Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Friday, 26 October 2018

Women destined for God’s purpose - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

 
An address to the 2018 Provincial Conference of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship:

Theme: Women destined for God’s purpose


President of the AWF, Mrs Lucille Henniker, 
Members of your Provincial Executive Committee, 
Bishop Dan, your  Liaison Bishop, 
Your host bishop, Bishop Ebenezer, and
Delegates to this Provincial Conference, 

Thank you so much for inviting me to this conference today, and thank you also to the visitors and guests here present. Let me acknowledge past Presidents Overmeyer and Titus as well as clergy who are here as chaplains.

It is an honour and privilege to stand here today as the Patron of the Fellowship and to share some thoughts and reflections on the theme of this conference. The last time I addressed you was in 2010 in Lesotho as Bishop Nopece was retiring as Liaison Bishop and Ms Overmeyer was handing over to Pumla. Thank you to all Diocesan Presidents and your most informative reports. I have gone through your agenda book and there is a lot that Provincial meetings can learn from you. Your statistical form is a good tool that the Province can adopt to ensure proper records of our parishioners.

I am delighted that there is a wide representation of delegates and guests from the dioceses of our Province here. This is indeed a sign that you, the AWF, are able as one of our Province’s leading organisations to live out faithfully ACSA’s Vision statement, and are moving forward in your ministry and mission.

You may be aware that at the last meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee, we revised ACSA’s missional priorities, and that we now group them into three priorities, in line with the Province’s Vision statement.

You will recall that in our Vision statement, we say that Anglicans ACT, meaning that we are firstly:

-- Anchored in the love of Christ. 

Secondly we are:

-- Committed to God’s mission.

Thirdly, we are:

-- Transformed by the Holy Spirit.

We now express this by saying that we will demonstrate our rootedness in the love of Christ through liturgy, which we are renewing, and worship, which we are transforming.

Secondly we will express our commitment to God's mission by equipping disciples for leadership and ministry through theological education, formation and leadership development.

And thirdly we will demonstrate that we are transformed by the Spirit by exercising a prophetic ministry in the world, which will include advocacy in education, the nurture of the young, a focus on women and gender, and on the environment and health.

Let me start my talk by reflecting on one of the lections for the Eucharist this morning: Ephesians 4:1-6. In this passage, Paul encourages Christians to lead a life worthy of the vocation to which they have been called. This does not mean that our aim should be to win a place that is deserving of God’s favour, but rather that the place we occupy is already a favour from God, and that we should, in thanksgiving to God, recognise that this requires a great deal from us. So the focus is not on our own worth but on the worth of our calling.

This, I believe, is what ‘women destined for God’s purpose’ should be striving for. So if we are destined to fulfil God’s purpose, then what does it mean to live a life worthy of that calling from God?

Paul emphasises that the way to lead a life worthy of our calling is to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’. Maintaining spiritual unity involves a soul-searching in pursuit of humility, meekness,  patience and forbearing in love.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in essence addresses unity. He lays down a micro-platform that concerns two main sources of discord amongst those who profess to follow Christ. The first one has to do with temperament and the other with teaching. Recognising these sources of division and acting upon that recognition could go a long way towards healing divisions.

Friends, our Christian faith is our avenue to God in the here and now. It is therefore crucial, in pursuit of Christian unity, that we appreciate the importance of the belief system that we have embraced. For us, it is not just ‘a’ religion – it is ‘the’ religion of divine sanction.  In view of this foundational truth, we as  Christians must walk worthily of the vocation to which we are called and pursue unity and peace. 

As members of AWF, God calls us to respond to what we have become in Christ. Every Christian is called to be a disciple of Jesus and to serve as part of the wider body of Christ. Our call to unity is our calling to ministry and Christ has given us gifts of grace for ministry which come together in one common goal of maturity in Christ. 

What does it mean to be the body of Christ in such times as these? To what discipleship are we called? And what does the cost of our discipleship entail? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves if we are to be women destined for God. Put differently, Jesus says to the young rich lawyer, the one thing that you lack is.... What is the one thing that you lack to be His disciple ?

Over the 10 years I have served as your Archbishop, I have come increasingly to realise the centrality of the doctrine of the Incarnation for us as Anglicans. As a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, once said, “Modern Anglican theology owes many of its  characteristics to the central place held within it by the Incarnation.” Speaking for myself, I have returned to it again and again as a lens through which to explore both theology and its implications for our place in the world.

For me, Incarnation is God taking a human form and in so doing becoming part of the contemporary world. Through incarnation, God invites us to discern how best to realise our true humanity and to be directed how best we work with one another in service to God and in respect for God’s creation. The Incarnation, as I have said elsewhere, “communicates to us that God is... on our side. In Christ Jesus, God demonstrates God’s solidarity with the human condition. He is with us, alongside us, and, more than that, one of us – to a degree we probably will never adequately understand this side of heaven.”

Also during my time as Archbishop, I have devoted attention to the need for us as Christians and Anglicans to seek the common good. What is the common good? Simply put, it is based on the recognition that what is good and beneficial for the other who is my neighbour is what is good and beneficial for me. Too often, many of our us and our leaders seem to have forgotten what is it to seek the common good.

So as women destined for God, how do we become part of the contemporary world, seeking the common good for our neighbour? In the latest World Economic Forum rankings, South Africa is ranked 17 out of 136 countries in gender equality. Does that mean our women are free from all types of violence? The answer, of course, is no! We may be doing better than some other countries, but there is still no  gender equality in South Africa. In a report that was released by the Commission for Gender Equality, it was revealed that women still bear the brunt of gender-based violence and other related atrocities. Women are unable to walk freely in our streets, in our towns and cities and in some rural areas, for fear of all sorts of harassment and abuse. Statistics from the SAPS reflect that violence against women is still alarmingly high.

Not only that: women are still exposed to sexual harassment both at home and in the workplace (GCE, 2018). And they are inflicted by harmful traditional practices such as under-age forced marriages, genital mutilation and virginity testing. The legislation needed to combat these pratices may exist, but at times the laws are either ignored or not applied effectively. If we look at the situation in South Africa, there need to be reviews of the implementation of the Children’s Act, the Sexual Offences Act, the Domestic Violence Act and other related statutes to ensure that the purposes for which they were adopted are being fulfilled.

Of course it is not only on issues relating specifically to women that you as our sisters in the AWF have a role to play, in both our church and in society. While you have particular strengths through your unique experiences as women, you are of course citizens who are as entitled and needed just as much as men to speak and to act on any and all issues facing our societies in this Province.

Looking at those societies more broadly, in all the countries of our Province there is a desperate need to fight to eliminate the inequality of opportunity which condemns millions of people to inter-generational poverty. We cannot deny that those born to educated, privileged families have better chances in life than those born to poor families without access to networks which secure them jobs and good incomes. Inequality of opportunity undermines people’s capacity to use their God-given gifts to improve their lives, and our passion should be to work for better opportunities and to create an environment which benefits all, and to work against the continued exclusion of the marginalised in our society.

In South Africa, at an ecumenical level, a meeting of the National Church Leaders’ Consultation this week reflected on the difficult times the country has been going through recently, and concluded that people of faith we need to bring a message of hope at this time. I quote from our statement:

Mindful of our own failures, disunity, struggles and brokenness we are yet awakened to the fact that we are called to be agents of hope, healing, peace, unity and reconciliation. Refusing to be captured by State propositions, ideologies and party-political interests, we seek to reclaim the message and role of the Church as we exemplify the life and teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ, live the Gospel imperatives, proclaim good news to all and advance the ideals of the Kingdom of God. 

In the church, as we prepare for our Provincial Synod next year, I also invite you to play your full role in addressing the important decisions our Church faces on how we order our collective life: on how we transform our liturgies so that we worship God in ways best suited to the times in which we live; on how we respond to the need for sensitive and effective ministry to those in same-sex unions; and on how we ensure that our congregations are safe spaces for all our people, especially vulnerable children.

Last month's meetings of PSC and the Synod of Bishops have already taken action on making the church a safe space, without waiting for Provincial Synod. In future anyone wanting to be ordained to serve as a clergyperson will have to provide a police clearance certificate. From next year, this will apply to lay ministers too, especially those involved in youth ministry and Sunday School teaching.

In other steps:

    • We have set up an email address to make it easier to report allegations of abuse;
    • We will set up a central register of complaints, including details of what action has been taken; and
    • The Bishops have emphasised that it is urgent and important for every Diocese to set up a team to deal effectively with allegations of abuse in the church. These teams will receive training, and the bishops will receive training at the next meeting of their Synod in February. 

In South Africa, both church and society are being  challenged to work out how best we can manage and develop our land – both urban and rural land – to ensure that all our people flourish in an economy that provides work and dignity for all. In the Church, the Provincial Standing Committee resolved last month that we should carry out an audit of church land and make recommendations for the use of vacant land. We have also commissioned theological reflection on the issue of land expropriation without compensation. In society as a whole of course, the question of land is the burning issue of the day, one which will require enormous dedication and patience, but also a willingness to take quick and decisive action to bring about sensible reforms which both fulfil the demands of justice and the practical need for economic growth and jobs.

