Original Research - Special Collection: UP Faculty of Theology Centenary Volume One

Kairos moments and prophetic witness: Towards a prophetic ecclesiology

John De Gruchy
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 72, No 4 | a3414 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v72i4.3414 | © 2016 John De Gruchy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 March 2016 | Published: 26 August 2016

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John De Gruchy, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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The thirtieth anniversary of the publication of the Kairos Document was celebrated in August 2015. This was the most radical of several theological declarations issued by Christians during the struggle against apartheid. Arguing that theology itself had become a site of that struggle, it rejected ‘state theology’, which gave legitimacy to apartheid, and ‘church theology’ which promoted reconciliation without justice as its pre-requisite. Against these, it presented a ‘prophetic theology’ as a challenge to the churches in response to what was perceived as a kairos moment. Since then the Kairos Document has inspired a global movement in which its social analysis and understanding of prophetic theology has been adopted in a variety of contexts, most notably in the Kairos-Palestine Document (2009). In reflecting on the significance of this global kairos movement, I firstly examine the meaning of ‘prophecy’ and ‘prophetic theology’, arguing that ‘prophetic theology’ is in continuity with the message of the Hebrew prophets and the ministry and mission of Jesus. Secondly, I examine the use of the term kairos to describe historical turning points which demand such a prophetic theological response. Thirdly, I address the need for an ecumenical prophetic ecclesiology that foregrounds the responsibility of the church to discern and understand those God-given kairos moments in history that demand a prophetic response.


Kairos moments; Prophetic; Ecclesiology; Kairos Document


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