Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown


Letters from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to the People

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Ad Laos - to the People of God - August 2019


The text of Archbishop Thabo's June Ad Laos, also to be published in the Cape Town diocesan newsletter, Good Hope:

Dear People of God
I am writing this Ad Laos as soldiers of the South African National Defence Force deploy in our communities to help deal with the emergency precipitated by the spiralling violence in our Church’s – and South Africa’s – beautiful mother city of Cape Town.

The decision to call in the army in response to the desperate pleas of residents who do not know where to turn after years and years of escalating drug-pushing, gangsterism and violence – demonstrated shockingly by the killing of six young people on one day, and five the next – is a judgement on us all. We should not have to be calling for the intervention of troops to deal with crime: that is the duty of the police, for whom the use of force is a last resort. If the police had been successfully investigating and prosecuting crime, with the help of communities – including the people of our and other churches, we would not be at this point.

But this is now where we are, facing the dangers that come with using soldiers for police work. I read that the troops involved are from an infantry division with experience in peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I pray that it means they will be hesitant to use force before it is absolutely necessary. As I have said in the media, in this deployment the army must follow police rules of engagement and use minimum force as a very last resort. If disproportionate force is used, angering the community, there is a real prospect of people losing the last vestiges of their faith in the authorities, which could lead to vigilantism and the complete breakdown of any kind of law and order.

As the army goes about its work, it is desperately urgent for the police to resolve their leadership issues in the Western Cape and to use the resources freed up by the use of the army to focus on investigating the violence thoroughly, arresting perpetrators and bringing them, the gangsters and the drug dealers to justice. Once the immediate crisis is addressed, the way to go is to focus on policing, with our help, not to use the military. Panic and fear are legitimate responses but are not useful – all of us, in all communities, need rather to direct our energies on dealing with the economic and social issues that are the root causes of this emergency.

August is Women’s Month and we have also in the past observed it as the Month of Compassion. I appeal to all to focus on how our individual parishes and communities can mobilise intentional prayer for an end of our economic woes, crime and hunger, and let us never undermine the importance of acts of charity, such as feeding people, in combating the challenge of crime. Above all, we cannot say that this crisis does not affect me and so remain indifferent to it. Nor should we be so scared that we forget that even in such trying times God, through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, is at work, using us, protecting us and walking with us in our pain.

In the wider church in Southern Africa, it is election season in my pastoral and archiepiscopal role in our Province. An elective assembly in the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, which covers the far north of South Africa, has just filled the vacancy left by the departure of Bishop Martin Breytenbach, who has retired to Cape Town. We congratulate Dean Luke Pretorius of St Mark’s on his election as bishop.

Following the assembly, which was convened in Tzaneen in Limpopo, I visited the Diocese of Zululand to consult with the diocese and interested parties on its readiness to hold an elective assembly to fill the vacancy for a bishop there. Please soak that diocese in your prayers as we discern the way ahead.

And in Cape Town, as I write this the diocese is praying for the elective assembly convened for the end of July to elect a bishop suffragan, the Bishop of Table Bay. By the time you read this, I very much hope we will have elected the new bishop. Right now I am praying for the diocese and all who have offered their names for the assembly to discern the individual whom God is calling to be God’s faithful shepherd to lead God’s flock at this time. We thank God for this responsibility and look forward soon to a consecration and installation service during which we can give thanks for the shepherd so chosen.

There is still a vacancy in the Diocese of Mzimvubu, on the border between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, after an elective assembly was unable to elect a new bishop. As provided for in the Church’s Canons, if no candidate can secure the requisite number of votes at an assembly, the choice of a bishop is delegated to the Synod of Bishops. Please pray for Mzimvubu as the synod elects the new bishop for that diocese in September. And pray also for Bishop Adam Taaso of Lesotho, who is incapacitated by illness as I write, and for Dean Tanki Mofana SSM, who is acting as Vicar-General.

In other news: 
  • The College of the Transfiguration is now fully registered as a higher education institution – good news after a long journey; thank you for your prayers.
  • Our three-yearly Provincial Synod convenes in Gauteng next month. We will be receiving reports on theological education, the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality and the Safe Church Network, as well a spending time on legislative, financial and policy issues. Please pray for all the delegates.
  • A group of Anglican leaders from Africa, comprising the Primates of a number of provinces, will meet in Lusaka from November 2 to 7 to reflect on ways in which we can make our Provinces more sustainable. Pray too for that meeting.
  • Preparations are well advanced for the Lambeth Conference which brings together Anglican bishops around the world next year. Please pray for the Lambeth design team, which I chair, and for the success of the 2020 conference.
I thank God daily for each of you. To God be the glory.

†Thabo Cape Town


Thursday, 30 May 2019

Archbishop Makgoba lauds “inclusive” Cabinet, urges Parliament now to step up

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba today welcomed the appointment of a Cabinet including women and young leaders but urged the next Parliament to play its proper role in holding the executive to account.

He said in a statement issued in Cape Town:

“The new administration has kicked off on a hopeful note, and I commend the President for appointing a Cabinet reflecting the values of inclusiveness and gender parity.

“Now we as citizens must hold politicians accountable. I call on the new Executive to put ethical leadership and serving the poorest of the poor at the centre of their efforts.

“Parliament too must step up its game. It has been falling behind the Judiciary and, more recently the Executive, in fulfilling its constitutional mandate and I hope it will be vigorous in holding the new President and Cabinet to account.”

Monday, 27 May 2019

Ad Laos - to the People of God - June 2019

The text of Archbishop Thabo's June Ad Laos, also to be published in the Cape Town diocesan newsletter, Good Hope:

This month I have the bittersweet privilege of giving God our profound thanks for the ministry of Bishop Garth Counsell as Bishop of Table Bay, and also of saying farewell to him and Marion on his retirement from that position. 

