Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Synod of Bishops Statement - Leadership in our Times

The following statement from the Synod of Bishops was issued on 15 February 2011

Leadership in our Times

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” (Mark 10:42-45)

We, the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, meeting at Mariannhill in the Diocese of Natal between 7 and 12 February 2011, greet our people throughout Southern Africa in the Name of the Lord – all of you in that great sweep from the north of Angola on the west coast of Africa, to Tristan da Cunha in the south, and from there to the border between Mozambique and Tanzania in the east.

Leadership

Our theme for this week has been leadership, as we took time to reflect on our own roles and ministries as bishops, and our need to be effective in these days of rapid change.

We have also discussed the leadership required of our clergy, and the spiritual formation and theological and pastoral education required for their work. We heard an assessment of the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown from the Revd Professor Barney Pityana, the College’s new Rector, and we are considering the consequences of his report as we plan for the future of the College.

We are sharply conscious too that leadership in the Church is not exercised only by the ordained. Training in good leadership and stewardship is required at every level, from the trustees of the Province to the chapelry council of the most remote congregation. We commit ourselves afresh to be, as bishops, the trainers of the trainers of the people of God.

Governance and Public Policy in South Africa

We were privileged on Wednesday 9 February to receive for dinner a prominent Anglican in the person of King Zwelithini, together with Queen Thandi, herself a member of the Mothers’ Union. The King is well known for his leadership on key issues especially that of HIV and AIDS, and we appreciated hearing him speak in person about these matters. We congratulate the King on entering the 40th anniversary year of his accession and we commend him, with the royal family and the Zulu people, to the grace of God.

On Thursday 10 February many of us watched President Jacob Zuma of South Africa giving his State of the Nation address. We wish to assure the President and his government of our support in the work of governing South Africa and of providing for the needs of all our people, without lining the pockets of the few. We therefore welcome the President’s commitment to combat corruption – what is often now known as ‘systematised and structuralised corruption’.

We also welcome the President’s many undertakings for the future while sharing the widespread concern across the nation about the ongoing gap between promise and delivery. The words of Bongokuhle Miya which the President quoted should haunt every public employee in South Africa: ‘If the government, which is doing very well, could just pay more attention, with a bit of urgency to such areas.’ The poor are all too evidently still with us, and, after years of principled struggle for justice and the common good, we do not accept that their lives must remain forever as they are.

As we see local elections looming in South Africa, we reiterate our commitment to peace and to the democratic process at the local level. We are disturbed at reports of running fights in some of our communities, between the supporters of competing political candidates, even within the same parties. We dread what may happen when the parties start to face each other, unless restraint prevails. We call on political parties to campaign with dignity and discipline, and with due regard for the constitutional rights of all our citizens, including the right to hold differing opinions. No politician should demonise another. No political organisation has a divine right to public support.

Climate Change

The 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) will take place in Durban later this year. This affords another dimension to the search for the good of all; and we implore world leaders not to miss another opportunity to address climate change and its impact on livelihoods.

The Nations of Southern Africa

Once again we wish to urge high standards of ethical conduct and principled leadership upon all public leaders in all the countries which make up our Province of Southern Africa. We continue to be concerned, for example, at repressive conditions in Swaziland, and we call for open dialogue between the government and civil society to decide the future of that country.

Africa and the Middle East

Further afield we pray that leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and the Sudan may offer servant leadership in the crises in their respective countries. We have written fraternal letters to Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt and Archbishop Deng of the Sudan and have held them steadily in our prayers together during our meeting.

Our Archbishop’s Role

Reverting to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, we wish to affirm the developing leadership of our Metropolitan, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. In addition to visiting many dioceses and fielding a multitude of issues, Archbishop Thabo travels internationally to speak on faith in the public sphere and to promote dialogue and bridge-building, even now in Israel-Palestine.

We are in unanimous support of the Archbishop’s attendance at Anglican Communion meetings. We urge the leaders of the Anglican Church in Africa not to abdicate leadership of the Communion to the First World.

Human Sexuality and Civil Unions

At home Archbishop Thabo has taken a lead in bringing concerns to us from the dioceses in the Western Cape with regard to the pastoral care of those who have entered into civil unions with a person of the same gender or who are considering doing so. This is not a matter of us legitimising same-sex unions but of our care for these worshippers and also for their wider families. Our Church does not consider any relationship to be marriage unless it is the historic relationship of a man and a woman uniting, ideally, for life.

We will continue to work towards creating guidelines in several areas of difficulty which are raised by the issue of civil unions. It is difficult to give blanket guidelines because the position is starkly at variance in the legal systems of the seven countries in which our Church is found. A draft for discussion in dioceses is in development. However we note that guidelines in other areas could also be useful – for example, in supporting and affirming those who choose celibate singleness in their Christian discipleship, whether pending future marriage or for life.

We reiterate that we do not regard differences over human sexuality as a church-dividing issue. We continue to draw upon our experience of holding together by the grace of Christ in times of acute tension and disagreement in this subcontinent, as a basis for our work and for a possible bridging role in the tensions in the Anglican Communion.

Lausanne III Congress

On a wider front we rejoice in having had the 3rd Lausanne Congress in Cape Town recently: a body which has long – since at least 1974 – exercised leadership for good in the broadly evangelical Christian community worldwide. We rejoice too that Anglicans from Southern Africa and elsewhere played key leadership roles in the Congress and that Archbishop Thabo was able to attend some of the Congress events.

The Church in Mozambique

One of the greatest but least known stories of leadership over many years has been the heroic ministry of our Church in Mozambique, embodied supremely in the person of Bishop Dinis Sengulane. In times of war, of disease, and of postwar reconstruction – and now in the face of new challenges such as human trafficking – our church across Mozambique has played a sacrificial role in ministry and in church expansion. Now the Dioceses of both Lebombo and Niassa are raising the possibility of reconstituting themselves into several new dioceses and we are considering how best to enable this to happen.

Internal Disputes in the Church

We are deeply grieved at the breakdown in pastoral leadership in, and of loyalty to, our Church, reflected in isolated disputes reported from a number of places in the Province. Some of these have borne ugly fruit in inappropriate and costly court actions and, in one case, in a series of disgraceful electronic mails. All this is utterly beyond the framework of godly dispute resolution within the Church, especially given the extensive work invested in recent years to reinforce due process and fairness in all our procedures. We must take account of this in our leadership training.

Conclusion

We also join in the prayers and petitions of all and wish Madiba, our beloved former President, and his family, God’s peace at this time.

With these concerns and words of encouragement, and always seeking to follow the light and example of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, we commend you to the grace of God.

The Bishops of the Province

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