Tuesday, October 26, 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, October 25, 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 naïve 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.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

To the Laos - To The People of God, October 2010

Dear People of God

At the end of September over two hundred Anglicans gathered in the spring sunshine in Benoni for our triennial Provincial Synod. The shortened mid-term school break meant finding a new venue for our gathering, and we were certainly not disappointed by the generous hospitality (though well within budget, which pleased our Treasurer!) offered by the Kopanong Conference Centre. Its name means ‘place of meeting’ in seSotho, and it lived up to its billing as a wonderful spot to ‘come away together’ to seek the Lord’s will for our Church.

The tone was set for our meeting with our first reading at the opening Eucharist. This was taken from Habakkuk, 2:1-4, and included these words:

I will keep watch to see what the Lord will say to me … Then the LORD answered and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets ... for there is still a vision for the appointed time.

Thanks be to God, who indeed gave us a strong sense that the time had come to take forward the Vision towards which we have been working, during the last two years. After discussions in Conference working groups and debate in Synod plenary, the Vision and Mission Statement were endorsed, together with outline strategies for the eight priority themes (liturgical renewal; theological education; leadership formation; health, including HIV and AIDS, TB and malaria; the environment; women and gender; protection and nurture of children and young people; public advocacy). As we take these forward, one key tasks is to ‘make it plain’, communicating clearly how initiatives by the Province can support and encourage the priorities of Dioceses and Parishes. Synod invited us to give particular focus to the Vision on 30 November, the Feast of St Andrew, Patron Saint of Mission. Watch this space!

Of course, many other issues were discussed and motions passed. Reports of these have been posted on the ACSA website, where you will also find the statement from the Synod of Bishops meeting that preceded Provincial Synod, the full text of my Charge, and also the sermons that the Revd Sarah Rowland Jones preached at our morning Eucharists, which helped set the tone for each day’s agenda (see www.anglicanchurchsa.org). The full motions will also shortly be posted there.

These ranged from long-standing concerns for greater equality for women in the Church (there was enthusiastic support when the hope was expressed that we might see our first women bishops by the time we next meet in three years time – and disappointment that this has not yet happened, though we passed enabling legislation in 1992), through to urgent issues, including political reform in Swaziland; the long border delays for people from Lesotho entering South Africa; and the housing situation and apparent excessive violence at Hangberg in Cape Town – where we called for a judicial commission of enquiry. We also called for members of the South African parliament to vote with their consciences, should the Protection of Information Bill be brought before them, noting that free access to information is a vital foundation of democracy.

One important decision was the initial adoption of the Anglican Covenant, though this will require ratification at our next Provincial Synod for the process to be completed. As I said in my Charge, this is not a perfect document, but it certainly offers a way of affirming our desire to live together as Provinces, within our global family; a means of getting the balance right through an autonomy that is neither imposed uniformity, nor unbounded independence. My prayer is that we will now be able to share our unique experiences of letting Christ hold us together in difference, within the life of the Covenant, and help it to work as well as possible.

Reflecting the ‘bonds of affection’ that bind Anglicans together, we offered our support and prayers to Anglicans in Zimbabwe, and sent congratulations to the Anglican Church in Nigeria on their country’s 50th anniversary of independence as well as expressing shock at the bomb blasts there.

It was a great joy to have Bishop Jean-Zaché Duracin of Haiti join us both for the meeting of the Synod of Bishops and Provincial Synod. I hope that we can build on our links with his Diocese in the long, long journey of reconstruction that lies ahead of them. I am glad to report that we are establishing partnership links between schools, and have agreed to train a Haitian cleric for 3 years at COTT and a further year at the Anglican House of Studies.

It was also my privilege to invest Dr Mamphela Ramphele as a Member of the Order of Simon of Cyrene. Addressing Synod, she spoke of the radical brokenness which still characterises much of South African society – words that resonated with my own Charge reference to the brutalising effect of apartheid, including on those who were conscripted. This led to a very moving debate and Synod motion on tackling the effects, and bringing healing, to all who were involved or impacted in any way by conscription. We shall be looking carefully at how we address the emotional scars of having to bear arms, which so many people of every background across our churches, across our Province, still carry.

While we were not afraid to tackle some of the taboos of today’s society, we also took time to relax and get to know one another better across the rich diversity of our Province. We did more than just ‘break bread’ together in the Moshate Restaurant – its name means ‘royal house’ in sePedi, and we dined like minor kings and queens at the excellent buffets. And after long days of work, almost equally long discussions into the night were held, by some at least, in the Imbizo Bar! It was a time of great joy and laughter, sharing in our common life.

