Pastoral Theology: Black Church Perspective

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Finally, Deborah Hunsinger relies on Karl Barth's Christocentric understanding of revelation to describe the priority of theological understanding in the practice of pastoral counselling, without precluding a role for therapeutic psychology. In this perspective, practical theological theory offers reflection on concrete counselling cases and clarification of the appropriate relationship between theology and psychology in pastoral counselling and ministry generally. It is, of course, impossible to summarise what these practical theologians have to say about the theory-praxis relationship in a few brief sentences.

The point I want to underscore is how these different understandings of the theory-praxis relationship impact the way practical theologians handle the descriptive-empirical, interpretive, normative and pragmatic tasks of practical theology. Let me illustrate this in terms of the descriptive-empirical task. Graham's emphasis on transforming practices of gender leads her to call for a 'critical phenomenology' to study communities in which such practices are found. This is designed to assist these communities in gleaning the wisdom of their struggle against patriarchy and to help them learn from other communities who are also engaged in this struggle.

In Graham's view, this sort of empirical investigation of communities of transforming practice potentially has ramifications for the normative task of practical theology, because transforming practice is generative of new theological understandings. This understanding of the descriptive-empirical task stands in sharp contrast to Hunsinger's Christocentric Barthianism, which views clinical data and cases as providing insight into the dynamics of particular relationships, but offers nothing to the theologically defined purposes and norms of pastoral counselling.

Dykstra's focus on ecclesial practices centres the descriptive-empirical task primarily on the internal life of congregations. In contrast, Pieterse quite explicitly makes the subject of empirical investigation the congregation-in-context, drawing on a wide range of research to portray the context of poverty in which South African congregations communicate the Gospel. Again, the point that I want to make here is that whilst it may be true that empirical research, social scientific interpretation, normative assessment and pragmatic intervention are found across practical theology today, the ways in which these tasks are conceptualised and carried out vary widely because of decisions made at a metatheoretical level.

Typically, decisions in one of the metatheoretical areas I have described are intertwined with decisions made in others areas. For example, Graham's understanding of transforming practice is closely related to her theological rationale in which God is portrayed as liberating. It also is related to the weight she gives to women's experience in her implicit evaluation of the traditional sources of theological justification and her use of a revised praxis model of interdisciplinary work.

Decisions at a metatheoretical level hang together and represent a kind of paradigm, or interpretive model, in Kuhn's sense. Two challenges before contemporary practical theology: I began this article with Toulmin's insight that human beings not only acquire, possess and make use of knowledge, but are also aware of their own activities as knowers. In the two previous sections, I have attempted to deepen our understanding of our 'activities as knowers' by identifying paradigms that operate at two levels of practical theological reflection. In this final section, I identify two challenges facing contemporary practical theology.

Pastoral Theology: A Black-Church Perspective

As Kuhn pointed out, at any given time, paradigms face anomalies, intellectual puzzles or data sets that they cannot really explain. Most of the time, these anomalies are simply put to one side as problems that will be handled at a later time. But when they become important to a field, the prevailing paradigms must find ways of accommodating them or else give way to new paradigms.

Perhaps, the two challenges I identify fit this pattern. Christian particularity and the common good. The first challenge may be stated as follows: In the USA, South Africa and other places where congregations retain vitality, there is a great deal of pressure on practical theologians to focus on teaching future ministers the skills they will need to lead the church.

Pastoral Theology: A Black-church Perspective - James H. Harris - Google Книги

There is little recognition by administrators and faculty colleagues that practical theologians are constructive theologians and researchers, not just wise practitioners of Christian leadership. In much of Europe, the opposite is the case. Practical theology struggles to hold on to its place in secular universities that are situated in cultural contexts in which congregational vitality is minimal. The temptation is to allow religious or cultural studies to define the field, minimising the way practical theology is grounded in the identity of a particular religious community.

From my perspective, the core challenge facing practical theologians in all of these contexts is to ground practical theology as a critical, reflective enterprise in the distinctive identity of the Christian community, without eliminating its scholarly contribution and relevance to the common good.

