Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Red Card Corruption Campaign

This is an edited version of the keynote address delivered at the launch of the Red Card Corruption campaign on 20 August 2011 at Walter Sisulu Square, Kliptown, Soweto. It was carried in the Cape Times of 30 August 2011, on p.9.

Corruption Threatens our Dream

In the past, churches and faith communities shared a burning desire, with liberation movements, to replace apartheid with constitutional democracy. Now the challenge is how to make this transition into a practical reality for all South Africans.

As the former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan has said, ‘No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime.’ In South Africa, we are still learning how to become a democracy, and still feeling our ways into the new relationships appropriate to constitutional democracy. Government, political parties, the private sector, academia, the media, civil society, faith communities and so forth, now each have our distinctive contributions to make to the life of the nation as a whole. We are still learning where we should stand in solidarity, and where we should be critical; what it means to hold and to exchange legitimately diverse perspectives; and how to deliver and receive criticism that is constructive.

The way to pursue such maturing democracy is to abide by our constitution. I want to look at what this means for all of us. As a faith leader, I firmly believe it when God says that people matter. God cares that his beloved children should all have adequate food, shelter, clothing and so forth. God cares that everyone should be treated with complete respect by everyone else, with no one marginalised, excluded or voiceless in the ordering of our common lives. This is what democracy is all about.

As Anglicans we are in solidarity with the needs of the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the most marginalised; including the strangers, the foreigners, in our midst. We are in solidarity with available, affordable health care for all. We are in solidarity with effective rural development. We are in solidarity with education for all that truly equips our young people to be responsible citizens, able to face the challenges of adulthood.

On the other hand, we are critical of a response to crime that leads to escalating deaths among both police and suspects. We are critical of inadequate social support, and of continuing delays faced by too many of the most needy, especially paperless orphans and pensioners – though I recognise that there are some improvements. We are, and you all should be, concerned with honour and respect, with freedom, with unity and diversity, with healing, with democratic values and social justice; with human rights, with quality of life and liberating potential, for every single one of us.

To be subject to our constitution means to breathe life into these commitments to one another.

We are here because many of us believe that corruption – in government and in business and in our communities - is endemic and is eating at the very moral fibre of our nation and its democratic values. Corruption threatens the dream of rooting out residues of apartheid and creating the South Africa we would all be proud of. That is what makes the Red Card Campaign an urgent and important effort. I call on all South Africans not only to sign the pledge but also to inscribe it in our daily lives.

The pledge has two distinct and important parts:

1- It calls upon government to establish a strong, independent, anti-corruption body to investigate all acts of corruption and bring the perpetrators to justice; and

2- It calls upon us to pledge that we will neither take nor offer a bribe, and we will report any such incidents to the relevant authorities.

But there is much more at stake here. The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) which has gathered us here places before us a challenge: “A complacent citizenry remains the greatest threat to our constitution. As responsible citizens we should assert our right to actively campaign for the realisation of rights enshrined in the constitution.” We in South Africa have a constitutional democracy for which so many struggled and for which many died. We cannot step back from doing what we can for the realisation of the rights promulgated in the constitution nor can we relinquish the responsibilities that come with democracy. An active and alert citizenry is foremost among those responsibilities. As we all lend our support and work for the public/common good, let us never tire of ‘red-carding’ corruption.

However, it is the responsibility of governments – more than any other body, and more than any other objective – to pursue the public good. In particular government must prioritise the needs of those who are least able to achieve their own wellbeing – the poor, the marginalised, the disadvantaged, and the vulnerable. The Golden Rule calls us all to care for others as we would like to be cared for ourselves.

It seems so simple and yet we experience it to be quite difficult at times. Indeed, the history of our country would be quite different if we had begun long ago to live by this rule. But there is nothing to stop us from making the ‘golden rule’ our baseline in addressing corruption.

Many South Africans acknowledge having offered or having been offered a bribe. Certainly, highly publicised examples of corruption and claims of corruption are the centre of conversation in many circles. As I said during the funeral of Mama Albertina Sisulu, “We see examples of where many have used political power to enrich themselves and their relatives and friends, sometimes through blatant corruption – and so betray the legacy for which the Sisulu family has striven.”

Beyond being illegal and immoral, when money is misused, its potential to be utilised in constructive and helpful ways is lost. Housing, education, health services and social development cry out as obvious examples where we can least afford this. Corruption also causes costs to escalate and often new programmes are sidelined. Money to employ badly needed personnel ‘disappears,’ and resultant understaffing leads to poor services, worsening results, and a continuing downward spiral.

Corruption at this macro level is the point at which many people get most upset. But we must not forget corruption at the lower level. One can imagine situations involving traffic officers and speeding fines and other tickets where one might be tempted to cross the line. Corruption at a lower level – sometimes where the currency isn’t even money, but dishonesty about work done or left undone – has an insidious effect on the type of society we are building, which seriously concerns me as a person of faith. The ability of us all, especially those who are most disadvantaged by society’s injustices, to always ‘do the right thing’ is further undermined when it seems that dishonesty by those in positions of power and influence goes unchecked and unpunished.

