Thursday, 30 December 2010

Letter to Minister of Home Affairs, voicing concerns for Zimbabweans in South Africa

The following letter was sent to the Minster of Home Affairs, the Honorable Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, on 30 December 2010.

My dear Minister

In the days following Christmas, Christians read how the child Jesus and his family were forced to flee their home and take refuge in a neighbouring country. This year, as I have seen on television the long queues of Zimbabweans waiting to register their presence in our country, this biblical account has held fresh resonances for me, and prompted me to write to you. I trust that my words will find an empathetic response from you, who have yourself experienced exile and were fortunate enough to find welcome in a foreign place.

I want to begin by commending you and the staff at the Department of Home Affairs, for making such efforts to ensure that as many Zimbabweans as possible complete the registration process before the end of year deadline. It is a vast undertaking, which has been tackled with great commitment. Yet I am also aware that because of the very great numbers, because of the need to apply when people can take time off work, and because many have faced problems in obtaining Zimbabwean papers, there are great fears that, for reasons largely beyond their control, not all will be able to complete the process timeously.

The government has of course made it clear that there can be no repeated extensions of the deadline, for those who continue to fail to get their act together. But my great concern is that no-one who is wanting and attempting to normalise their presence in our country should be penalised because of capacity constraints or delays that are not of their own making. My particular plea is for the deadline to be implemented with true humanity that allows for elastic interpretation across a transitional period of grace – perhaps as much as another 90 days – so that all who are striving to lodge their registration may be enabled to do so.

Alongside this, may I ask for continuing careful, comprehensive, public communication, not only aimed at the Zimbabweans themselves, but also to us, the South Africans among whom they live. In particular, we should all be informed clearly about what is to happen from the stroke of Friday midnight onwards. What are the next stages of the processes underway? What is the situation for those who have not completed registration – or who have failed, for whatever reason, to attempt it? What will happen to those who do not quality for permission to remain in South Africa? Clarity in all these areas is necessary, both for the greatest peace of mind of those directly concerned, and for easing good community relations.

What matters most is that throughout the period ahead, true humanitarian standards are upheld. Every individual must be treated – and feel themselves treated – with dignity and respect. Though I ask for gracious magnanimity in the processing of applications, I know that some will not be granted permission to remain here. We stand to be judged – but also have the opportunity to demonstrate best practice to others – on how we handle these cases, and particularly the enforcement of repatriations where these are necessary. I am assuming that you are in close and continuing contact with your Zimbabwean counterpart to ensure coordinated arrangements, should forced repatriations need to be made.

None of these tasks are easy, so let me assure you and your staff, of my own continuing prayers, and those of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, as you implement policies that have such potentially far-reaching impact on the lives of individuals – many who have suffered so much through the recent troubled history of Zimbabwe. In releasing this letter to the public, I invite all South Africans of faith to join me in these prayers, and in praying for a just and lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s political turmoil. May South Africa, through our government, not shirk the opportunities we have to promote peace and prosperity at this time of year – so that God’s promises of peace and goodwill may be truly known by all.

Yours in the service of Christ

+ Thabo Cape Town

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Sermon at Midnight Mass, St George's Cathedral, Cape Town

Isaiah 9: 2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-20

May I speak in the name of the living God, who is born this day in the city of David: our Saviour, who is the Messiah, Christ the Lord. As we celebrate once again the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, let me be the first to wish you all a Very Happy Christmas! May it be a time of peace and joy, of promise and hope, of shared love with family and friends!

And let me, on behalf of everyone here, thank the sub-Dean, Fr Terry Lester, the Canon Precentor, Fr Bruce Jenneker, Bishop Anthony Mdletshe and the rest of the Cathedral leadership team, together with the Director of Music, Mr David Orr, and everyone else who works so hard to sustain the varied life and ministry of the Cathedral, throughout the year, as well as in these wonderful celebrations of Christmas.

Though I risk being a little premature, let me also look forward to the New Year, and in particular to the coming of the new Dean. Regular Cathedral worshippers know this already, but let me announce to the wider Cape Town community that we have appointed the Venerable Michael Weeder to succeed Dean Rowan Smith. Fr Michael is currently the Rector of St Phillip the Deacon and St Bartholomew, Woodstock, and Archdeacon of the Groote Schuur area. A son of Cape Town, he is one of our most senior priests, with over 25 years in ordained ministry. Fr Michael brings together a deep spirituality, rooted in Jesus Christ, with a wide awareness of God’s world and its needs. There’s even a bit of the Barack Obama about him – in his experience of community mobilization, especially on behalf of the wounded and marginalised!

I am sure he will continue the great tradition at St George’s, of being ‘the people’s Dean’ – both serving the Cathedral community, and encouraging the Cathedral in its calling to serve God’s world. I am sure he will be a courageous and spiritual leader, who will take the Cathedral forward into a new chapter in its significant life within our church and city. It is my intention to install him as Dean on 22 May. Between now and then, may I ask you all to pray for him, and his family – his wife Bonita, and children Chiara, Andile and Khanyisa - as they prepare to take this new vocation and ministry.

But let me now return to our celebration of Christmas! What, for you, is the heart of Christmas?

In the famous passage from St Luke’s Gospel, just read to us, we heard how the shepherds came into Bethlehem from their fields, in order to find the baby Jesus; and how they told Mary and Joseph of their miraculous encounter with the Angel of the Lord. They repeated the words the Angel had said to them – words which held the key to understanding these strange and wonderful events. The Angel said ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’

And then we heard that ‘Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.’ In the days, the years, that followed, Mary pondered those words in heart, and wondered about what it all meant. So - what does it all mean to you?

For many of us, a lot of our Christmas preparations has been about hunting for the right presents. When you get home tonight – or perhaps when you wake up in the morning – you will find them waiting for you: under the tree, or at the end of your bed: presents like this: [placing a large, beautifully wrapped, Christmas present on the side of the pulpit].

Lovely, isn’t it! So beautiful to look at! Aren’t I lucky to have such a gorgeous present! And, you know – perhaps it would be a shame to open it – because then I’d have to tear off the ribbons and rip the paper, and spoil its beauty. Well, let me just leave it there for a moment and tell you a story.

There was once a man, a god-fearing man, who went to church regularly, and knew that the Christmas story is all about God the Father sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Saviour. One day, terrible rains came – it just kept raining and raining and raining. The nearby stream began to rise, and rise and rise. The man began to get concerned, and he prayed ‘Lord Jesus, come and save me.’ And the man’s neighbour came by in his big 4-by-4, and said ‘Let me rescue you, before it is too late – come with me.’ Yet the man replied, ‘Thank you – I’ll just stay here – I’ll be OK. Jesus will save me.’ And he prayed some more, ‘Lord Jesus, come and save me.’

But the rain kept on falling and the waters kept on rising. The man was now sitting on the window-ledge, because the flood waters were inside his house, up to his ankles. And a policeman came past in a boat, and said ‘Let me rescue you, before it is too late – come with me.’ Yet the man replied, ‘Thank you – I’ll just stay here – I’ll be OK. Jesus will save me.’ And on he prayed ‘Lord Jesus, come and save me.’

And still the rain kept on falling and still the waters kept on rising. By now the man was standing the roof of his house, because the flood waters were way up the walls. And the emergency services’ helicopter came and hovered above him and one of the crew leant out, with his loud hailer, and shouted ‘Let me rescue you, before it is too late – come with me.’ Yet the man replied, ‘Thank you – I’ll just stay here – I’ll be OK. Jesus will save me.’ And he kept on praying ‘Lord Jesus, come and save me.’

Still it kept on raining, still the waters rose, and finally the man was swept off his house, and he drowned.

Being a god-fearing man, he found himself in heaven, though he remained perplexed that Jesus had not saved him as he expected. One day, he had the chance to speak to Jesus. ‘Lord’, he said, ‘May I ask you a question?’ ‘Go ahead’ said Jesus. ‘Lord’ he said, ‘when the flood came, why didn’t you answer my prayers and come and save me?’ ‘Well,’ said Jesus, ‘I sent a 4-by-4, then a boat, and then a helicopter – what more did you want?!’

What then is the moral of this story? God our Father’s greatest gift to us certainly is his Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. But we cannot merely receive him as the sweet story of a baby in a manger, and leave it at that. To do so is to keep hold of a beautiful present, but never open it, and discover the treasures within. Such a faith will be of little use to us. We need to unpack our faith – and get to know what it means for Jesus to be our Saviour and Redeemer – the one who calls out to us ‘come with me’ to us, every day of our life.

This can be a challenge. First, we have to let go of any beautiful romantic ideas about faith, and take up Jesus’ invitation to ‘follow me’, not knowing where he may lead us. His call is to follow his example – to live according to his standards – to turn our back on all that is destructive in human behaviour, and to strive for all that is good. We have to give up selfish living, doing things our own way, and do things God’s way instead.

This is not always easy – but there is good news for all of us who dare to put our lives into the hands of the living God. For, as we heard in our first reading, he promises to be to us a Wonderful Counsellor – guiding us in our choices about how we ought to live – so that we may be, as our second reading put it, ‘zealous for good deeds’. He will be the Almighty God, who encourages us with his own strength, to live the lives to which he calls us, so we do not have to do it on our own. He will be our Everlasting Father, who loves us and cares for us, far more than we can ever imagine – whose infinite love is for every single one of us here. And he will be our Prince of Peace, so that whatever life brings our way, we can have that deep assurance that he will see us safely through, if we hang on tight to him.

In these, and many other ways, we will find him meeting us, not only in churches and on Sundays, but – as my story, though a joke, illustrated – in the every-dayness of our lives. This is true, whatever we face in the world. Jesus will meet the people of Makhaza, as they seek dignity, health, safety through the toilet saga; he will meet the people of Sudan as they prepare for next month’s referendum; he will meet each of us, in every aspect of our personal, and communal, lives – if we will open our lives to him, and make him welcome, as we sung earlier.

This is a Christmas present worth unpacking – and, I can assure you, that no matter how long you live, you will keep on finding new treasures, as you ponder the meaning of those words of the Angel, in your heart. ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.’ May this be to you the best Christmas gift of all. Amen.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

More on Sudan

There are some useful resources for praying for Sudan, on the Anglican Communion website, at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2010/12/21/ACNS4760.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

New Provincial Canon

I am delighted to announce the installation of the Revd Sarah Rowland Jones as a Provincial Canon of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, on 10 December 2010. Sarah, who was researcher to Archbishop Njongonkulu, and who continues now as my researcher, has served both our Province and Communion with distinction. She is a key member of the Bishopscourt staff, not least as part of the communications team, and in her weekly preaching in our chapel. In this work, and as many of us experienced in her recent homilies at Provincial Synod, she brings her evangelical heritage creatively to bear on the high church traditions within our Province, pointing to Christ in fresh ways that speak to our present times and contexts. May God continue to bless her, and bless many through her ministry, in the years ahead.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Pray for Sudan

This media advisory was issued on 20 December 2010.

