Monday, 2 August 2021

Climate emergency is a "Kairos moment" - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has told national government and business leaders that the climate emergency presents South Africa with a “Kairos moment” – a critical turning point and an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the crisis.

He was speaking on Friday July 30 to the third meeting of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), a body set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020.
In its account of the meeting, the newspaper Mining Weekly reported that President Ramaphosa agreed with Archbishop Thabo. It quoted the president as responding: “I welcome this, particularly as he [the archbishop] raises the fact that climate change is a moral issue and calls on us to look at this challenge that faces us – and, may I add, opportunity really – as a Kairos moment.”
Other speakers at the meeting included the Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, the CEO of Anglo American, Mark Cutifani, and the CEO of Eskom, André de Ruyter.
The full text of Archbishop Thabo's contribution, which includes resource material provided by Green Anglicans, follows:

Third Meeting of the Presidential Climate Commission
30 July 2021
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

 
Thank you for affording the faith community an opportunity to give an input into these critical deliberations. I see it as a recognition by wider society that climate change is not only an environmental, economic and social issue but essentially a moral issue, which needs a moral basis for the solutions it requires, and that the religious sector has a role to play in establishing this moral basis.

 
    That is not to say that faith leaders can be holier than thou in the debate over how to avert climate disaster. Six years ago, fellow Anglican bishops from all six continents – some from areas already far more seriously affected than us by climate change – came together in South Africa and recognised that we are as responsible as anyone else for the crisis we face. As I said at the time, “the problem is spiritual as well as economic, scientific and political. We [that is, we in the churches] have been complicit in a theology of domination. While God committed the care of creation to us, we have been care-less...” We have been guilty of thinking that God put humankind on earth to control and exploit the world, unmindful that humankind is but one part of a complex environment, part of a delicate network of interdependent units of creation. 

 
    As a result, we have in our churches committed ourselves to begin at home: to ensure that energy conservation measures are implemented in church buildings; to nurture biodiversity on church land; and to support sustainability in water, food, agriculture and land use. In our campaigning on the issue, for example at the Paris climate talks, we have taken it upon ourselves to advocate for the most marginalised in this debate.

 
    So for example, in Paris we supported the Least Developed Country group, representing 48 countries – mostly in Central, East and West Africa – in aiming to curb rising temperatures not by the two degrees was being advocated at the time but by no more than 1.5 degrees. We have also pressed for the voices of women to be heard more clearly. In the words of Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, the Bishop of Swaziland and Africa’s first woman bishop, and I quote: Women are more often dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, so the contribution of women is essential in decisions around climate change.”

    Today I think I can claim that the religious community recognises that, in the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, “Climate change is the human rights issue of our time.” And as I have also said of climate talks, we don't only need initiatives to develop renewable energy, sustainable development and resilience; people need help to adapt, and when that is not possible – when people face loss and damage to the extent that no further adaptation is possible, there must be assistance to help them to move on. 

    In the 1980s, when the fight against apartheid reached its peak, many of us adopted what was known as the Kairos Document. It recognised that South Africa had reached a “kairos” moment – in ancient Greek, a moment of truth, a critical turning point – requiring a deeper commitment to the struggle on the part of the churches. Today we are standing at  another Kairos moment for SA – an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the climate crisis. 

 
    And it's doable: just look at Chile. Already 43% of their energy now comes from renewable energy and they will shut eight coal-fired power plants in three years time. Their goal is 60% renewable energy in the next ten years  and 70% by 2050. They have 5,000 renewable energy projects already operational – 5000 places creating jobs and hope. 32,000 more projects have been approved and by 2023, taking into  account jobs lost from the coal sector and new jobs created, they predict an  increase of 23,000 jobs overall. We can have the same objective, given the political will. 

 
    Decentralised renewable energy projects offer hope to young people. Imagine small factories placed in areas where youth unemployment is highest  - building solar voltaic panels, wind turbines, solar geysers. Imagine targeted training courses preparing young people for careers in renewable energy so that we don’t have to employ  technicians from abroad. New factories can be created in areas where the coal mines are closing. China created 2.2 million jobs in solar photovoltaics, why must we still import these items?

 
    For a just transition we need to prioritise the areas where jobs will be lost. New green jobs will require international  climate finance. Part of the $100 billion a year of climate finance for 2020-24 first promised over a decade ago still isn't forthcoming. South Africa should be a champion of climate finance in places like the G20, as we advocate for the Global South. 