But the problem is not insoluble. Twenty-five years ago, we didn't know quite how we were going to get of apartheid, but we worked together and we succeeded. Just a year ago, we didn't know how we were going to restore good governance in a country which was heading for economic destruction. But now, although we are not out of the woods yet, we are on the way to doing that too.

So I encourage all of you as members of this organization to continue striving for what is ethically good in our communities. Let us discern and fulfill our vocations to the best of our ability – by so doing we shall have responded positively to Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians.

And before I end, one more thank you, and a final appeal: thank you for the role that you play in encouraging women to come forward in your dioceses to be considered for ordination. Please continue to nurture and promote young women of potential in your dioceses and parishes. Thank you especially for supporting women in full-time training for ministry at the College of the Transfiguration, and I appeal to you – no, I challenge you: please ensure in your diocese that you are always supporting at least two women training at Cott. In that way you will secure the future of our church and ordained ministry within it.

Finally, let me thank the President together with her executive for the sterling work they have done during their term of office, and in the same breath congratulate the incoming President and wish her and her executive all the best as you reach out and live  lives worthy of your calling.

May God bless you all.
 
 

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Archbishop pays tribute to Albertina Sisulu - "One of the mothers of our nation"

 

Sermon preached at the Thanksgiving Service for Mrs Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu, on her 100th birthday, at Holy Cross Parish, Orlando West, on October 21, 2018:
 
Readings: Job 38: 1-7 (34-41), Psalm 104:1-10, 35-36; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

May I speak in the name of God the Father, Son and the Comforter. Amen
A warm welcome to you all on this wonderful occasion where we commemorate one of the icons of our struggle. Welcome especially to you, leaders in Government, and to all the members of the Sisulu family here present.
Thank you also to the church representatives present, to you Bishop Steve for hosting us in your Diocese, and to the Revd Lankiri Thaba, the Rector of Holy Cross Parish, situated just across the way from the home from which Mama Sisulu held her family together through so many years and through so much sacrifice.
Thank you for inviting me to share in this Thanksgiving Service with you as we mark the 100th year of Mama Sisulu's birth. When we gathered for her funeral at Orlando Stadium across the valley seven years ago, I shared a message about encouragement and comfort, of how Mama Sisulu, who never saw herself as a leader, embodied the characteristics of a great leader. She inspired others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and to become more. Today, celebrating Mama’s 100th birthday. we meet to give thanks to God for her life.
Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu was never here merely to exist. She lived to make a difference, and her contributions are what makes her life so significant. She not only made South Africa a better place, but she made the world immeasurably better, and that ultimately is what reallly counts. We are her legacy.
I am grateful that there are others here whose task it will be to pay an adequate tribute to Mama Sisulu, since the scope and quality of her life and work is such that it defies description in a short sermon. However, there are a few points that I do feel qualified to make. The first arises from my own experience as a young person growing up in Pimville. One of my most vivid memories is going with other young activists to consult Mama in the 1980s to guide us around the Release Mandela Campaign. We were embarking by bus from Johannesburg to Cape Town for the launch of the United Democratic Front, of which she was to become the co-president. And what I remember most clearly is the forthright questioning she subjected us to. It wasn’t enough that we were protesting – she wouldn’t let us leave until we had clearly, carefully and succinctly explained to her, not what we were doing, but why we were doing it. She was both confirming and galvanizing our conviction, so that our cause was driven by our hearts as much as by our heads.
I remember that during her funeral, I reflected on the fact that these days – or at least in those days – criticism was too often labelled anti-revolutionary. It is a refreshing ray of hope and sunshine that our current administration encourages, not discourages, speaking out. We’re seeing the rule of law taken very seriously, and our most senior leaders are following both Mama and Jesus’ admonition, “the truth will set you free.”
The second observation I want to make is that in many ways, the story of Mama Albertina Sisulu encapsulates in a single, remarkable human being, the story of our people, and especially the story of our struggle. She was both a leader in her own right, as her presidency of the UDF demonstrates, and at the same time she was also the matriarch of a generation of fighters against injustice and oppression. If she were alive today, I’m confident that she again would be on the front lines of the New Struggle: the struggle for equality of opportunity.
As one writer said in the early 1990s, Mama’s family story is heroic: “There can be few families in the history of South Africa,” the writer said, “that have been torn apart as relentlessly by the political struggle, and few that have survived it so intact.” That is a sad fact, but it's true. For a period of 30 years, at least one member of the family was always in prison and at least one in exile. At one time in the 1980s, six were in prison. Albertina spent most of the 24 years Walter was in prison either restricted, under house-arrest or detained—and once, in solitary confinement for almost a year.
My third observation arises from my second. Elinor Sisulu writes in her wonderful biography of the Sisulus of how when Mama went to a Roman Catholic boarding school at Matatiele in 1936, she was introduced to a routine in which the school day began at 4 am. Elinor quotes Mama as saying, "We were generally trained to be orderly and organised." It seems to me, that this could be said of Mama Sisulu for the whole of her life. Through all of her suffering and the suffering of her children, she remained a model of heroism, and a figure of dignity and discipline. I like to think that it was in recognition both of her own leadership in the struggle and her status as a disciplined member of her movement that she was chosen in 1994 to be the Member of Parliament who would rise to formally propose that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela should be elected as the first President of a democratic South Africa. I think we can justifiably describe Mama Sisulu as one of the mothers of our nation.
Turning to today's readings, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (5:1-10) says that those called to high priestly office have to fulfil certain qualifications. A candidate had to be selected from among the people and thus be able to represent them before God. Also he or she had to be called by God. The writer moves on to show how Jesus more than fulfilled these qualifications during his time on earth.
This is through the reference to Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He did not shrink from physical suffering and death by crucifixion, but accepted the indescribable agony of taking humankind’s sin on himself. Jesus was made perfect through temptation, suffering and his ordeal on the Cross. Though he was the eternal son of God, it was necessary for him as the incarnate son to learn obedience – not because he was disobedient but because he was called on to obey to an extent he had never before experienced. The temptations he faced were real and the battle for victory was difficult. Where Adam failed and fell, Jesus resisted and prevailed.
Friends, when we look at the life and witness of Mama Sisulu today through her struggle for freedom and what the Hebrews scripture is saying, there are parallels. What can we learn from the example set before us by Jesus? What can we learn from the example set before us by Mama? Mama was one of my and South Africa’s most influential teachers. As such she affected eternity; history still cannot accurately record where her influence stops.
In our Gospel reading, Mark (10:35-45) gives us another picture of leadership during Jesus’ time, in the story of the desire for positions of prestige and power of the sons of Zebedee, James and John. Matthew in his Gospel (20:20,21) mentions that this request came through their mother, Salome, the sister of Mary – Jesus’ mother. So, James and John would therefore be first cousins to Jesus. This was a family attempt to gain position, probably to steal a march on – to have a surreptitious advantage over – Peter, a third member of the trio.
Jesus’ response to their request was that it would be realised only if they willingly submitted to servanthood. He told the two brothers that the positions to which they aspired – to sit on Jesus's left and right – were only for the Father, that is God, to bestow. And those positions would be bestowed not as a result of favouritism but on the basis of fitness of character.
It is as if Jesus was saying to the relatives of a local mayor in South Africa today: you can get a job if you are fit and qualified to do it, not because you are the mayor's cousin. What would Jesus be saying today to directors of the VBS bank in Venda, whose directors and the politically connected stole from the poor instead of serving them? The sons of Zebedee had forgotten their mission and had misunderstood the mission of Jesus Christ: they were drunk on power, status and position and had forgotten that they were called to be servants of the people. Jesus explains that those who are truly powerful are the ones who deliver: so we can see that service delivery is in the Bible!
When the other disciples heard this, they were bitter at the two brothers. Jesus responded by taking them aside and explaining the essential difference between worldly greatness and spiritual greatness. In the kingdom of God, true greatness flows from lowly and voluntary service, as the Letter to the Hebrews also indicates.
Friends, what is unique about Jesus in this Gospel is that he practised what he preached. He is the embodiment of his own ethic. His work is presented in two parts – to serve and to give. Mark clearly explains that the ministry of the Son is to serve or be of service. What can we learn from the example set before us by Jesus and from the example of service and sacrifice presented to us by Mama Sisulu?
What do their examples tell us about how to respond to the role of values, of values-based decision-making and of moral leadership? We need to support those who are courageously fighting corruption and greed in our country. The worst diseases in the the world are not just AIDS, Ebola or malaria; they include corruption. And while there might not yet be cures for the first three diseases, there is one for corruption. And that is transparency.
As our leaders sit here in God’s church today, please know, we the Church stand with you, behind you and for you – if you say “No” to corruption! You can do better. You must do better. I know, you will do better.
What is our pledge as we move forward from the centenary of Mama Sisulu's birth? It must be to be of service to God's people and our nation. It must be to join the New Struggle with the same fervor, the same passion, and the same conviction as Mama Sisulu had for the Old Struggle. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing daily. The poor are highly marginalised. The crime rate is alarming. People are picketing for better service delivery in their thousands, in hundreds of places around the country every year. This is a great concern, especially if we are to ensure peaceful elections in 2019. There is a great need to address political stability, education, health care, job creation and the economic welfare of our people.
As Archbishop, I commit myself today to play my part, and to keep on pressing politicians and government to play theirs also. At the same time, we acknowledge the many positive achievements since the dawn of democracy, many bright light achievements which we need to celebrate.
As the Psalmist praises God for all creation and the glory of the natural world, may we also praise God for creating the terrestrial features of sea and land, for supplying our needs and enabling our lives. And may we respond to God's generosity to us by following the examples of Jesus and Mama Sisulu by sharing that generosity for the benefit of all of God's people.
God loves you… and so do I.
God bless you, your families, our President, and God bless South Africa.




