Healing ministry, conflict and Methodism: the case of Mabelreign, Epworth and Mbare societies of the Methodist church in Zimbabwe (MCZ).
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This study focuses on a critique of healing ministry, conflict and Methodism: the case of Mabelreign, Epworth and Mbare (MEM) societies of the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe (MCZ). The project seeks to find out the nature of the healing ministry practiced by MCZ and the extent to which MEM societies respond meaningfully to the healing needs of their members within the local cultural context. The research uses the missio-cultural framework as postulated by Roderick Hewitt (2012), with the aim of analysing how mission and culture1 can come into dialogue in the theology of healing ministry in MCZ. Using the inculturation lens of Edward Antonio (2006) to converse with this discourse, the thesis argues that healing ministry is intrinsic to the missional calling of the MCZ in its given cultural milieu, however, this mission has been severely neglected because it has not been taken seriously in the church’s ministry. This situation has resulted in dual membership, syncretism and/or the total transfer of membership from MCZ to either African Initiated Churches (AICs) or newer Pentecostal churches. The research notes that healing ministry in the MCZ dates back to the time of John Wesley in the eighteenth century England and his hermeneutical emphasis on biblical texts that gave priority to the healing ministry of Jesus amongst the poor. Wesley’s theology was grounded in healing ministry, however, the Methodism that was transported and transplanted to Zimbabwe by the missionaries in 1891 did not fit in the African culture, thereby causing missio-cultural conflicts which led to the formation of six AICs that separated from MCZ since the 1950s. The empirical study uses the phenomenological method to observe and to draw findings from both MCZ leaders and ordinary members of the selected societies through interviews. The research concludes by challenging MCZ to revisit its theology of healing since this was the foundation of early Methodism. In spite of some external factors influencing healing ministry in the MCZ, the church needs to give theological clarity to its understanding and practice of healing because failure to do so will risk creating division among its clergy and laity. This is especially so because the weak socioeconomic conditions within Zimbabwe have pushed many people into poverty and this has impacted negatively on the physical, psychological, spiritual and economic health of many citizens. This is exacerbated by religious contestation that MCZ has found itself in, whereby members are now more concerned about their healing than loyalty to their church. I am aware that the word culture has many interpretations and all forms of human evolve from culture. This makes the word to have various interpretations. In this research, the word culture will be used with specific reference to African culture especially Zimbabwean culture given that this is the focus of the research. membership. If MCZ has to give its members the resource of wholesome living, then healing ministry should be at the centre of its mission.