Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

"The ANC’s time may have passed" - Archbishop

From a programme on the radio station, Power FM, in Johannesburg:

Archbishop Makgoba: The ANC’s time may have passed

In possibly his strongest censure yet of the ANC, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said it was time for South Africans to stop putting their faith in political movements.

 POWER Talk host Iman Rappetti was in conversation with Makgoba and others for the OR Tambo dialogue at POWER House on Tuesday, discussing the icon’s life and legacy. Other panelists included Lindiwe Mabuza, South African High Commission in the UK and author of Oliver Tambo Remembered, Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh, an author and musician, and former ANC NEC member Pallo Jordan.

Makgoba was talking about the path forward for South Africans, saying: “Perhaps as South Africans we need to say yes, the glorious moment has done its part. If the glorious movement survives its December elective conference with whomever they elect, would the glorious party survive 2019? And maybe we need to move beyond the glorious movements and look at the glorious people of South Africa,” he said to applause.

Makgoba conceded, when pushed by Rappetti that indeed, the ANC’s time may be coming to an end.

“Are you saying its time has passed?” asked Rappetti.

He paused for a moment before saying: “Yes” to applause. He added: “If the values can’t reside in the glorious movement, let it reside in the people of South Africa.”

Rappetti noted it was his strongest censure yet of the movement.

Makgabo responded, saying: “I’m saying that this is the time for South Africans to take their own destiny into their hands, and to rely less on political formations. Because they’re not leading us into… economic emancipation. They’re about power, they’re about resourcing themselves and their nearest and dearest, and for me the poorest of the poor… continue to be poor.”

‘What happens to the ANC I could care less about’

Mpofu-Walsh was more forceful in his comments. “A mistake we made was conflating the ANC with the liberation movement,” he said to applause. “Sometimes it was at the forefront, sometimes it was at the back, sometimes it was going in the opposite direction as it is now.”

“We need to save the liberation movement… what happens to the ANC I could care less about,” he added. “We fought for democracy, not an ANC, NEC-ocracy. The centre of power in our country needs to move from the ANC NEC to parliament when we voted in people to represent us.”

Makgoba added later that he wrestled with a dilemma whether he and other religious leaders should take the major step of withdrawing moral support from the government.

“I always wrestle with… the question of when do we call for a withdrawal of moral support for a democratically elected government and I think that’s a deep struggle.”

‘Don’t abandon the father of our country, OR Tambo’

Responding to the idea that the clergy should stay out of politics, he said: “The values of OR as an Anglican Christian who nearly became a priest, his values were probably shaped by that passage in John 10: He came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.”

He then referenced scriptures that mention the “thief” that comes to steal and rob.

“Now if I see as a priest in South Africa that South Africans are not flourishing because there are thieves and robbers who are jumping over the fence to steal the fat of the land, should I just stay in my chapel and say-”

“Let us pray,” interjected Rappetti, to applause and laughs from the audience.

The future of the ANC and its place in South African society was a recurring topic in the discussion.

ANC stalwart and former chair of the OR Tambo Foundation, Mavuso Msimang, was in the audience and spoke about the party’s values and its current crisis.

“As a loyal member of the ANC I hang my head in shame that I participated, however indirectly, in the election of a bunch of people who have reduced the name of the ANC to where it is now,” he said.

Picking up on Mpofu-Walsh’s comments about the party he added: “The ideals of the ANC should be protected forever. They are universal, they are not exclusive to the ANC.”

Mabuza was more direct, saying to Mpofu-Walsh in her closing comments: “Sizwe, you may not care about the ANC, that is your prerogative. But please care about everything Tambo said. You’re right to criticise ferociously, that is your right, but please don’t abandon the father of our country, OR Tambo.”


Sunday, 22 October 2017

Sermon at a confirmation service at St. Thomas', Rondebosch

Exodus 33: 12-23, Psalm 99, I Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22: 15-22
May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God of St Thomas, it is a great delight to be with you today and share in your confirmations.
Thank you, Fr Keith, thank you Wardens and Council, for your invitation to join you today, and welcome to the Revd Cheryl Bird and the people of Christ the King, Kenilworth.
Thank you so much to you the confirmation candidates for the encouraging letters you wrote to me on why you wanted to be confirmed. This is a beautiful start to a new venture in your lives.
By the time we reach today’s text in Exodus 33, the Israelites have travelled through most of the desert portion of their journey on their way to a new homeland. At the beginning of their journey God calls them to himself to be a priestly people and a Holy Nation. He chooses them not because they are morally good but to preserve God’s laws and to pave the way for the coming Messiah. Amongst them dwelt God the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of the world… until Jesus Christ appeared on earth.

Statement on McKinsey, KPMG etc. to accompany Archbishop's sermon

Archbishop Thabo elaborated on the criticism in his Sunday sermon of foreign business consultants and their role in facilitating corruption in South African business and government in the following statement: 

“Firms operating in South Africa, whether local or foreign, seem to have a diminished capacity to take responsibility for their actions.

“Despite the intense focus on the activities of companies suspected of looting state resources, McKinsey and KPMG took action not as a result of their own internal ethical guidelines but in response to pressure from civil society and the media.

“Would those international consultancies do the same in the countries in which their head offices are based? Or do they have a different set of ethical and moral values when they work in Africa?

“I welcome McKinsey’s  apology, even though it was weak, but note that they made it only after intense lobbying and the threat of litigation.They seem to have acted only out of embarrassment at getting caught.

“They would have earned the respect of many church leaders if they had come forward much earlier and in response to their own moral compasses. As it stands, their apology sounds like the statement of those who are admitting to a minimum of wrongdoing to enable them to run away from taking further responsibility.

“It is time for them to move past their excuses and demonstrate their character. If they are serious about their apologies, they need to think about how they can invest in South Africans in a memorable, impactful and meaningful way.”


Sunday, 1 October 2017

To the Laos - To the People of God – October 2017


Dear People of God
I am writing this as I prepare to travel to Canterbury, where I will attend a meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion over the next week. Following that I will chair a meeting of the Lambeth Design Group, a body which oversees planning for the next Lambeth Conference, to be held in 2020. Our Province is committed to faithfully showing up and participating in these key meetings of the Communion, doing so because our reward is to be faithful servants of God and God's witness and mission in the world. Please pray for both meetings.
The Communion meetings follow a busy week of debates and decisions, first at the second session of the Synod of Bishops this year, then at the annual Provincial Standing Committee (PSC), at which bishops, clergy and lay representatives from every diocese in the Province are represented. The Dean of the Province, Bishop Stephen Diseko, “embarrassed” me, almost marketing my new book to both meetings by congratulating me on it. I appreciated it but as you all know me, I always try to push attention to Jesus, the church and not me. 
The bishops dealt with a wide range of important issues, including the election of a new bishop for Mthatha, the situation in the Diocese of Umzimvubu, the future of the College of the Transfiguration and the Archbishop's Commission on Human Sexuality. You can read the details in our Pastoral Letter.
At PSC we also considered in detail a very wide range of questions ranging from theological education and the environment to how we should organise our youth work and our role in combating substance abuse. Of particular note was the statement we received from the special conference marking the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in ACSA, which was held at the same venue and simultaneously with the Synod of Bishops. At the end of their conference, we all celebrated a special Eucharist with arriving members of PSC.
While those who met in conference celebrated the 1992 decision to ordain women as priests as “a victory over exclusion, inequality, and injustice in the church,” they said these features continued in our leadership, structures and practices. They called for a series of changes, including the election of more woman bishops. You can read their statement on the ASCA website, as well as a pledge to which they committed themselves.
Apart from the challenging task of presiding over the deliberative bodies of the Province, the life of an Archbishop is also taken up with difficult pastoral issues. Before the recent Provincial meetings got under way, my ministry and that of a number of my fellow bishops in a number of dioceses in the Eastern and Western Cape were overshadowed by tragedy.
Firstly, I had to preach and preside at the funeral of a senior priest, Archdeacon Lunga Vellem, in Kokstad in the Diocese of Umzimvubu. As someone who held an MBA, he was a valuable asset to the Diocese but was killed when he sustained head injuries in a car accident. Then in Cape Town we had the sudden death of the Revd Mark Abrahams, Rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Heideveld. He died just after undergoing an operation and only a week before his 54th birthday. Large numbers came both to the Church of the Resurrection in Bonteheuwel and to Holy Spirit to commemorate his life and ministry.
Soon after that, I buried a young priest in the Diocese of Mthatha, Archdeacon Sibulele Njova, his wife, his son and his younger sister. They all died in a head-on collision with a van which was allegedly forced out of its lane by a taxi – which then sped off without stopping, apparently realising what it had inflicted on this young family. As we lowered the four coffins into the grave in Mqandule in rural Transkei, not far from the picturesque Wild Coast resorts of Coffee Bay and Hole-in-the-Wall, the wailing of the mourners seemed – very painfully – to be matched by the sound of the sea. After the funeral I went to Mthatha Hospital with the Dean to visit the two surviving daughters, aged 11 and four. The 11-year-old was battling with her injuries but the four-year-old could hold a conversation with me and even gave me a high-five. She was happy that we were in cassocks because we reminded her of her dad. But she had not yet been told her parents had died and thought they were arriving back from a conference later that day. I suspected she must have sensed that her parents had gone – she was, after all, in the car with them – and I felt that I was betraying her by not saying anything. But I was on my way back to Cape Town, so I resisted the temptation to tell her and then to leave her and fly off. If her sister pulls through, they will both be orphans. Their grandparents are ageing, so they will have to stay with an aunt in conditions far inferior to those of a rural Anglican rectory.

As I reflected on the lives of these three clerics and their families, I thought of the Gospel assurance that “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4) – but also of the Psalmist's words: “Why are you so full of heaviness, my soul: and why so unquiet within me?” (Psalm 46) We all have finite lives, and as St Paul says to us, “We do not want you to be uninformed... about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (Thessalonians 4:13) Well done, good and faithful servants, and may you enter into your Father's rest.
Fortunately I can end this letter to the laity on a note of hope and new life. On my return from the Communion meetings, Bishop Martin Breytenbach of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist will marry Colleen Thomas of Cape Town. After they both suffered the loss of their spouses in tragic circumstances in recent years, we celebrate and rejoice that they have found new happiness and give thanks for this life-giving sacrament, marriage. God be praised!
God bless,

†Thabo Cape Town


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Commemorating Robert Gray

The text of remarks by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at Bishops School in Cape Town:

Today we give thanks to God for our founder Bishop Robert Gray and his wife Sophy Gray. Thank you, the Revd Terry Wilke, for the invitation and thank you, Mr Pearson, educators and students for your warm welcome.

Today we celebrate the 169th anniversary of the arrival on our continent of Robert Gray, first Bishop of Cape Town and the founder of this school. As you will hear shortly, in the prayer the Church prays to commemorate him, we remember today “the constancy and zeal” with which he laid firm foundations for Anglicanism in Southern Africa.

Only 38 when he came to Cape Town, Robert Gray showed his zeal and his strong commitment to education in one of his first letters home to his son, Charles. Telling Charles that he and his wife, Sophy – who became famous in her own right for designing churches – that he and Sophy had rented the Protea estate – now Bishopscourt – Robert said he was embarrassed at taking up residence in what he called “so grand a place.” But, as justification for doing so, he added that its buildings comprised 33 rooms in all and “about 16 of them,” he said, were “admirably suited for pupils.”

The rest, as you all in this school know too well, is history. Not only did he start Bishops in the former slave-quarters at Bishopscourt, he went on to found St Cyprian’s School and Zonnebloem College, establishing a tradition in which Anglican schools throughout our country have become beacons of South African excellence.

Yet at the same time as celebrating the constancy and zeal of Robert and Sophy Gray, we need to acknowledge the context in which they operated – that they were people of their time and of their class – young and privileged, very English colonial settlers. Moreover, when they arrived the Church could justifiably have been regarded as – to use the language of our friends in the #RhodesMustFall movement – the religious arm of the colonial project.

In the same letter to his son from which I have quoted, Robert Gray went on to write of the autocratic British governor of the Cape in the following terms. In the letter, he refers to amaXhosa in words which I will not repeat here in case I offend you:

“Sir Harry Smith is to return to-day ; every-one seems astonished at his rapid movements and success, and all admire him greatly. The – here Gray describes amaXhosa in words we would not use today – all gave in as soon as he was governor. He has [also] brought the Boers to submit to our Government, and he does what he likes with every one; he made all the … again I will censor him … [Xhosa] Chiefs kiss his toe. But I do not profess to understand yet what has been done, for I think of nothing but ecclesiastical matters.”

To his credit, in time Gray came to think of matters other than ecclesiastical – he went on to encourage the establishment of missions to amaXhosa, and a decade later he collaborated with Harry Smith’s successor as governor, George Grey, to establish another school at Bishopscourt — this time for black South African children. This was the school that was to become Zonnebloem College.

But in this project too, we see how the Church acted as the religious arm of empire. In a soon-to-be-published book on the history of Zonnebloem, the authors – Janet Hodgson and Theresa Edlmann – describe vividly how the two Grays, Robert the bishop and George the governor, saw the college as a place in which the sons and daughters of defeated African chiefs could be removed from traditional influences in the Eastern Cape, in Lesotho and other places, and brought to Cape Town. Here these children would be turned, in the authors’ words, “into English gentlemen and women, subservient to the culture and traditions of their colonial guardians.”

Whatever the intentions of the two Greys, their plan only partly succeeded. Hodgson and Theresa Edlmann write:

“A tradition of English and European-based education in South Africa was indeed established. But in the midst of inculcating western cultural, religious, economic and social norms, the community of students that passed through Zonnebloem College also ultimately contributed significantly to the emergence of African intellectual traditions and the beginnings of the Black Consciousness Movement in Southern Africa...”

So as we remember Robert Gray and his legacy, seen both here and throughout Southern Africa in churches, schools and hospitals serving both black and white South Africans, let’s give thanks to God for Robert Gray, and for the foundations that he laid, flawed as they were, in so many areas of life and from which we all benefit. Remember always that despite our flaws, frailties and weaknesses we can make the world a better place.

Let us pray our Church’s prayer for Robert Gray:

Merciful Lord, you sent your servant Robert Gray
To lay firm foundations for the Church of this Province
Grant that, thankfully remembering
The constancy of his labour and zeal
We may build up and strengthen your Church
Through Jesus Christ our lord. 



Thursday, 17 August 2017

Archbishop's Charge to Cape Town Diocesan Synod

The text of the Archbishop's Charge to the 65th Session of the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town, delivered during the opening Eucharist at St George's Cathedral: 

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, dear friends, I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and welcome you to the 65th Session of our Diocesan Synod. This year, the Synod Advisory Team advised me that in this Charge, rather than deliver a theological treatise or give the kind of administrative account of the affairs of the Diocese which is normally covered in a Charge, I should instead speak of the things that are in my heart. They told me that in my tenth year in Cape Town, and at my fourth Synod in this 169-year-old Diocese, you know more or less what I think and what I am capable of or not, and so – this is what they told me – we want to hear and feel what is in your heart. They even set up a Twitter account called “Tips for Thabo” to help me gauge the feelings in the Diocese.
But before I do that, I must acknowledge and give thanks for all of you who help me and the Diocese to do what we do and to be what we are: my family, Diocesan Chapter, Bishop Garth, the Dean, Charleen and all the Diocesan staff, the heads of our schools and homes, the clergy and their families, our legal advisors and all the other lay people who aid us. A special thanks to the Synod Advisory Team, to the Synod Manager, Fr Karl Groepe, and to all of you for supporting my ministry and praying for me and my family.
At this time in our Diocese's history, what is in my heart is Intentional Discipleship – which I am pleased that you will be able to go into in more depth in your small groups as you look at how discipleship serves mission and evangelism.
Hear God's Word, brought to us in Ezekiel, Chapter 34:
“I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.” (Ezekiel: 34:16)
In Psalm 24:
“The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)
And in John's Gospel:
I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
In the context of our theme, there are three questions that this Synod needs to be asking and wrestling with:
The first is: How do we address the needs of our youth, both inside and outside the “stained glass” of our churches?
The second is: How do we respond to the call, issued by the Communion and our Provincial Synod, and discussed at Anglicans Ablaze, for Intentional Discipleship?
And finally: How do we release God's money and other resources to help young people, both inside and outside the “stained glass”, to cope with the world outside the stained glass.
Combining these questions, we must ask: As recipients of generous gifts of property and people to the Church; how do we release the inherent potential these have for mission now and for at least the next 169 years? One of the possibilities we are exploring is adopting a different model of funding ministry, by using to better effect the properties which God has endowed the Diocese with to leverage development. Another exploration is happening in the arena of theological education.
About eight years ago, motivating the launch of the Archbishop's Theological Education Fund, I shared with Chapter a graph depicting how many senior clergy would be retiring a decade hence. This has begun to happen and we are losing many clergy of enormous experience and knowledge. Many of you will know that finding my particular vocation to the ministry 30 years ago was not a matter of me finding or choosing the Church. No, as I say in my soon-to-be-published book, Faith and Courage, the Church found me and moulded me for the tasks that I am doing. I brought nothing but was equipped by this church for ministry, beginning with my formation at the old St Paul's College. That is why theological education, not only that at the successor to St Paul's, the College of the Transfiguration, but in all the initiatives in this field, are particularly close to my heart.
It is why I have been involved in serious discussions with St Mellitus College in the UK to explore their model of education for parts of our own Province of Southern Africa. Only 10 years old, St Mellitus has four sites in England, partnerships with colleges in Malaysia and Haiti, 250 ordinands in training and 650 students taking its programmes. Its approach is similar to that of Duncan McLea's commendable initiative in our diocese, the St John's Leadership Academy, which is training people actively involved in mission and ministry rather than taking them out of a parish and sending them to a residential college. As I said to a group of vibrant young people both engaged in and training for ministry at the Academy recently: “We don't have an option but to do things differently... God is calling you to create the cracks. You will need courage. Do it in love. Do it beautifully. Do it confidently.” I have linked Father Duncan with the Dean of Studies and St Mellitus to work on a possible model, to be shared when it is ready with Chapter and the Diocese, and in the long term with the Province.
That is what is close to my heart – not theological education only for those to be ordained, but theological education for all the baptized. That too is the reason I launched the E-Reader project at Bishopscourt. We've had to acknowledge that I was too ambitious and we tried to do too much too quickly. But all the centres we aimed to establish are operational, albeit on lower than the anticipated level, and the roll-out of fibre-optic cable will improve its prospects. The aim is still to put a tablet computer in the hands of all lay ministers, clergy and theological students and to provide a significant library of theological literature for all to have access to.
It's sometimes said that we can't do church planting in the same way as other dioceses because we are an urban diocese. But I long to evangelise both inside and outside our stained glass. Every time I go to another diocese to bless a new church building, or a new school – and it happens encouragingly often across the Province – I feel deprived of experiencing the same joy and excitement in our own Diocese. Could we by next Diocesan Synod plant at least four new parishes? Perhaps we can engage our young people on ways in which to make them central to that, or some other equally exciting project?
Anglicans Ablaze says – and I endorse them – that we should expose, inspire, equip and encourage the young as participants to return to their communities and engage in holistic mission, evangelism, discipleship and service in the power of the Holy Spirit. I am always most encouraged by the contributions of young people – notably in initiatives such as Green Anglicans and HOPE Africa – to our Church; they provide welcome relief from the more unpleasant duties which assail me, such as facing the legal cases that come across my desk every week of my life and which challenge me to pray constantly for the grace and mercy needed to deal with them.
Moving to concerns in wider society which are close to my heart, I can identify with the Apostle Paul when he speaks of the whole of creation groaning as if experiencing labour pains. We groan inwardly over the suffering of our communities. I weep and cry in my prayers about the terrible spate of gender-based violence and the related killing of young children and girls which plagues our Diocese. We have attained political liberation, but women and children are being killed brutally and there is violence on our streets. Shamefully, scandalously, a Deputy Minister of this country who has openly admitted that he hit a woman in a nightclub remains in office. Is that the depth to which our public morality in South Africa has sunk? We see young people destroyed by drugs and alcohol, gangs hold our communities hostage and decay and corruption perpetuate the oppression of the poor and needy.
Beyond the Diocese, in South Africa we are living through a time of acute misery for very many of our people, a life where Government promises to the people of South Africa have been repeatedly broken and promises to their corrupt cohorts are kept daily. We are stuck in a rut which pits race against race, ethnic group against ethnic group, class against class, and prejudice against prejudice. There is an increasing tendency towards seeing people in terms of one dominant “identity”, imposing on us priorities which are arbitrarily determined by others, denying us the liberty to make our own decisions on where we choose to place our loyalties.
Despite attempts to criminalise “white monopoly capital” the more accurate picture of South Africa is that our culture has become one that accepts greed, fraud and pillaging of public resources as a “tribal” right. Corruption and looting have shown themselves to be multi-cultural and practised by people of every race. The current generation of leaders are trying their best to undermine a democracy and infect the entire South African ecosystem with their form of corruptive cancer. And while public plundering takes place, most of the middle and upper classes become indifferent to what is happening, so as not to threaten their piece of the proverbial pie.
Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor, warns us that “opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference… The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.” The Dalai Lama adds: “To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up.”
Turning to our own scriptures, the Bible tells us that God is a God of justice and righteousness, a God of mercy and truth. The sons and daughters of God are those who desire to see justice and righteousness. They are men and women who will stand for truth. They are men and women who will stand boldly and allow themselves to be guided by their conscience, led by the truth of the word of God. Pain and suffering produce the character that is required in order to set creation free from bondage. As Paul says, the suffering we experience cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.
South Africa is more than a country… it's an idea. We have always envisioned that we are a nation which embraces diversity, encourages inclusion and seeks a more just and human world. South Africa is not broken. Our freedom of the press, universal free education, and independent judiciary are all indicators of a potentially healthy country. However there is not equality of opportunity. There is not equality of service delivery, health care, clean water, sanitation and education.
During a time when Chinua Achebe’s words “that things fall apart” ring poignantly, God tonight providentially brings us the words of Joshua. Joshua who, in a time of crisis, at the moment of choice, refused to return to Egypt; Joshua who refused to return to or dignify that place so marked in the experience of God's people as a place of unprincipled politics, a place polluted by the physical landscape and spiritual spaces alike. Centuries later the Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah, would echo that same sentiment as he looked back at a legacy of betrayal:
“How horribly rapid everything has been from the days when men were not ashamed to talk of souls and of suffering and of hope, to these low days of smiles that will never again be sly enough to hide the knowledge of betrayal and deceit. There is something of an irresistible horror in such quick decay.”
Even as others urged him to settle for compromise and the illusion of peace, Joshua understood, as indeed Martin Luther understood in the lead up to Reformation, that “Here I stand; I can do no other.” He understood the power of speaking out against injustice and tyranny, of speaking truth to power, as did the hymn writer James Russell Lowell who, protesting against America’s war against Mexico, out of profoundly spiritual and political anguish, left us these hauntingly beautiful words:
“Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide, in the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.”
Joshua understood, and the challenge is clear to us, that there comes a moment when integrity demanded that he could no longer be a part of that world of decay and betrayal. Joshua saw beyond the great barriers to the Promised Land of Canaan.
He saw giants it is true, but he also saw a land overflowing with good things, a land filled with milk and honey. He saw the possibilities of enough to sustain everyone. He saw, to use the celebrated phrase that the arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice. That was his vision for his ministry; that was the purpose of his leadership, that there would be enough for all and that it was only failure to take bold steps forward that stood in the way of a better life for all.
It is of course Martin Luther King Junior, who is best remembered for those inspiring words about the arc of the universe being long but indeed stretching towards justice. Those words were actually rooted in a much earlier reflection, in the thinking of Theodore Parker the abolitionist, and emerged from the cauldron of inhuman slavery as the American Civil War loomed. He wrote:
“We cannot understand the moral Universe. The arc is a long one, and our eyes reach but a little way; we cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; but we can divine it by conscience, and we surely know that it bends toward justice. Justice will not fail, though wickedness appears strong, and has on its side the armies and thrones of power, the riches and the glory of the world, and though poor men crouch down in despair. Justice will not fail and perish out from the world of men, nor will what is really wrong and contrary to God’s real law of justice continually endure.”
Joshua discerned a deep need in the cry of those who yearned to be free, of those growing dispirited in the desert, for the gift of hope. The South African theologian Ernst Conradie has said that “Christian hope is a protest statement, a form of resistance and defiance instigated by an unacceptable present.” Albert Nolan reminds us that theology and spirituality in fidelity to the sources insist that transforming hope can only be located in the places of suffering. 
From KwaZulu-Natal, Palm and Le Bruyns assert in the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa that “those who follow this God can embody the divine vision by seeing otherwise and imagining differently in the places of suffering in our world,” and “a vision sensitive to those who suffer in the present as Jesus did in the past is indeed the place where hope for an alternative reality can emerge.”
My generation grew up politically with the insights Paolo Freire who writes challengingly: “The idea that hope alone will transform the world and action undertaken in that kind of naiveté is an excellent route to hopelessness, pessimism and fatalism but the attempt to do without hope in the struggle to improve the world – as if that struggle could be reduced to calculated acts alone or a purely scientific approach – is a frivolous illusion… Just to hope is to hope in vain. My hope is necessary but not enough. Alone it does not win. But without it my struggle will be weak and wobbly… we need critical hope the way a fish needs unpolluted water.”
One of our greatest needs in South Africa is the need to rekindle the lamps of hope, to take courage from battles won and victories gained. Joshua 4 records, that when Joshua led the people across the Jordan, he placed 12 stones from the wilderness side of the river in the midst of the riverbed. And after the people had arrived in the Promised Land, the first thing Joshua did was to build a memorial with the 12 stones that had been in the riverbed. From then on, all God's people could look at the memorial pillar and say: This is where we crossed the Jordan! This is where we parted company with betrayal and disappointments and began to live with a spirit of victory. This is the place and the hour when we found hope, a hope that had been deferred and withheld from us. This is where we said that we will no longer allow anyone to rob us of our birthright, of the fruits of the battles we fought against powers and principalities.
We face a kairos moment yet again in South Africa. We must re-create the clarity of thought and vastness of hope that allowed the previous kairos moment to be such a powerful force for ushering in a new day. Our task as ministers of the Gospel, as the heralds of Good News, is like God's people to remember what God has done for us and to consciously allow God's great deeds in the past to continue to empower us. We must rekindle our own hope and the hope of the people of this land and the countries of our region.