Our heartfelt thanks go to Bishop David Bannerman and to the Diocese of the Highveld for their warm and generous hospitality; to all of the Administrative Team and everyone else who worked unstintingly behind the scenes; and especially to our Kopanong hosts.

Most of all, we thank God for his blessing upon us, and his promises to prosper our work, as we seek to follow his will in his world. To him be the praise and the glory!

Yours in the Service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Sermon for the Feast of St Francis of Assisi

This is an edited version of a sermon preached at St Francis' Church, Ravensmead, Cape Town, on 17 October 2010

Gen 1:24-28; Gal 6:14-18; Matt 11:25-30

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of St Francis, Ravensmead, let me say again what a great joy it is to be with you as you celebrate your patronal festival. Thank you for your kind invitation; thank you to everyone here, for making me so welcome today: to the liturgical team, and all who are participating in this service – and, not least, to the community band! And thank you to everyone all who has worked behind the scenes to contribute to all we are doing here today. Particular thanks also to all who have made donations of this ‘spring harvest’ of fruit and vegetables and other gifts for the needy of this community.

Such generosity is one of the distinctive characteristics of St Francis, which has led to him being one of the saints we cherish most on our calendar. We love him for his simple and straightforward faith, for his passionate devotion to God and to humanity – especially the poor and the sick – for his love of nature, and for his deep humility. In all of these, he gives us examples to follow, whatever our walk of life.

Most of all, when I think about St Francis, what I find both attracts me and challenges me is the way that all these different aspects of his character come together in a single whole, reflecting the way he sees God’s hand at work everywhere, and in everything. There is no part of God’s creation in which we cannot see God’s fingerprints, and in which God is not at work in some way. St Francis knew this, whether he was embracing a leper, or opening up dialogue between Christians and Muslims, or in writing his famous hymn to Brother Sun and Sister Moon. God is everywhere – and, no matter where we are, no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, he invites us to open our eyes and be part of his purposes there: being part of sharing the good news of the Gospel, part of building his kingdom, part of the offering of praise and glory to his holy name!

I was struck by God’s hand at work in all places earlier this earlier this week, watching those amazing scenes of the 33 Chilean miners being rescued. You may have noticed that many of them were wearing a light brown t-shirt over their special green overalls. On the front were the words ‘Gracias Señor!’ – ‘Thank you Lord!’ in Spanish. And on the back, I later discovered, was Psalm 95, verse 4 – which says ‘In his hands are the depths of the earth, and the peaks of the mountains are his also.’ According to press reports, the T-shirts were provided to the miners at their request, at the initiative of the one who had taken the role of spiritual leader, and who had led prayer services every day at noon and 6pm while they were buried underground. He also arranged for them to be sent a film of the life of Jesus – who of course was buried in a cave-like tomb from death to resurrection. They too felt that they were in the hands of God, even while they were in the depths of the earth – and they trusted that he would bring them to new life, even if it took considerably longer than three days. We must keep them in our prayers as they make the rather longer psychological journey back to ‘normal life’. Their experiences will have affected them profoundly – even though they have, so to speak, been ‘born again’, and become a ‘new creation’ to use the words of St Paul.

But the key message here, and from St Francis’ embrace of the whole of life, is that there is no situation in which God cannot bring about a new creation. Faith is not just for Sundays. It is not just for church. It is not just for our private lives. It is not just for respectable people with tidy, organised, moral lives. Faith is for everyone, everywhere, at all times, and in all circumstances. As Jesus tells his disciples ‘All things have been handed over to me by my Father.’ God the Father makes Jesus Lord of all creation, all of life, all humanity. Everything IS in his hands, from the centre of the earth to the uttermost ends of the universe. His invitation to us is to recognise the truth of this, and to accept his Lordship – to acknowledge through the way that we live our lives, that actually, he is the one who is in control and understands what is going on, in ways that are beyond our ability to comprehend.

This is at the heart of his invitation ‘come to me, all you that are weary, and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. Jesus knows that life can be draining, it can be hard work – at times it can feel like more than we can cope with. Come to me, says Jesus – let me take the strain, because I understand what is going on here!

Now, this does not mean that everything will always have the sort of happy solution that we want. It did for the 33 miners – and for that we praise God – but we know that there are good and holy people to whom bad things happen, who die young, who suffer deeply and unfairly. But, says Jesus – rest in me, draw your strength from me, let me support you through whatever life brings to you. Live life with your hand in mine, because you can trust me, and my love will never let you go. And we know that this is so, because even in death – which is generally what we fear most of all – Jesus has gone before us, and knows the path, and promises to lead us safely home.

