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.