We too have to echo Martin Luther’s words: “Here we stand we can do no other.”
God bless you, your families, this Diocese, Province and South Africa. Amen

Monday, 7 August 2017

"Follow your conscience," says Archbishop ahead of no-confidence vote

Remarks prepared for delivery to Monday's civil society march under the banner #UniteBehind, ahead of a debate of no-confidence in President Jacob Zuma, scheduled in Parliament for Tuesday. The remarks were scheduled to be delivered by the Bishop of Table Bay, the Right Revd Garth Counsell: 

A message from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who can't be with us today due to prior engagements:

My friends, MPs of South Africa, fellow citizens:

Someone once said that time is not measured by clocks, but by moments. Similarly, it has been said that life is measured not by each of the breaths that you take but rather by the moments that take your breath away.

Tomorrow, August the 8th, marks one of those significant moments in our own lives and in the life of our nation.

It offers the opportunity to take a stand which will influence the course of South Africa's history. We can liken it to an opportunity to join the world's most exclusive club – the “life-changing events club.”

Being a member of this club is the last thing that anyone initially wants in their life. But being a member is the best thing that ever happens to a person in their life, and there is not a person in the club that would ever give up their membership.

To be a member of this club you simply have to vote your conscience and remember that, in matters of conscience, the laws of majority have no place.

Jesus did not get stuck in intellectual arguments with people. He did not go for the intellect; He went for the conscience. He spoke to that part of a person that knows the difference between right and wrong instinctively. His message to us is that it takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.

In the end, your conscience is your compass. It is more important to follow your conscience than to follow the dictates of your party, your colleagues or your friends.  Upon the guidance of your conscience depend 55 million lives. Your conscience will determine which road South Africa travels for the rest of your lifetime and those of your children and grandchildren.

You cannot afford to vote against your conscience.  Never.  Never do anything against your conscience, even if the state demands it. Your vote is wasted unless you vote your conscience.

Your family is watching.  Your friends are watching.  Your community is watching.  Your country is watching.  The world is watching.  And most important, God is watching.

God bless you, your family and God bless South Africa.

Monday, 31 July 2017

'Let us not bow to fear and intimidation, but boldly stand for truth'


The sermon preached by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at the funeral of Ronnie Mamoepa at St Alban’s Cathedral, Pretoria, on Saturday July 29, 2017: 
May I speak in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
At the outset, on behalf of us all, those here in St Alban’s Cathedral and everyone watching this service, let me convey our sincerest condolences, to you, Audrey, to your children and to your family.Fellow mourners, clergy here present, particularly the ecumenical family and specifically the Lutheran family, the President of the country, the Deputy President and the former President, and Mam' Zanele. 
Sisters and brothers, the readings you have heard today are those that were followed in churches in many parts of the world last Sunday, the 23rd of July, the morning we received that our beloved Ronnie was no more. In our country, we have become accustomed to waking up to depressing news on Sunday mornings, so much so that we have developed defence mechanisms to protect our hearts from the weight of bad news we hear – on a day we actually ought to be hearing the good news of the love of Jesus. But when we heard of Ronnie’s passing, it pierced our defences, leaving us with a deep sense of loss and pain.
Upon hearing the news, the words of the Prophet Isaiah echoed in my thoughts, and I began to think about what he meant when he said: 
The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart;
Faithful and devout men (and I might add, women) are taken away, While no one considers
That the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace;
They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness.
Dear friends, last week in this cathedral we held the funeral service of Mama Emma Mashinini, a selfless women who sacrificed her life for our liberation. It was not so long ago that we gathered like this to say goodbye to Uncle Kathy. His death came at a time of turmoil in our nation, so that we couldn’t mourn for him and not mourn for the turmoil we were going for. Today, we gather to say farewell to our beloved Ronnie, also one of those who sacrificed and served our nation with passion, courage, commitment and dignity. Once again, we cannot mourn without thinking of the challenges we face. When a nation loses faithful and devout men like Ronnie, the prophet cautions us to take these matters to heart.
Ronnie joined the leaders of our struggle on Robben Island as one of the generation of June 16, among the youngest to be sentenced for fighting for the freedom of all our people. One can say that it was there that he attained wisdom beyond his years, empowering him to serve us, through his movement and through our government, with such excellence later.
The job that Ronnie did for the ANC in the early nineties, and then for two key ministries and the Presidency later, is not easy. On the one side, to do it well, you not only have to be thoroughly conversant with the activities and policies of your principals, but you need to be able to communicate them clearly and concisely. You also need to enjoy the respect of your superiors, especially if you are to persuade them to follow your professional advice on how to handle the media. 
But on the other side, to do it well, you also have to be thoroughly conversant with the media, with their personalities – and especially their deadlines. You need to strive to keep the balance between, on the one hand, promoting and defending the interests of your principals and, on the other, respecting the independence and professionalism of journalists. The best way of doing this is by being open, friendly, accommodating but firm – and willing to take the most difficult questions at all hours of the day and night. 
From the outpouring of love and tributes we have seen in statements and on Twitter and Facebook in the past week, we have seen what a skilled government communicator Ronnie was. With his natural friendliness and openness, he became a spokesperson both trusted by his leaders and respected by journalists. 
Ronnie Mamoepa conveyed messages of hope at the time our country was in transition, speaking for the liberation movement when it was still finding its voice. He then took that experience into government. There he set an example to others which is desperately needed in these trying times, when we need more than just conveyor belts of information, the reliability of which we cannot be certain, but rather men and women of principle who can be believed. 
When people of such calibre depart there is a vacuum that is left, in our hearts as individuals and in the life of the nation. If this vacuum is not attended to, it can create hopelessness and depression. We need our hearts to be comforted and to find hope that even when those such as Ronnie leave us, we can still move forward. 
The Epistle that was read that fateful Sunday morning, reminds us that we have received, as the text has it, not a spirit of slavery which causes us to fall back into fear, but instead we have received a spirit of adoption. And in moments of pain like today we can cry “Abba,” “Father,” or “Abba”, “Mother”. We can look to God to heal our pain. We must acknowledge the loss and pain, but we must not remain in that place of despair. We must rise up from there and remember that we have been adopted by God; we are children of the living God. We must know that we have no reason to fear the future, because of the Lord is our pillar of hope.
In that same Bible reading, the Apostle Paul speaks of the whole of creation groaning as if experiencing labour pains, and of us groaning inwardly as we wait for our adoption. We can identify with that today, when the suffering in our nation and on our continent reflects the groaning of creation around us. But Paul says this suffering cannot be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us. Pain and suffering produce the character that is required in order to set creation free from bondage. So as we mourn today, let us be comforted in knowing that our pain will work within us to produce the character that is needed to overcome the problems of today.
We have attained political liberation, but we are yet to see true freedom because it has become very clear that we are still waiting for the sons and daughters of God to rise up in our nation. Today in a time of freedom and liberation, we still see young people destroyed by drugs and alcohol. We see decay and corruption perpetuating oppression of the poor and needy. Women and children are killed brutally and there is violence on the streets of our nation. These are the cries of a creation that remains in bondage, a creation that is asking God: Where are you, God, where are your sons and daughters to come and free us?
The Bible tells us that God is a God of justice and righteousness, a God of mercy and truth. The sons and daughters of God are those who desire to see justice and righteousness. They are men and women who will stand for truth. They are men and women who will not allow themselves to fall back into fear, but will stand boldly and allow themselves to be guided by their conscience, led by the truth of the word of God. They have have made up their minds that they will indeed take up their cross and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who served and died for those he came to save. The children of God will lay down their individual ambitions for power and personal gain, in order to serve the nation.
When we look around our country, again we ask: where are these sons and daughters of God? I believe that Ronnie can be named among those who sought what was best for the nation and pursued it all his life. Ronnie was a freedom fighter to the very end. And I believe that there are many others in our nation who can step up to be these sons and daughters of God, and that we can be among them. So today as we say goodbye to Ronnie, let us examine ourselves, as the Psalm we read today urges us. Let us ask ourselves as leaders in society and in our families: Have we truly been serving God in the positions that we hold? Have we truly been seeking to deliver God’s beloved people from the racism, oppression, poverty, sickness and hopelessness? Or have we been seeking our own interests and our own ambitions?
If we have, let this day be a day of repentance and turning away. And may this Psalm be our prayer: 
Search me, O God, know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Let us honour Ronnie’s life by being those who will be an answer to the groaning of creation around. As civil servants, as people in business and industry, people of faith, as public representatives, let us be people who will liberate those oppressed by poverty, pain and hopelessness. Let us choose to be those will pursue righteousness, truth and peace in our nation. And finally, let us not bow to fear and intimidation, but boldly stand for truth.
Hear the words of Jesus:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’
I can say without fear of contradiction that Ronnie has indeed served his generation faithfully. Even though he is dead and gone too soon, he has given us the best of that which God placed in his life. To you, Audrey, your children, to Ronnie’s family, friends, colleagues, you should count yourself blessed to have had a father, a husband, a friend of this calibre. May his memory and the values that he stood for inspire our lives. May his soul rest in eternal peace. 



Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Archbishop Meets SA Deputy President Ramaphosa

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba met South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at Bishopscourt today, where they discussed structured partnerships between Church and State.

Areas covered by such partnerships include the National Development Plan, the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), youth employment and the promotion of values which give South Africans hope and help them observe best practices.

After the meeting, Archbishop Thabo made a call for special prayer:

"We pray for peace, stability and courage in our country," he said. "We pray for the South African Council of Churches as it meets over the coming days, and for the SACC's 'unburdening panel' which hears the concerns of public servants who want to share details of corruption.

"Abroad we pray for those killed in the weekend's attack in London. In the rest of the Province, we pray for stable government in Lesotho after their election. Please also pray for the Diocese of Cape Town as we prepare for Diocesan Synod."



Sunday, 4 June 2017

Mothers’ Union March Against Violence on Women and Children

An address to members of the Mothers’ Union in St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, at the end of a march to protest violence against women and children:

Members of the Mothers’ Union
MU Diocesan Chaplain
Clergy of the Diocese
The Dean of the Cathedral
Those leading this ceremony
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning to you.

Before I speak, can we all please stand and observe a moment of silence to remember all the victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence in our country? Let us especially hold in our hearts the families of young girls and women who have recently been affected by this scourge in our society.

[Moment of Silence]

I stand before you today, broken and deeply pained by the escalating violence against women and children in South Africa. Yesterday at Bishopscourt, I met with 12 representatives of different women's groups—from different religious faiths, from the media, from the Trauma Centre and Hope Africa. I heard their pain as they pleaded with me: “You declared apartheid evil and a sin, please declare gender-based violence to be evil and a sin as well.”

“These atrocities are committed by men,” they told me. “Get the men to act.” They asked for a judicial inquiry into gender-based violence, and for young male students at our universities to be taught what consent is. They told me that the press ombudsman should know that newspapers are numbing us by normalizing rape, death and drug abuse. Finally, they cried out: “Men of the cloth, where are you? Arch,” they pleaded, “we have come to unburden, we have marched and prayed, but we need something more tangible than symbolic marches.”

I also hear of similar painful stories in dioceses outside South Africa. We live in a time that is unprecedented. The domestic abuse, rape and murder of women and children is at crisis levels. It is a crisis needing the some energy and commitment as the crisis of state capture, if not more.

Statistics tell us that a woman is killed by a current or former intimate partner every six hours in South Africa. It is also an international crisis, as it is reported that one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of either intimate partners or non-partners in their lifetime.

We condemn in the strongest of terms the escalating violence against women and children in South Africa. The country needs to pause and ask: what are we not doing right? Why are we not stopping the deplorable violence against women and children? It cannot be business as usual while women and children continue to be kidnapped, trafficked, raped and murdered.

As a community and as a nation, we have failed terribly in not protecting the most vulnerable among us, the women and girls who have suffered violence, not once but many times over. We cannot claim to love, care and cherish women and children if their welfare and their lives count for so little.

The situation leaves me heartbroken. I cringe at the thought that a man can harm his own daughter, niece, wife, mother, sister or grandmother.

We are living a nightmare that is not ending. Men have become a threat to the well-being of women and children in our society. We cannot continue like that.

Our faith gives us the foundation to build a violence-free South Africa and world, one where men and women, boys and girls, work together to bring peace for us all.

Therefore, we are here to say that:

  • It cannot be right for women and children to live in fear in their homes, on our streets and in our schools, our universities and our places of worship;
  • The dignity and fundamental rights of women and children in society and in our homes, need to be reclaimed;
  • Women and children: you are not alone. We share in your pain and suffering;
  • We need to get to the root causes of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence;
  • As we worry about the crisis of water in Cape Town, we cannot turn a blind eye on the escalating violence on women and children;
  • We cannot do what we have done in the past to fight the scourge of violence on women and children – the strategy ought to change;
  • The safety of women and children is a collective responsibility;
  • We cannot allow the kidnapping, rape, trafficking and brutal murders of women and children to be normalised in our society;
  • Lastly, as we end Child Protection Week and start Youth Month, I would like to call for a nationwide consultation on sexual and gender-based violence including religious leaders, civil society organisations, SAPS, the NPA, unions, media, universities and political parties. This issue affects us all. One of the key objectives of such a consultation should be to decide on ways to ensure that women are treated with respect in society. Ubuntu demands that from us. 

Before finishing, an appeal to men. Would all the men present, or watching this on TV, stand and confess our bad behaviour and/or our complicity in this crisis, and resolve in future to speak up and ensure that gender-based violence does not happen on our watch?

Recently I watched a movie about Nigerian women who, wanting the state to enforce a law against child brides, embarked on a strike, abstaining from sex. By depriving men of sex, they forced them to join them in escalating the protest. Might this be one way of forcing the appointment of a judicial commission of inquiry into GBV? Or what other real and tangible action can the MU undertake to do so?

We are people of HOPE. The churches, mosques and synagogues were in the forefront of destroying apartheid. Together, we can stop violence against women and children. Let us go out from here and do just that!

God bless you.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Breaking bread together in Luther's Wittenberg

Archbishop Thabo wraps up his reflections on the German Kirchentag after preaching at the Festive Service in Wittenberg to celebrate 500 years of the Reformation: 

Day 5

Sunday was an amazing day. The Kirchentag organisers were happy with attendance, estimated at 120,000. The atmosphere was exhilarating and the celebration of Mass solemn, even in a stadium.

There were altars pitched throughout the stadium, each with a tree branch and a group of clergy and laity concelebrating. Could this be the real meaning of breaking bread together, little altars where the people are?

It was an honour to be the preacher. The 700 trumpets and massed choir and orchestra filled the whole place with a spirit of awe and wonder. President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German head of state, spoke to applause, as did the regional premier, the mayor of Wittenberg, and representatives of ecumenical partners, the Roman Catholic and Baptist churches.

