Thursday, 19 April 2018

To the Laos - To the People of God - on Eastertide & Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

My dear People of God

Easter has once again been a busy time for travel: on the evening of Easter Sunday I left to chair a meeting of the Design Group for the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Preparations for the conference are well on their way, and the theme is:  “God's Church for God's World: walking, listening and witnessing together”.

Lambeth is a meeting of all the world's Anglican bishops which usually happens every 10 years, and has been held since 1867, when the controversy involving our founding bishop, Robert Gray, and Bishop Colenso of Natal was one of the reasons it was first called. The 2020 conference will take place from July 24 to August 3 at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and Archbishop Justin Welby will send out formal invitations to more than 900 bishops and their spouses – including our own – later this year.

Archbishop Justin has explained on the newly-unveiled conference website that “It will be a time of addressing hurts and concerns; of deepening existing relationships and building new ones; of grappling with issues that face the Church and the world.” Please support your Bishops as they prepare for Lambeth, and pray for the success of the conference.

I arrived home the day before our son, Nyaki's graduation at the University of Cape Town, and after presiding over a graduation at the University of the Western Cape the day after that, it was off to Rome to a consultation on mining and miners with the Roman Catholic, Methodist and wider Anglican churches. Our own “Courageous Conversations” on the future of the industry in Southern Africa are part of this initiative, begun nearly five years ago when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace hosted us in Rome. Our dialogue with managements, labour and governments seeks to re-position the sector as one that can be a partner for long-term sustainable development with host communities and governments.

Flying back from Rome to Johannesburg, I arrived just in time to attend the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (I responded to her death while in London.) As we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Chris Hani, we conveyed our condolences to the Mandela family, and also to the families of former minister Zola Skweyiya, in many ways the architect of our social grants system, to former ambassador George Nene and, in Cape Town, to the property tycoon Pam Golding.

In my book, Faith & Courage, I discuss the national trauma from which we still suffer as a result of the aftershocks of apartheid. The reaction to Mama Winnie's death shows once again that South Africa needs deep healing, and the more we pretend we don't need it or postpone it, the deeper the hurt and the more destructive its impact will be. Around the time of the funeral we saw Stratkom – the strategy which the apartheid system used to turn us against each other – come alive once again, seeking to destroy our social fabric by sowing misinformation and suspicion against our comrades. Whatever allegations and misinformation are sown anew around journalists, activists, respected leaders and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, let us remember we have a nation to build and find socially cohesive ways of dealing with the controversy. With national elections scheduled in South Africa for next year, we hope the mudslinging we have seen will not be abused for political gain. We have huge challenges – the land question foremost among them – to wrestle with without destroying each other.

Looking ahead at challenges in the Province, I am hoping that by the time you read this we will have issued some clear guidelines to help us deal with the allegations of sexual abuse which have been made in three of our Dioceses. The preliminary remarks which I promised in my last letter are available as part of my Easter sermon on my blog. As I write, some of South Africa's leading lawyers have met to discuss the matter, and the Canon Law Council is consulting with our Safe Church network in order to formulate proper protocols which respond to the needs and welfare of survivors.

Looking further ahead, the annual meeting of Provincial Standing Committee in September will focus on theological education and a report from the Commission on Human Sexuality. We will also reflect how to follow up on the celebration this past year of the 25th anniversary of the decision to ordain women as priests.

In this season of Easter, as we anticipate Pentecost, please join me in praying and working for “Thy Kingdom Come”, the initiative to pray for mission and evangelism between Ascension Day and Pentecost - May 10 to 20. Here's a link to a discussion with Archbishop Justin and more information.

God bless

†Thabo Cape Town 

Sunday, 15 April 2018

[VIDEO] Archbishop Thabo responds to Mama Winnie's death

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba says the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela marks a “changing of the guard” moment in South Africa.

He was in London, chairing meetings of the design group for the 2020 Lambeth Conference, when he heard the news. He flew home in time to attend her funeral.

He told the Anglican Communion News Service that “The old guards who were the stewards and custodians of our struggle, those who led us into democratic South Africa, are moving on...” He asked: “Are we mature enough, capable enough, to sustain the vision of a non-racial democratic South Africa where all South Africans flourish?”

