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The Construction of Public Theology: An Ethnographic Study of the Relationship between the Theological Academy and Local Clergy in South Africa

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This article presents findings of research conducted in the summer of 2006, and it focuses on how public theology is understood in the academy in relation to the realities encountered by clergy and lay leaders in a challenging ministry context. Through ethnographic research based in South Africa, I examined the relationship between congregations confronting the AIDS epidemic and widespread poverty, and the construction of public theology in the theological academy at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The research asked: what is the nature of the correspondence between 'formal' public theology and the local, 'lived' theologies of those doing ministry in South Africa; how does local experience influence the ways that the academy prepares leaders for public ministry. The findings from this study, as discussed in this article, have implications for theological education, in terms of enhancing the public orientation of institutions and understanding the link between context and curriculum.

Affiliations: 1: Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, USA


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