The sky was blue and for a short period a rainbow appeared. May we be radical even as we share our love for justice and Christ's sake. We travel back to South Africa on Monday after one more interview. Thank you to all of you reading this blog for your prayers, I hope you have found my  reflections useful in assisting you to pray for me in this ministry.

Archbishop Thabo with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany.



Sunday, 28 May 2017

The Reformation - "Our inspirational GPS" for the next 500 years

A sermon delivered to a Festive Service celebrating the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation at the 36th German Protestant Kirchentag, at the Elbe Meadows, Wittenberg.

Text: Genesis 16: 13; 1 Corinthians 13

Thank you all for your warm welcome. I am honoured to be here on the beautiful Elbe meadows before the gates of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. It is a great privilege to take part in launching the Reformation Summer and celebrating Kirchentag 2017.
Thank you. Danke schön
Here in front of me, I see the true spirit of tolerance, amplified by the understanding of the benefits of a multicultural society. Thank you for your witness to the world. Vielen dank.

The Kirchentag's website reported that 120,000 people attended the service.
Friends, it is impossible to overstate the contribution of Martin Luther to that part of the world influenced by Europe and its thought. His questioning of authority ignited and illuminated a civilization that became the catalyst for millions leaving the Dark Ages. He was one of the true fathers of democratic freedom. He mobilized millions, in an unstoppable movement, to embrace the right to participate. He made it safe to want to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
The Reformation which he initiated was more than a theological watershed. It was a defining moment in our sociological and political evolution. But the Reformation is not something which concerns only our past. 
Interpreted in today's context, it can become our guide, our inspirational GPS, our global positioning system for the next 500 years.
The histories of both of our countries — that of Germany in the Nazi era, and of South Africa in the apartheid era — are records of unspeakable cruelty. But they are also histories of God's unfailing faithfulness. They both speak of the challenge to find the Holy One who is, as the hymn says, “standing somewhere in the shadows... and you’ll know Him by the nail prints in His hands.” Our histories are testimony to the power of Hagar's words when she says: “You see me.”
For any African, Hagar's story is deeply etched into both our historical DNA and our contemporary experience. Dolores Williams reminds us that Hagar’s predicament involved slavery, poverty, sexual and economic exploitation, surrogacy, rape, domestic violence and homelessness. Black people generally but particularly black women in South Africa know exactly the same realities. They know that in so many contexts, “black lives do not matter.”
But as we read the Hagar story further, we find that alongside this litany of suffering and exclusion, there is also the story of a God who acts in a powerful way. When Hagar finds herself vulnerable on the periphery, God gives her the resources to survive.  Just like the Syrian refugee you have welcomed into Germany, Hagar stands as a beacon of hope to all who suffer, to the oppressed around the world.
Paul’s words today also speak to the heart of our human responsibility and the values that cradle it. The radical love that he describes – agape – is the love of God, unconditional love, love in action. It is a love that reassures us that God indeed does see us. But can we say in turn that we see God? The answer is “No.” Because  God's love is a love so wide and deep we can never fully comprehend it. As Paul says, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.”
But until the time comes when we see God face to face, what we can do is to strive to make our lives — my life and your lives — a mirror of God's love for the world. Does our neighbour, the foreigner, the refugee, my enemy, see in our lives something of God's unconditional love? We will never truly understand the extraordinary nature of that love. But we can try to live in such a way that others might see in our lives something of the uniqueness of God's love.
Paul reminds us that in essence we are seen and we are transformed into God's likeness to do the very things God does: to be present in times of suffering, to liberate ourselves and every unjust situation from the multiple bondages that hold so many millions in captivity, to speak a word of hope in moments of despair. We are challenged to bless others with our love, to see them as they are seen by God and in seeing them to journey with them through the world of injustice and brokenness.
Let me end with a special challenge to those of you who are young. As you live the Kirchentag, I charge you to hear the cries of others and of our planet as God would. My prayer is that you will be radical; that you will give love away — even as you recognise your frailties and limitations, even if you are daunted by the enormity of the task of transforming the world. Even if you feel that you are seeing the challenges only dimly, please do something, at least one thing, for love's sake, for dignity's sake, for freedom's sake, for Christ's sake. 
Martin Luther King Junior famously spoke about a dream that he had for his country. Like King, I have a dream for the world: that one day soon all the narcissistic, nationalist, isolationist ramblings of our current times will disappear. I have a dream that instead there will arise a global awareness that we are of one humanity. I have a dream that we will all sit together to decide: “What is in the best interests not of this or that group, but of all of society?” I have a dream that your children, and mine, will one day live in an Africa and in a world that has an abundance of unlimited and equal access to education, to health care, to water and sanitation and to economic opportunities.
Will you, young people and older people, help me realise that dream? Please help me. 
God bless you, God bless your families and God bless Germany. Danke schön, and Amen.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Meeting Merkel & Preparing for Preaching with Precision

Archbishop Thabo continues his blog from Berlin, where he and his wife, Lungi, are attending the "Kirchentag" See photos at the end of his post. 
Day 3
I had a fast-paced day, which was scheduled to begin with a meeting with Bread for the World | Brot für die Welt. But it did not happen because the person we were to meet was ill. So I used the time to walk around an exhibition hall, where church and other NGO and government networks were marketing themselves in an impressively coherent manner, with beautiful and informative stands.
Then we took a 90-minute drive to the tiny city of Lutherstadt Wittenberg through beautiful countryside, where all was green and fields stretched to the horizon. We arrived to be met by the imposing tower of the church associated with Luther, then crossed over the gentle River Elbe to the venue for Sunday's great outdoor festive service. There we saw the huge venue planned for the tens of thousands who are expected to come, and pictured it filled with the crowds tomorrow.
A huge makeshift outdoor amphitheatre has been pitched there for the service. The orchestra was rehearsing and welcomed me warmly, then I rehearsed the sermon as if preaching. My homily was five minutes too long so I had to cut it down to 10 minutes! The precision with which they are planning the service is mind-boggling. I met the main director and other leaders of the big operation. It was a great experience and the arrangements are out of this world.
Then we travelled back to Berlin, where we rested for a few minutes in an exhibition centre lounge before I appeared as a panellist at a discussion on religion and development organised by the German Ministry of Social Development's International Partnership on Religion and Sustainable Development (PaRD). After being transported back to the hotel through the high security arranged for President Barack Obama's visit the previous day, I immediately changed and joined a reception for international guests hosted by Bread for the World and Kirchentag. It felt like home, I met a lot of South Africans, friends from elsewhere in Africa and people from the ecumenical community, including the Archbishop of Sweden, Antje Jackelén, who was in Cape Town last weekend.
Then into a taxi and headed to the hotel for the last interview of the day at 20h00. I am not going to the gym this week but the programme makes me feel as if I don’t need to as I am always running.
Day 4
A quieter day, with one meeting as I still myself before preaching tomorrow.
The sermon is now 9.5 minutes and has been sent to the TV presenters and translators. I have no words to describe a church festival so well attended, relevant to old and young and the popular mood very positive. Some attendees can be seen jostling in the sun, on the grass and just enjoying the spirit. Perhaps for South Africans, the nearest comparison is the ZCC's great Easter gathering at Zion City, Moria, or perhaps what Angus Buchan organised recently in the Free State. But they seem a fraction of the sophistication I am observing here.
On a personal note, it being summer here, the pollen from the trees is flying like snowflakes so I am battling with my chest and sinusitis is affecting  my voice. I am nursing my voice for Sunday so that I am not “invincible in the week and inaudible on Sunday” as the joke goes about some clergy.
Today I bumped into Bishop Ebenezer Ntali after breakfast. I had only one meeting, with Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's Minister of Finance and the current Chair of the G20 nations. Now I am retreating from the crowds to rest and recoup before my sermon tomorrow. I will go for a swim later.
With Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bishop Bedford-Strohm

With Bernhard Felmberg of Eine Welt.

Planning for Sunday.

Rehearsing my sermon in front of empty seats - 9.5 minutes!

With Dr Wolfgang Schäuble and Renier Koegelenberg.

With Volker Faigle and Ambassador Stone Sizani




Thursday, 25 May 2017

Archbishop Thabo blogs from Berlin


Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is one of the leading international guests invited to this year's edition of the great celebration of German Christians, the Kirchentag. He will preach to a festive service on Sunday outside Wittenberg, to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. 

On the first days of the celebrations, he blogs from Berlin.


The opening service was beyond my expectations: there were about 20,000 people at our venue and there were two others. The papers say that in total there were 70,000 people present.

Then there was a great reception, addressed by the President of the Kirchentag, Professor Christina Aus der Au, the chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, and Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This was followed by a dinner in which we spent the evening in her company, as well as that of Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and other church leaders. It was a delightful evening, talking about the church in the political life of nations and the church’s vocation to care for all - including a reflection on South Africa.


This morning I led a Bible study in Hall 18, an exhibition  hall. There was a choir from Limpopo, which was very special. They sang Senzeni Na? and Hake Le Tjee Ke Le Mobe, then it was to an exposition of the Bible study. (You can download my notes here.)

Bishop Ebenezer Ntali of of Grahamstown is also here, in the same hotel, but we have not yet had a chance to meet. The crowds here are multitudes beyond measure.

Then we were fetched and whisked to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, where Chancellor Merkel had a discussion on faith, religion and politics with former President Barack Obama. It will remain with me as a most memorable interaction, two world leaders talking opening and sincerely in the public square about faith, willing to be vulnerable, admitting their failures and not pretending to be omnipotent. You can see a recording of the interaction below. 

I am due to pay my respects to our Ambassador, Stone Sizani, later today and to have TV interviews tonight.



Saturday, 15 April 2017

Archbishop Thabo's sermon for the Easter Vigil

The following is the text of the sermon preached by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at the Easter Vigil at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, tonight:

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Happy Easter to you all.

We come to this Easter Sunday, to this open tomb, with the dark reality of our country very much at the forefront of our minds. Over these Lenten days we have come to the lowest point in our political life. Like many, I feel that the dream of South Africa sometimes feels more like a nightmare, a prolonged Passiontide, so to speak. Personal interests, corruption, private gain, entitlement, a vicious contempt for the poor and the common good, a culture of blatant lies and cronyism—and possibly worse—dominate our public landscape.

This past week, the nightmare got worse as the full impact of the President's recent actions unfolded. They have devastated our hopes for the kind of foreign investment which we desperately need to grow our economy and create new jobs. Their impact on consumer confidence and trust is immeasurable. Tens of thousands of jobs are directly affected by just a 10 percent drop in consumer confidence. If we cannot turn the situation around, at end of the road we are now on, we face the prospect of employees fired; shops shuttering; malls closing; the poor unable to afford bread, paraffin, electricity and the cost of burials; possible hyperinflation—it is as if we are entering the Zimbabwe moment.

In this hour we grieve because the words of GK Chesterton, used to such effect by Trevor Huddleston as apartheid's grip intensified in the 1950s, are again apt now:

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Many of us over the past days have felt a deep resonance with the gospel observation [in John 13:30] that when Judas left the room in which the disciples shared the Last Supper with Jesus, we are told “it was night.” Every time anyone turns their back on love, betrays the bonds of fellowship and steals from others, it is night! This is true for us in South Africa and indeed in so many, far too many, other parts of the world.

Our nightmare is similar to that under which the ancient Hebrews lived in tonight's reading. In our case, while we aren't being disadvantaged by colonial slavery any longer—and no matter what anyone says, colonialism was for most of us a form of slavery—while colonialism and apartheid are over, some of our institutions, part of our economy and some among our leaders have become slaves to a new form of colonial oppression.  It is a moral and economic oppression that manifests itself in the form of one family's capture of our country, and a president whose integrity, soul and heart have been compromised.

Yet, even as we survey this and the litany of other social pathologies that afflict our country and our world, we have in faith to say that even though it is absolutely true that darkness overwhelms us, the events at the tomb of Jesus on Easter Day signal a greater victory, a more abundant truth. At the heart of the message of the Resurrection of Jesus is the stubborn insistence that nothing is irrevocable. No betrayal is final. There is no loss that cannot be redeemed. It is never too late to start again. As John Shea reminds us: “What the Resurrection teaches us is not how to live but how to live again and again!”

The promise of Easter can be likened to what I call the new struggle in South Africa. In that struggle, the realisation of the promise of Easter is measured not only by how soon we replace the current administration, but by how well we ready ourselves for what comes next. How do we prepare ourselves for the future after the end of a deeply corrupt regime? After President Zuma has fallen, will those who benefit from his patronage fall too? Because if we change leaders but the patronage system that the current leadership has produced doesn't change; if state-owned enterprises, the prosecution and law-enforcement agencies remain captured by corrupt interests, we are no better off.

The Resurrection doesn’t only recall the fact that God raised the body of Jesus from the dead. It certainly means that, but it also means that that power raises us from the multiple tombs that hold us in captivity. In one of the last days leading up to the Passion we read that wonderful story, that precursor of Easter Sunday, when Jesus, having wept at the tomb of Lazarus, also called him out of the tomb. He challenged him to leave the places of death and to walk away from its shadows.

Over the past days, as we have recalled how Jesus called Lazarus to leave an environment that offered him no future, hundreds of thousands of South Africans have issued the same challenge to those in public life. Ordinary South Africans, in their places of work, in their places of worship, and tens of thousands of them on the streets, have issued a call to our political leaders. They have called on them to come out from the places that hold them in bondage to the death of greed, in bondage to the lust for and the seduction of power, in bondage to the shadow of moral corruption that has enveloped South Africa.

Ordinary South Africans have called to their leaders, just as Jesus did to Lazarus: Come out! Come out of the tomb! To those who are economically, socially and morally deaf; to those who ignore the crisis of distrust that has cast the longest and darkest shadow our great country has ever seen in the democratic era, ordinary South Africans have said:

  • Don’t stay in places that will pull us all into a culture that wounds or kills us. 
  • Don't be overtaken by the culture into which our President and some of our elected officials have descended. 
  • Don't ignore the pleas, cries and profound sense of pain and suffering that plague our wonderful and beautiful nation.

If Resurrection is about the fact that good will triumph over evil, justice over injustice, hope over despair, then part of that resurrection dynamic means, for us, that we call out the dead and those who deal in death, that we remind them that their destiny is to be in the Upper Room, that place where new life emerges, where the power to restore is released and where joy is glimpsed amidst even the residual sadness. Resurrection means that we can start again, that life is a story of multiple beginnings but that it challenges us to call the dead out of the tomb as a first step.

What does being obedient to Jesus and following in his footsteps entail this Easter? What does it mean for us to imitate his voice in our own Lazarus moment? What are our obligations as citizens, all of us with equal rights and responsibilities under the Constitution? You've heard me say this before: our destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice.  Your choice. My choice. Our choice. To all gathered here on this most holy night: if there was ever a time we needed to rise up and take ownership of our future, it is now.

South Africa needs real leaders who must be ready to sacrifice all to ensure dignity, equality, opportunity and freedom for all of our people. We cannot and should not ever be afraid to raise our voices for honesty, truth and compassion, and against injustice and lying and greed. It is time to take sides. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Nothing strengthens authority as much as silence. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. As Archbishop Emeritus Desmond has said, "If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality." We need to rise up, to stand up and speak up for our rights, our children's rights and our grandchildren's rights.

Let us acknowledge that the old order, the economic system which makes us one of the most unequal societies on earth, must go. Let us challenge the narrative of the corrupt, who use that old order as a figleaf behind which they hide their greed. As I have said before, we need to overcome the skewed racial ordering of our economy and the obscene inequality which it produces, not by indulging the rapacious greed of a few politically-connected individuals, but by building a new, fairer society which distributes wealth more equitably for all.

We are God's engineers and everything of meaning and importance that we have accomplished in the past 24 years has been the result of refusing to be stopped by the walls that divide us, and demonstrating our ability to be exceptional bridge builders. Let the different interest groups and elements of our society which are committed to these ideals—whether rich or poor, whether black, white, coloured or Indian, whether Christian, Communist, Muslim, Hindu or Jew—let us all find one another in a powerful, united coalition which puts first the interests of the poor and thereby the interests of all of us.

While the Mandela and Mbeki administrations made mistakes—among them, shutting down dissent from within the ANC's parliamentary caucus—their record shows that if government pulls together representatives of different interest groups, we can find rational, workable solutions to our most difficult problems. In that spirit, let us turn this moment of crisis into a moment of opportunity and convene a land Codesa to negotiate a solution to this emotional issue and, in the light of the downgrades of our credit ratings, an economic Codesa too.

In this new struggle, let us reject the participation of white racists who don't believe that black people are capable of running a country or an economy. They are not welcome on marches and protests. Let us also not be distracted by hurtful and anachronistic comments on colonialism. Let us also reject those who want an unequal, tribal, sexist and racialized South Africa, and who exploit the views of a minority of racists to portray their opponents as stooges and to threaten white compatriots for exercising their civic rights.

To all politicians—Mr President, Honourable Members of Parliament, Madam Premier—we appeal to all of you to rise above your petty everyday squabbles and obsessions and to recognise this as a turning point in our history. My father once gave me a very important lesson: You can, he said, if you think you can. It's just a matter of removing the apostrophe and the “t” from can't. I want to issue a special challenge to our MPs tonight: when you are called upon to decide on whether you have confidence in our President, vote for the country's future, and not for your own pockets. You should know that:

South Africa will be watching.
The world will be watching.
Vote your conscience. 

There is something particularly poignant in Matthew’s account of the Resurrection. The greatest news in all history, the turning point in human affairs, the testimony to the relentless love of God so much stronger than even death, is entrusted to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. It is entrusted to two women, to people who in the first place had the courage to confront the power of death by going to the tomb and, as it were, taking on that seemingly immutable power. The Good News of the Gospel was announced to those who in the culture of the time were marginalised and often discriminated against, the victims of abuse, poor and unnecessarily burdened.

Resurrection narratives are entrusted to those who do not shrink before the challenges of history and are not cowered by what seems insurmountable, strong and unchanging. It is often the poor, the discriminated against, the victims of oppression, who slowly tire of death and begin to live differently, to live resurrection lives and so announce a new moment in history. it is often that bottom billion of the world who through their testimonies of resistance and fearlessness offer us moments of hope and therefore of resurrection. To them, as indeed to us, is entrusted the good news that life is changed now, not ended and that every moment of life is caught up in new possibilities.

At this moment in our history, where we are faced with hard choices that take us out of our comfort zones, we need to hear Jesus’s resurrection words: “Be not afraid, go and tell.”

In closing, let me share with each of you a very personal message, from my heart to yours: God loves you and so do I.

God bless you, God bless your family, and God bless South Africa. May it be so at this challenging Easter time. Alleluia!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Archbishop prays for "a powerful, united coalition which puts first the interests of the poor"

A prayer offered at the beginning of a memorial service for the late Ahmed Kathrada in St George's Cathedral, Cape Town:
Loving and compassionate God of the Universe, Triune God, Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer,
Whose arm bends the arc of justice towards the poor and the oppressed,
 and whose ear is ever inclined to the cry of those who are burdened under the weight of injustice,
We thank you for the gift of Ahmed KATHRADA, whose life was spent ensuring that justice was realised for those on the margins, whose heart was radically open to the cries of the disadvantaged and who tirelessly worked to lift the yoke of oppression,
We thank you that in the course of history you raise up women and men of profound conscience, who challenge our complacency, lift our vision, disturb our peace and turn our eyes to the places of suffering. People who in looking at our country today, say, No! Not here! Never again!
Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer:
Thank you that such lives remind us that the proud will be scattered, the mighty pulled down from their thrones and the rich and greedy sent empty away!
Thank you for the renewed outpouring of energy and activism in response to Uncle Kathy's passing and to the events of the past week.
We pray for those who march and those who organise in the pursuit of justice, equal opportunity and a better life for all in our nation,
Strengthen, we pray, the resolve of those who struggle for clean government, especially for the thousands of honest civil servants who work for the good of all.
Empower us to challenge the skewed racial ordering of our economy and the obscene inequality which it produces, not by indulging the rapacious greed of a few politically-connected individuals, but by building a new, fairer  society which distributes wealth more equitably for all.
And at this time, help the different interest groups and elements of our society which are committed to these ideals to find one another in a powerful, united coalition which puts first the interests of the poor.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017


Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has appealed to the South African government to scrap plans for developing nuclear energy and instead to spend the money on education, training and other development initiatives.
The archbishop said in a statement issued from the church's Synod of Bishops today:
“The Synod of Bishops has revisited the resolution adopted by the church's Provincial Synod last September, in which the church expressed its opposition to the expansion of nuclear energy and urged the government to pursue the path of renewable energy initiatives.
“The Synod acknowledges that President Jacob Zuma committed the government in last year's State of the Nation address to procure new nuclear energy only on a scale and at a pace that the country can afford.
“We also welcome the president's acknowledgement in this year's State of the Nation address that renewable energy will be an important part of the mix of energy sources in the future.
“However, nuclear energy still remains part of the mix, despite the conclusion in the Department of Energy's updated Integrated Resource Plan that additional nuclear power, originally expected in 2023, will not come on stream until 2037.
“In a letter to President Zuma last year conveying the Provincial Synod's appeal, I noted that the country already has progressive renewable energy initiatives that could lead to greater sustainability and flexibility.
“Solar and wind generation of power is becoming cheaper and cheaper to develop. By 2037, the energy generation scenario is likely to have changed completely.
“The priority for our country is the education, training and well-being of its citizens. We should not impoverish the country through incurring unaffordable debt through attempting to obtain loans or providing guarantees for Eskom to raise loans for nuclear power stations.
“We are deeply concerned that an expanded nuclear energy programme will become an albatross around the necks of our children. And we cannot leave to the generations to come the task of disposing of our nuclear waste.
“We believe that South Africa has the potential of becoming a renewable energy hub for Africa, with huge potential for investment in manufacturing and associated employment. We note that overseas investors are queuing up to invest in our renewable energy programme and since the design of the programme is such that they provide the finance, this does not burden our people.”


