The present dissertation is essentially an attempt towards a constructive proposal on moral formation for local churches in sub-Saharan Africa. Rather than starting from scratch, the study turns to the prolific work of the leading American theologian Stanley Hauerwas — with, however, the following presumption: his proposal, constructed in America, might not be fully appropriate for an African context.
The study compares the American cultural context with an African typical pluralist context, proceeds with a theological and ethical assessment of Hauerwasian's proposal and sets forward the significant elements of a constructive proposal for African churches which includes the applicable aspects of Hauerwas's account.
In a nutshell, the study establishes that Hauerwas's proposal is designed against the background of a Western, liberal, autonomous and individualist self in a social environment of capitalist and liberal democracy. It manifests as a particularist character formation grounded in an ecclesial ethic including aspects of virtue/character ethics, narrative ethics, community ethics and the neo-Anabaptist model of socio-political involvement. Its positive aspects include merging moral formation with spiritual formation through discipleship and accountability to the church community, stressing the church's role in fostering communal identity through its narratives and traditions, and emphasizing the importance of worship, liturgy and the imitation of the saints and role models as instrumental to the enhancement of a virtuous life. Also, this proposal stresses the significance of the whole of the church's way of life in moral formation.
On the negative side, some dualist tendencies emerge from Hauerwas's proposal since it overemphasizes the priority of being (virtue/character) over doing (decision-making). It so strongly affirms the community and narrative dependence of Christian ethics that the result is a communitarianism and particularism that fails to balance the virtues of communality and individuality. With its strong anti-Constantinianism and radical church-world separation, this proposal upholds Christian embodiment as the primary mode of Christian social ethics.
In Africa, the influence of political and philosophical liberalism is significant but not as pervasive as in America. Important moral challenges come also from the traditional African communalistic and particularist worldviews, the socio-political legacy of slavery, colonialism and apartheid as well as the dualistic Christianity brought by the missionary enterprise. All this induces a serious moral crisis, nourishes tribal and racial loyalties and fuels violence, social injustice and pseudo-democracy. Consequently, to do justice to the particularity and universality of Christian ethics and the communality and individuality of biblical anthropology and attend to African contextual peculiarities, the study argues for a contextual Christian character and conscience formation. Based on Trinitarian ethics and an integrative Christian worldview, this paradigm constructively tackles the communal, individual and social dimensions of the church moral formation. It views the church as a community of virtues which also fosters personal identity and responsibility. It resorts to a critical engagement with secular sources of moral knowledge and wisdom to enhance the Christians' moral insights, emotions and skills. Through a vision of shalom for all, the scope of social involvement is enlarged to the Christian faithful presence in the wider society.