To the Laos - To the People of God - June 2016
Dear People of God
We face a busy time in the Province in the coming months. The recent Elective Assembly of the Diocese of Christ the King delegated to the Synod of Bishops the choice of a new bishop to succeed Bishop Peter Lee. So the bishops must now choose new bishops for both Niassa and Christ the King at their next meeting at the end of September. Please pray for us as we consider these choices.
Immediately after the Synod of Bishops meets, we will have our three-yearly Provincial Synod. Please pray for the planning process for Provincial Synod, which brings together the whole body of Christ in our church in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, the island of St Helena and Swaziland. Looking beyond our Province, the body of Christ as represented by Anglicans across Africa will meet in Kigali, Rwanda in August, when we will have a meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA). Pray for this meeting too, and for the election of a successor to the CAPA chair, Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi. Beyond Africa, please pray for the Gafcon grouping of Anglican churches and, indeed, for the whole Communion.
Both the Communion and our own Province continue to face the historic challenge posted by the debate around human sexuality. It is a painful issue both for those who support the traditional position on marriage and for those who wish to introduce changes. In our Province, the bishops are committed to ongoing dialogue and conversations around the issue, and I urge those who have not yet read my pastoral letter after the last Synod of Bishops to read it here.
The Second Agenda Book for Provincial Synod will include a resolution on the matter. Please begin to pray about this issue, reflecting on your own sexuality, on your understanding of the sexual orientations of others and on what might constitute a godly, pastoral, biblical and just way of dealing with this matter, taking us to a place beyond where we are now, in which those on both sides of the debate seem to be locked into our positions. I don't want to pre-empt our discussions at Provincial Synod here, but just be aware that this debate is on the agenda. I encourage you to ask your representatives to consult as widely as possible in your diocesan and parish preparations for Synod.
However, I should say immediately that I don’t want the issue of sexuality to dominate our thinking as we view the Communion, and especially as we consider the welfare of our sisters and brothers in other parts of our continent. I have recently been reading material from the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), in Durban, and the situation in the Great Lakes Region is very worrying. Pray particularly for the Democratic Republic of Congo—for an end to conflict in the east, for their planned elections and for their rulers as it appears elections might be delayed and the President’s term of office extended. Madiba’s role in brokering a previous settlement there makes the fate of the Congolese people of special concern to us. As you consider the issues to be dealt with by Provincial Synod, please pray for the Synod using the prayer which appears at the end of this letter.
In South Africa, we are scheduled to have heavily-contested municipal elections in August. It is against that backdrop that I joined other religious leaders recently to witness party leaders and the IEC staff signing the Electoral Code of Conduct in Cape Town. At the signing, the IEC pledged to be transparent and accountable as they work to ensure a free and fair environment for elections. Parties also pledged to play their part. Among the commitments which the Code imposes on parties and candidates are that they undertake:
• Not to use language which provokes violence,
• Not to intimidate voters,
• Not to publish false information about other candidates or parties,
• Not to bribe others to vote for a party,
• Not to deface or remove posters, and
• Not to carry weapons.
Preaching at St Luke’s, Salt River, in Cape Town earlier this month, I regretted the fact that in some provinces of the country we have seen an upsurge in what are said to be political killings. I appeal to all Anglicans to take seriously our civic responsibilities: to vote and to take action if you see any signs of the Code being breached.
In Cape Town, news has come in of the passing of Bishop Charles Albertyn, formerly Bishop Suffragan and a Regional Bishop in the Diocese. His funeral will be on Saturday June 25. We remember Bishop Charles for his deep spirituality and centredness on God, and for the deep wisdom and quick wit he brought to the leadership of the Diocese. We convey the Province’s heartfelt condolences to Berenice and the Albertyn family.
Please offer your prayers for all the situations I have mentioned in this letter in the spirit of St Paul, where he says so beautifully in 1 Corinthians 12, that “all the members of the body, though many, are one body...” and “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.”
God bless you
†Thabo Cape Town
Collect for Provincial Synod
You provide all that is needed to proclaim your
Kingdom to the nations in our generation:
the wisdom to discern the available resources,
the means to develop the people you are calling, and
the humility and strength to commit to the task before us;
through Jesus Christ who has revealed the Kingdom to us
and in the power of the Holy Spirit who drives us into your world.