Thursday, 22 March 2018

Archbishop consults on improving Church's response to sexual abuse cases

Statement by the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town:

“In recent weeks, four individuals have either spoken out publicly or contacted my office privately to report experiences of sexual abuse in two dioceses, apparently during the 1970s and 1980s.

“Last month, before these developments, the Synod of Bishops held a detailed discussion on the Anglican Communion's 'Safe Church Network'. This is an international body on which we are represented and which was founded some years ago in response to what the Communion has acknowledged is the betrayal of trust by some clergy and church workers who have abused children and adults for whom they have had pastoral responsibility.

“In Southern Africa, the Canons make provision for someone who holds a licence to minister in the Church, and who is accused of sexual assault or harassment, to be charged before a church tribunal within their diocese, and disciplined if found guilty. We have also advised complainants in the past to lay charges with the police.

“However, it is clear from the experiences reported in the last few weeks that we are lagging behind in our care for victims of abuse.

“In Cape Town, I established a team some years ago to advise me on the handling of complaints. The team included a psychologist, a lawyer, a priest and the head of an institution involved in a case.

“However, since that team does not have the capacity to advise bishops across Southern Africa I wrote to all our bishops last week advising them to establish similar advisory teams in their dioceses and in their local archdeaconries and parishes.

“I have asked that these teams be appointed to intervene when there are allegations of abuse in parishes or church schools. They should include a psychologist, social worker or counsellor; someone who is qualified to give legal advice; a community worker from outside the church; and the head of the affected entity within the church.

“I am also urgently consulting more widely on how the Church can not only act more effectively, but be seen to act effectively in cases of sexual abuse. Key to my efforts is to achieve holistic and sustainable healing. 

“I plan to address the issue further at Easter.

“As I have said previously, I take responsibility for what has happened in the church in the past and where we have wronged or failed anyone, we beg their forgiveness.

“Every human being deserves to have the dignity bestowed on them by God respected. Anyone who demeans this through any form of abuse demeans themselves and God.

Monday, 12 March 2018

The Church's response to writer Ishtiyaq Shukri's open letter

The South African writer Ishtiyaq Shukri has written an open letter in which he responds to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s recent stepping down as an ambassador for Oxfam after a scandal around allegations of sexual misconduct. 

In the letter, Mr Shukri said he was the victim of sexual abuse by Anglican priests and accused Archbishop Desmond of never fully addressing what he claimed was systematic and institutionalised sexual abuse happening in his own organisation.

In response, Archbishop Tutus office issued the following statement:

Archbishop Emeritus Tutu was mortified to learn this week of the suffering Ishtiyaq Shukri has described enduring at the hands of priests in Kimberley. Members of the clergy who break the law or behave immorally are as accountable for their actions – now, in the past and in the future – as any other member of Gods family. Archbishop Emeritus Tutu has retired from public life. He has the utmost faith in Archbishop Makgobas commitment to hold those clergy accused of wrongdoing to account, and support those whose trust in the clergy has been betrayed.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba issued this response:

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) was shocked and distressed to hear a report on Mr Shukris situation at a meeting last month. 

His experiences were reported to the bishops while they were discussing the work of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Network, an international body on which our church is represented. The body was created as a result of what Anglican churches world-wide have acknowledged is “the tragic betrayal of trust by some clergy and church workers in Provinces and churches across the Communion, who have abused children and adults for whom they have had pastoral responsibility.”

More background on the network can be found here:

Mr Shukri has been in touch with one of our bishops and I understand that he is unwilling to go into detail or name the person or persons who abused him.

While respecting his wishes, we usually urge victims of abuse to lay charges with the police and with church authorities. The police are often better equipped to investigate cases than we are, especially in cases which go back many decades and may have occurred in dioceses whose former leaders have died.

In recent years, arising out of allegations of past abuse at church schools and institutions, I have established teams – including a lawyer, a psychologist, a priest and the head of the entity concerned – to investigate and advise me on these matters. I have done this both to ensure that we respond to victims sensitively and respect their dignity, and to protect school and church workers from false accusations.

Every human being deserves to have the dignity bestowed on them by God respected. Anyone who demeans this through any form of abuse demeans themselves and God. Abusing others is unbiblical and cannot be condoned.

As the current Archbishop of Southern Africa, I take responsibility for what has happened during the time of my predecessors and where we have wronged or failed anyone, we beg their forgiveness. I am committed to giving the “Safe Church” initiative significant attention, especially when abuse has been reported and nothing done about allegations. Our Synod of Bishops is drawing up policies and procedures to ensure the safety of all in the Church. 

Monday, 19 February 2018

Appeal for prayer for South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo

Dear Fellow Anglican

Friday February 23: Pray for South Sudan and the DR Congo

After Sudan became independent in 1956, it suffered decades of civil war. Just over six years ago, South Sudan broke away from the north amid great hopes that at last it would find peace. But a little over two years later, South Sudan suffered a new outbreak of civil war and it has not known true peace since. Under pressure from their neighbours, the opposing sides began new peace talks earlier this month, but at present they stand adjourned for an undetermined period.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has also not known permanent peace, in their case for the past 20 years. Armed rebel groups proliferate in the east. More than four million people are displaced from their homes. The President has served his two terms but has delayed a new election for two years. A former United Nations humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, said a few days ago that right now the country faces one of the worst crises on earth, yet no one seems to care.

