The Free Methodist Church of Southern Africa and it's response to HIV and AIDS in Southern KwaZulu-Natal : postulating a reclamation of Wesleyan Healthcare Response from a gender perspective.
This study will explore and investigate the response of the Free Methodist Church of Southern Africa (FMCSA) to HIV and AIDS in the Southern KwaZulu-Natal region. It will also reflect on how the Wesleyan Healthcare Response (WHCR) can be used as an inspiration for this Church to fulfil its mission in engaging with HIV and AIDS from a gender-sensitive perspective. With reference to the knowledge that religions possess assets for addressing HIV and AIDS and gender inequality, the study argues that the FMCSA possess the necessary resource to address these interconnected challenges which it is not profitably employing currently. This resource is the theological and practical healthcare response developed by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, during his lifetime. Using the missio Dei theory to explain the mission of the church in the world, and considering Jesus‘ healing ministry as patterns of the missio Dei‘s materialisation in times of health crises, the study suggests that the FMCSA as a Christian church is expected to respond to HIV and AIDS, a contemporary health crisis in South Africa. The study also hypothesises that Wesley‘s healthcare response is a legacy to the Free Methodists that the FMCSA can appropriate as an effective asset to fulfil missio Dei in time of HIV and AIDS and its gendered nature in the South African context. Therefore, the question responded to in this study is: how can the Wesleyan Healthcare Response inspire the FMCSA to respond to the HIV and AIDS pandemic from a gender-sensitive perspective? The following objectives were formulated in order to respond to this question: 1. to explore the discursive account of HIV and AIDS and its gendered nature in South Africa and the response of the FMCSA; 2. to critically reflect on WHCR as FMCSA‘s potential resource for missio Dei's fulfilment in time of HIV and AIDS; 3. to examine the attitude and concrete response to HIV and AIDS pandemic in the Free Methodist Southern KwaZulu-Natal (FMSKZN); 4. to assess the extent to which WHCR has been used as a resource for addressing HIV and AIDS by the Free Methodist Southern KwaZulu-Natal; 5. to suggest insights to make WHCR a resource to respond to HIV and AIDS within the Southern KwaZulu-Natal context. The data for the study was collected using empirical and non-empirical research methods. Therefore, in addition to the written sources, individual interviews with selected church leaders and caregivers and focus group discussions with ordinary adult and youth church members in five circuits of the FMSKZN were conducted. In examining the attitudes and concrete responses to HIV and AIDS in the FMSKZN, the study realised that this Church failed to learn from WHCR in order to fulfil missio Dei during this pandemic in terms of gender issues. It therefore postulates insights from WHCR that will help fill the gaps identified in the response of this Church to HIV and AIDS and its gendered nature.