Saturday 26 December 2009

Note on Recent Postings

Dear Friends

Please note that many of my recent letters, sermons and statements have been carried on the website of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, at On the main page, or on the news page, you will find links to the pieces listed below - as well as other items of interest within our Church. In the New Year, we shall aim to take more care in ensuring that my blog page is kept up-to-date in parallel.

Apologies if you have missed anything that is important to you.

Yours in the service of Christ

++Thabo Cape Town

Press release: Archbishop Thabo honours former Health Minister, 17 December 2009

Message from Archbishop Thabo to Ordination Jubilarians, 17 December 2009

Archbishop Thabo welcomes President Jacob Zuma's intention to attend the Copenhagen talks, 10 December 2009

Message of prayer and support from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to Marian Walker and Angus, 9 December 2009

Christmas 2009 - To the Laos

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba speaks on World AIDS Day at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, 2 December 2009

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's sermon at the funeral of Bishop Les Walker, first Bishop of Mpumalanga, 2 December 2009

Media Statement from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba regarding the FIFA World Cup draw on 4th December 2009

Announcement by the Archbishop of Cape Town on the death of Bishop Les Walker, 24 November 2009

Media Statement from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, on the resignation of Mr. Jacob Maroga, 6 November 2009

Ad Laos - to the People of God, 3 November 2009

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's message of support and prayer to the Church in Pakistan, 3 November 2009

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's statement on restorative justice re developments at the University of the Free State, 29 October 2009

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's welcome address to the meeting of the Religious Leaders of the Western Cape with President Jacob Zuma, 19 October 2009

Message to the People of God by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, 15 October 2009

The Archbishop of Cape Town joins the Bishop of Natal in condemning the Kennedy Road attacks in Durban, 2 October 2009

Please pray for the Makgoba family as they mourn the death of Archbishop Thabo's mother, Kedibone Makgoba, 21 September 2009

Statement from the Synod of Bishops, meeting in Midrand, 9 September 2009

Ad Laos - to the People of God from Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, 4 September 2009

Message of Pastoral Support to Archbishop Njongo and Mrs Ndungane and Statement from the Archbishop's attorney regard the allegations, 3 September 2009

Politics and the Church — Acting Incarnationally: Reflections of an Archbishop, 2 September 2009

Friday 25 December 2009

Sermon at Midnight Mass, St George's Cathedral, Cape Town

‘Mary treasured these words, and pondered them in her heart.’

Isaiah 9: 2-7

Titus 2:11-14

Luke 2:1-20

‘Mary treasured these words, and pondered them in her heart.’

May I speak in the name of God, the Everlasting Father, whose Eternal Son is born among us – our Saviour and our Prince of Peace – by the power of his Holy Spirit. Amen.

This is my second Christmas in Cape Town, but over the last few days, I’ve gained an impression that things are quieter this year than last. Fewer crowds, less traffic on the roads, shorter queues in the shops.

May be I’ve just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Only next year will we know whether retailers, restaurants and hotels have had a so-called ‘good’ Christmas.

Yet what does it mean, to have a ‘good’ Christmas? Economists tell us that – provided we steer clear of excessive debt – it is good for the economy, good for unemployment, for us to spend our money. Buying more stuff is, they say, a good thing!

But I can’t help wondering if the credit crunch, together with the threat of global climate change, has taught us to be wary of an economic system that operates through an endless cycle of consumption as if the world had infinite resources – something that clearly is not true.

Limitless wealth for all is not something to which we can aspire. Nor can we be content and not outraged by the inequalities in God’s plentiful world. Indeed, even a modest middle-class Capetonian lifestyle for all would take pretty much two whole planets to sustain, if on-line quizzes are to be believed.

This brings me to my central question – to what can we rightly aspire in life? What is the treasure that is life’s goal – the goal of individuals? the goal of our societies? – not only for ourselves, but for our children, and our children’s children?

Tonight I might put that question in other words: What is the present, the gift of greatest value, we would most like to find in our own Christmas stocking? – and in the Christmas stockings of those we love?

