The Most Revd Dr Thabo C Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, along with other church leaders in South Africa hosted a ten person delegation from China's Ministry of State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) in Johannesburg and Cape Town from 20 to 24 May 2011. Their purpose was two-fold: to reflect on models of church and the role of the church within local communities; as well as the church’s relationship with the state and how that is conducted. The delegation leader, Cabinet Minister Wang said, “China is going through massive change and we are keen to learn from our friends in South Africa where you have experienced amazing changes yourselves. We are looking for good role-models”. Church leaders realised afresh their enormous responsibility to reflect Christ and his church in practical ways that would bring fresh hope to a very needy world – and this case, to potentially impact 1.3 billion people through this engagement. South Africa was their final leg after visits to Kenya and Uganda.
The delegation’s first stop was Johannesburg where they were able to visit the Union Buildings, meet with the Revd Dr Frank Chikane who formerly served in the Presidency about church/state relations, and visit Soweto where they were able to visit prominent sites like the Hector Petersen Memorial, Regina Mundi Catholic Church and visit the homes of former struggle leaders.
Their Cape Town visit included a dinner hosted by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, attending the installation of the new Dean of St George’s Cathedral where they were able to engage with Cabinet Minister Trevor Manual who was representing the State President, visiting The Warehouse whose ministry assists churches in their response to poverty and injustice, the Fikelela HIV AIDS Centre in Khayelitsha, the JL Zwane in Gugulethu whose ministries of compassion are outstanding and the Bible Society of South Africa which now prints 98% of their bibles in China.
The Revd Peter Langerman, chairperson of the Consultation of Christian Churches and co-host of the visit said, “Our aim and prayer was for the Chinese delegation to return home convinced that greater freedom for the church would result in a major asset being released within their nation”.
Archbishop John Chew of Singapore who accompanied the delegation said, “Enormous changes have already taken place in China. We have been building a relationship with the Chinese state for about twenty years and are seeing the fruit thereof. A few years ago they permitted the establishment of a printing press in Nanjing. The press has already printed about 53 million bibles in Chinese languages”. About a quarter of all the bibles printed in the world today are being printed in China. Archbishop Chew coordinated the visit which was organized by the Primates of the Global South Anglican Communion.
Minister Wang Zuo'an who led the team was profuse in his praise for what they had experienced of the church in South Africa. He expressed the hope that models and principles of ministry and community that they had encountered here could also become a reality in China.
For more information, contact the Revd Trevor Pearce (Growing the Church)021 712 0408, or Wendy Tokata (Office of the Archbishop) at 021 763 1320. This statement is being released jointly by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and the Office of Growing the Church.
Attached photo: The Most Revd Dr. Thabo C Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Minister Wang Zuo'an of China's Ministry of State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA)