Methodist Burial Rites: An Inquiry into the Inculturation of Christianity among Barolong of Mahikeng, South Africa
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This dissertation is an historical and missiological study of the burial rites of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa among Barolong Methodists of Mahikeng in South Africa. It examines how the burial rites of this Church reflect the informal adaptation of traditional cultural practices by Barolong Methodists of Mahikeng. The dissertation argues that the official rubrics of Barolong Methodism need to be aligned with informal contextualization already apparent in contemporary Barolong Methodist burial practices. First, the project analyzes the historical genesis of Methodism among Barolong chiefdoms of South Africa through the work of the nineteenth century Wesleyan missionaries. It explores the social, political and cultural dynamics among the Barolong at the time Methodism was introduced in the early 1800s. The study argues that these dynamics partly account for how the Wesleyan missionaries formed opinions about Barolong burial practices. Second, the study traces the historical developments of the origins of the burial rites of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa from the time of the rise of Methodism. Theological convictions that underpin the burial rites of Methodism are described. The study argues that the aforementioned denomination does not uphold a theology of life and death different from that espoused by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. The records of non-conformist missionaries, who came to labor in Southern Africa are examined, to analyze their beliefs about life and death, and the methods and rituals they used for burials. Barolong of Mahikeng‘s affinity to funerals and how this attraction interacts with the use of official Methodist burial liturgies also receives attention. Third, Barolong burial practices are placed within the larger framework of the burial practices of the indigenous peoples of Southern Africa. Fourth, the study describes and analyzes Methodist burial rites as practiced by Barolong Methodists from their adaption of Christianity to the present day. It also reveals how Barolong Methodists have informally contextualized the traditional Methodist burial rites. The study concludes that the Methodist Church of Southern Africa has not undertaken formal contextualization of burial rites among Barolong Methodists. It recommends that the Methodist Church of Southern Africa incorporate the already existing informal contextualization of burial rites into its burial liturgy and take steps to consider formally what work remains to inculturate appropriate Barolong burial practices into the official rubrics of Barolong Methodism. Given the multicultural context of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the study makes further recommendations as to how the Church should embark on an intentional program of equipping its ministers for contextualizing the Christian message in a multicultural context.