 


 
 

 

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Sermon at the 140th Anniversary Celebration of the Diocese of Pretoria

 

Readings: Job 23:1-9,16-17; Ps 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10: 17-31


May I speak in the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Bishops, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God:
 
It is an honour and a privilege to have been asked to share with you the Word of God on this historic milestone in the life, witness and ministry of the Diocese of Pretoria. Thank you, Bishop Allan, the clergy, your leadership team and to the whole diocesan community for inviting me. Thank you everyone for your warm welcome. Thank you too to those who were involved in the preparations for this day.
It was a joy to meet with your Diocesan Standing Committee yesterday. Interacting with your Diocesan leadership was enriching, and I shared with them four key matters occupying my time recently:
  • The work being done by the Province's Liturgical Committee to produce material for transformative worship and to revise our Prayer Book;
  • The wide-ranging examination of theological education being carried out by a Commission chaired by Professor Barney Pityana;
  • The Safe Church Network's efforts to ensure that women, children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse, which involves training and getting police clearance for those in ministry; and
  • The work of the Archbishop's Commission on Human Sexuality, and the decision of the Synod of the Diocese of Saldanha Bay to allow for the blessing of same-sex civil unions, subject to the approval of Provincial Synod.
I come to you having recently attended the Anglicans Ablaze conference in KwaZulu-Natal, where young people from all over the province were affirmed to continue as ambassadors of Christ wherever they are. I know everyone there would want me to greet those of you who couldn't make it there, and to bring you their and the Province's congratulations.
What an extraordinary journey this Diocese has made in the past 140 years – so unlikely, in fact, that we can understand it only if we accept that your origins and your transformation into what you represent today are the consequence of God's intervention in our lives.
As Bishop Allan has pointed out, Anglicans – just like the followers of other churches which have their roots in Britain – came here first following the paths of explorers and the agenda of British imperialism. (1) The first bishops who sought to minister to Anglicans in what was then the Transvaal Republic – the bishops of Bloemfontein and of Zululand – were responding to the needs of white English-speakers; although the bishop of Zululand did tell one of the first priests he ordained, and I quote, “not to neglect the natives.” (2)
The first recorded act of Christian missional work in what is now the Diocese was recorded in 1871, with the establishment of a school for the children of English and German settlers, the School of the Holy Trinity, in Rustenburg. (3) Bishop Bousfield was sent here to establish the Diocese in 1878 after the British had seized the Transvaal in the previous year. He was a product of the British establishment who attended an exclusive public school and Cambridge University, and whose only prior service was in parishes in England.
He was once quoted as saying that, and again I quote, “the natives of South Africa are wholly unfit for the franchise which, if granted, would ruin them...” (4) Yet missionary work among local people was one of his early priorities, albeit conducted under the paternalistic regime of the time. As Bishop Allan has written, the first recorded missionary activity among local people was the establishment of the Good Shepherd School for Poor Children. (5)
South African church historians have observed that while white clergy may have established most of the early missions in South Africa, it was Africans who were the most effective evangelists. Testimony to this is provided by Canon Edwin Farmer, one of the best-known early missionaries of our Province. Of the Diocese of Pretoria, he wrote:
“In 1894 there were 50 Native men working hard for the Church. I found that I had to register… thousands who had been converted by these men each year… I was also surprised that these Natives had built for themselves, without any prompting or assistance, rough buildings for churches… One of these evangelists is Jacob Dabani. He lived evangelically, never went back to his cattle and possessions but walked from village to village preaching wherever he had opportunity. He had no home of his own ever. He called his converts his children. His influence was marvellous.” (6)
Beginning with five clergy, the Church grew steadily under Bishop Bousfield's supervision through the first British occupation, then under the South African Republic until the Anglo-Boer War, when he had to go into exile. These years also of course marked the era in which either ZAR or British troops, with Pretoria as their capital, crushed the last independent indigenous kingdoms of the former Transvaal – including that of the MakgobasIt was under Bishop Bousfield's successor that the real growth of the Diocese took off. From one diocese for the whole of the former Transvaal in its early days, the Diocese of Pretoria has given birth to six more dioceses, beginning with Johannesburg in 1922. We give thanks to God that the missionary work begun here 140 years ago has now multiplied to include the Dioceses of St Mark the Evangelist, the Highveld, Christ the King, Matlosane and Mpumalanga.
We owe thanks to the many in this Diocese who kept the candles of faith and hope burning through the turmoil of our history. To name just a few, we remember Hannah Stanton, who served at Tumelong Mission and was detained without trial, then deported, for collecting evidence against the police for using violence against defenceless women. We recall also Father, later Bishop, Mark Nye, who gave hospitality to defendants in the Treason Trial of the 1950s and was also jailed after Sharpeville for his support of Hannah Stanton. We remember Bishop Richard Kraft's leadership during the stormy 1980s, including his leadership of the Pretoria version of the anti-apartheid marches which swept the country in September 1989.
And of course in the democratic era we recall with pride the role of Bishop Jo Seoka in standing up for the victims of Marikana, and how the Cathedral hosted a rally in November 2016 calling for President Zuma's resignation. As Bishop Allan has written, there is irony in the fact that a Cathedral which used to be a rallying point for anti-apartheid forces became the venue of “a meeting that demanded action from the liberation movement that it had helped to put in place.” (7)
Many deans of your Cathedral became bishops, and more recently we recall the contributions to our Church of that brilliant church historian, Dean Livingstone Lubabalo Ngewu. So today we remember and recall all the bishops, clergy, churchwardens and other lay leaders who paved the way for our worship in this Diocese today. They are our inspiration in leading the witness of Jesus through some of the most difficult times of our history.
Perhaps there are times when you, clergy and people of this Diocese, feel overawed by your illustrious past and wonder whether you are adequate for the challenges of today. Well, Job stands as an encouragement for us. This is good news for all of us. It is good news not because we are necessarily like Job – but because God is our God. And our God still delights in putting his spirit in us. It is God who enables us to live as Job did – going forward, believing in the righteousness and fairness of God. Job did not know the full story behind his suffering but he knew that he was suffering unjustly. He was living in a world that he could not understand and worshipping a God he could not fully comprehend.
Spurgeon, looking at Job, says that good men “are washed towards God even by the rough waves of their grief, and when their sorrows are deepest, their highest desire is not to escape from them, but to get at their God”. Job says “I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face” (23:17). What greater encouragement could we ask for? We need to play our part too, but we can do so inspired by faithfulness to and the promises of God. In today's Psalm also, we heard how the Psalmist felt abandoned by God and like Job laments or remonstrates. Later the Psalmist praises God and his plea is finally answered.
Our second reading reminds us that our God is alive and active, exposing everything in creation, penetrating us to the core of our being. As the reading vividly states, “Sharper than any double-edged sword, [the Word of God] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” He is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart – the totality and depth of one’s being. This is the benchmark by which we are all judged.
Confronted by this truth, we are confronted by God before whom nothing can be concealed. This indeed makes us aware that all things are stripped and bare and exposed to His searching glance. Friends, in the final accounting we give of our lives, we must all look to God and be looked upon by Him face to face. The writer of Hebrews stresses the parallel between Christ’s temptations and ours. Christ did not have each temptation we have but experienced every kind of temptation a person can have, yet was without sin.
In this celebration of the faithful of the Diocese of Pretoria, what are we bringing before God as an account of our ministry?
We celebrate today 140 years of service and witness to God’s love and care in one of the principal cities – indeed the principal city of governance – in our country. The rise and fall of our country rests on the decisions that are taken in this city. In today's Gospel reading (Mk 10: 17-31), Jesus is faced by a young man in the area of Judea and Perea, the focus of Jesus's ministry at the time. This young man was perhaps like someone we might find in Pretoria – a person of great wealth and therefore of power and status.
This rich young man wanted eternal life, and he thought that he would earn it through righteousness. But Jesus taught him that it was a gift to be received. The goodness of Jesus was in some sense subject to growth and testing in the circumstances of the incarnation, wherein he learned obedience through what he suffered.
The primary focus here is on the need of the man who, despite his sense of insecurity for the future, would have felt that he had attained a measure of goodness judged by the standards of the law. The lesson to be learnt here is that human attainment, such as he relied upon, can produce nothing good in God’s sight. Jesus administers to this rich young man a liberal dose of the law that he would be justified not by works but by faith. And to inherit eternal life is to dispose of anything that hinders you – in this case material possessions – and then to follow him and the Gospel.
Friends, encouraged particularly by Job, the Psalmist, the rich young ruler and the promise of the persecuted Hebrews, I invite each and every one of us to look deeply into ourselves. Bishops, priests and lay people over the past 140 years have given all for the Diocese to be where she is today. What is it that each of you commit yourselves to? What are your individual contributions spirituality and discipleship of all especially to the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in your communities? What is Jesus asking to set aside and dispose of today as you move forward in your personal and communal lives? What hinders you from being true followers of Jesus? What are you hoarding? What needs deliverance?
And what will be remembered about this city? Is it greed? Is it fraud and corruption? Or will our descendants remember it as the source of life, abundant life as John says, for our country for the ages to come? Our church, our country, and therefore this Diocese and this city face some big decisions in the coming months and years. In the Church, we have important decisions to make leading up to Provincial Synod next year on how we order our collective life: on how we transform our liturgies so that we worship God in ways best suited to the times in which we live; on how we ensure that our congregations are safe spaces for all our people, especially vulnerable children; on how we respond to the need for sensitive and effective ministry to those in same-sex unions.
Both in church and society, we are challenged to work out how best we can manage and develop our land – both urban and rural land – to ensure that all our people flourish in an economy that provides work and dignity for all. In the Church, the Provincial Standing Committee resolved last month that we should carry out an audit of church land and make recommendations for the use of vacant land. We have also commissioned theological reflection on the issue of land expropriation without compensation.
In society as a whole of course, the question of land is the burning issue of the day, one which will require enormous dedication and patience, but also a willingness to take quick and decisive action to bring about sensible reforms which both fulfil the demands of justice and the practical need for economic growth and jobs.
But the problem is not insoluble. Twenty-five years ago, we didn't know quite how we were going to get of apartheid, but we worked together and we succeeded. Just a year ago, we didn't know how we were going to restore good governance in a country which was heading for economic destruction. But now, although we are not out of the woods yet, we are on the way to doing that too. Can you imagine a year ago a Cabinet minister offering his or her resignation because, even though they made some admirably brave decisions, they also made some mistakes? We wish more would do the same!
As you move forward into your next 140 years, I bring you a challenge and an assurance. The challenge is:What is your vision for this diocese for the next 140 years? What can you do to enable it to move confidently into the next 140 years? Your founders – through wars, world wars, the Anglo-Boer War, colonialism andoppression – planted this Diocese, I charge you today to pick at least one thing that will make eternal life felt in the here and now; something that will better the lives of many in this diocese and the world. The assurance is that God has, again and again, met people and sent them out to proclaim his truth, with clarity and courage, through difficult and challenging times in the past. And he will do so again today and in the future.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Again, the Province warmly congratulates you on this anniversary.
God bless the Diocese and all her people.
AMEN
 