‘Mary treasured these words, and pondered them in her heart’ said our reading from St Luke’s Gospel.

The words worth treasuring were these: ‘Do not be afraid, for there is good news of great joy for all people: the birth of a Saviour.’

‘Do not be afraid.’ Life is hard – sometimes very hard indeed – but God is bigger, and therefore we should not have to live with fear, in the face of life, nor in the face of death.

Jesus stands with us, and we can put our hands in his. He will be with us, through thick and thin – a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a source of strength, a voice of encouragement. This is why we call him Emmanuel – ‘God with us’.

Jesus alone can travel with us that final journey from this life to the next, because he has walked that way before us. So, we never need be afraid.

This is good news – this is joy – this is a Christmas present worth having.

Our other readings told us more about what it means for Jesus to come as our Saviour.

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined’ wrote the prophet Isaiah.

Where is there darkness in this world? Where is there grim depression, despondency, dejection and despair? Where is there woundedness and brokenness, misery and grief?

Jesus – as it says in the famous words of the Gospel according to St John, is the light who shines in every darkness; and no darkness can ever extinguish it.

The prophet Isaiah has more to tell us: the Saviour will establish a realm of endless peace, and uphold it with justice and righteousness. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Where is there no peace? Where is there injustice? Where is there a lack of righteousness – where is there dishonesty, malice, and downright evil?

Jesus will step in – if we invite him, if we make space for him. For he loves us, and is zealous to bring peace, justice, righteousness.

This is what we sung about in our hymn just now – he is the God who comes, righting wrongs.

Yes, Jesus is the source of all hope – real, concrete hope. His zeal will see to that.

No, the darkness of this world cannot win.

Not if we receive the Christmas present who is Jesus.

Not if we take the gift that God offers, and unwrap it and make it our own.

Here comes the challenge – because if we unwrap this gift, we have to do more than put it on a shelf to gather dust as we forget about it.

What Christmas presents will you receive this year? Some gifts are to put on display; some are to wear; some are to use; some are to eat.

Jesus is all of these.

We are to display Jesus’ presence in our lives – through our actions, our words, our attitudes.

We are to share Jesus’ zeal. This is what St Paul wrote, in our second reading: He gave himself, to purify a people of his own, who are zealous for good deeds.

Therefore, we are to be zealous in displaying Jesus, and all that he stands for: by pursuing justice and righteousness, and bringing light wherever there is darkness, by being agents of healing and hope.

This is what it means to ‘put on Christ’, says St Paul – like wearing our new Christmas outfit, for all to see.

Because God’s gift of himself demands from us some personal transformation. We cannot welcome the Christ child, without allowing him to change us and our society.

Anyone who has had a new baby come into their home will know that life is never the same again!

By the arrival of the Christ-child, God wants to change us, too – so that through us, he can change the world!

Jesus is a gift to be used.

The world around us may not acknowledge him as Saviour, but people everywhere need to know his peace, his justice, his truth, honesty, healing, comfort, encouragement, courage – his hope.

It is our job to communicate Christian values, so God’s best may be acknowledged and shared across communities, societies, nations.

It is God’s best:

• that will help us move beyond Copenhagen globally, and take the next steps locally in preserving our planet;

• that can bring substance to World AIDS Day, which we marked on 1 December, or prompt individuals to set up projects in their own communities, like Beauty, who I met on 1 December, and whose sewing project helps HIV-positive people like herself to support themselves;

• that enables us to do the right thing, ethically, morally – in our communities, our businesses and work-places, our schools and colleges, our personal lives.

• That will move us from outrage to action - when infants die at birth or before the age of five or their mothers die at birth; or when the majority of God’s people continue to lack shelter; when Palestine- Israel lacks peace or when countries pass legislation that undermine and demean the sanctity of life.

Finally, I said some Christmas presents are to be eaten.

Jesus says ‘feed on me’ – feed on my body and blood, given for you, he says.

And so we come, with open hands, to the altar – to be nourished by him, to be strengthened by him, to be sustained by him.

