This research has focused on the history of ministerial formation in the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (UPCSA) and the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa (URCSA). This history falls within a focus period from 2000 to 2017. This work was inspired by a perceived lack in contemporary history surrounding ministerial formation from an ecclesial perspective inside South Africa. Ministerial formation is the way in which leaders of the church are formed and trained. As such, an understanding of the recent history of ministerial formation is important, not only in understanding the current situation but also in its future development.
This research worked through the method of comparative histories. This methodology allowed insight to be developed that was relevant and meaningful to each denomination (Ideographic insight) as well as the development of general principles pertinent to ministerial formation in general (nomothetic insight). Working from this perspective, a recent history of ministerial formation was established. This history has importance in its own right, as well as in how it can educate and guide future endeavours in ministerial formation. In order to establish the history of ministerial formation, a theory surrounding the discipline was first outlined. This theory focused on both the ideal understanding of ministerial formation and the contextual relevance of such a theory. Once established this theory was used to help guide the development of the historical narrative of each denomination. First focusing on each denomination as an independent case study, this research worked to draw out key events in their approach to ministerial formation. Here each denominations success and struggles with ministerial formation were presented. Following the case studies, a comparison was undertaken. This comparison allowed for confirmation of the significance of each individual history. Further, the comparison allowed for the development of general principle relating to ministerial formation.
Working predominantly from the discipline of church history, but also incorporating church polity, missiology and practical theology, this work has brought forward information from an ecclesial perspective relevant to the wider dialogue on ministerial formation. This work has challenged current discourse which tended to focus on theory and demonstrated the vital importance of practicality. Working from an ecclesial perspective has allowed it to give insight to the two focus denominations, highlighting success and challenges. Beyond this, it has shown the importance of understanding, and being rooted in, the local context and developing approaches to ministerial formation which are practically achievable and guided by a strong theoretical understanding of the nature and aims of ministerial formation.