Anglican Archbishop calls for prayer for referendum in Sudan

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, has called upon the Anglican Church in Southern Africa to join in praying for a free and fair referendum in Southern Sudan, where voting will run from 9 to 15 January 2011.

Archbishop Makgoba said ‘I invite everyone else who cares for lasting justice and peace on our continent, to join in the special prayer which I have issued. I am commending it for use from Christmas through the entire referendum period, and then on until the results have been counted and announced, and a peaceful transition is set in motion to whatever future lies ahead.’

Dr Makgoba went on to say ‘One of the titles of Jesus which we remember at Christmas is his coming as “Prince of Peace”. So let us pray urgently that true peace may come to all the peoples of Sudan, who have suffered so painfully, over so many years.’

Archbishop Makgoba’s Prayer for Sudan

Lord Jesus, you who said, "I leave you peace. My peace I give you," look with mercy upon our sisters and brothers in Sudan during this Referendum period. Send your Spirit to guide them in choosing a future of godly peace and abundant life for all. May the voting be peaceful, free and fair. May the results be honoured by all. Grant healing from the agonies of the past, and bring a new beginning of lasting hope, harmony and justice to the people of this land. We ask this in your name, Lord Jesus, Amen

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town on 20TH December 2010 Inquiries: Ms Sisanda Majikazana on 021-763-1320 (office hours)

The following background note was issued to the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, giving information on the Referendum in Sudan, and sharing the perspective of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church of Sudan.

From 9 to 15 January 2011, the people of Southern Sudan will vote in a referendum on whether they should remain a part of Sudan. A simultaneous referendum will be held in the region of Abyei to decide whether it should become part of Southern Sudan. There will also be ‘popular consultations’ in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains on their future. The referendum is part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement reached in 2005.

There are many concerns around the preparations for, and conduct of, the referendum; as well as about how the outcome of the vote will be received, in both the predominantly Christian South and Muslim North. There are particular worries for the safety of Christians in the North and Muslims in the South, after results are announced.

The Bishops of the Episcopal Church of Sudan issued a statement at the All Africa Conference of Bishops in August 2010, which gives fuller background. It is available at http://www.sudan.anglican.org/100829statement.php. The Sudanese Bishops particularly ask for the following support in prayer:

1. that all the churches of Africa stand firm with the people of Southern Sudan, Abyei, Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile, and support the choice they make in the upcoming referenda and popular consultations – whether for unity or separation.

2. for the Church in northern Sudan as it continues to face official persecution from the Khartoum government, with brothers and sisters who daily witness to faith in Jesus Christ experiencing suffering as they do so; and for the future of Christianity in northern Sudan.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Archbishop and Religous Leaders endorse Safely Home Campaign

This media advisory was issued on 15 December 2010.

Anglican Archbishop and Transport Minister Launch ‘Safely Home’ Road Safety Partnership

Today (15 December 2010), the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Chair of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum (WCRLF), and Western Cape Transport Minister Robin Carlisle launched a road safety partnership between the Safely Home campaign and the WCRLF.

Minister Carlisle and Archbishop Makgoba were joined by other members of the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum. The WCRLF issued a statement in support of the Safely Home Campaign. The text of the statement is carried below.

Commenting on the statement, the Archbishop stressed the values of the sanctity of life, and described the commandment to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ as a basis for behaving considerately towards pedestrians, motorists and other road users. He underlined that this meant no drinking and driving, nor talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel, nor going without a seat-belt, and warned younger drivers against risky dicing. He wished a merry Christmas to those celebrating the birth of the Christ-child, and a peaceful and safe festive season to everyone.

Statement in support of the Safely Home Campaign

The Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF), representing all faith communities in the Province, welcomes the opportunity to support and fully endorse the Safely Home Campaign, initiated by MEC Robin Carlisle and the Department of Transport and Public Works. We pray that their efforts to reduce the tragic loss of life on our roads over this festive season will be successful.

However we realize that this is the collective responsibility of all South Africans. Each of us must ensure that our behaviour on our roads reflects not only the law of the land but our belief in the sanctity of all life. It is the responsibility of every individual to protect and respect the life and dignity of another. Our faith traditions emphasize that all life is sacred and that we are each created in a divine image. Therefore the safety of all South Africans whether drivers, passengers, pedestrians old or young, is of paramount concern.

This ‘season of giving’ should not be tainted by careless, inconsiderate and negligent behaviour which can only result in chaos on our roads and a needless loss of life. This holiday season challenges each of us to be aware of the dangers of alcohol consumption, drug abuse and road rage, all of which endanger our own lives, the lives of our loved ones and the lives of innocent South African citizens.

On behalf of all faith communities we endorse the efforts of the traffic authorities to react as vigorously as possible and call upon all people to co-operate when encountering road blocks, to adhere to traffic regulations and drive with courtesy and consideration at all times. The wearing of seat belts and the checking of vehicles for road worthiness must be the norm.

As people of faith we want to say that life itself is the gift of Christmas. It’s a divine gift that must be received, nurtured and protected. On the roads we hold the gift dangerously in our hands. Almighty Allah says in the Holy Quran: ‘Do not bring destruction upon yourselves through your own hands and do good all of you.’ (Al Baqarah: Q2:195)

Life on our roads is in peril. But we do have a choice. In sacred text God says: ‘I lay before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.’ (Deuteronomy 30:19)

May we choose well this festive season.

Finally, the Religious Leaders are not trying to pour cold water on the festival spirit. Far from it - we want South Africa to celebrate, we want South Africa to enjoy a time of rest and relaxation, we want our Christian community to enter the full meaning of the birth of Christ, and above all we want reconciliation and reconnection to be experienced in all our families at this time. But we appeal for care, compassion, consideration for others as we strive together for safety on our roads.

May the one God bless South Africa, guard us, guide us, keep us and protect us and bring us all ‘safely home’. Amen

15th December 2010, Cape Town

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Reflections on Murder of Anni Dewani

This statement was released on 10 December 2010.

As the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children draws to a close, many of us find ourselves shocked and stunned by media reports around the death of Anni Dewani, and the accusations that her husband Shrien arranged her murder during their honeymoon.

What is clear is that a young woman met a brutal death at what should have been the happiest time of her life. For her, and for those who loved her, it is the most terrible tragedy, and we hold them all in our hearts and our prayers. We commend the work of the police and the legal system, and encourage them to continue striving to ensure that the full truth is brought to light, and justice done.

Yet this highly publicised crime is just the tip of the iceberg of the huge number of acts of gender violence within our society, that too often go unreported, unremarked. While grieving at the senseless loss of life of this precious child of God, we should not neglect the many other women and girls who suffer abuse, even death, and all too often at the hands of men who claim to love them.

Though we do not know the full facts, the speculation around the role of Anni Dewani’s husband can only appal us. The bond between a man and a woman, most fully expressed in the sacrament of marriage, should always be one of the deepest trust, mutual respect, and unconditional partnership, through all the trials of life. Christians believe that, of all human relationships, it is marriage that at its best most fully reflects the limitless love and covenant commitment that God has for his people and his world. This is the ideal which we must always uphold and strive to achieve.

Therefore, I call on our nation’s men to stand in solidarity in opposing gender violence, indeed, violence of every sort. Violence is never justified, and all human life is sacred. I am appalled that, in ways that remain unclear, South African men should have been caught up in the killing of Anni Dewani. I condemn their action, just as I invite all other right-thinking people to join me in condemning every other act that brings physical or emotional harm to others, and especially to the weaker and more vulnerable members of society.

While I am proud to be wholly associated with the 16 Days of Activism, I am also deeply saddened that, every year, we must again make this call. Enough is enough. Gender violence must end, for once and for all.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

To the Laos - To the People of God, December 2010

Dear People of God,

A very happy and blessed Christmas to you all! May you enjoy this festive season with those you love, and to share in celebrating together God’s most marvellous of all to his people – his gift of himself, to share in the realities of our lives, and to open for us the gateway to eternal life! May the Christmas promises of peace and goodwill to everyone fill your homes and your hearts!

One of my favourite Christmas carols is ‘O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie …’ Having had the privilege of returning to the Holy Land this year, with its many turmoils, I have been pondering again what the promise of God’s peace can mean for us, in the tumults of our lives. We sing about Bethlehem lying still – and yet, for most of us, the reality is that however quiet things may seem on the surface, there is always something going on at a deeper level within us. Often the things which most disturb us may not be directly visible on the outside – concerns about safety or health or relationships or work or money, for example, whether for ourselves or those who are dearest to us. These sorts of worries are common to human beings always and everywhere, and I think of them when I sing ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’

Yes, Jesus, the Christ child, Emmanuel – God with us, is the one who comes to us and meets us in our deepest inmost beings. We have a ‘God with skin on’ who understands what our hopes and fears are all about, and comes to bring us reassurance. He is the one who will see us safely through the journey of life, from birth through death to the eternal home that awaits us, if we will only trust ourselves to him.

And so each Christmas we remember his advent, his coming, as a tiny baby. In weakness and vulnerability he trusts himself to the care of Mary and Joseph, into the care of human beings. God’s gift comes to us also as God’s invitation – that we should in turn trust ourselves to him, in the same unconditional way, relying utterly on him to shape and form and direct our lives. It is for us to welcome him into our lives, as the child in the manger, and as our Saviour and Lord, as we sing ‘how silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given’, and have confidence that Jesus will come to us. We do not need a big fanfare to announce his arrival, we just need to be open and dare to believe, for ‘so God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven’.

We know these lovely carols so well that sometimes we forget the deep truths their words convey. So this year, I invite you to pause and consider the words that you sing, and to join me in praying them for yourselves: ‘O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born to us today. We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell, O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.’

As we come to the end of the year, let me express my deep appreciation, on behalf of us all, to everyone who has worked so hard in the service of the Province in the last year. It has been a particularly busy and demanding year, especially with our Provincial Synod, and I could not have come through it all without the assistance and support of a great number of people. As always, my first thanks go to Lungi and my children, who provide me with loving sustenance in more ways than I can count, and keep me human, with my feet firmly planted in the ‘real world’, should I be in danger of losing my perspective on life!

Bishop Paddy, as Dean of the Province, deserves particular thanks for all his support to me, and I also thank the Synod of Bishops for the mutually sustaining fellowship we share. Let me also pay tribute to the staff at Bishopscourt who do an unimaginable amount of hard work behind the scenes. I particularly give thanks for Revd Canon Robert Butterworth, who has long given unstintingly to the Province as Acting PEO, and who, just before Synod, had to stand down earlier than expected because of serious illness. Please hold him in your prayers as he continues his convalescence. We wish him and Alice a long and happy retirement. Thanks too, to Revd Allan Kannemeyer who has so ably picked up the reigns as PEO, as well as to Rob Rogerson and the finance team, and the others across the Province who support my work and ensure the smooth running of our Church.

