Thursday, 30 May 2019

Archbishop Makgoba lauds “inclusive” Cabinet, urges Parliament now to step up

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba today welcomed the appointment of a Cabinet including women and young leaders but urged the next Parliament to play its proper role in holding the executive to account.

He said in a statement issued in Cape Town:

“The new administration has kicked off on a hopeful note, and I commend the President for appointing a Cabinet reflecting the values of inclusiveness and gender parity.

“Now we as citizens must hold politicians accountable. I call on the new Executive to put ethical leadership and serving the poorest of the poor at the centre of their efforts.

“Parliament too must step up its game. It has been falling behind the Judiciary and, more recently the Executive, in fulfilling its constitutional mandate and I hope it will be vigorous in holding the new President and Cabinet to account.”

Monday, 27 May 2019

Ad Laos - to the People of God - June 2019

The text of Archbishop Thabo's June Ad Laos, also to be published in the Cape Town diocesan newsletter, Good Hope:


This month I have the bittersweet privilege of giving God our profound thanks for the ministry of Bishop Garth Counsell as Bishop of Table Bay, and also of saying farewell to him and Marion on his retirement from that position.

Bishop Garth's retirement leaves me bereft because in my heart and the hearts of many others he is irreplaceable. He has served our Diocese with distinction as bishop for 15 years, first as Bishop-Suffragan and regional bishop in the old Diocese of Cape Town. Then, after we “multiplied” into three dioceses, he became Bishop of Table Bay, and in time was granted “the powers, rights and authority” of a diocesan bishop. It was in that capacity that he was serving when I joined him upon being installed as Archbishop in 2008, and it is that capacity that he has done superbly well.

Of course I knew Bishop Garth before I came to Cape Town. Our spiritual bond was formed when, by God's grace, Archbishop (now Archbishop Emeritus) Njongo Ndungane asked me to preach at Bishop Garth's consecration when I was still in the Diocese of Grahamstown. A little while after that, we went for bishops' training in Johannesburg together, where we were prayer partners and did exercises together, strengthening the bond. Then we shared time at the twice-yearly meetings of the Synod of Bishops and the annual meetings of the Provincial Standing Committee, where I found his inputs to be engaging, profound and thoughtful. What also struck me was how supportive and loyal he was to Archbishop Njongo and how relaxed he was in the Archbishop's company.

He has a real gift of relating to others and forming and sustaining relationships, and I saw this again when we were among a group of African and American bishops who met in Spain ahead of the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria was also there and both his and my names had gone forward for the Elective Assembly to replace Archbishop Njongo. It could have been awkward but Bishop Garth related to us both in a beautiful way, open to the prospect of either of us being elected and making us feel comfortable with one another.

In Cape Town, our relationship strengthened as I came to terms with the complexity of serving both as Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Church throughout Southern Africa and as Bishop of Cape Town. Historically, the bishops-suffragan of the Diocese have been exactly that: they have helped the Bishop and Archbishop but not had the powers of a Diocesan. But as the regional and international commitments of an Archbishop grew over the years, that became unsustainable, hence the change to the Canons giving the Bishop of Table Bay more power.

That change gave Bishop Garth the unenviable task of pioneering a new arrangement: that the Bishop of Table Bay has the authority of a Diocesan but in relation to me he is a Bishop-Suffragan! As he said at his farewell service in St George's Cathedral, he found himself in a somewhat schizophrenic position. But thanks to his gift of relating to others, he had the skill and wisdom to navigate the relationship with aplomb, running Chapter meetings, making sure the necessary decisions were taken but regularly checking in and consulting with me. He and I have different temperaments but we found a middle road, learning how to run the Diocese in a way in which we complemented one another. It has taken enormous generosity for him to do the work without worrying about the title, and that has been a rare gift.

As Bishop Garth retires, I also want to pay tribute to Marion. There is a Sotho phrase which translated says “a mother of the child holds a knife on the sharp side” and just as Garth has supported me, so Marian has been a strong pillar, supporting him in turn when the emotional weight of office threatened to wear him down. Their children have also been a wonderful support.

My only glaring failure with Bishop Garth was my inability to make him excited about social media! But he really is a great son of our Church. I think our journey together was genuinely ordained by God, and I will miss him. As we go into an Elective Assembly later this year, I hope that God will again send to the Diocese someone who will be a trusted friend and a fellow spiritual pilgrim in the same way.

