https://urc.org.uk/images/Global_and_Intercultural/Black_History/TheKairosDocuments.pdf 

This week’s conference in Pretoria was hosted by the Ecumenical Leadership Council of South Africa (ELC), an association of church organisations which offers leadership development programmes, training resources, and networking opportunities for its members. The ELC’s mission is “to maximise the impact of churches and church organisations, develop their leaders, and strengthen the community”.

Ably led by its president, Pastor Sipho Mahlangu, the ELC hosted the two day conference in partnership with UNISA Principal and Vice-Chancellor Prof Puleng LenkaBula and Prof TD Mashau UNISA chair of the Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology.

The theme of the conference was “Revisiting the Kairos Document & Reimagining The Prophetic Voice of the Church of South Africa”. The key mandate was to reflect on and review the SA Kairos document and discuss the prophetic voice of the Church in the current era. More than 70 leaders attended — all of whom were active and vigorous in their participation. 

Conference speakers and topics
Speakers included Rev Frank Chikane (World Council of Churches), Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, Rev Moss Ntlha (TEASA, The Evangelical Association of South Africa), Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana (South African Council of Churches) , Pastor Sipho Mahlangu (ELC) , Pearl Kupe (Global Forum of Women Entrepreneurs , also representing Christian Leaders Forum), Dr Fundisa Kobo (UNISA), Prof MJ Masenya (UNISA) and Prof Credo Mangayi (UNISA). 

Topics included gender-based violence, drug and alcohol abuse, pandemics, corruption, service delivery issues, poverty, inequality, unemployment, racism and xenophobia, ecological degradation, global wars etc.

Conference highlights
Rev Frank Chikane explained how the Kairos Document came about within the context of the prevailing political situation of the time. In 1985 South Africa was experiencing violence, detentions, treason trials, torture, etc. The Kairos document was in direct response to the prevailing time. He emphasised the dire need for an informed Church. An uninformed Church, he said, will practice an irrelevant theology. He also spoke about the principle of “praxis”, defining it as the marriage between theory and practice. He stated that there is a greater need for Christians to practice the biblical tenets and operate at the grassroots level.

Prof Credo Manganyi addressed a subject that is not often spoken about, namely the ecological dimension and the role of the Church in practiicng ecomissiology. This entails the practicing of missiology within the environmental and ecological context and ensuring shalom and wellbeing with life. 

Rev Moss Ntlha of TEASA talked about the issue of power and the seduction of power and its corrupting influence when handled inappropriately. He stressed that it was important to hold those in power accountable for their actions and said that any prophetic movement that emerges must speak with credibility. 

Prof Mashau of UNISA spoke about the dangers of denominationalism. He emphasised the need to do away with creating dependency and talked about the need for proper theological training. He said the Church must embrace the idea of being a change agent. 

Pearl Kupe was asked to address the issue of gender based violence and how the Church must play a critical role in preventing it and facilitating healing. She cited 1 Peter 4:17 and  reminded the delegates that judgement must start in the House of God. She said that the Church must clean its own house first and stop hiding and protecting believers and Church leaders who practice gender-based violence. She encouraged the Church to play a more active role in legislation and drafting legislation to deal with GBV, She also talked about the limitations of legislation. She said that legislation cannot change hearts and minds and that for GBV and other forms of crime to be eradicated, hearts needed to be changed and minds renewed with proper education in line with Romans 12:2. The Church was best placed to facilitate the change of hearts and minds. She concluded by sharing on restorative and rehabilitative justice and preventive measures for dealing with GBV.

Critical lessons from the Kairos Document

The host of the event and president of ELC, Pastor Sipho Mahlangu concluded the meeting by thanking UNISA, the speakers and all who attended. He assured the audience that a report would be produced and follow up actions would come out of the process. 

The Kairos Document urged the Church to take responsibility and to be accountable. It was a call to the Ecclessia to take up its salt and light and provide direction. It was a wake call for the Church to line up with its original mandate and be a voice and platform of Kingdom expression on earth. After independence, the Church became a recluse again and its voice was no longer heard and presence no longer felt. 

The Church is not called to just be a voice in times of crisis, but at all times. May the Church of Yeshua be reminded of its mandate to express Kingdom principles and facilitate transformation in the communities and nations of the world.

The Church must embrace the notion of being a change agent. In his closing remarks Bishop Mpumlwana, the general secretary of SACC, said the Church has lost her sense of purpose and will be judged by posterity if she does not embrace the mandate given to her by God. 

The conference concluded with the thought that the Church cannot allow her prophetic voice to be swallowed up by worldly systems. The voice of the Church must be heard! 

ELC will release a conference report to be circulated articulating and proposing a way forward. 