On Thursday, environmental justice groups will renew their challenge to the government's planned expansion of nuclear energy in a court hearing in Cape Town

Thursday, 16 February 2017

To the Laos - To the People of God – Lent 2017

Dear People of God
This year we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in our Province. Bishop Margaret Vertue of False Bay and the ACSA gender programme have been discussing the impact that women's ordination has had on the church. While they have acknowledged that there is much to celebrate—and I believe we have been immensely enriched by their ordination—it is also clear that the church still has many challenges to overcome when it evaluates the leadership, empowerment, participation and inclusion of women, both ordained and lay, in the church today.
As a consequence, the anniversary in September of the first ordinations in 1992 will be celebrated with a conference on the issue. The theme and venue are still to be confirmed, but I want to take the earliest opportunity to urge you to give the commemoration and the celebratory conference your full support. In this way we can all support and encourage women in their ministries and to take up positions of leadership in the church.
By the time you read this, almost all of South Africa's universities are expected to be open for the 2017 academic year, and students, parents, teachers and staff will be in our prayers as studies are resumed. I have agreed to join a platform, known as the National Education Crisis Forum, which is convened by the former deputy chief justice of South Africa, Dikgang Moseneke, to bring together different stakeholders to ensure, in the forum's words, “that the right to education enshrined in the South African constitution becomes a lived reality for all...” As the forum seeks to broker a long-term solution to the crisis, please support us and commit to helping in whatever way will resolve this educational, economic and also political challenge to the country. Perhaps you could build this concern into your Lenten observances, using the resource that the Province has produced to help you.
In January I spent nine days in the Diocese of Madhya Kerala in the Church of South India, learning how they do mission through markets in particular, and preached at their Convention Eucharist. I was also struck by the commitment to education of the Moderator of the church, Bishop Thomas Oommen, not only in words or feelings but in practical ways. Their church schools educate 35,000 pupils! Most of the offerings at the Sunday Eucharist – generously and spontaneously given – were shared with the schools to encourage them to keep up their high standards of performance. Both parents and the whole community are involved in education through the church. We too can emulate their example, especially by supporting our universities whose vice-chancellors are trapped between students' demands on the one hand and government policies and often inertia on the other.
Last month I helped to launch a worldwide Anglican initiative called “JustWater” in which churches on four continents – Africa, Australia, Europe and North America – are uniting in support of World Water Day 2017. As well as being at the launch at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, I will be speaking during the Water Justice Conference at our own St. George's Cathedral, which takes place from March 23 to 25. If you want to supplement our Provincial Lenten Bible Studies with a focus on water justice during the Sundays in Lent, you will find prayers and other material in a short resource document produced by Trinity Wall Street, St. Paul's Cathedral and St. George's. I commend it to you for reading and discussing. But above all, use water sparingly in your own personal lives by fixing dripping pipes, showering instead of bathing where you can, keeping your showers short and possibly harvesting rain water.
May Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, lead you as you transform educational institutions to serve the public good and even as we use water wisely to be in solidarity with those who lack proper water and sanitation in our country.
Have a blessed Lent!

†Thabo Cape Town



A series of Bible studies for Lent commissioned by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is now available here please click

Monday, 16 January 2017

Call to focus on universities on Education Sunday, February 5

To the Laos - To the People of God - January 2016

Dear People of God,

On January 6th, we celebrated the Feast of the Epiphany, reminding us of the manifestation of God to all. For our context today, I want to paraphrase this by expressing it in terms of the liberation, the enlightening, the empowering and the “making able” of all God’s children in order to engage with God in his world and with one another so that none is dominated nor demeaned. Education embodies this vision. Hence, in keeping with our ACSA missional priority of “nurture of the young” this Ad Laos is dedicated to education.

Our Anglican Board of Education (ABESA), the Anglican Students' Federation, the Synod of Bishops and other organisations within our Church have been consulting in recent months on how we can engage with the crisis on our campuses in South Africa and beyond. The South African Council of Churches has also been taking initiatives and a number of our bishops have been responding to developments on campuses in their dioceses, among them the bishops of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth and the Free State.

Good education is, as I have said before, at the heart of our capacity to realise our Provincial Vision, “Anglicans Act”. Although the South African matric pass rate has improved, the quality of our school-leavers' education still needs a lot of improvement. And it is critical both for fulfilment in the lives of young people, and for the health of our society, that the burgeoning growth in tertiary education is well managed, sustainably financed, and kept at the highest possible level of educational quality.

As in the 1976 generation, young people today are bypassing their parents and demanding to be treated as adults who can negotiate their own educational destinies. Meanwhile the Government triggered their anger last year by sidelining its own commission on higher education, and announcing a fee increase for 2017 unilaterally. No wonder young people feel abused, marginalised and degraded.

At the same time, many young people speak of their vulnerability when it feels as if their parents’ generation – families, teachers and the churches – seem to have left them exposed to abuse, violence and intimidation, unheard and unaccompanied in deep waters. We need to redress that by standing with our students, listening to them and shielding them from danger.

When church leaders went to pray at Parliament after a student march in Cape Town last year, there was a warm response as if somehow there was a dimension missing in the conflict – something spiritual which many students knew from their upbringing, and which they miss in secular dialogue.

So what can we do?

We already have the first Sunday in February each year designated as Education Sunday across the Province, a time to pray for educators, learners and institutions of learning at the beginning of the school year. We want to urge this year that we observe this day, SUNDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2017 with special events not only at churches but ecumenically at schools and where possible on campuses where we have access through Anglican students, administrators or chaplaincy ministry.

This is a time to listen and to be close to people not only in the tertiary sector but as the crisis extends, as it will, to high schools and across society. Our presence, our prayers and where appropriate, our parenting are needed, alongside our prophecy where the powerful have also been absent and unapproachable, or simply overwhelmed.

We all know how disabled our education systems have been, especially in South Africa but also through the colonial histories of other countries which make up the subcontinent which ACSA seeks to serve. Building healthy education systems in all our nations is a critical priority to which ACSA has long been devoted. As we do so, there are people full of passion and potential for whom we have to care.

Please observe Education Sunday with special intent for universities and colleges in the tertiary education sector this year!

God bless you

†Thabo Cape Town

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Archbishop of Canterbury supports Archbishop Thabo

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, has declared international Anglican support for Archbishop Thabo Makgoba after controversy between Church and State in South Africa.

The support was expressed in a sermon preached at Evensong in St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town, on December 30.

Archbishop Welby is on a private visit to Cape Town, where he has visited Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, 85, who has twice been hospitalised in the past 16 months.

In his Christmas sermon, Archbishop Makgoba rejected a call by South African President Jacob Zuma for the church to stay out of politics. In a statement which followed, President Zuma said he had meant the church should stay out of internal party matters.

Archbishop Makgoba responded by agreeing, but saying that when "issues... also become the subject of internal debate in a party, we walk a fine line in distinguishing between issues of public debate and internal party matters."

Preaching at Evensong, Archbishop Welby referred to the Anglican Church's role in the apartheid era and continued that "[M]ore than 25 years later, the issues sometimes seem to go round and round. Archbishops are warned to stay out of politics.

"You may as well tell a fish to stay out of water. Water is where fish swim; the polis, the organisation of the city, the country, the region, is where people swim – because they are people in relationship, and relationships of citizens need structures, and those structures need good values… and that means politics.

"Religious leaders commenting on values and politics in England are often unpopular! Party politics is what we avoid, but politics is where we live – and it is a central theme of the gospel. Politics is ultimately about the Kingdom of Heaven. Your Grace, dear brother, we stand with you.

"Being opposed is not fun. It does not lift our spirits. And when, as you have in South Africa, you spent decades and decades facing an atrocious and deeply evil ideology of apartheid, even a trace of wrongdoing brings back the taste of injustice. One thinks, 'Perhaps we are simply going round the circle again.' Yet we are not.

"A New Year reminds us that history is not circular. It is not endless repetition, but linear: a story written by God in the colours and characters of human beings. A story that has a beginning, a middle and an end – it ends in triumph. Even if we struggle and suffer along the way, we know that because God raised Christ from the dead, we will see the victory of Jesus Christ and share in his perfect Kingdom..."

Read the full text of Archbishop Welby's sermon.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Archbishop Thabo responds to President Zuma's clarification

Archbishop Thabo was asked by The New Age newspaper to comment on President Jacob Zuma's December 27 statement (reproduced below) concerning his remarks early in December on religious leaders commenting on political issues.

The text of the newspapers questions and Archbishop Thabo's answers follow:

Do you find it strange that the Church which was not silent during apartheid is expected to keep quiet now?

I am happy with the welcome the Presidency's clarification that he didn't mean we should not address political issues.

Will the Church keep quiet?

No, the Church will not, especially on ethical issues, inequality, corruption and the need for all to be healed and to be afforded their dignity.

Why should the Church speak out on behalf of the poor?

Speaking out on the welfare of the people is a Gospel imperative. Jesus was someone from the margins. The Church lives, moves and has its being among people. The poor are the wealth of any society and are precious.

Should the Church stay out of politics?

No. the Church must be active in politics, in the issues which concern citizens. We should not be involved in partisan politics or the internal political wrangling in parties. But when issues we are speaking out on - such as corruption - also become the subject of internal debate in a party, we walk a fine line in distinguishing between issues of public debate and internal party matters.

What are your feelings not only about the President, but also the party that he represents and the seeming inability to tame corruption and malfeasance, and the almost insatiable drive to make money?

I'm sad, because our leaders have the privilege and the responsibility, as well as the democratic mandate, to lead all South Africans out of this and to prosper.

What message is being sent out to young people?

That there is no need for hard work, or for courage and confidence in being patriotic and contributing to the good of all.


Statement from the South African Presidency

President Zuma did not appeal to religious leaders to be apolitical

President Jacob Zuma has noted the ongoing commentary on statements he made during the annual Twelve Apostles’ Church in Christ (TACC) International Thanksgiving Day celebrations in Durban on Sunday, 04 December 2016, where he cautioned religious leaders to avoid being drawn into divisive party political squabbles.

The President reiterates his view that religious leaders should avoid becoming embroiled in divisive party political squabbles and that they should ideally strive to be above such and unite all the people in the pursuit of justice, righteousness and the common good.

It is the President's view that it would be helpful if religious leaders rose above the mudslinging so that they could be able to mediate and bring about peace where the need arises.

President Zuma understands, appreciates and commends the role that the faith-based community played in the struggle for liberation which led to the dawn of freedom and democracy in our country. Government also values the role that that the faith based sector continue to play in the reconstruction and development of our country and in promoting national unity.


Thursday, 24 November 2016

To the Laos - To the People of God – Advent 2016


Dear People of God

As I was completing this letter, news came in from Bishop Manuel Ernesto of the Diocese of Niassa that 60 people were reported killed, more than 100 injured and many are still missing after a fuel tanker travelling from Beira to southern Malawi exploded while on a road in the community of Cafrisange in the central province of Tete. Bishop Manuel asks us all to pray for Archdeacon Martins Nselela and his team in Tete as they minister to the families affected.

In recent weeks, I have preached at a number of celebrations in the Province, going on consecutive Sundays to Bloemfontein for the 150th anniversary of the Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael, to All Saints, Durbanville in the Diocese of Saldanha Bay for their 160th anniversary and, close to home, to confirmations in the Parish of Wynberg in the Diocese of Cape Town. Looking at both the long history of the Church in Southern Africa—including the joys and the crises we have seen over the past century and a half—and the vibrant life I see not only in these parishes but in other visits across the Province, I am filled with a renewed appreciation of the power of grace and the resurrection life in the Church.

    In the Diocese of the Free State, I called for Anglicans and others across South Africa to soak the country in vigils of silent prayer to lament the state of our nation in these times. I did so using the concept of lament as expressed by Denise Ackermann, who has written that lamenting “ a refusal to settle for the way things are. It is reminding God that the human situation is not as it should be and that God as the partner in the covenant must act.” My call was that we draw on God's power to help us strive so that in all our different contexts, and in all our dealings with others, human dignity should be upheld, justice ensured, equality advanced and moral courage promoted. My appeal was for us to rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy and to work and pray to bring that about.

    In Cape Town, a large group of us held the vigil publicly on the steps of St George's Cathedral, where I was struck by questions around the goal and meaning of life in the broader sense, particularly for those of us who are baptised in the name of Christ. Again and again, the need to address these issues with “faith and courage” seem to undergird this wrestling with and finding answers to the deeper questions of our lives. (You can find the prayer which I used on the Cathedral steps at the end of this letter. Please feel free to use and adapt it to your own needs.)

    Our world has experienced great challenges in the past year. Our brothers and sisters in South Sudan, northern Nigeria, Burundi, the DR Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia have gone through times of desolation, suffering from political conflict, war, the threat of war, human rights violations and drought. Withdrawals from the International Criminal Court by South Africa, Burundi and Gambia give power to dictators and threaten to rob millions of ordinary Africans of any recourse to justice. The results of the American election have shocked many and it is deeply disturbing to see the emergence of acts of hate in its aftermath, including the daubing of racist, anti-immigrant slogans on our sister churches there.

    In South Africa, the tensions and conflict on our campuses continue. At the meeting of the Synod of Bishops in September, we heard input from a number of university vice-chancellors on the  #FeesMustFall crisis. As bishops we decided that we needed to move “from the monastery to the marketplace” in caring for the students, parents, academic staff, university administrations and law enforcement services affected by the serious breakdown of academic activity in the universities. Recognising that the crisis has its origin in the inequalities of the past, we called for urgent action to be taken to address it and offered the ministry of the church to those who are seeking a solution.

    The Anglican Board of Education is recommending that Education Sunday 2017, the first Sunday in February (February 5), should be dedicated to speaking to the crisis and to prayer for students, teachers and parents at our tertiary institutions. Students are looking to the Church and to their parents for our presence, our prayers and our support. For the sake of our futures we dare not fail them. Let us call to mind John 1:5 – “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

    I was reminded of this biblical passage by Mayor Patricia de Lille of Cape Town recently, when she conferred on Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane the Freedom of the City of Cape Town. Honouring him, she described him as a source of light for us all. Our heartiest congratulations to Archbishop Njongo on this signal honour.

    I have asked a few retired bishops of our Province to draft Bible studies for Lent 2017 around the theme of the biblical basis of Anglican social teaching. I recommend these as a resource enabling us to study, pray and act together. Provincial Synod has declared this a season of the Decade of Evangelisation and the youth have asked that we declare 2017 the “Year of the Young”. On behalf of Provincial Synod, I declare it as such, and Anglican Youth and the Anglican Students' Federation will provide us with material after Easter next year for us to study and pray over as we focus on the young.

    If you have not yet prepared a Bible study programme for Advent, I urge you to consider adopting a useful study on the story of Boaz in the light of the growing phenomenon of “blessers”, who are—simply put—wealthy elderly men who lure young township girls in need into abusive relationships. It has been prepared by Gerald West and Bev Haddad of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Otherwise, do create an opportunity to use the study next year.

    The Advent I will again be sharing a series of weekly homilies, which I will record on audion and distribute through our SoundCloud channel for people to listen to on the internet and download on their mobile phones. The Advent period never fails to create the spiritual as well as the biblical framework for me to ask these deeper questions, to lament and finally to get to appreciate deeply and to value more dearly the hope of Christmas, not as another story but as a very personal and specific life-giving experience.

    I want to say that whatever the challenges or sense of darkness you may have felt or be feeling this year, know that Christ the hope and light of the world has been there illuming your path. As you work through Advent to the celebration of Christmas, may you, to borrow a phrase from Advent's sister season, Lent, “bury the past in ashes.” Remember that we are people of the Resurrection and are called to spread Christ, the hope of the world, this Christmas, Epiphany and beyond.

    Thank you all for your prayers, your messages, your tweets, your Facebook posts, your letters, your jokes and your confrontations over the past year. I feel surrounded and enveloped in these, and especially by your prayers in whatever I do. I pray that you too will continue to feel my humble prayers for each one of you. To all the Bishops of the Province, to their clergy and staff and to all who help and advise us, a big thank you.

May you all enjoy a blessed and happy Christmas.

God bless you

†Thabo Cape Town

Monday, 14 November 2016

 Sermon preached by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at a Confirmation Service of St John's Parish, Wynberg, Cape Town:

2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13, Luke 21:5-19

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

It is good to be with you today. Thank you, the Revd Rob Taylor and your Churchwardens, for inviting me to be here.  Thank you everyone for your warm welcome.