As we prepare to elect a new Bishop of Table Bay, please hold the Vicar-General, the Ven Keith de Vos, and Diocesan Chapter in your prayers, and use regularly the words in the Anglican Prayer Book which we use at this time in the life of a Diocese:

God our Father
the giver of every good gift
graciously regard the needs of your Church
and guide with your heavenly wisdom
the minds of those responsible for choosing
a bishop for this Diocese:
send us a faithful pastor to feed your flock
and to lead us in the way of holiness;
through Jesus Christ your only Son our Lord.

In my capacity as Metropolitan of the Province, I also want to urge all of you to keep in your prayers the Dioceses outside South Africa, in particular the Diocese of Namibia which is suffering a drought, the Dioceses of Lebombo and Niassa as they recover from Cyclone Idai, and more recently the Diocese of Nampula, which has been devastated by Cyclone Kenneth since I first issued an appeal to all of you for contributions to help Mozambique recover.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

A New Dawn - Reflections on South Africa's Democracy

(Photo:  Jiayi Liu/Amherst College)
An address delivered at Amherst College in Massachusetts, ahead of a graduation ceremony in which Archbishop Thabo received the degree of Doctor of Divinity (honoris causa):

Today being Africa Day, and also the feast day of the Venerable Bede and the 18th anniversary of my consecration as a Bishop, I am honoured to be with you.

And in the year in which we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the liberation of my country, I have great pleasure and joy in bringing greetings to you, the citizens of one of the world's older democracies, from your sisters and brothers in South Africa, one of the world's younger democracies. In my mother tongue, Sepedi, on an occasion like this we say: "Rea lotjha. Ke tagwa ke le thabo." (Greetings. Today I am intoxicated by joy.) Your reply is: "Agee" or "Thobela." (Meaning: We agree and we can see your joy.)

I thank the President and the other leaders of this great institution warmly for inviting me here this weekend. I hardly feel worthy of the honour that is to be bestowed on me, especially if you consider the credentials of our “greatest generation” – the leaders of our country, such as Nelson Mandela, whom my generation has replaced. In the Church, I have been fortunate to follow in the footsteps of a series of church leaders renowned for their advocacy of justice and peace, notably my predecessor-but-one, the 1984 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Archbishop Tutu lives within 30 minutes of me in Cape Town, I see him regularly, and he is well – although ageing – and asks me to send you his greetings, and also his special thanks to those of you who campaigned so tirelessly in the 1970s and 1980s for an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Our democracy may be a lot younger than yours, but our nations share a great deal in common. We were vividly reminded of this half a century ago when a member of a prominent family with deep roots in Massachusetts came to South Africa at the height of apartheid. In the words of one of our newspapers at the time, the visit of Robert F. Kennedy was like a gust of fresh air sweeping into a stuffy room. In the highlight of his tour, he gave a stirring speech at one of my alma maters, the University of Cape Town. I learn that in the United States, it is best known as his “ripples of hope” speech, because of his stirring declaration that every time someone “stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice,” that person sends forth “a tiny ripple of hope,” and that coming from a million different places, those ripples “build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

In South Africa, however, it was the opening words of Robert Kennedy's speech which first resonated with us. Allow me to quote from them. He began:

“I come here because of my deep interest and affection for a land settled by the Dutch in the mid-seventeenth century, then taken over by the British, and at last independent; a land in which the native inhabitants were at first subdued, but relations with whom remain a problem to this day; a land which defined itself on a hostile frontier; a land which has tamed rich natural resources through the energetic application of modern technology; a land which was once the importer of slaves, and now must struggle to wipe out the last traces of that former bondage.”

Of course, we thought he was talking about us. But we were taken completely by surprise when he continued with these words: “I refer, of course, to the United States of America.” Such are the many parallels you can find in our different countries' histories.

I had cause to reflect on the similarities of our respective heritages last year, when I spent a few days staying in lower Manhattan, the guest of our friends in the Episcopal Church. There I first visited the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian, where I found the ceremonial rituals and dance of the earliest inhabitants of the Americas interestingly similar to those of my rural forebears back at home. Also similar was the way in which European missionaries had conflated Western culture with the Gospel, outlawing the traditional cultural practices of indigenous peoples after branding them as “dancing with the devil”. But what affected me the most was reading  about how, just as settlers from another continent fought and dispossessed the original inhabitants of Southern Africa – including my ancestors – during the 18th and 19th centuries, so had they done the same in the United States.

