Original Research - Special Collection: Public Theology

African Public Theology? A conceptual engagement to keep the conversation alive

Dion A. Forster
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 56, No 1 | a2849 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v56i1.2849 | © 2022 Dion A. Forster | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 February 2022 | Published: 22 July 2022

About the author(s)

Dion A. Forster, Department of Systematic Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; and, Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; and, Wesley House, Faculty of Theology, Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom


Interest in Public Theology is growing across the African continent. However, there are some important critiques of Public Theology and public theologians in Africa and from Africa. This article outlines three important critiques of Public Theology within the variety of African contexts. Having done so, it seeks to engage in a process of critical reflection on the two constituent concepts related to an ‘African Public Theology’. First, it considers what we might mean when we speak of ‘Africa’ or ‘African?’ It does so by engaging relevant literature on the subjects of decolonisation and Africanisation as they relate to knowledge production and African theological reflection. Second, we ask, what do we mean when we speak of ‘Public Theology?’ Two broad approaches are presented and critically considered. First, we discuss a descriptive approach to Public Theology. Then we consider a more prescriptive understanding of Public Theology. In each instance we relate to both the critiques of Public Theologies in African contexts, and to the principles of decolonisation and Africanisation, as presented in relevant literature related to the debates and the context. The intention of this article is to take the three identified critiques of ‘African Public Theology’ seriously, and by means of critical conceptual engagement, to keep an important conversation on Public Theology in and from Africa alive.

Contribution: This article contributes towards contemporary debates on the relationship between faith and public life in South Africa. South Africa remains a deeply religious society. Religion plays an important role in the formation of moral values, social norms, and dominant practices in public life. Gaining a clearer understanding of what Public Theology is and how it is practiced, helps to further our critical academic understanding of the concept and its practice in contemporary life.


Public Theology; African Public Theology; critical engagement; decolonisation; Africanisation


Total abstract views: 10292
Total article views: 2307


Crossref Citations

1. Quest for African practical theology: lived religion, social transformation and public aspiration as organising centres
Vhumani Magezi
Practical Theology  vol: 16  issue: 2  first page: 167  year: 2023  
doi: 10.1080/1756073X.2023.2183305