PRESS STATEMENT ON THE 68TH SESSION OF SYNOD – DIOCESE OF GRAHAMSTOWN
The Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown held its 68th Session of Synod at St Albans Anglican Church in Vincent East London, from the 15th to the 18th May 2019; under the theme -” YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND SOUL AND MIND AND STRENGTH; AND YOUR NEIGHBOUR AS YOURSELF”- with the 14th Diocesan Bishop; the Rt Revd St Mark Ebenezer Ntlali presiding over the session.
An appropriate precursor and spiritual introit to the session was a Retreat for Clergy -which was open to laity as well - conducted by the retired Bishop of Port Elizabeth, Bishop Bethlehem Nceba Nopece, who, being a New Testament Scholar, presented an inspiring and scholarly doctrinal expose’ of the Love of God
The Synod Session then took off on a high note with the Diocesan Bishop setting the tone by delivering a thought- provoking Charge as he soared into the loftiest of heights, presenting an all-embracing and comprehensive State of the Diocese address using a Spiritually discerned and God – ordained Rhema as encapsulated in the theme for this Synod - as a launch pad for his address
Bishop Ebenezer laid particular emphasis on this Session as being a singular opportune moment for reflective introspection – a time for looking beyond our parochial boundaries, aligning ourselves with God’s will and thinking of doing things that are pleasing to Him, examining our personal faith in Christ Jesus as well as our Spiritual Life!
To bounce this against the hard realities of our current context, exploring how we transcend racial, national, tribal, personal prejudices, language and attitudinal boundaries in the light of an internalized Apartheid Legacy characterized by racism, colonialism, imperialism, oppression, subordination, anger, hatred and so forth in this endless list
Against such a backdrop he extended congratulations to the State President Elect, all the Premiers of the Provinces and the citizenry of the Land for the successful elections that were peaceful, legitimate, free and fair – praying for a Government that will serve all the people of South Africa imbued with a compassionate heart of Jesus
He also brought to the fore and emphasized the inspiring unity and edification of the Church as derived from the abounding fellowship exuding in the meetings of the Synod of Bishops in the ACSA through various interaction extensions with the rest of the world as evidenced by visits to these meetings by luminaries such as the Archbishops of Canterbury and Sudan as well as academics from Germany and Kenya
He prayerfully reflected on his own capacitation and leadership responsibility profile in the ACSA, comprising amongst others, being the Liaison Bishop in the World Council of Churches, for Christianity and African Culture, Chairing the Executive and H R Committee of the College of The Transfiguration, COTT Endowment Trust and Provincial Tribunal of Appeal
The Bishop praised and thanked God Almighty for Spiritual invigoration in the Diocese through the Launch of i-Butho laba-Vuseleli baka-Krestu – a Spiritual movement for the Revival of the Gospel of Salvation – aligned and affiliated to the i-Viyo Movement in the rest of ACSA
He outlined the various programmes of action of the Diocese through its Departments, Structures and Guilds as to how these have emulated the Love of God, amongst which can be lifted stellar outreach interventions such as:
- The Grahamstown Diocese Development Trust having been entrusted with R21,4 M by the National Skills Development Fund Programme, over a period of 39 months - for disbursement of stipends to 274 learners for placement to enable them to be better strutted to secure gainful employment and make a dent on the scourge of unemployment of young people that has escalated to unprecedented proportions in the country.
- Further, youth pursing professions have been assisted in realizing their dreams, with 17 TVET Engineering learners being placed at PRASA – 15 of whom have now joined an apprenticeship programme at PRASA and two at Daimler Chrysler; as well as two unemployed Law graduates who, through assistances afforded them by the Grahamstown Development Trust, have since been enabled to establish their own Law Firms
- The Mothers Union in the Diocese in collaboration with the Diocesan Convener for the Sunday School having produced a Syllabus for the Sunday School which has attracted great interest from other Dioceses within ACSA
- In their outreach programme the MU having facilitated the procurement of an artificial leg for a child born with a defective leg in Adelaide, in the Archdeaconry of Winterberg; as well as having collected an amount of R20K earmarked for furnishing a house – which is in the final stages of being handed over to the family of this little girl as well providing for her future education
- An amount in excess of R274K having been raised by the MU earmarked for the erection of a Diocesan MU Centre
The Synod also engaged in robust debates interrogating motions dealing with a variety of issues affecting the lives of the people of God, among which can be cited:
- Affirmation of the need for the appropriate Theological Equipment of the clergy with the emergence of a resolution setting standards for minimum requirement before ordination, namely Certificate in Theology, Diploma in Theology at NQF Level 5 and a Bachelor Degree in Theology;
- As well as encumbering and embedding the established Ministry of Permanent Deacons with the adoption of guidelines for the regulation and orderly coordination of such Ministry
- Introspective reflection on the need for transformation within our Church as well as and including for the Leadership of the Church so as to be relevant to the current needs as dictated by the context of the day
- Leveraging on Environmental Awareness and sustenance of natural resources so as to counter the effects of Global warming to assure food and water security.
