The South African Commission: Reconciliation or ?

Speaker: Categories: Jul 14, 2001


[1hr, 18min, 56sec / 45min, 42sec]


What has been (or should have been) the SDA organizational involvement in politics -- at home or abroad -- in recent years? Is it possible, even desirable, at times to mix religion and politics? If such potential mixing is far distant from denominational headquarters, might the answer(s) to some of the above questions be swayed?

Gustavo Gutierrez, seminal theologian and author ofA Theology of Liberation,"notes July's speaker,"once commended SDAs forhaving in the face of severe injustice, suffering, and oppression identified with the poorest of the poor and incarnated the gospel in ways which profoundly impacted the spiritual, social, economic, and political life of the community. Of course, we all know that the story has not been quite this simple or pretty in every place and time."

Dr. Webster asserts:"If truth be told, Seventh-day Adventism is something of an enigma when it comes to responsible Christian ethics in the public sphere. The historical record speaks of occasional (and sometimes even remarkable) instances of individual insight, foresight, and quiet heroism together with modestly effective (though episodic) examples of strong corporate prophetic witness. But, unfortunately, the record also reveal s, in all too many cases, our abysmal  failure even to recognize moral and theological implications of socio-economic and political situations, resulting all too often in abject conformity to the status quo, or worse -- corporate complicity in injustice, discrimination and oppression. The largely untold story of the Adventist church's ongoing struggle with colonialism, class-ism, racism (and now economic neo-colonialism) in Africa from the 1880's to the present, proffers many examples of each of these kinds of response."

In the July 14 Forum presentation John Webster will highlight one small episode in a larger story - - the events surrounding the recent response of the Southern African Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to the Government's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize recipient). In 1 ate 1997 and early 1998, according to Webster, the church submitted an official, eight-pageStatement of Confession, which he largely wrote, detailing its role (or lack of it) with respect to apartheid. This eye-witness will explore the issues of confession, forgiveness, truth, and reconciliation, moving from the situation in South Africa to the task of the church in general.


Since January 1999 Dr. John Webster has served as Professor of Theology and History of Christianity in the School of Religion, La Sierra University, joining the faculty there after eight years of teaching and serving as Chairman of the Theology Department at Helderberg College, South Africa. He has devoted nine years to pastoral service and nine years in graduate work and research in the USA. He earned his B.A. and B. Th. at the University of South Africa; his M.A. at Andrews University, and h is Ph. D. cum Laude from Princeton Theological Seminary. His research and publishing interests include the problems of theological methodology, the theology of Karl Barth, issues in science and religion, history, ethics, and postmodernism.


Some of his research and presentations provide particular background for the July discussion including:Reconceptualizing Theological Education for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Africa, a paper presented at the Pan-African Conference of SDA Theologians, Solusi University, 1994;After Apartheid What? A Theological Reflection on Divine and Human Justice in the New South Africa, a paper presented to the Theological Society of South Africa, University of Stellenbosch, 1993.

He and his wife of twenty-four years, Cheryl Rosemary Webster (nee Harvey), have four children: Craig (23) BA (Physics), Princeton University; Gregory (21) 3rd year BA (Theology& Psychology) student, La Sierra University;· Rochelle (16) La Sierra Academy senior; Kevin (11) La Sierra Junior High, grade 7. Though he and his wife and two older children have South African citizenship, they also have Permanent Resident status in the USA (i.e. Resident Alien or Green Card holders). With such perspective, concepts sharedat the first meeting of the new 2001/02 Forum year should be all the more interesting.

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