Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu loses his sister, Sylvia

On behalf of the Province, I have sent our heartfelt condolences to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond and the Morrison family on the death of his older sister, Sylvia Morrison. 

Please soak Archbishop Desmond and his family in prayer. He and Mama Leah have permission to drive to Johannesburg to be with the Morrison family - please pray for travelling mercies and that they will keep safe and healthy on their travels. We commend them to the love and pastoral care of the Diocese of Johannesburg. 

When I called Archbishop Desmond today, he said Sylvia had a "good innings" of more than 90 years. We are grateful for Sylvia's life, and may she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Monday, 3 August 2020

To the Laos - Daily Reflections on Eucharist Readings - COVID-19 - Patriarchy in the Church

Dear People of God

As someone who has benefitted from the reflections of others on the daily Eucharist readings, I plan – beginning this week – to issue a thought for each week day from lockdown in Bishopscourt. You will find the first one here and at the end of this post. I hope you will find them useful.

Five months into the coronavirus pandemic, most parishes and dioceses across the Province are still in preparation mode for the return to worship – only the Diocese of Khahlamba in the northern part of South Africa's Eastern Cape province has indicated that it plans to open churches, which it will do next Sunday, August 7.

The protocols that must be observed before you can return to church are strict. Most countries in the Province do not allow congregations of more than 50, and we advise the elderly not to come back to worship at all at this stage. (As a reminder of the stringent conditions, see pages 3-8 of the South African Council of Churches' guide, to which we contributed.) 

Since I last wrote, some of our clergy, their spouses, and a number of our parishioners have died of complications related to COVID-19. Please pray for their families as they mourn, and that those who have died will rest in peace and rise in glory. 

We are going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus, and possibly with a second wave of infections, at least until a vaccine is available for all in our region. This means we have to change our behaviours, especially those involving physical contact with others, and also to keep hope alive – especially since scientists are reporting good results with vaccine trials so far. The “virtual worship” initiatives which most of you have adopted, offering services via Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and the like, are admirable, and essential in this time, but they can never replace in-person worship.

At a Communion level, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury has launched The Together in Unity Appeal to raise funds to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our world-wide church. Speaking during the week in which the Lambeth Conference was due to get under way, he has encouraged dioceses and parishes to support one another during the pandemic. Last week, I appeared on the BBC World Service to support the initiative and to talk about our experience in Southern Africa. (You can view the interview below my reflection at the end of this post.)

At least for the present – and in some areas of our life into the future – the coronavirus is changing how we do church. On September 1, the day on which we commemorate our Church's founder, Bishop Robert Gray, we will consecrate the new Bishop of Table Bay, Joshua Louw, in St George's Cathedral in Cape Town. In line with lockdown regulations, we will limit attendance to 50, which means only Bishop-elect Joshua's family and diocesan office-holders are likely to be present. 

In another step necessitated by the virus, we will consider at Provincial Standing Committee (PSC) a motion dealing with how we can amend our canons to hold elective assemblies for new bishops in the current environment. This is an urgent need, since the pandemic has already forced us to put on hold elections for the dioceses of Kimberley & Kuruman, Lesotho, Natal and Zululand.  Canon 22 stipulates that the Metropolitan is diocesan in such vacant dioceses, although a vicar-general is appointed. You can all imagine my wish and prayers for this particular motion to be passed.

Both the September Synod of Bishops meeting and PSC will be held virtually. Members of PSC will gather at diocesan hubs, with each diocese connected online to Bishopscourt. Other matters on the agenda include plans for establishing a new Southern-Central African Lusapho Province (comprising our dioceses in Angola and Mozambique) and reports from the Archbishop’s Commission on the election of women as leaders in the Church and from the Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission.

Recently I joined an online meeting with a group of eight women to discuss a statement they had drawn up on patriarchy in the Church and the gender-based violence it generates. Although there was some criticism for engaging with a self-selecting group, mostly from Cape Town, I was happy to join the debate on how the Church, in the words of their statement, can “strive for the Kin-dom of God, where justice for women is restored” and for “a new, beloved community where all humans are affirmed as image bearers of the living God.” 