Therefore, let us recall the words of the preamble to our constitution:

‘We, the people of South Africa, recognise the injustices of our past; honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic so as to ¬heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; to lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and to build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations. May God protect our people.’

These challenging but cherished words are not to be taken lightly nor forgotten. The task of making the preamble of our constitution a reality is considerable – but this cannot be a reason to side-step or seemingly ‘redraft’ it. We must continue to press ahead together.

We can take another important step forward with the Red Card Corruption campaign. Through this we can say an emphatic NO to corruption which slows our pace of development as a nation and weakens the moral fibre of individuals and society. Let us not forget the challenge CASAC has put clearly before us:

“The Constitution is our social contract based on democratic values, social justice, human rights and the improvement of the quality of life of all South Africans. We cannot progress and prosper through greed. An act of corruption is a crime against us all. We call upon the government to establish strong, independent, anti-corruption bodies that can investigate all acts of corruption and ensure those that commit corrupt acts are brought to justice. We must now stand up blow our whistles and Red Card Corruption.”

Please join me as we pledge together:

“I /we pledge neither to receive nor pay a bribe; and to report any attempt to solicit a bribe from me, and other corrupt activities to the relevant authorities.”

If you are interested in signing the pledge, go to www.casac.org.za

To the Laos - To the People of God, August/September 2011

Dear People of God

I am writing at the tail end of August, with the Cape Town Diocesan Synod just over, and the Provincial Standing Committee lying ahead in late September, so please excuse me if I roll two letters into one. I also apologise that because of travel and other busyness, I did not find an opportunity to write to you in July.

In my Charge to the Cape Town Diocese, I took as my theme The Good News of Faith and Love. This reflected St Paul’s words to the Thessalonians that he had been greatly encouraged to hear of their faith and love from Timothy (1 Thess 3:6-7). The faith and love of Christians are always good news, building one another up in Christian maturity, and shining as a beacon of light and hope to the surrounding community. The best good news is that both start with the God who is love, the God who is faithful, with overflowing generosity. All of us need to discover God’s love and faithfulness towards us, for ourselves, and keep on growing in them throughout our lives. This must be our top priority – for it is only through God’s overwhelming generosity that we find our worship invigorated and ourselves enabled to live out our other baptism promises of witness and worship.

In this season of Synods and Committees, we need to remember to root and ground ourselves in God’s love and faithfulness, and allow him to shape and fuel our lives, even as we grapple with the sort of managerial and financial questions that tend to dominate our agendas. We should not despise such work as ‘less spiritual’ than other aspects of church life. Rather, it is an aspect our calling to good stewardship, to collegiality within the body of Christ, and being answerable to one another within the body of Christ. In the language of the secular world, these are matters of good governance and accountability, with the world’s standards merely a secular reflection of God’s high calling to us. Therefore we can be ready to learn from the best of secular practices, for example as set out in the King reports. These can help us ensure we operate in ways that best promote our desire to be wise and faithful servants, of our God, and of those to whom he sends us.

At the same time, we must remember that, as we debate the wider concerns of the societies to which we find ourselves called in mission and ministry, we are nonetheless not called to be environmental activists, nor social workers, nor politicians, nor moral commentators – though we may contribute in all these areas and many more. Our unique calling is to do what no-one else can do: to live out our baptismal promises in lives of faithful worship, witness and service. How can we best bring the good news of Jesus Christ, his healing touch, his redemptive power, to areas of need, suffering and deprivation? Sent by God, at his direction and in his power, we can roll up our sleeves, and get our hands dirty, and confidently engage with the messy realities, and the dire needs, of so many of God’s children alongside whom we live and work in this city. This is the lesson of Jesus’ incarnation. And I am sure that the all-encompassing breadth of Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection should press us not only to address symptoms but also causes of human failings, suffering, brokenness and need.

So please pray for me, and especially for your Diocesan Representatives – Bishop(s), cleric and layperson – as we prepare to gather for PSC. If you don’t know who they are, your Rector or Diocesan Office will know. On our agenda, as well as the budget and reports from our organisations and institutions, our particular concerns include completing the task of bringing the Omokunda Development Network fully under ACSA’s wing; our work with young people; our preparedness to engage with the UN COP-17 Conference on Climate Change in Durban from 29 November to 9 December; and our relationship with Kairos Southern Africa, which was launched in March 2011 to carry forward the legacy of Kairos theology in Southern Africa and to be in solidarity with others throughout the world. We shall also be finalising a Memorandum of Understanding with USPG to guide the next phase of our relationship, with a particular focus on both leadership and health.