 
    Given our economic challenges it is tempting to see gas as a quick fix. But large oil and gas explorations create environmental pollution, push rural people from their land, pollute our precious water sources and create wealth for the ‘one percent’ who have shares and stocks.  As the rest of the world moves away from oil and gas, we would run the financial risk having ‘stranded assets’ which were unsellable. Things are moving fast! 

 
    Let me end with the words of Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:

 
    “Know that you can make a transformative difference to the future of all life on earth. You are not powerless. Your every action is suffused with meaning and you are part of the greatest chapter of human achievement in history.” 

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town

The Archbishop's Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town, Church of the Good Shepherd, Protea Village, July 22, 2021: 

Readings: Song of Songs 3:1-4a; Psalm 63:1-9; John 20:1-18

May I speak in the name of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.

Members of Synod, sisters and brothers in Christ, wherever you may be: Good evening and welcome to this 66th session of the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town. It's hardly necessary to say that we meet in extraordinary times. As far as I have been able to establish, never in our history have we met in Synod during a pandemic, and very rarely have the lives of our parishes and Diocese been as topsy-turvy as in the last 18 months.

And of course, apart from the pandemic which has disrupted Synod, when it comes to the question of sharing the dividends of our democracy fairly among all, over the last two weeks the chickens have truly come home to roost. The looting and the burning we saw mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last week may have been set off by developments around our former president, but the speed at which the mayhem spread spoke to the ills and the toxicity of our divided society. I will return to this subject in a few minutes.

Perhaps it has only been in times of war that our lives have been turned upside down in the way they have since the coronavirus struck early last year. As I began writing this Charge, soon after Level 3 was imposed and before the events of recent weeks, I have to confess to you that I felt trapped in the heaviness of now, battling to find a ray of light at the end of a tunnel. However, an important counter to that feeling has been reflecting on how magnificently you have all risen to the challenge of bringing ministry to fellow Anglicans during this long-running crisis, one unprecedented in our lifetimes. It has been especially exciting to see how those of you with the means have brought virtual, online ministry to your parishes. I am privileged tonight to greet not only members of Synod, but also members of our congregations who are sharing in this Eucharist from the comfort of your homes on a cold winter's evening. Welcome to you in Christ's name.

Among members of Synod, a special welcome to Bishop Joshua – attending Synod for the first time in your capacity as Bishop of Table Bay, and, thank God, having overcome Covid-19. My warm thanks to the leaders of the Diocese for all you have done for us since last Synod, and are doing for us over the next few days: to Bishop Joshua, to the Dean, to Chapter, to Standing Committee, our legal advisers, to our Diocesan Administrator, Canon Charleen van Rooyen, to Diocesan staff, to the Synod Advisory Committee and to the Synod Manager, Keith de Vos. Charleen, you and your staff seem to have survived your big move remarkably well; we hope you are settling down in your new premises. Our greetings and thanks also go to the ministries and institutions run under the auspices of the Diocese: the various chaplaincies, the Warehouse, and the schools and homes which nurture the precious lives of the young. I also thank you all for upholding in your prayers my family and my ministry. Please do keep in your prayers our Archbishops Emeriti, Njongonkulu Ndungane and Desmond Tutu – the latter will celebrate his 90th birthday in October and the 60th anniversary of his consecration as a priest in December.

A special mention tonight for victims and survivors of the pandemic: we pray for those who are grieving or suffering as a result of death, losing relatives and friends, and for those who have lost their jobs or had their wages cut. I know you will join me in sending heartfelt condolences to the lay and clergy families of those in the Diocese who have died. In the wider church in Africa, we extend condolences to the family of our beloved Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who died at the beginning of the pandemic, and to sister Provinces in Africa who have lost bishops to Covid-19.

Since Synod last met, a number of clergy have died. Please observe a moment's silence for them – as well as for all people who have died in the pandemic. Let us give thanks to God for the ministry of the Revd Terry Wilke, Canon Rowan Smith, the Revd Bob de Maar, Canon Suzanne Peterson, the Revd Patricia van der Rede, the Revd Ashley Petersen, the Revd Mlamli Mfenyana, the Revd Andrew Henderson, Bishop Edward McKenzie and the Revd Nevil Callander.

