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Sunday the Most Segregated Hour: The Theology of the Church in the Light of its Message of Reconciliation




Course load



Prof. Dr E.A.J.G. van der Borght

6 ECs

The final paper may be submitted in Dutch or English


This course focuses on the manner in which reconciliation is understood and embodied in faith communities. While Christian traditions often emphasise reconciliation in Christ as one of the cores of their faith, oftentimes it is Sunday that is the most segregated hour. Believers gather not only according to their confessional lines but often, and more primarily, according to their national or ethnic lines. The observed gap between confessed communal identities and lived socially divided realities is the starting point for a number of theological and social investigations. This course explores vulnerabilities and potentials of faith communities in the contexts of religiously and socio-culturally motivated (armed) conflicts.

This course consists of six parts:

  1. A case study on reconciliation as it was performed in the aftermath of the apartheid regime in South Africa;

  2. An examination of how the identity of the Christian community has been theologically and socially defined through the concept of reconciliation;

  3. Anthropological, sociological, and cultural inquiries into how culture shapes identity;

  4. A thorough analysis of ecumenical texts in order to discover how 20th century theology tried to deal with this gao;

  5. The identification of theological elements that require new, constructive contributions in ordr to better equip faith communities to respond more adequately in contexts of conflict;

  6. A presentation of collaborative theological and/or social case studies on the contributions by faith communities to reconciliation.

  1. The student illustrates the potential and limitations for faith communities to contribute to societal reconciliation with the case of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa;

  2. The student explains the central role of the concept of reconciliation in the theological and social self identification in sources of the Christian tradition;

  3. The student summarises how recent anthropological, social, and cultural research have changed our understanding of the way socio-cultural belongings shape identities;

  4. The student compares and evaluates various ecumenical, theological documents in the manner in which they dealt with the gap between ecclesiological confession of the one, catholic church and the ecclesial practice of churches separated according to socio-cultural lines;

  5. The student identifies, describes, and presents elements of the theological and/or social self description of the Christian faith community that require constructive thinking in order to meet contemporary challenges in specific contexts of pressure on social cohesion and/or armed conflicts defined by religious and socio-cultural identities through a class presentation and a paper.


A short reflection on reading material is an obligatory part of this course. These assignments are submitted twice a week. Furthermore, an academic paper is part of the examination, preceded by a short presentation regarding the subject of the paper. The final assignment includes, other than the paper, a 500 word summary in which the learning objectives of this course are reflected upon.


Literature (non-exhaustive)
  • The Report of the Thruth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa (excerpts);

  • Jennings, W.J. The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, 2010;

  • Philpott, D., Just and Unjust Peace: An Ethic of Political Reconciliation, 2012;

  • Tutu, D., No Future Without Forgiveness, 1999;

  • Mayo, M., The Limits of Forgiveness, 2015.