We shall spend a considerable amount of time, much of it in groups, looking at the ACSA Vision, and work at the Provincial level in the 8 priority areas identified by Provincial Synod, in ways that support diocesan life and goals. I have appointed Coordinators to each priority area, who will provide updates on taking forward the Synod mandates, on which PSC can offer further guidance. Our desire to go forward together as Anglicans ‘Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God's Mission and Transformed by the Holy Spirit’ is gradually growing in substance.

Another area I want to mention, and for which I ask your prayers, is the development of Pastoral Guidelines in relation to the same-gender civil unions for which South African legislation now provides. Following requests to the Bishops for advice in relation to the pastoral care of people in such unions, and their families, the Synod of Bishops has, over several meetings, produced a document reflecting our common mind on this very sensitive issue. Proposals have now been sent to Dioceses for consultation within archdeaconries and parishes. We are requesting feedback on whether this offers the sort of guidance that those in pastoral ministry seek, in time for our February 2012 Synod of Bishops. PSC will also consider them. Let me underline that this document is not directly about the continuing debate around human sexuality, though it affirms that we uphold the moratoria of the Anglican Communion on the ordination of persons living in a same gender unions to the episcopate; the blessing of same-sex unions; and cross-border incursions by bishops. Rather, this focuses on the human and pastoral realities that we inevitably face in parishes following South Africa’s new legislation.

I am glad that we shall be welcoming two very special guests at Kopanong. The Most Revd Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will join part of the Synod of Bishops meeting that precedes PSC; and the Most Revd Ian Ernst, Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, and current Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, will be with us both at SoB and PSC. We hope that through sharing in our meetings, and some other brief visits in Cape Town and Gauteng, they will learn more about ACSA, and we can strengthen our relationships within the Anglican Communion and as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Monday, August 29, 2011

'Embracing our Human Dignity' - Sermon for Women's Day

This is an edited version of the sermon given at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, on Women's Day, 9 August 2011.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-27; John 20: 11-18

May I speak in the name of God, who is more than a Father and Mother to every human child. Dear Sisters in Christ – dear Sisters and Brothers also – it is a great joy to be with you today as we mark Women’s Day; and a particular joy to be at this Tri-Diocesan Event and to feel myself part of the wider historic family of the Anglican Church across the Western Cape. On behalf of us all, may I express heartfelt thanks to the Revd Cheryl Bird, and all of those who have worked with her – across the Dioceses and at the Cathedral – in preparing for today’s service. Thanks also to all who are participating in this service, and to those who have prepared the refreshments for us afterwards!

The Gospel reading we have just heard is one to which we often turn when we consider the ministry of women in the Church. Here Mary Magdalene is commissioned by the risen Christ to be, as we often put it, ‘the apostle to the apostles’. She underlines for us God’s insistence on using all of his children without distinction. Women as witnesses didn’t count for much in those days. But Jesus called on Mary to be an apostle: a channel of the good news of his resurrection; of his defeat of sin and death; and of his promise of forgiveness and cleansing, healing and wholeness, justice and peace, and new life to all who trust in him. It was her task to spread the news that he who had come as friend and brother, was also the embodiment of the living God who reaches out in redemptive love to every single human being.

He makes the same call to each one of us today. The fact that we need a ‘Women’s Day’ on our calendar indicates how much we yearn for such forgiveness and cleansing, healing and wholeness, justice and peace, new beginnings, and most of all, the supremacy of redemptive love, in the gender-related aspects of our lives. It indicates how much we recognise that we fall way, way, short of these ideals, often getting it hopelessly, hopelessly wrong.

And yet, it is a good start that we can make such an admission of our failings and shortcomings. Acknowledging what is wrong is the necessary first step for making changes. And acknowledging what is wrong before God is the necessary first step for receiving his strengthening of our wills, and his empowering of our lives, to help us make those changes.

So today, we come before God acknowledging our need, our desire, to make a difference; and opening ourselves to receive his directing and equipping for this task. For we know that we are part of a society – and sometimes even a church – that, far too often, does not treat its women well: whether in actions, in words, or attitudes. And too often, children also are caught up in these harmful situations – the little ones for whom Jesus cared so much.

Yet as we look to Jesus, and the way he cherished children, and the way he dignified women and their roles in his church, we can sometimes be daunted by his example. We know he was fully human and fully divine – yet we are ‘only human’. Though he identifies completely with all it is to be human, even suffering death, we can also feel at times that his example of sinless living is so far beyond us, we do not know where to begin in answering his call ‘follow me’. Mary Magdalene’s example can give us courage.

She had dared to be near the cross on Good Friday – not doing anything, not saying anything, but being present, watching; and later she had taken note of where Jesus’ body had been laid. Sometimes that is all we have to do as a first step. We have to be present to what is happening, to watch, to see, to take note. What we have to look at may disturb and shake us – but, for a first step, it is not too hard to do.

And then, on the Sunday morning, Mary goes early to the tomb. The other gospels speak of the women taking spices that they had prepared. As is so often the case, it is left to the women to do the necessary ‘clearing up afterwards’ – to be those who follow on behind events and deal with the mess, or whatever needs to be done.

