Poverty is reaching “pandemic proportions” and the disparity between rich and poor is continuing unabated, or even growing, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town has told the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town.
Delivering his opening Charge to the Synod, Archbishop Makgoba called for leaders in society to “reconceptualize” their role.
“Leaders across all sectors must act intentionally to ensure there is equitable access to, and sharing of, the God-given resources of our planet,” he said.
“The last 50 years have brought widespread political emancipation across Africa – but economic emancipation has all too often benefited a narrow political elite, while largely entrenching previously advantaged minorities. The poor majority do not even get the crumbs.”
In a reference to Cape Town, he said that nothing he experienced growing up as a child in Alexandra township in Johannesburg had prepared him for the “dire conditions” he had seen in Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town.
The synod took place from Thursday to Saturday. Guests included the Mayor of Cape Town, Ms Patricia de Lille, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the head teachers of church schools, and the leaders of Anglican homes, institutions and other church bodies. During the service, the Rt Revd Garth Counsell, Bishop of Table Bay, introduced the diocese's new youth worker, Ms Abigail Hopley.
Verbatim excerpts from Archbishop's Charge follow. The full text of the Charge is carried below - see August 25.
"Reflecting on some of contemporary society’s persistent and pressing problems led me to write in my diary one day:
"‘When it comes to true leadership in our times, NGO development projects and charities do little more than scratch at the surface of poverty. The disparity between rich and poor continues unabated, even grows; and poverty reaches pandemic proportions. Interventions to reverse this trend will not come through democracy and elections alone. While these are critical for an open society, so far they have shown no signs of translating into prosperity for all – especially the poor who remain outside the economic mainstream of the world.’
"It seems to me that what is required is a reconceptualization of leadership – and here I am not talking only about Christian leadership, but about all leadership.
"We need a reconceptualization of leadership as stewardship of God’s resources; stewardship as in Jesus’s parable, which entails ensuring that all those over whom one exercises authority receive ‘their allowance of food at the proper time’. In other words, leaders across all sectors must act intentionally to ensure there is equitable access to, and sharing of, the God-given resources of our planet.
"The last 50 years have brought widespread political emancipation across Africa – but economic emancipation has all too often benefited a narrow political elite, while largely entrenching previously advantaged minorities. The poor majority do not even get the crumbs.
"Everyone needs clean water, basic sanitation, decent housing, and effective access to adequate education and health care. Economic empowerment must promote mass employment. This is primarily governments’ task – but the private sector must also come to the party, if we are to ensure a true ‘broad-based’ approach that encompasses those excluded by current economic models. Others look to the Church also to play a significant role – earlier this month, the Minister of Health sought our support for his efforts to make a decent and affordable level of health care to all South Africans. But the question remains of how we can best play a significant, tangible, role in economic development and emancipation – and help bring the authentic good news to the poor which Jesus promised.
"My challenge to you is to bear this question in mind, over the next two days, most of all, in our worship and in our seeking of God’s directing. But hold it also in your mind in conversations over meals, in debates, in group work – as we consider matters raised in measures and motions, as well as other priorities from theological education to children and young people; from Anglican Communion affairs, including the crisis facing the church in Zimbabwe, to those who are dying of hunger in Somalia; from the Communion’s listening process, to gender and Provincial Guidelines for pastoral care of those in, or affected by, same-gender Civil Unions....
"Reflecting on my ministry since coming to Cape Town, I have felt intensely that the underlying theme running through my busy life is the call to be a leader who is above all else a pastor....
"I have also felt the importance of pastoral leadership when walking with the poorest communities of our Diocese and City. Nothing I experienced growing up in Alexandra township prepared me for the dire conditions I have encountered in areas of Khayelitsha. Through practical engagement on issues like sanitation I have often found close fellowship and growing partnership with leaders of other churches and faith communities. Their experiences and perspectives also help my own grappling with how to tackle the many social and economic challenges that confront us on a daily basis."