He said he was “enveloped with a sense of deep pain and sorrow” when her heard that Ms Madikizela-Mandela had died.

“Then I started saying there were good things Winnie did and we need to give thanks to God for those... There are mistakes that she made because life threw a lot of curve-balls towards her... She handled some of those with dignity, but some she really hopelessly failed.

“But we need to remember the good that Winnie did, as a Methodist Christian, as a courageous woman, as a beautiful woman. And we need to say ‘what can we learn from who Winnie is?’”

He sent his condolences to the family, “particularly to the girls who have had to be mature adults while their parents were incarcerated.”

[Excerpted from the Anglican News report, South Africa will “stop and reflect” for funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela]

Thursday, 12 April 2018

[VIDEO] Thy Kingdom Come - Archbishop Justin Welby speaks to Archbishop Thabo

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has asked churches in the Province to join the Thy Kingdom Come initiative, praying for mission and evangelism between Ascension Day and Pentecost - May 10 to 20.

Ahead of this year's events, Archbishop Thabo discusses the question “what does it mean when we pray Thy Kingdom Come?” with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby. During the discussion, he touches on his experiences as a teenager in Alexandra, Johannesburg, when he was chased by troops and feared for his life. 

[Acknowledgements: Anglican News

Monday, 2 April 2018

To the Laos - To the People of God - April 2018

Dear People of God

Usually in Lent I try to cut back on my schedule, but this year the busyness of the time leading up to Lent continued and I took on a number of tasks. While I maintained a discipline of prayer and reflection, particularly on water justice – praying for more rain in Cape Town and less flooding in the Diocese of Niassa in northern Mozambique – I also engaged the Anglican Communion and society equally.

A highlight, just before Lent began, was being invited to address the General Synod of the Church of England, where I brought your greetings and shared something of our experiences with water shortages. After that quick trip to London, I returned to Cape Town for Ash Wednesday, then went off to the Diocese of Matlosane in North-West, where I joined Bishop Stephen Diseko, Dean of the Province, and a number of other bishops at the opening of a new Diocesan Centre – a property renovated after being bought from the Dutch Reformed Church. From there I went to our regular February meeting of the Synod of Bishops, and then on to the consecration and installation of Bishop Moses Madywabe, the new Bishop of Khahlamba in the Eastern Cape.

Later in Lent I travelled to Grahamstown for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the College of the Transfiguration, our only provincial residential training college, which was founded after we had closed its three predecessors, St Paul’s, St Bede’s and St Peter’s. The celebrations were held at this year’s graduation ceremony, which marked another milestone – the first time we have awarded Bachelor’s degrees.

Being with students is always refreshing, and I told those at CoTT of my own theological bias towards the doctrine of the Incarnation, by which we hold that God in Jesus enters the everyday experience of human living to point us to God’s reign. Theological education is not about creating a band of elite clerics; it is meant to equip us with God’s wisdom, enabling us to be loving pastors and shepherds of all, dedicated to peace and social justice, pursued without fear or favour, all the while seeking God and soaking ourselves in prayer.

Back in Cape Town I hosted a delegation of visiting German Protestant bishops and theologians at Bishopscourt. I also presented a paper at the “Together for Justice” conference at the University of the Western Cape, which was organised with UWC to renew the longstanding partnership of the Evangelical Church in Germany and the South African Council of Churches.

At these events, I reasserted my call for a new struggle in South Africa, one aimed not at replicating how the privileged lived under apartheid but rather ushering in a new, more equal society in which equality of opportunity ensures that the wealth generated by economic growth is shared equitably among all. I also warned against thinking that the change in the presidency in South Africa was the solution to our problems: the new struggle is about values and institutions rather than about personalities and will involve building strong systems and institutions which cannot be undermined by one party or person’s whim.

At a ceremony in Christ Church, Constantia, I was invested as a Knight of Justice of the Order of St John and installed as Prior of the Order in South Africa by Prince Richard, the Duke of Gloucester. And by the time you read this I will have received an honorary doctorate in Theology from Stellenbosch University. I am humbled by these honours and the call to service they embody, and receive them on your behalf.

