An ecumenical study of selected African Church Ministers
Celibacy is something that distinguishes Roman Catholic priestly ministers of the Latin Rite from their colleagues of other churches. What do African church ministers, both Roman Catholics and ministers of other churches think about the law of ministerial celibacy? Thousands of celibate ministers used to enter Africa from Western countries, but in the West organised religion is in a profound crisis, and the seminaries are nearly empty - prescribed ministerial celibacy being on of the main reasons. In Africa the Roman Catholic Church is growing rapidly in terms of numbers, but in the paramount worldview of sub-Saharan Africa vital interrelatedness and the continuation of the lineage are important and paramount values. This ecumenical study has discovered what African church ministers believe about the law of ministerial celibacy. The thesis of this study is that for African church ministers celibacy is a major challenge. Use was made of literature by especially African writers, and by field-research. For the latter one hundred and fifty church ministers, both men and women, married and unmarried, from a great variety of churches, selected by snowball sampling, were approached for a free flowing interview and for a survey. Matthew 19: 3-12, where Jesus of Nazareth distinguishes three types of eunuchs, was used as a catalyser. The Nairobi area was chosen because it is the biggest metropolitan concentration of East Africa. Inhabitants are drawn in from all over the country, the continent and the world. They are exposed to the local and the global, the old and the new. The research is framed by the opinions of John Mbiti and Jean-Marc Ela. The former believes that Africans live from a strong communal mindset, culminating in relationships and progeny. The latter argses that Africans should develop their own political, economic and ecclesial centres of gravity, without submitting themselves to new forms of colonialism and slavery. The main exegetical finding is that the eunuch passage can be used both for affirming the passage that precedes it (marital faithfulness) and for explaining voluntary celibacy (remaining unmarried for the kingdom). The main psycho-cultural findings are that having a family is expected in both traditional and contemporary Africa, that elders are usually married, and that marriage is seen as Godordained. It is commonly believed that something must be seriously wrong with unmarried adults. The main cultic finding is that most married ministers justify their times of sexual abstinence by spontaneously referring to 1 Corinthians 7:5, which is a text that has no cultic references, and not to pre-Christian African purity customs. The main pastoral-ecclesiological findings are that ministers of other churches prepare themselves for ministry as (potential) spouses and parents, that future Roman Catholic clerics are formed to protect themselves as celibates, and that these states of life influence their (sexual) self-image. Although both forms of ministry have various advantages and disadvantages, celibacy is no guarantee for social acceptance, pastoral empathy or a more profound faith. The main personal-therapeutic findings are that celibates are surrounded and affected by many sexual questions, that a high percentage of informants believes that one in every three African Roman Catholic priests would like to marry, and that ministers of all churches agree that it is good to talk about the painful side of celibate sexuality. The main finding of the entire research is that celibacy is no challenge for (married) ministers of other churches, but more so for struggling celibates.