We need Jesus himself, within us, if we are to live the life to which he calls us.

So, tonight, come and receive the greatest gift, the most valuable treasure of all – Jesus himself – and let yourselves be transformed by him, to share his treasure with the world.


Sunday 23 August 2009

Resolution of the Diocese of Cape Town on Ministry to Gays and Lesbians in Covenanted Partnerships

The Anglican Diocese of Cape Town agreed on August 22 to a resolution asking the church’s bishops to provide pastoral guidelines for gay and lesbian members of the church living in “covenanted partnerships,” taking into account the mind of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

The Synod of the Diocese also resolved to ask Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to appoint a working group, representing church members of varying perspectives, to engage in a “process of dialogue and listening” on issues of human sexuality. This is in line with a “listening process” which is being pursued throughout the Communion.

The resolutions were passed in a session of the Synod, which was held at St. Cyprian’s Church, Retreat in Cape Town from August 20 to 22.

The resolution on pastoral guidelines was proposed by the Revd Terry Lester, sub-dean of St. George’s Cathedral, who said the parish had come to be seen as “a safe space, a sort of liberated space” for gay and lesbian Christians in Cape Town.

He said the cathedral needed guidelines to help it provide pastoral care to gay and lesbian members in “faithful, committed” same-sex partnerships.

In a meeting earlier this year, the Anglican Consultative Council, which represents Anglican churches around the world, reaffirmed a moratorium on what it called “authorization of public rites of blessing for same-sex unions.”

The original text of the synod resolution included language which some members of the Synod said would lead to the blessings of same-sex unions. This, said the Revd Dr James Harris, “will bring us into conflict with the wider Anglican Communion.” The language was later dropped.

The Revd Sarah Rowland Jones successfully proposed an amendment to the resolution which provided that the pastoral guidelines which the Synod requested should take “due regard of the mind of the Anglican Communion.”

Speaking after the Synod ended, the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba said:

“In Bible studies and discernment sessions during the Synod, I felt the people of the Diocese were committed really to wrestling with the Scriptures and with what they meant in our context.

“I was very encouraged by the way in which the Synod was sensitive both to the pastoral needs of gay and lesbian couples and at the same time affirmed the stance of the wider Anglican Communion, not charging ahead and doing our own thing but rather committing ourselves to a process of listening and dialogue on how to move forward.”

The full text of the resolution on gays and lesbians in committed partnerships reads:

This Synod,

Affirming a pastoral response to same-sex partnerships of faithful commitment in our parish families;

Gives thanks to God for:

--The leadership of our Archbishop Thabo Makgoba and his witness in seeking to handle these issues in a loving and caring manner; and

--The Bishops of our Province for their commitment to the unity of our Communion and Province, working together seeking God’s way of truth and reconciliation;

Notes the positive statements of previous Provincial Synods that gay and lesbian members of our church share in full membership as baptized members of the Body of Christ, and are affirmed and welcomed as such;

Affirms our commitment to prayerful and respectful dialogue around these issues, mindful of the exhortations of previous Lambeth Conferences to engage with those most affected;

Asks the Archbishop to request the Synod of Bishops to provide pastoral guidelines for those of our members who are in covenanted partnerships, taking due regard of the mind of the Anglican Communion.

Thursday 20 August 2009

Statement from the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town on Statement from the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, on H1N1 ‘swine’ flu

A number of clergy have asked how we should respond to the outbreak of H1N1 or ‘swine’ flu, especially in the light of the recent statement issued by the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, which recommended the suspension of the sharing of the chalice at communion. This followed advice from the UK Department of Health to the British public not to share ‘common vessels’ for food and drink.

Within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, we should observe prudence in maintaining good hygiene and in taking care to reduce exposure to infection.

There has been legitimate alarm around this pandemic, at least 6 people have died from swine flu. All of life is sacred and we regret the loss of this precious life. Yet we should not panic, but rather be prudent about our health. If you are not well, it makes sense to behave as you would with any of the other strains of flu that we experience each year. We should take care not to expose others needlessly to the virus, and to remember the tried and trusted practices of covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands regularly and so forth.

