Theological understandings of migration and church ministry models: a quest for holistic ministry to migrants in South Africa
This thesis argues for the existence of many theological-ecclesiological approaches and responses that respond to migration challenges that are useful but also limited in many and different ways. It classifies these various theological and ecclesiological responses into the following five broad categories: (i) a systematic approach that focuses on practical responses from pastoral care that is limited to particular social contexts; (ii) the approach of theological motif and ministry praxis from single biblical texts; (iii) a systematic response that focuses on Israel in the Old Testament as a paradigm of how the native churches and hosting nations should treat migrants; (iv) Urban mission scholars’ systematic approach to the Church’s incarnational ministry embedded in their larger focus on migration within the context of the Great Commission; and (v) a systematic approach which focuses on doctrinal formulations that respond to migration challenges. In contextualising these theological-ecclesiological approaches and responses to migration challenges in the South African context, the study indicates that the current theological-ecclesiological responses and approaches to migration issues do not sufficiently take into account migration challenges associated with African contexts, such as that of South Africa. In light of the above, this research ventures in a quest for a legitimate theological and social missional ecclesiological holistic ministry model that responds to migrants’ challenges in South Africa. It does that by conducting a thorough biblical theological analysis of migration from the Old and New Testament passages and cases on migration using a redemptive historical approach. Although this thesis discerned many biblical theological interpretations of migration, it is apparent that the overarching biblical-theological foundational status of migration theology that should drive the Church’s migrant ministries is the theology that migration is not an accident in God’s scheme. This is because, from a redemptive historical approach, God uses migration to accomplish his redemptive purpose and mission for sinful humanity. In this way, the individual and corporate factors for migration may, in this case, also receive a more than human aspect in God’s providential control of everything that has to do with human beings as he works out his plan to fulfil his plans and promises for the world. In understanding the world where the church is placed and serving, this thesis ventures in a thorough contextual description of the migration situation. It uses a systemic approach, whereby integrated issues of migration (inter and multi-disciplinary level) are considered by moving from the global to the South African context of international migration. In doing this, it establishes that there are many reasons for people to engage in international migration. It also explores the various challenges that migrants face upon their arrival in host nations. However, in paying particular focus to migrants’ challenges in South Africa, the thesis describes the challenges faced by migrants in that nation as a complex and multi-layered web that requires well informed theology of migration to drive effective migrant ministries within the country’s churches. It further conducts an empirical study to determine the way South African churches are responding to migrants’ challenges in their communities. The study also establishes the practical and theological deficiencies embedded in South African churches’ current responses to migrants’ challenges. From a theological point of view, some current South African churches draw a wedge between evangelism and social action gospel and hamper their designing of effectively-structured internal and external migrant ministries. In diverging from some current South African churches that draw a wedge between evangelism and social action gospel in their conceptualisation of migrant ministries, this thesis proposes a Public Operative Ecclesiological Model (POEM) of a ministry to migrants in South Africa. POEM is a song about a public church that understands its practical public theology that has a community responsive approach. This implies that a church that ensures responsive operative ecclesiology and has an ecosystem of care for the spiritual and physical needs of migrants.
- Theology 
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