    As we were entering preparing ourselves for the procession, a seven-year- old named Terry interrogated us. Looking at the five of us wearing our cassocks and surplices, he said: “Why are you men all dressed up in women’s clothing,” and singling out the Revd Nobuntu [Mageza], he said “at least you are a woman, that’s fine.” Out of the mouths of babes indeed! Later on I will return to another story of a three-year-old.
    Congratulations, Duncan [McLea] for the Theological Venture you are exploring – we looking forward to the fruits of the exploration, and looking forward to the training of men and women in theological matters.  Our congratulations to all those from St John's, from St Peter's and from Christ Church, who are being confirmed and received today. A warm welcome too to your friends and family who have joined you for this wonderful occasion. 
    Today’s Gospel lesson creates an opportunity to reflect on two tensions between life and death, between external and internal beauty, between big and small. Let start with the first lesson set before us. It opens with an evocation of the beauty of the Temple in Jerusalem. The disciples were admiring the rebuilding of the temple carried out by Herod the Great, twenty years before Jesus' birth. Had the temple they looked at survived until the modern era, it would probably be classified today as one of the seven wonders of the world. That's an extraordinary distinction—just consider the uniqueness of the mountain in whose shadow we worship, and that five years ago that mountain was declared as one of the “New7Wonders Of Nature”.
    Well, as a man-made architectural wonder, the Temple in Jerusalem would have been viewed with the same regard—as a structure as unique and as wonderful in the built environment as our Table Mountain is in the natural world.
    It took fifty years for Herod to rebuild this temple, restoring it to its glory in Solomon’s day. It was revered as a sign of God's presence, even as the dwelling place of God's sheltering protection for Israel. Faithful Jews knew the Temple testified to God’s unique majesty.
    So it is with some alarm that the Jews hear Jesus predicting what will happen to this beautiful temple.  Jesus says of these things that you are looking at, that the days are coming when not a stone will be left, that there will not be a stone that will not be destroyed. The destruction of Jerusalem was seen as the end of the world for Judaism, and for the Jewish Christians. The Temple was central to their way of life, associated with the presence of God, and it was almost impossible for the disciples to imagine the destruction of the temple without the world coming to an end.
    It is for this reason that they asked: Teacher, when is this going to happen? What is the sign that the end is about to take place? Jesus' response to them is: Take care not to be deceived because many will come using my name and say “I am He”.
    When you hear of calamities such as uprisings, wars and revolts and cosmic disasters such as earthquakes, famines, hurricanes and "signs in heaven” such as lunar eclipses and comets as signs of the end, do not worry; these are things that must happen but the end will not come so soon.
    Jesus details the persecution that his followers can expect to face before the end—persecution; trials before government authorities; betrayal by family and friends; hatred on account of Jesus’ name; and even execution—but, he says, he will give his followers words and wisdom, and they must be faithful and endure.
    In Thessalonica, the people to whom Paul wrote believed that end of the world was so imminent that they abandoned their customary work and began to live lives of idleness. Today also, we have prophets of doom predicting and waiting for the end of the world. Some of you may even feel that the leadership of certain presidents, in more countries than one, might mean the end of the world.  Let me ground this big picture of the heavenly, the ancient and the biblical with the ordinary within our context to make my point clearer.
    Jesus always has the amazing ability to move people from the grand, the big, the external to focus on the details of the small, the internal, the intrinsic, to real issues that matter in life. Let me demonstrate those and this tension between life and death, life and the end and its meaning for us as Christians. 
    A three-year-old posed a direct question to her mom, rather impatiently asking: “Mommy what is it to die?” And mom for the umpteenth time evaded the question. This three-year-old was generally concerned about her kitty who died and never returned. But Mom was not able openly to discuss life and death or the issues of mortality with her child.
    Pick another story of the garden in Bishopscourt. There is a beautiful plant, green and crisp with very pointed leaves and it gives a beautiful reddish, orangey flower for winter. It is called the Chasmanthe.  In winter as I said it is beautiful. In summer it wilts, it dies, it looks like someone has poured, hot water on it, as if someone had trampled on it. The wilted leaves become an eyesore on the property. If you did not know what it was  you might even dig it out and throw it away. However the next winter it resurrects into life and gives us its splendour—almost a reminder for me that for Christians death is not the end. 
My last example drives the point home, especially for you confirmation candidates. It is an example of guinea fowl, Egyptian geese and an owl at Bishopscourt. One day you see 12 chicks and goslings, the next day seven, the next day three and the next day one. By the number of the owl's droppings, you get a sense of where they went. It would seem the end of the chicks supports the life of the owl.
    I want to talk to all of you about the meaning of Christian living for you, of death and of the end, and of how you handle this transitory nature of our vocation. I want to ask those of you who are to be confirmed today, and indeed all of us: how do we feel about the second coming of Christ? How do we feel about the end of the world, about what we call Christian “eschatology”. Christian eschatology is the theology of the last things, the end of time and history and the coming of the kingdom of God. It comes from the Greek word, eschatos, or last. How do we deal with this prospect in our own lives?  Do we sit idle like the people in Thessalonica or do we get on with our lives?
    For me, the truth is that if you and I admit our own mortality, if we acknowledge that our own lives in this realm are transitory, we are able to appreciate the seasons of our lives and our own intrinsic dignity, whatever our age or circumstances. Being able to speak together with honesty about our deaths, or the second coming of Christ, is one of the greatest gifts we can give one another. 
    In the Church, “you and I” are an eschatological community as the Kingdom of God, present through Christ. Our Christian hope is vetted in the victorious Christ who will come to judge the living and the dead. Paul responded to the idleness of the people of Thessalonica by reminding them of the warning that if they do not work they must not be fed. Today, both Paul and Jesus, in the Gospel reading, suggest to us that our best preparation for the future as an eschatological community is to endure the challenges of life, to devote our attention to present duties, to maintain a holy and healthy balance between prayer and service, labour and play, and to develop lasting family ties and values. Our unique calling is to do what no one else can do: to live out our baptismal promises in lives of faithful worship, witness and service.
    Let me say a little more about worship and witness. Worship is about growing in closeness to God. Growing close means we need to spend quality time in his company. This is what we do in Church, in reading the Bible, in our prayers – where we need to learn to listen, as well as to speak!  God can speak to us in all sorts of different ways.  Sometimes even the words of a hymn that we sing seem to have a special message from God to our hearts.
    Witness means communicating the truth about God to others.  A witness in court has to tell the truth about a person or an event.  We tell the truth that Jesus is our Lord, and that living his way is the best possible way to live.  And as we look at society around us, our lives should proclaim that ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’
    As witnesses of Christ, let’s take the examples of “fees must fall”, the struggle of the students which I am told some in this parish, including Craig [Stuart] at The Warehouse, are concerned with (which I am grateful for and dealing with.) Witness means courageously ensuring that all have access, not some. The students, particularly black students, have defined this struggle as one against white privilege and black pain. There is no use being defensive about this, or ignoring it as a parish. We have to engage with the students and witness to the living God. Of course we cannot condone violence, we must condemn it with every iota of our beings. But we must engage with what the students are raising for the good of our country.
    Today at these confirmations Jesus asks us to say Yes to him – yes to living life his way; yes to letting him provide the answers to the decisions we have to take, whether in our lives as responsible citizens in Cape Town, in South Africa or the wider world; yes to committing ourselves to working to ensure that all may enjoy God's bounty and protection. Jesus asks us to say Yes to a life of witness, worship and service – today in confirmation, Jesus, and his Father in Heaven, with the Holy Spirit, say their Yes in return. Yes, says Jesus – by the power of the Spirit, I will be with you in everything. I will be your companion on life’s journey. I will be the listening ear. I will be there for you to lean on – even a shoulder to cry on when you need it. I do not promise that everything will go just the way you’d like it to – but I guarantee it will be a journey worth taking, a life worth living, of deep satisfaction and meaning; of significance not only for this life, but for all eternity. And when I ask something hard of you, says Jesus, I will give you the strength, I will give you the resources you need. I’ll never ask you to do something that is beyond you.
    And when there are times when we mess up – as there inevitably are, in all of our lives, no matter how old we get, no matter whether we are Archbishops or not – Jesus is there for us. No matter how often we fall, his patience is infinite – and when we are down, he stretches out his hand to us and waits, so that when we are ready to take it again, he will help us to our feet, help us brush off the dust, help us refocus on the path, help us take the next steps. And no matter what, he will never leave us to cope alone. He is ready to give us a second chance – an amazing God indeed!
    I think the clearest picture is this – whatever life demands of you, God will put his hands out to you, ready to embrace you back home. We offer him all that we are – and he gives back everything we need – and more besides, because he prefers limitless generosity to balancing the bottom line. Therefore, when we do our calculations, the answer is clear – we can dare to follow Jesus, we can dare to take up his challenge, we can dare to make the promises that are asked of us in confirmation, because he is the one who will make it possible to keep these promises.
    So with joy and confidence, let us celebrate with the candidates today, who are now about to make their promises, and embark on a new journey, filled with all the blessings of God.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Archbishop Thabo's lament for South Africa

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba led a prayer vigil on the steps of St George's Cathedral in Cape Town on Wednesday November 2. He ended the silent vigil, held under the theme "A lament for our beloved country”, with this prayer.
Let us pray:
Lord, where are you in these trying and challenging times and amidst these great developments in our country?
Shakespeare said: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”
Lord, we are living through a time of acute misery, amidst an unprecedented political crisis.
Lord, we know though that South Africa is not broken;
Because notwithstanding this orchestrated attack on the foundations of our country, we remain a constitutional democracy;
Our judicial system remains intact and plays a critical role in protecting these foundations.
We are thankful for this, Lord, and we are determined to work to maintain this.
Today, we gathered in silence at the footsteps of your Cathedral, asking you Lord to speak to us and help us discern your will for us.
While we cannot change the past, we must change the future. As South Africans we must hold ourselves up to a higher standard.
We are your children and the children of giants such as Nelson Mandela.
We long for a just, equal, fair and a moral and values-based state, which we know is possible to achieve in Africa.
Lord, we cannot afford the luxury of corruption, quarrelling and never-ending internal strife. We know there is too much at stake for us to allow that to happen!
We know Lord your that you have destined us to be a great society, an infinitely capable society, a hard-working society, a society which has the right to expect something from life.
We refuse to be a society in which, no matter how hard we work, the fruits of our labour are often corruptly stolen from us.
On this All Souls Day, what we see, what we feel, what we know, is that there is a New Struggle that every group in South Africa is beginning to embrace, a New Struggle to end inequality, a New Struggle to end the inequality of opportunity.
So above all, we express our renewed faith in you, God, in our society and in the outstanding, industrious, hard-working and decent people who call themselves South Africans.
We express our faith that this society will have a bright future, because it is we who will ensure that future, and we commit ourselves to pray and to work for such a future.
Our destiny is not a matter of chance, God, it is a matter of choice, your choice, our choice.
God bless you and God bless South Africa. Amen


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sermon at the 150th Anniversary Service of the Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael, Bloemfontein


Theme: Standing in the watchpost and stationed at the ramparts
Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 Psalm 119:137-144 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12 Luke 19:1-10
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who calls us to be faithful. Amen
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God in the Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael:
It is a great joy to be here for this great milestone as you celebrate your 150th anniversary. It is an honour and a privilege to have been asked to share the Word of God with you in this historic place. And what a history you have! I learn that your first foundation stone was laid during the earliest days of the Free State, when you were part of the Orange River Sovereignty, and that the Cathedral was built during the time of the Orange Free State Republic. Your forebears then lived through the years of the Orange River Colony, then in one of the four provinces within the united South Africa, and finally now you are one of nine provinces of the new South Africa.

The congregations which have gathered in this place for faithful worship for 15 decades have seen war and civil strife, promoted peace and reconciliation, and observed and participated in history in the making. Today I join with you in thanking God for all those faithful clergy and parishioners who have served your church and your community through these 150 years of unceasing prayer, witness and service. We remember fondly Bishop Robert Gray, the first bishop of Cape Town, who conducted the first service north of the Orange River, and the Revd George Mitchell, the first priest to be ordained in this Diocese in 1865.

Thank you, Dean Lazarus (Mohapi), Churchwardens and your whole leadership team for inviting me. Thank you everyone for your warm welcome. Thank you too to those who were involved in the preparations for today. Let me also acknowledge your distinguished guests and Bishop Dintoe (Letloenyane) as well as visiting clergy here this morning. Welcome to the Executive Mayor and colleagues of the Free State.

Today is Bible Sunday, which is a celebration that focuses on the place of the Scriptures in our daily lives. It is a celebration which says that we need to cherish God’s word and pray for those who are still without it. Turning to the scriptures set for this morning, in the Old Testament, the prophet Habakkuk—one of Israel’s minor or lesser prophets in the year 605 AD—is on the brink of losing his faith. He struggles with the idea that God has not heard him lamenting for the people of Judah during a time of pain, struggle and crisis, upset that the righteous are suffering and the wicked are prospering. I find the concept of lament, as expressed by Denise Ackermann, helpful in this context. Denise has written that lamenting “ a refusal to settle for the way things are. It is reminding God that the human situation is not as it should be and that God as the partner in the covenant must act.” Habakkuk had repeatedly called upon God to act, to intervene, to set things right, to just do something. Yet it seemed to him that God had not heard him and that God would not act to save his people. Finally, out of a deep sense of frustration and confusion, Habakkuk cries out to God, asking him how he can allow such injustice to occur, saying that he will stand at the “watchpost” and station himself on the “ramparts” awaiting God’s response. The watchpost or ramparts could have been a certain place or room that the prophet could withdraw to, or could have referred to a withdrawal into the inner self for contemplation, prayers and reflection, while awaiting the divine response.

How often do you and I not feel like Habakkuk? How often do we feel as if God is not listening to our laments, leaving us just wanting to withdraw into our rooms or into our inner selves. We cry: “Lord, please act here, please do this, please make right the things that are wrong, please heal me, please end this conflict. Lord there is great inequality in our country, the poverty, the hopelessness we feel, the education crisis, Lord, please do something about them!” In this Province, your Premier, Ace Magashule, has acknowledged problems in your education and health departments. What has been reported about treatment of patients by your health department is deplorable and it has taken your premier too long to act on this scandal.

We feel a deep sense of injustice in our and our society’s lives and, yes, like Habakkuk, we say “How long, O Lord?” But then God answers Habakkuk: “Don’t despair, God does answer.” The message is clear: even though destruction and violence are all around, the time will surely come: wait for it, because “the righteous live by their faith.” Righteousness is very different from self–righteousness; it is about reflecting the character of God, of Jesus, reflecting Jesus's story in our story. It is about promoting God’s best, in all circumstances. It is about all that is upright, virtuous, just and good, excellent and true.

Faithfulness in challenging times is the central message of St Paul’s brief letter. The congregation to which Paul wrote had grown in faith and in love for each other under considerable persecution. Nowhere was the growth of the faithful in Thessalonica more evident than the way in which they patiently and faithfully endured hostilities and suffering for the sake of Christ. Although there was no need for Paul to speak, since the Thessalonians' lives spoke clearly enough, Paul’s joy before the Lord over their perseverance bubbled over. Paul boasts to other congregations of their faithfulness and mutual love.

In the Gospel lesson, Zacchaeus’s faith—even if it be as small as a mustard seed, in the phrase we read earlier in Luke—is shown by him believing in our Lord as soon as he heard he was coming. The simplicity of his faith was seen when he promised to restore to those he had cheated four times what he had taken fraudulently from them. Today, in this cathedral, we celebrate the faithfulness and mutual love of the generations who have worshipped here over the past century-and-a-half. Theirs truly is an impressive heritage. This passage in Luke’s Gospel reminds us that all we need to do to live up to the legacy of our forebears here is to emulate the simplicity of Zacchaeus’s faith. In his case, he was moved by his belief in Jesus to give half of his possessions to the poor. And Jesus, despite the disapproval of those who grumbled at him asking for hospitality from a tax collector and a sinner, responds that “today, salvation has come to this house.”

God in Jesus Christ did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but in order that all might be saved in him. Zacchaeus's sin was brought into the light by Christ not for condemnation but to open him up to the glorious opportunity for God’s salvation and redemption in every area of his life. Let’s be honest today, that we certainly need God’s rescue and recovery in so much of our lives and our society. If we do not acknowledge sin, how can we receive God’s more than wonderful solution to sin?

It is wonderful to come and be quiet in this building before Mass, and to breathe in its history of a faithful people, a historical place of worship and also as a place of equipping ministry and mission for God’s world. Here God has, again and again, met people and sent them out to proclaim his truth, with clarity and courage, through difficult and challenging times. And God knows that we have difficult and challenging times in South Africa today. Just to cite three examples, two in our national life and one in our church life:
  •     Firstly, as our Provincial Synod recently pointed out, our government appears set on spending huge amounts of money on a nuclear procurement programme which threatens to become an albatross of debt around the necks not only of our children but our grandchildren and great-grandchildren too. Moreover, they are doing this at a time when renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper and easier to produce.
  •     Secondly, the government has now formally given notice that it wants to leave the International Criminal Court, a pioneering initiative in international justice which leading figures in fighting for our democracy played an instrumental role in setting up. The framework under which the court was established, and its prosecutors, are not beyond criticism, but it seems strange to suggest that because the justice it dispenses is not perfect, there should be no justice at all. No, the government should act with the confidence and determination of its predecessors, and boldly engage the international community with a view to improving the court.
  •     Turning to the church, in this Diocese, a decision taken many years ago enabling the Diocesan Trusts’ Board to accept deposits from dioceses, parishes, organisations and individuals has become a significant financial liability for the Diocese. It is regretted that in order to repay these deposits it has been necessary to sell a property. However it is accepted that in order for the Diocese to move forward and continue to fulfil its mission in the world, the burden of debt needs to be lifted. A consequence of the decision to accept deposits has been the repayment of these deposits as and when called upon to do so and the only other funds available to make these repayments have been from the operational funds of the Diocese. This has placed the Diocese under immense pressure, both internally and externally, and obligations such as the payment of pension contributions, for both laity and clergy, has suffered. At present the Diocese of the Free State has outstanding pension contributions of just over R311 000 and on a Provincial level has unpaid assessments totalling a bit more than R174 000. It is however not only the burden of debt that has contributed to the financial situation of the Diocese. The payment by parishes of their parish assessment to the Diocese is a crucial part of the financial model of each diocese. It is the parish assessments that pay the stipends, make provision for pension payments, pay the diocesan administration and most importantly, allow the wealthier parishes to cross-subsidise parishes that are not well resourced. When parish assessments are withheld it impacts not only on the Diocese, but also broadly on the family of God in the Free State. A principle of our discipleship is our love and support for one another and where we become insular and inward-looking we place this under principle under immense strain. I urge all parishes to recommit themselves to the payment of assessments timeously and to engage with the Diocese to see how, as a family of God the present situation in the Diocese can be turned around and to allow the work of God to flourish in this beautiful part of South Africa.

People of the Cathedral of St Andrew and St Michael: On this 150th anniversary, God’s call to faithfulness comes to this congregation, this diocese and our Province of Southern Africa in new ways. After 22 years of democracy, too many people still experience living and working conditions that deliver neither human dignity nor economic justice. We are challenged by a high rate of poverty, inequality of opportunity and unemployment. This is why we need good research and comprehensive policy initiatives like the National Development Plan, and the Church must lend its support to all who strive to bring about the “abundant life” that Jesus promised to every child of God.

But in the short term, our country also needs drastic action. After prayer and careful discernment, I want to make an urgent call in response to the immediate governance challenge we face right now, and that is this: On the train that is South African democracy in motion, we can no longer be passengers. We can no longer trust the driver to do the right thing. We instead need to engage the driver robustly – to the point of halting the train so we can determine the direction forward together. If we don’t do that, we’re likely to be lead into a big dark hole. I am calling you and all Anglican faithful to join in an hour of silent prayer this week to soak our country in prayer. The theme for this is a lament for our beloved country. I will be at the foot of the steps at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, on Wednesday but you can join from anywhere and at any time. Whether or not we are involved in policy making and implementation, let us draw on God’s power to help us strive so that in our own contexts, and in all our dealings with others, human dignity is upheld, justice ensured, equality advanced, and moral courage promoted. As South Africans, let us rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy and let us all work and pray to bring it about.

To conclude, The Old Testament says cry out, lament; the Psalmist says zeal consumes us and we are in trouble and in anguish. But the New Testament says, “the grace of the Lord is sufficient” and the Gospel says, “he wants to dwell in our homes and save us”. Let us confidently appropriate Jesus’s declaration to Zacchaeus for ourselves, and enjoy his blessing as he declares that salvation has come to this Cathedral, city and country, to our houses, because we too are the sons and daughters of Abraham. Amen.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Archbishop's Charge to Provincial Synod

Discerning, Developing and Directing the Resources God Provides for the Task God Sets Before Us
Text of the Charge delivered to Provincial Synod by the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa, 27 September, 2016.

Job 3:1-19, Psalm 88:1-7, Luke 9:51-56

May I speak in the name of God who creates, redeems and sustains. Amen.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, members of Provincial Synod, distinguished guests: greetings. Welcome to the Thirty-Fourth Session of the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
I extend a particular welcome to our guests—and especially to our long-time partners in mission and ministry from Trinity Wall Street: the Rector and our homilist, Dr Bill Lupfer, whom we will decorate later in the service as Provincial Honorary Canon, his wife Kimiko and their team, Canon Benjamin Musoke-Lubega amongst them. I also greet our ecumenical guests and the friends and families of those to be decorated with the Order of Simon of Cyrene, as well as those to be licensed as provincial registrars and deputies.
Those attending Provincial Synod for the first time, a special welcome to you. I hope you will feel at home as you navigate the processes and procedures of this mainly legislative assembly and that you will feel emboldened to contribute confidently to proceedings.
Lungi, Nyakallo and Paballo have a special way of putting me in my place. I am grateful to God for who they are and for giving me the space and time as well as the necessary critiques of how I perform my varied ministries.
Thank you also to the advisory teams, to the Synod of Bishops, the staff at Bishopscourt, the synod manager, Fr Keith Griffiths, the Provincial Treasury, the diocesan staff, the chancellors and registrars of the Province, indeed to everyone who has contributed to this Synod. A special word of thanks to two of my former staff members, Canon William Mostert and Ms Pumeza Magona, for all their hard work in getting us here.
Let me also extend my and the Province’s particular thanks to Dr Sitembele Mzamane, Dean of the Province, Bishop of Mthatha and Vicar-General of the Diocese of Mzimvubu. You have shouldered an enormous burden for this Province, and for that we give thanks to God.
Since our last Synod, Bishop Nathaniel Nakwatumbah of Namibia has retired and, tragically, died too soon afterwards. The retired Bishop of Grahamstown, David Russell, and the retired Bishop Suffragan of Cape Town, Charles Albertyn, have also died. I want to pay a special tribute to them. Let us observe a moment of silence and thank God for their lives and witness in Namibia, Grahamstown and Cape Town, and for their pastoral zeal and love for all God’s people.
It is always a delight and a special honour to welcome new bishops to Provincial Synod, and this year we have six with us: Bishop Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo, Bishop Charles May of the Highveld, Bishop Monument Makhanya of Zululand, Bishop Luke Pato of Namibia, Bishop Allan Kannemeyer of Pretoria, and Bishop Manuel Ernesto, the Suffragan Bishop of Niassa. And of course, Bishop Dino Gabriel has been translated from Zululand to Natal. Soon we will consecrate new bishops for the dioceses of Niassa and Christ the King, and for Mthatha after Bishop Sitembele’s forthcoming retirement.
We thank God for the ministry of those who have served this Province as bishops and who have retired since the last meeting of Synod: Bishops Dinis Sengulane of Lebombo, David Bannerman of the Highveld, Rubin Phillip of Natal, Jo Seoka of Pretoria and Peter Lee of Christ the King. We also thank Bishop Mark van Koevering of Niassa, who resigned to return to the United States, for his decades of dedicated service to the people of Mozambique.