I hope that you also will be able to share and give thanks to God for your faith journey during Lent. I am grateful for your prayers and support, particularly when the road seems an uphill one. Please soak the church in prayer as we seek to do the right thing in response to the recent reports of sexual abuse in the church in the past. I plan to say more about this at Easter but my first response was to say sorry and seek forgiveness from those who have been victims. Please join me in finding ways of making up for the pain we have caused to others, in all spheres of our common life. For on Ash Wednesday we said, “Turn away from sin and believe the Good News.”

May God bless you richly this Eastertide.

†Thabo Cape Town

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Archbishop's Easter Sermon

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's sermon, preached at the Easter Vigil at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town:

Is 55:1-11; Ps 114; Rm 6:3-11; Mk 16:1-8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we meet this Easter, joining the whole Communion and faithful Christians across the world in singing this acclamation, and celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mr Dean, Cathedral staff, clergy, the wardens, lay leaders, choristers, the unsung leaders of our church, and members of the congregation, thank you for all that you are and that you continue to do for God and God's people.

People often speak of the lowest point in something also being potentially the turning point. In my ministry I have often heard alcoholics and recovered drug addicts talk very movingly of having reached rock bottom, and then in desperation and with fear and trembling, taking the first step away from this experience of death, towards a new life and finding this to be a turning point. They talk about the importance and value of Second Chances. By Second Chances, meaning that someone is not giving up on me.

Easter in every sense is about the lowest point becoming the turning point. The hour of failure, the hour in which darkness covers the whole earth, the hour in which the disciple’s dreams of the Kingdom coming into being came crashing down. Yet that low point on that first Easter Sunday morning becomes the turning point. Those close to Jesus would experience this intimately. The disciples on the road back to Emmaus enveloped in sadness would, in the presence of the Risen One, experience their hearts burning within them, and Mary Magdalene in the garden – blinded by her tears – would slowly recognise the Lord and in utter astonishment call him “Master”.

The Resurrection invites those disciples to let go of the things they held onto, the familiar, the old patterns of relating, indeed even the old prejudices. In both instances Jesus invites them to move on, to engage in a different narrative; as indeed he urges us this evening, and to engage in a different way the truth of ourselves, our relationships and our lives together as communities and nations.

In this powerful way, Easter challenges us to look into the places that hold us back from living life abundantly, and to decide to make different choices. The great Scottish-American preacher, Peter Marshall, said: “The stone was rolled away from the entrance not to permit Jesus to come out, but to enable the disciples to enter.”

The Gospel writers make it clear. The grave clothes were folded precisely. They were undisturbed. We are left with the understanding that Jesus could have exited the tomb in a number of ways – he didn’t need to roll the stone away. So Marshall is probably correct: Jesus rolled the stone away so that the disciples, you and I, could enter and face our deepest fears, our disordered histories, our shameful pasts, all the things that hold us in bondage and which disempower us and render us dysfunctional.

When we enter our own everyday tombs, we are faced with a God who has emptied them of the power that holds us in those places. We are faced with a God who sees beyond the tomb to what we can become. The God of turning points.

This Easter, here in South Africa, the God of second chances reminds us that if Easter has taught us anything, certainly as compared to the most recent Easters past, God is not giving up on us and he’s certainly not giving up on South Africa. He has given us a second chance, giving us the opportunity to slow down, even stop, and reflect by asking anew the question: “What kind of South Africa do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in?”

There has never been a more opportune moment for reflecting on the importance of the New Struggle. Getting a second chance in life is one thing. Using it to make a better life, that’s the trick. To use words of wisdom my father was fond of quoting: “Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.” We cannot start over. But we can begin now to write a better ending. The past administration trampled on our institutions and values, to the point where we now live in a South Africa that has the same inequality of opportunity, inequality of healthcare, inequality of social services, inequality of education and inequality of service delivery that our grandparents suffered.

Let us resolve never again to allow our government and our leaders to talk us down, to let us down or to keep us down. God can give anyone a second chance and he has given South Africa that opportunity. So my wish for this Easter is that President Ramaphosa and the ANC should see this time as a moment in history to embrace the principles and objectives of the New Struggle – a struggle to which we all should commit: a struggle for equality, a struggle about values and institutions rather than personalities, a struggle to build strong systems which cannot be undermined by one party or person’s whim.