Bishop Garth's retirement leaves me bereft because in my heart and the hearts of many others he is irreplaceable. He has served our Diocese with distinction as bishop for 15 years, first as Bishop-Suffragan and regional bishop in the old Diocese of Cape Town. Then, after we “multiplied” into three dioceses, he became Bishop of Table Bay, and in time was granted “the powers, rights and authority” of a diocesan bishop. It was in that capacity that he was serving when I joined him upon being installed as Archbishop in 2008, and it is that capacity that he has done superbly well. 

Of course I knew Bishop Garth before I came to Cape Town. Our spiritual bond was formed when, by God's grace, Archbishop (now Archbishop Emeritus) Njongo Ndungane asked me to preach at Bishop Garth's consecration when I was still in the Diocese of Grahamstown. A little while after that, we went for bishops' training in Johannesburg together, where we were prayer partners and did exercises together, strengthening the bond. Then we shared time at the twice-yearly meetings of the Synod of Bishops and the annual meetings of the Provincial Standing Committee, where I found his inputs to be engaging, profound and thoughtful. What also struck me was how supportive and loyal he was to Archbishop Njongo and how relaxed he was in the Archbishop's company. 

He has a real gift of relating to others and forming and sustaining relationships, and I saw this again when we were among a group of African and American bishops who met in Spain ahead of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria was also there and both his and my names had gone forward for the Elective Assembly to replace Archbishop Njongo. It could have been awkward but Bishop Garth related to us both in a beautiful way, open to the prospect of either of us being elected and making us feel comfortable with one another. 

In Cape Town, our relationship strengthened as I came to terms with the complexity of serving both as Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Church throughout Southern Africa and as Bishop of Cape Town. Historically, the bishops-suffragan of the Diocese have been exactly that: they have helped the Bishop and Archbishop but not had the powers of a Diocesan. But as the regional and international commitments of an Archbishop grew over the years, that became unsustainable, hence the change to the Canons giving the Bishop of Table Bay more power.

That change gave Bishop Garth the unenviable task of pioneering a new arrangement: that the Bishop of Table Bay has the authority of a Diocesan but in relation to me he is a Bishop-Suffragan! As he said at his farewell service in St George's Cathedral, he found himself in a somewhat schizophrenic position. But thanks to his gift of relating to others, he had the skill and wisdom to navigate the relationship with aplomb, running Chapter meetings, making sure the necessary decisions were taken but regularly checking in and consulting with me. He and I have different temperaments but we found a middle road, learning how to run the Diocese in a way in which we complemented one another. It has taken enormous generosity for him to do the work without worrying about the title, and that has been a rare gift. 

As Bishop Garth retires, I also want to pay tribute to Marion. There is a Sotho phrase which translated says “a mother of the child holds a knife on the sharp side” and just as Garth has supported me, so Marian has been a strong pillar, supporting him in turn when the emotional weight of office threatened to wear him down. Their children have also been a wonderful support. 

My only glaring failure with Bishop Garth was my inability to make him excited about social media! But he really is a great son of our Church. I think our journey together was genuinely ordained by God, and I will miss him. As we go into an Elective Assembly later this year, I hope that God will again send to the Diocese someone who will be a trusted friend and a fellow spiritual pilgrim in the same way.

As we prepare to elect a new Bishop of Table Bay, please hold the Vicar-General, the Ven Keith de Vos, and Diocesan Chapter in your prayers, and use regularly the words in the Anglican Prayer Book which we use at this time in the life of a Diocese: 

God our Father
the giver of every good gift
graciously regard the needs of your Church
and guide with your heavenly wisdom
the minds of those responsible for choosing
a bishop for this Diocese:
send us a faithful pastor to feed your flock
and to lead us in the way of holiness;
through Jesus Christ your only Son our Lord.

In my capacity as Metropolitan of the Province, I also want to urge all of you to keep in your prayers the Dioceses outside South Africa, in particular the Diocese of Namibia which is suffering a drought, the Dioceses of Lebombo and Niassa as they recover from Cyclone Idai, and more recently the Diocese of Nampula, which has been devastated by Cyclone Kenneth since I first issued an appeal to all of you for contributions to help Mozambique recover. 


Saturday, 25 May 2019

A New Dawn - Reflections on South Africa's Democracy

(Photo:  Jiayi Liu/Amherst College)
An address delivered at Amherst College in Massachusetts, ahead of a graduation ceremony in which Archbishop Thabo received the degree of Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa):

Today being Africa Day, and also the feast day of the Venerable Bede and the 18th anniversary of my consecration as a Bishop, I am honoured to be with you.

And in the year in which we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the liberation of my country, I have great pleasure and joy in bringing greetings to you, the citizens of one of the world's older democracies, from your sisters and brothers in South Africa, one of the world's younger democracies. In my mother tongue, Sepedi, on an occasion like this we say: "Rea lotjha. Ke tagwa ke le thabo." (Greetings. Today I am intoxicated by joy.) Your reply is: "Agee" or "Thobela." (Meaning: We agree and we can see your joy.)