I have spoken on the phone with Prof Adrian Puren, an Anglican who is a virologist and a professor at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases. He has confirmed all the above. Thus, we are encouraging prudence, and asking those who may have swine flu (or indeed, normal winter flu) to take special precautions, to reduce exposure to others, and to take proper account of adverse weather.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

To the People of God – To the Laos - August 2009

Dear People of God

Throughout our Province we observe August as ‘The Month of Compassion’. Of course, we are called upon to share compassion throughout the year, but this month we take time to pause and reflect on the compassion we have received from God, and how he calls us to share it with the world around.

The word ‘compassion’ has roots that mean ‘to feel with’ or ‘to suffer with’. Compassion is not only feeling sorry for someone, but to be with them in what they face. God has compassion on all creation, especially humanity. Coming alongside us in Jesus Christ, taking human form, to experience all that we go through. As Scripture says, ‘We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who, in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Heb 4:15-16).

When we look at the life of Jesus, we see how certain circumstances drew out particular compassion in him. We read how he had compassion for a leper, expelled from society and rejected by his faith community (Mk 1:41); for the multitude who ‘were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mt 9:36); for a hungry crowd (Mk 8:2); for the sick (Mt 14:14); and for two blind men (Mt 20:34). He speaks of God’s compassion when healing ‘Legion’ (Lk 5:19); and in his parables, compassion is shown by the God-like figures of the debt-forgiving master (Mt 18:27) and the prodigal son’s father (Lk 15:20). We see compassion in Jesus’ treatment of the woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:11); and in his raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mk 6:41) and the widow of Nain’s son (Lk 7:13). In all these examples, we see what ‘bothers’ God about humanity: our predicaments not only as individuals, but within society, in need of direction and leadership so that we can live the life to which God calls us, and which Jesus both models and offers to us if we put out trust in him as Lord and Saviour.

We see Jesus’ compassion most fully in what we call his ‘passion’. This is not about enthusiasm or desire, but the primary meaning of the word: suffering. For Jesus, in his love for humanity, shared the suffering of mortality and death, as he gave his life for us on the cross. As Jesus says at the Last Supper, ‘No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn 15:12).

God in Jesus Christ shows us what is compassionate love. It is acting. It is coming alongside and walking with. It is persevering and self-sacrificing. Love that does not take action is mere sentimentality. Love that does not come alongside is aloof and condescending. Love that does not walk with is only being patronising. Love that does not persevere is just a passing romantic daydream. Love that is not prepared to give of itself is no more than an empty pretence – or, as St Paul might say, a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. (I Cor 13:1)

How shall we show such love, such compassion, to those whom we meet? Jesus tells us to love our neighbours as ourselves, and the story of the good Samaritan, in which a despised foreigner helps the assaulted Jewish traveller, reminds us that our neighbour is anyone who crosses our path – even someone whom we might never expect to encounter in everyday life.

Sometimes what is needed is to show people that ‘we are there for them’. The Bible tells us that when Job, after losing all his children and wealth, was struck with sores from head to foot, his three friends came, and sat with him in silence for seven days. When they finally opened their mouths, they got it all wrong!! Sometimes our committed presence makes all the difference.

Last month I visited a hospital in Khayelitsha in Cape Town, where Hope Africa had donated equipment, as part of their annual partnership scheme with the South Africa Medical Foundation. So much is done by a dedicated few, with limited resources. Yet I pray that through my visit, and the lasting presence of the new equipment, we can demonstrate some measure of sustained compassion. Sustained compassion is also present in long-running projects such as soup kitchens and winter care programmes. It is in the establishment and support of foster care homes, and in home based care projects. It is in vegetable gardens and prison visiting. It is in skills training and capacity building and community development. It is in reading to the blind, or just sitting holding the hand of someone who needs to know a loving touch. It is in a million little acts of care.