On another day, a visit to the African Burial Ground National Monument on Broadway reminded me of the later similarities between the South African and the American experiences of colonialism and slavery. Thirty years after the Dutch West India Company colonized Manhattan, the Dutch East India Company colonized what is now Cape Town. The main source of enslaved Africans shipped into New York by the Dutch was Angola in southern Africa and when the British took over the colony, they spread the slaving net to incorporate West Africa and – at one stage – Madagascar. Under Dutch rule, Cape Town initially received shipments of enslaved people from Angola and West Africa; later they came from Madagascar, the East African coast, India and the Indonesian archipelago.

Of course much has changed since Robert Kennedy's visit to South Africa in 1966. Helped by pressure from people overseas such as yourselves, and especially by young people on college campuses, we overthrew apartheid in a peaceful revolution. And then we addressed the evils of the past by establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which Desmond Tutu headed after his retirement as archbishop.

The commission sat for three years, took more than 20,000 statements from the survivors of human rights violations under apartheid, and held 140 televised hearings across the country, in which the survivors could tell the country their stories. Those stories were often horrifying and the acts they described almost beyond comprehension.

We also did something unique in the world; unlike in Germany after the Second World War, we did not hold the equivalent of Nuremberg trials – we did not have the resources. But nor did we let the perpetrators off scot-free, as happened in Chile and other countries. Doing that would have further victimised the survivors, by silencing their past and so denying the awfulness, and the lasting legacy, of their experiences. Instead we developed something unique in the world, which has set a new example for other countries – we chose a middle path by offering amnesty to perpetrators of human rights violations, but only if they made a full confession of their crimes. In that way, we learned the truth, and the truth opened the way for a degree of reconciliation. I learn that there are those in this country who advocate a similar process to address the legacy of slavery.

But in another respect, since the end of apartheid, we have become more like you in the United States, in that we abolished the old, minority government, which denied the right to vote to black South Africans, and adopted a new Constitution, with a Bill of Rights, giving everyone the right to vote. In our case, we have what we like to describe as one of the most progressive constitutional orders in the world: we have abolished the death penalty, and the constitution recognises LGBTQ rights, including the right to marry under civil law. (Although, as an aside I have to  acknowledge that in that respect the State is more progressive than the religious community; church law in most denominations still adheres to the position that the sacrament of marriage is only for a man and a woman.)

In government, like you we have three branches: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary, and we have a vigorous fourth estate: the press and the media, whose rights are also protected by the Constitution. The strength of this system has been demonstrated vividly in recent years. As many of you might have read, for nearly a decade, until early last year, our executive was badly corrupted by the actions of the president at the time, who allowed his friends and allies to seize control of major state institutions, awarding government contracts to corrupt payers of bribes, and undermining the justice system to prevent them from being prosecuted. Unfortunately, some of the world's biggest names in accounting and management consultancy, including a leading American consultancy, were complicit in these activities.

But a combination of the media, vibrant non-governmental organisations in civil society, and outstanding work by the judiciary, has held the executive to account, bringing so much pressure to bear on the governing party that it was forced to act on its own to fire the president before the end of his term.

I have recently been critical of the failure of our Parliament to hold the executive accountable, and a battle for control by opposing factions of the governing party is still being waged, but just a few weeks ago we elected a new administration and today our new president, Cyril Ramaphosa is being inaugurated. There are still some bad apples in the barrel but President Ramaphosa has vowed to bring us a “new dawn”. He has initiated a series of public inquiries into the corruption, which are exposing the rot in live television broadcasts, and he is acting to restore the integrity of the police and prosecution agencies.

So as a result of the strength of the institutions of our young democracy, I am not only hopeful but optimistic about our future. Indeed, I am on record at  home as saying that these recent elections have the potential to be the genesis and catalyst of our nation's renewal, thus writing the beginning of not only a new chapter in our history, but an entire new book that will define our children's and our grandchildren's lifetimes.

May it be so in South Africa, and I make bold to say, may it also be so in the United States. At a time when the threat of war is on the horizon, I pray that you will be able to avoid unnecessary conflict and that in the years to come you too will realise the enormous potential which your nation, with its enormous inner strengths, has for renewal and rebirth in the years to come.

God bless you, God bless South Africa, and God bless America.  God loves us all, Americans, South Africans and the whole of humanity, as well as God's whole creation. May we fulfil God's desire that we preserve and protect all God's children, and all God's creation, for our children and grandchildren to come.