Among these ‘invisible faces’ are the Communications Committee, chaired by Bishop Brian. Let me endorse their invitation to all Anglicans to take out a subscription to our Southern Anglican magazine. Four times a year you can read the latest news, as well as in depth articles about Anglican life in Southern Africa and around the Anglican Communion. It is a valuable resource for helping us keep in touch with one another better, across our vast Province, and for promoting our common life, our Vision, and how we express it in our mission and ministry. So please consider buying it, perhaps as a Christmas gift for yourselves, for friends, or for your Parish or other church-related institution!

I know that I am not alone in breathing a sigh of relief as I reach the end of this very busy and often hectic year. For you I especially pray for a time of rest and refreshment over the holiday period. As usual, my holidays will include a month off letter writing, so my next letter will be in February. So may I ask you to hold in your prayers both the elective assembly of the Diocese of George, and the Anglican Communion meeting of Primates in Ireland, both of which will be held in January.

Let me end by wishing you God’s rich blessing over the holidays and throughout the year ahead. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Offers to Assist in Mediation in Makhaza

This statement was issued on 8 December 2010

The Most Revd Dr. Thabo Makgoba, who has been actively involved in attempts to find a lasting resolution to the conflict in Makhaza over unenclosed toilets, has again offered to assist in mediation.

Archbishop Makgoba has visited the site on two separate occasions with the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and has met with residents, community leaders, members of the ANC Youth League and Mayor Dan Plato. He has on numerous occasions publicly offered to serve as a mediator in the continuing dispute regarding the re-installation of toilets in Makhaza. To date, neither the City nor the ANCYL have accepted the offer.

During these visits, the Archbishop observed elderly and disabled residents forced to use toilets with enclosures hastily constructed from a few planks of wood. He saw the sites where the ANCYL had initially demolished the temporary structures, and where the City later demolished the remaining toilets and standpipes.

“The important issue is the provision of humane living conditions for the people of Makhaza who are directly affected. It should not be a political battle – it’s about the health and safety of our fellow citizens,” commented Archbishop Makgoba. “Anything I can do to resolve this conflict I will do gladly.”

It is evident that the people directly affected have been caught in the middle of a conflict between the City of Cape Town on one hand and the ANC YL on the other. The SJC has approached the Archbishop again, as it believes the impasse needs the involvement of a well-respected and independent leader and has welcomed Archbishop Makgoba’s acceptance of their invitation.

Despite a recent interim court order calling for the re-installation of temporary structures, the enclosures were this week rejected by some members of the community. This followed yet another apparent failure by the City to adequately consult the community and have its concerns heard, in addition to the ANCYL’s refusal to accept corrugated iron enclosures as a temporary measure. It is hard to see how the order will be implemented, without attempts to improve consultation and place the urgent needs of the community first.

The Archbishop calls on the relevant stakeholders to attend a meeting in the near future in which ways to resolve the situation – both in the form of temporary and long-term relief - can be discussed. Such a meeting would need to include representatives from the City, community leaders, the ANCYL, and the broader community.

It is hoped that consensus can be reached before the festive season, to allow for residents to enjoy this holy period with their family and community.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town on 8th December 2010 Inquiries: Ms Sisanda Majikazana on 021-763-1320 (office hours)

Address to MOT Courage2B Conference

The following address was given on 2 December 2010

Dear friends, thank you for your invitation to speak to you this afternoon. My theme is ‘Courage, Encouragement and Hope’. I want to talk about what this means for ourselves; as well as for the young people whom we hope to influence to live as positive, contributing, members of society. Yet if we want to be an effective influence on others, then we have to be prepared to walk the walk, as well as talking the talk – or perhaps I should say, to dance the dance! We have to do the same homework ourselves, looking at society around us, and our own contribution to it.

Now I shall of course be talking from a Christian perspective – but I hope to be able to speak in a way that makes sense to those of other faiths or of none. It seems to me that the fundamental question that we have to ask is what sort of life do we seek for ourselves, for our societies, for our young people and for generations to come. And to answer that question, we have to think about what it is to be human, and to live as humans ought to live.

Our starting point for considering human life within the wider world, is one generally shared by other theistic religions. We understand God as creator and sustainer of all that is. The Psalmist (Ps 95:4) wrote ‘In his hands are the depths of the earth – and the peaks of the mountains are his also’. You may have noted that this verse was written on the t-shirts which many of the Chilean miners were wearing as they were finally brought to the surface after 69 days underground.

My point is that there is nothing at all outside God’s ambit - God creates everything that there is. And therefore, if all of existence owes its being to God, then everything is of concern to him. This is the starting point for faith communities – and particularly churches – to take an interest in every aspect of our world, and to believe that we potentially have something positive to contribute.

This is particularly true when it comes to human activity. The Book of Genesis says, in its first chapter, that ‘God created humankind, in his image’ (Gen 1:27). There is thus something very special about being a human being – reflecting a spark of the divine life, carried within us. Human life is truly sacred. We all are intended to flourish.

By flourishing, I do not mean that we are all entitled to an opulent lifestyle. Not at all! Indeed, we know in theory – even if we have not acknowledged it yet in our behaviour – that our planet cannot sustain 6 billion people pursuing the capitalist, consumerist lifestyle which the advertising world implies is our right! Human flourishing is something far more fundamental, and must be a possibility for everyone.

This is why we also use the term ‘the common good’ – the rightful pursuit and enjoyment of what is good for us, that we all should share in common. This concept of common good, of flourishing, is rooted in what it essentially means to be human, and what, in such terms, are our basic human rights. These begin with a necessary standard of material well-being – adequate food and clean water, housing, clothing, health-care and so forth; with particular provision for the very young, the very old, the sick and disabled, and other vulnerable individuals unable to look after themselves. These human rights also include access to decent education, which opens up opportunities for employment, and brings each of us the dignity of having some choice in our own destinies.

The common good also entails a stable, safe, just, society which accords everyone respect materially, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. In this description of human existence as encompassing heart and soul and mind and physical embodiment, I hope I have reminded you of words of Jesus, who said that humanity is created ‘to love God, with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength’.

The teachings of Jesus give further instruction on how we should live: doing to others as we would have them do to us. This principle, often known as the Golden Rule, is of course shared among those of many faiths, and none. It is a principle that underlies all our understandings of what it is to live with fairness and justice – two of the virtues of ethical living, which we want to have the courage to uphold in practice in our lives, and to encourage our young people to embrace, in both their words and their actions.

This attitude of reciprocal justice and fairness underlies the second great commandment of Jesus’ teaching: that we should love our neighbours as ourselves. We should direct our lives – and encourage young people to direct their lives – towards ensuring that others are in receipt of what we would like for ourselves, especially where those others face any sort of need or vulnerability.

Within this ethical context of mutuality and reciprocity, Jesus came, he said, to bring ‘life in abundance’. This ‘abundant life’ cannot possibly be understood as the affluence only of some, at the expense of others. Abundant life consists of the fair and equitable availability of the material, spiritual, emotional and intellectual provisions which I have outlined. This is the potential we seek for our young people – and the potential we hope that they will work to bring for everyone within their own communities.

Surely this is what it means to be a good citizen, making a positive contribution to the well-being of the people of our nations, of our planet. Within South Africa, our Constitution reaches the same conclusions. It says that every citizen, every resident, of this country, should enjoy their full opportunities and rights, no matter what their gender or race or beliefs – and should live free of discrimination on a very wide range of grounds. It does so because we are committed to the common good, the human flourishing, of everyone – each in accordance with their own particular circumstances and free choices. Intrinsic human worth, lived out and enjoyed by individuals and in community, is the right of every citizen, every resident within our borders.

On this basis, we can always begin conversations around the essential question of what it is to be human and to live decently; and how we achieve it more fully for the people and societies of our countries. Furthermore, in such conversations, we must increasingly situate ourselves within this globalising world of ours. This means we have no option but to recognise that our obligation to be ‘good neighbours’, in promoting reciprocal flourishing, applies not only to those near by, but to everyone else: across both space and time. Therefore we must pay attention to, and take account of, both those who share our global village today, and those who will inherit our legacy in generations to come. Inevitably, one area in which this challenges us is responsible care of our environment.

Therefore, to sum up what I have discussed so far: when we ask ourselves, and when we ask young people, to consider the question of how we want to live as individuals in our communities, and what sort of society we want to be a part of, we must look to very basic questions of what it is to be human.

We must consider what it is for everyone to experience fairness and justice, in the pursuit of fundamental human rights, shared together for the common good; that is, to strive for the well-being of every human person, and for the good stewardship of creation. These are concepts rooted in – though not exclusive to – the faith communities. In consequence, since human well-being encompasses every aspect of human existence, there is no reason to consider that faith communities should confine themselves to promoting the common good in some artificially defined ‘private realm’ while the public sector is left to its own devices.

Let me now turn to what it might mean in practice for us to work with young people to create a world in which each of them can flourish, can reach towards their full potential ‘in heart and mind and soul and strength’ and ‘loving neighbours as themselves’. In other words – how can we promote growth and maturity in the emotional; spiritual; mental / intellectual; physical / material dimensions of our lives; and how can we best be ‘individuals-in-community’, where neither the narrowly selfish needs of individuality nor stifling group interests wholly dominate? How too can we ensure that people are first and foremost treated as fully rounded, and not, for example, as if all that matters is the competitive status that comes with wealth, or power, or fame?

Well, perhaps the next thing I must say is that one important source of courage, encouragement and hope, in tackling these questions, comes from the realisation that each one of us can make a difference. This is something that far too often we do not realise. But believing that what we do does not matter very much, can undermine our readiness to aim for the best for ourselves, and for our society and wider world. For it is true that not all of us can become successful in the way that is often portrayed to us by the media and the world around. Not all of us can become rich; not all of us can become famous; not all of us will get to the very top of the professional tree and have leadership, authority, and status.

But – here is the most important thing of all – all of us most certainly will be significant. Every single one of us here is already leading a significant life. We are significant in many ways, every day – through our attitudes, our words, our actions. We have an impact all around us, through what we choose to think and say and do; and through what we choose not to think and say and do.

Our choices affect those who are closest to us – families, friends, neighbours, and often through wider circles of influence through colleagues, and those we come across as we go about our daily lives. Whenever we interact with another person, either directly or indirectly, it is as if a stone is dropped into a pond of water. There are always ripples; and the ripples travel to the very edges of the pond.

So when we are faced, and when we face others, with questions about what sort of life we seek, we should be encouraged that we really can make a difference. We really can be either part of the solution, or, alas, part of the problem. We need to realise that by choosing to do nothing, we actually are making a choice – a choice not to help solve the challenges of society, but rather the choice to allow injustice and unfairness to continue.

