Original Research - Special Collection: COVID-19 from a Theological Perspective

Poverty and the COVID-19 pandemic: A challenge to the church

Johan M. van der Merwe
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 76, No 1 | a6221 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v76i1.6221 | © 2020 Johan M van der Merwe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 June 2020 | Published: 02 December 2020

About the author(s)

Johan M. van der Merwe, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


This article addresses the challenge to the church in the struggle against poverty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. It starts by giving an overview of the enormity of poverty in a post-apartheid South Africa. It also indicates how the pandemic has enlarged the problem to extreme proportions. After looking at poverty through the lens of the Bible, the article attempts to define poverty as different forms of deprivation on the one hand and inequality on the other hand. In South Africa, deprivation and inequality are the two sides of the same coin, which serve as important indicators for the local church in the struggle against poverty. This article thirdly refers to the history of the church to describe how the church, as an agent of change, is called to react to the challenge of poverty. The fourth part of the article introduces the action plan that was developed by the South African Council of Churches through Local Ecumenical Action Networks. This serves as an example of how different churches can work together in communities in the struggle against poverty in a holistic way. The article concludes with the emphasis that the struggle against poverty in South Africa is an ongoing struggle that has been accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Contribution: This article examines the devastating effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has on communities in South Africa with specfic reference to poverty. The focus is on how the church as agent of change is in the perfect position to rise to this challenge to make a difference by means of Local Ecumenical Area Networks.


poverty; COVID-19 pandemic; church; biblical; theology; post-apartheid


Total abstract views: 3370
Total article views: 3325


Crossref Citations

1. Women’s statement at the 1990 Rustenburg Church Conference: Still an important voice from the past
Johan M. van der Merwe
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies  vol: 78  issue: 2  year: 2022  
doi: 10.4102/hts.v78i2.7628