As it turned out, my exhortation that the way to achieve change in the Church is to work through those structures which can adopt and implement change was underlined afterwards by reactions from around the Province calling for a more inclusive, thorough-going approach. I urge all women – including those unhappy about not being included in the dialogue with me – to take up issues in their parish, diocesan and provincial structures. 

For instance, questions of language and liturgy are best worked through with the Liturgical Commission; theological matters with the Southern African Anglican Theological Commission; canon law with the Canon Law Commission; issues relating to women's leadership with the Archbishop's Commission on the election of women; theological education and doctrinal matters with coordinators of theological education and the relevant diocesan and provincial structures; gender-based violence with Safe and Inclusive Church; and wider gender issues with the Provincial Gender Desk. 

Since men do not suffer the lived experience of patriarchy, we need more women as leaders in the Church. As I told Provincial Synod last year, I am very concerned that we have only two woman bishops in the Province. Hence the decision to appoint a commission to make recommendations to address the problem. But we need to go beyond the episcopate – perhaps we need to legislate that there ought to be 50 percent representation of women among lay representatives at all levels of church leadership? 

We also need to make our language more inclusive. The use of the phrase “Father” in English has long been challenged for promoting patriarchy and male headship in the Church (apart from sitting uncomfortably with those in our more evangelical parishes). The problem is not as acute in the languages spoken by most of our members – at Bishopscourt, the rule has long been to address all clergy as “Moruti”, which is not gender-specific. In the Episcopal Church in the USA, numbers of parishes call their priests “Mother” – but what is your experience, and how would you suggest we address woman priests? I am comfortable with Thabo, but “Arch” is beautiful. Some call me variously Moruti, Solufefe, Mobabatsehi, Sua Graca or Aartsbiskop, but Olga Kgoroeadira will never stop calling me Father Thabo!  

In this Month of Compassion – and Women's Month in South Africa – I invite all of us to orient ourselves to the experiences and plight of women, and to shine a spotlight on those behaviours that are life-transforming for us all.

God bless.

†† Thabo Cape Town

Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Statement on the death of Andrew Mlangeni

The sad loss of Andrew Mlangeni marks not only the passing of a generation prepared to lay down their lives for justice and freedom, but of a leader who continued to model ethical, values-based leadership in the interests of the poor.

Our society owes an inestimable debt to the Rivonia generation, and we owe it to the memory of Baba Mlangeni and his comrades to recover their values and work not for our own personal gain but instead pursue the common good.

I will miss seeing and warmly interacting with Baba at the annual State of the Nation address.

We send our condolences and those of the wider Anglican Church to his family. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Condolences to the family of Zindzi Mandela

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, we send our condolences to the family of Ambassador Zindzi Mandela upon her untimely death.

She was one of the icons of our struggle and I personally recall her appearance at Jabulani Stadium in 1985 when, during a celebration of Archbishop Tutu's Nobel Peace Prize, she memorably delivered a message from Madiba in prison in which he refused an offer of conditional release and declared "I shall return".

Our prayers ascend for her and her family, including her "second mother", Graca Machel, and we pray that they may experience God's consolation in their sad loss.     

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Challenges of COVID-19, Gender-Based Violence and Conflict in Mozambique & the Holy Land - To the Laos, the People of God

Dear People of God

More than three months into the coronavirus pandemic, we are beset by ever-changing challenges as governments ease lockdowns to help save jobs and the economy, while at the same time the incidence of COVID-19 cases is rising in parts of our church Province.

Since I issued my Pentecost letter, hardly two days go by without reports of people known by name in the Church dying, being hospitalised or going into quarantine after being tested positive – parishioners, clergy, clergy spouses, bishops and their families. As I write, the number of cases in South Africa alone has exceeded 160,000, with the number of deaths heading towards 3,000. As Bishop Brian Marajh of George says in an Ad Clerum, “These numbers are no longer just statistics made up of numbers, the numbers have faces, and it is persons known to us or to others that are close to us.”