For those of you living in countries like South Africa, there is additional reason to take courage, to be encouraged, to live hopefully. In young countries like ours, like most of Africa and much of the developing world, there are so many changes happening. And young people have very significant influence in ensuring these changes are for the good. Within South Africa, over 30% of the population is aged 15 or under. Across sub-Saharan Africa, that figure is 40%. In some places, like Angola, it is closer to 50%. Young people are our future – not a hypothetical tomorrow that is years, even decades away – but the future that is already on our doorstep, knocking to come in. Young people have far more potential to shape their own lives than perhaps they realise! It is as the poet Wordsworth put it: Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!”

So how shall we help our young people aspire to be the best they can? At the heart of this is helping them to see that it is in their own interest to promote the well-being of the whole community. The principle of treating others as one would like to be treated and loving one’s neighbour as oneself requires us to pay attention to the needs of others, to their concerns and their aspirations. This is what true ‘respect’ is all about, whatever some rappers might say! Respect entails genuine listening in the way we interact with others. I love to remind people that God made us with two ears and one mouth – and so we should draw the conclusion that he intends us to do twice as much listening as talking.

We must also encourage one another to talk truthfully. In the Bible we are told that ‘the truth will set us free’. Or, to use a well-known proverb, ‘honesty is the best policy’. For honesty is the way to build trust – and trust is like the oil in the machinery of the life of society. Trust is what enables us to live and work in harmony together. Trust communicates to you that I truly do have your best interest at heart; and trust enables me to understand that you have the same attitude towards me. Trust enables us to live not in narrow competition with each other – but in what the Archbishop of York has called ‘gracious magnanimity’. It helps set us free to live, and speak and act, knowing that at a very fundamental level, we are all ‘on the same side’ – we are all on the side of wanting to promote human flourishing.

This leads me to another principle from Scripture – from the same book of Genesis, with which the Bible begins – and that is the concept of Covenant. Covenant is about committing ourselves to work together for the greater good of all – and through sharing goods such as love, friendship, trust, which are multiplied, not divided, when we give them to others. This is very different from money and power and influence – if I share my money with two of you, I am left with only a third. But if I share friendship with you, between us we have three times as much as when we started!

Living together guided by the principles of covenant is quite, quite, different from living according to the principles of contract. While contracts concern our interests, covenants concern our identities; and while contracts deal in transactions, covenants deal in relationships. In other words, contracts are interested in what we can get out of one another – covenants are interested far more fundamentally in who each of us is, and how we can thrive and grow together, for mutual benefit. Contracts are about competition – if I win, you lose; while covenants are about cooperation – if I win, you also win.

Covenant is the basis for encouraging our young people to create a society in which everyone can win, everyone can flourish. When we have the courage to live by covenant, we will find ourselves encouraged to grow into all the new opportunities that are opened up before us. To live by covenant is to live with hope.

My prayer for you today, is that you may have the courage to live lives of encouragement, and lives of hope – so that you may be blessed, and be a blessing to the young people you seek to influence for the best. And in the same way, my prayer is that God may bless them, and make them also a blessing to others, in all our communities, in the generation that lies ahead. Thank You.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

To the Laos - to the People of God, November 2010

Dear People of God

The month since Provincial Synod has been remarkably busy. Through various conferences and opportunities to speak publicly it has been good to remind myself to remain ‘Anchored in Christ’, as our Vision says. Returning to Jesus our Saviour, his incarnation, and what it is to be human, has both resourced me and guided me, as I have reflected on the spiritual and ethical leadership for which our world cries out. In Jesus we see the fulfilment of what is promised in the book of Genesis – that to be human is to be created bearing the image of God, and intended by him to ‘be fruitful’, living in love with him and with one another.

This picture of God-ordained flourishing, of individuals and of communities, has become my key message, for example in co-hosting a conference with the South African Minister of Health on the role faith communities can play to promote primary health care across Southern Africa. It is not our job to do governments’ work for them, but we can support them. Within ACSA we have empowered great numbers to spread accurate information around HIV and AIDS; and we must now look at using the same approach in promoting everything from basic hygiene to good nutrition. Healing and wholeness were at the heart of Jesus’ ministry, and they should never be far from the heart of ours.

Human flourishing applies equally to the political sphere, where I have argued that Scripture’s vision of fruitful humanity provides grounds for faith communities to support human rights, constitutional provisions, and initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, wherever they promote the godly well-being of individuals and communities. I also argued that true leadership – in politics, or any other walk of life – lies in shouldering the responsibility to promote this ‘common good’. Indeed, all of us should ask ourselves whether the choices we live by enhance or diminish human flourishing at our own level, and act accordingly.

In the Irene Grootboom Lecture, and speaking at the Right to Know Campaign March, I highlighted the importance of truthfulness in upholding media freedom, in politics and in wider society. You may remember that Irene Grootboom won a court ruling that under South Africa’s constitution, she ought to be provided with adequate housing – though she died before she ever received a home. The great gulf between our just rights, and governments’ abilities to provide them, can only be effectively tackled if politicians are honest about the difficulties they face. To pretend otherwise, or make unrealisable promises, is only to raise impossible expectations that inevitably worsen relations with communities. Only the truth can set us free to work together to overcome these challenges.

In the Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture, I also commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Kairos Document, which was so fundamental in realigning the churches’ engagement with politics under apartheid. Its writers identified three different sorts of ‘theologies’ of those terrible times, and challenged Christians to challenge ‘state theology’ (using the Bible to justify and promote the government and its policies, no matter how right or wrong, on the basis of Scripture passages such as Rom 13) and ‘church theology’ (which dealt superficially in paradigms of faith such as peace and reconciliation, without looking at underlying questions like justice and mercy); and instead to pursue ‘prophetic theology’, bringing to bear the aspects of the Bible which have a direct bearing upon the situations people face.

The challenges of these three ‘theologies’ remain with us, in our changed times. Let me explain. Just because a government is legitimately elected, does not mean that its citizens are required to support all it does, unquestioningly. Democracy says politicians should still be held to account, and not only by voters every few years. This is one reason why media freedom is so important. Similarly, churches, in supporting democracy, must beware of being ‘critical friends’ of governments in ways that are too friendly and not critical enough, when human rights are not adequately pursued and upheld. It can be a difficult tightrope to walk – but we have no option but to walk it. For we must always be open to ‘prophetic theology’. As some have said, this means reading and thinking and praying with ‘the Bible in one hand, the newspaper in the other’, and letting Scripture critique every aspect of the life of our countries and our societies.

Meanwhile, over 4000 Christians from around the world gathered in Cape Town during October for the third Lausanne Congress – and in the preceding 3 days, some 500 Anglicans held a very successful conference, co-sponsored by our own Growing the Church initiative, that looked particularly at how Anglicans do mission. The Lausanne Congress issued a wonderful ‘Declaration of Belief and Call to Action’ that roots mission and ministry in our response to God’s prior love for us, and I commend it to you (it can be found online). I was privileged to be at both the opening and closing ceremonies – though in between travelled both to Lesotho for the Anglican Womens’ Fellowship Provincial Council meeting, and to the brand new diocese of Mbhashe. There, they elected as their very first Bishop, Revd Sebenzile Williams, currently Rector of St Martin’s, Gonubie, and formerly Dean of Umtata Cathedral. Please keep him, his wife Xoli and their family, in your prayers, as he prepares for his consecration on 16 December. Please also join in praying for Pumla Titus-Madiba as she takes over the presidency of the AWF, and in giving thanks to God for all that Ray Overmeyer has done during her time in office. Finally, it has been a joy to welcome the Bishop of Hull and the accompanying delegation from our link Diocese of York, in the Church of England.

Let me end by saying how much I have appreciated our recent Morning Prayer readings from Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach), through all this busyness. They have brought together wonderfully the mysteries of God, the need for true worship rooted in holy living, a call to the highest ethical behaviour, wise insights into human frailties, and sheer practical common sense. When I think of Jesus, the eternal word of God incarnate in human form, I realise again how, in much the same way, every aspect of human existence finds its proper place in him. Therefore let us redouble our commitment to ‘follow him’ and seek to grow in Christlikeness, for our own sake, and for the sake of the world.

Yours in the Service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Sermon for Dedication Sunday and the Celebration of the Feast of All Saints

The following sermon was preached at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, on 31 October 2010, Dedication Sunday, on which the Feast of All Saints was also celebrated

Lections: Jeremiah: 31: 31-34; Revelation 7: 2-4, 9-12; Matthew 5: 1-12

May I speak in the name of God, who covenants with his people. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, dear people of God of St George’s Cathedral – it is good to be with you once again, this Dedication Sunday. As well as concluding our month of reflections on Stewardship of all the gifts God gives us, we also celebrate the feast of All Saints – rejoicing that God calls each one of us to be his child, to live in covenant love with him.

Covenant is the most wonderful picture of God’s commitment to his creation, and to humanity, made in God’s image. The Bible has a great number of covenants. Some are promises between individuals, like Jacob and his father-in-law Laban (Gen 31:44) or David and Jonathan (1 Sam 23:18). Some covenants are mutually binding treaties between kings and nations, as between Abraham and King Abimelech (Gen 21:27).

Marriage, too, is of course a covenant. You have perhaps heard the joke about the rector who took the vows of marriage so seriously that he had 16 wives – for/four better, for worse, for richer, for poorer … Of course, these promises indicate our commitment that, no matter what happens to us, no matter what life brings our way, we will do our best to stay together and strive to stick it out ‘till death us do part’.

But human covenanting is just a reflection of the promises that God makes to us. God makes an everlasting covenant with individuals, such as Abram – promising that he will have numerous descendants (Gen 17) – and in response, Abram becomes Abraham and is circumcised – the sign that he too is party to God’s covenant. God also makes covenants with peoples, as he does through Moses at Sinai, with the Hebrew nation – a covenant to which he returns, again and again, even though ancient Israel failed to uphold their side of the covenant.

And because of such failings, God promises a New Covenant – the covenant of which we heard in our first lesson, from the prophet Jeremiah; the new covenant that is fulfilled by Jesus, who speaks at the Last Supper of it being made in his own body and blood, as he institutes the Eucharist. I will come onto this New Covenant in a moment.

But first I want to go back to the earliest, and broadest, of God’s covenant – the covenant he makes with Noah, and with all of creation, after the great flood. Most of you know the story of Noah: God regrets he ever created wicked and degenerate humankind – with the exception of faithful Noah. God tells Noah to make an ark, a great boat, in which Noah and his family and two of every kind of animal take refuge. A flood then destroys all other living things. After the flood subsides, God warns Noah and his sons not to shed human life – for humanity bears the image of God – and God adds, ‘I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendents, and with every living creature … never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth … and this is the sign of my covenant: the rainbow.’

This is a covenant for all of humanity, and for all of creation. From this wonderful story, we can learn three foundational, and everlasting, principles. If you read my sermons and speeches, you will find that these three principles keep on recurring.

First, it is a covenant about the sanctity of human life. Second, it is about the integrity of the created world, for God promises he will never again destroy his creation. And third, it is about the dignity of difference, symbolised by the rainbow. These three principles are the bedrock of the life for which God created us – to live in harmony with one another, and with creation.