The 18th century Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, wrote of another epoch that “an event has happened upon which it is difficult to speak and impossible to be silent.” The same can be said of the events of the past year-and-a-half. Even before the recent violence, it has been a time of “multiple pandemics”: of Covid-19 with its inhumane losses and its legacy of grinding poverty with job losses, food insecurity and social fragmentation; of horrific violence, including a sharp rise in the scandal of gender-based violence and violence against children; and an era in which naked, unmasked racism has re-emerged in all its evil manifestations, in many parts of the world.

Even in the midst of so much suffering during the pandemic, unscrupulous people have profited from it. We have seen unmitigated corruption and looting from the public purse; corruption which amounts to theft from those who are most vulnerable; looting which has so damaged the credibility of politicians that last week’s appeals to the “have-nots” to stop looting from the “haves” were but a cruel joke. These are things, to use Burke’s language, of which, because of their depravity and gravity, it is difficult to speak and yet, things about which we dare not be silent.

What would our ancestors in faith and struggle have said about these times? What insights would they have offered? I have often recalled the hermeneutic offered by Steve Biko, who our church commemorates on the 12th of September. The Collect we have adopted for that commemoration reads:

Lord of the Cross, you taught us

in the life of your servant Bantu Stephen Biko

that it was better to die for an idea that shall live

than to live for an idea that will die:

grant us the faith to take up our Cross daily

and to follow Christ ;

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy

Spirit, one God now and ever.

In the spirit of Steve Biko, let us take up our Crosses daily, and mobilise together across barriers in society to fight the evils we have experienced during the pandemic and the greed which is destabilizing our society. Let us emulate the courage of those, in South Africa, in the United States and elsewhere, who have taken up the struggle for recognition that Black Lives Do Matter and that we need to build a society and an economy in which that is fully reflected.

The events of the past two weeks demand that, as leaders and followers, we need to reflect deeply on what our country has become. We cannot go on as we are. We need to re-set our compasses and choose a different direction. In the spirit of Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:16), we are under a burden and a demand to preach into what is happening, an obligation to preach a Gospel of peace with justice – and woe betide us if we do not speak.

Those wedded to a capitalist model have to acknowledge that our current financial and economic systems are not serving the common good; they are creating joblessness and inequality, to the extent that unemployment is running at 32.6 percent, youth unemployment is 46.3 percent, and the World Bank says we are the most unequal country on earth. We have to recommit to closing the gap between the excessively rich and the debilitatingly poor.

As we begin our Synod proceedings today, we commemorate Mary Magdalene, “the apostle to the apostles”. Her witness offers us important insights in these times when all of us are challenged by our various pandemics, whether of the virus named Covid-19, or of violence perpetrated on women, children and the victims of gang warfare in too many of our communities, or of the violence of poverty and dispossession.

Note how Mary Magdalene and her companions are there at the place of the Crucifixion and at the empty tomb, determined and resolute. In contemporary terms, they are the women in our communities who gather around the bodies of young people brutally killed in gang warfare, or who bury young girls who have been molested, raped and murdered. By not leaving – indeed, we are told that “they stand” – they display resilience, not weakening under the weight of what goes on around them. They won't be silenced, and their resilience becomes something shared, allowing them to face an uncertain future together. They challenge us likewise to remain resilient, to refuse to overlook the pain of our current conditions, the poverty and the widening gaps in income and the stares of hungry children.

Their witness offers us the rays of hope and light I was looking for when I started this Charge. So do the words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He points out that by casting doubt on what he calls “the assumption of guaranteed security” that the prosperous in our world have enjoyed for decades, the pandemic brings home to us that we are always “in a situation of shared failure and shared insecurity”. The hope is to be found when we recognise this shared reality, and take the opportunity to open our hearts to one another.

Faith, says Rowan Williams, “invites us to confront our shared fragility with honesty and compassion, recognising our need of one another, our need for the neighbour to be well and safe — instead of falling back on our fearful attempts to be safe at the neighbour’s expense.” Ends quote. If only the G7 countries, and others in the Global North, would hear this, end their vaccine nationalism, and move speedily to help the rest of the world get vaccinated at the same rate in every country. For our part, those of us in the Global South must stand, raise our voices, share our skills, strategise with others and keep vigil until those who have power in the private and the public sectors make good on their early Covid-19 commitments.

It is not only in the international domain we need to act, it is also right here at home, here where our much-lauded Constitution guarantees the right of access to basic health care. Yet those who have access to technology to sign up for vaccines are at an advantage. Those with money, access and private health care have an advantage over those with very little or none. In a time of national crisis, people without voices or resources remain invisible or only partially visible.

