Original Research - Special Collection: Negotiating diversity in Christian Communities

Towards liberationist engagement with ethnicity: A case study of the politics of ethnicity in a Methodist church

Elina Hankela
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 1 | a3475 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i1.3475 | © 2016 Elina Hankela | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 May 2016 | Published: 25 October 2016

About the author(s)

Elina Hankela, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa; Department of Practical Theology, University of Helsinki, Finland, South Africa


The article calls for critical theological examination of the politics of ethnicity in the context of mainline churches in South Africa. The category of ethnicity is largely missing in the interrogation of diversity in the delineated context. Including this category of difference in the theological and religious studies diversity discourse would, if brought to bear on praxis, facilitate the building of inclusive worship spaces. On the contrary, neglecting the politics of ethnicity in the context of churches means neglecting a dynamic that impacts negatively on the everyday life of ordinary churchgoers. The argument is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted by the author in a Methodist church in Johannesburg primarily in 2009.


amaXhosa identity; critical diversity; ethnicity (politics of); isiXhosa; liberationist method; mainline churches; Methodism in South Africa


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