Jehovah's Witness vs. Christian Pastor

Let me share my thoughts on one way of responding to this challenge. We can begin, I believe, by recognising that the end of modernity has removed a formidable obstacle in our path. The modernist portrait of science offering public, objective and verifiable knowledge, whilst theology offers private, subjective and dogmatic knowledge is largely discredited. It has given way to an understanding that various spheres, fields, or domains of life have their own distinctive traditions and patterns of rationality and that natural science does not serve as the paradigm of rationality for every area of life.

As a rational enterprise of the Christian community, theology has both the right and obligation to discern its own unique forms of critical reflection. In the postfoundationalist perspective to which I subscribe, this is accompanied by an affirmation of the common resources of rationality that are shared across various rational enterprises, making rational dialogue possible across cultures, disciplines and paradigms within the same field Van Huyssteen It is not necessary for practical theology to leave behind its own particularity to participate in the larger human conversation about the common good, a conversation to which many fields contribute.

Claiming our Christian particularity immediately confronts us with the task of describing on theological grounds practical theology's commitment to both the church and the world. This is important, for more than a few theological perspectives have emerged in the wake of modernity which define theology primarily as an conversation internal to the Christian community and its contribution to public life as little more than a witness to the evangel in the form of proclamation or evangelism.

This perspective is found, not only amongst conservative Protestant theologians, but also in the Yale School theology of George Lindbeck and Hans Frei and the character ethics of Stanley Hauerwas. In the missio Dei, the mission of the church is located within the mission of God, which is universal in scope. Concern for the church's mission is not a retreat into the private world of religion but a matter of discerning the church's participation in God's creating, guiding and redeeming purposes for the world.

David Bosch offers a helpful image of a missional ecclesiology in which the church is viewed as an ellipse with two foci: In and around the first it acknowledges and enjoys the source of its life; this is where worship and prayer are emphasized. From and through the second focus, the church engages and challenges the world. This is a forth-going and self-spending focus, where service, mission and evangelism are stressed. Neither focus should ever be at the expense of the other; rather, they stand in each other's service. The church's identity sustains its relevance and involvement.

Bosch's image of a missional church provides a helpful way of thinking about the scholarship and research of practical theology. In serving the mission of the church, it attends to both identity and relevance. It contributes to the upbuilding of the church and to the church's contribution to the common good. The church's mission is not merely quantitative, that is, concerned only with increasing membership, but also, qualitative, 'aimed at creating a climate for life in fellowship' through dialogue, friendship, and suffering in solidarity with our 'partners in history' Moltmann This includes listening and learning, as well as speaking and sharing.

It is the broader context in which practical theology makes its own distinctive contribution to the common good. The wound of reason. A second challenge facing practical theology is that which I call the 'wound of reason'. By this I mean the massive damage and danger modern science and technology have unleashed upon the world.

Both nature and human communities have been wounded and it is quite conceivable that the worst is yet to come.

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With this image, I also want to communicate that reason itself has been wounded by its complicity in this evil. The pretensions of 'autonomous man' under the guise of objectivity and progress may be interpreted theologically as an overreaching of a human reason that is held by captive by greed and the lust for power. A plausible argument can be made that nature and human communities would have been much better off if science and technology had not entered into an unholy communion with industrialisation about years ago.

The world would have been better off it had developed more slowly in the context of rural and small town societies. This would have allowed communities to form cultural values and institutions with which to guide and limit science's achievements and to channel them in directions other than the endless trivial novelties of consumerism and military weaponry. Whilst 'autonomous man' may have fallen, the wounds inflicted have given rise to a great deal of scepticism about reason, even as they have left us all staring into the abyss.

The wound of reason poses a number of questions to practical theology, and I will end this article by raising these questions and pointing to only the briefest of answers. For example, too often in the past and present, practical theology has coped with its perennial insecurity by adopting the mantle of legitimacy offered by other fields, especially the social sciences. What would an explicitly Christian form of practical theological reasoning really look like and how might it claim its Christian grounding whilst remaining open to dialogue with other fields and religions?