I thank the President and the other leaders of this great institution warmly for inviting me here this weekend. I hardly feel worthy of the honour that is to be bestowed on me, especially if you consider the credentials of our “greatest generation” – the leaders of our country, such as Nelson Mandela, whom my generation has replaced. In the Church, I have been fortunate to follow in the footsteps of a series of church leaders renowned for their advocacy of justice and peace, notably my predecessor-but-one, the 1984 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Tutu lives within 30 minutes of me in Cape Town, I see him regularly, and he is well – although ageing – and asks me to send you his greetings, and also his special thanks to those of you who campaigned so tirelessly in the 1970s and 1980s for an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Our democracy may be a lot younger than yours, but our nations share a great deal in common. We were vividly reminded of this half a century ago when a member of a prominent family with deep roots in Massachusetts came to South Africa at the height of apartheid. In the words of one of our newspapers at the time, the visit of Robert F. Kennedy was like a gust of fresh air sweeping into a stuffy room. In the highlight of his tour, he gave a stirring speech at one of my alma maters, the University of Cape Town. I learn that in the United States, it is best known as his “ripples of hope” speech, because of his stirring declaration that every time someone “stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice,” that person sends forth “a tiny ripple of hope,” and that coming from a million different places, those ripples “build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

In South Africa, however, it was the opening words of Robert Kennedy's speech which first resonated with us. Allow me to quote from them. He began:

“I come here because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which was once the importer of slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage.”

Of course, we thought he was talking about us. But we were taken completely by surprise when he continued with these words: “I refer, of course, to the United States of America.” Such are the many parallels you can find in our different countries' histories.

I had cause to reflect on the similarities of our respective heritages last year, when I spent a few days staying in lower Manhattan, the guest of our friends in the Episcopal Church. There I first visited the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian, where I found the ceremonial rituals and dance of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas interestingly similar to those of my rural forebears back at home. Also similar was the way in which European missionaries had conflated Western culture with the Gospel, outlawing the traditional cultural practices of indigenous peoples after branding them as “dancing with the devil”. But what affected me the most was reading  about how, just as settlers from another continent fought and dispossessed the original inhabitants of Southern Africa – including my ancestors – during the 18th and 19th centuries, so had they done the same in the United States.

On another day, a visit to the African Burial Ground National Monument on Broadway reminded me of the later similarities between the South African and the American experiences of colonialism and slavery. Thirty years after the Dutch West India Company colonized Manhattan, the Dutch East India Company colonized what is now Cape Town. The main source of enslaved Africans shipped into New York by the Dutch was Angola in southern Africa and when the British took over the colony, they spread the slaving net to incorporate West Africa and – at one stage – Madagascar. Under Dutch rule, Cape Town initially received shipments of enslaved people from Angola and West Africa; later they came from Madagascar, the East African coast, India and the Indonesian archipelago.

Of course much has changed since Robert Kennedy's visit to South Africa in 1966. Helped by pressure from people overseas such as yourselves, and especially by young people on college campuses, we overthrew apartheid in a peaceful revolution. And then we addressed the evils of the past by establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which Desmond Tutu headed after his retirement as archbishop.

The commission sat for three years, took more than 20,000 statements from the survivors of human rights violations under apartheid, and held 140 televised hearings across the country, in which the survivors could tell the country their stories. Those stories were often horrifying and the acts they described almost beyond comprehension.

We also did something unique in the world; unlike in Germany after the Second World War, we did not hold the equivalent of Nuremberg trials – we did not have the resources. But nor did we let the perpetrators off scot-free, as happened in Chile and other countries. Doing that would have further victimised the survivors, by silencing their past and so denying the awfulness, and the lasting legacy, of their experiences. Instead we developed something unique in the world, which has set a new example for other countries – we chose a middle path by offering amnesty to perpetrators of human rights violations, but only if they made a full confession of their crimes. In that way, we learned the truth, and the truth opened the way for a degree of reconciliation. I learn that there are those in this country who advocate a similar process to address the legacy of slavery.

But in another respect, since the end of apartheid, we have become more like you in the United States, in that we abolished the old, minority government, which denied the right to vote to black South Africans, and adopted a new Constitution, with a Bill of Rights, giving everyone the right to vote. In our case, we have what we like to describe as one of the most progressive constitutional orders in the world: we have abolished the death penalty, and the constitution recognises LGBTQ rights, including the right to marry under civil law. (Although, as an aside I have to  acknowledge that in that respect the State is more progressive than the religious community; church law in most denominations still adheres to the position that the sacrament of marriage is only for a man and a woman.)

In government, like you we have three branches: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, and we have a vigorous fourth estate: the press and the media, whose rights are also protected by the Constitution. The strength of this system has been demonstrated vividly in recent years. As many of you might have read, for nearly a decade, until early last year, our executive was badly corrupted by the actions of the president at the time, who allowed his friends and allies to seize control of major state institutions, awarding government contracts to corrupt payers of bribes, and undermining the justice system to prevent them from being prosecuted. Unfortunately, some of the world's biggest names in accounting and management consultancy, including a leading American consultancy, were complicit in these activities.

But a combination of the media, vibrant non-governmental organisations in civil society, and outstanding work by the judiciary, has held the executive to account, bringing so much pressure to bear on the governing party that it was forced to act on its own to fire the president before the end of his term.

I have recently been critical of the failure of our Parliament to hold the executive accountable, and a battle for control by opposing factions of the governing party is still being waged, but just a few weeks ago we elected a new administration and today our new president, Cyril Ramaphosa is being inaugurated. There are still some bad apples in the barrel but President Ramaphosa has vowed to bring us a “new dawn”. He has initiated a series of public inquiries into the corruption, which are exposing the rot in live television broadcasts, and he is acting to restore the integrity of the police and prosecution agencies.

So as a result of the strength of the institutions of our young democracy, I am not only hopeful but optimistic about our future. Indeed, I am on record at  home as saying that these recent elections have the potential to be the genesis and catalyst of our nation's renewal, thus writing the beginning of not only a new chapter in our history, but an entire new book that will define our children's and our grandchildren's lifetimes.

May it be so in South Africa, and I make bold to say, may it also be so in the United States. At a time when the threat of war is on the horizon, I pray that you will be able to avoid unnecessary conflict and that in the years to come you too will realise the enormous potential which your nation, with its enormous inner strengths, has for renewal and rebirth in the years to come.