For Mary and the others, it was dealing with the aftermath of death. So often in our society, women bear the burden, and deal with the hardest consequences, of poverty, of violence, of abuse, of discrimination. Even in our church, so often men take on the leadership roles – while it is women behind the scenes who do so much of the work! As you may know, at Provincial Synod last year, one of my dreams is to consecrate a woman bishop for our Province, during my time as Metropolitan!

Mary arrives at the tomb and finds it empty. So now she has to do something with what she has seen and noted – she has to tell others this information. This too can be our next step – to pass on what we have seen and noted to those around us, perhaps to those with some sort of leadership in our own situations. Mary runs to Simon Peter; and he, and ‘the other disciple’ – whom we always assume to be John – race to the tomb ahead of her. They see, they may or may not understand, and they leave, ‘returning to their homes’ says the gospel. Whether or not they bothered to say anything to Mary, as they left together, is not recorded!! Men, eh?!

As we just heard read, Mary stood outside the tomb crying. She was not afraid to engage with the situation with her heart and soul – she was not merely looking at the facts of what she saw. She was part of this situation. It is in the honesty of this experience – being vulnerable, unafraid to show her love, her care and her pain for the one she had seen suffer and die – that she encounters the risen Christ. And, as we know so well, she receives from Jesus the commission to report not just what she has seen, but to declare his own message of resurrection good news to those who need to hear it. She receives the joy and the boldness of those who know that, in the midst of death and apparent defeat, life and love triumph. She knows that she has been caught up into the new world in which we can know the reality of that forgiveness and cleansing, healing and wholeness, justice and peace, new beginnings, and most of all, the supremacy of redemptive love, which, as I said before, we need so very, very, much.

The Risen Christ who meets her in her weakness, in her need, in the pain of what she sees and experiences, is the Risen Christ who meets us too. We must follow Mary Magdalene’s example, taking that first step of being present to what is happening, watching, really seeing, and taking note. And we must be ready to speak about what we see.

This is at the heart of the White Ribbon Campaign, to which I am so glad to be giving my pledge today, on behalf of this Diocese – while Bishops Merwyn and Raphael do the same for their Dioceses. For it is not enough for us merely to be those who neither commit nor condone gender-based violence. We must also speak out. We cannot remain silent – for to do so is all too often to be complicit in allowing such abuse to continue.

Like Mary Magdalene, we must tell of what we see. We must name what is before us, if we are to go on and find solutions. Then, we too must be unafraid to engage with the situations we encounter, with heart and soul, as well as merely our heads; and be prepared to step in and be part of these circumstances. We too must be honest before God about what we experience – allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, and to feel love and care and pain for those who suffer. Then we too will encounter the risen Christ, as Mary Magdalene did. We too will receive his commission to declare Christ’s message of resurrection good news to those who need to hear it. And like Mary, we will also receive the joy and the boldness of those who know that, in the midst of death and apparent defeat, life and love triumph.

Dear Sisters in Christ, dear people of God, sharing together as the body of Christ is a source of tremendous gladness. And yet we also know the truth of St Paul’s words that if one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. And as we look at the communities from which we come, we know that where there is pain and brokenness, the whole community is affected. This comes in everything from petty crime that escalates, through to abuse and violence within families and within neighbourhoods, to lax morality not only in relationships but in relation to honesty, truth-telling, and upholding high and holy standards in every aspect of life. Where society is sick, the whole body is brought low. We also see this in the injustices within our economy, in the way public debate is too often about mud-slinging and personal attacks rather than informed discussion, in the dubious ethical values of too many of our country’s leaders.

All this can seem overwhelming. But when we look with honest, open eyes, as Mary looked; when we step into these situations with vulnerable hearts; when we bring them before the Lord – then we will encounter the Risen Christ, and know what Mary knew. With her, we will find ourselves caught up into the new world, where Jesus has overcome sin and death, and all that diminishes humanity, and harms God’s children. And like her, we will be able to proclaim the reality of that forgiveness and cleansing, healing and wholeness, justice and peace, new beginnings, and most of all, the supremacy of redemptive love, into every situation which we encounter.

I must admit that there are times when I find myself outside my comfort zone, and have to remember Mary’s example. You probably know that I am getting a reputation as ‘the toilet bishop’ because of the visits I have made to Khayelitsha with other faith community leaders, especially to look at questions of sanitation. The conditions in which I grew up in Alexandra township were pretty grim, but nothing I saw there prepared me for conditions in Khayelitsha where some people are practically living on top of open sewers. And who can forget the heartbreaking case of the little boy who was dragged from his home and killed by dogs, while his mother left him in order to go to the toilet. We can only come before God aware of our human weaknesses before such tragedies, and ask for him to empower us to bring his hope, his redemptive change, to such situations.