In the face of the wounds inflicted by 'autonomous man', to what extent must practical theology become an explicitly political theology? What would this look like now that the pretensions of modernist social theories have been exposed, including Marxist-Hegelian theories so important to the political theologies of Western Europe, Latin American liberation theology and early American feminism?

A tithing church will be able to influence public policy issues such as housing for the poor and equal-employment opportunities.

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It would not have to spend time and energy raising money to meet the ordinary demands of ministry and mission. It can actually do ministry by using its financial resources to develop ways to stem the tide of drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, divorce and family violence. Black churches can also adopt public schools, into which they can send volunteers to "testify" to young blacks about he value of a quality education. Churches could provide "education mentors" to work with teachers and counselors in order to help children increase educational achievement, develop self-esteem, and enhance moral and intellectual integrity.

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This would be the first step toward a decentralized educational structure that would enable communities and churches to take control of the future of our young people. In this scheme, churches would monitor the progress of their young parishioners from kindergarten through 12th grade and find tutors or provide volunteers qualified to teach subjects in which children need help.

Third, black churches need to pool their financial resources by withdrawing funds from institutions that do not address the development needs of the black community. In our society, money talks. Therefore, black folk should assume control of their hard-earned money and invest it in financial institutions that will challenge traditional models of risk management.

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Thus they will begin the process of nurturing our neglected communities back to health. The fiscal integrity of the black church and community depend on biblical ethical principles such as working together, loving one another and caring for the poor. In order for the black community to become a viable place for external investment, blacks will first have to invest in themselves.

The church must invest in black youth and in the black community before society will invest in the black community. Fourth, each black congregation should assess the needs of its constituents within a certain radius of the church. This will enable the pastor and staff better to understand their ministry context and to address specific community needs. For example, some neighbors need to learn how to read, while others may need better access to medical care. Still others may simply need to know that there are people nearby who care about their families and are willing to offer a helping hand.

Black theology teaches self-respect and self-esteem in spite of social and political condescension to and oppression of blacks. Black pastors should put this into action by developing programs and policies to transform the status of the poor. They could do this by sharing historical and biographical stories of black accomplishment. Blacks have to regain the confidence that they can persevere despite modern pandemic manifestations of oppression and injustice. These lessons on determination, freedom and faith can be correlated with biblical stories that express similar virtues.

Moreover, I publicly acknowledge their educational accomplishments by recognizing the high achievers and encouraging others to strive toward excellence. This helps to develop their self-esteem, sense of achievement and social skills.

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  • It also gives me an opportunity to work closely with those who may need to be motivated or encouraged. I have encouraged the church to provide opportunities for young people to develop leadership skills that can be transferred to other areas of life. These kinds of activities should start early with children and youth in order that they may become self-supporting individuals, committed to the betterment of the family, church and community. Black folk have built some beautiful, expansive and glorious church buildings. Now they should harness that same creativity and commitment to building up the economic security of the black community.

    Practicing Christianity has for African-Americans meant turning the other cheek, walking in humility, and enduring cruel and debasing treatment. During three centuries of slavery, black folk learned how to sublimate their anger; they increased their chances for survival by tolerating the oppressors. This constitutes real faith in the promise of God -- i. Blacks still sing, "There Is a Bright Side Somewhere" and "Climbing Up the Rough Side of the Mountain," and all understand and identify with these words of suffering and hope, jubilation and reflection.

    Black theology uses the language of the masses to make plain the feelings, hopes, dreams, experiences and practices of black folk. These blacks often imitate the white style of worship, with services characterized by brevity, quietness, and pomp and circumstance. The chapters of this book focus on liberation and evangelism, the urban community, and black theology as well as church administration, worship, education, and self-esteem.

    In doing so, he emphasizes an important aspect of the theological and pastoral discussion—a corrective to theologies that are fragmentary, culture-bound, and incomplete. Black theology, like all good theology, is liberating and needs to avoid the flaw of making God a tribal deity. This Harris accomplishes, stating his case in terms that are inclusive enough to cover God's care and concern for all person.