God bless you, God bless South Africa, and God bless America.  God loves us all, Americans, South Africans and the whole of humanity, as well as God's whole creation. May we fulfil God's desire that we preserve and protect all God's children, and all God's creation, for our children and grandchildren to come.


Friday, 24 May 2019

Archbishop Thabo's message on inauguration of SA's President

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is in Massachusetts in the USA, receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Amherst College. He was invited to receive the degree a year ago, before the date for the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa was set. He has sent his apologies for the inauguration and issued the following message:

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, its Synod of Bishops and on my own behalf, my warm congratulations to the new Members of Parliament and to the President upon his inauguration. 

Having been critical at Easter of the failure of past Parliaments to hold the Executive accountable, I am particularly pleased to see that a number of people on party lists against whom serious allegations have been made have withdrawn their names from consideration at this stage.

I hope others will follow their example, not because they have been found guilty but because their names need to be cleared before they can credibly represent our people.  We need morally astute parliamentarians who represent our country's finest values and who will act in the interests of the nation as a whole. 

God bless the new Parliament, the new President and his new Executive.

Pray that God will give wisdom to those in authority, and direct this and every nation in the way of justice and peace, that all may honour one another and seek the common good. Amen  

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

"A space that speaks of our shared worship, shared dreams..." - St Paul's Chapel, New York City

A sermon preached on the Fifth Sunday of Easter at St. Paul's Chapel in the Parish of Trinity Church Wall Street, New York:

Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148:1-3, 7, 9-11, 13; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35

We hear these incredible words of possibility in our foundational texts today in a wonderful space, in a chapel and a parish that have towered over the city’s and the nation's history, whose graveyards hold the bones and the memories of some of its founding parents; a parish located in an area that once boasted a barrier, usually described as a wall, to keep out those seen as “the other”; a parish that witnessed the struggle to establish your democracy; and a chapel in which your forebears and your founding president thanked God for his inauguration. [Continues below the video...]

And of course more recently the inner sanctuaries of the churches of this parish provided refuge and ministry during and after that fateful day when the Twin Towers were attacked and then collapsed, a day forever etched in our memories as evil was let loose. Today, at a time when there seems to be a renewed threat of war involving this nation, I count it a particular privilege to be preaching here in St. Paul's, which in the difficult months and years after nine-eleven represented to the world the best of American values – values of hope and healing as you brought to your city and nation a ministry of pastoral care, of reconciliation and of peace.

 Speaking of your contributions to the nation and the world, I cannot continue without referring to what you have meant to us in the church in Southern Africa, and indeed across the whole continent of Africa. We too were colonised by the Dutch, and people of my heritage were kept out of the suburb where I now live by a barrier – in our case an impenetrable hedge – by the Dutch. In our case too, the church has played a part in bringing about democracy, and you made a direct contribution to the inauguration of our own founding president, Nelson Mandela, by responding 30 years ago to the pleas of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to divest from companies which did business with apartheid South Africa. Responding to our plea for help probably ran counter to the instincts of Wall Street financiers, but you put your relationship with us, your partners, first and for that we are deeply grateful. I see in the congregation an honorary canon of our Province, Canon Jamie Callaway, and acknowledge the role he played in supporting us.

It is with pride and pleasure that I can report to you that the young democracy you helped us establish is  flourishing. It is true that until 15 months ago, we had a president whose influence badly corrupted the executive branch of our government, and that our legislature failed to hold him to account. But the combined power of the media, civil society and the judiciary forced his party to remove him from office before the end of his term, and our new president has begun to clean up our government. So we have faced huge challenges in recent years.

Beyond your contribution to our liberation, you have enabled and continue to enable important ministry in dioceses of the church in Southern Africa, and in other Anglican provinces in Africa. As the longest-serving Primate on the continent, I make bold to speak on behalf of all of us, and to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have enabled the church in Africa to be and to do. By sharing your resources, you demonstrate that you are following Jesus' new commandment.

Returning to the witness of this chapel and of Trinity –   through the unfolding of the layers of history, amidst the contestation of ideologies and memories of walls, this place has continue to maintain its rhythm of prayer, to contextualise the sense of the Holy, to explore God's words and to discern its echo in the community of lower Manhattan. Above all you hold out, day in and day out, the promise of God which we pondered today: “See, I am making all things new!” “To the thirsty I will give water…” and “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

What an awesome sacred space! I feel that deep emotion that Jacob felt when he sensed that despite the limitations of his own history, he had a dream of a God who promised a new beginning, crying out: “Surely the presence of God is in this place, it is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven!” It is for that reason, as well as the shared elements of our histories and of your sharing in love that I feel at home here today, in this space that speaks of our shared worship, shared dreams and a shared commitment to the work of making all things new.

The implications of our faith are that you do not need to engage the secrets of heaven, or fathom out deep theological propositions, or speculate endlessly on eschatological nuances. That won't help us see and understand God. It is much easier than that: experiencing God, to the degree that we humans can do so, is quite simply done in acts of love, even just in random deeds of kindness.

You carry in your parish's name a commitment to live out practically and contextually our Christian understanding of the Trinity. At the heart of that understanding is the abiding truth about three persons in every way equal. It is the metaphor that the Gospel writers seek to express in different ways, but always by returning to a fundamental notion of “self-gift”. As that great African saint, Augustine, argued time and again, God loves because that is the divine nature, not because creation deserves it. In parable after parable, statement after statement, the “meaning of God” is revealed as the “One who is perfectly self-giving”. Thus the Trinity is also the story of self-giving in love and of belonging in love. We become more fully what we are meant to become by entering into loving and life-giving relationships. In Africa we express this in what we call ubuntu, or in the languages to which I am closest, botho. We hear this at the very heart of the Gospel today.