The financial implications of the pandemic are also afflicting the church, notably bringing about the sudden closure of the Bishop Bavin School in Bedfordview, Gauteng. The school, founded in 1991, was having difficulties already when the pandemic and lockdown hit us, putting paid to efforts by the school and the Diocese of Johannesburg to rescue it.

At a time such as this we are all called upon to be leaders, helping guide our congregations and our communities to make decisions which both keep them safe and allow them to live their lives as normally as possible. But with changes coming so fast, we don't always know in advance what we will be called to make decisions about. Asked at a recent webinar hosted by the Gandhi Development Trust about leading in times of crisis, I emphasised the importance of how we make decisions in disruptive times: approach problems with an open mind; hold firm to your values but be flexible on the policies and actions you adopt; listen to experts with differing opinions; follow the data and the science; seek to find a consensus response; and then communicate your course of action early and often. I repeated this call in an address to the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business.

Most important, in the Church we should strike a note of hope as we steer our way through the pandemic: hope in facing the challenges with eyes of love, sensibility and as much certainty as we can. We need to be asking, who is my neighbour and how do I care for her or his welfare? What can I do to alleviate hunger? How can I help those in quarantine? And we must be disciplined about wearing masks outside the home, observing distancing and generally behaving as Christians with loving hearts, acting lovingly towards others.

I have written before of the shocking occurrences of gender-based violence during lockdown, not only here but across the world. In an important initiative, the authorities in South Africa want to create a National Council for Gender-Based Violence and Femicide which would have as its objective "amplifying the national response to GBV" by building "a strengthened, survivor-focused, resourced and coordinated strategic response" to the problem. Such developments challenge us: what is our response as a Church to the problem, which affects us also? Please pray for the Sithole family in the Diocese of Natal, where Mrs Nomthandazo Cynthia Sithole, the wife of the Revd Sandiso Sithole, Rector of St James Parish, Tongaat, died tragically recently. (Since writing this has come the tragic news that Father Sithole was shot and killed overnight.)

Pray also for the Revd June Major, formerly a priest in the Diocese of Cape Town, who at the time of writing was camping and on a hunger strike outside the gates of Bishopscourt after alleging that she was sexually abused in 2002. Our Canons, Pastoral Standards and the Charter for Safe and Inclusive Church now lay a firm basis for dealing effectively with allegations of abuse – you can find full details here: https://anglicanchurchsa.org/safe-church-guide/ (Also since writing this, we have issued this statement.

Please pray for the people of northern Mozambique, and especially the Diocese of Nampula, where an insurgency that has grown in recent months and years is bringing terror to people's lives. Bishop Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo reports that last weekend the town of Mocimboa da Praia, in the province of Cabo Delgado, was invaded and 30 people were butchered, and their bodies set on fire with petrol from motorcycles in the town. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and Bishop Manuel Ernesto is living in fear.

Pray too for the people of Palestine and Israel, where the Israeli prime minister is threatening to annex the West Bank. Already the establishment of Jewish settlements there has undermined the viability of the long-promoted two-state solution (one supported by the Lambeth Conference) to the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land. Annexation would finally put paid to it.

God bless.

† Thabo Cape Town

We don't have to be “Doubting Thomases” in a time of coronavirus - A Homily for St Thomas' Day

Homily preached at a Diocesan Family Service of the Diocese of Cape Town for St Thomas' Day, celebrated on  4th July 2020. The full recording of the service appears at the end of the text: 

Isaiah 43: 8-13 ; John 14: 1- 7

I greet you all in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives. Amen 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, after being forced to be physically distanced from one another for more than three months, it is wonderful to be together electronically to celebrate the life of the Apostle Thomas and to rekindle our love for the Lord of the church.