People sometimes ask why the church so often supports human rights and promotes good environmental policies. Well, the answer lies there – right near the beginning of the Book of Genesis in the story of Noah and the flood – among the very first dealings of God with humanity. So when you see me on the television, or hear me on the radio, calling for proper housing for everyone, or decent toilets and sanitation; or when (as in this month’s Good Hope) you see pictures of me in my Wellington boots, cleaning up polluted vleis, you can know it is because I read my Bible! The church is not just being sucked in by modern liberal political movements – as some people claim. No, we know that God created humanity in his image, so we might ‘bear fruit’ as it says in Genesis 1 – we should all flourish. We should do so treating every life as sacred; honouring every human person no matter how different, and indeed, seeing our diversity as a gift that enriches us; and we should care for our planet, the beautiful home that God has so generously given to us.

This generosity of God, dear friends, this overwhelming generosity, points us to a very important aspect of covenant. For a covenant is not a contract. In contracts, parties give legal undertakings to effect transactions for reciprocal benefit. In covenants, people bind themselves together, in pledges of faithfulness and loyalty, to promote mutual well-being. The Chief Rabbi of Great Britain spoke about Covenants at the Lambeth Conference, two years ago, and his powerful words still remain with me.

He summed up the differences between covenant and contract in four succinct ways: contracts concern our interests, while covenants concern our identities; contracts deal in transactions, while covenants deal in relationships; contracts benefit, while covenants transform; contracts are about competition – if I win, you lose; while covenants are about cooperation – if I win, you also win. In other words, contracts are dead words on pieces of paper – either party can do the minimum necessary, and absolutely nothing more is required, or expected. But when you come to covenants, you find these are living things – designed for relationships that grow and flourish.

And it is a living, growing, flourishing relationship with us, that God wants – a relationship that is fuelled by inexhaustible love, and by limitless generosity. This is what we find fulfilled in God’s New Covenant. As the prophet Jeremiah says, it is a covenant of the heart. Listen to his beautiful words: The Lord says ‘I shall be your God and you shall be my people.’

This is the definition of what it is to be a saint. I know that sometimes we think of the saints as those who are particularly holy, or who have overcome some particular trial in their faith. But if you read St Paul’s letters carefully, you will find, in the original Greek text, that he writes to the saints in Rome, he writes to the saints in Corinth, he writes to the saints in Philippi, and so forth. So, in other words, St Paul says that all you need to be a saint is to belong to God, to belong to his Church!

This is what we celebrate today. He is our God, and we are his people, and therefore we can rightly speak of ‘all the saints of St George’s Cathedral’! We are the ones who have responded to God’s offer of overflowing love – love shown to us in Jesus Christ. The greatest verses at the heart of the gospel remind us of the centrality of love. ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that all who believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life’ (Jn 3:16). Yes, we, the Saints of St George’s Cathedral, dare to believe in his Son – our Lord and Saviour. As Jesus also said ‘No one has greater love than this – to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn 15:13). And Jesus indeed laid down his life, saying ‘this is my blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins’. We shall hear those words again in a short while – as we celebrate the Eucharist, the foretaste of the heavenly banquet where all the saints, all of us, shall be honoured guests!

So, therefore, my question to you this morning is this: what, then, is our response to the limitless generosity of God’s love for us – love that was greater than life itself? Well, you can guess – this is where our stewardship comes in. Our response comes in the shape of our time, our talents, our money – freely given back to God, just as he has freely given to us. And for us too, the heart of the matter should not be about contract, it should be about covenant. For if we have a mindset of contract, we will find that Church giving is a very deadening thing – following the old law of a tithe, and not a cent more. But if we give from a covenant mindset, we will be set free to give with the same love and generosity that knows no bounds. Yes, of course I encourage you to give 10%! But my prayers is that when you give, you will give sacrificially; and that this will prompt you to give with covenant generosity wherever a particular need arises, to which God’s love propels you to respond.

Only in the freedom of the covenant can we find the way to live a life of blessing – to be blessed, and to be a blessing to others, we heard in our Gospel reading. So let us live in response to God’s love for us – let us be his saints – let us be his covenant people, sharing life with others as freely as he shared his with us. May it be so. Amen

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Honesty is the Best Policy and the Truth will Set us Free - Grootboom Lecture

The 4th Lecture in the 2010 Annual Irene Grootboom Lecture Series - with the theme ‘Masithete, Let’s Talk!’- was delivered at the Salt River Community Centre on 25 October 2010. A press release summary, and then the full text, follow below.

‘The truth will set us free’ said the Most Revd Dr Thabo Magkoba on Monday evening, in calling for open communications and genuine consultations between government and local communities, especially when dealing with problems of service delivery.

Delivering the 4th address in the Annual Irene Grootboom Lecture Series, organised by the Social Justice Coalition, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town said honest and transparent communication was the key to building trust, and without it ‘the smallest molehill can become an erupting volcano’.

‘True leadership lies in shouldering the responsibility to delivery the promises of our Constitution, especially in guaranteeing its provisions for those who are least able to access them’ said Dr Makgoba, who went on to argue that not only leaders, but all citizens must consciously make choices that promote fulfilment of the Constitution’s provisions. ‘Under democracy we are all on the same side’ he argued, and warned against depicting differences in simplistic ‘them and us, goodies and baddies’ terms, as had tended to be the case in the past. Situations today were generally far more complex, with many factors and different interests at play.

Faith communities, NGOs and the media had a responsibility to help educate all players to such complexity – including, where necessary, ‘unmasking’ those who were wanting to exploit communities out of narrow self-interest, or for criminal gain. ‘Where malign influences are at work behind the scenes, please keep uncovering and reporting them!’ the Archbishop urged the media, underlining his opposition to the Protection of Information Bill. He insisted that press legislation must have a presupposition towards transparency, and contain a public interest clause.

The Archbishop acknowledged the gap between the Constitution’s provisions and the public sector’s ability to deliver them swiftly, but said this was no excuse for national, provincial and local government to act with less urgency. Referring to the housing backlog and the recent violence in Hangberg and Khayelitsha, he described the City and Province as being ‘between a rock and a hard place’ in having inadequate resources to overcome all the problems easily and quickly. But he nonetheless urged them to act with compassion and engage in genuine dialogue, and called for the release in some form of the City’s report on toilets in Makhaza. He reiterated his earlier offer to act as a mediator on this issue.

Dr Makgoba also spoke about recent demolitions of places of worship, and called on both city and communities to uphold the letter and spirit of the moratorium on both demolitions and new building. But he criticised the city for its heavy handling of this, and for the levels of violence seen in Hangberg. Better communication would not solve problems by itself, but it was the best possible way to ‘negotiate our way between ideal and actuality, between aspiration and implementation’.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town on 15th October 2010. Inquiries: Sisanda Majikazana on 021-763-1320 (office hours); or Gavin Silber of the Social Justice Coalition on 021 361 8160 or 083 777 9981

The full text of the Archbishop’s Grootboom Lecture follows below.

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, it is a great privilege to deliver the Social Justice Coalition’s 4th Grootboom Lecture. This year’s theme, ‘Masithete – Let’s Talk’, with its focus on improving consultation and communication between communities and government, is a topic close to my heart. That said, as an Archbishop, I find myself rephrasing the concept, by drawing on the words of Jesus, ‘The Truth will Set us Free’. This is the title I have chosen for my address.

The life of an Archbishop is very varied – far more varied than I had realised, before I found myself in Bishopscourt. In just the space of a few days, I can find myself moving from the corridors of power and the presence of Kings and Presidents; to being knee-deep in the stinking mud of a polluted vlei and hauling out broken bottles and bits of shopping trolley; or inspecting inadequate toilet and sewerage facilities and hearing the heartbreaking stories of human degradation that these bring.

And it seems to me, that, if one aspires to any sort of leadership – in the church, in politics, in civil society, in business, in our communities, in any walk of life – one has to be prepared for both the glamour and the grime: and, I might add, to give the grime rather more attention and effort than the glamour.

The Essence of Leadership

True leadership, and authentic good governance, lie here: in shouldering the responsibility to deliver the promises of our Constitution – and especially in guaranteeing its provisions for those who are least able to access them freely through their own efforts or resources, those like Irene Grootboom. While the primary responsibility for all this rests with elected government, supported by the public service, my contention is that no part of society can stand apart from the picture of life which our Constitution paints. We must stand together – and we require good communication to do this effectively. Private sector, academia, media, faith communities, civil society in all its forms – all of us are citizens of a nation with one of the best Constitutions in the world; and therefore to be a responsible citizen is to orient one’s life in alignment with the provisions of the Constitution.

This should provide us with the context of our specific tasks and roles. In our choices, in our decision-making, in the way we conduct our daily business, we must ask what promotes the greater fulfilment of these principles, for which so many struggled for so long, even at the cost of their lives. We must also be alert to, and reject, options that undermine or distort the delivery of Constitutional provisions – no matter how expedient, or how far they further our own narrowly defined and short term interests.

The full actualisation of the Constitution is a hard task, and requires long term commitment. There is a great gap between the standards it describes and the actual living situation of far too many of our citizens. But it will not do for those of us in positions of any power or influence – whether in the public sector or any other part of society – to respond that the task is ‘too difficult’, and can therefore be set a little to one side and dealt with on the margins, while we focus on matters closer to our own interests. We must get our priorities right. This principle is at the core of the ruling which Irene Grootboom won. Those whose needs are greatest, when it comes to provisions of basic services, basic rights, must be our highest concern, and our most urgent objective.

How can it possibly be otherwise? This reasoning is grounded in the fundamental essence of what it means to be a human being. Here I want to set theology alongside human rights as the dual foundation on which I am building – because I speak not only as an Archbishop, but also as current chair of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum. I want to make clear why we believe faith communities have a very particular role to play in promoting the good communication that helps build and shape society.

Theology and Human Rights

I heard a church person recently comment upon a particular issue, and say ‘it’s not a question of theology, it is a question of human rights’ – as though the two could and should be separated, and with human rights having the upper hand. Let me explain why I think this is wrong on all counts! First, what is theology? Theology relates to ‘the things of God’. Theistic religions, generally speaking, understand God as creator and sustainer of all that is. As the Hebrew Scriptures put it, in the famous words that open the book of Genesis: ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth …’ (Gen 1:1). And the Psalmist wrote ‘In his hands are the depths of the earth – and the peaks of the mountains are his also’ (Ps 95:4). You may have noted that this verse was written on the t-shirts which many of the Chilean miners were wearing as they were finally brought to the surface after 69 days underground. If all existence owes its being to God, then everything is of concern to him. It is a meaningless exercise to try to divide reality into areas where God has an interest, and where God doesn’t. This is particularly true when it comes to human activity. The Book of Genesis also says ‘God created humankind, in his image’ (Gen 1:27). Christians believe that God further dignified what it means to be human, through becoming a human person in Jesus Christ. Thus, faith communities, each in our own way, all conclude that every human individual, without exception, is intrinsically valuable and deserving of dignity and respect – in some sense, of honour akin to that due to God himself. The very next verse of Genesis says ‘God blessed them [that is, humanity], and God said to them “Be fruitful …”’ (Gen 1:28a). God’s intention is that we should all live lives of flourishing and fruitfulness.