You have often heard me preach from this pulpit at Easter and Christmas about the failings of our government and the need for the New Struggle. But tonight I want to pause and to turn our gaze inwards, and onto ourselves and our church. I cannot stand here with integrity and point to the speck in my neighbour's eye if I don't speak of the log in our own eye.

In the past few weeks, a number of individuals have spoken out, either publicly or privately, to give accounts of being abused in Anglican parishes when they were young boys in the 1970s and 1980s. I cannot pass judgement on these accounts – that can be done only in the proper tribunals, where those accused have the right to defend themselves. And if charges are brought and upheld under church law, I would have to handle any appeals, so I must not pre-judge matters. I also cannot say reliably how widespread abuse may have been in the Church. My impression is that it has involved only a tiny minority of those licensed to minister, but I am still waiting for the Bishops across the Church to notify me of cases brought to their attention.

But no matter how many cases there may have been, we should welcome and embrace the newly-found willingness by some to speak out and we must use it as an opportunity to address the issue.

In recent years we have done a great deal of work on our Canons – our church law – when it comes to disciplinary matters. We have developed comprehensive Pastoral Standards which priests, church workers and office-bearers are required to obey. The Canons make provision for people who are accused of offences – including the specifically-named offences of sexual assault and sexual harassment – to be charged in their Dioceses and, if convicted, to be suspended, deprived of their office or deposed from Holy Orders, which effectively means being expelled as a priest or deacon.

So the structures enabling us to deal with abuse exist. But this is not sufficient. Do people know enough about what the Canons provide? What do we do in cases where the alleged perpetrators have retired and no longer hold licences? What do we do if they have died? What do we do if those abused have left the Church and perhaps converted to another faith? Are the measures in place in church schools adequate and widely enough known? In the past, we have sometimes referred those alleging abuse to the police, in the belief that they have more expertise in investigating cases than we have. But in at least one case, we have learned that the police cannot investigate on the grounds that the case is too old.

Most importantly, what about the survivors of abuse? Whether or not charges are brought in Church or State courts, what is far more important to us as pastors is to address the needs of those who have been abused, to restore their dignity and to bring about holistic and sustainable healing. We don't have to wait for reports from the Dioceses or for answers to the questions I have just asked to take effective action.

To begin with, I have asked the Bishops across the Province to appoint multi-disciplinary teams at Diocesan, Archdeaconry and Parish level to help and give guidance to people alleging abuse in parishes, church schools or other institutions. 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 consulting widely on a more comprehensive and detailed response. This week I had a very productive meeting with the Church's legal advisers. Arising from that, our Canon Law Council will meet representatives of the Safe Church network this month to formulate clearer policy so that we have in place and can publicise a system that is both effective and is seen to be effective for both survivors and alleged perpetrators. One of the matters I have raised is to offer formal Church support for efforts to change the law to ensure that old cases can be dealt with in secular courts.

Our efforts to address abuse should not detract from the fact that the overwhelming majority of clergy and church workers in our Province is comprised of dedicated and caring pastors with a deep commitment to the welfare of all our people. But even one case of abuse is one too many. Those who allege abuse need a place where they can be heard, and those who are accused of abuse need a place where they can be heard.

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. 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.

Returning to my Easter message, James Torres, a priest who accompanies gang members in Los Angeles in an intervention programme aimed at helping those trapped in the tombs of drugs, poverty and violence, says, “We see in the homies what they don’t see in themselves until they do.” That is the heart of the Resurrection: God seeing us when we can't see ourselves, and loving us into what God knows we can become if we face who we are and name our tombs.

Greg Boyle, another priest in the same intervention programme, talks about this Resurrection life as not being about quick successes. He adds that he tries to approach “intractable problems with as tender a heart as I can locate, knowing that there is some divine ingenuity here, 'the slow work of God,' that gets done if we’re faithful.” That is the logic of the empty tomb.

Lucy Winkett, formerly a priest at St Paul's Cathedral in London and now Rector of St James in Picadilly, picks up on this transforming power of the Resurrection and sees it at work in silence and in small, often unnoticed, loving gestures. She writes: “Silence is potentially a transfiguring experience when the depths of ourselves are plumbed, when we dare to spend time alone without distraction, where we let God hear the tinnitus of fears and confusions that deafen us in our everyday interactions. Where we take off the mask we wear in front of others and let God see the light and the fire that is deep within us.”

