Seminary training and black consciousness in South Africa in the early 1970s

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Seminar Date
November 12, 2008
This paper shows that in at least three South African seminaries – the Federal Theological Seminary in Alice, the Lutheran Theological College in Umphumulo and St Peter’s Seminary in Hammanskraal – a substantial number of staff and students developed a symbiotic relationship with the black consciousness movement in the early part of its history. For the people trained in these seminaries, the involvement in SASO, the Black Community Programmes and the other components of the black consciousness movement had a lasting effect on their understanding of ministry or, if they left active church service, on the orientation of their professional life. While studying for the ministry, they discovered ways of integrating spiritual life, social action and political engagement that they had never imagined before. The seminaries, on the other hand, significantly contributed to the vitality of the black consciousness movement in the early 1970s. They did not only play a role in the development of black theology, as one would expect of theological institutions, but in social and political organisations such as SASO, the Black People’s Convention or the Black Community Programmes. This was especially true of Fedsem which developed, until it was expropriated by the state, strong links with the SASO’s Fort Hare branch, the BCP office in King William’s Town, Jwaxa Home Industry and the Zanempilo clinic. Seminary staff and students or former students occupied key positions in SASO and related organisations. This was also true, although to a lesser degree, of the Lutheran Theological College, where support for the black consciousness grew at a slower pace and in St Peter’s Seminary, Hammanskraal where, after 1971, black consciousness faced opposition from the seminary authorities.
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