While we also read God’s word that humanity should ‘subdue’ the earth and have dominion over it, we do so recognising that the whole of creation – the planet and all life on it – must also be treated with the reverence and care that is due to the handiwork of God. This is the belief that prompts me to join in the cleaning of polluted vleis; and to lobby in the corridors of power for governments to take decisive action at COP-17, the 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – which meets in South Africa next year.

Human Flourishing, Life in Abundance

However, today my focus is on God’s desire for humanity’s flourishing. This takes me back to the question of clean water, toilets, and sanitation, and the basic essentials of human well-being. Flourishing does not mean we are all entitled to an opulent lifestyle. Not at all! Indeed, we know our planet cannot sustain over 6 billion people pursuing the consumerist lifestyle which the advertising world implies is our right!

Human flourishing is far more fundamental – and must be open to everyone, which is why we also use the term ‘the common good’. Flourishing reflects humanity’s essence, and what we need to support it – our basic human rights. These begin with a necessary standard of material well-being – adequate food and clean water, housing, clothing, health-care and so forth; with particular provision for the very young, the very old, the sick and disabled, and other vulnerable individuals unable to look after themselves. You’ll find such provisions in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, signed over 60 years ago. Other necessities for human flourishing are also reflected there, such as access to decent education, opportunities for employment, and the dignity of having some choice in our own destinies. Also fundamental is a stable, safe, just, society, as a fertile context for the flourishing of both individuals and communities.

Now contemporary human rights theories are often grounded in what aspires to be an objective, non-religious, universalism; with a concept of what it is to be human that is greatly at odds with the understandings of the major religions. For this reason, many faith communities tend to be wary about, or even negative towards, human rights language. But we can agree on these end goals of human well-being, even if our reasoning differs. For example, when Jesus promises ‘life in abundance’ we can be confident that such abundance spans our emotional, spiritual, mental or intellectual, physical and material needs, as well as our thriving both as individuals and as members of society. These are at the heart of the human vocation which he distils into the two great commandments: loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbours as ourselves – which includes treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves.

Every aspect of human rights is in there. This is why faith communities give such vocal support to our Constitution. Like us, it presumes that intrinsic human worth, lived out with dignity and respect, and enjoyed by individuals and in community, should be readily accessible to everyone.

The Challenge of Ensuring Human Rights

In practical terms, however, we know the situation is difficult; that our history has left us battling on many fronts; and that resources are limited. Yet at the same time the circumstances are so different from a generation ago, because now – as we must recognise – we are ultimately all on the same side: all wanting to see problems solved, poverty overcome and everyone receiving their just rights. Good communication, openness, and honesty are key to helping us feel that we are all in this together – and can help us together find the imaginative solutions we need for the future. And we do need new ways of thinking and acting. For, as Albert Einstein said, ‘We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’

Furthermore, truthfulness on the challenges of service delivery can only help in the long run. Politicians who try to hide the extent of problems, or who make unrealistic promises at election time, just make matters worse. Therefore I commend Tokyo Sexwale who admitted last week to a housing backlog of 2.2 million units; and also the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry for acknowledging that at least 10.5 million South Africans are without basic sanitation. That is more than 1 in 5. Within the greater Cape Town area, the number without basic sanitation is somewhere close to half a million. In Alexandra, where I grew up, it seems that the provisions have worsened in relation to the still-growing population, rather than improved.

This is bad enough in what it means for the conditions in which people must live day by day – but the consequences do not merely disgust our sensibilities. The consequences are life-threatening. For the Water Affairs Department have also acknowledged that within South Africa, over 100 children may die daily from diarrhoeal disease, largely as a result of poor water and sewage provision. Clean water, decent toilets, proper sewage disposal – they are truly vital matters. It is not surprising that they can become the flash-point for emotions to boil over – which is what led to me being in Makhaza in June this year, and then to return to Khayelitsha in August, with other members of the Western Cape Religious Leaders’ Forum, for a wider fact-finding visit, arranged by the Social Justice Coalition. And the facts are, that this is a huge problem and not easily solved; but at the same time, it must be handled with sensitivity to human suffering and needs. It is not just what we do – but also how we do it, that carries the strongest message. And it is not just what we say – but also how we say it, that communicates most strongly. Honesty, transparency, good communication, and effective dialogue have to be our foundation stones if we are to work together and bridge the gap between where we are and where we ought to be, where we want to be.

And when I say ‘we’, I mean all of us who have any sort of influence or power, in whatever walk of life. We have no option but to work collaboratively – to support government and the public sector; but also to stand in solidarity with the communities who are most affected – in the delivery of basic services, human rights, Constitutional provisions, to the whole nation. None of us can stand apart from this. It is our Constitutional duty. It is also a necessity. The task is too big for the public sector, or any one else, to handle alone.

This is not just about sanitation. This is true in the health sector, as Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the Minister of Health, and I, discussed as we co-hosted a National Conference on Religion and Public Health in Stellenbosch earlier this month. It is true in relation to adequate housing. We know the problems – whether reflected in the violence in Hangberg, or the demonstrations along the N2 – each place with its own specific factors at play. The backlogs are vast – over 410,00 units in the Western Cape. And the number will rise if migration, and population increases, continue at current rates. Money to tackle this is inadequate; necessary skills and other capacity are limited; land is limited – and yet the Grootboom ruling says that housing must be supplied.

We know that Province and City are caught between a rock and a hard place. But so are the most vulnerable – for though Irene Grootboom won the court case, she did not receive her home before she died. And there are hundreds of thousands of others – millions across the country – who have a right to a house, but no guarantee of where or when they might find this right realised. Even if there were limitless resources and overwhelming political will, these issues would still take years to solve. Good communication can provide the cement to hold together all sectors of society as we negotiate our way between ideal and actuality, between aspiration and implementation. And I use the word ‘negotiate’ deliberately – because there is no alternative to good communication and genuine consultation. They may not of themselves solve our problems. But without them even the smallest molehill has the potential to become an erupting volcano. To return to the words of Jesus, only the Truth will Set us Free. Therefore we call for openness, transparency, honesty, and the highest ethical standards, from every sector of society: as the basis of the good governance which we cannot short cut, if we are to make the difficult journey towards human rights, human flourishing, for everyone.

Good Communication – the Truth that Sets us Free

Good communication requires more than just openness, transparency and honesty. Good communication also entails care in speaking, and a commitment to listen. God gave us one mouth and two ears – we therefore all need to learn to do twice as much listening as talking!

And we cannot be satisfied with merely transmitting our side of the story – even when we have hard facts, or legal opinion, on our side. Communication requires a message to be received – and that means it must be sent in a form that its recipients can grasp. This means more than just working between English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa. I have a PhD, written in English – but even I sometimes struggle with understanding the legal language used, for example, in notices about rezoning or evictions. To City and Province, I say – please be intentional about ensuring that alongside necessary formal communications, channels are open to make certain that their contents are explained, clearly and carefully, in ways that communities can understand.

Respectful, transparent, speaking and listening are the best ways of building trust – and trust is one of those things that once you get the first brick in place, it is always easier to place the subsequent bricks. It has its own potential positive momentum. We know that the City has an effective programme of keeping storm-water drains clear and open – so that when the winter rains come, flooding can be kept to a minimum. In similar ways, communications with communities must be kept open at all times, so that when crises arise, the channels already exist and are in good working order. In many areas, of course, this is already the case – but sometimes blockages happen. Yet, as with so much else, prevention is better than cure.

Therefore, though I appreciate the need to protect city employees, I still believe that, in some relatively full form, the city’s report on the Makhaza toilets needs to be made public. Transparency is fundamental to building trust – withholding information is guaranteed to undermine it. I will say that the City has such a good record, in comparison with many, and in comparison with the old ways of the past, in being open. Don’t let yourselves down on this one!

Faith Communities and Civil Society

Faith communities, along with other civil society bodies, must also be conscious of how our role has changed since the struggle years. With everyone now on the same side, we must beware of falling into the old binary polarising dynamics, labelling parties, even unconsciously, as entirely ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’. Matters can be far, far, more complex. Part of our role, in bringing ‘truthfulness’ to bear on a situation, is to ensure that all relevant factors are brought out into the open. We can help provide proper education, understanding, about the whole context.

It is also the case that these days, there tend to be many competing interests at play. It is certainly not just local or national government on one side and disadvantaged communities on the other. By no means! And, frankly, some individuals and groups have destructive objectives, including personal or political power for its own sake, economic exploitation, and even competing criminal interests. Our role should also be to help unmask these factors too.

An ‘Aside’ on the Media

By the way, may I at this point also challenge the media to maintain a similar commitment to this sort of ‘truthfulness’, and to use your tremendous influence constructively. Keep on being part of the solution, in your educative reporting; and avoid imposing easy binary narratives that echo the past. They may make for a good story, but actually distort the true picture, exacerbate polarising differences, and keep us trapped in out of date mindsets. We need you to keep reminding us that this is not how life is today.

And where malign influences are at work behind the scenes, please keep on uncovering them and reporting! Let me declare loud and clear my support for the true freedom of the media! If the so-called ‘Protection of Information Bill’ must go forward, then it must surely contain presuppositions towards transparency rather than secrecy; and a public interest clause of some sort is essential. We have far too many examples of brave reporting uncovering criminality and maladministration, not to realise how vital this is as one of the checks and balances that ensure the healthy exercise of democracy. Of course media freedom must be used wisely and well – but it is a precious gift that enhances the life of our nation, and we will all be diminished, if that freedom is diminished.

A Bias Towards Constitutional Rights

That said, no one can be entirely neutral, in any situation. So therefore, whether we are in the media, or in faith communities and civil society, or indeed, in any other walk of life, be very conscious of directing our ‘bias’ deliberately towards the full delivery of Constitutional rights and human flourishing, compassionately pursued. Part of the task of religious organisations and civil society groups is to remind those who deal in hard facts and figures that ultimately these are questions of human well-being, of individuals who suffer when their rights are not met.

Yet we must avoid being well-meaning amateurs, wearing our hearts on our sleeves, who dive into waters that are far deeper, with far more currents at play, than is evident on the surface. And contrary to what was the case so often in the past – when so many community leaders were imprisoned, banned or exiled – there isn’t always an automatic need for faith communities to take a lead role. We need humility too.

Even so, we must be prepared to be present, wherever there is need – and to go on wearing that heart on our sleeve, not least as a reminder to those who deal in the hard business of facts and law and limited resources, that ultimately these are questions of human well-being, of individuals who suffer when their rights are not met. We must also be channels of compassion to those who stand in need – and perhaps some of us need to be challenged to ensure we are more deeply rooted in our most needy communities, rather than standing on the sidelines with our proffered assistance.