The conference ended with a clear consensus that there is a great need for the Church to organise herself going forward and for strategies on how to be a prophetic voice to the nation. 

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  1. Thank you Leaders for your intellectual contribution to the Colloquium I trust you were sufficiently stimulated and disturbed and are now as restless as I am that our Kairos Moment requires that we have church differently….it cannot be church as usual🙏🏽enkosi bakwethu🤝 respect✊🏿watch this space😳

  2. Hugh G WETMORE

    Thanks to the organisers for taking this long-overdue initiative. The themes are highly relevant to SA today. May I comment briefly on those that are at the top of my thinking? Gender-based violence: At the “Religious Alliance Against Pornography” (The RAAP Conference – Manila, 1995) we learned that the link between GBV and Pornography was as strong as the link between Cancer and Tobacco. Why do we fear banning Porn?
    Drug and alcohol abuse: Why don’t we ban all Alcohol Advertising? To urge us to “drink responsibly” is stupid, for Alcohol diminishes the sense of responsibility.
    Pandemics: Christians are Mandated by Jesus to love others as He loved, that is sacrificing His personal preferences for the good of others. We should all be vaccinated without needing a Government Mandate to do so. Corruption: My recent book “
    Corruption – the Inside Story” (Mbokodo Publishers 2022; https://amzn.to/3Fe84pC) unmasks GREED in the human heart as the inside driver of Corruption, and aims to downsize personal Greed. (“Opportunity” is the ‘Outside Story’ – the two must occur simultaneously for Corruption to happen).
    Service Delivery issues: Hold Municipalities accountable, Demand guilty people pay back the money with interest, do not re-deploy guilty staff.
    Poverty – See Unemployment below.
    Inequality: Decree that no-one may be paid a salary more than 10 times the lowest paid employee. Eliminate Patriarchal inequality by paying Men at Women’s rates.
    Unemployment In my travels throughout Africa 1970s-1990s no-one expected to be employed – it was a luxury. They got off their butt and did well as entrepreneurs – this is the African way which Colonial ideas have corrupted. (I can supply case studies from Ivory Coast, with its spatial transformation.) Get rid of Dependency on the Government which destroys initiative.
    Racism: Manage Racism as we manage Gender Dysphoria – allow anyone to choose their race-of-preference. Race and Gender are both biological facts.
    Xenophobia: Ensure Home Affairs allows only legally documented foreigners to enter/live in South Africa. Others must return to lands of origin.
    Ecological degradation: Revive the African respect for the Environment through education and legislation; reject the greedy exploitation encouraged by Colonial conquestorial thinking.
    Global wars: Act on the principle ”Do to others what you want them to do to you”. (e.g. BRICS treaties must be observed ethically). ….
    and I add: Justice: Build a Justice System based on African legal principles (which are very similar to those of the Old Testament). E.g. Restitution instead of Imprisonment which costs the taxpayer more than R1000 per inmate per month (Exodus 22). Restitution itself ennobles/helps rehabilitate offenders. Where the offender cannot restitute, farm/factory labour must be required – Labour is more dignified than Idleness! Pay a market-related wage and deduct restitution money, with 20% for family needs and 5% for pocket money. The balance is restitution to the Victim/State.

  3. Enkosi leadership keep the light burning let’s go back to our Ubuntu and stick to the true gospel without compromise

  4. To add to the above comment by Hugh Wetmore, GBV is closely linked to, and has a high statistical correlation to the sexual abuse of children. Children need to be protected.

    Disappointing that nothing is mentioned regarding abortion which claims the lives of 200 000 unborn annually, not to mention the mental health impact on the women having them.
    In the 49 years since abortion was legalized through Roe vs Wade in the USA, 63 million preborn babies have been aborted…more than the entire population of SA. We need to let that sink in for a minute.
    Research shows that only 4 per cent of pastors address abortion from the pulpit. Dhy is this?

  5. Hugh G WETMORE

    Thanks, Gayle – I could not agree more. Here is a song/poem to keep the issue on the church’s agenda:

    God of Justice, God of Love,
    twin these virtues from above,
    form them in this world below,
    that all people soon will show
    justice, love to all.

    Justice for the innocent,
    killed without their own consent,
    taken from their mother’s womb,
    taken from their cosy home,
    justice is denied.

    Love for helpless humankind,
    all their rights now undermined.
    Adult power is cruel and wild
    When it’s used against a child ~
    love evaporates.

    God of Justice, God of Love,
    You in Christ came from above.
    Mary had the courage to
    see her pregnancy right through ~
    Loving Justice won!

    Words and Melody: Hugh G Wetmore (c) 2003
    Metre: 77775
    Tune: Pro-life arranged by H Hudson *CD 11.16
    or as a Poem.

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