The Incarnation and the Use of Resources
Let me start the substance of my Charge with a poem by Rudyard Kipling, which comes from one of the Just So Stories:
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
I send them over land and sea,
I send them east and west;
But after they have worked for me,
I give them all a rest.

I let them rest from nine till five,
For I am busy then,
As well as breakfast, lunch, and tea,
For they are hungry men.
But different folk have different views;
I know a person small—
She keeps ten million serving-men,
Who get no rest at all!

She sends 'em abroad on her own affairs,
From the second she opens her eyes—
One million Hows, two million Wheres,
And seven million Whys!
In saying the Daily Offices and Mass in the chapel at Bishopscourt from Monday to Thursday each week, I try to bring the joys and challenges of this office before God as I seek to discern the will of God and to develop a response which is spirit-filled, yet not timid or woolly, and directs others to Christ within a theological theme. But when I am dealing with the things that come across the archiepiscopal desk each day, too often I fail to ask: What is happening? Why is it happening? What ought to be happening? Who ought to be doing it? I need constantly to struggle theologically with the questions I ask again and again: What does it mean to be the body of Christ in such a time as this? To what discipleship are we called? What does the cost of this discipleship entail?
It was against the backdrop of this wrestling that I was excited recently to rediscover Kipling’s poem at the end of the story, The Elephant’s Child. Asking Kipling’s questions—“What and Why and When, and How and Where and Who”—has been a useful tool for discerning the way forward. The Synod Advisory Committee—and the reality of our church’s finances and resources—have directed me to a further area. That is the what, the why, the when, the how, the where and the who of exploring a conversation between Incarnation, which concerns theology, and availableResources, which concern economy. In this Charge, want to begin a journey in which we move beyond throwing out biblical statements such as that God and mammon cannot co-exist and instead explore the subject through the lenses comprising our Synod theme, namely how we can, first, Discern, secondly Develop, and finally Direct the resources that God places before us for God’s mission.
I want us to look at what resources might be available within ACSA. Where are they to be found, how are we using them and why, and lastly who are they serving? The Charge, some of you will be pleased to know, will include some accounting for what has happened since the last Synod, including what you have told me in your reports and my own observations from when I have travelled around the Province. Of course I will also add and direct you to look beyond ACSA to broader societal matters.
Whether we are talking about the economy of our church or of our different nations, it is instructive to look at the roots of the word “economy”. It is based on the Greek words oikos, meaning household, and nomus, meaning patterns of behaviour, literally translated as rules. So when we ask what our attitude to the resources God places before us should be, we are asking what the rules that govern the allocation of the resources in our church household should be. As Anglican Christians, what informs us in the use of our time, money and skills? What biblical ideals should govern the use of our money, and how? What is the goal of the accumulation of resources?
Two years ago, I was struck by vendors in Turkey who lured you into their shops, saying, “Hello, Sir, let me help you spend your money.” Who and what guides you as an individual in how you deploy your resources? When one of our children was younger, they occasionally returned home from church with the money we had given for the collection plate. When we asked why they had returned home with God’s money, the reply was: “The preacher spoke for so long that I went to sleep and had to go out during the offertory to wake up.” In one way or another, it would seem the preacher misguided this particular child.
Anglicanism is often described as having a strong focus on the incarnation and I have placed repeated emphasis on it since my installation eight years ago. Simply put, by incarnation I refer to God in Jesus entering the everyday experience of human living to point us to God’s reign and to prepare and invite us through our everyday lives to enjoy the blessedness of this reign. My writing and advocacy on the theme of the incarnation and politics is born out of the struggle of God’s people with political systems in Southern Africa that demeaned all of us and which were not designed to address the concrete needs and experiences of our daily lives or to respond to God’s call to human flourishing.
Last year, in my capacities as Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape and Chair of the Church Leaders’ Consultation and the Church Leaders’ Forum of the South African Council of Churches, I was called with other church leaders to meet students protesting under the banner of the #feesmustfall movement. On the surface it seemed they were advancing a political cause, but when we went deeply into the issues over the course of many meetings, some late into the night at Bishopscourt, I came to appreciate the legacy of the inequality of South Africa’s political and economic system.
That system has given birth to an intergenerational economic inequality, in which those who are likely to flourish in our society are the sons and daughters of the elite, and those who will struggle to break out of a vicious circle of poverty are the daughters and sons of the poor. One of the initiatives I have supported is the University of the Free State’s campaign to reduce student hunger. We listened, shocked, to the stories of students who had secured loans for tuition and accommodation off campus, but who either did not have the money to buy food or had used it for computers and clothing. The question before us is: what does the incarnate Christ say about the economy, about student debt, household debt, diocesan and parochial debt in a world which in which there is also bounteous providence?
Incarnation is thus an invitation, as the theme of our Synod states, to begin a journey to discern, to develop and to direct our lives to be more and more like that of the incarnate Christ. The invitation is costly and Jesus’ disciples struggle with it even after they accept it and are honoured to be in his presence. Let us too accept and let’s begin our journey by looking at what today’s lessons tell us.
The first lesson, Job 3:1-19, depicts the “new” struggle of someone who had accepted the invitation of actually translating that acceptance into actual practice. You might want to paraphrase Job’s account by asking: why does a righteous God allow a just servant to suffer? Faced with individual and private suffering, Job vents his thoughts, “let no joyful voice come therein”. There is no happily ever after. Job is restless and does not understand why evil and suffering should beset him as a God-abiding person. He finds his context and personal circumstances too burdening. To borrow the language we used earlier to define the economy, he asks: Why are the rules of the household so unfair, full of suffering and evil? Where is God in all of this?
The psalmist echoes this lament. Like Job, the psalmist feels cut off from God. Unlike in Job’s case, the feeling of sadness is due to his weighty ills.The psalmist’s soul is full of trouble. Remember the refrain, “Why are you so full of heaviness my soul, why so unquiet within me?” In this psalm, the psalmist expresses raw feelings, seemingly on the brink of collapse. There is no sense of Job’s discernment of the hand and presence of God in evil and suffering, only personal trauma and clouds of darkness. I have to confess that while preparing this Charge I was worried that the melancholy of these first readings was too depressing for the opening of Synod, and I was tempted to drop the day’s lections and choose readings which reflected more sunshine. But I stayed with them, trying to discern what God might be saying to me, to members of Synod and to those who might read this text.
Discernment does not have to be morose but neither can it be shallow nor an escape from reality. I find the concept of lament, as expressed by Denise Ackermann, helpful in this context. Denise has written that lamenting “ a refusal to settle for the way things are. It is reminding God that the human situation is not as it should be and that God as the partner in the covenant must act.” In exploring lamentation, we trust that the incarnate, second person of the Trinity, God who took human form, is always with us as we discern his way in struggling with the contemporary issues of our day. We must thus act courageously, “recklessly confident” that nothing will separate us from God’s love.
Turning to the Gospel, as the Lucan Jesus zigzags through the villages to Jerusalem, he is rejected even by those he went out of his way to embrace. The disciples can’t deal with this rejection and want to respond by deploying God’s power to destructive ends. But Jesus forcefully directs them away from such a course, pointing them to the bigger picture and highlighting that short-term gains come at a long-term cost. His action underlines the importance of his disciples accurately discerning risks, discerning the correct interventions to make, relying neither on bullying nor fear-laden behaviour but on developing God’s ways.

During the Lenten observances of our life’s journeys, we are called to discern God’s ways. Job and the psalmist give us a model for penetrating the issues more deeply. They lament. The disciples on the other hand demonstrate how often we shy away from probing the messiness and madness of the world around us, but act impulsively to avoid it. We are particularly prone to this in our technological age. We—and I count myself here too—often tend to ”press the send button” before discerning whether our intervention builds the kingdom or is self-seeking or egoistic.
But I have to tell you that when I read the reports, the measures and the resolutions that will come before us at this Synod, I am heartened. As your Archbishop and Metropolitan, I have the privilege of regularly travelling through the Province, and with the broader view this gives me I discern that as we—like the Lucan Jesus zigzagging his way to Jerusalem—traverse the mountains and hills, the valleys and the plains, the wealth and the filthy poverty of our Province, we can thank God that we are alive at such a time. Although there are risks, although there is pushing and pulling, although there are those who, like the disciples, are tempted to want to escape from our protracted and complex problems by seeking Elijah’s chariot of fire to take us away, we are nevertheless growing; we are wrestling, we are fighting, we are laughing, we are planting, we are learning and teaching, we are healing, we are communicating, and above all we are determined to be people of the Way.
Although when I address specific situations in this Charge I am usually referring to our own Province, we should also give our attention to the pain in other parts of our continent. In recent months I have visited both Kigali in Rwanda, for a meeting of the Council of the Anglican Provinces of Africa, and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for the inauguration of the new Archbishop of the Congo. These visits were part of an intentional outreach to develop closer relations with our sister Provinces across the continent. In Kigali, where I visited the city’s genocide memorial, I could not help but be struck by how well the city works. There is effective policing, the place is clean and there is a commitment to service. But I got the distinct impression that the efficiency could be the result of an obsession to run away from the country’s dreadful past, from the messiness of a system that did not work. That made me all the more grateful for the national electoral systems in our Province which do work in mediating political conflict, seen most recently in the South African municipal elections.
I was also distressed at how political leaders in the Great Lakes Region of Africa don’t seem to want to give up power. President Museveni in nearby Uganda has been in power for 30 years. In sad demonstrations of undemocratic behaviour, others have sought to follow him by staging pseudo-referendums or manipulating their constitutional processes to abolish or ignore presidential term limits. As a result, in Burundi we have seen gross human rights violations, including disappearances, assassinations and other killings. It would appear that President Kabila in the Congo wants to become the newest person to go down this road. Of course in our own region, presidents Dos Santos in Angola and Mugabe in Zimbabwe lead the pack, having ruled since 1979 and 1980 respectively. We hope that President Zuma won’t seek to emulate them; fortunately in current circumstances it would appear that his party would not have the stomach to try to force through such a change.
Not only in our own Province, our region and our continent, but across the world we hear the cries of those of God’s people who are unable to live their lives as abundantly as God desires. The Anglican Communion’s fourth “Mark of Mission” enjoins us “to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.” In response to the cries of the people and to our call to mission, let those of our parishioners who are well endowed and well connected become voices which broadcast widely the lamentations of the Jobs and the psalmists of our time. The incarnation invites us to a deeper dialogue with our governments over ways in which they and we can uproot and destroy structures which facilitate societal evils.
A number of our bishops have been attending courses on sustainability in the use of the church’s resources and exploring various commercial models to ensure this sustainability. We are grateful to Trinity Wall Street for their support of this initiative for the church in Africa. Each one of you is involved in the economy in one way or another, so each one of you has a contribution to make from your own experience: what are the questions you ask of yourselves and which we should be asking? What should direct your, and our, use of money? We have many skilled and under-employed people. We have plenty of land and parish buildings. Can we find ways in which we can deploy these to empower the unskilled and unemployed? We have many people who love this church and give of their time and talents. What should we do to guide them to give more without counting the cost and without, in some instances at least, wanting power to control. Can we develop a sustainable Christian model for financing—even a Christian bank—which operates on the basis of equitable and just principles, less speculation and fair taxes? Many of the poor I meet in the Province give all they have to the church but cry, “When will development bring justice and wear a compassionate face?” Can it? we ask. I came across a colleague from the Philippines who answered impulsively, like the disciples to Jesus: No, it cannot and it will not. Our faith does not allow us to live with that answer.

Developing is acknowledging that we are not static. We need to become more and more like the incarnate Christ, who came not to be served but to serve. Our Mission Statement as a Province invites us as disciples to transform the legacies of apartheid and to grow communities of faith that form, inform, and transform those who follow Christ. In the global context, development has sadly become synonymous with the insatiable quest of the privileged for unguided, untrammelled growth at the expense of the poor and indigenous and on the basis of uneconomic land use. In discerning how we as ACSA need to develop and grow and use our resources, we are called to develop what I call a “spirituality of enough”, one which promotes equality and sharing.
Let me share some of the development which has happened in our Province over the last three years and of which I am most proud:
Since the last Synod, through the work of the Anglican Board of Education our Province has partnered with others and opened the Mabooe Archbishop High School in Lesotho. The CEO of ABESA joined me, the Bishop of Lesotho and others for the opening. We need, as a Province, to continue to support the school, which needs more classrooms. Encouraged by this education mission, individual parishioners in Lesotho have renovated their schools and are building local churches near the schools. The Vuleka St Joseph’s Archbishop School was also officially opened in Johannesburg, where we are grateful to the Diocese for its facilities. The Diocese of Swaziland has a large plot and is drafting a proposal to open a school too. The ABESA report to Synod is well worth reading. The AWF in Grahamstown has a bursary scheme for indigent learners, as does the Provincial AWF for women in the ordained ministry.
The College of the Transfiguration, ANSOCs, our Anglican schools and chaplains and other diocesan initiatives continue to develop and form people of the way who respond to the calling to God’s mission in the world. The Mothers’ Union, the Bernard Mizeki Guild and others continue to offer socio-economic programmes to alleviate poverty and give skills to unemployed youth. Green Anglicans continue to develop ecological awareness among young people in particular and to promote the greening of our Province. Hope Africa has partnered with a number of dioceses in theology and development, not in theory but in praxis. I am grateful too to Growing the Church for its role in growing disciples and to the Liturgical Committee for directing the process of liturgical renewal in our Province.
Since the last Provincial Synod there have been other innovations which have advanced our mission and witness. We will launch some during Synod, such as a video giving glimpses of the life of our Province, produced courtesy of Trinity Wall Street. We will also hear inputs and reports on many other initiatives, including progress on a new Prayer Book, an updated Provincial website, a youth academy and progress with the registration of COTT. The newly-established Canon Law Council is working well, as is evident in the quality of measures and motions before us at Synod. We are grateful for the work of this Provincial advisory team on matters canonical, especially the contributions of the Revd Matt Esau and Provincial Registrar Henry Bennett. In this our 167th year, we are still growing, learning, discerning and developing into apt disciples of the 21st century.
In partnership with the mining community and interfaith leaders, we have also started a series of what we call “Courageous Conversations”. This initiative is aimed at making an impact on the lives of ordinary people around the mines without compromising either the pastoral or the prophetic voice of the church. We have contracted the Provincial Public Policy director, Canon Desmond Lambrechts, to study and implement programmes and advocate policy changes that can generate responsible mining activity. This has brought about a mechanism for collaboration on issues such as health, development and advocacy.
I have recently returned from two weeks in Hong Kong, where I took part in the first Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management, an initiative of the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Council for World Mission and the Lutheran World Federation. These four major international Christian groups convened the conference I attended to study how to achieve a new “economy of life” which benefits all. We looked at how we could find an alternative to the current global governance of money and financial systems, replacing it with a system that would be less exploitative and would distribute resources and income more equitably. This sounds impractical, but as stewards of God’s creation we know that nothing is impossible with God. I will be exploring with the Synod of Bishops at our leadership and formation week next February a theology and ecclesiology of generosity—the incarnation as hermeneutical conversation of theology and economy. This may well be one way of discerning what our prophetic voice might be in matters of economy. It could help us develop liturgies and an Anglican social teaching on the economy, possibly leading to a course at COTT on theology and economy.
In South Africa today, faith leaders across the spectrum are saying that we as a nation have lost our moral compass and that this has happened partly because we have been too quiet for too long. We have had little to say about the Treasury’s willingness to bail out SAA and badly-run state-owned enterprises, but not poor students mired in debt. In other parts of our Province, we have little to say about reported corruption in Angola and Mozambique, or about housing developments on the Namibian coast which locals cannot afford. Apart from Green Anglicans, few speak out about plans to develop nuclear energy at a time when great strides are being made in the storage of solar power. As prophets we are economically illiterate. Yet the economic ordering of society and the question of how we develop our material resources is central to the crises that afflict us.
In South Africa, the current ordering of the economy lies at the heart of the political crisis that is beginning to paralyse government. Inherited patterns of privilege and wealth, overwhelmingly associated with one racial group, have created an economy which spits in the face of Gospel values. Because of this injustice in the distribution of resources and economic power, there is a group in the ruling party which is carrying out a programme which it justifies on the grounds that it is necessary to redistribute the country’s wealth. However, the programme redirects resources not for the benefit of the poor but to a small elite group of individuals with links to a small number of politicians and officials. Private interests are capturing the public purse. Inflated tenders awarded to cronies drive up the cost of providing services. The worst-run state-owned enterprises are gobbling up billions of the public’s money, draining the fiscus and stalling the development of the real economy. The cost of nuclear procurement plans—the case for which has not been proven—threatens to become an albatross around the necks of our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, plunging them deeply into debt for decades to come. We are told that 16 million South Africans depend on social grants. If we allow the looting of the resources and wealth of future generations to continue unabated, there won’t be any money to pay those grants in future and millions will lose their only means of existence.
As the South African Communist Party correctly points out, the answer to the obscene inequality of our society does not lie in indulging the rapacious greed of a tiny number of politically-connected individuals—some of whom are associated with my Johannesburg neighbours down the road in Saxonwold. No, for Christians, challenging the skewed racial ordering of our economy must involve a new compact in society, driven by the values of the Kingdom of God, which creates a fairer and more equitable system. Perhaps Moeletsi Mbeki has a point when he calls for a new coalition for development between the very poor and the owners of capital on the basis that they are the two key constituencies who support sustainable economic growth. As religious leaders, we need to be intentional in building relationships between ourselves and with business and government to pursue these ideas.
I call upon Anglicans and others to join efforts to clean up our government and to reform our economy. As we discern, direct and develop our resources within the church, let us become more accountable and transparent about our own dealings and then be robust in demanding the same truth and behaviour from our governments. I call upon our liturgists, COTT, Hope Africa and other advisory bodies in our church to develop liturgies and Bible studies that can help us explore the creation and governance of wealth and pose sharp concise questions to help us formulate a social teaching on money and the common good. Perhaps God is calling us to denounce the kind of development that is creating inequality and poverty, and instead to learn to live simply.

Our formulation of this Synod’s theme ends by inviting us to direct the resources which God provides for the task set before us.
Last year we held a Provincial Planning Meeting to look at our Provincial Vision and Mission Statement. Both that meeting and Provincial Standing Committee meeting which followed it affirmed our mission priorities. They directed that we should prioritise communication and the personnel needed in this area. The prophetic ministry of the Archbishop and the Bishops needed to be enhanced within democratic southern Africa. There was an appreciation by both these meetings that prophetic ministry entails much more than criticism of the state: that it should also encompass the exercising of our theological imagination around what we hope each person should be about in a democratic state; that it should create space for all God’s people to tell their stories; and that it should include advocacy for change not only through public utterance and demonstration, but also through engaging in policy formulation. Following in the footsteps of the incarnate son of God, prophetic ministry entails understanding the obstacles of every village, being prepared to be rejected, being determined not to count the cost, finally to be glorified with Christ.
As you will see, we will be trimming the budget and returning to the five core mission support items of the Province. We are exploring the concept of impact investment, which will hopefully not be a new name for commodifying everything, speculating with the little money we have and ending up slaves to debt, but will bring about a means of caring for our disciples, our environment and being stewards for tomorrow’s faithful.
Whilst on the subject of care, and specifically of pastoral care, you will know that we have a motion on the agenda from the Diocese of Saldanha Bay concerning the pastoral care of Anglicans in same-sex relationships. We will discuss the motion first in Conference of Synod on Thursday, and I hope we will discern carefully together the needs of both our church and the broader church beyond this Province. I hope you will listen carefully to and hear one another other as we develop the mind of Synod, directed by the Holy Spirit already at work within us.

