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Often the church is accused of being so embedded in the culture that effective prophecy leveled at the culture is impossible. But this book illustrates that there was a time and a place where the church community was faithful to its mission as the body of Christ, as church leaders led, people lifted high the cross, and they marched into the uncertainty that still prevails. Here is a time and place where the call to risky discipleship was answered not with whimpers, whines, and excuses, but with the power of ...
Often the church is accused of being so embedded in the culture that effective prophecy leveled at the culture is impossible. But this book illustrates that there was a time and a place where the church community was faithful to its mission as the body of Christ, as church leaders led, people lifted high the cross, and they marched into the uncertainty that still prevails. Here is a time and place where the call to risky discipleship was answered not with whimpers, whines, and excuses, but with the power of faithful Christians living out their call. This book illustrates what it can mean to faithfully answer the call to discipleship and God's service.
Many people wonder if they would be able to stand up for their faith if it meant great personal sacrifice or the sacrifice of people they love. They wonder what they would risk for their faith, if anything. In the United States where cost/benefit analysis is a popular way to assess risk, many Christians wonder if they might not have to stand alone, because too many see the risks as too costly.
As suggested by the title, this book draws upon a collection of sermons and addresses given by Peter Storey in a variety of contexts between 1966 and 1993. The original audiences ranged from the all-white Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, to the South African Council of Churches, to the nation of South Africa, and to the world. All of these sermons and addresses are directly related to specific historical events: security police confrontations, beatings, and tear-gassings in churches around the country of South Africa; an imposed State of Emergency; the murder of 14-year-old Stompie Sepie by Winnie Mandela's thugs; and the violent jockeying for power between Mandela's African National Congress, Chief Mangosutho Buthelizi's Inkatha Movement, and F. W. de Klerk's regime.
The book offers the full perspective of what it means to speak truth, empower people to stand for the truth, and to pastor souls during times when living truth seems almost impossible.
Key Features: 1. Foreword by Desmond Tutu 2. 15 chapters, each including a brief description of the original context, the sermon and its connection with the present, and a prayer 3. Epilogue by Will Willimon
Which Way South Africa?
Address from the Public Issues Platform, Central Methodist Mission, Sydney, Australia, November 1966
In 1965 our small family left South Africa's shores for the first time, for Sydney, Australia. I joined the staff of the Central Methodist Mission there to study city ministry for two years under the tutelage of Dr. Alan Walker, one of the great preachers and urban pastors of the twentieth century. While we were there, apartheid's chief ideologue, Prime Minister H. F. Verwoerd, was assassinated in the Cape Town Parliament. He was succeeded by the iron-fisted John Vorster, who compounded the insults of apartheid with the first "detention without trial" legislation, taking South Africa further down the road to police state rule.
As we prepared to return home, two convictions were becoming clear: The first was that God was calling us to ministry in the inner city. The second was that no ministry in South Africa could have integrity unless it confronted apartheid head-on in the name of Christ. These two convictions would shape our future.
Shortly before we left for home, Alan Walker invited me to use his public issues platform to address the South African situation. I include this address because it contains seeds of those convictions that would develop and hold me accountable throughout the struggle years.
* * *
When I speak of South Africa, I speak of a land that to know is to love. When I speak of South African people, I can see faces, black and white faces, family and friends; and I speak of myself too. When I speak of the sin and agony of South Africa, I speak of something in which I share.
There come moments in the history of a nation when the whole future direction of its affairs can depend on a few climactic events. The issues seem to divide, and there are two roads. One road beckons forward and upward to a new destiny under God, and the other leads backwards and downwards to a frightening nowhere. God has told us of such moments, but God doesn't write them in the sky. It is for people of sensitivity and prophetic insight to recognize them when they come and to discern the alternatives and their consequences.
Clearly, for South Africa such a moment came when a choice had to be made to stride out courageously into a great experiment of nonracial democracy or to retreat into a black night of fear and suppression. Equally clear is the fact that that moment has passed. Some recognized it and cried out, but they were not in the seats of power and their words fell on ears deafened by the catch phrases of self-interest and prejudice. In South Africa the choice was made when in a new postwar world a government was elected that pledged itself to eternal division and domination. For nearly two decades now, we have seen them proceed with blind determination and ruthlessness such as only those driven by self-interest can be capable of.
The recent assassination of Prime Minister H. F. Verwoerd is something that only fools will welcome: a meaningless, useless, depraved act—as are all acts of violence. It is certain to unleash more bitterness into a community already sick to its soul. When we remember that the leaders of Afrikaner nationalism have never been merely politicians, but are viewed as the high priests of a racist ideology, the consequences of such an act are likely to be emotional as well as political, making clear and honest thinking even more difficult.
