Through the Cross: The South African Church's Painful Path to Victory

Frank Chikane, general secretary of the South African Council of Churches when this article appeared, was interviewed in his home in Soweto.
The Editors.

Jim Wallis: You're now the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, but it was a long road that brought you to this place. Tell us about your background.

Frank Chikane: I grew up in the Apostolic Faith Mission, a conservative, almost fundamentalist, Pentecostal church which later trained me as a pastor. After my ordination, the church began to accuse me for being involved in politics. I had been asked to address a student conference on Christianity and the political situation, and the press picked it up.

The church council produced its file of press cuttings as evidence against me. I still have the letter which says, "You are suspended from pastoral work because you are involved in politics, because you appeared in the press." I was suspended for one year, from 1981 to 1982; I spent eight months of that time in detention.

After my suspension, I joined the Catholic Institute for Contextual Theology, where I spent five and a half years. That experience was very significant. I had started with a very conservative, highly pietistic theology that could justify and accept the status quo; a pastor's job was to prepare people to go to heaven. But then I was confronted by the reality of the oppressive system, which made me raise new questions that were not answered by my training or tradition.

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