Statement from the Synod of Bishops, 3-7 February 2014, Linga Longa Retreat Centre for Healing, Limpopo, South Africa:
“For you shall go out with JOY and be led forth with PEACE; the mountains and the hills shall break forth in singing.” (Isaiah 55:12-13)
The Synod of Bishops met at Linga Longa, in the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, from Monday 3rd to Friday 7th February 2014.
Integral components that have become part of rhythm and practice of our bi-annual meetings included spending time together in prayer and worship as well as receiving the word of God through the sharing of our colleagues at morning Eucharist.
It was a blessing to be ministered to through music and singing by the Diocesan choir at our opening evening prayers.
The meeting included a pastoral visit and walk of witness to the local Parish in the Phahameng community of Modimolle, where we prayed and engaged in dialogue with parishioners and community leaders.
We use the February meeting of the Synod of Bishops to enhance and enrich our leadership by reflecting on current and emerging issues through contributions by invited guest speakers who assist us to move beyond reflection to praxis in our varied contexts.
General Bantu Holomisa challenged the Bishops through his address on the importance of adequate prior planning if we are to be visionary and effective leaders.
Mzolisi ka Toni from the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities addressed the bishops on the need for churches to be accessible and accommodating to persons with disabilities, while also urging the Synod of Bishops to be sensitised to issues of language and attitudes that discriminate against people with disabilities.
The Revd J P Heath spoke of his HIV positive status as well as the fact that he was in a civil union with another cleric, and now working in the church in Switzerland. His sharing helped us to reflect realistically and openly on guidelines we are drawing up for those living in civil unions. The Synod of Bishops resolved to discuss these guidelines at this year's meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee, since Provincial Synod 2013 urged the Synod to finalise the guidelines.
We reflected on Anglican Communion matters, especially the recent debates on sexuality. We reaffirmed our position of seeking to be bridge-builders within the continent and the worldwide Communion.
The Synod of Bishops also dealt with the issue of “transitional leadership” – that is the need to prepare bishops for the transition from active diocesan roles towards retirement. The Archbishop will assist in this process and ensure that it becomes an ongoing agenda item at the Synod.
Of note was an agreement to give the Diocese of Mthatha permission to have a Suffragan Bishop following its enormous growth over the last years.
The Synod of Bishops also agreed to introduce a second award for both laity and clergy who have distinguished themselves within our Province.
Synod of Bishops warmly and heartily endorsed the forthcoming Anglicans Ablaze conference, under the theme “Hope is Rising”, from July 2nd to July 5th, 2014. All bishops together with their spouses have registered to attend the conference.
We welcomed with joy the news that the diploma at the College of the Transfiguration (Cott) in Grahamstown has been accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority and that the college has now also been conditionally registered. This is an exciting milestone, for which we thank Prof Barney Pityana, his team and God. We have more students than we can allocate places for at Cott this year. We thank the bishops and their dioceses for this support, and the Province for funds raised on Theological Education Sunday.
We also received with excitement and anticipation the news about the upcoming visit of Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Justin Welby to our Province in July this year.
We ended the Synod of Bishops giving thanks to God for the ministry of Bishop Dinis Sengulane who retires from our Province and his diocese after 38 years as a bishop. The bishops gathered around Bishop Dinis and prayed for him in a very moving service.
We ended by encouraging our faithful to continue to be Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s mission and Transformed by the Holy Spirit.
As the Synod of Bishops ended, we joined in singing and praying with Deutero-Isaiah as we wish joy and peace to all parishioners and communities within our Province.