The God who met Mary Magdalene in her weakness, in her need, in the pain of what she sees and experiences, is the God who will indeed meet us too. Dear Sisters in Christ – we know that the deepest yearning in the heart of God is to bring healing and wholeness to his children. For God did indeed love the world so much that he sent his Son, not to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved, redeemed, rescued through him. And Jesus his Son, willingly laid down his life for those he loves – for every single human being who has ever existed, and for the sake of this world which we inhabit.

There is nothing that God wants more, than for us to accept and receive this good news for all people. And there is no-one that he cannot, and will not, use as a channel of his good purposes, just as he use Mary Magdalene. So today, once more, we come as Mary did – out of love for Jesus, weeping at the pain and sufferings we experience. Let us be open to be surprised by the Risen Christ – encountering him in places, in situations, in ways, we did not expect – and ready to be the channels of his good news of healing and wholeness to a broken world. Amen

Call to Share Resources to Narrow Rich-Poor Gap

This press release was issued on 29 August 2011.

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."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Diocese of Cape Town rejects proposal to support Government National Health Insurance plan

This press release was issued on 28 August 2011

The ruling synod of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town has rejected a proposal that it should declare its support for the government's National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

Meeting in Retreat, Cape Town, the synod approved a resolution saying that South Africa's current “two-tier” health care system was “neither just nor sustainable” and supported the principle of “just health care for all.”

However, it voted against a motion that the diocese should support the principle of the NHI. It instead called on Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to commission a study of the NHI upon which the church could base a decision.

Archbishop Makgoba said in a statement issued after the Synod:

“The Synod was unanimous in rejecting the current health care system, in which an expensive, profit-making private network, affordable only to a minority of mostly white South Africans, sits alongside an under-resourced, inefficient public health care system in which the vast majority of black South Africans receive care which is often inferior.

“There is a desperate need to improve access to health care and to improve hospitals and other infrastructure. The maternal and child mortality rates in our country are shocking for a country which has the resources we do.

“So we support the Minister of Health in his efforts to bring decent and affordable health care to all South Africans.

“But members of our Synod question whether the NHI will reform the system. Some of us fear that private hospitals will simply set up inferior 'NHI wards' alongside high-priced wards, replicating the current system.

“Others say that before introducing an NHI, the government needs to show its commitment to change by ending corruption and improving the attitudes of some health workers towards their patients.”

The original motion urging support for the principle of the NHI was proposed by the Revd Rachel Mash of St Mark's Church, District Six. The amendment calling for a study of the issue was proposed by Archdeacon Karl Groepe of the Church of the Ascension, Devil's Peak.

The Synod was held on Friday and Saturday at St Cyprian's Church, Retreat, Cape Town.

The final resolution read: “This synod, recognizing that our current two-tier system of health care is neither just nor sustainable, supports the principle of just healthcare for all and respectfully requests the Archbishop to commission a study of the NHI in the light of this and publish a statement to this effect.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Charge to the Diocese of Cape Town Synod

The following Charge to the Diocese of Cape Town was delivered at the Opening Eucharist of the 63rd Session of Diocesan Synod, at St Cyprian's Retreat, on 25 August, 2011

Matthew 24:42-51Matthew 24:42-51

42Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

45‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives. 47Truly I tell you, he will put that one in charge of all his possessions. 48But if that wicked slave says to himself, “My master is delayed”, 49and he begins to beat his fellow-slaves, and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour that he does not know. 51He will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13

6But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us—just as we long to see you. 7For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. 8For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. 9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith.

11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Dear members of the Diocese of Cape Town, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear friends, I greet you in the precious name of God, who calls us to live holy and blameless lives of love and faith with him and with each other. I also extend a warm greeting to all our guests. Thank you for being with us.

As I begin, let me also thank Bishop Garth and the Advisory Committee; everyone in the Diocesan Office; all at Bishopscourt; Archdeacon Anthony Langenhoven and his team at St Cyprians; and everyone else who has contributed to this Synod, and to my Charge. As always, my family deserve particular gratitude for their patience and support – along with the nearest and dearest of others heavily involved in preparations. Let me pay special tribute to Tony Hillier. We give particular thanks for his work over many years, and wish him every blessing as he prepares for retirement.

The theme of my Charge is ‘The Good News of Faith and Love’. St Paul writes to the Thessalonians that Timothy has brought him the good news of their faith and love. Faith and love are always good news. When brothers and sisters in Christ live together in faith and love, they encourage one another, and build one another up in Christian maturity. When the people of God are full of faith and love, they are a beacon of light and hope to the surrounding community. When churches overflow with faith and love, they encourage Christians throughout the body of Christ – as the Thessalonians encouraged St Paul.

But the best ‘good news of faith and love’ is that both start with God – the God who is love, the God who is faithful. Our faith, our love, owe everything to his overflowing generosity. ‘We love’ says St John ‘because he first loved us’ (1 Jn 4:19). ‘God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us,’ writes St Paul (Rom 5:8). The Psalmist recounts God’s faithfulness nearly forty times. And the writer to the Hebrews describes Jesus Christ as a ‘faithful high priest in the service of God’ (Heb 2:17).