In an ongoing or post-Covid world, we need to think and pray about what a new kind of missionary focus, one that intuitively reaches out to encounter and engage with others, would look like. I was interested to hear recently of something that Nicky Gumbel is reported to have said: that when the fearful run away from an encounter with suffering and sickness, Christians run towards it – and it makes a great difference to church growth. But it is not only in the realms of physical health and church growth that we need what I think of as a new missionary praxis – we need it as a way of facing up to all of our society's social pathologies.

In our own Diocese, the patterns of ongoing privilege and exclusion which I spoke about a moment ago at a national level still bite deeply in Cape Town, for example when it comes to the continuation of apartheid spatial planning. The poor and people of colour who depend on public housing continue to be shifted to the outskirts of cities, to dormitory suburbs, far from places of work. Voices are thankfully being raised now for the release of vacant sites, to release national land and re-purpose buildings so that we can move towards that most basic of human rights, the right to shelter. As churches we need to find ways of leveraging power to shift the needle.

The challenge may be daunting, but we need to replicate Steve Biko's emphasis on jointly seeking composite answers and creating communities of sisters and brothers. Now is a time when the pandemic – and the last week’s events – have brought new perspectives to old fissures, exposed new wounds and highlighted unresolved tensions. In the light of these signs of the times, we have to engage again, and with an even greater urgency.

We must not forget, as we set about these critical ministries, that the Church has its own legacies of compromise and complicity with the wrongs of the past. Our words, our resolutions of opposition to apartheid, to exploitation and to the injustices that have shaped our culture do not absolve us or wipe away the ongoing systemic consequences of those involvements and benefits. They will continue to undermine trust and attempts at reconciliation. Yet we cannot forego the slow task of building a more solid foundation for the future. Our churches have the reach and the inner resources to continue to be places of healing, reconciliation and hope.

In this year of Archbishop Tutu’s 90th birthday, and the 60th anniversary of his consecration as a priest, we turn to his wisdom. “Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or to our loved ones,” he says “are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth.”

Early on in the pandemic, the great Indian novelist Arundhati Roy posed the question: “What lies ahead?” She answered, “Re-imagining the world. Only that.” Christians, with our unique spiritual gifts, with compassion written into our very DNA, must, as part of our missionary impetus, ask the same question and bring our anointing into shaping the future.

As God's people in the Diocese of Cape Town, we need a new missionary praxis, one in which we examine anew the relevance of all our practices and structures with a view to moving from maintenance to mission. We must live out our conviction that, indeed, our Redeemer lives! Rooted in that certainty, we must – we can – renew, re-imagine and rebuild. We can bring about fairness, equity, generosity, sharing and caring for the environment. We can both realise and share the dividends of our democracy. May we have the courage to continue our journey until, in the words of Chief Albert Luthuli, we will have built “a home for all.” May God hasten that day.

God bless you, your families, this Diocese and South Africa. Amen

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Archbishop discusses unrest with Newzroom Afrika

Thabo Mdluli of Newzroom Afrika's programme, InFocus, discusses the unrest in South Africa with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. This is Part II of the interview after 10pm on Wednesday night, July 13, in which the Archbishop refers to live footage of local residents gathering to defend Maponya Mall, near where he grew up as a boy in Pimville, Soweto.

 

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Reflection on South Africa's current crisis

Listen to and share the reflection below.

In recent years I have delivered a number of papers in which I sought to apply theological thinking – from incarnational theology to a “theology from below” – to our current condition in South Africa. I was particularly impressed by the first Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management, which I attended in Hong Kong five years ago. At that international gathering of theologians, economists and senior church officials, we identified the market economy which dominates so much of the world as a self-serving mechanism for elites which is not providing for the needs of most of world's people, nor for the environment which sustains life on earth.

In Hong Kong, we asked to replace the current global governance of money and financial systems with a less exploitative system that distributes resources and income more equitably. This sounds impractical, I said at the time, but as stewards of God’s creation we know that nothing is impossible with God.

The economic ordering of society and the question of how we develop our material resources is directly relevant to the violence we have seen in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga in the last few days. For much deeper forces than anger over the jailing of Mr Zuma are at work in the mayhem we are seeing. As in many other countries, the market economy is failing to address poverty, inequality and unemployment.

The vast majority of us are good people at heart. But when people go to bed hungry, unemployed, dominated and marginalised, the good in us can be overwhelmed, especially if we see no end to our suffering and especially in times of instability when it seems all bets are off. Desperation can take over, especially when people lose confidence in their political parties and perceive the police as unable to protect their communities.