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
 
1. The 140th Anniversary of the Diocese of Pretoria: A Short Historical Overview, Allan Kannemeyer, page 1.

2. Compromise and Courage, Peter Lee, page 5.

3. Allan Kannemeyer, page 1.

4. Peter Lee, page 19.

5. Allan Kannemeyer, page 1.

6. Quoted in A History of the Church in Africa, Bengt Sundkler and Christopher Steed, page 412-413.

7. Allan Kannemeyer, page 2

 

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Infuse land debate with Gospel values: sharing, reconciliation, healing and taking care of neighbour

 
Members of the Provincial Standing Committee of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa have appealed for the full text of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's op-ed piece in last week's Sunday Times, Johannesburg, to be made more widely available. The text, as sent to the newspaper, appears below. At the end of the page is a link to a scan of the piece as it was published.  

The Makgobas and our clan, baTlou of Makgoba’s Kloof, Limpopo, know all about the pain of having our land expropriated without compensation.

When our great-grandfather, Kgoši Mamphoku Makgoba, resisted the decision of Paul Kruger’s government to parcel out our land to white settlers in the 1890s, they sent a force of at least 4000 to crush our army of 250. They finally caught up with Kgoši Makgoba in the kloof on a Sunday. Because General Piet Joubert, hero of the Boers’ First War of Liberation against the British, and his men were at church, the Swazi auxiliaries who found Makgoba cut off his head and sent it to Joubert to prove they had killed him. Announcing the news to Kruger, Joubert ended his telegram: “The Lord reigns, and I am his servant.” We are still searching for our ancestor’s skull.

More than 120 years later, when I drive through white-owned land down the beautiful Makgoba’s Kloof Pass, I pass citrus farms, avocado pear trees and commercial pine plantations. It smells of wealth and privilege. Arriving to visit relatives at Tlhabine in the Lowveld – the descendants of those driven from the kloof – it is barren by comparison. The stench is of deprivation and dispossession. The suffering and the hurt live on into the current generation. 

Although I don’t want to turn the current fight over land reform into a free-for-all, we cannot afford to ignore the seizure of land before the current cut-off date of 1913. Expropriation going back to  colonial times has sentenced many generations to utter poverty and shame. Laws and practices were maintained by force of arms, leading to a system of land ownership and economic development disproportionately based on race. 

However, we must recognise that going back to the colonial era raises difficult questions. What happens to white families who have long since sold the land originally seized by their forebears and invested the proceeds? And what about those who bought land for the first time more recently, using big loans from the banks? If the banks lose their money, what damage does that do to the rest of the economy? What about land given in the 19th century to those of our ancestors who helped the colonisers defeat other groups of African people? Who adjudicates those disputes? 

While our history gives us no choice but to redistribute land, I am not happy with the way politicians are playing on people’s hunger for redress and their yearning for better lives. In people’s minds, the unjust distribution of land has become a proxy for economic disadvantage, and “expropriation without compensation” is being sold as an instant solution to all our problems, from failed land reform projects to the lack of jobs in our cities. 

Expropriation does not automatically improve the lives of our people. We, the Makgobas, secured the return of some of our land under current legislation. But it has become a curse. Dissension among us resulted in some of the country’s most productive tea estates lying derelict for years. When I see the continuing poverty, I think the ghosts of Piet Joubert and Paul Kruger must be thumping their chests, celebrating that we still haven’t figured out how to deal with what they did to us. 

I have not heard anyone spell out an overarching vision which takes all the complex practical and emotional factors into account. Nor have I heard a satisfactory answer to the fundamental question: expropriation to do what? 

When I was a bishop in the Eastern Cape, before land reform became the buzzword it is today, we began to do it on our own. We took two sizeable pieces of land near Komani and East London and negotiated its future with both communities and the descendants of the traditional leaders who gave us the land. We ended up placing it in the hands of trusts set up to benefit the local people. To  safeguard the process, we made provision for taking back control if it was not used properly.

At the beginning of this month, I challenged our church to look at similar models nation-wide. I have said that even if we feel we have been granted land legitimately and used it properly, in the interests of reconciliation let us work with the communities we serve to see how best we build the future together. In this way, we can keep the land in the hands of the community, run for the benefit of all and with particular concern for the poorest of the poor. 

Our intention is to infuse a debate otherwise pursued for political and commercial gain with Gospel values: sharing, reconciliation, healing and taking care of our neighbours. While our model is specific to our needs, I do not think land reform will work if it is driven only from Tshwane or Cape Town, or only by business. We should decentralise the process by allowing people to work out local solutions appropriate to local situations, backed by a legal and policy framework provided by government.

A fully-developed policy of redistribution needs both to take into account that there is more demand for urban than for rural land, and to provide an economic model for developing rural land, including clear proposals for education and practical help for those who want to work the land. It should not be a political tool but a tool for real transformation, to address the inequality of opportunity and the high rate of unemployment from which we suffer. 

Finally, we need to address the social imperatives of land reform. My mother used to say that the damage wrought by the loss of our land will not be repaired by its restoration. The scars to our psyche left by the seizure of our land are real and still inflame the debate, and as a psychologist, I know that the emotional component of the debate is as important as the practical. 

We cannot ignore the importance of place in our lives. While many of us may not want to go back to our ancestral lands to farm, to address the pain and cultural deprivation we have suffered, we need to work out forms of restitution for cultural purposes, for example enabling even urban dwellers to visit their ancestral areas to reconnect with their heritage. 

Each of us needs to consider: what can we contribute to economic transformation and social cohesion in South Africa? If we cannot bring that about, the South Africa of tomorrow will be as unsustainable for our children and grandchildren as the South Africa of the apartheid past.

 

Saturday, 1 September 2018

To the Laos - To the People of God - Church must be in the forefront over land reform

 

Dear People of God

The debate over land reform in South Africa came to mind on a trip to Chile recently, where I represented the Archbishop of Canterbury on an Anglican Communion delegation investigating whether to recognise the church in that country as the 40th Province of the Communion.
 