And of course, where we can help, we must. We did so in relation to the xenophobic attacks last year. One of our strengths is to be able to mobilise swiftly in times of urgent need, using our city-wide networks. I also repeat my earlier offer to mediate in moving towards a just lasting solution in Makhaza – if I can assist, I am ready to do so.

More broadly speaking, I suspect that the civil society sector as a whole is still undergoing change, following 1994 – when so many of the previous NGOs found their activities taken over by the ANC as it took power. As has been powerfully described by Dr Mamphela Ramphele, we are still finding new ways of existing and working independently of, and in dialogue with, government, after years of working alongside political leaders of the struggle. I think we are learning these lessons – some NGOs doing so impressively – walking in support of communities, listening and working, often behind the scenes, over many months.

Communications and Being Rightly ‘Caught in the Middle’

This is why, when it comes to the business of communication, faith communities and NGOs potentially have a particularly distinctive role to play. We are generally not ourselves part of the issue at stake – but we can be part of its solution. In such a role it is as though we are not a cog in the machine, but we can be the oil that contributes to it working smoothly. We should, so to speak, rightly find ourselves ‘caught in the middle’ whenever communications break down. In different ways we are engaged with the communities affected by service delivery, or its lack. But while we can help give them voice, it is not our job to speak for them.

Educated elites – which, frankly, church leaders and NGO activists tend to be – nowadays come from every background. And let me say how wonderful it is to see such cohesion within organisations such as the Social Justice Coalition. Your diversity transcends old divisions, and you, in many ways, are the cadres standing together as foot soldiers fighting – through Constitutional means – for a better future. Yet those of us whose roots are in disadvantaged communities must take particular care that we do not fall into the easy trap of patronising others by presuming to know what they in those communities still face. Nonetheless, we can play effective roles as ‘translators’, in both word and action, between authorities and communities. Faith communities in particular enjoy extremely high levels of trust – over 80% according to the Human Sciences Research Council, the highest of any institutions in the country. We must use this well. We are ideally placed to act as ‘honest brokers’. We in turn ask for openness and honesty from all parties, wherever we are brought in to help – and for gestures of good faith.

Some Practical Situations

Let me offer speak now about some other practical situations that we face. Consider the recent demolitions of places of worship. The situation is hugely complicated by historic anomalies and the unregulated growth of townships, where very few buildings have been through proper planning processes. All sides recognise both the city’s need to uphold national legislation – and that there is a particular responsibility to do so to ensure safety: whether of users of buildings, or where these are inappropriately built, for example, over drains. All sides also recognise the desire of faith communities to stand within the law.

But breakdowns in communication still arise. One example relates to the need to clarify terms. We have in place a mutually agreed moratorium on both demolitions and new building. But what does ‘new building’ mean? Is an extension to an old structure ‘new’ building work? Perhaps, perhaps not. What if it is entirely replaced, and with a far more permanent structure? Is either letter or spirit of the moratorium then being upheld? All sides must be scrupulously honest, without narrow-minded pedantry!

Let me give another example. When, regrettably, the city concludes removal is the only option, there is no reason not to inform faith communities, both those directly concerned on the ground and through our broader networks. We have structures for religious leaders to ease communications with those on the ground – we should use them properly. In particular, we should allow for the dismantling and reuse of materials, rather than having them violently destroyed without warning. Our poorest communities have given sacrificially to build sacred places – this deserves respect.

Better communication, true consultation, is the answer – and, as I said, this must extend to deeds as well as words. The way that demolitions have been carried out, the way that the City acted in Hangberg, all too easily gives the impression that, when disagreements happen with local communities, they are to be handled just as in the bad old days. No wonder overwhelming emotions are stirred up, highly charged language is used, and actions get out of control. And I say this, not only of situations in the Western Cape, but elsewhere in the country, where there have been clashes around housing and service delivery. The situation in Durban’s Kennedy Road informal settlement is another case in point.

A heavy-handed approach from government and police will not do in these democratic times. This is why I, and the Anglican Church of Southern Africa at our Provincial Synod at the beginning of this month, deplored the violence at Hangberg; and called for a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to investigate both the circumstances of alleged police brutality in the area; and the circumstances surrounding the Premier’s visit and her failure to accommodate the request for ongoing dialogue in matters of land restitution and the development of communities.

But looking ahead, what we need is not blame, but solutions. And good communication must be the answer for Hangberg – as the court rightly pointed out last Monday. It must be the way for other housing problems, for places of worship, for toilets – for service delivery everywhere.

Conclusion

So let me end by summing up. Our problems are great, but we must make the needs of the neediest the highest priority of the whole nation, and every part of society. The solutions are neither quick nor easy. Effective consultation and communication, openness, honesty, transparency and trust, are necessary to ease our difficult journey forwards. In other words, only the truth, the whole truth, can set us free. May it be so.

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Kay Barron Address - Anglican Women's Fellowship

This address was delivered on 21 October at the biennial Anglican Women's Fellowship Provincial Council Meeting, which was held from 18 to 24 October 2010 in Lesotho.

Dear sisters in Christ of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship; dear Bishop Taaso, our host; dear Bishop Bethlehem, the outgoing Chaplain; dear President of the Mothers Union; dear Mrs Vidal, our Australian link; dear clergy and dear freinds – it is a privilege to deliver this Kay Barron Address. Let me express my thanks for the invitation, and for the joy of participating in this Provincial Council Meeting – as well as my wider appreciation for all that the AWF is and does.

Ray [Overmeyer] – particular thanks to you, as you end your term as Provincial President. During your time in office, the AWF has grown and strengthened across the Province, and expanded its activities in a great variety of ways. Thank you for your leadership, and thank you also for your openness to learn and grow, in knowledge and love of God, through your experiences and the challenges you have faced. We wish you every blessing in whatever you turn your energies to next – and we also pray for God to bless and strengthen and guide your successor as she takes up the reins of office. Our prayers are with you, Pumla [Titus-Madiba] as you take on this new role. And let me also offer my thanks to the whole AWF Executive, in all you have done for our Province. Thank you also to Lucille [Henneker], Provincial Secretary, who does so much for the AWF. To Pumla I also offer my particular gratitude for organising the complicated travel arrangements not only to bring me to Maseru but also to get me from here to our brand new Diocese of Mbashe for their very first elective assembly, which begins tomorrow morning. Please do keep them in your prayers as they choose their first bishop.

Whenever I prepare to speak at an event like this, one of the first things I do is go to the lectionary, and see what readings are given for the day. It is remarkable how often the set passages of Scriptures offer some key insight into whatever the occasion might be, and so set me thinking about what God might be calling me to say within that setting. God certainly richly blessed and guided the work of the lectionary compilers. Yet when it came to preparing for this address I was at first a little bit taken aback. For today’s gospel reading, from Luke 12:49-53, speaks of Jesus having come to bring division, ‘mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’. It is hardly the sort of ethic which the AWF seeks to promote!

So then I turned to the other passage set for the Eucharist, from the letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 3, verses 14 to 21. It includes a wonderful prayer of St Paul to his readers. I’m sure you will recognise it. Let me read it to you:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (14-19)

It is as if St Paul is just overcome, right in the middle of his letter, with an overflowing love for his readers, and cannot help bursting into this beautiful prayer for them. As I read it, it seemed to me also to be a beautiful prayer for the AWF, with its strong resonances with your own aims: of prayer and worship; fellowship and study; mission and witness; and service and stewardship.

Our Context – God’s Call

What I want to do this morning, is to look at the wider context in which you live out these aims – painting a fuller picture of the life of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and especially as it now stands following our Provincial Synod at the beginning of the month. As you know, the question of a vision has occupied our hearts and minds for some time – and I am also aware that you have already done some work in reflecting on synergies between the AWF’s priorities and those of the wider Province. But let me reflect on where we are now, and how we might go forward from here, now that, at Provincial Synod last month, we affirmed the Vision we believe the Lord is putting before us.

The Vision

The Vision is threefold, as Bishop Bethlehem said last night, and as was stated in the President’s Report. First, we are to be Anchored in Christ – as revealed to us in Holy Scripture. Jesus Christ alone is Saviour and Lord, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It is not na├»ve to say that, to a very great degree, Jesus truly is the answer to all our central questions of life: whether we live in rural Mozambique or inner city Johannesburg. In Christ, our diverse Province finds its unity and identity. For if you are ‘in Christ’ and I am ‘in Christ’, then it is inevitable that we are members together of his body, the Church.

Second, we are Committed to God’s mission. Whatever God calls us to do and be, our answer should be ‘Here am I, send me; here we are, send us.’ Third, we are to be Transformed by the Spirit. Through our openness, our willingness, to be transformed, God will equip and empower us to embody and proclaim the message of his redemptive hope and healing for all people and for creation.

Anchored in Christ; Committed to God’s Mission; Transformed by the Spirit. A, C, T – in other words, ‘Anglicans ACT’. When I look at the AWF, and your track record, I know that this is certainly true. Throughout the time that I have had knowledge of the AWF, I have always been struck by your practicality and your professionalism – always ready to take concrete action to tackle specific problems and provide tangible solutions. Thank you, AWF, that you are such an example to us all of what it means to be Anglicans who ACT!

The Mission Statement

Alongside our Vision, we also have a Mission Statement – and this too is threefold. Well, it is well-known that Anglicans love the Trinity! The Mission Statement says this:

Across the diverse countries and cultures of our region, we seek:

• First, to honour God in worship that feeds and empowers us for faithful witness and service

• Second, to embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation

• And third, to grow communities of faith that form, inform, and transform those who follow Christ

Like the AWF, we start with prayer and worship – for all of life must be lived in grateful response to God who first created and then redeemed us. And it is this which feeds and strengthens us so we can live the life to which we are called: a life of faithful mission and witness, service and stewardship – as the AWF would put it.

We are seeking to live out this through eight key themes, committing ourselves at Provincial level to the following priorities: Liturgical renewal for transformative worship; theological education and formation; leadership development; health, including HIV and AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; the environment; women and gender; protection and nurture of children and young people; and public advocacy. Two further themes – transformation, and holistic mission rooted in a full commitment to evangelism – run through and undergird all these, rather than being matters to address separately. We must also keep in mind the imperatives of justice and reconciliation, gender equality, poverty, and youth.

It is important to stress that all this is for us to do at Provincial level. The Vision, Mission Statement, and priorities are to be placed alongside those of dioceses and parishes. They are not intended to displace them, nor to impose any framework ‘from above’ on the grass-roots life of our Church. Rather, they identify issues that are best addressed at Provincial level, to encourage, strengthen, and support what is being done in these areas at parish and diocesan level. For we know that each Diocese has its own particular context, its own challenges, and therefore its own priorities for tackling these, according to the grace and calling of God. It is not the role of the Province to tell Dioceses what to do. But it is our job to support them, across this whole diversity – sharing in common what can be done at that level, even if the particular expression of each theme finds different form according to specific context.