But violence and looting are not the way to solve the problem, and deploying the Defence Force to support the police can only be a stop-gap measure. Those of us who are independent of politics and government need to say:

  • Of course we all have the right to protest, but without harming anyone else. We have to condemn the criminal behaviour which takes advantage of instability;
  • However, this is not like the apartheid era, where protest was the only weapon most of us had. Now we also have the right to vote. If people believe politicians and their parties are failing them, we need to mobilise and vote them out of office at the next local and national elections;
  • Violence and looting actually make the problem worse, because those who are its victims will be tempted to hit back with more violence. We have already seen some alarming signs of racist violence from civilians against looters. This will tear us apart into warring communities of “haves” and “have-nots” in which no one will win and everybody will suffer even more than they are now.

In the old struggle against apartheid, even when we did not have the vote, we said our protest should be disciplined and dignified. Lawless mayhem in which everyone did as they pleased, and local criminals took advantage of all of us, only weakened us. Disciplined political and protest action is powerful, and that is what will take us out of our current crisis. It can also lay the foundations of a more equal and less exploitative society.

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

Friday, 2 July 2021

Pastoral letter to the Laos of eSwatini

Dear People of God,

Since the sad and untimely death of Bishop Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya of Covid-19 related complications last year, the Canons (laws) of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa dictate that, as Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Church, I act as Bishop of her Diocese until the election of her replacement. 

It is therefore in my capacity as Archbishop, as Bishop of the Diocese and as a simple pastor concerned for people's welfare, that I reassure not only Anglicans but all the people of eSwatini of my love and prayers at this difficult time.

The Gospels require that I do not point to a speck of dust in the eye of another and ignore the log in my own eye. (Matthew 7:3; Luke 6:41) Thus it is in full awareness of the problems in other countries in the region that I urge the people of eSwatini not to get caught up in cycles of conflict.

In the midst of the turmoil that many of you are experiencing, I urge you not to resort to violence, nor to the excessive use of State power, as you confront your current challenges. For violence begets more violence, and injury and death generate anger which makes problems only more difficult to resolve.

As a bishop and a pastor, while I am bound not to compromise the truth, I am primarily called to a ministry of reconciliation. As I have always advocated in places where there is no peace, I urge you all to repudiate the use of force, to sit around a table, and to talk to one another with the aim of finding an amicable Swazi solution to the challenges that the Kingdom is facing.

As well as reassuring you of my prayers and my willingness to do what I can to support efforts for a peaceful and just solution, I also want to urge the organs of SADC to come alongside the Swazi people when invited, in order to journey with them to finding a lasting solution.

May God bless all the Swazi people at this time.

+Thabo Cape Town

 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

On Mr Zuma going to prison - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

President Zuma visits Bishopscourt in 2009.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town has pledged to visit former South African President Jacob Zuma in prison. 

The Archbishop said this in a statement issued in response to the Constitutional Court judgement jailing Mr Zuma for 15 months for refusing to obey a court order to appear before a commission of inquiry into high-level government and private sector corruption. 

The full text of Archbishop Makgoba's statement follows: 

“I had prayed that we would not get to the point at which Mr Zuma was jailed for contempt. 

“But it is to the credit of our democracy that the judiciary and institutions of accountability remain strong in the face of pressure. They are a source of reassurance and hope that all that we have struggled for has not been lost in this last period, years which the locusts have devoured. We remain a resilient democracy.

“The Court has done what it is mandated to do and that is to uphold the Constitution and its values without fear or favour. This is also a moment to pledge to continue to strengthen and respect these institutions, as they represent the best of our humanity and our social convictions as democrats and artisans of justice. 

“South Africa is built on a strong constitutional foundation and this judgement needs to be seen in that light. It needs to be stressed again and again that it is the Rule of Law that is paramount. That  includes the principle that no one is above the law.  We all need to respect the Rule of Law, its principles and the organs of our society that give expression to it. 

“To those who are inclined to push back against this judgement, to those who have been preparing the ground by denouncing the judiciary, I urge them:  do not go this route. Instead devote your energy to supporting campaigns to popularise our Constitution, to broaden education around the basic tenets of democracy and to engage in activities that offer hope for the future. 

“Jesus asked, 'When I was in prison, did you visit me?' As a pastor, my heart is heavy over Mr Zuma going to prison. I will pray for him and, when apt, I will ask to visit him.”