To the People of God,
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought Jesus up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke 2:22)
As your bishops we met at the Glenmore Pastoral Centre in Durban from 2nd to 5th February 2015. As always, our time together was characterised by a rhythm of worship and prayer, word and sacrament, formal meetings and informal fellowship, wrestling with issues, and receiving ongoing training for leadership and ministry.
In our opening Eucharist we commemorated the presentation of Jesus in the temple (Luke 2:22-40), when Simeon recognized and blessed him as the promised Messiah and the prophetess Anna praised God for this child who would bring about the redemption of God’s people.
We are deeply aware of our high calling from God as well as our human frailty. We shared the joys and pains of seeking to live, with our families and in our communities, as disciples of Christ in these challenging times. Our time together was enriched by reflections on Paul’s theology of the body, led by Canon Janet Trisk. This teaching has deep implications for the way we see and relate to one another and how we understand the church. Mr John Brand introduced us to a process of conflict resolution through mediation and began to train us for this ministry.
We recognise that our society, and often the church as well, needs to learn more creative, life-giving ways to resolve conflicts – rather than the destructive, violent and litigious approaches we often experience. We call on all the people of our nations to turn away from violence, abuse and destruction, and to seek constructive ways to address our differences and challenges. We also reject the rampant evil in many parts of the world that kidnaps, massacres and persecutes defenceless people in the name of religion.
Dr Isaias Chachine presented a paper on ethical considerations around death and dying. We reflected in particular on the excessive amount of money spent on funerals, and the exclusion of some people from funeral services in church are a great concern. We learned of, and condemned, the practices of a funeral parlour that allegedly kidnaps bodies and releases them for burial at prices which are exorbitant for poor families.
We also heard accounts of the suffering as a result of the floods in Mozambique, and each of us committed money from our Dioceses towards relief work there. We invite our people, parishes and organisations to work with Hope Africa or the ACSA Disaster Relief Fund.* We were saddened to hear of renewed conflict and shootings in Lesotho and have written a letter of support and concern to King Letsie III.
Turning to internal church matters, members of the Liturgical Committee led us in a creative and energising workshop to take forward the process of revising the Anglican Prayer Book. We were excited by the working title, Under Southern Skies: In an African Voice. We commended a planned consultation with Diocesan representatives in June this year and the ongoing process in regions. We look forward to the publication of an experimental resource for Sunday worship in the near future.
We also agreed on a way forward for the pastoral guidelines regarding Civil Unions in ACSA, which we now have in draft form. All Dioceses are asked to consider these issues of mission and ministry during 2015 and the first part of 2016. The aim is to present a resolution on them to Provincial Synod in 2016.
We welcomed the arrival of Dr Vicentia Kgabe as Rector of the College of the Transfiguration. We affirmed Theological Education Sunday on 23rd August this year, and encourage all our people to give generously to “the Great Collection” for theological education. As bishops we noted with joy the progress being made by the Anglican Board of Education and the appointment of Mr Roger Cameron as Chief Executive Officer.
We also heard about progress in the training of “Pioneer Ministers” for Mission Shaped Ministry and the development of Fresh Expressions of Church. We will continue to monitor our progress and reflect on our experiences.
We bade farewell to the Bishop of Namibia and confirmed elective assemblies to elect new bishops for the dioceses of the Highveld, Namibia, Natal and Pretoria. We sent our congratulations to Bishop Libby Lane of the Church of England on her consecration as a bishop in the church of God.
Finally, we noted and give thanks for the 25th anniversary of Madiba's release from prison.
We pledged to be God's instruments, as God equips and empowers the Church to be a source of life and healing for the people and nations of Southern Africa.
* Please contact the Treasurer’s office for details of how to donate: terry [ at ] anglicanchurchsa.org.za
Synod of Bishops