The challenge of sickness to African Christian ministry

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CHAPTER 3 AN AFRICAN UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHURCH, HEALTH AND SICKNESS PHENOMENA

Introduction

In this chapter, I explore the African context in as far as it relates to health and sickness. Zerfass (Heyns in Heyns & Pieterse 1990:36) points to the actual situation as the second area that needs consideration in the search for possible causes of and solutions to church or congregational problem praxis. Various concepts that have a bearing on the definition, articulation and practice of the health and illness in Africa will be described. This will be done through a study of relevant literature. The exercise is aimed at generating background information in the light of which black African members of the HKSA’s belief systems and behaviour, especially with regard to the health and sickness phenomena may be understood. Such an understanding is necessary for a design of a meaningful Christian ministry to the sick in an African context which is the ultimate concern of this thesis. I tackle the African Context as a single entity though aware of the diversity that exists in terms of the composition of continental peoples, their cultures and religions. It is in view of the existence, in spite of the differences, of the core of Africannes that runs through these different cultures and religions that one may speak of an African world-view (cf. Imasogie 1993:53). The African traditional religions are an important source and point of departure for the discussion of Christianity in Africa and its activities. In the next section we learn of the significance of the African traditional religions in the articulation and praxis of the church in Africa.

The African traditional religions as source and point of departure

African religion is an important source of and a good starting point for a meaningful discussion of Christianity, the church and/or ministry in Africa (cf. Mbiti 1989:59, Kalilombe 1979:143-157). It is therefore imperative for theologians and ministry practitioners who work within the African context to seriously explore the African traditional religions. Ezeanya (1969:46), concluding a chapter entitled: God, spirits and the spirit world (with special reference to the Igbo-speaking people of Southern Nigeria) says:
It is necessary, therefore, that all scholars, teachers and heralds of the Gospel should co-operate in this task of seeking to understand the essence of African religion. We are convinced that there are in African life and thought hidden treasures, precious germs, provided by God for the embellishment of the Gospel. The present generation has inherited a precious tradition from its forbears – a tradition that puts God first in everything, a tradition in which the spiritual takes precedence over the material.The significance of African religions in the life of African peoples deserves serious consideration in the search for answers regarding African life’s deepest need. Mbiti (1989:59) writes in this regards:African religion sprouted spontaneously without a founder. In the course of time it provided working answers to the mysteries and problems of life and has been passed down from generation to generation through oral tradition, ritual, ceremonies, dance and common memory. It colours all aspects of life.In the light of this insight it is right to conclude that African religion is the core of the
African world view (cf. Teffo 2003:165). It is therefore necessary that the dynamics of African traditional religion be explored if a better understanding of the workings of African Christian religious life is to emerge. An exploration of the African worldview will bring clarity in respect of the deep groundedness of contemporary African life upon the African traditional religion. There is, in African traditional religions, invaluable wealth for Christian theology and ministry in Africa. The following elements of African traditional religion(s) are especially admirable:
a) There is a widespread belief in a supreme God, unique and transcendent.
b) Africans have a sense of the sacred and a sense of mystery; there is high reverence for sacred places, persons and objects; sacred times are celebrated.
c) Belief in the afterlife is incorporated in myths and in funeral ceremonies.
d) The invisible world of spirits and ancestors is always present and the intentions of these spirits can be ascertained; care is taken to ascertain the will of the spirit to whom sacrifices may be due or from whom protection may be sought.
e) Religion enfolds the whole life; there is no dichotomy between life and religion.
f) Ancestors mediate between God and man (sic).
g) Belief in the efficacy of intercessory prayer is widespread.
h) Bodily purification is required before one may approach to offer sacrifice to God; there are nevertheless provisions for spiritual purification also.
i) It is believed that sin harms the public good; hence there are periodical purification rites in order to promote public welfare.
j) Worship requires a fundamental attitude of strict discipline and reverence.
k) Pardon is final and acknowledged by all: an offence, once forgiven, is never recalled4.