Dr. Verwoerd's successor has no benevolent and fatherly image; neither has he the same measure of intellectual brilliance. It is unlikely that he will be able as cleverly to tread the razor edge of international statecraft (so important if South Africa is to remain undisturbed by an inquisitive world). Mr. Vorster is not as adept at creating smokescreens, nor has he ever tried to. He is a man of immense personal influence and emotion, and he possesses a demagogue's power to sway people. As an orator he is capable of expressing almost religiously the creed of Afrikaner nationalism.
Which Way South Africa?
The way looks stormy indeed, but I am a Christian and Christians believe that the roots of politics are always deeper than politics. We are not dealing merely with this or that policy when we place the South African crisis into a Christian context; we are faced with the same battle as are Christians everywhere—in Poland or East Germany or Alabama or Australia. We are grappling with unredeemed human nature and the way it behaves when its interests are threatened. The South African crisis is a crisis for Christianity and for all who name the name of Christ, anywhere.
In the political sense the moment of choice may have passed. In human terms it would appear that nothing can arrest the downward slide. But God has given a promise that if God's people anywhere hear God's voice and turn to choose the road of obedience, even if they have failed in the past, a new dimension can invade the vicious circle of our folly and fear to "heal the land." It is this promise that is the only hope for South Africa in the immediate future. This promise must become the watchword of South African Christians in the present hour.
When I speak of God's Church, I speak of people in every denomination—black and white. I speak not only of conferences and assemblies whose words have rung rather hollow of late. I speak of those in every group who will see that the claims of Christ must be held above the claims of nationalism and race. I see emerging out of Christ's crucible in South Africa a new "Confessing Church" drawn from Roman Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans—in fact every denomination including (and most significant) the Dutch Reformed Church, whose united witness will be to confess the lordship of Christ over the claims of Caesar. I believe that this "new body" is already painfully taking shape in movements like the Christian Institute founded by Dutch Reformed minister Beyers Naude.
The predictable comment on this would be that it has all come rather late. It is late— terribly late, and I could spend time analyzing some of the reasons for this. But the question is whether any move in the right direction is too late for God to make use of. Late as it is, perhaps it is not too late. I believe that Christ's Church in South Africa will answer his call to a task of costly redemption in a sick society. In the years ahead I see three great patterns of ministry for the South African Church:
The Church must prepare to be the only consistent witness to the Gospel truths about humanity and God. The essence of free speech lies not only in the freedom to say what you like (a freedom most Christians still hold in South Africa) but also in the right to be heard publicly and widely. With radio in government hands and newspapers increasingly hemmed in with intimidating legislation, this second freedom is no longer fully enjoyed. Consequently the bravest and wisest statements never filter through to the mass of the population. In a nation where the mass media is almost totally controlled by the state, where only a few English-speaking newspapers valiantly struggle to maintain their integrity in the face of intimidation, where politicians in high places speak openly of the "excellent progress of conditioning our people," Christian Churches, schools (where we still have them), and Sunday schools attain a new significance. They must become enclaves where the brains of people can become "unwashed"; where the minds of children can be garrisoned against the prevailing forces of state-sponsored "Christian-national" education; where truth must combat the accepted myths of racism and "baaskap."
The Church will be the last preserve of genuine interracial contact on a basis other than the master-servant relationship. It must fight to be the place where we can still grasp the hand of people of a different color to discover that they are human and possessed together of the same hopes and fears, joys and sorrows. The Church must be the community where South Africans will find that although they are of different color, their heart hungers are the same.
The Church must fashion a program to fully identify herself through service with those who suffer daily from the economic, material, and emotional consequences of enforced apartheid. In a nation where there are more than eight thousand prisoners of conscience, where more than one thousand people have been detained for periods without trial, where "group area" legislation moves thousands arbitrarily from one place to another, where "influx control" separates husbands from wives and children, Christ's Church is called to engage to a far greater extent in the ministry of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the captive and the sick. In a nation where the oppressed are becoming progressively disillusioned with a talking Christianity, Jesus the Healer must be manifested through a far greater invasion of Christian concern in among the sufferers.
The Church must acknowledge the failure and half-heartedness of her recent protests and must energetically explore new paths of Christian resistance. There can be few more damning indictments of the Church than the statement by a Communist that he joined the Communist Party "because they were the only group in South Africa who were prepared to suffer."
Christ's "Confessing Church" must accept her destiny to take the initiative out of the hands of those who think in the archaic and tragic language of violence. Bloodshed and violence on a massive scale will not be avoided by crying "Peace, peace, when there is no peace." It will only be staved off by the injection of a new force for social change into the dilemma. Some form of nonviolent Christian action must speak where words have failed.