We do not need to fret – he has done the hard work for us, through the cross and resurrection. This is why, as we heard in our second lesson, we need only boast in the cross and nothing else. An instrument of torture, of humiliation, of slow and painful death, has become for us the guarantee that no suffering, no oppression, not even death itself, can separate us from the love of God that is ours in Jesus Christ, as St Paul writes to the Romans (Rom 8:38). He also says that nothing in life can separate us from God’s love – and we need to remember this when we are faced with difficult situations – whether in our own lives or of the community around.

In Ravensmead, life can be very tough for so many – through retrenchments and unemployment; through violence and the activities of gangs; through abuse of women, and unwanted pregnancies; through the effects of alcohol and drugs; through all manner of consequences of poverty – well, we know it all. Jesus’ promise for those battling in Ravensmead, and those battling to make Ravensmead a better place, is also ‘come to me and find rest’.

But he certainly does not mean that we should sit back and do nothing! Quite the opposite. Rather, it is a message to us that it is not down to us to solve these problems in our own strength. He does not say to the Church ‘I’ve done my bit, now you do yours!’ Rather he says, come to me, because I know that life can sometimes be very hard indeed, and problems can seem insoluble. Come to me, and give me your tiredness and your burdens – and take up my yoke, my burden, instead. Jesus inviting us to recognise that he is ultimately responsible for dealing with the suffering, the needs of the world – and all we have to do is fall in with his plans, to follow them as he directs, equipped by his strength, empowered by his love. Because his solution is the best solution – and the only one that is guaranteed to work! Don’t take the responsibility of solving the world’s problems upon yourselves, he says, you can’t do it! Remember – like St Francis remembered – the whole world is mine, and I am up to the task! Saving the world is my business, says Jesus! So just lean on me, he says, and let me lead you – come and be part of this wonderful work I am doing, but just remember that it is mine, and let me take the strain!

Today, as we celebrate the feast of St Francis, let us follow his example, in acknowledging the Lordship of Christ over all of Ravensmead – and open ourselves to be part of the healing, the redemption, the blessing, that he longs to bring here. Reflect on this as you come to the altar rail – with hands open offering all that you are to Jesus, laying down your struggles to find rest in him; and with hands open also to receive from him bread to strengthen you for the journey ahead, as he places his gentle yoke on your shoulders and invites you to follow him, and share in his healing love for his world. Amen

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ethical Leadership for Kairos Time and Chronos Time - The Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture

Below is the text of the Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture, delivered at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology on 15 October 2010

“Ethical Leadership in both Kairos and Chronos Time”

Vice Chancellor, Professor Mazwi-Tanga, Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great privilege to be giving the Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture this morning. Thank you Ms Njoli-Motale, for your warm introduction and kind words. I thank the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the South African Council of Churches for the invitation to address the theme of ethical leadership, and what it takes to be a good and effective leader in our times.

There is a famous passage in the Hebrew Scriptures – which Christians call the Old Testament – in the Book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, which says:

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance …' and so the passage continues, until it ends 'a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace."

We must ask ourselves, what sort of times do we live in now? Surely we seek a time of peace, of planting, of building up, and healing? But what also of the unfinished mourning and weeping from our past, and of breaking down those aspects of our inheritance which still need to be broken down? Answering these questions leads us to today’s central question – if these are our times, then what sort of leadership, ethical leadership, do we now need?

Let me stay with the Bible a little longer, as a means of getting under the skin of my questions. In the New Testament, in the Greek of first century Palestine, there are two words that speak of time. One is kairos and the other is chronos.

The Leadership of Kairos Time

Let me start with kairos. Kairos became an iconic word during the struggle era, through the issuing, 25 years ago last month, of ‘The Kairos Document – A Theological Comment on the Political Crisis in South Africa’. It was so significant and influential, that numerous other Kairos Documents have since been written around the world, from Central America to Kenya and Zimbabwe; and most recently, Palestine. All address a particular urgent need. All focus on a moment in time that has the potential to be a tipping point, a chance for turning the tide – if only we take hold of it.

This is kairos time – a pivotal point, perhaps of crisis or threat, perhaps of opportunity. It calls for a decisive response, for speaking out and for acting.