The Lutheran theologian, Samuel Torvend, asks the question that we who gather for prayer must ask. He asks: “Who is hungry at the feast?” and then answers it for himself. “To be honest,” he says, “I think I am. I yearn for, I am hungry for the word, the image, the lyric and the prayer that will invite many others and me to redress the terrible injustices, deprivations and imbalances that surround us.” “Who is still hungry at the feast?” he asks again, and answers for himself: “The many who will never hear this sermon or read this text because they must work two or three jobs each day, six days a week in order to feed their children in a society that rewards the wealthy and stigmatises the working poor.” Who is still hungry at the feast? “The people of this world deprived of food, capital employment and land.”

One could and should add to that litany the victims of domestic violence, the women and children who suffer abuse, refugees from conflict in places such as Bangladesh, and – as we have seen in our own sub-continent of Southern Africa in recent months – those who are refugees as a result of the devastating effects of climate change.

In the last few years, the people of the three dioceses of our Province which lie in neighbouring Mozambique have been hit alternately by drought and by flood. Twice during April, I had to pay emergency visits to two of the dioceses and witnessed  the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. Homes, churches and schools in settlements and towns across the countryside were destroyed, people's crops were swept away and families had to climb trees to escape the water and wait for helicopters to rescue them. Hundreds died, many of them people who survived the hurricane but not the wait for rescue. Swathes of rural countryside were turned into vast lakes, and scattered rural villages have been replaced by concentrated tent townships to which people have been relocated. These agrarian communities are at risk of losing their identity and their way of life. Those who are worst affected by climate change are not the citizens of the materially wealthy countries who contribute most to it; no, it is those who are already poor and vulnerable.

Wherever we are in the world, in our churches every Sunday, let us remember that our worship is not merely an act of forgiveness, a spiritual sacrifice, a moment of thanksgiving, an intimate union with Christ, but that it is  an ethical practice that expands outward into the world, offering life in the midst of diminishment and death. St. Theresa of Avila captured this call to love, to be about the business of making all things new and providing fresh water, when she wrote: “Christ has no body but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassionately on the world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, the feet, yours are the eyes. You are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” That’s the challenge of love.

The key moment in the post-Resurrection story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus came when, after recognising the Lord, they were faced with the choices that we all face. They could have sat back, finished their meal and congratulated themselves on the special epiphany they had received from the Lord. They could have created a safe, comfortable, spiritually warm place of personal intimacy and memory. Or they could have taken fright. After all, the Jesus whom they had just encountered was a wanted man in Jerusalem. It was a very dangerous moment and they might have decided to run away.

But no; instead they got up straight away and returned to Jerusalem, to the place where their dreams had been shattered, where hope was in short supply, and where their friends were locked in the Upper Room, imprisoned by fear. It was to Jerusalem they returned with their word of hope, with their testimony of new possibilities, with their vision raised beyond the exigencies of the moment, to proclaim that something new is possible. They did not have a blueprint and could not provide firm assurances but they could keep the good news alive.

Each of us can do that much. We do not know precisely who all those who are hungry at the feast are, and we certainly cannot do everything. Maybe like those disciples in Emmaus, all we can really do after every service of worship is go back into the city and look upon it and our fellow human beings with new eyes, so that our perceptions of generosity, humanity, justice and mercy become clearer and freer. For when that transpires, slowly will we become known by our love for one another.

God loves you and so do I. God bless each one of you. God bless America, and God bless Africa.





Saturday, 2 March 2019

Archbishop Thabo backs #Justice4Vernie campaign

A message recorded for the #Justice4Vernie rally held in St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, to honour the memory of Vernie Petersen, a former church worker and later a senior civil servant, whose stand against corruption before his untimely death has been highlighted at a commission of inquiry into government corruption. Below the full text of the message is the news release convening the rally, which gives more details.

Dear Friends, Family and Comrades of Vernie Petersen

On behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town and indeed of the whole church, it is my great privilege today to support the campaign for Justice for Vernie.

Many in the Diocese still remember Vernie's dedicated work for justice and liberation while working with the Diocese's Board of Social Responsibility during what I call the “Old Struggle” – the struggle against apartheid.

It's therefore with a sense of pride that we celebrate how Vernie went on after the advent of democracy to become an equally dedicated public servant, indeed by all accounts a model public servant, committed to the proposition that the people's money should be spent on the people's welfare, and not to enrich a few, no matter how admirable the role of those few may have been during the Old Struggle.

It is also with sadness that we acknowledge how Vernie came to be at odds with another former stalwart at the Board of Social Responsibility, in the person of Ngconde Balfour.  Now  I do not wish to rush to judgement – Ngconde has not yet had his opportunity to account at the Zondo Commission for his time as Minister of Correctional Services. But allow me just to note for the record the particular pain that we have all experienced in recent years, when we have seen too many comrades in the Old Struggle part ways as they have faced the difficult task of transitioning from fighting against the system to trying to transform it to serve all the people of South Africa.

This task, and the growth of the corruption and bad governance that have penetrated so deeply into the heart of our new democracy, constitute a call to all of us to re-dedicate ourselves to the noblest objectives of the struggle, in short to embark on what I call the New Struggle – the struggle to ensure that the sacrifices that so many made for our liberation are not wasted, the struggle against greed, corruption and nepotism, the struggle against the pursuit of narrow self-interest, personal gain, status and material wealth – in short the struggle for true justice, including economic justice, which will ensure that all, in the words of the Christian sacred text, “may have life and have it in abundance."

God bless you, God bless Vernie's family, and may we achieve #Justice4Vernie.

Campaign to honour late Vernie Petersen's brave stance on corruption

Friends and family of the late Correctional Services national commissioner Vernie Petersen have started a campaign to honour his memory and to give due recognition to his brave anti-corruption stance in the face of death threats to himself and his family.