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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
1.1 Orientation 
1.2 Research problem 
1.2.1 Sickness constitutes a serious threat in Africa
1.2.2 The challenge of sickness to African Christian ministry
1.3 Problem statement
1.3.1 The problem of world-view
1.3.2 The church’s disregard of Christ’s healing commission
1.3.3 Perceptions that block the healing ministry practice
1.3.3.1 We want to have nothing to do with faith healing
1.3.3.2 My sickness is a cross sent from God
1.3.3.3 Only saints can do miracles, not ordinary men and women
1.3.3.4 We do not need signs and wonders; we have faith
1.3.3.5 Miracles only represent a primitive expression of reality
1.3.3.6 Further perceptions that led to rejection of the Christian healing ministry
1.4 Consequences of the neglect of the African world-view 
1.5 Personal experiences 
1.6 The need for a theological rethinking 
1.7 Practical theology 
1.7.1 A general orientation
1.7.2 Definitions of Practical Theology
1.7.3 Practical theological approaches in South Africa
1.7.3.1 The confessional approach
1.7.3.2 The correlative approach
1.7.3.3 The contextual approach
1.7.4 Evaluation of the South African practical theological approaches
1.7.4.1 Evaluating the confessional approach
1.7.4.2 Evaluating the correlative approach
1.7.4.3 Evaluating the contextual approach
1.7.5 The practical theological approach chosen for the current thesis
1.8 Research assumptions
1.9 Research question 
1.10 Research aims
1.11 Methodology 
1.11.1 Zerfass’ methodological model
1.11.2 A brief description of the workings of Zerfass’ model
1.11.2.1 Diagrammatic presentation
1.11.2.2 Explanation
1.12 An outline of the thesis 
CHAPTER 2 A CHRISTIAN MINISTRY TO THE SICK IN THE HERVORMDE KERK FAMILY
2.1 Introduction 
2.2 Clarifying the concept “Hervormde Kerk Family” (HKF) 
2.3 Reformation principles and the church’s self-understanding 
2.3.1 A brief sketch of the Reformed view of the church
2.3.2 The Reformed view of the true church
2.4 Understanding the ministry of the Hervormde Kerk in Suidelike
Afrika in general 
2.4.1 The shepherd metaphor
2.4.2 Further terms used to extricate the meaning and function of the ministry
2.4.2.1 Episkopein
2.4.2.2 Parakalein
2.4.2.3 Nouthetein
2.4.2.4 Katartidzein
2.4.2.5 Oikodomein
2.5 The view of ministry to the sick in the Hervormde Kerk Family
2.5.1 An overview
2.5.2 Ministry as defined in the Hervormde Kerk Family
2.5.3 Pastoral care to the sick in the Hervormde Kerk Family
2.6 Theological principles governing special pastoral care in the Hervormde Kerk Family, their significance and authority 
2.7 Views of health and sickness 
2.7.1 What is health?
2.7.2 The view of sickness in the Hervormde Kerk Family
2.8 Strategies employed to minister to the sick in the Hervormde Kerk Family 
2.8.1 An overview
2.8.2 Visit to the sick in homes and at hospital
2.8.3 The content of the task of visiting the sick
2.8.4 The church’s ministry in hospital
2.8.5 Evaluation
CHAPTER 3 AN AFRICAN UNDERSTANDING OF THE CHURCH ANDTHE HEALTH AND SICKNESS PHENOMENA
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The African traditional religions as a source and point of departure 
3.3 The African world-view and reflection on the concept “world-view” 
3.3.1 The African world-view is holistic
3.3.2 The African world-view is characterised by strong community bonds
3.3.3 The African world-view has a dynamism and vitalism
3.3.4 The African world-view has a heightened sense of the sacred
3.3.5 The African world-view is characterised by anthropocentrism
3.4 The African understanding of the concept “church” 
3.5 The belief in ancestors, its implications and impact on descendants 
3.6 The concept “health” in African perspective 
3.6.1 The definition of and reflection on “health” in Africa
3.6.2 The significance of health among Africans
3.7 The African view of illness 
3.7.1 A description of illness as viewed in Africa
3.7.2 Causes of illness in Africa, especially witchcraft and sorcery
3.8 Healing 
3.9 Conduct of members of the Hervormde Kerk in Suidelike Africa in the face of illness/misfortune
3.10 Evaluation 
