Re-animating church as politics: South Africa commemorating the radical reformation in the hope of decolonizing local congregations
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AbstractAn unlikely crosscurrent in the Reformation-schism was the violent reaction ofboth the Reformation and Roman Catholic establishments in the 1520s to Anabaptist Churches. What evoked this reaction was the Anabaptists' recognizably distinct church polity, which the Radical Reformers understood to be directly continuous with the socially transformative politics of Jesus and of the first Christians of the Roman Empire. In a spirit of contrition for Christian disunity, this research is a commemoration that aims to identify prophetic aspects of early Anabaptist polity. Secondly, the essay demonstrates that the way the Radical Reformers practised church is pertinent for ecclesiology five centuries later - not least in contemporary South Africa and North America where church capture to neoliberal economic values and commitments prior to following Jesus, calls into question orthodox Christian witness and presence. Thirdly, the essay imagines a South African re-appropriation of the politics of Jesus as amplified in the Radical Reformation tradition, in a tentative, heuristic invitation to the Church in South Africa today, to become 'God's left wing'.