Exploring the love that is at the heart of the Resurrection and how it gently infuses our lives, she says: “Love is potentially transfiguring when we know ourselves to be beautiful in another’s eyes, when a friend is spectacularly kind, when a lover touches us with tenderness, when our family accepts us as we are.” Then we experience Resurrection. With the God of second chances, no one is beyond the power of God's grace.

Mark makes clear in his Gospel that the Resurrection is God's doing when, talking about the stone in front of the tomb, he emphasises the passive voice and says the stone had already been rolled away. God is in charge. Mark adds the description that the stone was very big and thus we are left in no doubt that no matter how great our difficulties, how intractable our problems, how uncertain our future, the Risen Lord stands somewhere in the shadows. Like Mary Magdalene, we too will be surprised to find Him nearer than we thought.

One final thought. The Easter story is not merely a powerful proclamation of new life, it is also a mission that we must accomplish. We must take the new life to every dark place, every oppressive situation, to all exploited people and unjust structures. It is a challenge that is rooted in reading the gospels and indeed the gospel of our own lives from the perspective of the Resurrection. The mandate is to go to Galilee, to the place which is so much a part of the gospel story and to re-read the gospels and the story of our lives through the lens of Resurrection.

The gospels tell us that this new life is a threat to those who wield different types of power. The soldiers were terrified of the consequences of this challenge. The high priests were so concerned that they resorted to bribery in order to suppress the truth. A Nobel Peace laureate once said that it is not power that corrupts but the fear of losing power that often opens the powerful to corruption. We see it in the Easter story and it endures to the present. Little wonder that Clarence W Hall could ponder: “If Easter says anything to us today, it says this: you can put truth in a grave but it won’t stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it up in winding sheets, and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!”

God bless you, God bless your family and God bless South Africa. But most importantly, God loves you… and so do I ! Alleluia.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Archbishop receives honorary degree from Stellenbosch University

The text of Archbishop Thabo's acceptance remarks appears below the video clip. 

Remarks on receiving the degree Doctor of Theology (Honoris Causa) at Stellenbosch University, on March 20, 2018:

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, students, staff and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen, Dames en Here,

My warm thanks you to for your welcome.  I want to thank you, the representatives of this historic and distinguished university, for conferring this honour on me. When I was a young person growing up in Johannesburg, people used to say of Stellenbosch that it was where the country's prime ministers were educated. Those days are gone for now, but if you are as successful as you aim to be with your transformation into a university fit for purpose in 21st century South Africa, I am sure those days can and will return, and that we will yet see a Matie as president of a liberated, democratic South Africa.

I receive this honorary degree on behalf of all the lay people in our respective churches, the people who are the pillars who hoist us up to meet the challenges of today. Many of them had the ability to benefit from a university education but were denied that opportunity. In the past that was often because of poor schooling or the colour of their skins; now it is still often because of poor schooling or because they struggle to find the means to pay.

Since the honorary degree you have generously chosen to bestow on me is in theology, let me say a few words today about the doctrine of the Incarnation – the doctrine that holds that Jesus is both fully God and fully human, that he is the divine Son who was, as we say, made flesh – that he took on a human body and human nature.

What does the Incarnation mean in South Africa today? To me, it means that God is part of the contemporary world. So although the president and members of his Cabinet, or the captains of business and industry, or the leaders of universities and churches, may play important roles in our society, we should not be looking for God in the spaces they inhabit.

No, we should be looking for God in other places. Just as the wise men in the Christmas story found Jesus in a stable, we need to look for God among those the world regards as unimportant – those who are seemingly insignificant; those regarded as illegitimate, illiterate, defenceless, of no worth to the economy and of no consequence in society.

So as we celebrate all who graduate tonight, as you look back over the hard work and the support from your families and your sponsors which got you here, let's dedicate ourselves to serving our society in a way that will enable those that are the least among us to live lives as full and as rich as those we aspire to live ourselves.

Congratulations to the graduates and to those who have supported them. God bless you.