In my second pass around the stalls, I came across another two Christian societies: Vineyard Christian Fellowship and Stellenbosch Baptist Students. I also failed to mention TBT — The Bible Talks — associated with The Church of England in South Africa. (Oh, and I also neglected to mention Die Voortrekkers / Staatmakers.)
I was hoping to come across a Jewish and/or Muslim society as well, but no such luck. Unless it is hidden behind some non-obvious acronym, I could also not find such groups on the list of societies on the University website. I suspect the Jewish and Muslim communities are strong enough to function independently and not require society-status?
The Dutch-Reformed church was only represented via the outreach programs falling under the “Crux-aksie” umbrella, Dutch-Reformed membership is typically a family thing. Stellenbosch Gemeente was also not represented, I think most of SG’s marketing is word-of-mouth.
Below follows more from discussions with various groups.
A number of groups are quite strongly against evolution. The “big two” in Stellenbosch is generally Shofar and EveryNation. I’m careful of making sweeping statements about other churches, as I cannot usually be sure whether it is just personal opinion or general church policy.
The rep I talked to at the NewGen (New Generation) church stall said evolution is out of the question, and believed in a literal six-days creation less than 10,000 years ago. I assume this goes for the whole church.
The Stellenbosch Baptist Students stall was manned by one of their pastors, in charge of Students & Youth. He has a conservative approach, and reads Genesis literally. He received his education at a Bible college whose name I’m afraid I forgot. (Bad journalist, me.)
TBT describes it’s theology as “evangelical, reformed, conservative”. By conservative, they mean the Bible is without error. I’m not sure what they mean by that actually, there are different ideas of what constitutes “error” and what doesn’t. The individuals I talked to were relatively apathetic about the “creationism-evolution debate”. One had some “evolutionist” friends (attending TBT, I assume. My memory is weak, my notes are weaker. Bad, bad journalist.)
The rep at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship stall gave me the name of the person I should talk to. (The rep’s personal perspectives involved little exposure to evolution theory and a dislike of the idea that humans and present-day apes share a common ancestor.)
The Anglican society is associated with, well, the Anglican church. Their theology is similar to Episcopalian theology. There is some diversity in the international organisation, with one extreme found in Nigeria, and the other in New Hampshire (USA). Backed by “serious theology”, their views should be compatible with secular social sciences. I expect most of the leaders in the organisation would accept theistic evolution.
My preference definitely remains with congregations that have leaders with serious theological study in their background, for example from the University’s faculty of theology. In Stellenbosch, this would include (but not limited to) the Dutch Reformed church and Stellenbosch Gemeente. I hear they share a common vision, the minor doctrinal differences are not of much concern. The greatest majority of “well-educated” leaders will be accepting of science. Expecting them to publicly stand by evolution acceptance might be too much to expect though, each congregation has a diversity of members with diverse perspectives. Also, the cooperation between churches is more important than their promotion of science: the most significant science promotion will have to be done by the scientists and the scientifically minded.
And then there’s of course the Freethinking Maties society, seeking to promote scientific understanding, science education (including evolution), promoting freedom of religion, including the right to unbelief.
I’m not going to be able to give a detailed breakdown, as I am unable to represent all groups to equal depth. In particular, I didn’t ask the more liberal-leaning groups about this matter. My typical question was whether homosexuals would feel welcome in their congregation. From there I usually received a response reflecting the “love the sinner, hate the sin” idea, often with elements of “but we are very accepting and open” mixed in — homosexuals are typically welcome just like other sinners (adulterers, fornicators?) are welcome… Whether they really feel welcome or not, is of course another question altogether. I don’t know if there are any churches in Stellenbosch that would actually be prepared to “host” a homosexual marriage. Actually, I strongly doubt it. This town’s general community is probably too conservative, making such an event too controversial?
On “Primary Emphasis” and Social Action
This was rather hard to determine. Some groups place most emphasis on the evangelical side, caring mostly about “winning souls”, on the theory that once they have Jesus in their lives, everything else should improve…
Other groups place pleasing amounts of emphasis on sharing love/compassion and making a difference in the community, trying to help break the cycle of poverty. For example, one of the outreach programs under the “Crux-aksies” umbrella is “Funda Fundisa” (Xhosa for “Teach and Learn”, not to be confused with fundamentalism). This is an outreach program providing tutoring in Maths, Science, English, Biology and Accounting at Kayamandi High school. (Kayamandi is Stellenbosch’s informal settlement, or “shanty town”.) With regards to cooperation, I know Stellenbosch Gemeente is forming partnerships with Vineyard Christian Fellowship and the Dutch Reformed church (and/or vice-versa). I’m sure there are more alliances that I am not yet aware of.
As mentioned in the previous post, there are also non-religious organisations such as Habitat for Humanity which works to help build houses for families from a low-income background, and UNA-SA, which is committed to the millennium development goals.
Ok, enough of that, I’ve gotta go to bed. I hope this is good enough, I’m hitting Publish without another re-read.