Let me end where I started, with the incarnation, in which God took on human form and in so doing became part of the contemporary world. Through the incarnation, God invites us to a conversation, on a Lucan journey, to discern as He does how best to realise our true humanity and to be directed in our ways with each other in service to God and in respect for His creation.
My prayer is that in evaluating our resources, we will not be trapped by the temptation of aggrandisement and profit to follow a prosperity gospel, but rather that, like Job and the psalmist, we will lament that which breaks our humanity and develop a spirituality and an ecclesiology of honesty and sharing. As your Archbishop, in response to an invitation to a conversational hermeneutic, especially with those who express disagreement, I will seek to listen, discern, develop and where necessary direct. I come to this Synod full of hope for our future, open and vulnerable like Job, ready to share my laments and hear yours, conscious of the disciples’ impatience and yet committed to the long journey ahead. I am full of hope because God has placed before me, before all of you—whether Synod members, staff, family, friends, colleagues or the restless youth of our time—many resources to discover and to dedicate to God’s service as we journey together and disciple one another.
Let us as a Province dare to discern, develop and direct the spiritual, mental, and material resources which God places before us for the good of all people and creation.
Let no one be too full while another goes hungry. Amen.


Sunday, 25 September 2016

Archbishop appeals to South African student protesters

The schools, libraries and other institutions which have been burned in recent protests are those which have transformed the lives of South Africans and their leaders in the past, says Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.

Archbishop Makgoba said this in an appeal to the higher education community, including students, in which he appealed for the Fees Commission to be given space to do its work.

The full text of his appeal follows:
I am deeply pained by the instability at Higher Education institutions across the country. 
Our universities, colleges and schools are important heritage sites for our communities. They preserve the history and the knowledge and the deeds of the leaders of yesterday, and serve in the education and growth of the leaders of tomorrow.  
It is this dream for the future leaders of this great country that we must protect. The burning of schools, libraries, and institutions of higher learning sets us back from progressing as a nation. It is in these schools, libraries and institutions where people's lives have been transformed.
We should not forget the role played by some of these institutions during apartheid to contribute to the freedom we enjoy today. These institutions have not only moulded current leaders and those before us, but have transformed the lives of children and families who come from the dusty streets of rural Limpopo or those who come from Langa, Mitchells Plain, Manenberg and other townships and rural areas around the country.  
Let us give a space to the Fees Commission to do its work, and await its recommendations with regard to the feasibility of free education for the poor. Let us give the Ministry of Higher Education and Treasury a space to implement their new plans to assist the “missing middle” by introducing a new funding model for 2017. 
We must protect our students’ right to learn in a conducive and enabling environment. As we need to respect students’ right to peacefully protest we must also respect students’ right to peacefully continue the academic programme without interruptions and intimidation. 
Parents, take responsibility, our children come from homes, families, and communities.
I acknowledge that success in most struggles has always been in the hands of the young. 
With so much inequality and poverty in this country, let us refrain from deepening the divide through destructive actions. Violence and destructive action will not bring about the desired solutions. 
I am praying for our children at all the universities, that our convictions may prove to be greater than the challenges that confront us today. 
You have the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourselves. When one day you reflect on this time, may the story you tell be one that fills you with pride. May it be a story that like the stories your parents told you of their fight for your right to equal education, makes future generations appreciate the opportunities we have that they never had. May your legacy not be one that destroys centres of learning, leaving nothing for posterity.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Archbishop assures Finance Minister, Treasury staff of prayers

An Open Letter to Minister Pravin Gordhan and the staff of the National Treasury

Dear Minister Gordhan, Deputy Minister Jonas, Director-General Fuzile and the staff of the National Treasury,

I address you on behalf of the Anglican Church and of the religious leaders whom you met before presenting the Budget this year to reassure you of our support for your difficult task at this time.

I am confident that religious leaders of all faiths speak on behalf of millions of their followers when we reassure you that our people are praying for you and that the vast majority of South Africans are behind you in your efforts to ensure that taxpayers' money is spent for the benefit of all and not to enrich a few.

We want to highlight the critical values of openness and transparency and urge you within the constraints imposed by the law to ensure that the maximum light is brought to bear on how government resources are being spent. As Christians we say the truth will set us free (John 8:32). The sun, the light, is God's disinfectant and will help us cleanse ourselves as a nation.

We thank you for your hard work and dedication and your willingness even to put your life on the line in order to protect the gains of the struggle and to enhance the quality of the lives of our people.

God bless you.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
Cape Town

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

To the Laos - To the People of God - September 2016

Dear People of God

This month marks the anniversary of significant milestones in the lives of the two living previous archbishops of Cape Town.

Thirty years ago today, September 7, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was enthroned as Archbishop. As I write, he has been in hospital receiving treatment for a recurring infection, and his office has announced that he will undergo a small surgical procedure today to address the root cause of the infection. I visited him upon my return from overseas at the weekend, and he was in good spirits. Please keep him, Mrs Leah Tutu, and their family in your prayers.

Also this month, Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane celebrates the 20th anniversary of his becoming Archbishop. It is also 25 years since his consecration as Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman, and to cap it off he has celebrated his 75th birthday this year. Our warm congratulations to Archbishop Njongo, and our thanks to him for his continued public service in different capacities.

I write this against the background of last month's South African municipal elections. I am grateful that people went to the polls and voted in such numbers and with such enthusiasm, so that our democracy can be said to be both vibrant and legally intact. What is most encouraging is that South Africa has a legislative framework which establishes institutions and mechanisms that enable the electoral process to happen successfully—so much so that although the ruling party lost political control in major cities, the outcomes were accepted by all. So we need to compliment our political role players but especially that framework and those it empowers to keep our democratic processes operating.

Whether we voted or not, what all of us must now do is to act with the urgency that is demanded of us to make South Africa work and to make our nation what God has destined it to be. I say this also against the backdrop of my short stay in Rwanda recently, where I attended a meeting of the Council of the Anglican Provinces of Africa. Leaving the meeting in Kigali, the capital, to visit the city's memorial to the 1994 genocide, I could not help but be struck by how the city really does work. There is effective policing, the place is clean and when you get to a shop, even if stocks are limited there is a commitment to service. But although the city works, I had the impression that it was a result of what one might call an obsession: a desire to run away from the dreadful past, from the messiness of a system that did not work. That makes me all the more grateful for how our electoral system mediates political conflict, and leads me to re-commit myself to making our country work, and to call upon all our parishioners to play their part in helping that happen.

Since returning from Kigali, I have been reading all the motions, measures and reports that will come before Provincial Synod—our Church's top legislative body—when it meets in September. Reading the reports from provincial ministries and organisations reminds me of the humbling privilege I have as Metropolitan to have a “helicopter” view of all that the Province does. If one looks only only at the difficulties being experienced by a problematic diocese or parish, or at the financial challenges we face, one doesn't appreciate the beauty, the energy and the excitement of what is being done in our church right across Southern Africa. The Province is busy, the Province is active and the Province is alive with worship, mission and service. For that I give thanks to God.

We have resolutions before Synod which may be controversial, one of them on human sexuality, and we too have legislative mechanisms which can help us to address such matters successfully. The Canons allow us to go into Conference, which frees us of the sometimes stifling rules of debate when we are considering a motion. The Synod's advisory team has decided that we need to create more time and space than would normally the available to discuss the motion on human sexuality, so we will go into Conference for our initial discussion of that motion. I am hoping that Synod will be a time of robust and open debate as we confront and work through the issues.

God bless you

†Thabo Cape Town


Wednesday 17 August 2016

Provincial Synod to debate proposal for pastoral care for LGBTI members

The forthcoming Provincial Synod is to decide on a proposal to make formal provision for pastoral care to church members identifying as gay and lesbian.

The proposal is contained in a motion included in the 2nd Agenda Book for Synod, which is being sent to Dioceses this week.

Announcing the proposal, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said:

"The motion, tabled by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, proposes that any bishop of the church who wishes to do so may make provision for her or his clergy to provide pastoral care to those who identify as LGBTI.

"This proposal affirms the assurance already given by our bishops that church members who identify as LGBTI are loved by God and share in full membership of our Church as baptised members of the Body of Christ.

"More controversially, the motion also proposes that clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same-sex civil unions should be licensed to minister in our parishes.

"It also suggests that 'prayers of blessing' should be able to be offered for those in same-sex civil unions. However, it specifically rules out the possibility of marriage under church law.

"It also accepts that any cleric unwilling to take part in providing pastoral care to people who identify as LGBTI shall not be obliged to do so."

The Archbishop added: "Without anticipating what Synod will decide, this debate is overdue in the top councils of our Church, and I welcome it."

The full text of the motion to go before the Synod follows:

Presented to the PROVINCIAL SYNOD of ACSA in SEPTEMBER 2016

The Anglican Communion has wrestled for many years to produce a comprehensive and mutually acceptable pastoral response to the issue of diversity in human sexuality, to homosexuality and to same sex unions.

And whereas

In 1998, Resolution 1.10 adopted by the Lambeth Conference called the Anglican Communion to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ, and called on the Communion to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation;

And whereas

Anglicans have historically chosen to use Scripture, Tradition and Reason and Experience when discerning God’s unfolding call to mission, knowing that these pillars provide a helpful space in which many voices can be heard and many insights shared, so that a loving pastoral response to those identifying as LGBT can be offered

And whereas

Provincial Synods of ACSA have asked the Bishops of our Province provide guidelines for ministry to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex (LBGTI), but have been unable to complete these guidelines

And whereas

Lay and ordained Anglicans who identify as LGBTI, throughout the Communion and within our Province and Dioceses are in need of pastoral care and spiritual support and look to the church for help especially when wanting to enter into same-sex unions

 Therefore, this Synod resolves

1. That a Bishop may:

1.1. provide for clergy to be especially prepared for a ministry of pastoral care for those identifying as LGBTI, accepting that any cleric unwilling to engage in such envisioned pastoral care shall not be obliged to do so;

1.2. provide for pastoral counselling of those identifying as LGBTI;

1.3. provide for the preparation for and the licensing of those in same sex unions to lay ministries on Parochial, Archidiaconal and Diocesan levels;

1.4. provide for prayers of blessing to be offered for those in same sex civil unions;

1.5. provide for the licensing for ministry of clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same sex civil unions;

1.6. provide for the use of Liturgical Rites in regard to the above ministries.

2. That a Bishop may not

2.1. provide For the solemnization of same sex unions by clergy, in terms of the ACSA Canon on Marriage (Canon 34).

3. That the Archbishop be respectfully requested to establish an Archbishop’s Commission to:

3.1. Review, reflect on, research and share such theological, pastoral and prophetic principles emerging from this Motion;

3.2 Recommend further actions, both through Interim Reports, tabled at meetings of the Synod of Bishops, and through a final Recommendations Report which is to be tabled at the 2018 meeting of PSC, so that Recommendations, Measures and Motions can be put forward to the 2019 session of the Provincial Synod.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Archbishop's call on political leaders ahead of SA polls

The Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC) – a body made up of religious and civil society leaders – will once again play a key role in making sure that Wednesday's local government elections in South Africa are free and fair.
ECCOC works in conjunction with the Independent Electoral Commission and it aims to help create and maintain conditions in which elections run smoothly.
One of its tasks is to ensure that political parties and their leaders understand that they should not incite violence and instability at a time when tensions could be running high.
“Political leaders should not be irresponsible and part of ECCOC’s role is to ensure that they behave in a responsible manner on election day. We want to be the first port of call if anyone feels uncomfortable about anything related to the elections,” said ECCOC’s chairperson, Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.
ECCOC’s 15 members are drawn from various faith communities, with a few from civil society.
ECCOC operates mainly in the Cape metropolitan area and, on election day, sends observers to voting stations around the broader Cape Peninsula. They monitor whether presiding officers are doing their jobs properly and whether elections are conducted in an efficient manner.
ECCOC as an organisation attempts to be impartial as far as party politics is concerned and its members are present at polling stations as objective observers.
“We help to defuse tense situations if there are any. 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 Archbishop Mokgoba.


Thursday, 23 June 2016

To the Laos - To the People of God - June 2016

 Dear People of God

We face a busy time in the Province in the coming months. The recent Elective Assembly of the Diocese of Christ the King delegated to the Synod of Bishops the choice of a new bishop to succeed Bishop Peter Lee. So the bishops must now choose new bishops for both Niassa and Christ the King at their next meeting at the end of September. Please pray for us as we consider these choices.

Immediately after the Synod of Bishops meets, we will have our three-yearly Provincial Synod. Please pray for the planning process for Provincial Synod, which brings together the whole body of Christ in our church in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, the island of St Helena and Swaziland. Looking beyond our Province, the body of Christ as represented by Anglicans across Africa will meet in Kigali, Rwanda in August, when we will have a meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). Pray for this meeting too, and for the election of a successor to the CAPA chair, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi. Beyond Africa, please pray for the Gafcon grouping of Anglican churches and, indeed, for the whole Communion. 

Both the Communion and our own Province continue to face the historic challenge posted by the debate around human sexuality. It is a painful issue both for those who support the traditional position on marriage and for those who wish to introduce changes. In our Province, the bishops are committed to ongoing dialogue and conversations around the issue, and I urge those who have not yet read my pastoral letter after the last Synod of Bishops to read it here.

The Second Agenda Book for Provincial Synod will include a resolution on the matter. Please begin to pray about this issue, reflecting on your own sexuality, on your understanding of the sexual orientations of others and on what might constitute a godly, pastoral, biblical and just way of dealing with this matter, taking us to a place beyond where we are now, in which those on both sides of the debate seem to be locked into our positions. I don't want to pre-empt our discussions at Provincial Synod here, but just be aware that this debate is on the agenda. I encourage you to ask your representatives to consult as widely as possible in your diocesan and parish preparations for Synod.

However, I should say immediately that I don’t want the issue of sexuality to dominate our thinking as we view the Communion, and especially as we consider the welfare of our sisters and brothers in other parts of our continent. I have recently been reading material from the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), in Durban, and the situation in the Great Lakes Region is very worrying. Pray particularly for the Democratic Republic of Congo—for an end to conflict in the east, for their planned elections and for their rulers as it appears elections might be delayed and the President’s term of office extended. Madiba’s role in brokering a previous settlement there makes the fate of the Congolese people of special concern to us. As you consider the issues to be dealt with by Provincial Synod, please pray for the Synod using the prayer which appears at the end of this letter. 

In South Africa, we are scheduled to have heavily-contested municipal elections in August. It is against that backdrop that I joined other religious leaders recently to witness party leaders and the IEC staff signing the Electoral Code of Conduct in Cape Town. At the signing, the IEC pledged to be transparent and accountable as they work to ensure a free and fair environment for elections. Parties also pledged to play their part. Among the commitments which the Code imposes on parties and candidates are that they undertake:

•    Not to use language which provokes violence,
•    Not to intimidate voters,
•    Not to publish false information about other candidates or parties,
•    Not to bribe others to vote for a party, 
•    Not to deface or remove posters, and 
•    Not to carry weapons.

Preaching at St Luke’s, Salt River, in Cape Town earlier this month, I regretted the fact that in some provinces of the country we have seen an upsurge in what are said to be political killings. I appeal to all Anglicans to take seriously our civic responsibilities: to vote and to take action if you see any signs of the Code being breached.

In Cape Town, news has come in of the passing of Bishop Charles Albertyn, formerly Bishop Suffragan and a Regional Bishop in the Diocese. His funeral will be on Saturday June 25. We remember Bishop Charles for his deep spirituality and centredness on God, and for the deep wisdom and quick wit he brought to the leadership of the Diocese. We convey the Province’s heartfelt condolences to Berenice and the Albertyn family. 

Please offer your prayers for all the situations I have mentioned in this letter in the spirit of St Paul, where he says so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 12, that “all the members of the body, though many, are one body...” and “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”

God bless you

†Thabo Cape Town


            Collect for Provincial Synod

            Bounteous God
            You provide all that is needed to proclaim your 
               Kingdom to the nations in our generation:
            Grant us
           the wisdom to discern the available resources,
           the means to develop the people you are calling, and
               the humility and strength to commit to the task before us;
            through Jesus Christ who has revealed the Kingdom to us
            and in the power of the Holy Spirit who drives us into your world.
Saturday, 9 April 2016

Blogging from Lusaka - ACC-16 "walks together"

The clouds forming on Thursday did burst, and we had rain yesterday. It's still cloudy and, thank God, not hot.

We were warmly welcomed by the Diocese of Lusaka and the ACC was duly constituted. We are seated in round tables and will remain so throughout the meeting. I always enjoy the real expression of communion in the diversity of small groups - I am in a group with Irish, Tanzanian, Cypriot, Zimbabwean, West Indian and a Malawian representative now residing in the USA.

We started with a beautifully crafted Bible study on the book of Ruth. I call it an inter-racial, inter-cultural, cross-cultural and cross-class account of the foundation of God's elect. We share deeply and find each other and God in our sharing.

Archbishop Justin gave a brilliant and theologically-balanced account of the Primates Meeting in January and explains the concept of “walking together”. His report was accepted by ACC-16, confirming that we will walk together, with our blemishes and all.
Archbishop Justin speaks.  

The cathedral choir soaked our Mass with their beautiful voices as the filled the huge Holy Cross Cathedral with melody. We end the day with an orientation of how ACC works. As with most elective assemblies and synods at home, there are more and more new people - it's my third ACC and I felt old when almost two-thirds of people raised their hands to indicate that it's their first ACC. Hence orientation was key.

We say Evening Prayer together and walk to our hotels. Please continue to soak us in prayer: pray for the West Indies representatives, prevented by a cyclone from attending, and also those who have decided not to come. We belong with each other in this reformed Catholic, Anglican family.

†Thabo Cape Town
Thursday, 31 March 2016

Archbishop Thabo addresses Constitutional Court judgement in Wits graduation address

Graduation remarks at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The Archbishop was awarded an honorary degree at the ceremony.

Graduates and your families, distinguished guests, Chancellor, Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors, Deans, faculty, sisters and brothers in Christ,

The honour you have bestowed on me is truly humbling.  For I feel as if I have Wits in my blood:  after school at Alexandra and then Orlando High, I studied here for three of my degrees and one of my diplomas; I lectured part-time here; and I also once served as Dean at Knockando residence in Parktown. So recognition from this institution in particular, my alma mater – and your kind words – make me feel as if the only proper thing for me to do now is to die! 

But if my mother had been here, she would probably have said, as the actor Denzel Washington’s mother once did, that although “Man- now we might also say woman... although man gives the award, God gives the reward." So today’s honour reminds me that God has blessed me and my family.

On behalf of myself, my wife Lungi, my children and my parents, my profound thanks.

What a joyous occasion a Wits graduation is!

Congratulations to all of you who are graduating and especially your families who have prayed for you and supported you.  Your families hopefully feel that while they may have paid for one education, they received two in return because of all they have learned during your journey.  I'm reminded of what the American humourist Mark Twain is reputed once to have said about his parents: "When I was a boy of 14, my father and mother were so ignorant I could hardly stand to have them around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much they had learned in seven years.”

For many of us, graduation day can be a time of apprehension as well as excitement. A young woman once asked me, “Archbishop, I am graduating but I don’t know what to do next. Who will I become?" I wonder how many of you are asking yourself that question today.
I have a two-word answer: Become Yourself.  Why? Because the world you are entering is unlike the one your parents or professors has faced, and it’s going to be challenging enough for you to navigate your way through it without trying to be someone you are not.

The second piece of advice I have is one that sounds as though you would expect it to come from a cleric, but it is also taught in the business schools. It is this: understand the power and importance of trust. If you are true to yourself, and to others, you will be a person who is trusted by others. As they say, remember that there is a high cost to low trust and a high value to high trust. So never do anything that will cause someone to lose their trust in you.

The third piece of advice I have is never to think your education has come to an end, and never think that education simply means the acquisition of knowledge. Education is far more than the accumulation and communication of information, of facts and figures, practices and procedures. For me, the definition of true education which resonates best is that it is about the development of wisdom. From the texts of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, wisdom is a concept with a long and honourable pedigree. Exercising wisdom calls us to a practical understanding of the world and people about us, and to a shrewd discernment of situations and how to handle them. Wisdom enables us to play a constructive role in society; to respond to the challenges of our times so that we are not part of the problem, but rather part of the solution.

Wisdom has never been needed more in post-liberation South Africa than it is needed today. For – as I say at every opportunity I get – we face a new challenge in South Africa; the challenge of embarking on what I call the New Struggle. The old struggle, of course, was that against apartheid and against the selfishness and the immorality of the society it spawned. The New Struggle repudiates the values which underpinned colonialism and apartheid: narrow self-interest, callous selfishness and the pursuit of personal gain, of power, status, and material wealth, regardless of the consequences for other people or our planet.