The Diocese of Chile has for nearly 40 years been part of the Anglican Church of South America, a single Province which covers the whole continent. Now the church in Chile wants to establish four dioceses in place of one, and to form its own Province. While we were in the country, members of the delegation split up into groups to travel to different regions, and I found myself visiting an area in which the Mapuche people – who constitute Chile’s largest indigenous ethnic group – are well represented in the church. Just as in our Province, since the 19th century the church has helped to bring education as well as make converts, and there is as a result respect for Anglicans in Chile. But also as in South Africa, the Mapuche feel to some extent that in the process they lost their language and their land. So, many years later, they are now fighting to reclaim both the language and the land.
 
At home, we have faced criticism that the church has been quiet in the debate that has been raging over restoring the land to its original owners since the ANC adopted a resolution last year allowing for expropriation without compensation. But I want to highlight the fact that long before the land issue became a buzzword in society, it has been addressed in at least some parts of our church. The example with which I am most familiar is that in the Diocese of Grahamstown, where as a token of our commitment to reconciliation we have given two sizeable pieces of church land to communities, one at St. John’s, Bolotwa, near Komani (Queenstown), and the other at St Luke’s, Nxarhuni, near East London. In conjunction with the relevant government departments and with descendants of the traditional leaders who made the land available to us, we negotiated to place it in the hands of trusts with the aim of benefitting local people, whether in agricultural or other projects.
 
At a time in South Africa when tensions are building over how we control and manage the land, my call is for parishes and dioceses of our church to be in the forefront of the dialogue over land reform. Right now there are many criticisms of how the State is or will be conducting the land reform process: for example, that greedy farmers are trying to extract too much money from the State in compensation for their land; that traditional leaders are trying to seize control of the land and dispose of it in their own financial interests; that politically-connected individuals will be allocated tracts at the expense of the poor; and others.
St. Luke's Mission
The church can bring a different approach to land reform. In some rural parts of our Province, we have tracts of land, some given by chiefs, some bought and some inherited because of who we are. Now we want to be a source in our communities which says that, yes, we may have been granted this land legitimately and have looked after it over many years, but now in the interests of reconciliation, let’s talk and work out how best we build the future together. We can influence the process to ensure that land is kept in the hands of community trusts, run for the benefit of all and with particular concern for the poorest of the poor. We can include a provision – as happened in the Diocese of Grahamstown – that if those who take over the land fail to use it properly, it will revert to the control of the church.
 
The church can bring a different lens through which to focus on the land issue. We can infuse a debate otherwise being pursued for political and commercial gain with the values of the Gospel: values of sharing, reconciliation and healing.
 
God bless you as we chart our course through this difficult time in our history.

†Thabo Cape Town



 

Monday, 27 August 2018

South Africa's new dawn "is not yet visible on the horizon" - Archbishop

 
A sermon preached at a combined Confirmation Service for Anglican Schools in Cape Town, held at St Cyprian's School, on 26 August 2018: 

Readings: 1 Kings 8:1,6,10-11,23-30,41-43, Psalm 84,  Ephesians 6:10-30,  John 6: 56-69

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God, heads of participating schools – Mrs Sue Redelinghuis of St Cyprian’s, Mr Stewart West of Herschel, Mr Guy Pearson of Diocesan College (Bishops) and Mr Julian Cameron of St George’s Grammar, educators, friends and families, it is a great joy to be with you today and share in this important milestone in the lives of the confirmation candidates.
A warm welcome to you all. Thank you for inviting me and, most importantly, thank you to the school chaplains – the Revd Andrew Weiss of St Cyprian’s, the Revd Lorna Lavello-Smith of Herschel and the Revd Bob Commin of Bishops, for preparing the candidates for confirmation. A special welcome to the parents and godparents of those to be confirmed during this service. Thank you, Fr Andrew, for preparing for this service and for this wonderful service booklet.
Today we have come in the presence of God to give witness to this special gift with which God, out of his goodness, will endow you, the confirmation candidates: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into your lives. The rite of passage that you pass through today, confirmation, will empower you to practise your faith more effectively in every aspect of your existence, deepening your relationship with God and strengthening your spiritual lives.
Jesus says in today’s Gospel reading: “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless.” As you have learned in your preparation classes, at your confirmation you receive also the seven gifts of the spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of God. These gifts, as we heard in the introduction to this service, are given to you to fulfil three important purposes: you receive the power of the Spirit for worship, witness and service.
Let us look at our lives of faith through each of these three lenses and ask ourselves: what insights can we draw from each as we prepare to fulfil our confirmation vows in our Christian lives?
Of the three, worship comes first. Everything else we do flows from this. Worship is what we do through praising and paying homage to God. It begins with fear of the Lord, which is one of the gifts of the Spirit. Fearing the Lord is not like fearing a lion, rather it is to be in awe of God, or as CS Lewis puts it, to “feel wonder and a certain shrinking” before God. Through worship we show respect for and love of God, admiring God with those who believe in him.
Worshipping God helps us, as Paul says in today’s  reading from his letter to the Ephesians, to put on the full armour of God in order to stand firm in the face of the challenges of the changing times we live in. This he says because our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of this world. And good worship builds good character, which is what our society needs.
Confirmation also requires us to bear witness to the truth of the gospel. As confirmed members of the church of God we are to speak for God in all places and at all times. This requires wisdom – which is considered as the first of the great gifts. Wisdom helps us to discern what is wrong from what is right and instills attraction to that which is divine.
The Holy Spirit which you are to receive in this service will instil in you the courage to stand for what is right in the sight of God, especially under difficult situations, when standing firm can mean facing rejection, verbal abuse or physical harm. It requires firmness of mind to endure evil and stand for what is good. Perhaps this is what Jesus required of his disciples as presented in the Gospel reading.
The third reason you receive the power of the spirit today is to equip you for service to God and to God’s world. God calls us to serve him and to do what he desires of us, submitting to his ways wholeheartedly so that he will be supreme over our lives. We are called to serve God so that his glory shines through us, and by serving God in faith we can be reassured that he will supply our needs.
Just as we are called to serve God, we are also called to be faithful in our Christian service. When God calls you and me, we are entrusted with responsibilities that will in the end glorify not ourselves but God. As we heard in today’s Old Testament reading, serving God is what motivated Solomon to build a beautiful temple for the Lord and to ensure that the ark of the covenant was brought back from the Tent of Meeting.
Looking at South Africa today through the lenses of worship, witness and service, what have we witnessed, and what are we witnessing today? Can we be called witnesses to the truth? And how best can we be of service to God in South Africa today, remembering again that our struggle is against the principalities of this world?
Travelling the length and breadth of South Africa this past week – traversing Mpumalanga, KwaZulu/ Natal and Limpopo – as well as recently returning from trips to North and South America and Europe, I am sad to report that confidence in our future is eroding everywhere. Inside South Africa, civil society has lost trust in our society's ability – reflected in government, business and labour – to emerge from our country's crisis of distrust. Abroad, the world is losing patience with the promise that South Africa offered two decades ago when we took a new path. Of course when I say the world is losing patience with us, I talk of our friends who know the complexity of the issues we face, not of presidents who know nothing about us or about Africa and whose idea of leadership is to send tweets.
While the darkest night we have experienced since liberation in 1994 has ended, it is becoming clear that the new dawn promised by the new administration is not yet visible on the horizon. The government is working hard and deserves as much support as it can garner, but the improvements it promises are hard to achieve while corruption still envelopes our country.
Many of you will know that I have in recent years been promoting the idea of a New Struggle to replace the old struggle against apartheid – a struggle to end economic inequities, to revisit the distribution and use of our land, to end the inequalities of service delivery, health care and education, and most of all to bring about equality of opportunity.
Now that we have taken the first step back on the road we set out upon when we adopted our new Constitution, the time has come to ask how we fulfil the dream, unique to us, that we had then. How do we arise from the ashes of pervasive corruption and return to South Africans the billions stolen from the public purse?
I don’t want to preempt the outcome of the Zondo Commission on State Capture, but how do we explain why no one has been convicted – or even arrested – for the crimes committed against us, our children and our grandchildren? Is it really the case that our law enforcement agencies are so corrupted or incompetent that the perpetrators will never be brought to justice?
By some estimates former President Zuma and his crooked cronies stole more than 100 billion rands from us. Added to what was stolen from South Africa's people under apartheid, the figures are mindboggling. If only the 100 billion is returned, this is what it means:
    • Every student graduating from high school who is qualified could attend university free for the next decade;
    • Rampant youth unemployment could be radically reduced by providing free practical technical training for artisans;
    • Every home and school in every township could have modern bathroom facilities;
    • We could have free health care for those who cannot afford it.
In John's Gospel, we are promised abundant life to all:  not to some, as is the case in South Africa at present. And Jesus doesn't mince his words when he names those who would deny us abundant life: he calls them thieves and robbers who come only to steal and kill and destroy. From another religious tradition, Gandhi teaches us that “It is wrong and immoral to seek to escape the consequences of one's acts.”
South Africa has suffered from a pervasive abuse of power and position by those who allowed their consciences to decay as a result of greed. We allowed to rise to power leaders who compromised our national values as articulated in the Constitution. Justice must be done and they must return what they stole. Looking back to the past, no efforts will ever be enough to repair the harm done; yet, looking ahead to the future, we must spare no effort to create a culture in which such abuses will never occur again.
Historically, South Africans have achieved most when we have realised that if one member of society suffers, if one family suffers, if one community suffers, we all suffer. We succeed when we focus on what we can create together, when we allow hope to flourish and don't stress over what we cannot control.
If we are committed to embrace the New Struggle, my prayer is that we will now make the following choices:
    • We will open our eyes and our hearts to the indignities and suffering which our fellow South Africans undergo;
    • We will overcome the thirst for power and possession that are so often the roots of these evils; and
    • We must say “never again” to the inequalities our society has experienced and work unceasingly to end them.
It is at turning points such as the one we now face that our destiny is shaped. Destiny is a matter of choice, not of chance. I call on all South Africans to embrace our New Struggle, to awaken their consciences and arouse our solidarity and commitment to a culture of values-based decision making and care for one another. In that way we can be of good service to our schools, our families and our beautiful country.
May God bless you, your family and God bless South Africa.
And as you know, God loves you and so do I.
Amen.
 
