An exploration of the possible pastoral care role of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa in regard to political developments through a re-reading of Luther’s treatise on “temporal authority”.
This study seeks to examine the interpretation and the possible pastoral care role of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern (ELCSA) Africa with reference to political developments through a re-reading of Luther’s treatise on ‘temporal authority’. The study examines how the dominant theology within the Lutheran church, for most of the history of Lutheranism in South Africa, has been appropriated in relation to political developments in South Africa and to investigate Luther’s treatise on temporal authority in a bid to discover whether it can be used as justification by ELCSA for providing pastoral care to political leadership. The researcher aimed to uncover the source of the silence of the church on socioeconomic and political developments in contemporary South Africa. From a practical pastoral theological perspective, the church is expected to challenge socio-economic and political developments that endanger the realization of life in its fullness. Further, the church as an institution is pastorally expected to be the conscience of society on socio-economic and political issues, including corruption. However, the silence of the church is deafening (Buthelezi, 2014). The Corruption Act of 1992 (as amended by the 2004 Act) indicates the need for civil society (including the religious sector) to act as a watchdog against corruption, whilst also ensuring that it does not become engaged in corrupt practices. Corruption, in a nutshell, can be either ‘active’ or ‘passive’. Active corruption is the giving of benefits by the corruptor (the giver) to the corrupted (the receiver). Passive corruption is the receiving of a benefit by the corrupted from the corruptor. In present-day South Africa, social media, the public media (print, online and television), and other avenues of public discourse such as conferences and social movements are placing intense focus on governance challenges facing the country, in particular the leadership ethics of politicians. For instance, Roman Catholic priests have asked the Public Protector to conduct an investigation into the relationship between the President of South Africa and the Gupta family (African News Agency 2016). In addition, The South African Council of Churches and the Religious Leaders’ Forum have also responded to the Constitutional Court’s ruling on the upgrades to the Nkandla presidential private residence. Can Martin Luther’s treatise on the earthly justifications of the church respond to the current socio-economic and political scenario and provide a guide for the church? Can the treatise on temporal authority identify the justification of the church to engage robustly with the political leadership with the view of enabling politicians to be both efficient and effective politicians, and ethically correct from a Christian perspective? Should the church not speak out based on Luther’s example? What, how, when and why should the church offer in terms of providing pastoral care to the temporal authority (the political leadership)? What theological grounds can the church employ from its tradition or dogma on which to base its response to political developments in South Africa? Should the church be speaking out on political developments, and what specifically should the church be discussing? The Lord’s Prayer appeals: ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven’. The church through its representative figures has the role of guiding the temporal authority towards the will of God as they herald the coming of the kingdom. Any human behavior that disturbs the coming of the Kingdom of God and the experience of the will of God being done on earth as it is done in heaven needs to be critiqued and questioned by the church. In order for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa to realise this mission, it must maintain a critical distance between itself and the state.