The Kairos Document of 25 years ago spoke into just such a time. A state of emergency existed. Oppression and violence were at unprecedented levels. Thousands were in detention; some suffered torture and death; and others went missing, or were banned, restricted, deported or forced into exile. There was an ‘almost total black-out’ of honest news coverage. Sometimes it is hard to convey to those who were not part of it, quite what we experienced.

Believing that kairos time comes with the promise of blessing, if we grasp the opportunities which God presents – the churches realised that, into this dire situation, they had to speak out loudly and clearly the authentic word of God, the true gospel of Jesus Christ with his promise of good news for all who suffer. Therefore, most importantly, this had to be done ‘bottom up’ and not just ‘top down’. This was not a task for those bishops, clergy and academics who were cushioned in ivory towers. It was for those who lived and pastored in townships and countryside, who experienced the daily realities of these hardships. It was a task for the theologians of the university of life – both ordained and lay.

A deep and honest critique emerged, which stated the difficult truth that Christians were in reality divided, even within denominations, over apartheid and how to respond. It challenged the Churches to grapple with three ‘theologies’ which it identified: ‘state theology’, ‘church theology’ and ‘prophetic theology’: two which supported or contributed – perhaps unwittingly – to the unacceptable status quo; and one that declared God’s better way. Today I want to look at what these three theologies might mean in our own time, and the vital lessons we can learn from them for ethical leadership – whether or not we are Christians or people of faith.

The Leadership of Chronos Time

To do this we must return to the question of what sort of times we live in today. Life is not as it was 25 years ago. The era of democracy is closer to the other sort of time of which biblical Greek speaks, chronos time. This is measured, not by stark crises and opportunities, but on watches, in diaries, through calendars. Politically speaking, we mark the returning seasons of elections, party congresses, annual budgets and each new tax year.

Leadership in such a time is far less about grasping pivotal moments (though these may still arise) – and far more about persevering for the long haul. It is less about heroes of the hour – it is more about those who are prepared to put in the long hard grind, and steadfastly hold to their goals, their principles, their values, as the ups and downs of life roll steadily on. Chronos times call for ethical leaders who will keep on upholding the highest standards in public and private life, day by day by day: leaders who have demonstrated that they have earned and deserve our trust – and to whom we can look to lead and guide us through the evolving changes and challenges of our country.

We need people of determination and persistence, on whom we can rely, on the long and often daunting journey we still have to make, to continue moving from the oppression of the past to a country of true equality for all – not just the equality of a ballot-paper for every adult, but the equality of economic justice and fair opportunity for everyone. This is the destination for which we strive.

The Right Goals of Human Living

In this respect, the goals of kairos and chronos are much the same. Ethical leadership should always direct us towards providing a better context for human beings, as individuals, and within society, to live well – 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 open to everyone. This is why we also use the term ‘the common good’. It 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. They 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.

Now, if you are wide awake, by now you might have spotted that I have just described human existence as encompassing heart and soul and mind and physical embodiment. I hope this has reminded you of words of Jesus, who said that humanity is created ‘to love God, with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength’. This is, he said, the first commandment of being human – being created by God in his image. More than this, God further dignified the human person through the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity – or, in less theological language, God became a human person in Jesus Christ.

Thus every human individual, without exception, is intrinsically deserving of being treated with dignity and respect – indeed, with honour akin to that due to God himself. And 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.

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. This attitude underlies the second great commandment – that we should love our neighbours as ourselves. We should direct our 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’. Therefore this ‘abundant life’ cannot possibly be understood as the affluence only of some, at the expense of others. Abundant life consists in the fair and equitable availability of the material, spiritual, emotional and intellectual provisions which I have outlined. Ethical leadership must promote all this – in both the crises of our lives, and daily routine; in both kairos time and chronos time.

One does not have to share the underlying Christian reasoning, to share in this conviction. Our own Constitution, in making provision of equitable space for everyone, no matter what our beliefs, reaches the same conclusions. Intrinsic human worth, lived out and enjoyed by individuals and in community, is the right of every citizen, every resident within our borders. And it is the responsibility of our nation’s leaders to guarantee it, through the policies set by politicians and administered by public servants – and, where necessary, through the legal system where these fail.

While secular human rights theory may root itself in very different principles, its conclusions are sufficiently close to Biblical concepts of appropriate human flourishing for there to be fertile common ground for collaboration in forwarding these goals. Whatever our religious or philosophical starting point, we can always begin a conversation around the essential question of what it is to be human and to live decently; and how we achieve it more fully for our population.