 

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Archbishop preaches at service for Prince Buthelezi's 90th birthday

 
A homily preached by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at an Ecumenical Service of thanksgiving for the 90th birthday of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, Durban, on 19 August 2018:

Readings: 1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14, Ps 111, Eph.5:15-20, John 6:51-58

May I speak in the name of God, our Redeemer and our Sustainer. Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God; it is a great honour for me to celebrate with you in this service today.

May I extend a warm welcome to all our guests, visitors and friends who are part of this service and especially to His Majesty the King and members of the Royal House. I want to extend a special appreciation to Bishop Dino, Bishop Steve, other bishops and clergy and other church leaders and ecumenical partners here present.

It is an honour and privilege to have been asked to celebrate with you at this historic moment in the life of Prince Buthelezi and his family - a Thanksgiving to God.

Thank you everyone [Ke a leboha, ngiyathokoza] for the wonderful and warm welcome we received on our arrival here. Thank you also to those who gave their time to be involved in the preparation for today.

I pray that our time together as ecumenical/ interdenominational partners will be a moment of growth and deepening of our relationship and partnership in God’s mission.

At the outset, if I may be bold to address personally the person whose life and work have brought us together today: Prince Buthelezi, Shenge, we are all thrilled to be here to give thanks to God and to celebrate the gift of your extraordinary life to your family and to the nation.

The history of your involvement with the Church goes back  for more than half a century and during the time of no less than six archbishops. This long record reminds us of the close relations between the Anglican Church and amaZulu, the Zulu people, going back into the 19th century. We recognise with shame that early missionaries played a negative role in some respects, for example trying to damage innocuous cultural practices. But we also recall with pride the role of Bishop Colenso and of how his daughter helped defend your grandfather, King Dinizulu, when he faced trial on charges of high treason. We recall too the Anglican antecedents of King Dinizulu, of King Solomon, of the Regent, Prince Mshiyeni, of your dear mother, Princess Magogo, and of course in our time of His Majesty, the King.

In your own life, we recall that Archbishop Joost de Blank invited you to stay at Bishopscourt when you were not allowed to stay in hotels in Cape Town, and that you became close to Archbishop Robert Selby Taylor, beginning when you represented the Province (ACSA) at the historic Anglican Congress in Toronto in 1963. We recall too your close relations with Archbishop Bill Burnett and with that much-loved pioneer of the Church, Bishop Alphaeus Zulu. We acknowledge too that at times there were tensions between you and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and that there were times when you felt a lonely Christian. But even at the most difficult times in our history, you were always willing to welcome Archbishop Tutu to Ulundi, recognising him as your archbishop, sharing a meal with him there and even sending a plane to bring him from Durban. We recall also that during that time you welcomed our Synod of Bishops to kwaNzimela, and that when Archbishop Tutu asked you in 1993 to meet Nelson Mandela to talk peace, you agreed without hesitation. More recently we have celebrated in particular the fine example you set to church and society in breaking the silence and addressing the stigma around HIV and Aids.

Today we celebrate your life as a faithful Anglican, as a lay minister, as a former Council member of St Peter's Seminary, as a representative of your Diocese to the Province, and of the Province to the wider Anglican Communion. On a lighter note, I have heard it told  that you are not enamoured of some of our more recent innovations – for example, I understand that you feel that Anglicans sometimes go a bit overboard with choruses nowadays. But given your long and devoted service to the Church, you are more than entitled to disapprove of some of the things we do! Thinking back over the last half century, perhaps the only claimants who could rival you for the title of the country's most prominent lay Anglican might be OR Tambo, Alan Paton or Kgalema Motlanthe. But your service,  recognised in the award to you of the Order of Simon of Cyrene, has been in more capacities and over a longer period.

Thank you Shenge, Sokwalisa, Sondiya, Mnyamana ka Ngqengelele, wena owadliwa zindlovukazi zamlobolela. We thank God who has been by your side though out the changing times in your life – in the private, public and political spaces. We also thank your family for standing by your side.

In today's reading, John (Jn 6:51-58) continues with Jesus’ sermon on the Bread of Life. He writes this gospel to ensure that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing we may have life in his name. His primary intention is purely evangelistic. He puts emphasis on the relationship between the Father and the Son, and on how the plan of salvation was effected by the Father through the Son. It was through love of the world that God sent his Son, and the Son is the agent through whom the Father reveals Himself.

In the reading, Jesus is at Capernaum teaching in the synagogue about who he really is. He says “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). Jesus’ statement preludes a direct reference to the Lord’s Supper. The metaphor of eating and drinking prepares a way for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. His teaching is not that receiving that sacrament is one requirement for eternal life; rather his emphasis is on faith in response to his testimony about himself.

It is clear therefore, that all life is unending. And Jesus continues to say “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink” (v.55). My sisters and brothers, those who see and understand Christ’s true character, and receive him into their hearts as their Saviour, have eternal life. The Holy Spirit allows Christ to dwell in our lives, and the Spirit received into our hearts by faith is the beginning of eternal life. We need to journey with Christ in our lives in order to be assured of everlasting life. The mystery of the Eucharist allows Christ to dwell in us and us in Him. The Incarnate Christ is able to give us this life.

It is understandable that at the time the Gospel was written, Jews would not have grasped the spiritual meaning of Jesus’ words, which could be understood only later in the light of his subsequent sacrifice upon the Cross. The eating and drinking became symbolic of the appropriation of the effects of that sacrifice.

How many of us here today are still like those who, at the time Jesus lived, were unable to see and understand who Christ is? How many of us are so overwhelmed or blinded that we cannot see God? Many of those in Jesus’ time, taking too literally what he was saying, exclaimed, “How can this Man give us his flesh to eat?” Probably just as Nicodemus, in John 3:4, asked: How can a man be born again?

Friends, to partake in the flesh and blood of Christ is to be convinced that he forgives our sins and that we are complete in him. It is by beholding his love and dwelling upon it that we become partakers of his nature. We must feed upon him and receive him into our hearts so that his life becomes our life.

The life of Christ that gives life to the world is in his Word. It was through the Word that he provided bread for the multitudes and healed their diseases. As our physical life is sustained by what we eat, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God. The word of God, received into the soul, moulds our thoughts and helps develop our Christ like character.

Solomon had this in mind when asked God: “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours.” (1 Kings 3:9).

Solomon was about twenty years old at the beginning of his reign and lacked the experience to assume the responsibilities of his office. In response to Solomon’s appeal, God indeed gave him a wise and discerning mind. If you were given the same opportunity today – to ask God for a special gift or attribute, what would you ask from God? Would you ask for land expropriation without compensation? Would you ask for NESFAS to close down support to learners from disadvantaged communities? Would you ask the United States to set conditions for lifting sanctions to Zimbabwe in the wake of political developments there? Or, given that it is Women’s Month in South Africa, would you ask God to give you the will to stand up and condemn the exploitation and abuse of women? President Ramaphosa has appointed an envoy to raise money. Would the money be raised to aid in nation building or should it be prioritised for social investment? What comes first- nation building or social investment?

South Africa and the world needs leaders with this rare gift, the wisdom of Solomon, a wisdom which God alone can provide. We cannot comprehend this unless we hear what Jesus, through St Paul, is saying to the church today: “Be careful, then how you live - not as unwise people, but as wise, making most of every opportunity because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16). Paul warns us here to avoid the threat of becoming complicit with the evil in the world. He issues a call to wisdom, which is set over against the folly of an unbelieving world.

Friends, it is with joyful hearts that we give thanks to God for the bread of life that brings his loving presence into our lives. It is with joyful hearts that we give thanks for all he does and for all he has done for you and through you, Prince Buthelezi, and at this milestone in your life, we ask God again to endow you with the same spirit of discernment as Solomon received.