- To this end, Synod encouraged the conversations afoot between the Municipality of Makhanda and the Gift of the Givers NGO, which are purposed to alleviate the water scarcity currently affecting this municipality
iii. Synod lamented regretfully the unfortunate new development in this regard where the Gift of the Givers have withdrawn from the project and it is our prayer that the parties find each other and rapidly resolve their misunderstandings so that the project be resumed for the benefit of the people of God living in Makhanda
- Synod decried the murders of Farming Community members particularly of Farm Workers and Farmers alike. The taking of life of human beings is never acceptable under any circumstances!
- Affirmation of the recognition of the iconic figure, in the person of the late Canon Calata, by the ANC Government, who was an Anglican born and bred in Rabula and who had ministered at St Matthews
- Congratulatory Message to Premier Phumulo Masuale and Premier Elect Lubabalo Mabuyane for peaceful elections in the province as well as expressing the disquiet of the Church as regards the escalation in the number of Service Delivery protests that are characteristically accompanied by wanton destruction of property; with a plea to the affected MECs to address very sharply the issues responsible for such protest action so that an end can be brought about to such unnecessary actions
The Synod discussions were enriched by the special invitations extended by the Bishop to expects in various fields on issues affecting the life of the people of God. One such luminary was Mr. Sithembele Mase – Political Advisor to Premier Masuale and Chairman of Board of Ntinga O R Tambo Development Agency, who illumined Synod on development Programmes in the area of Agriculture and Land Ownership
The Deputy Registrer of the ACSA and Lay Canon in the Diocese of Johannesburg, Adv. Rosalie Manning educated and empowered the Members of Synod on the vexatious issues of Human Sexuality and Same Sex Unions as well as on How to build a Safe and Inclusive Church
She delved into and came up with an illuminating exposition from an objective point of view as to how to approach and engage with human sexuality issues as well as confronting the scourge of pervasive Gender Based Violence in families
The undergirding message was that of enablement of the Church to engage meaningfully and in a mature manner in these conversations devoid of judgementalism
To this end, ACSA has set up a Safe Church Commission which is to come up with guidelines to enable the Church to minister effectively in these circumstances
As regards the Safe Church, ACSA has moved rapidly and come up with a progressive intervention approach to ensure inclusivity and safety in our churches, adding on the existing Pastoral Standards in the Shepherds of the Flock document as well as enforcing an expanded definition of ‘Ministers’
Each and every Diocese is expected to set up its own responsive team that will be responsible for investigating the cases coming to the fore - with retired judges and lawyers being brought on board in this process
ACSA has now adopted new compliance requirements for all those to be ordained for them now required to produce clearance certificates from SAPS and Department of Social Development as well sign a declaration.
The bishops of ACSA have specifically been told not to ordain anyone with a record of Sexual Harassment. This is a non- negotiable! All Ministers have to sign a declaration in this regard by the end of the year 2019. Such declaration will be subject to review every two years going forward
The Synod ended on the same high note it started, with the spirits of delegates refreshed and invigorated as well as committed to the spirit envisaged by the prayer of St Teresa de Avilla: ‘ Christ has no body on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out; ours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good; and ours are the hands with which he is to bless us now’
Issued by and on behalf of the President of Synod, the Rt. Rev Ebenezer St Mark Ntlali;
MEDIA LIAISON COMMITTEE: Rev Canon Dr Sam Beja and Rev. Luthando Madiba