Furthermore, in such conversations, we increasingly have no option within this globalising world of ours, but to recognise that our obligation to be ‘good neighbours’, in promoting reciprocal flourishing, applies not only to those near by, but to all across space and time – whether those who share our global village today, or those who will inherit our legacy in generations to come; and this must include responsible care of our environment. 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.

Kairos Theologies and Chronos Theologies

However, since not everyone agrees the voices of religious communities should legitimately be heard in the public space, perhaps I should give a little more justification. In doing so I want to draw on lessons from the crises of our kairos past and apply them to the chronos of democracy.

Earlier I mentioned that the Kairos Document identified three theological approaches – state theology, church theology and prophetic theology. Each, I shall now argue, finds new forms in our changed circumstances – but the dangers of the first two, and the challenges of the third, remain with us, even if we must learn to recognise them with new eyes.

State Theology

The Kairos Document described how the apartheid state used Scripture and theological concepts to justify racism, untrammelled capitalism and totalitarianism. Using the Bible this way (and I quote) ‘blesses injustice, canonises the will of the powerful and reduces the poor to passivity, obedience and apathy’ (unquote).

The starting point for this was a passage from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 13, which begins with these verses:

‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resist what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement…for it is God’s servant for your good’ (Rom 13:1-2, 4).

Taken literally and superficially, these verses do indeed seem to offer an absolute and divine legitimacy to any state; to offer justification for any form of ‘law and order’ required to maintain that state and its rulers; and to condemn anyone who stands against them.

But there is truth in the saying that ‘any text without a context is a pretext’. We cannot just rip verses out of the Scriptures to suit ourselves, without taking into account everything else that lies between the covers of our Bibles. Therefore, as the Kairos Document pointed out, we must also pay attention to the many examples of God’s people and God’s prophets standing up against oppressive rulers and unjust state practices.

Even the quote from St Paul begs the question of whether a particular authority really is acting as ‘God’s servant for the good’ of its citizens, as it is called to do. Today we recognise that apartheid was fundamentally opposed to the purposes of God, of abundant life and the full breadth of opportunity for human flourishing open to all.

But what of our current democratic system? The preamble of our Constitution ends ‘May God protect our people’ and then the words ‘God bless South Africa’ are repeated in many of our languages. And its provisions, especially in Chapter 2, the Bill of Rights, closely mirror the essentials of human existence which I have outlined.

Does this mean that the words of St Paul wholly apply? – that government can expect its citizens to unreservedly support whatever they do; and especially the ANC and its partners, since they were the ones who brought in this new political era? Should faith communities let government get on with the business of politics, and stick to matters of worship and personal piety? Is our task the so-called ‘moral regeneration’ of the country, only coming into the public arena to denounce crime, and argue that the laws of the land must be upheld unquestioningly by all?

Well, all this would be to fall into very much the same trap of ‘state theology’ as before, even if our context is so changed. A good Constitution gives no one a ‘divine right’ to rule! Government must not expect the religious sector and other struggle partners merely to offer unconditional support in this new era. Nor can they unilaterally set the agenda for dealing with the faith communities, through bodies such as the National Religious Leaders Forum, or the National Interfaith Leadership Council – even at times expecting us to be a sort of mouth-piece in support of them, within our own communities. The same is true of other civil society bodies that were partners in the struggle, but who are also now called to act independently for the common good.

For democracy does not mean that instead of an unrepresentative minority holding all the power and wielding it in its own interests, another minority – though technically representative of the majority – gets to do the same instead. Democracy is a completely different way of doing politics: where everyone has a voice. We must all hold one another accountable to the highest aspirations of our Constitution, and to the vision of common good and human flourishing that underlies it.

Government must expect critique – and the rest of us must offer it – because open, honest, transparent policy making, and free debate around it, are the best way of seeing the issues, analysing the needs, and formulating and delivering effective policies to address them. It goes without saying – but I will say it anyway – that the so-called Protection of Information Bill is a disgrace to our democratic aspirations.

Leadership – whether of coalition partners or opposition political parties, of academia, of the media, of civil society organisations, and of the faith communities, must always be directed towards this goal. When government are working clearly towards these objectives, we must support them – and when they fall short, then we must offer the sort of critique that insists they move in a better direction, and helps them do so.

Church Theology

This brings challenges not only to the state’s understanding of itself and the leadership role it plays within democracy, but also to the way the Churches, the faith communities, and others, comprehend our role in these new times.