Let’s praise the Lord and again congratulate you on your 90th birthday. As the psalmist says, “Ngiyakubonga uJehova ngenhliziyo yami yonke emhlanganweni nasebandleni labaqotho” (Ps 111:1).

God loves you, and we love you too.

God bless.

 

 

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Archbishop gives thanks for lives of a selfless generation of leaders

 

This weekend we have reason to thank God for the contributions to the good of humanity of a great, selfless generation of leaders.

In South Africa, we give thanks for the life of Mama Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe, widow of Robert Sobukwe, who died in Graaff-Reinet weeks after her 91st birthday.

Abroad, we received with shock the news that Kofi Annan, a great African and a Nobel peace laureate who gave new energy to the United Nations to intervene to prevent conflict, has died in Geneva after a short illness.

And at home we celebrate the long lives of leaders who are still with us: the 93rd birthday of Mama Gertrude Shope, a former trade unionist and the first leader of the ANC Women's League, and the 90th birthday of Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

I am pleased to be preaching at a thanksgiving service for the Prince in Durban today, of which we will write more later.

Our prayers go to the families of those who have died, and our best birthday wishes to those veterans celebrating milestone birthdays.
 
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba 

 

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

'The poor pay the price for climate change'

 
A highlight of General Convention, the TEConversations were part of the three Joint Sessions of General Convention, each focused on one of its three priorities: racial reconciliation, evangelism and care of creation.

Each 90-minute session included three speakers, videos and music and ended with deeper, small-group discussions. The speakers represented international leaders, well-known Episcopalians and rising voices in the church.

Photo: Sharon Tillman/ENS)
Bishops and deputies...  heard from Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Cecil Makgoba, who reminded them that in Genesis 2:15, “God takes a woman and a man and he puts them in trust … to see that creation is not exploited but that it flourishes.”

Unfortunately, that’s not what has happened, and the poor and the marginalized, especially those living in Latin America, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, are paying the highest price.

In today’s world, where water is scarce or taken for granted as something that flows from the tap and is sold as a commodity, “900 million people do not have access to the lifesaving 20 liters of water a day because the needs of the poorest of the poor are not taken into consideration,” he said.

Water is mentioned 722 times in the Bible, said Makgoba. “The issue of water justice and climate care is real. We don’t have time to be quibbling about the science. We don’t need to be quibbling about the details. We need praxis.”

 

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Archbishop defends Mandela's legacy

 

The Archbishop's column in the July issue of Good Hope, the newsletter of the Diocese of Cape Town. July 18 marks the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.

This month we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Madiba's birth. As Christians, we know that our God in Jesus Christ, is the God of the living and the dead. In that spirit, we give thanks for Madiba's life. 
 
During his last years, I had the opportunity to touch and feel his spirituality when I ministered to him. His faith was complex, but believing as he did that “religion is in our blood” as South Africans, he of all our presidents ensured that the voice of faith – not only of Christians – was heard in public life.

I am sad when I see young people attacking Madiba's legacy and claiming he “sold us out” by not building us the Promised Land in his lifetime. We ought not to take the events of history and look at them through the lens of today's eyes; when we do, we are bound to be insensitive to the realities that our forebears faced and to pass naïve and shallow judgements on their achievements.

We need to remember that 30 years ago, as Madiba entered discussions ahead of his release, then began negotiations with apartheid leaders, our country was at war. Historians describe it as a low-intensity civil war but for us and those communities who saw thousands of men, women and children killed it was most definitely a high-intensity war. And if you want to end a war you don't do it through more war – especially when your forces, in this case MK and APLA, have no prospect of military victory any time soon.

Madiba and his fellow leaders had to make compromises to end the war, and yes, we are feeling the impact of those compromises today. But they had to be made for the sake of peace and for the luxury of being alive to look back and criticise them. As it was, our fathers and mothers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, made huge sacrifices for our liberation for most if not all of their lives.
 
If you question what they achieved, then look at Syria today, where more than a quarter of a million people have been killed, more than six million have been forced to flee the country and another six million have been driven from their homes and displaced within the country. Or look at South Sudan, where the Anglican Church is a strong force. There, Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, who once served as president and vice-president together, fell out two years after they achieved their independence. Five years later they are still at war and successive rounds of peace talks have been abortive. There's no spirit of compromise, and what's happening as a result? There's no movement and people continue dying.

Would we have time, or even be alive, to criticize the compromises of Madiba's generation if they had not made them? Rather than look backwards at what we cannot change, let us rather look forward. Our forebears brought us into the Promised Land: it is up to us now to build it.
 
We need to focus on the challenges of today, raise them to a higher level and re-negotiate how we move our country forward to deal with the horrendous inequality we still suffer. We need to end inequality of opportunity. We need to put justice at the heart of what we seek to achieve, and be sacrificial in redistributing that which God has given to all South Africans to benefit the poorest of the poor – who seem to be ignored in the current debates. Above all, we need to become courageous like Madiba, wise like Madiba, and take the debates and decisions over the structuring of the economy and the distribution of land to a higher level and ensure apt policy to achieve these.

As we celebrate Madiba's life, let's also celebrate the long lives of those in our own Diocese who have lived to the age of 90 and beyond; let's congratulate them, wish them well and show them that we love and care for them too. Let's also join others in service of our communities, and especially the poorest of the poor, on Nelson Mandela Day, Wednesday July 18. As the Letter of James said, faith without works is dead. So I urge you in Madiba's memory to commit yourself to voluntary service of some sort – you can find details on this page of the Mandela foundation's website: https://www.mandeladay.com/pages/what-can-i-do

Thank God for the recent rain, pray that it may be sustained, and please continue to limit your usage to 50 litres a day each.

God bless you


 

 

 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Church welcomes ConCourt judgement on sexual assault cases

 
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has welcomed today's Constitutional Court judgement making it easier to bring to justice the perpetrators of sexual assault. He has also urged South Africa's parliament to act quickly to end the bar on pressing charges if offences were committed more than 20 years earlier. 

He said in a statement issued in Cape Town:

“I welcome today's Constitutional Court judgement which declares as inconsistent with the Constitution the provision in the law which bars prosecutors from charging someone for sexual offences (other than rape) after the lapse of 20 years from when the offence was committed.

“Noting that the Court has given Parliament 24 months in order to enact changes to the law to implement its decision in practice, I urge Parliament to act quickly to adopt legislation to remedy the injustice which has prevented survivors of abuse from pressing charges. 

“I welcome in particular the Court's recognition that survivors of sexual assault have often not reported offences at the time they were committed for fear of their abusers or concern over the possible responses from their communities. 

“This new development in criminal law comes as our Church also takes action to make it easier for survivors of abuse to bring charges under church law. 

“Church lawyers have recommended to me that we need to make it easier for complainants to access the process laid down under Canon (Church) Law and that we need to provide more support for them during the process. 

“They are also reviewing how the Church can prevent sexual abuse and harassment and how it can initiate early intervention in such cases, including providing support services, a helpline and crisis and survivor support.” 

 

 

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Dedication of Emmanuel Church, Umlazi

 
Sermon preached by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at the dedication of Emmanuel Church, Umlazi, on Saturday May 19 in the Diocese of Natal:

