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Policing African traditional religion and culture in the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

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This study explores the attitude of the Methodist Church of Zimbabwe (MCZ) towards African traditional religion and culture. It is mostly concerned with how the colonial missionary Methodist Church informs the attitude of the postcolonial Church. The church’s colonial history is framed as the basis of the negative approach of the postcolonial church toward inculturation, and it is argued to account for the lack of appetite for reformation and change in the ecclesiology and theology of the postcolonial Methodist Church. The study identifies and interrogates the theological and ideological reasons for policing and maintaining regimes of surveillance on African traditional religion and culture by both the colonial and postcolonial Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. The study draws on Church documents, such as the Deed of Church Order and Standing Orders, minutes of conferences, organisational and farms policy documents, as well as archival material dealing with the historical relationship between the MCZ and African traditional religion and culture. The archival materials used in this research were found in two locations: the Methodist Church Archive (MCA) and the National Archive of Zimbabwe (NAZ), both of which are in Harare. A postcolonial approach to archival research was used to reveal and expose previously overlooked perspectives on the church, and to highlight the voices of subaltern resistance to church suppression of indigenous religions. The research is guided by two theoretical frameworks, namely, postcolonial theory and Foucauldian analysis of governmentality. The two frameworks were ideal in achieving the objectives of this research. They were used, firstly, to highlight and examine how the colonial Methodist Church impacted or influenced the thinking and attitude of the postcolonial Church regarding the place and relevance of African traditional religion and culture in the Church. Secondly, they were used to investigate and illuminate the tactics, techniques, strategies, and schemes used by the MCZ to govern people’s belief systems and to shut out African traditional religion and culture. Thus, this study argues that Church policies and regimes of discipline were primarily oriented toward excluding African traditional religion and culture, and that current efforts at inculturation and indigenising the Church rely on colonial representations of African traditional religion and culture. Further, a Foucauldian analysis of Church rules and policies reveal the extent to which orientation towards African traditional religion and culture remain unreformed


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.