Pope Francis and a number of Anglican leaders, including Archbishop Peter Munde Yacoub in South Sudan, have issued a call to prayer for the people of both nations on Friday February 23. In his appeal the Archbishop said:

“Jesus says if we pray faithfully, the mountains can fall into the sea. We have mountains in front of us: the evil war and the killing of innocent people. Pray that Almighty God will remove this evil war and bring us peace, and remove the suffering of South Sudanese people.”

Friday is an Ember Day in our Province. Please add to your prayers for that day the following prayer as well. You might also use it on the Second Sunday in Lent too:

Loving God, Prince of Peace, we pray today for our sisters and brothers in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo;

We pray for the victims and survivors of violence in those nations,
We pray for refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries, and for the millions of people crowded into camps for displaced people,
We pray for their politicians, that they will learn how to become servant leaders, dedicated to the interests of their people.

Lord Jesus, you are our hope,
Our faith in you grounds us in hope,
It gives us certainty that peace can be made,
It strengthens our resolve that peace must be made,
And hope helps us to triumph over all.

We pray that the people of the DR Congo and South Sudan,
Will focus on the hope that you inspire,
Hold one another's hands,
Look upon one another, eyeball to eyeball,
And resolve to build united, peaceful nations.

This we pray in your precious name,


†Thabo Cape Town

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Archbishop Thabo responds to President Zuma's resignation

President Zuma's resignation is an acknowledgement that public power is to be exercised on behalf of and in service to the people of South Africa, rather than for the self-service of the incumbent.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

A homily for Ash Wednesday

A homily preached by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba on Ash Wednesday at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town:

Readings: Genesis.1:1-10; Psalm 133; Revelation 22:1-5; John 4:1-15

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

Ash Wednesday reminds us of our need for repentance and coming closer to God. This is a time during which the whole church of God comes together to begin a journey towards Easter. The beginning of Lent calls us all to fasting and repentance in preparation for Easter, giving up sinful habits and embarking on spiritual discipline.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Destiny is not a Matter of Chance… But a Decision of Choice

Archbishop Thabo's reflection on the 28th anniversary of the day Nelson Mandela woke up a free man at Bishopscourt, on February 12, 1990:

Today, February 12, marks the anniversary of the day in 1990 on which Nelson Mandela woke up a free man for the first time in 27 years, after spending the night following his release at Bishopscourt, the Archbishop's residence in Cape Town. I have today blessed a plaque on a terrace in front of the house, marking the spot from which Madiba greeted the world's media that morning before conducting his first news conference.
Archbishop Thabo after blessing the plaque. 

I remember Madiba's long walk to freedom, as we all do, on many emotional levels. I have often celebrated his release on February 11 by visiting the gates of the former Victor Verster Prison near Paarl. On other occasions I have sat and meditated in the apartment at Bishopscourt which Archbishop Tutu made available to him for his first night away from prison.

Among the volumes of words written about or used by Nelson Mandela, the 13 that I most often remember are those from the poem by W.E. Henley which sustained him in prison:


Those words are as true for us as when they first inspired Madiba. The emotional vertigo of the Zuma decade that has left each of us, our families, our friends, our communities and our nation feeling like we have been on the deck of a ship in the middle of the fiercest storm, is close to ending. South Africa’s destiny now is a choice that we all have in our hands: black hands, white hands, brown hands, yellow hands… rainbow hands.

At the same time, I am a realist. Unquestionably, I believe in South Africans and in South Africa. But as the boxer portrayed in the film Rocky Balboa says, let me remind you of something you already know: the world is not all sunshine and rainbows. It can be a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.

Despite the progress made since Madiba's release, South Africans have been hit hard by many things over the past 20 years. We have been slowed down, we have been diverted, and we at times have been stopped by barriers thrown up by morally corrupt leaders who have created a most unequal society in terms of service delivery, education and healthcare. My principal concern is the way in which inequality has remained pervasive, hitting the poor again and again. But, to invoke Rocky Balboa again, the key to winning, surviving and thriving is, in the end, how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

The 11th of February 1990 was a moment of destiny. Seeing Nelson Mandela elected president of a free South Africa was another. Now, in 2018, we stand at the dawn of a new age where the dizziness of uncertainty can be replaced by the equilibrium of equality. We are again witnesses to a moment of destiny in which a decade of corruption can be replaced with the birth of a South Africa which, despite its many challenges, has a chance to unite, not as a political party but rather as a society committed to becoming a nation of extraordinary achievers of equality.

Let me ask: What do you and Nelson Mandela have in common? We are a nation of bridge builders. We will bridge the barriers of bigotry, bridge the chasms of inequality and bridge the barricades which block everyone from having equal opportunities. So, my countrymen and women: start cleaning the tools which we will use to build prosperity, start finding trust again in your hearts, and most importantly, start asking not what South Africa can do for me, but what I can do for South Africa.

Please pray for all our leaders, but in particular for the National Executive Committee of the ANC, for Cyril Ramaphosa, the party's president, and for all members of Parliament as they chart the way forward in the coming days.

ABOVE: Bishopscourt staff, from left, the Revd Mcebisi Pinyana, the Revd Nobuntu Mageza, Ms Wendy Kelderman, the Archbishop and the Revd Canon Desmond Lambrechts.
BELOW: The plaque commemorating Madiba's visit to Bishopscourt.