Your education gives each one of you the responsibility to join the New Struggle. For as Julius Nyerere once said: “Education is not a way to escape poverty, it is a way of fighting it.” The New Struggle, which I am inviting every one of you here to join, is for a new society, a more equal society, a society of equality of opportunity in which the wealth that comes from new economic growth is shared equitably among all. The New Struggle is for the realisation of the values embedded in our Constitution: for a united, democratic nation, with overarching goals that include healing the divisions of the past; establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights, a society which improves the quality of life of all citizens and frees the God-given potential of each person.

There is no one better equipped to fight the New Struggle than those of you, students and teachers, who have been and continue to work to transform our education system. I say this because although that endeavour has been marred by excesses, we need to harness the energy it has unleashed and direct it towards rigorous self-examination and action to expand it into a creative, society-wide drive for real transformation in all areas of our common life. At its best, the New Struggle that we saw beginning on the campuses last year was a national mobilisation of young and old alike against the failures of leaders who are allowing endemic corruption, nepotism and greed to rob the people of South Africa of the fruits of their hard-won freedom, gained over many decades by the old struggle against apartheid.

The last point I want to make about the New Struggle is the need for courage. If we learned anything from the courage of the students who said “enough is enough”, it is that we are able to create a society rooted in human love and in God’s care for us and all people everywhere. During the last years of Madiba’s life, I spent a good deal of time with him. Through him I was constantly reminded that courage is not the absence of fear, but the capacity to triumph over it. The brave woman or man is not the one who does not feel afraid, but the one who conquers their fear.

We live in a society based on fear. Our members of Parliament are too scared to hold the executive properly to account. Those in the executive or in public service who are alleged to have been approached by a well-known family living not too far from here – and who have allegedly been offered blandishments in return for business favours – have been too afraid to speak out about it.

Thankfully, the courage of a few is breaking down the fear, hopefully unleashing a wave of truth-telling about corrupt influence-peddling, not only by one  family but by other business interests too.

And I hope that today's Constitutional Court judgement finding that both President Zuma – in seeking to dodge the Public Protector's findings on Nkandla – and Parliament – in seeking to protect the President – acted unlawfully, will give public servants and others new courage to speak out – and generate not just a wave but a tsunami of truth-telling.

Today is a great day for constitutional democracy in South Africa, and for the constitutional values which I referred to earlier.

The New Struggle is not one which is exclusive to South Africa. In an era in which we are seeing elections flourishing across Africa – but in which the quality of democracy is often suspect – students from other parts of Africa too are called to fight for new societies based on sharing and equality of opportunity. Your challenge, whether you are from South Africa or beyond, is to leave this world a better place than you found it. You have the potential to be your country's greatest generation. The pathway to achieving that is to join the New Struggle.

In closing, I once again want to again thank Wits for this humbling honour. And I would like to offer each of you my blessing: as you go out into the world, my hope for you, for your families, for our communities, for your church, your temple, your synagogue or your mosque, is that you will walk with whichever God you believe in, carrying him (or her!) in your heart every day. God helps us to explore our faiths and their consequences in more depth. God's wisdom deepens our spirituality and our connection to our humanity; it empowers us to transform the societies in which we live to champion equality of opportunity; and it helps you bring new life and hope to God’s world.

May God bless all of you now, and in what lies ahead. And always remember, God loves you and so do I.
Monday, 22 February 2016

To the Laos - To the People of God - Lent 2016

Dear People of God

I am writing to you just as we complete the February meeting of the Synod of Bishops, where we continued to travel together as we wrestled with our episcopal leadership of the Church. When we meet, we do so conscious that our vocation is not simply to serve you, the people of our Church, but to serve God through you -- a tiny distinction perhaps, but an important one.

We met in a spirit and rhythm of prayer, beginning with Eucharist each day, followed by midday prayers and Evening Prayer together, on the edge of the Wild Coast, north of East London, where we were surrounded by the rhythm of God seen in the beauty of nature. The matters we discussed were firmly rooted in mission, issues that affect how we serve God through and with his people. So we heard reports on the COP21 climate talks and on the encouraging development of our educational initiatives, which involve establishing new schools and strengthening existing ones. We also reflected on theological education and on work to ensure that clergy and full-time lay workers are adequately taken care of in retirement. In our most vivid act of solidarity and identification with a God who knows pain and marginalisation, we undertook a walk of witness to the site of the 1992 Bhisho Massacre and then worshipped with the people of the dioceses of the Eastern Cape at Bhisho Stadium. 

We have issued a joint statement from the Synod, but I want to report to you in more detail to give you the full context of one of the more challenging matters we discussed. One of the key tasks before us was to fulfil the mandate given to us by Provincial Standing Committee and to finalise pastoral guidelines for couples in South Africa who are in same-sex civil unions. Against the backdrop of the international debate on this issue in the worldwide Anglican Communion, our discussions were frank, open and robust. We sensitively considered our role as the Anglican Church in Southern Africa within the broader family of the Communion, cognisant of the divergent strands of theological thinking within the Province of Southern Africa and of the different pastoral challenges that the different dioceses and the different countries of our Province are facing.

The document we have agreed upon will go to Provincial Synod for adoption in September, and will be published a few months ahead of Synod in the First Agenda Book. I believe that its adoption by Provincial Synod would be an important first step in signalling to the LGBT community that we in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, through our top deliberative and legislative body, see them as welcome members of our body as sisters and brothers in Christ. In the words of the guidelines:

"We reaffirm our assurance to them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. Many of these are baptised and confirmed members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships."

In another section, the bishops declared that: "We are of one mind that gay, lesbian and transgendered members of our church share in full membership as baptised members of the Body of Christ..." 

This has important implications in parishes where, for example, same-sex couples who are living in civil unions under South African law bring their children for baptism and confirmation. No child brought for baptism should be refused merely because of the sexual orientation of the parents, and particular care should be taken against stigmatising not only parents but their children too.

We also tried at the Synod of Bishops to draw up guidelines for clergy wanting to bless couples in same-sex unions, or who want to enter same-sex unions themselves. We constituted a group of bishops reflecting a cross-section of our views to discuss such guidelines. On this issue, I had to report back to the Synod, the only agreement we reached is that we were not of one mind. 

Our differences do not only revolve around the theology of marriage, but are also a result of different pastoral realities in different dioceses. For example, most of our dioceses across Southern Africa are predominantly rural, and for many the urgent priorities of food security, shelter, healthcare and education crowd out debate on the  issue of human sexuality. In some rural dioceses, responding to challenges to the Church's restrictions on polygamous marriages is a much higher pastoral priority. 

As a consequence, the Synod of Bishops has agreed that we will continue to regard ourselves bound by the broad consensus in the Anglican Communion, expressed by the Lambeth Conference in 1998, which is that we "cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions". Having said that, we did address the questions of whether that decision is immutable, whether it has replaced scripture, and when a Province of the Communion, or a diocese within a Province may deviate from it. 

Of one thing I am absolutely determined, and that is that the Church in Southern Africa should build on our history of refusing to allow our differences to separate us, and that we should continue to work patiently through them together. We overcame deep differences over the imposition of sanctions against apartheid and over the ordination of women, and we can do the same over human sexuality. As the bishops say in the pastoral guidelines:

"Given that we share such broad and deep foundations of faith, when, as Bishops in Synod, we consider questions of human sexuality, we feel sharp pain and great distress at our own differences and at the breaches and divisions within the wider Anglican Communion. Yet we strongly affirm that we are united in this: that none of us feels called to turn to another and say ‘I no longer consider you a Christian, a brother in Christ, a member of the body of Christ’. None of us says ‘I am no longer in communion with you.’ We find that our differing views on human sexuality take second place alongside the strength of our overpowering conviction of Christ among us. As long as we, the Bishops of this Province, know unity in Christ in this way, human sexuality is not, and cannot be allowed to be, for us a church-dividing issue."

So on a personal level I came home from the Synod tired but full of hope. I am encouraging our Province in dealing not only with the issue of human sexuality, but also on those such as climate justice and inequality, never to abandon the hope that comes from knowing the grace with which we are held in the palm of God's hand. 

God bless you,

†Thabo Cape Town


Statement from the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa


'God has given us the ministry of reconciliation' 2 Cor 5:18
We, the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, meeting at the Gonubie Hotel near East London in the Diocese of Grahamstown between 13 and 18 February 2016, wish to share our experience and reflections with the people of the Church.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba asked the Bishops on this occasion to arrive early for their synod in order to express their pastoral presence in the Diocese of Grahamstown and the dioceses of the Eastern Cape more widely.
On Sunday 14 February the bishops were invited for refreshments at the guest house of the Premier of the Province of the Eastern Cape, Mr Phumulo Masualle, in King William's Town before embarking on a moving peace walk from the Good News Centre up the hill on the route taken by the marchers to Bisho stadium in 1992, when they were met by the then security forces and 28 were killed. Premier Masualle who was on the march of 1992 and came close to being killed, joined the bishops in the march, together with the mayor and other dignitaries and many Anglican Church groups in uniform. The Archbishop spoke briefly, apologising where the Anglican Church may have failed to act adequately in the past, and he and the Premier laid a wreath at the memorial. The bishops then proceeded into the stadium for a moral regeneration rally led by the MEC for Art, Culture, Sports and Recreation, Ms Penny Majodina, who is also a Methodist lay preacher (and it showed); here the Premier spoke powerfully about the need for moral renewal in the leadership of the nation.
At 14h00 the Eucharist began with some 1000 present including choirs from all 6 Eastern Cape dioceses. It was moving to be welcomed by the wife of the late Steve Biko, Mrs Ntsiki Biko and her family. The Archbishop preached and celebrated and the bishops were hosted by the Premier to a meal at the Steve Biko Centre. As one bishop commented, 'It is important to remember the price paid by others during apartheid so that we can all be free'; the peace walk enabled us to look back with healing eyes to the tragedy of 1992, while the rally and Eucharist addressed needs for reconciliation in the present and the future.
Premier Masualle and his wife had also joined the bishops the previous evening for a fundraising dinner to support the College of the Transfiguration, at which the Auditor-General of South Africa, Mr Thembekile Makwetu, gave a powerful and revealing address. Mr Makwetu gave his support to the Public Protector and to all the processes by which public money is raised and spent responsibly. He pointed his hearers to the public process by which budget decisions are made known. The dinner was sign of commitment to COTT and was echoed during Synod in a call for dioceses to support the College especially on Theological Education Sunday in August.
Throughout the week, the bishops have received outstanding care and generosity from the host Diocese of Grahamstown.
The February meeting of the Synod of Bishops has a developmental character, with opportunity for learning, discussion and growth in leadership in addition to an administrative agenda. On this occasion the bishops heard from Theo Coggin of Quo Vadis Communications about the missional use of social media, and from Henry Bennett about the recent conference of the Canon Law Council and its proposals for changes to legislation at Provincial Synod in September. Mr Bennett underlined the way in which schools and other church institutions are keen to bear the 'Anglican brand' but therefore need to be held to standards in their use of it.
Regrettably a further workshop on the proposed new prayer book fell through, but the bishops continue to hold this project close to their hearts.
The Diocese of Namibia having delegated the election of their next bishop to the bishops, Canon Luke Pato was elected to serve that diocese and will be consecrated on 7 May in Walvis Bay. The Diocese of Niassa having done likewise, the bishops are continuing to strategise about the needs of Northern Mozambique as a whole in the process of identifying leaders who will serve there.
As usual the bishops were updated on work in progress in the Advisory Board for Theological Education, Anglicans Ablaze and Fresh Expressions, the new Stewardship Programme, and the Board of Education. New Anglican schools have been opened this year in Lesotho and in Johannesburg; the bishops affirmed the work of Roger Cameron and the Anglican Board of Education. PSC's decision to initiate a province-wide local-level ministry of mediation was taken forward with the adoption of a project proposal and the appointment of a working group. The former decision to upgrade pastoral care especially of the clergy, was taken forward with a searching presentation on clergy stress from the Bishop of Port Elizabeth.
In receiving a report from the Provincial Youth Council, the bishops affirmed support for the training of young people for leadership. An important report was received from Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya on the COP21 conference and the international call to disinvest from fossil fuels. The bishops expressed thanks to Trinity Church, Wall Street, for the recent sustainability workshop which aims to help both churches and communities to become self-sufficient. Looking forward, greetings were sent to the April 2016 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.
The bishops again discussed and worked over their draft Pastoral Guidelines in response to Civil Unions within the wider contexts of Marriage and Human Sexuality in readiness for decision at Provincial Synod. These reaffirm our assurance that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ. However, they they do not change our current policy, which is that the Province 'cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions' (Resolution 1:10 of the Lambeth Conference of 1998).
The Prayer Book affirms 'that marriage by divine institution is a lifelong and exclusive union partnership between one man and one woman'; therefore the draft guidelines affirm for now that 'partnership between two persons of the same sex cannot be regarded as a marriage... accordingly our clergy are not permitted to bless such unions... nor are they permitted to enter into such unions while they remain in licensed ministry'.
It was with sadness that Synod said farewell to our most senior member, Bishop Peter Lee of the Diocese of Christ the King, who is due to retire on 30 June 2016. Bishop Peter's ministry as a bishop began more than 25 years ago, when one of the first challenges he was faced with was the violence in the Vaal Triangle of the early 1990s. However, we are pleased that he will continue to help us with our education initiatives.
In all these areas the Church is called to work for healing between people and God, within and between communities and between people as individuals. In this Lenten season we seek God's grace in that endeavour, for ourselves and for the Church.





Friday, 29 January 2016

To the Laos - To the People of God: Tensions in the Communion?

Dear People of God 
Addressing a news conference in Canterbury.

Welcome to 2016! My focus in this letter is on the meeting of Primates from across the Anglican Communion which we held in the precincts of Canterbury Cathedral this month, and on the communiqué we issued afterwards, dealing with a number of issues but attracting most attention because of the differences among us over our teaching on matters of human sexuality.
    Context is always important in comprehending text. The communiqué was penned after a rhythm of morning and evening offices coupled to daily Mass and the sharing of meals together. We were constantly reminded of where we were by the intermittent chiming of the cathedral bells. All of this was accompanied by the robust reflections we exchanged in plenary meetings and in small groups.
    There was consensus in the meeting that the resolution on Human Sexuality which was adopted at the Lambeth Conference in 1998 is not contested—especially that part of it which requires that we minister pastorally and sensitively to all people, irrespective of sexual orientation. (You can read the full text of the resolution on the Anglican Communion’s website.) Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people are God’s people, present in all Anglican Provinces across the world, and we are to be just and caring towards all. I shared with my fellow Primates that we have numbers of LGBT people in the Province of Southern Africa and that although different countries in the Province have different laws, in South Africa there is legal provision for same-sex civil unions.
    On the issue of human sexuality, the questions at hand in Canterbury were these: When the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in the United States last year authorised new rites allowing same-sex marriages in church, did it do so ignoring the Communion-wide moratorium on the issue and in breach of Catholic unity? If it did, what consequences if any should there be for The Episcopal Church? Our answer was that the church had decided to walk alone and our recommendation was that there must be consequences for doing this. These are outlined in the communiqué. Our recommendation was made to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who will act with the Anglican Consultative Council, a Communion-wide body representing lay people, priests and bishops from every Province in the Communion, and with the next Lambeth Conference.
    No written text and no individual can convey fully the meaning and feelings involved in the proceedings of our meeting or its culmination. We were deeply conscious of our need for sufficient grace from God as we decided on the recommendations. In our own Church, when I conclude a synod and promulgate its Acts, I am always torn by the prayer which implores that “no harm should befall God’s church because of our decisions.” In that spirit, and in the presence of the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church—who shared with us his pain for the Church and his love for Catholic unity—we offered to God the consequences of how we chose to order our common life.
    Of course, each of you will have different views and feelings, different conclusions based on what we discussed or should have discussed. At this stage I don’t wish to comment on these, save to reflect on the tensions that I think are at stake here. After the meeting I drove to Heathrow Airport with the primates from Scotland, the Middle East and Horn of Africa, New Zealand, Brazil and Australia. We shared diverse views, during which more tensions came into play, and I wish briefly to share these:

•    Unity and diversity: Our recommendation on The Episcopal Church appears to have “punished” diversity at the expense of ensuring unity at all costs. It would seem that for the sake of holding onto unity, we were content with playing a zero sum game. What are your views on the degree to which sacred law and doctrinal statements can be altered? Who should alter these and how should we go about doing this? Are doctrinal formulations to be agreed upon once and for all, or may Jesus the Holy Spirit reveal new truths and formulations? If we accept that there are such revelations, how are we to decide to receive—or not to receive—them in such a way that the unity of the church catholic is not compromised. Is this a matter for the Anglican family only, or do we need to consider the whole church catholic? Immediately after the meeting, I came home to meet with fellow South African church leaders in an ecumenical think tank. There I was struck by the fact that all the churches, including the Zionists, are wrestling with the challenge of same-sex civil unions, and we are all trying to work it out separately, operating in silos and in fear. Although one South African church has moved ahead to accept same-sex marriages and another took the matter to the secular courts, we agreed at least in the ecumenical Southern African context to walk together, and to hear the experiences of LGBT people as we seek clearer revelations on doctrinal matters.

•    Interdependence and autonomy: The Anglican Communion is made up of 38 unique, interdependent bodies, viewing itself as being bound together by unwritten, invincible bonds. We cherish our polity, in which we hold in tension both our autonomy as Provinces and our interdependence. How do the Primates’ recommendations respect this polity? Since our polity also allows individual Dioceses within Provinces considerable autonomy, the Primates’ recommendations have far-reaching implications for the limits, or lack thereof, that a Province can impose on a Diocese. There is no single Communion canon law; rather our communion-wide canon law is the sum of the canon law of the individual Provinces and the exercise of “jurisprudence” on the basis of mission realities. Do our recommendations imply a move in the Communion towards centralisation of authority, and therefore towards imperialism or the kind of autocratic leadership we see in the secular sphere in some of our countries? Within our own Province, these questions arise all the time in litigation over the implementation of our disciplinary canons, resulting in the formation of a standing committee called the Canon Law Council to advise us on them. As the Church in Southern Africa, we have canons which spell out consequences and disciplinary action for infringements relating to doctrinal and moral matters. We don’t have those at a Communion level. The question our communiqué seeks to address with respect to The Episcopal Church is whether the extension of such provisions to the Communion is desirable.

•    Individuals and the Communion: In trying to balance the tension between concern for the lives of individual Christians and the interests of the Communion, my sense is that we as Primates elevated issues of doctrine, rules and polity above those of love and of respect for the uniqueness of individuals within the body of Christ. Why did we do that? What should we have done? What are our limits as a collective in such matters? When can we err together for the sake of our traditions? When can we trust God the Holy Spirit to take charge and not control everything, including doctrinal matters? Might the Pauline understanding of rules, the law and the Body direct us as we further reflect on future consequences and doctrinal matters, especially in the area of human sexuality? No one has triumphed from the outcome of our meeting in Canterbury; we finished our meeting limping together towards God in Jesus Christ in the power of the Spirit, needing to have our feet washed and to wash our neighbours’ feet. The issues around human sexuality have been with us and will remain with us for a long time; there is no cut-and-dried solution and we should not try to advance a technical solution. People on both sides of the matter are pained, and we must journey together, deciding on a path which will order our journey.

    I have received calls and written messages from LGBT clergy and laity, pained by our indecision. I have received notes from others who differed from them. All have humbled me as they have assured me of their prayers for this journey. I have received requests from the media to comment on the matter but have felt constrained in doing so—I don’t comment well whilst in desolation.
    The rhythm of the Primates’ meeting, the ecumenical think tank at home, and the funeral service I attended upon my return, for 20-year-old Njabulo Mathebula, who took his life last week, reminds me of the fragility of life and how we are all carried by grace as we wrestle with the question: what is the goal of life in Jesus Christ in the here and now? The Synod of Bishops, which meets in February, and Provincial Synod, which meets in September, will guide us on these matters, and on other missional issues that the Primates meeting discussed: climate justice, extremism and the sustainable development goals. I look forward to your responses and reflections on our draft ACSA pastoral guidelines.

    God bless you, 

    †Thabo Cape Town

LATE UPDATE: In the Diocese of Niassa, in northern Mozambique, the Elective Assembly for a new bishop has, after 21 ballots over three days of voting, delegated the choice of a bishop to the Synod of Bishops in terms of Canon 4(12)(i).

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