In the extreme conditions of 25 years ago, the Kairos Document criticised mainstream churches and their leaderships for being too limited, too cautious in their critique of the state – despite understanding apartheid to be wrong. Rather than engaging in in-depth analysis of the ‘signs of the times’, there was too much reliance upon superficial and uncritical application of a few stock ideas derived from Christian tradition. In particular the Churches’ right desire for peace and reconciliation was not adequately matched with demands for justice, repentance and change. There was too much emphasis on individual morality and not enough on just social, economic and political systems and practices. Sometimes it was merely the case that those in leadership in government and in the faith communities, were just too close to one another, with shared backgrounds, lifestyles, and social connections.

But, including through the influence of the Kairos Document, Churches increasingly came to work closely with others in the struggle; and today there are many lasting personal ties across society. Often religious and civil society leaders, politicians and business people bump into each other on political occasions, at sporting events, in social gatherings, even on aeroplanes. We are members of the same extended families. Our children go to the same schools. We all benefit from the opportunities available to the middle and upper economic classes: enjoying our nice suburbs, shopping at Woolies and Pick ‘n’ Pay and then going home to watch DSTV or surf the internet; and sharing our shock at the scandals revealed on Carte Blanche or in the Mail and Guardian.

But what are we actually doing to make a difference where it matters, to support those for whom all this is unimaginable luxury? It is not surprising that religious leaders face accusations that in seeing ourselves as ‘critical friends’ of government, we have often been far too friendly and nowhere near critical enough. True, we stood shoulder to shoulder together in the struggle, in our shared desire for human flourishing. But now we need to ensure that human flourishing, rather than sharing in the struggle, important though it was, remains the central issue.

This should be clear, if we only read the Constitution, or return to the pages of the Bible. It is implicit in Jesus’ own self-understanding, that he came to bring good news to the poor, and liberty to the oppressed (Lk 4:18) – no matter what form impoverishment and oppression take, whether in material or spiritual terms, or emotional well-being, or the structures of society. It is far more explicit in some of the Old Testament prophets, who, in their condemnation of self-serving and corrupt leaders, continually warn religious leaders against being compromised in their association with power and influence.

For example, the prophet Micah declares: ‘Its rulers give judgement for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets give oracles for money; yet they lean upon the Lord and say “Surely the Lord is with us, no harm shall come upon us!”’ (Mic 3:11).

There is warning for South Africans here. We often speak of God’s blessing in bringing us into a new era without a bloodbath – but we cannot take God’s blessing into the future for granted, if we are not ready to be his instruments to ensure his blessing on all.

Prophetic Theology

Let me now turn to what the Kairos Document has to say about Prophetic Theology – the sort of theology it advocated for that time of crisis, and which we now must appropriate for our own era.

Given that I am in a university, a place of study and learning, let me read the following key passage: ‘Prophetic theology differs from academic theology because, whereas academic theology deals with all biblical themes in a systematic manner and formulates general Christian principles and doctrines, prophetic theology concentrates on those aspects of the Word of God that have an immediate bearing upon the critical situation in which we find ourselves.’

This is a warning to all of us who love theological studies – and also for all who major, academically and professionally, in political studies or economics or social sciences or any other discipline that relates to the life of the world!

The message is this – where does the rubber hit the road? Where does our studying connect with the needs of those for whom the coming of democracy has not brought abundant life, freedom of choice, human flourishing?

This is the crunch for ethical leadership. We, who have positions of authority and influence may indeed generally find ourselves in a chronos context – working through stable structures of governance and democracy. But we must do so in the service of those who still live with kairos urgency – in crisis times of inadequate food, shelter, clothing, health-care, education, and so much more that we take for granted. Even clean water from the tap! I was shocked to learn recently that the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs acknowledges that in South Africa over 100 children may die daily from diarrhoeal diseases, largely a result of poor water and sewage provisions. It is so basic – so why do we not address such fundamentals with far, far, greater urgency?

The greatest risks of leadership today are not of missing the window of opportunity – they are more often about complacency. Yet it takes strong, courageous, committed individuals to provide the leadership of integrity necessary for these times of so-called normality. This is leadership often behind the scenes, over years; content to proceed through small gains achieved through steady perseverance, not one-off great and decisive victories; without the adrenalin of the moment, with little promise of glory in the public eye.

But, if we are not to fall back into the traps of ‘church theology’, and the thinly disguised patronising attitudes with which it so often unwittingly comes, we must do more than merely work ‘on behalf of’ those we consider less well off than ourselves, within existing systems and practices. We need to turn the uncompromising eye of the prophet on these also, and ask ‘Whose interests do they primarily serve?’ Are we content with political, economic and social structures that are more geared to upholding our own comfortable lives, than to delivering human flourishing to those who most lack it?