Friday, 24 May 2019

Archbishop Thabo's message on inauguration of SA's President

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is in Massachusetts in the USA, receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Amherst College. He was invited to receive the degree a year ago, before the date for the inauguration of President Cyril Ramaphosa was set. He has sent his apologies for the inauguration and issued the following message:

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, its Synod of Bishops and on my own behalf, my warm congratulations to the new Members of Parliament and to the President upon his inauguration.

Having been critical at Easter of the failure of past Parliaments to hold the Executive accountable, I am particularly pleased to see that a number of people on party lists against whom serious allegations have been made have withdrawn their names from consideration at this stage.

I hope others will follow their example, not because they have been found guilty but because their names need to be cleared before they can credibly represent our people.  We need morally astute parliamentarians who represent our country's finest values and who will act in the interests of the nation as a whole.

God bless the new Parliament, the new President and his new Executive.

Pray that God will give wisdom to those in authority, and direct this and every nation in the way of justice and peace, that all may honour one another and seek the common good. Amen  
 

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

"A space that speaks of our shared worship, shared dreams..." - St Paul's Chapel, New York City

A sermon preached on the Fifth Sunday of Easter at St. Paul's Chapel in the Parish of Trinity Church Wall Street, New York:

Acts 11:1-18; Psalm 148:1-3, 7, 9-11, 13; Revelation 21:1-6; John 13:31-35

We hear these incredible words of possibility in our foundational texts today in a wonderful space, in a chapel and a parish that have towered over the city’s and the nation's history, whose graveyards hold the bones and the memories of some of its founding parents; a parish located in an area that once boasted a barrier, usually described as a wall, to keep out those seen as “the other”; a parish that witnessed the struggle to establish your democracy; and a chapel in which your forebears and your founding president thanked God for his inauguration. [Continues below the video...]




And of course more recently the inner sanctuaries of the churches of this parish provided refuge and ministry during and after that fateful day when the Twin Towers were attacked and then collapsed, a day forever etched in our memories as evil was let loose. Today, at a time when there seems to be a renewed threat of war involving this nation, I count it a particular privilege to be preaching here in St. Paul's, which in the difficult months and years after nine-eleven represented to the world the best of American values – values of hope and healing as you brought to your city and nation a ministry of pastoral care, of reconciliation and of peace.

Speaking of your contributions to the nation and the world, I cannot continue without referring to what you have meant to us in the church in Southern Africa, and indeed across the whole continent of Africa. We too were colonised by the Dutch, and people of my heritage were kept out of the suburb where I now live by a barrier – in our case an impenetrable hedge – by the Dutch. In our case too, the church has played a part in bringing about democracy, and you made a direct contribution to the inauguration of our own founding president, Nelson Mandela, by responding 30 years ago to the pleas of Archbishop Desmond Tutu to divest from companies which did business with apartheid South Africa. Responding to our plea for help probably ran counter to the instincts of Wall Street financiers, but you put your relationship with us, your partners, first and for that we are deeply grateful. I see in the congregation an honorary canon of our Province, Canon Jamie Callaway, and acknowledge the role he played in supporting us.

It is with pride and pleasure that I can report to you that the young democracy you helped us establish is  flourishing. It is true that until 15 months ago, we had a president whose influence badly corrupted the executive branch of our government, and that our legislature failed to hold him to account. But the combined power of the media, civil society and the judiciary forced his party to remove him from office before the end of his term, and our new president has begun to clean up our government. So we have faced huge challenges in recent years.

Beyond your contribution to our liberation, you have enabled and continue to enable important ministry in dioceses of the church in Southern Africa, and in other Anglican provinces in Africa. As the longest-serving Primate on the continent, I make bold to speak on behalf of all of us, and to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have enabled the church in Africa to be and to do. By sharing your resources, you demonstrate that you are following Jesus' new commandment.

Returning to the witness of this chapel and of Trinity –   through the unfolding of the layers of history, amidst the contestation of ideologies and memories of walls, this place has continue to maintain its rhythm of prayer, to contextualise the sense of the Holy, to explore God's words and to discern its echo in the community of lower Manhattan. Above all you hold out, day in and day out, the promise of God which we pondered today: “See, I am making all things new!” “To the thirsty I will give water…” and “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

What an awesome sacred space! I feel that deep emotion that Jacob felt when he sensed that despite the limitations of his own history, he had a dream of a God who promised a new beginning, crying out: “Surely the presence of God is in this place, it is none other than the house of God, this is the gate of heaven!” It is for that reason, as well as the shared elements of our histories and of your sharing in love that I feel at home here today, in this space that speaks of our shared worship, shared dreams and a shared commitment to the work of making all things new.