And I am sure that this is a very similar approach to that which you follow – sharing principles across the Province, but acting locally in accordance with particular tasks on the ground. This is very clear, from reading the Report that was submitted to Provincial Synod, with its references to prison ministry; to skills development; to caring for the aged; to addressing the needs of those infected or affected by HIV and AIDS, or of child-headed households, or of voluntary testing and counselling – and much more besides.

Looking Ahead

What we shall be doing now is preparing for a formal launch of the whole Vision process. The ideas for this are still very much at an initial stage, but we are also looking at making 30 November – the feast of St Andrew, the patron saint of mission – a day for the whole church to focus on the Vision, and how it can be used to strengthen our common life, and our faithfulness to God’s call. We shall also be appointing task teams, where they do not already exist, to take forward the work in each of the eight areas, in line with strategies affirmed at Synod. So let me turn now to these eight priority themes, and offer some initial reflections on how I see them connecting with the AWF.

Liturgical renewal for transformative worship

As with the Vision and the Mission statement, and as with the aims of the AWF, liturgy and worship is always our starting point. Now is the appropriate time to say a tremendous thank you to you, Bishop Bethlehem, for your time as Chaplain to the AWF. Your deep desire that we should all live in faithful obedience, with holiness of life, is always both a challenge and an encouragement to us all, and we are deeply grateful for all you have done. So now I hand the AWF into the care of Bishop Ossie.

We must not underestimate the importance of liturgy and worship, for, unless we faithfully uphold daily Morning and Evening prayer, unless we root ourselves in Scripture, unless we feed regularly on the body and blood of Christ, unless we rely only and always upon God’s leading and God’s strengthening, we are no better than any secular organisation. For even in tasks of compassionate practical service, our calling is to be channels of the transcendent power of God: his healing, his hope, his redemption, to his world. Only those who are truly Anchored in his love, and Committed to his mission, can be agents of his Transforming promises.

Theological Education and Formation; Leadership Development

Our second theme is theological education and formation – closely echoing the AWF’s second aim of fellowship and study – and our third, leadership development. In both ordained and lay life, we must nurture not only people with academic understandings of theology, but who can model the Christian life – growing and maturing in faith, applied in ethical living throughout society, at home and work, in every area. We need people who can be mentors of the next generation, both within the church, and within wider society.

Organisations such as the AWF, with so many of your members across all walks of life, truly have remarkable opportunities to be God’s salt and light in the world – in government and the public sector, in business, in the media, in schools, colleges and academia, in civil society – as well as throughout the very varied communities from which you each come. And where we do not provide you with the theological and spiritual resources to be that salt, that light, in the contexts within which you find yourselves, you must challenge us to do better! Input like this will help our task teams focus their efforts where they are most needed.

I am reminded of a challenge I once offered to the AWF in Grahamstown Diocese. One Ash Wednesday, without much thinking about it beforehand, I proposed that each member save up one rand a day for the whole of Lent. Well, I rather forgot about it – until a considerable sum of money was handed over, and the Bishop Thabo Makgoba Bursary Fund was set up. I thank the AWF for your own bursary fund and the support it gives to women ordinands. We have now supported 3 or perhaps 4 women through training at COTT. This is a very practical way of supporting theological education and formation, as well as leadership development within the church. Perhaps other Diocesan groups would like to consider similar initiatives.

Health, including HIV and AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis

Our fourth theme is health – and, as Provincial Synod pointed out, this is not just a matter of HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. There are other issues which also are of great concern, including, for example, diabetes and obesity.

A fortnight ago, I was privileged to co-host with Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, the South African Minister for Health, a Conference on Religion and Public Health. Our concern was to look at ways that the faith communities can support government – both here and elsewhere in Southern Africa – in tackling the huge health burden, especially in relation to primary health care. It is not our job to do governments’ work for governments – but, as Dr Motsoaledi readily admitted, the task is too great for governments alone.

When it comes to primary health care, education is key. Too often communities are sadly ignorant about basics, including the essentials of hygiene and nutrition. Faith communities have a reach across communities that I am sure governments envy – and our ability to communicate with people can be harnessed to ensure that such information is readily shared, though we must ensure that we too, clergy and people, are well-informed. We have worked hard at this in relation to HIV and AIDS – ensuring people, including young people, have access to the facts, and know how to share them persuasively. Through the Siyakha and Siyafundisa programmes, we have trained large numbers of adults and young people – perhaps, with the completion of these programmes, that training can be put to us, and redirected to broader primary health concerns. Whether from pulpit or pews, we need to ‘gossip the gospel, the good news, of good health practices’!

The Environment

The environment is our fifth theme. We cannot effectively care for God’s people if we do not care for God’s planet, our environment. We need to do this ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’. By top down, I mean taking every opportunity to encourage governments and decision-makers to act boldly, decisively, committedly. Next year South Africa will host ‘COP-17’, that is, the 17th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It is the world’s opportunity to rise to the challenges before us – we truly cannot afford to do otherwise. And as hosts, South Africa must give a strong lead. South Africans must persuade our leaders to have the courage to do so. Dear sisters in Christ, please take whatever opportunities come your way, to speak persuasively about this.

I also look to you to give a lead in the ‘bottom up’ activity. I am afraid I must admit that around my house, around my office, and when I see what is happening in churches, it is the women who are making the difference. You spot things that I just fail to see – and I am sure that far too many other men do the same! Saving paper, changing light-bulbs [globes], recycling more than just the obvious items: you have an eye, and imagination, for these things. Make us men do them – in churches, in work-places, as well as in homes.

I hope you know about Mary Honeybun. She discovered that the tiny plastic tag that seals a bag of bread can be recycled, so she started collecting them and getting friends to collect them. It takes 270kg of tags – about 800,000 – to raise enough money to buy a wheelchair. But the network she initiated has bought over 30 wheelchairs – and others are now doing the same elsewhere in the country. Everyone who buys bread can join in! Of course, we must also think much more laterally to avoid creating waste for recycling, to avoid using energy and resources, in the first place. My belief is that society must pay more attention to women in this, since, in so many walks of life, in the home and beyond, it is you who are the ‘hands on’ people, with a practical eye for what can and ought to be done.

Women and gender

Sixth on our list – though we stress that they are in no order of priority – comes women and gender. As I said at Provincial Synod, women constitute the majority in our pews, but the reverse is true at every level of leadership, lay and ordained. We wholeheartedly passed a motion calling for the church to ‘do better’! You may have seen that I let slip when I gave my charge, ad libbing from my written text, that one of my dreams is to consecrate a woman bishop for our Province – and I got a round of applause! But I am also concerned about gender equality throughout our church and our countries, at every level. We are particularly blessed that so many women make a disproportionate contribution, as individuals, lay and ordained, and through bodies like your own, and also of course, the Mothers’ Union. I hope that stronger, complimentary synergies can be developed between the MU and AWF.

I am very glad that we have now established the Gender Desk, and we welcome Revd Cheryl Bird. Please note that it is a Gender desk, not a Women’s desk. The roles of men and women alike, of every culture, were distorted by apartheid. We need to develop appropriate spiritualities for us all, for contemporary living – that are also channels of healing for the legacies of our brutalising history. At Synod I challenged the St Bernard Mizeki Guild and the Church Men’s Society to fresh reflection on what it means to be a Christian man in today’s world – especially in being actively part of the solution, to the unacceptably high levels of violence, against women and children. But I also challenge you to consider your part also, in developing contemporary spiritualities for all of us as ‘people of God’: where each individual man and woman can freely be themselves, with gender just one part of their make up and one with which we are all at ease; and a wholesomeness in our relations with ourselves and one another.

Protection and nurture of children and young people

Healthy adult spiritualities and emotional lives requires healthy raising of young people – and protection and nurture of children and young people is our seventh theme. In developing the Vision process we became conscious that we must deliberately focus not only on what we do within church, but also the care of children throughout our communities.

Preparing for Synod, I discovered that, globally, about a quarter, 27%, of the world’s population is aged 15 or under. Within ACSA, though that figure is only 19% in St Helena, elsewhere it ranges from 32%, about a third, in South Africa, rising to 46%, close to a half, in Angola. This underlines how vital their care is. Children are not merely the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today. We have challenged the Task Teams to take account of their work, in relation to young people, across the board.

Public advocacy

Finally, public advocacy – the face of the church in the world, especially in how we speak truth to power, and work so that society, government, can be as godly, as wholesome as is possible. Our calling is to help create the right conditions so that every individual, every child of God, should have the opportunity to experience the ‘life in abundance’ which Jesus came to bring. We promote good governance, honesty, transparency, justice, and the highest ethical standards, in every area of society – not only in the public sector, but across all areas of business and economics, and through civil society.

This is both the formal task of the Church – not least in the conversations, speeches and other opportunities that I and other bishops are afforded – and the task of Christian individuals in every walk of life. William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury as the Second World War began, some 70 years ago, wrote powerfully about how ‘nine-tenths’ of this shaping of society would be done not by clergy but by Christian men and women through their daily lives. Many of you do this – perhaps unconsciously – through your own lives and work. The AWF as a whole does it also at many levels – including through Pumla’s participation in the International Anglican Women’s Network, which itself is an influential player at a global level, for example through some of the UN women’s bodies. Even last week, I understand, the Network was circulating a petition to put pressure on the UN Security Council to ensure that Resolution 1325, passed ten years ago should be implemented – a resolution that called for women’s full and equal participation in all elements of peace-keeping, and for greater efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflicts. Given the history of our region, we know how important this is. With South Africa now elected again to the UN Security Council, we have new opportunities to press for them to play a leading, constructive, role in this and other areas, and can harness the leverage of our international contacts to do so.

A Closing Challenge

Let me end with a challenge that relates to public advocacy in a rather more practical way, as well as to other themes which I have discussed. What legacy will this Provincial Council Meeting leave in Lesotho? It is a country of dire needs, as the Prime Minister acknowledged yesterday – in relation to poverty, in relation to health, especially HIV and AIDS. What can you do to make a lasting difference? Perhaps – and here is a ‘healing of gender relations’ idea! – you might partner with the Brothers of the SSM House, in some project. Perhaps you might sponsor a farm in a parish – channelling assistance through Hope Africa, to buy seeds, fertilizers, and so forth; and to hire a tractor once or twice a year as necessary. Perhaps in this way you can help the church in helping people to meet their own nutritional needs. Such a visible sign of commitment can also be an effective form of public advocacy – challenging others to ‘go and do likewise’ instead of ‘passing by on the other side’, to use the words of Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan, and what it means to love our neighbours as ourselves.

So, dear sisters in Christ – I have spoken for long enough! May God bless you all in the years ahead, as you encourage women of God everywhere to ‘rejoice, revive, relate’ – through lives of prayer and worship; fellowship and study; mission and witness; and service and stewardship. Let me finish with the last two verses from St Paul’s glorious prayer in his letter to the Ephesians (3:20-21): ‘Now, to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.