The campaign, #Justice4Vernie, was started after the revelations at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture showed how Vernie was threatened by the Bosasa company to approve dodgy tenders.

Vernie tried in vain to ensure that the correct procedures were followed in re-advertising the food contract rather than being forced to extend the existing Bosasa contract.

Neither his colleagues in senior management nor then minister of correctional services Ngconde Balfour supported him.

After several clashes with Balfour and the senior management, Vernie was moved to the Department of Sport and Recreation.

In a letter of support to the state capture commission, #Justice4Vernie said the testimonies by former correctional services portfolio committee chair Dennis Bloem and Bosasa chief operations officer Angelo Agrizzi “reminded us of an awful period that Vernie and his family had to endure simply because he did the right thing”.

"He served our country and government with the utmost dignity and ethical behaviour, and should not have been vilified, victimised and subjected to death threats in the way that he had been”.

Vernie matriculated from Modderdam High School in 1977. He was an activist in Cape Town in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. He started his activism through youth and church associations that fought to end apartheid.

Vernie obtained a diploma in social work from UWC. Later he obtained an Honours and Master's in social science from UCT.

After the 1994 democratic elections, Vernie joined the public service, where he held several senior positions.

After being in hospital for a week, undergoing a routine procedure, he fell ill and died in Pretoria on Sunday.

He is survived by his widow June, sons Ruari and Dylan, and three grandchildren.

The organisers of the #Justice4Vernie campaign will hold a rally at St George’s Cathedral this Saturday, where speakers will reflect on Petersen’s life and legacy. The rally will start at noon.

Speakers will include former finance minister Trevor Manuel; former Cape Town mayor and ambassador Theresa Solomon; and Sithembiso Garane, son of the late Lennox Garane, who was a parliamentary officer at the time of his death.

There will also be tributes from Petersen’s June and son Ruari, and messages of support from, among others, former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke and Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.


Friday, 8 February 2019

Lambeth Conference: Archbishop of Cape Town calls on bishops to “express your difference”


[Anglican News] The Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, has called on Anglican bishops to attend the next Lambeth Conference despite differences within the Anglican Communion. 

Archbishop Thabo chairs the international Design Group, brought together by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, to plan the once-in-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops, which will take place in Canterbury, Kent, in 2020. 

“I know people talk about the fabric of the communion as torn”, he said, “but we are all fallible human beings in need of God’s love and grace, and we need each other.”

Archbishop Thabo made his comments in a video on the Lambeth Conference website. In it, he says: “As said in Sepedi [the language of Northern Sotho]: one bangle doesn’t ring, two bangles will make a beautiful noise. So we are never alone in this journey.

“Whether you agree with where the communion is, whether you don’t agree, come and express your difference in this beautiful space which is a gift from God. Don’t just stay at home and say ‘I’m not going’.

“We want to hear that voice. It’s not a conference of like-minded people; it is a conference of Anglicans. I mean, for God’s sake, Anglicans, from our inceptions, we’ve always had push and pull. So push and pull should not be a distraction, but it should be celebrated.

“It’s what I call at home, ‘celebrating the gift of difference’. So I encourage all bishops and their spouses to make every possible effort to come and see what God is doing through us in his world.”

Speaking about the shape of the Conference, Archbishop Thabo said that it would begin with a spiritual retreat, a time to say to bishops and their spouses “hey, shut up . . . and listen to God; and listen to one another in silence.”

He said that after the retreat, “we will worship together; we will walk together; we will talk together; we will love together; we will wrestle together; break bread together; reflect theologically and in mission bring ourselves and bring our dioceses and provinces into that space.

“And then, as my predecessor but one used to say, ‘God is not finished with us’; and God will actually continue his work in us and through us for the Anglican Communion.”

In a separate video on the website, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, spoke of how bishops can prepare for the Lambeth Conference, beginning with prayer. “My vision for this conference is that, if nothing else, we emerge as a Communion that is visibly more deeply committed to prayer and the reading of scripture.

“So pray, and read scripture together; get into the swing of it in a new and fresh way. For example, between Ascension and Pentecost, there will be the fourth 10-days of Thy Kingdom Come. . . Get involved in that. It’s a time for prayer for mission; prayer for God to warm the hearts of those who need to hear the good news of Jesus.”

He continued: “Pray for those you disagree with and resist the urge to be swayed by gossip and rumour. So when you hear something, don’t necessarily believe it, turn to God and say ‘if that’s true, I pray for him or her’. But also, try and find out the truth.”



Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Sermon at a Confirmation Service of churches in the Parish of Wynberg, Cape Town

Confirmation Service: Christ Church, Kenilworth
The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Cape Town
Sunday, 3rd February 2019 

Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1 Corinthians 12:31b -13:13, Luke 4:21-30

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

Thank you Rob for the warm welcome we received on our arrival here this morning. Thank you for the refreshing worship and testimonies from the confirmation candidates during this service.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God, the ministers in charge of the churches in this Parish, friends and families of those to be confirmed, it is a great joy to be with you today and share in this important milestone in the lives of these candidates.

Thank you to the Rector of this parish, to Rob Taylor of Christ Church, Doug Kirkpatrick of St Luke’s, Diep River, and Natalie Simons–Arendse of St Philip’s, Wetton and all the retired ministers present here today. I was not aware that you have so many ministers and I wish we could deploy them to the vacant parishes in the diocese. Thank you for inviting me to this service and also for ensuring the preparation of the candidates. Thank you, Rob, for planning the service.

A warm welcome to you all – and thank you most importantly to those who prepared the candidates for confirmation. A special welcome to the parents, godparents and friends of those to be confirmed during this service.

The story of the call of Jeremiah is one of my favourite passages in the Bible because it speaks to me. “Before you were born I knew you” - God knew us even before our existence and called us to be his own. Even you, confirmation candidates, God knew you and the testimonies you shared this morning are indicative of that.

Today we come in the presence of God to give witness to this special gift with which God, out of his goodness, will endow you, the candidates: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into your lives. The rite of passage that you pass through today 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 our Gospel reading: “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” As you have learned in your preparation classes, at your confirmation you receive the seven gifts of the spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of God. These gifts, as we will hear in the introduction to the confirmation 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 today and beyond?

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. Fear of the Lord of course doesn't mean we should be shivering in terror, it is more positive than that – it means we should stand in awe of the Lord. But today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel (4:21-30) gives us a picture of how, instead of being in awe of God, people sometimes reject the manifestation of God in their lives.

In the synagogue in his home town, Nazareth, Jesus was presented with a scroll from Isaiah 61:1ff to read, in accordance with the custom of the time. That passage, declaring as it does that “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me,” anticipates the coming of Christ, and on reading from the scroll, Jesus gave a discourse on its fulfilment. Here we find present fulfilment, personal fulfilment and gracious fulfilment: “present” in that what the prophet foretold was now finally coming true; “personal” in that the person of Jesus was the One anointed with the Holy Spirit, and “gracious” in that the era of God’s salvation had arrived.

Jesus’ listeners were at first amazed by what he said. But they quickly turned hostile, taking strong exception at him making what they saw as such a pretentious claim – not believing it was possible that a young man from their town was the fulfilment of the promise of Isaiah. Jesus in turn saw their attitude as being one of disbelief, that because they didn’t see him perform miracles in their sight, they failed to see him as the fulfilment of prophecy. So all Jesus could do was remind his listeners of what the prophets of Israel did when they were faced with similar challenges: they had performed their wonders amongst the heathen.

Jesus implied that when Israel rejected God’s messenger of redemption, God sent God’s messenger to the Gentiles, and that this would happen again if the people of Nazareth refused to accept him. His listeners saw that this applied to themselves and that as a result he would direct his attention to others and not to them; also that God’s compassion was more for the Gentiles than to the multitude of Jews. This ignited more wrath and anger against him.

This Gospel reading invites us to reflect on how we would respond in our context to such a message. If you were Jesus, what would you have done? What else could Jesus have done to draw these people closer to the fountain of Life? What can be done in regard to those who still do not believe in this day and age?

This is where we can bring witness and service into the picture.

If we fear God, holding God in awe, then the closer we come to God the better our lives will reflect the values of God's Kingdom as true witnesses. A witness is one who testifies to what they see, to what they know and to what they experience. Our lives – through our words, actions and attitudes – should witness to our God, the Creator of all that is, seen and unseen, the God who knows every hair on our heads, who cares for us more than we can ever imagine. Above all, all of us who are here today – but I particularly address you, the confirmation candidates – must witness to the God of love. St Paul in, 1 Corinthians 13:1ff, says even if we can speak in the languages of the angels – if we do not speak of love, it is nothing but a noise. This is the love of Christ that manifested on the Cross.

Sisters and brothers, we are called to live out God's love in the world, to love our neighbours as ourselves. This is the greatest gift that God has ever given to humanity. Paul concludes this chapter by highlighting faith, hope and love – but emphasising that of these three, the greatest is love. Because God is love and has communicated his love to us, we are commanded to love one another. Love supersedes the other gifts because it outlasts them. Long after these sought-after gifts are no longer necessary, love will still be the governing principle that controls all that God and God's redeemed people are and do.

And service is about demonstrating – in the here and now – God’s love and care in very practical ways. Some of us are called to do this through ordination and special ministries. But all of us are called to serve others, in every part of life – by being loving and honest and generous-hearted, in all our dealings with others. This Parish has a proud history of witness and service, from when you gave succour to the people of Crossroads after their homes were destroyed in the dark days of apartheid to your continuing work through ministries such as The Warehouse.

Looking at South Africa today through these three lenses of worship, witness and service, I urge each of you, in your own context, to reflect on and examine, what kind of witness and service should your worship be leading you into today? To what can you witness? And how best can each of us, individually and collectively, be of service to God and God's people in the world today, remembering that our struggle is against the principalities of this world?

What witness and service are we called to as we approach national and provincial elections which will be bitterly contested? How can we support the work of Western Cape religious leaders who are part of the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC), which is monitoring the behaviour of political parties and their supporters and working to ensure peace during the electioneering and on polling day?

And our prayers, and our reflections on witness and service, need not be limited to South Africa. I have been especially distressed in recent weeks at the plight of our sisters and brothers in the whole Southern African region. After the hope which flared up with the transition to a new president in Zimbabwe, we have seen and heard of peaceful protests being broken up violently, of a prominent pastor being detained, and of people being dragged from their homes and night and beaten up. We have to ask: is President Mnangagwa actually committed to reforms in the way the country is governed? We have seen precious little evidence of legislative reforms so far. If he is so committed, we have to ask: is he fully in control of his security forces?

But today is about you, the confirmation candidates, so let me turn again to you as I conclude. As I lay hands upon you, as you begin your new life with Christ, I urge you  to embrace this special gift, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which you receive today.

May you grow in faith and in the love of God, as you obey his commandments to be faithful servants within his church and in his world, and to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

God loves you and so do I. God bless, Amen


Monday, 4 February 2019

Religious leaders meet Western Cape political leaders to urge peaceful elections

W. Cape religious and political leaders at Bishopscourt.

With an eye on the pending national and provincial elections, the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC), chaired by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, met with representatives  of nine political parties active in the Western Cape on Tuesday 29 January at Bishopscourt.