Readings: 1 Kings 8: 22 -30, Ps 122, 1 Pet 2:4-10, Luke 19:1-10

May I speak in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives, Amen.
Bishop Dino, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God: it is a great joy for me to be here with you as we give thanks to God for this place of worship.
Let me also acknowledge Prince Buthelezi and Fr Ncaca, who presided at Lungi and my wedding 28 years ago.
Emmanuel Church, Umlazi.
It is an honour and privilege to have been asked to celebrate with you at this historic moment in the life of this community and the Diocese. Thank you, Bishop Dino and your entire team for inviting me. Thank you everyone for the wonderful and warm welcome we received on our arrival here. Thank you also to those who gave of their time and were involved in the preparation for today.
I thank God for the unsung heroes and heroines who have kept the gospel light burning here through their lives, their zeal, their prayers and their service and witness.
Today, I especially thank God for his faithfulness to you who have made it possible for this church to be a holy place of prayer and worship.  Our gratitude also to God for his sustaining care for you, particularly during the turbulent times of the past, and for affording you this time of great hope and opportunity, even though of course it comes with challenges.   
It is no surprise that immediately after dedicating the Temple in Jerusalem – in fulfilment of the long-cherished plan of David to erect a temple to the Lord (1 Kings 8:22ff) – Solomon jumped straight into a prayer of dedication. This included a prayer for the royal family, for the true significance of the Temple, and for God’s help when national problems such as defeat, drought and other calamities befell God's people. There was also a prayer for the foreigner who came to the faith of Israel and prayers for times of war and captivity.
The spot on which the Temple was built had long been regarded as a consecrated place. It was here that Abraham, the father of the faithful, had revealed his willingness to sacrifice his only son in obedience to the command of God. Here God had renewed with Abraham the covenant of blessing, which included the glorious Messianic promise to the human race through the sacrifice of Jesus. Here it was that when David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to stay the avenging sword of the destroying angel, God had answered him by fire from heaven. And now once more the worshippers of God were here to meet their God and renew their vows of allegiance to him.
The time chosen for the dedication was the most favourable one – the seventh month, when people from every part of the kingdom were accustomed to assemble in Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles. This feast was, like this feast with you today, pre-eminently an occasion of rejoicing. The labours of the harvest had ended and the toils of the new year had not yet begun, the people were free from care and could give themselves up to the sacred, joyous influences of the hour.
The scene was of unusual splendour. Solomon, with the elders of Israel and the most influential men among the people, had returned from another part of the city, where they had brought the Ark of the  Covenant. From the sanctuary on the heights of Gibeon had been transferred the ancient tabernacle of the congregation, and all the holy vessels that were in there. And these cherished reminders of the earliest experiences of the children of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness and their conquest of Canaan, now found a permanent home in the building that had been erected to take the place of a portable structure.
Realising the significance of all this, Solomon – looking towards heaven, overwhelmed with joy and kneeling – exclaimed: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above and on earth below – you who keep your covenant of love with your servant who continues wholeheartedly in your way ” (1 Kings 8:23). 
Friends, we are here to witness God’s wonderful acts in our lives. When you look back at what God has done to make this day a reality, we can all say: Lord, there is no God like you. When Solomon ended his prayer, fire came down from heaven and the glory of God filled the temple. Here in Umlazi today, I invite each and every one of you to give yourselves wholly to God and his service, and to magnify his holy name so that he will transform our hearts and minds for abundant life.
Although God does not dwell in temples made with human hands, yet he honours with his presence the assemblies of his people. He has promised that when we come together to seek him, to acknowledge our sins and to pray for one another, he will meet with us through his Spirit. Those who come together to worship him should put away every evil thing. Unless we worship him in spirit and truth and in the beauty of holiness, our coming together will be of no avail.
Today’s Gospel (Lk 19:1-10) gives us another picture of God’s covenant love. Zacchaeus is an example of what is possible with God. The Roman authorities tasked him with the responsibility to collect taxes. He did not receive any salary for his work but collected as much money as he could so that he would have a handsome rake-off after paying the government the appointed sum. His attempt to see Jesus, known as the friend of a tax collectors, indicates his interest in Jesus. 
Whether Zacchaeus hoped to be hidden from view is not certain, but in any case, Jesus summoned him with a request that he provide lodging. The command was obeyed and Zacchaeus showed both repentance and joy as he welcomed Jesus to his house. Outside there were great murmurings about Jesus’ fraternizing with such a man, but Jesus was able to justify his actions – salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus, a son of Abraham who was as entitled to receive and to hear the Gospel as any other Jew. This act fully and finally summed up the purpose of Jesus’ coming; as a shepherd seeks for the lost sheep, so the Son of Man seeks and saves the lost of humanity.
The question is, who is Jesus here and now? What is true religion in the light of the moral decay we see in the world today?
Peter (1 Pet 2:4-10) draws together two strands of prophecy: the precious foundation stone and the rejected keystone. Jesus Christ is the foundation on which the Christian Church is built. But he is also portrayed in this reading as the keystone who is rejected by the builders. However, belief in Christ is the keystone essential to the completion of the building: without that belief, there can be no church. At the end of the day, you – the people gathered here in St Augustine's – are crucial to the building of the Kingdom of God in this place; without you to remind this community of the presence of God in Umlazi, this new structure – wonderful though it is – is meaningless.  
You are not literal pieces of rock but are persons who derive your life from Christ; Christ who is the original living stone from whom you have come, the life-giving spirit. The whole body of Christ, priests and believers, are to reflect the holiness of God and that of their high priest, offer spiritual sacrifices, intercede for man before God and represent God before man.
The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, Bishop Michael Curry, last week reflected on the Trump government in that country, and came to the conclusion that we are living through perilous and polarising times, and facing a dangerous crisis for moral leadership, politically and religiously. He therefore says, “It is time to be followers of Jesus before anything else – nationality, political party, race, ethnicity, gender, geography. Our identity in Christ precedes every other identity.”
Friends, that is true for us too: we can never be followers of Christ unless we are the living stones rooted in Christ.
In a meeting of the Anglican Archbishops of Africa in Nairobi recently, we discussed issues that affect our life in the Communion. Our emphasis was among other things on the challenge of evangelism and the need to disciple young people. We also discussed the increase in some areas of violence and persecution using religion to justify it. In this regard, we recall the recent incident of the bombing of the mosque in Verulam, and the threat it posed to innocent lives. As we have moved from the Ascension to Pentecost – with many praying for evangelism under the theme, “Thy Kingdom Come“, we need to ask: what is true religion?
Tomorrow we will be receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. As we prepare for that, we also need to ask:  What anticipation do you have of Pentecost?  What are the fruits of the Spirit? For you, do you leave them out or just recite them? Jacob in Genesis 28: 10-22 says “surely the Lord is in this place – I did not know.” Are you that place that reveal God?
As we wrestle with these questions, may the Holy Spirit that brought blessings in the Temple during Solomon’s prayer, the Spirit that changed the life of Zacchaeus for the better, and the Spirit that God's people experienced like a rushing might wind at Pentecost  transform your lives to be living stones for the foundation of God's church in this Diocese.
Jesus lives, and because he lives, we shall live also. From grateful hearts, from lips touched by holy fire, let the glad song ring out, Christ is risen!
He lives to make intercession for us. Grasp this hope, and it will hold the soul like a sure, tried anchor.
Believe and you shall see the glory of Incarnate Christ.
God bless you

 

Thursday, 19 April 2018

To the Laos - To the People of God - on Eastertide & Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

 
My dear People of God

Easter has once again been a busy time for travel: on the evening of Easter Sunday I left to chair a meeting of the Design Group for the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Preparations for the conference are well on their way, and the theme is:  “God's Church for God's World: walking, listening and witnessing together”.

Lambeth is a meeting of all the world's Anglican bishops which usually happens every 10 years, and has been held since 1867, when the controversy involving our founding bishop, Robert Gray, and Bishop Colenso of Natal was one of the reasons it was first called. The 2020 conference will take place from July 24 to August 3 at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and Archbishop Justin Welby will send out formal invitations to more than 900 bishops and their spouses – including our own – later this year.

Archbishop Justin has explained on the newly-unveiled conference website that “It will be a time of addressing hurts and concerns; of deepening existing relationships and building new ones; of grappling with issues that face the Church and the world.” Please support your Bishops as they prepare for Lambeth, and pray for the success of the conference.

I arrived home the day before our son, Nyaki's graduation at the University of Cape Town, and after presiding over a graduation at the University of the Western Cape the day after that, it was off to Rome to a consultation on mining and miners with the Roman Catholic, Methodist and wider Anglican churches. Our own “Courageous Conversations” on the future of the industry in Southern Africa are part of this initiative, begun nearly five years ago when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace hosted us in Rome. Our dialogue with managements, labour and governments seeks to re-position the sector as one that can be a partner for long-term sustainable development with host communities and governments.

Flying back from Rome to Johannesburg, I arrived just in time to attend the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (I responded to her death while in London.) As we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Chris Hani, we conveyed our condolences to the Mandela family, and also to the families of former minister Zola Skweyiya, in many ways the architect of our social grants system, to former ambassador George Nene and, in Cape Town, to the property tycoon Pam Golding.

In my book, Faith & Courage, I discuss the national trauma from which we still suffer as a result of the aftershocks of apartheid. The reaction to Mama Winnie's death shows once again that South Africa needs deep healing, and the more we pretend we don't need it or postpone it, the deeper the hurt and the more destructive its impact will be. Around the time of the funeral we saw Stratkom – the strategy which the apartheid system used to turn us against each other – come alive once again, seeking to destroy our social fabric by sowing misinformation and suspicion against our comrades. Whatever allegations and misinformation are sown anew around journalists, activists, respected leaders and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, let us remember we have a nation to build and find socially cohesive ways of dealing with the controversy. With national elections scheduled in South Africa for next year, we hope the mudslinging we have seen will not be abused for political gain. We have huge challenges – the land question foremost among them – to wrestle with without destroying each other.

Looking ahead at challenges in the Province, I am hoping that by the time you read this we will have issued some clear guidelines to help us deal with the allegations of sexual abuse which have been made in three of our Dioceses. The preliminary remarks which I promised in my last letter are available as part of my Easter sermon on my blog. As I write, some of South Africa's leading lawyers have met to discuss the matter, and the Canon Law Council is consulting with our Safe Church network in order to formulate proper protocols which respond to the needs and welfare of survivors.

Looking further ahead, the annual meeting of Provincial Standing Committee in September will focus on theological education and a report from the Commission on Human Sexuality. We will also reflect how to follow up on the celebration this past year of the 25th anniversary of the decision to ordain women as priests.

In this season of Easter, as we anticipate Pentecost, please join me in praying and working for “Thy Kingdom Come”, the initiative to pray for mission and evangelism between Ascension Day and Pentecost - May 10 to 20. Here's a link to a discussion with Archbishop Justin and more information.

God bless

†Thabo Cape Town 

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