There is no greater good news than discovering God’s love and faithfulness for ourselves: that it is not just a general attitude towards creation and humanity, but it is for you and for me! Our knowledge and experience of God, and our ability to reflect his love and faithfulness to others, should keep growing throughout our Christian lives. We will never find their limits – no matter what life brings, God’s love, God’s faithfulness, are greater.

So the central question of my Charge is this: how we can grow in this good news of faith and love?

Growth can, and should, involve both quantity and quality: growth in numbers and growth in depth, in maturity, in Christlikeness. Both are challenges to an historic church like ours, in a city of many denominations and Christian groups. We should not despise the inevitability that much of what we do is in ‘maintenance’ mode. We have a rich heritage – in people, liturgy, buildings, schools, homes, resources – and we must uphold and preserve and pass on the best of it. Overall we are in pretty good shape. We may have deficits or surpluses from year to year, but the big financial picture is sound. For this we have much to thank God – and firm foundations from which to tackle the challenges of growth with confidence.

Earlier this month I attended the Classic Pops concert that Bishops holds every three years at the City Hall. It was wonderful: well prepared and well executed, with committed boys who were exuberantly joyful in what they were doing. We left with our hearts singing.

And I asked myself – how often does our worship do this? Surely we should expect to have our hearts set on fire with the Spirit, to find ourselves fed and filled with Christ’s holy, healing, wholesome body and blood – and uplifted not just for an hour or two, but strengthened for the whole week ahead. Do we come to church – and give others reason to come to church – hungry for more of God, and expecting both to find our hunger met, and to be stirred to yearn even more deeply for him?

Perhaps for those of us who are long-term church leaders – clergy or laity – the risk is that we are not entirely expecting the Son of Man to turn up in our midst. It is easy to get comfortable running things in his absence – as Jesus’ parable warned! So we must be awake and alert; and expect the Master to come, even though he will probably upset our comfortable routines. Yet only in his presence will we find true life.

So then, let us, above all else, seek his life-changing presence evermore fully for ourselves and for those around us. As St Paul prayed for the Thessalonians, let us ‘pray earnestly that God will restore whatever is lacking in our own faith.’ We must seriously consider opportunities for renewing, deepening and sharing the good news of vibrant faith and passionate love for God, his creation, his people.

Two synod motions point to valuable resources: ‘Small Christian Communities, Renew Africa’; and ‘Church Growth, Fresh Expressions’. Both focus on growth rooted in Scripture and deepening spirituality – growth rooted in the love and faith of God for us, and our desire to know it and share it, more and more.

We must also consider the sort of leadership we need to encourage among each other now, and for the future generations. I cannot emphasise strongly enough the importance of the Endowment Fund in ensuring we leave a legacy of well-trained Clergy and laity. The motion on Lay Training is another key element.

Our gospel reading has more to say about the particular expectations placed upon those of God’s servants who have responsibilities of both leadership and care over others: ‘Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom his master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their allowance of food at the proper time?’ (Mt 24:45).

Members of Synod, these words, and the advice and warnings that come with them, are for us. How are we doing in the leadership we offer to the Diocese of Cape Town? How are we doing in the way we run our parishes, our churches, our diocesan bodies, including homes and schools, and in how we use our resources? In church jargon, we might talk about good stewardship, collegiality, and being answerable to one another within the body of Christ. In the language of the secular world, these are matters of good governance and accountability. These are the standards to which we regularly call politicians and other leaders across all sectors of society. But we can only provide a moral compass for others if our lives are directed by God in this way. For the world’s standards of good governance and accountability are merely a secular reflection of the holy and blameless life to which St Paul called the Thessalonians; they are one aspect of the wise and faithful service which Jesus asks of his followers.

We must be ready to learn from the best of secular practices. Therefore, several Synod measures propose improvements to our structures and practices. These include renaming the historic Archdeacon to the Ordinary more accurately as the Archdeacon to the Bishop of Table Bay. Second, we must ensure a clear and transparent relationship between financial and administrative tasks in the work currently undertaken by the Diocesan Secretary. Third, in line with the King III report, we propose to establish an Audit Committee, a Remuneration Committee and a Legislation Committee. These will help ensure we operate in ways that promote our desire to be wise and faithful servants, of our God, and of those to whom he sends us. In responding to this calling, we also propose amending the Diocesan Resource Teams chapter of the Diocesan Acts, to strengthen our commitments to the Environment, and to the pressing and severe needs of Social Development and Social Responsibility.