CHAPTER 4 THE HEALTH AND ILLNESS CHALLENGE TO THE MINISTRY OF THE HERVORMDE KERK FAMILY
4.1 Introduction 
4.2 The issue of world-view
4.2.1 Characteristics of the Western world-view
4.2.1.1 The Western world-view is naturalistic
4.2.1.2 Materialism dominates the Western world-view
4.2.1.3 Western society is humanistic
4.2.1.4 Reason has become the primary way of understanding reality
4.2.1.5 Western world-view highly values individualism and independence
4.2.1.6 Westerners tend to be open to change
4.2.2 Western and African world-views: a critical comparative reflection and highlight of basic beliefs underlying the two world-views
4.3 Reformation principles and their possible influence on the Hervormde Kerk in Suidelike Afrika’s attitude towards the healing ministry 
4.3.1 The principle of Sola Scriptura
4.3.2 The principle of Sola Fide
4.3.3 The principle of Sola Gratia
4.4 Reformed understanding of the concept “church” in relation to the African understanding of the same concept 
4.4.1 The significance of beliefs of some AICs
4.4.2 Is it ideal for the Hervormde Kerk in Suidelike Afrika to adopt AICs’ approach?
4.5 A resume of the Reformed understand of the ministry to the sick 
4.6 The Hervormde Kerk Family’s understanding of her ministry to the sick 
4.7 Reflection on possible reasons for the rejection of the healing ministry
4.7.1 Healing ministry-disabling factors in the Reformed tradition
4.7.2 Disabling factors in the African church for a theologically sound ministry
4.8 The Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika’s awareness and identification of the need for the church’s healing ministry in the Hervormde Kerk in Suidelike Afrika 
4.9 The healing mission of the church 
4.10 An evaluation of the dialogue and the way forward
CHAPTER 5 THE REFORMED CHURCH’S HEALING MINISTRY IN AFRICA
5.1 Introduction 
5.2 The Afro-Christian framework 
5.2.1 The term “Afro-Christian”
5.2.2 The rationale for the use of the term “Afro-Christian”
5.2.3 Patriarchy as an obstacle in the way to a healthy healing ministry
5.2.4 Deconstructing patriarchy for the sake of the church’s healing ministry
5.3 From the provisional conclusion to a new theological theory 
5.3.1 The importance of human solidarity in the healing ministry
5.3.2 The indispensability of human contact with God for health
5.3.3 The dependence of healing upon God’s will
5.3.4 The mystery of healing
5.3.5 God has great concern for human well being
5.3.6 Human sickness and healing know no discrimination
5.3.7 The close connection between human illness and personal and social evil
5.3.8 Healing is an act of compassion, love and sympathy
5.3.9 Healing in Africa is a holistic concern
5.3.10 The twofold concern as characteristic of Jesus’ healing ministry
5.3.11 Healing is a present as well as an eschatological reality
5.3.12 Evaluation
5.4 Developing a new theological theory 
5.4.1 Healing is a necessary component of the African church’s ministry
5.4.2 The new practical theological theory has healing as central component
5.5 Guidelines for ministry in Africa 
5.5.1 A new appreciation of the efficacy of Christ’s power over evil spiritual forces.
5.5.2 A new emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit and the present mediatory efficacy of the Living Christ
5.5.3 A new emphasis on the omnipresence of God and the subsequent Sacramental nature of the universe
5.6 Landscaping the envisaged church’s healing ministry 
5.6.1 An overview
5.6.2 The church’s healing ministry must embody the African communal system.
5.6.3 The rites of anointing the sick, laying on of hands, exorcism and music
5.6.3.1 The rite of anointing the sick
5.6.3.2 The laying on of hands
5.6.3.3 Exorcism
5.6.3.4 Song and music and their therapeutic value
5.7 The church’s healing ministry in practice
5.7.1 Facilitation of the healing ministry in the Hervormde Kerk Family
5.7.2 The composition of the healing ministry team
5.7.3 The functions of the healing ministry team
5.7.4 The modus operandi of the proposed healing ministry
5.7.5 The healing service procedure
5.8 Conclusion 
5.9 Recommendations for further research 
Appendix 1 
Appendix 2 
BIBLIOGRAPHY 

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