Of course, this may not be popular with voters who aspire to the comfortable life! But once one has achieved even very modest levels of material well-being, more money is no guarantee of increased happiness, as studies increasingly show. We need to change the debate, as Pope Benedict attempted to do in his visit to Britain last month. He posed to young people the challenging question, ‘What sort of society do you want?’

There is far more to life than individualism and conspicuous consumption. Attempting to define ourselves by our wealth and what we buy, or though our status and influence, will not bring deep or lasting satisfaction.

Leaders of our Times

Nor is this what leadership is about. True leadership is not for the personal gain of those involved – an opportunity to maximise the benefits for oneself and one’s family and friends. It is not about 15 minutes of fame – like a prize supermarket dash, where one races through the aisles trying to stuff as much as possible into one’s trolley before one’s time is up.

Whether we find ourselves in politics, in business, in academia, in the media, in civil society organisations, or the faith communities: leadership must be about serving the interests of the nation as a whole – and especially the needs of those who still do not have access to the basic necessities of a good life. This is the leadership of servanthood – to put our lives on the line, for the wellbeing of others.

We have seen one of the most remarkable examples of this in Luis Urzúa, the leader of the 33 Chilean miners trapped underground. He held them all together, especially during the terrible 17 days before contact was made – days when death seemed closer than life. He provided the structure, focus, and discipline they needed, so that every single one was supported through the crisis. The strength of his character was such that it came as little surprise to learn he would be the last one of the 33 out of the mine. How many of our political leaders would show such selflessness, I wonder?

Yet we should not just imagine that he was a man of the moment who sprang from nowhere to meet this crisis. He had been a miner for three decades – three decades during which he developed the habits of behaviour and character which earned the trust and the respect of his colleagues. And when crisis came – he was ready to step up: and others recognised and followed his lead.

Madiba too, spent his long apprenticeship in jail – which shaped him for the pivotal task of leading us into a new era. And of course, the same is true of 'the Arch', Desmond Tutu, whom we honour in this lecture. We should form our lives through the same commitment to a life of doing what is right, in the right way, for the right reasons, in the service of humanity now and through the future of our planet.

We must do so as individuals, and corporately – for example, the ANC and other political parties must come to see servant leadership of the nation as the vocation of the whole party, and not merely of leaders acting as individuals. Furthermore, we must choose our leaders not on the basis of their connections – but on their fitness for office, in terms of both qualifications and experience, and of character and track record. It must be normative to expect the highest values, the truest morals, the best standards, and to see congruence between public and private lives.

Conclusion

Let me end with a challenge to all of you here today. Each one of you has the opportunity to be a leader – perhaps not in big or public ways. But all of you, through the choices you make or fail to make, will influence people around you – for good or for bad. My challenge to you is to be the best, ethical, servant leaders that you can be – directing your lives for the good of all, in the little things of life, and sustaining that commitment through whatever life brings your way. This is the sort of thing the LEAD-SA campaign is promoting, and I support it wholeheartedly.

And then, when opportunities arise – through the long slog of life or through moments of pivotal change – you will be the ones who are best placed to take them, and shape this country so that it can truly be a place where every person can flourish and live an abundant life. There can be no greater aspiration in life. May God bless you as you pursue this goal, and make you a blessing to others.

Sowing in Tears and Reaping in Joy - Commemorating St John's Church, Waterkant

Address given at St George’s Cathedral on 10 October 2010,, during events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the closure of St John’s Church, Waterkant, and its subsequent sale and demolition.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of St John’s Waterkant, thank you for your invitation to join you in this afternoon’s commemoration. Hearing the stories of loss and pain, sorrow and anger, of old wounds that are still raw when they are touched, has so many resonances for me. In those dark days, so many of us across the country were uprooted from our homes; our communities were torn apart; and, as with the dismantling of St John’s Waterkant, the visible icons of communities’ hearts were ripped out and destroyed

On ordination, I was licensed to St Mary’s Cathedral, which had incorporated as best it could, the people, windows, pews, of All Souls’ chapel. This had been destroyed to make way for a new freeway connecting and dividing the suburbs of Johannesburg, according to the group areas. Then, when I married, Lungi and lived in a flat at St Albans – which had been a thriving parish in Malay Camp (Marshalltown). But the predominantly coloured congregation had been forcibly moved, the building’s adornments taken elsewhere, and it had been turned into a chapelry for domestic servants and hostel workers.