Yet, let me hasten to add, we are not environmental activists, nor social workers, nor politicians, nor moral commentators – though we may contribute in all these areas and many more. Our unique calling is to do what no-one else can do: to live out our baptismal promises in lives of faithful worship, witness and service. How can we best bring the good news of Jesus Christ, his healing touch, his redemptive power, to areas of need, suffering and deprivation? Sent by God, at his direction and in his power, we can roll up our sleeves, and get our hands dirty, and confidently engage with the messy realities, and the dire needs, of so many of God’s children alongside whom we live and work in this city. This is the lesson of Jesus’ incarnation.

And I am sure that the all-encompassing breadth of Jesus’ redemptive death and resurrection should press us not only to address symptoms but also causes. 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.

As we seek God’s answers, I am sure that we will find that our social ills or lack of wellbeing require solutions rooted as much in spiritual health as in economic policy-making. By God’s grace, the gospel readings for the next two days provide us with more food for thought. These will provide the basis for my reflections in the morning homilies, and a spring-board for our Bible Studies.

As we consider these, I hope we can bear in mind the deeper question of how we can make our parishes centres of the good news of faith and love, and of encountering Christ in daily life – in ways that not only touch our hearts and souls, and the domestic arenas of family and personal life, but also help us to follow Christ’s leading in every public area of life, including work and economics. How can we go beyond providing the crumbs of charity – important though these are – and start changing the systems that leave so many in need of help, rather than empowering them to help themselves? How do we become part of God’s solution – identifying and rooting out all that impedes his command that humanity, and every human individual, should flourish; and that creation should be fruitful? What biblical values might this journey demand, what sort of questions do we need to ask and what sort of activities do we need to engage in? What type of leadership do we need to nurture the Churches’ contribution in this area, and enable this to happen?

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 feel my call to be pastor on occasions like today, and in archdeaconry teas, as well as in the joy I feel when visiting our churches, organisations, schools and homes, across the Diocese. It is what I feel when we open Bishopscourt for an annual party for those at our Children’s Homes. Let me here publicly thank Patricia de Lille, as, formerly MEC for Social Welfare, and now Mayor, for her support; and also thank our Anglican Schools for their help. I feel it in many areas of working with Bishop Garth and Tony Hillier – and I am looking forward to exploring fresh ways at the Cathedral with our new Dean.

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.

Let us continue that grappling together in Synod in the days ahead, placing ourselves in the hands of the living God. Let us seek his direction that we may better make the unique contribution he asks of us – as pastoral leaders, or however he calls us – to strive as fully as possible, for the building of his kingdom, for the redemption of creation and all within it, and the glorifying of his holy name. Let us be faithful and wise, let us be awake, alert and expectant – as Jesus expects of his servants. Let us, as St Paul exhorts, pursue holy and blameless lives, of earnest prayer. And let us increase and abound in love for one another, for our God, and for his world.

Let us be people who grow in knowing and sharing the Good News of Faith and Love. Amen.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Support the Somalia Famine Relief Effort

The following open letter was released on 16 August 2011.

My dear brother bishops,

I want to commend to you and your dioceses this global Somalia Famine Relief effort. As you will see, the facilitation of this huge effort was led by the Anglican Alliance for Development, Relief and Advocacy, as described in the attachment (copied below, in this blog).

We are all well aware how the devastating famine in the Horn of Africa is very much in the hearts, minds and prayers of people around the world. This appeal offers an opportunity to be committed to this effort for the ‘long haul’ as it indicated in the attachment. In addition to donations from people of faith around the world, it also calls on international bodies to increase their response.

Please send donations from your dioceses to the Office of the Provincial Treasurer, clearly marked “Anglican Somalia Famine Relief” and deposited to:

Account name: ACSA Disaster Relief Fund; Bank: Standard Bank of SA Ltd; Branch: Cape Town Branch IBT No: 020009; Account No: 07 007 8394

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Revd Suzanne Peterson, Public Policy and Advocacy Officer at Bishopscourt (021 763 1333).

I know that you will join me in continuing to hold the people in the Horn of Africa in our prayers, along with the many groups who are trying to assist them, often at some peril to themselves.

God bless.

Yours in the service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

The Anglican Communion News Service issued the following release on 10 August 2011.

Ecumenical faith leaders in Africa today launched a Call to Action and Appeal for the people affected by famine in the Horn of Africa.

The move came after a two day meeting in Nairobi led by the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa and involving the All Africa Council of Churches the Lutheran World Federation, WCC-EHAIA, FECCLAHA, LWF, OAIC, WSCF, EAA, ACT Alliance and World Vision, brought together by the Anglican Alliance for Development, Relief and Advocacy.

As the first Africa regional ecumenical and interdenominational gathering in response to the food insecurity and humanitarian crisis, the group paid tribute to the heroic work of the humanitarian agencies, churches and others who had saved millions of lives working in difficult circumstances to meet the needs of people fleeing drought, famine and war.

And the meeting issued a Call to Action to:

- The international community to meet the US$ 1.4 billion humanitarian funding gap; provide the necessary technical support to meet the needs of the affected population, especially women and children and ensure that global food security is given a high priority at the G20 meeting in France in November. Food aid is no substitute for food security. (See below)

- The UN to give higher priority to the policies to provide sustainable food supplies, and to work with the Arab League to address the root causes of the conflict which has affected the region for so long.

