Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

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 

latest Letters