Original Research

The unfinished business of Church history

Erna Oliver
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 1 | a2329 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i1.2329 | © 2021 Erna Oliver | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 17 July 2021 | Published: 30 November 2021

About the author(s)

Erna Oliver, Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


The Church will presumably have unfinished business until the day when Christ returns. And Church history will, in gruesome details, bear witness to the missed opportunities, the failures and wrongdoings and all the mistakes made. This is especially true in South Africa where racial tensions, violence, crimes and numerous other evils prevail, while the bride of Christ, in hiding from the realities of life, is awaiting death. The first part of the article explains why this is the case and the second part proposes some rectifications towards how adjudication and reconciliation can be attained through new life in a novel way of being Church to the world.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Christians, theologians and Church historians must openly and honestly expose the use and abuse of (Church) history, and the role that collective memory played in constructing misleading perceptions of the past through the implementation of motivated reasoning. A comprehensive, amended rewriting of Church history that includes all sources that fed Christianity in South Africa during the past nearly 370 years must reconceptualise our religious past towards a healing future. This can promote unity and bring closure to at least some issues while providing a renewed focus on the ongoing need for constant reformation, a renewed comprehension of spirituality, and inspiring Missiology towards a new, serving Christianity in a broken and bleeding society.


South African Church history; mnemohistory; disunity; semper reformanda; priesthood of all believers; spirituality; missiology


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