- The African Union to bring forward its donor conference, increase budgetary support for agriculture, and bring forward strategies to address the crisis affecting the refugees in the region, and ensure that there is safe passage for humanitarian purposes.

The faith leaders also committed their churches to long term support for people and communities affected by drought and famine. Launching the Appeal, the Most Rev Ian Ernest, Chairman of CAPA and Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean said: “In showing solidarity and support to our brothers and sister affected by the current crisis, we the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) hereby launch an appeal for financial aid from all good people and well wishers. This appeal will be used to support local partners that are working in the affected areas. Because our intention is not only to deal with immediate needs, but to find long term solutions, this appeal will extend up to the end of 2012.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

Comoros Boat Crash

The following statement was issued on 12 August 2011

The Most Revd Dr Thabo C Makgoba has sent a message expressing his deep shock and sadness upon learning of tragic deaths of more than 50 people and of the many more who were injured when the ship ‘Madjriha’ sank off the coast of the Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros on 8th August.

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, he sent a message of condolence and a prayer for strength to Anglican Archbishop Ian Ernest, in whose Province this tragic accident occurred. He also sent his message of condolences and comfort to families, friends and relatives of those who died and of those who were injured, assuring them of the prayerful support of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa during this time of mourning.

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

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Advance Notice - Women's Day Service

Advance press notice

The Most Revd Dr. Thabo C Makgoba will be the preacher at a Women’s Day Service, under the auspices of the Gender Desk of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA).

The Service will be held at St Georges Cathedral Cape Town, starting at 10h00 with the theme - Embracing our Human Dignity.

The White Ribbon Campaign

At this occasion the White Ribbon Pledge Campaign will be launched officially within the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. This international campaign began in 1991, and forms part of the annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, that starts on 25th November each year and runs through to 10th December. Violence and particularly gender-based violence in all its forms is an endemic reality of South African society, and calls everyone to ACTION. The White Ribbon Campaign aims to eradicate gender based violence.

Bishops of the Dioceses of Cape Town, False Bay and Saldanha Bay will be signing a pledge, which will be carried forward through each of their churches so that together all will pledge: “Not to commit, condone or remain silent about all forms of Gender-based violence”

The Revd Cheryl Bird, Coordinator of the Gender Desk for the whole Anglican Church in Southern Africa, described the plans for the day: “We will gather as the Old Diocese of Cape Town, from the new dioceses of False Bay, Saldanha Bay and Cape Town, to call to mind and to celebrate the achievements and struggles of the past and the present. On so many levels, we remember and celebrate “times past and present, things old and new, forming the foundation of our hope for the future.” This reminds us of the words we, as children of God, hear each year at the blessing of our Easter Candle, “Christ yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega; all times belong to him and all the ages, to him be glory and power through every age forever.

“The theme for Gender Desk; “Embracing our Human Dignity” has its genesis in the Vision for Mission and Ministry of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa: Anchored in the love of God, Committed to Christ’s mission, Transformed by the Holy Spirit

“Together we are given an opportunity to embrace our human dignity and to explore afresh what it means to be created and recreated in God’s image. “Today then, as we celebrate the historicity of this day, may our commitment be to ACT, and so to strengthen the foundation of hope and fulfilment for the present and for a people yet unborn.”

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Inquiries: the Revd Cheryl Bird, 021 469 760 or 083 707 0149

Restitution in South Africa

The following article has appeared on the website of The Restitution Foundation (http://restitution.org.za/2011/08/the-most-rev-dr-thabo-makgoba-anglican-archbishop-of-cape-town-2/). They would welcome any comments you might have.

Restitution in South Africa has many facets which could make valuable contributions to the building of the society for which we long to see.

From the perspective of our Constitution, restitution upholds the cherished values of freedom, equality and human dignity. It has the possibility of deepening social cohesion and enabling South Africans to redress past wrongs and move forward together.

As a person of faith, I believe restitution is quite simply, the ‘right thing to do.’

‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is the biblical foundation for retributive justice which is often put forward in such discussions.

However, there is another perspective, namely, a restorative way. This way is held by at least seven of the world’s great religions. It is mostly referred to as the Golden Rule – that we are called to care for others as we would like to be cared for ourselves. It seems so simple and yet we experience it to be quite difficult at times. Indeed, the history of our country would be quite different if we had begun long ago to live by this rule. That is our past, with which we must amend and make peace- hence our need for restitution.

At a practical, restorative level, perhaps the State, in partnership with business, should enact symbolic repentance. The State should hand over state land for communal purposes and business should assist the recipients of this land in addressing current lack of skills, socio- economic disparities and joblessness.

Today holds a key for tomorrow, our future. Let us not repeat our past mistakes. Let us care for others as we would wish to be cared for ourselves.