A quest for a liberatory learning ethos : a case study of the women's associations in the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa.
This study was sparked by a concern abou t the impact of economic and social injustices and ecological destruction on the livelihoods of communities in Southern Africa. While the churches’ responses to th ese injustices have been palliative and benevolent, the study argues th at the church has not done enough to critically engage the oppressive systems which maintain these in justices. One of th e key questions that this study seeks to answer is: What is needed in order to develop a culture of ‘critical engagement’ given that the church has oppo rtunities, means and infrastructure to enable a critical and liberatory ethos, for the community at large? In order to answer this que stion, a case study with the Wo men’s Associations of the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) was pursued. This case study allowed for an intensive investigati on of the Women’s Associations in the church through which pertinent questions we re asked of how and why things happen in the way that they do. The research question therefore was “In the light of the enormous challenges faced by women in church and society in the twenty-first century in Southern Africa, do the Women’s Associations in the UCCSA offer a liberatory learning ethos to enable individual and communal empowerment for its members?” The study first establishes principles of a liberatory learning ethos that could be empowering to women. These principles for a liberatory learning ethos are drawn from two theoretical frameworks, namely, Village learning and African Women’s theologies. Thereafter, the study describes the current challenges faced by women in Southern Africa so as to explain why a liberatory learning ethos is a necessity in the Women’s Associations of the UCCSA. A survey of the prevalent learning ethos is undertaken in order to demonstrate some of the limitations the Women’s Associations and the UCCSA experience in responding to the challenges faced by women. The study concludes with an exploration to establish the extent to which African culture and theological resources developed in Southern Africa can assist to construct a liberatory learning ethos for the Women’s Associations of the UCCSA. Such an ethos ought to enable individual and communal empowerment for its members. Key Terms: African and Black Theology; African Traditional Culture; African Women’s Theology; Apartheid Education; Ba tswana; Bible; Biblical hermeneutics; Botho; Council for World Mission; Feminist Theology; Jesus Movement; Kairos Theology; Liberatory Learning Ethos; Missionary Education; Mukti Barton; Paulo Freire; Southern Africa; Steve Biko; Tswana Learning; United Congregational Church of Southern Africa; Village learning; World Alli ance of Reformed Churches; Women’s Associations; World Council of Churches.