Det norske misjonsselskaps samarbeid med St. Olav Church i Durban : historia om visjonen som brast
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionNorsk tidsskrift for misjonsvitenskap. 2012, 66 (1), 23-44.
Since the St. Olav Church in Durban was established in the 1880's it was a church for Scandinavian settlers, of these mainly Norwegians. Missionaries of the Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) were active in the church and served as pastors until 1922. From that year the Seamen's Mission (SM) took over the responsibility of obtaining pastors. After the SM withdrew to establish its own work for Norwegian seamen, NMS renewed its involvement with St. Olav in 1968. St. Olav had, like the other white Lutheran settlers churches, refused to become a part of the black Lutheran Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa (ELCSA), when the latter was established as five regional churches in the 1960s. There was a prevailing opinion in ELCSA, and also in The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), that it was primarily because of racist attitudes that the white churches did not accept to become part of the black Lutheran church. At the General Meeting of LWF in 1977 apartheid was defined as heresy. NMS was thus in danger of legitimizing segregated Lutheran churches, and providing indirect support to the apartheid policy and ideology. The article examines what was the NMS's goal or vision for the collaboration, and to what extent these were met. The article demonstrates that the vision for the missionaries was to influence the church to join the black Lutheran church, and become a sign of reconciliation between black and white in an increasingly segregated society. When the majority of the members of the congregation in a dramatic meeting in 1984 refused to acceptan agreement that was negotiated between the leadership of St. Olav and ELCSA, it represented the defeat for the goal of the involvement of NMS in the church. Thus NMS withdrew from all cooperation with St. Olav. The group of members at St. Olav which had been in favor of the church joining ELCSA also withdrew, and established a new church, St. Michal. The missionaries felt morally obliged to support this "true remnant" of St. Olav, and contributed with c!erical services. Not long afterwards St. Michel joined a homeless black church, and realized in a sense the vision NMS had with St. Olav. When the SM in 1987c!osed down the work in Durban, ELCSA wanted to buy the church building to secure St. Michal permanent locations. After the SM sold to an organization for deaf people on the grounds that ELCSA had not presented any obligating financial plan, severaI NMS missionaries directed harsh criticism against the organization for, according to their view, not showing solidarity with a severely tried sister church.