The purpose of the meeting was to introduce ECCOC to political leaders.  One of ECCOC’s tasks is to ensure that political parties and their leaders understand that they should not incite violence and instability at election times when tensions could be running high.

“We help to defuse tense situations where they arise or seem likely, by playing a mediating role at times of stress or potential violence. We hope that political parties and the electorate see our presence as helping to ensure that there is a moral presence on election day,” said the Archbishop.

He said that ECCOC will have a strong presence at polling stations, acting as an observer. Its presence will stress the need for a moral and value driven election and ECCOC will report any irregularities and inappropriate behaviour by parties to the IEC.

The parties present at the meeting indicated support for ECCOC and thanked the Archbishop and his ECCOC team for acting as an independent and impartial influence prior to and on election day.


Friday, 18 January 2019

Homily for licensing the Revd Monwabisi Peter as Chaplain of Diocesan College

(Photo: Bishops Facebook page)
The text of a homily delivered by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at the licensing of the Revd Monwabisi Peter as Chaplain of Diocesan College in the Bishops Memorial Chapel, Cape Town, on 18 January 2019: 

Reading:  Matthew 11:25-27

In the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God, Mr (Guy) Pearson, heads of departments, educators, friends and families, it is a great joy to be with you today and share in this milestone in the history of Diocesan College.

        I always refer to this College as my second home from Bishopscourt. It was in this chapel that in September 2007 I was elected the Archbishop of Cape Town. Entering this chapel always bring those memories when the church asked me at take this responsibility at a young age.

A warm welcome to you all – and thank you for inviting me. Also, thank you to all the chaplains who are here for your supportive presence. A special welcome to Fr Monwabisi Peter, to your dear wife, Nolubabalo, and to Ongamela and Onathi. Welcome to the Diocese of Cape Town and to Bishops.

Today, we commemorate the Confession of St Peter in the Anglican calendar. According to today’s Gospel reading for the Eucharist, Matthew, Jesus and his disciples were at Caesarea Philippi (Matt.16:13ff). This city was rebuilt by Phillip, Herod’s son and was to the north of the Sea of Galilee, near the slopes of Mount Hermon. Originally it was called Paneas in honour of the Greek god Pan, whose shrine was located there and the region was mainly pagan.

It was there that Jesus asked his disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” and it was God’s work that Peter was able to recognise Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus in turn affirmed that Peter would have the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and would be the rock on which Jesus would build his spiritual house. Peter would become the major steward of the future Kingdom to be set up on earth. He would bind or set loose, he would forbid or permit; only what he would decide would be rectified in heaven. What a task to set upon the shoulders of one man!

If the same question was asked of us today, what would be our response? What is Fr Monwabisi being called to do, what are all of us, teachers and boys, called to do in the here and now? Would we, like Peter, respond to God's call?

In your Vision Statement, Bishops is committed to a value-driven education and strives to embrace and celebrate the diversity in the communities of the school and nation. How best can these be applied to our society? How, using Peter’s Confession, the Gospel reading we heard today, and the values the school promotes, can we help and enable others to build a society which confesses the Prince of Peace?

In my Christmas sermon, as has been referred to by Guy in his welcoming remarks this morning, I raised as a major concern for our country the high levels of aggression we see in many areas of our society. I said that it is crucial, and necessary, to eradicate corruption and improve the efficiency of government, but it is not sufficient on its own to ensure better lives for our people. I addressed in particular the violence among young people in some of our public schools, the violence taught to the young by adults, on picket lines strikes, and violence in politics.

If we were able to export the values of tolerance and respect for diversity for which Bishops stands, and to spread it through society, South Africa could be transformed. We would not, for example, be seeing the violence and total disregard of the people of Xolobeni we are currently seeing in the Eastern Cape, where the mining authorities seem hell-bent on ignoring the wishes of the local community by allowing an Australian mining company to exploit their resources and destroy that beautiful cost. I will be writing a note to my colleague, Archbishop Philip Freier of Melbourne, asking the church to intercede with his government. Please join me in support of this community and encourage the initiative for courageous conversations in the mining industry which I am engaged in.

You also aspire in the school's Vision Statement to address global issues. If South Africa could export the values of tolerance, the settlement of disputes by negotiation and a willingness to pursue the common good, we could help counter the distressing tendency of people elsewhere – for example, those in Kenya, Somalia and Zimbabwe – to opt for violence and aggression, whether it is to suppress opposition or to protest over injustices.

We learned in the Gospel passage that was read today that God reveals himself to us and at the same time hides far more than he manifests. God reveals himself to those who are as spiritually dependent on him as babes; and to those whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. Sisters and brothers, Christian revelation addresses itself to our hearts, to a love of truth and goodness, to our fear of sinning and our desire to gain God’s favour. We are all accountable to Christ as our judge and so all must seek his favour and have him as our Friend. When we believe in him, we shall be justified by him – Christ, our Righteousness. The forgiveness of sins lays a foundation for all other favours and blessings and so if sin is pardoned, all is well and shall end well.

Fr Monwabisi, as you take up this new ministry, you are called to reach out to those who have transgressed and to call them back to God. You have to keep your spiritual integrity intact, resisting becoming like those who resist God. You are called to reach out to everyone, whether or not they accept God’s message. That is the essence of your call to this ministry and institution.

I invite you all, with Monwabisi as your Chaplain, to transform the society and the church, this school, this city and the world.

God loves you, and so do I. Congratulations and we wish you well.

God bless.




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Archbishop of Cape Town, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Thabo Cecil Makgoba - World Economic Forum on Africa 2012 crop.jpg
Makgoba at the 2012 World Economic Forumon Africa
Church Anglican
See Cape Town
In office 2007 – present
Predecessor Njongonkulu Ndungane
Successor incumbent
Ordination 1990
Consecration 2002
Personal details
Born 15 December 1960 
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