This could only issue out of a great call to repentance, which would, I believe, be heeded by far more white people than most outsiders would think possible. There is a great yearning to be rid of the guilt of the years, and it is not impossible for God to make the yearning for righteousness greater than a person's fear.
The shape of any program of nonviolent resistance would, I suppose, be peculiarly South African; it would have to be utterly Christian in motive. I do not know what its chances would be to actually bring social change, but I remember with hope, that Mahatma Gandhi won his first great victory with "soul-force" on the roads of Natal in South Africa.
Which way South Africa? I believe that the answer will be found in the urgency of another question: "Which way the Church of Jesus Christ in South Africa?" My prayer is that she will see her moment of destiny and gladly embrace whatever suffering it may involve. If she does, then my certainty is that, come what may, neither Vorster, nor racism, nor nationalism, nor even the gates of hell shall prevail against her.CHAPTER 2
South African Council of Churches Commitment Service Central Methodist Church Sunday before the Soweto Shootings, June 13,1976
They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 8:11 RSV)
How blest are the peacemakers; God shall call them his sons. (Matthew 5:9)
In January 1976, after serving for five years in District Six, Cape Town, and four years pastoring a student church in Johannesburg, I was appointed senior pastor of the Central Methodist Church in downtown Johannesburg. It was an honor, with added meaning for me because my father was converted there in the 1920s and had been the first candidate for ordination to come from its congregation. "Central," as everybody knew it, was South African Methodism's premier pulpit. The congregation had been founded in 1886, on the gold diggings on the South African veld that later became the new city of Johannesburg.
In its early days, it had operated like the great Central Halls of England and Australia— offering powerful evangelical preaching, while engaging the poor with ministries of social care. Over the years, however, Central Church had become an increasingly "First Church"-type congregation priding itself more on the number of mayors it had produced than ministries. Like most Methodist Churches of the day, it was open in theory and segregated in practice. I came to its pulpit convinced that this great Church needed to return to its first love—the poor of the city—and that we could have little prophetic impact on the culture of apartheid unless our membership was racially inclusive. These convictions would lead to radical changes at Central Church, but they would take time to unfold.
The service where this sermon was preached was the first attended by a significant number of black people. Six months into this new appointment, I was asked to conduct a Service of Commitment for the staff of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), who were becoming increasingly the target of state pressure. The SACC was leading church opposition to the apartheid regime's deeply resented policies on black education. They needed encouragement.
None of us knew that three days after this service the political landscape of South Africa would change forever.
* * *
In welcoming the officers and staff of the South African Council of Churches tonight I am mindful of the purpose to which the SACC, representing the majority of Christians in this land, is called. You are called to "foster the unity of Christians in South Africa, and to further the Kingdom of God by so doing." That search for Christian unity goes on.
Recently, however, an even greater priority has pressed upon you: that of bearing witness to the wider unity God wants for all God's children. You have been inexorably drawn into the struggle for justice and reconciliation between the people of this land, the struggle for South Africa's soul.
Your commitment to this struggle has brought unpopularity. You have suffered public smears by the South African Broadcasting Corporation and private persecution by the security police. Please know today that your stand has also brought the everlasting gratitude of countless "little people" in this land who thank God for your caring.
There is no group of people more realistically and extensively working for peaceful change in South Africa today than the SACC. Of you, I believe Jesus would want to say, "How blest are the peacemakers; God shall call them his sons"—and daughters (Matthew 5:9).
Jesus, the Prince of Peace, and Son of God, calls those who work for peace his brothers and sisters. Those who stand in a divided world, pointing the way to unity; those who live in a hateful world, demonstrating the way of love; those who share with Jesus the ministry of reconciliation; these are the people most closely related to him. In these days when only the work of the peacemaker can avert terrible strife, this great task is not just for you, but for all of us who name the name of Christ.
Who, then, are Christ's peacemakers? How shall we know them? How shall we too become peacemakers with Jesus?
Called by God
Hundreds of years before Christ, in an encounter with the living God, a young man was told that before he had been formed in the womb, already he was marked to be a prophet. He protested that he was a mere child, but God spoke sternly to him:
Do not call yourself a child; for you shall go to whatever people I send you and say whatever I tell you to say. Fear none of them, for I am with you and will keep you safe. (Jeremiah 1:7, 8)
It was the experience of this encounter with God that called Jeremiah to offer himself as messenger to a stubborn nation. From then on he was on a new road with new priorities. In the midst of deep suffering and struggle, he was to say that the word of the Lord was like "a fire blazing in my heart" (Jeremiah 20:9), something he could never put out.
Excerpted from With God in the Crucible by Peter Storey. Copyright © 2002 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
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