After that, I became the first Rector of Christ the King, Sophiatown, after it was bought back by the CPSA, and reconsecrated at Easter 1998. This iconic church was abandoned in 1967, then deconsecrated and sold, and willingly sold – I don’t think it was a forced sale – to the Government. They sold it on to the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, who used it as a youth centre and boxing gym. Later it was bought by the Pinkster Protestant Kerk – and finally the diocese re-purchased it. To me it felt as if we had sold our own mother into prostitution, and were now buying her back in yet another sordid transaction. Christ the King returned to us with the building altered and dilapidated. What made my heart sorest of all was that the sacristy had disappeared; the CR Chapel had been remodelled beyond recognition; and Sister Margaret’s wonderful murals had been painted over and lost. Earlier this year, a British businessman presented a beautiful mosaic to replace the mural. But this does not alter the fact that, again and again, poor decisions were badly made, and too often implemented in callous and hurtful ways.

Today, it is so wry that I stand in the shoes of those Archbishops under whose watch these decisions were made – Archbishops of a Church which often opposed apartheid, but which in other ways got it so very wrong. The church will always reflect the ambiguous nature of humanity. At our best, we act courageously for God’s praise and glory. But there is also our worst side. And more often than not, this does not lie in spectacular errors, but rather in the small and shameful failings of fear and weakness and ignorance, where it is easier to say nothing or do nothing, instead of speaking out and acting decisively.

In today’s rapid political change, we must in our turn pray for eyes to see the signs of the times, and for the courage to respond where and how God wants us to. Pray for me, and the particular burden of office that I bear, in my own weaknesses and blindnesses. Pray that I may be wiser, braver, than the Archbishop who wrote to the Cape Times, in June 1970, that ‘many will feel more than a twinge of sadness at the disappearance of … St John’s’.

Today we have heard and felt far, far, more than a twinge in the deep anguish that has been shared. Today I stand here to take collective responsibility, and to say sorry – sorry from the bottom of my heart – for all that was done, that should not have been done; and for all that should have been done, and that was not done. People of St John’s, Waterkant, today the Anglican Church of Southern Africa apologises for all the wrongs done to you.

Yet while I stand in the shoes of Archbishops of the past – I also stand here as the Archbishop of today and tomorrow. I stand here knowing that saying sorry, long though it has been in coming, is not the end of the journey. For repentance allows us all to step forward towards the healing, the reconciliation, that Jesus made possible for us, through his own pain and suffering. His agony on the cross tells us that, words like healing and reconciliation are not used lightly or cheaply, in response to the anguish remembered in this Commemoration. God’s grace is not cheap. But God’s grace is abundant. All of us together must seek his face, and even seek his face in the faces of those who hurt us, so that his grace may abound in us all, and we can create a new future that glorifies his holy name.

In the Service with which we will conclude today, we will use the same readings as that final Service at St John’s. They speak of God’s unquenchable hope and promises of courage, even in the face of great confusion and loss. Perhaps we can now find that hope, that courage, in fuller measure. Yet I was also struck by verses from the Psalm that we would have sung, had we followed the Lectionary for Evening Prayer. In Psalm 126 we read: ‘Those that sow in tears shall reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, shall come again in gladness, bringing their sheaves with them.’ There is so much in life to make us weep. But even in our weeping, we must dare to keep sowing – to keep bearing the seeds of hope, of promise, that God plants within us, and from which he desires to bring harvest sheaves and fruit that will last.

And therefore, instead of attempting to re-create the ‘good old days’ and remaining in a place of pain, we must dare to look to the future, and imagine what new opportunities we can create from what has gone before. Possible options we might explore could include the following: first, a youth skills training project, in collaboration with the Cathedral, at the Cathedral, jointly run with them. Second, a youth academy teaching computer skills, or attracting music scholars – the aim of both of these being to train young people in leadership formation and character formation, as St John’s and its community did for so many of you. And third, perhaps we could look at establishing some lasting legacy, akin to the Selby Taylor fund. Perhaps through donations we could set up ‘The Archbishop Makgoba – St John’s Waterkant’ bursary fund, for young people whose families are connected with St John’s.

And the challenge of the Psalmist is for us on a personal level also. We must not be afraid to weep – but we must keep on sowing. So many of us now are leaders and decision-makers in the Church. We, who have known such pain, even at the hands of our Church, must allow the Lord to use us as his wounded healers for the sake of our Church, our nation, our future. Let us offer our pain to God, so that he may release us from its destructive powers, and equip us to be his ministers of reconciliation, for the salvation of the world. Amen.