Repository logo

The legacy of a prophetic moment : a socio-theological study of the reception and response to the Kairos Document amongst churches faith- communities and individuals in South Africa and within the international ecumenical community focussing on the English-speaking churches in South Africa with special reference to the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The Kairos Document ('KD' or 'Document') burst onto the socio-political and ecclesiastical scene in South Africa in 1985, presenting to churches, communities-of-faith and individuals the challenge of a decisive moment in the history of Christian opposition to Apartheid. The nature and extent of reactions and responses to the document exceeded the authors wildest dreams and most optimistic of expectations. This study traces the contours and discerns the patterns of reactions against and resonances with the Document in South Africa and within the international ecumenical community. The main focus of this research, however, is on the propensity and capacity of the institutionalised churches - and in particular the English-speaking churches in South Africa - to respond positively and constructively to a prophetic challenge, such that which emanated from the KD and the subsequent Kairos movement. One of the English-speaking churches, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), is singled out in this thesis and subjected to an extended examination and analysis, relative to its response to the challenge of the Document. The main reason for this special reference to the UCCSA is that this church denomination had embarked on a major process of ecclesiastical and denominational transformation in its response to the challenge of Kairos. It is 'upon this process of transformation within the UCCSA that I seek to critically reflect and to draw some learnings from the prophetic legacy of the Document. The UCCSA also happens to be the church denomination in which I have been nurtured in Christian faith, practice and ministry. The work, worship and witness of this church is therefore the primary frame of reference and ecclesiastical context in which my own prophetic consciousness has been awakened and shaped. I am, as such, acutely aware that my research on the responses to the KD by the UCCSA is being undertaken from the perspectives of an insider and that my passion for and commitment to the prophetic role of the Church makes me no neutral observer. It is my contention, however, that the above factors neither compromise nor diminish the academic credibility and ecumenical significance of this study. On the contrary, my strategic positioning within the UCCSA enables me to undertake such research from a privileged vantage point of first-hand experience, readily accessible data and greater understanding which derives from such close proximity. Needless to say, I shall endeavour to be as rigorous and critical as possible in my appraisal of the UCCSA's response which, in the final analysis, is an integral part of my overall critique of the nature of the churches' responses to the prophetic challenge of the KD.


Thesis (Ph.D.) - University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 1998.


Liberation Theology--South Africa., Kairos documents., Religion and politics--South Africa., Church and state--South Africa., Theology, Doctrinal--South Africa--20Th Century.