The implications of our faith are that you do not need to engage the secrets of heaven, or fathom out deep theological propositions, or speculate endlessly on eschatological nuances. That won't help us see and understand God. It is much easier than that: experiencing God, to the degree that we humans can do so, is quite simply done in acts of love, even just in random deeds of kindness.

You carry in your parish's name a commitment to live out practically and contextually our Christian understanding of the Trinity. At the heart of that understanding is the abiding truth about three persons in every way equal. It is the metaphor that the Gospel writers seek to express in different ways, but always by returning to a fundamental notion of “self-gift”. As that great African saint, Augustine, argued time and again, God loves because that is the divine nature, not because creation deserves it. In parable after parable, statement after statement, the “meaning of God” is revealed as the “One who is perfectly self-giving”. Thus the Trinity is also the story of self-giving in love and of belonging in love. We become more fully what we are meant to become by entering into loving and life-giving relationships. In Africa we express this in what we call ubuntu, or in the languages to which I am closest, botho. We hear this at the very heart of the Gospel today.

The Lutheran theologian, Samuel Torvend, asks the question that we who gather for prayer must ask. He asks: “Who is hungry at the feast?” and then answers it for himself. “To be honest,” he says, “I think I am. I yearn for, I am hungry for the word, the image, the lyric and the prayer that will invite many others and me to redress the terrible injustices, deprivations and imbalances that surround us.” “Who is still hungry at the feast?” he asks again, and answers for himself: “The many who will never hear this sermon or read this text because they must work two or three jobs each day, six days a week in order to feed their children in a society that rewards the wealthy and stigmatises the working poor.” Who is still hungry at the feast? “The people of this world deprived of food, capital employment and land.”

One could and should add to that litany the victims of domestic violence, the women and children who suffer abuse, refugees from conflict in places such as Bangladesh, and – as we have seen in our own sub-continent of Southern Africa in recent months – those who are refugees as a result of the devastating effects of climate change.

In the last few years, the people of the three dioceses of our Province which lie in neighbouring Mozambique have been hit alternately by drought and by flood. Twice during April, I had to pay emergency visits to two of the dioceses and witnessed  the aftermath of Cyclone Idai. Homes, churches and schools in settlements and towns across the countryside were destroyed, people's crops were swept away and families had to climb trees to escape the water and wait for helicopters to rescue them. Hundreds died, many of them people who survived the hurricane but not the wait for rescue. Swathes of rural countryside were turned into vast lakes, and scattered rural villages have been replaced by concentrated tent townships to which people have been relocated. These agrarian communities are at risk of losing their identity and their way of life. Those who are worst affected by climate change are not the citizens of the materially wealthy countries who contribute most to it; no, it is those who are already poor and vulnerable.

Wherever we are in the world, in our churches every Sunday, let us remember that our worship is not merely an act of forgiveness, a spiritual sacrifice, a moment of thanksgiving, an intimate union with Christ, but that it is  an ethical practice that expands outward into the world, offering life in the midst of diminishment and death. St. Theresa of Avila captured this call to love, to be about the business of making all things new and providing fresh water, when she wrote: “Christ has no body but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassionately on the world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, the feet, yours are the eyes. You are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” That’s the challenge of love.

The key moment in the post-Resurrection story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus came when, after recognising the Lord, they were faced with the choices that we all face. They could have sat back, finished their meal and congratulated themselves on the special epiphany they had received from the Lord. They could have created a safe, comfortable, spiritually warm place of personal intimacy and memory. Or they could have taken fright. After all, the Jesus whom they had just encountered was a wanted man in Jerusalem. It was a very dangerous moment and they might have decided to run away.

But no; instead they got up straight away and returned to Jerusalem, to the place where their dreams had been shattered, where hope was in short supply, and where their friends were locked in the Upper Room, imprisoned by fear. It was to Jerusalem they returned with their word of hope, with their testimony of new possibilities, with their vision raised beyond the exigencies of the moment, to proclaim that something new is possible. They did not have a blueprint and could not provide firm assurances but they could keep the good news alive.

Each of us can do that much. We do not know precisely who all those who are hungry at the feast are, and we certainly cannot do everything. Maybe like those disciples in Emmaus, all we can really do after every service of worship is go back into the city and look upon it and our fellow human beings with new eyes, so that our perceptions of generosity, humanity, justice and mercy become clearer and freer. For when that transpires, slowly will we become known by our love for one another.

God loves you and so do I. God bless each one of you. God bless America, and God bless Africa.

Amen.