Thursday, 24 February 2011

Call for a Stronger Response on Libya by South African Government

This statement was issued on 24 February 2011

Seen from Bethlehem, where I am participating in a conference with our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters, it looks as if Colonel Gaddafi is intent on murdering his own people in a bid to outstay his welcome as their leader. Moreover, many Libyans report that he is using mercenaries from other parts of Africa to gun down civilians indiscriminately in the streets.

People of faith who uphold the belief that humanity reflects the spark of the divine, cannot watch helplessly as Libyans are killed like flies by those who are supposed to be looking after them.

We as South Africans cannot be silent in the face of these atrocities. We know that governments argue that they have to respect the sovereignty of their counterparts in other nations, but all human beings are our neighbours, regardless of artificial, colonial boundaries, and we should be showing love for our fellows and acting accordingly.

The South African government looks as if it is paralyzed, numb with fear of offending the “Brother Leader”. For the sake of humanity, in line with the principles of ubuntu, I call on them to speak out more strongly against his violations of international humanitarian law. Even the African Union has condemned Libya for using “indiscriminate and excessive use of force and lethal weapons against peaceful protesters”. Will the South African government not at least follow suit?

As I voice my deep concern about the humanitarian and political crisis in Libya, I also want to give assurance of my prayers and my condolences to the families of those who have been killed as they bury their loved ones.

+ Thabo Cape Town

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Message of Support and Condolences to Anglican Bishop of Christchurch

In a letter today (22 February 2011) to the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Christchurch in New Zealand, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba wrote the following:

Dear Victoria,

I am shocked and deeply saddened by the immense damage cause by the earthquake in Christchurch. I have been stunned by the photos which are reaching us with the images of human tragedy, displacement and the physical damage to so many structures, including the lovely and historic Christchurch Cathedral.

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I send our condolences to the families of those who died or are missing and the assurance of our prayerful support in the days ahead.

While we don’t have certainty about what is causing the severe climatic changes we are witnessing around the world, their impact is devastating to all. As COP 17 prepares to come to Durban later this year, my prayer is that honest and in depth discussions that lead to binding protocols will be put in place which will contribute to the reversal of climate change and signal a new global effort and commitment to respect the integrity of creation and our environment.

Again, please be assured of our prayers for you and all the people of Christchurch.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town; Inquiries: Wendy Tokata on 021- 763-1320 (office hours)

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Condolences to N1 crash victims

The following statement was issued on 16 February 2011

I wish to assure the family members of those who died in this tragic accident of my prayers during this most difficult time. I pray that in the midst of their sorrow they may know the love and peace of God offering them some consolation and hope in their lives. I also hope and pray that the communities in which the families reside will surround them with love and support.

I have seen today of the miraculous birth of twins to one of the survivors of the accident. We pray for health of those two infants and for the recovery of their mother from her serious burns.

And for those who survived the accident, I pray for their full recovery. I also give thanks to God for the emergency personnel who were on the scene and those who have ministered to the injured in the several hospitals where they were admitted for care. May God continue to bless and guide them.

+Thabo Cape Town

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.


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.


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

Saturday, 12 February 2011

President Zuma's Use of Religious Language, and State of the Nation Address

This statement was issued on 11 February 2011

Let us change the discourse. We are approaching municipal elections and once again we are hearing words and words and more words. At the same time we see very little action which shows that the poor are being cared for and that service delivery is evident in many parts of our country.

Last night we listened to President Zuma deliver the State of the Nation Address. We applaud the emphasis on the creation of more jobs and greater efforts towards service delivery. We were also glad to hear that government will seek to fill its own vacancies so it can be more effective. Will government also ensure that competence and commitment to those in greatest need are requirements of new workers? The plans sound positive, but the question which looms large as always is the same – can our government deliver on these promises? And, will the Alliance work together for the betterment of the lives of those most disadvantaged persons in our country?

Jesus said to Peter, ’Feed my lambs; tend my sheep and feed my lambs.’ The instruction is to serve and not run to eschatology (concerns about the end of time). The command is to love oneself as you would want others to love you and not to have all interest focused on self and family but rather on your neighbours who are without even the most basic services.

Our concern is not to ‘protect’ Jesus from these issues. Jesus calls us into this battlefield we call our society. Jesus reveals his true identity in the demands he places before President Zuma and the ruling party and before all of us. In short, we are called to bring all people into a fullness of life which God has intended for all his children. This is what it means to followers of Jesus.

Statement on Plane Crash over Plettenberg Bay

This statement was issued on 10 February 2011

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and our Synod of Bishops meeting now, we send our prayers and condolences to the families of those who have died in Tuesday’s plane crash over Plettenberg Bay. The sudden nature of such a tragedy leaves us stunned beyond words.

I am grateful that individuals and organisations have stepped forward to lend whatever assistance they can.

We also ask that God our Creator will continue to uphold all those who are bereaved and shocked by this accident and to give them the spirit of hope and peace as they come to terms with this tragedy.

Note for Editors: The Province of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa comprises Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Inquiries to the Revd Suzanne Peterson on 021- 683874 (office hours) or 072 112 9738

To the Laos - To the People of God

Dear People of God,

Today, as I write, is Candlemas (2 February), the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, which draws the season of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany to a close. It is rather a ‘bitter-sweet’ day, as we celebrate with Simeon and Anna their recognition of the one who comes to be their Saviour, our Saviour – but also recognise that he must taste the pains of human suffering, if he is to share with us the promise of heavenly life.

We find the bitter and the sweet together so often in life. I have just returned from the Anglican Primates’ Meeting, where I felt both great sorrow at the painful divisions that led some Primates to stay away, and yet also was profoundly touched by the depths of our shared worship, Bible study and discussions. We did have some ‘business’ issues to address (including the harassment of Anglicans in Zimbabwe and persecution of Christians in Pakistan; political developments in Egypt, Korea and Sudan; violence against women and children, and the murder of the Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato; and climate change). But for the most part, we took counsel together on what it means to be a Bishop and a Primate in the Church of God, sharing one another’s joys and burdens in conversation and in prayer. In the cold Irish winter, sheltered at the Emmaus retreat centre, we were conscious of our weaknesses, and our interdependence, and kept those who were not present alive in our hearts, through a lit candle, remembering Christ, in whose body we are all members together, as our light.

Prayer and fellowship, study and reflection, are our bedrock, as we seek to care for one another, giving mutual support, and taking counsel with one another. Our aim is to deepen our relationship – especially on a spiritual level – and to help one another grow in Christ, by the leading of the Spirit, and so to be faithful to our individual and shared callings. This is the task of all Christians wherever we find ourselves: as Primates, in the Synod of Bishops, in Dioceses, and at Parish level and within our families too. We do not choose who we find ourselves alongside, and we often have very different backgrounds, or expectations, or personalities. It is not easy to get along with everyone, all the time, and sometimes we will disagree quite strongly. But wherever we recognise Christ as the cornerstone in the life of another person, we have no option but to continue striving to be built together as God’s ‘living stones’ (1 Peter 2). And so I came home full of hope that, without underestimating the challenges in our Communion, we nonetheless still have something dear to us, to hold on to and to cherish.

There have been other bitter-sweet moments in the life of our own Church. It saddened me greatly that the consecration of the Rt Revd Sebenzile Elliot Williams as the first Bishop of Mbhashe was only able to proceed after the courts threw out unsustainable challenges to his election. Of course, the church must uphold both the spirit and the due processes of our canons and the laws of our nations. But it perturbs me that when people do not get their own way through following the proper courses, there is such a temptation to dash to a lawyer to try to overturn what should be accepted with grace. We should take to heart Paul’s admonition that secular legal action is our last resort (1 Cor 6). At times, sadly, that point does come, as we found in the Diocese of George – so now we wish them a fresh and ‘sweet’ beginning, following the election of Revd Canon Brian Marajh as their new Bishop. He will be consecrated on 7 May. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

Your prayers are also asked for Nelson Mandela, and all who love him. He is an old man of 92, and we cannot hope for him to stay with us for ever! We thank God for all he has done for South Africa, and the inspiration he has been to so many beyond our borders. But we must also commit him into God’s hands, asking, as the ancient prayers say, that when his time comes, he may have a ‘good end’ and not be afraid to make that final journey to his eternal home, trusting in the one who gave his life so that we might know the life of heaven with him. But until that time, we ask God to strengthen and uphold Madiba, and surround him with his love and care.

In the three years since becoming Archbishop of Cape Town, I have been twice to the Holy Land – a place of great bitterness and sweetness. Most recently Lungi and I travelled there last October as the guest of Mickey Glass, a former executive officer of the Jewish Board of deputies. Later this month I shall return, to participate in an international conference at the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, which will consider the theme ‘Challenging Empire: God, Faithfulness and Resistance’. I have found it humbling to listen to stories from all faiths, all backgrounds, and to walk alongside those from every background who desire a just and lasting peace. There are both parallels and differences with our own painful history. It is my deep prayer that we might be able to share the best of what we have learnt, in order to support and encourage Israelis and Palestinians, and the whole international community, to keep striving urgently for justice, and a sustainable solution for everyone. So soon after Christmas, as I continue to ponder the enormity of God taking human flesh as a baby, I am struck once again by the need to for us to see and encounter others – especially those ‘others’ who are different from us – as children of God, bearing his divine spark, living with the same human frailties as we do. It is in sharing our vulnerabilities and weaknesses that we build the trust that is necessary for going forward together.

I hope too, that I shall learn lessons about the public voice of our own Church, and the role we play in our own nations. That will be one of the subjects on the agenda of the Synod of Bishops, when we meet from 7 to 12 February. Please keep us in your prayers as we also elect the new bishop of St Helena. We wish Bishop John Salt a happy retirement and thank God for his ministry.

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Anglican Synod of Bishops meets in KwaZulu-Natal 7 – 11 February

This press release was issued on 8 February 2011.

The Synod of Bishops of Anglican Church of Southern Africa is meeting in Marianhill, Pinetown, for its twice a year regular meeting. At these meetings issues of faith, doctrine and ethics are discussed.

At this meeting the bishops will receive a report from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba on the meeting of Anglican primates which he attended recently in Dublin. The meeting will also focus on spiritual formation, social analysis (or orthopraxy), ecumenical relationships and theological education and inculturation. The bishops will continue their work on guidelines which the church requested they provide for couples in same sex relationships.

An external company specialising in leadership will lead a session for the bishops, as will the Revd Dr. Barney Pityana, who was recently appointed by the Archbishop as Rector of the College of the Transfiguration – the Church’s theological college in Grahamstown.

King Goodwill Zwelithini, who is a member of the Anglican Church, will join the bishops for dinner on Wednesday evening.

Note for Editors: The Province of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa comprises Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Inquiries to Gail Allen on 021- 763-1328 (office hours)