Compassion can also be expressed through raising our voices – especially through Synods at Diocesan and Provincial level. I am reminded of the words of the Roman Catholic priest in Brazil, Helder Camara, who said ‘When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.’ We too must ask our governments the difficult questions of what social justice means, and how it is to be enjoyed by all. And we must be ready to be partners with our governments, at every level, to ensure that the infrastructure resources which we enjoy can be used to their full potential. Perhaps we have buildings that can be used for clinics or in other ways so that services can be delivered to those who need them.

Earlier this month I joined the Diocese of the Free State’s annual Cave Service at Modderpoort, and was touched by the Anglican Women’s Fellowship’s generous spirit. It reminded me of Christ’s compassion in feeding the multitude. May our Lord continue to bless Bishop Paddy and Kirsty Glover and their team.

In South Africa, August is also women’s month. In so many communities, women bear the burden of caring for those in need – but Jesus’ example shows that this is a responsibility all should share. Yet let me salute those women who, whether through choice or force of circumstances, expend their time, their energies, their resources, for the well-being of others. Women priest and deacons, members of the Mothers Union and the Anglican Women’s Fellowship, women lay ministers and wardens, treasurers and councillors, women who teach in Sunday School and clean and do the flowers, women who fill our pews, and the women of tomorrow who grow up among us – we honour you, as our sisters in Christ, our fellow-labourers in his vineyards, our companions on the journey, and our equals in the sight of God.

Yours in the service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

Friday 10 July 2009

To the People of God – To the Laos - July 2009

Dear People of God

Last month I wrote directly after returning from the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica, on which I have now had some time to reflect.

The ACC is one of the Anglican ‘Instruments of Communion’, alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates’ Meeting, and the Lambeth Conference. Every 3 years, a bishop, priest or deacon, and lay person from each of the larger Provinces, and 2 representatives from smaller Provinces, meet to review our common life. We consider how to promote cooperation, including through the Communion’s many networks, and we review developments in mission and in relations with other Christian bodies. I attended in the place of the late Bishop David Beetge, long our episcopal representative, together with the Revd Janet Trisk. Unfortunately Nomfundo Walaza had other, unbreakable, commitments.

It was a great joy to be in Jamaica, a Diocese of the Province of the West Indies. On our first Sunday, all the local churches cancelled their services, and joined us for a remarkable shared celebration. The following Sunday, ACC members divided ourselves among parishes, to see the mission of the church in Jamaica first hand. It was an enriching encounter, especially so soon after the Lambeth Conference challenged us on the role of Bishops as leaders in mission.

I found it hugely energising to hear reports from the Communion’s networks, which include Women, Families, Youth, Interfaith, Colleges and Universities, Peace and Justice, and the Environment. There is a huge breadth of activity, mutual support and learning – and we must look at ways of sharing this more widely in our Province, and raising the profile of the Southern Africans involved.

It is also greatly encouraging to consider how much our relations with other Churches and Christian bodies broaden and deepen – often after centuries of division and mistrust. Congratulations to my researcher, the Revd Sarah Rowland Jones, for compiling the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations’ report of nine years work, in ‘The Vision Before Us’. I commend this as a comprehensive handbook on the Anglican response to Jesus’ prayer that his followers ‘might all be one, so that the world may believe’. (As some of you know, it was through IASCER that Sarah met the late Bishop Justus Marcus – who mentored a lot of us – moving to South Africa when they married, and taking up the post of Archbishop’s researcher on his death. She is one of the important staff members at Bishopscourt, who are invaluable in making an Archbishop’s life possible – do please keep them in your prayers.)

Of course, one key matter was the proposed Anglican Covenant in its third, ‘Ridley’ draft. We decided more work was still required, and sought comments from Provinces. If you want to know more, your Bishop’s office has copies of the draft. Please send views, by mid-August, via your Diocese or directly to peoadmin[at] We shall look at this at Synod of Bishops and PSC in September. You may have seen reports that this delay favours one or other ‘constituency’ within the Communion – my view is that there was ambiguity within the draft that must be clarified. I can also report that, whatever the press and bloggers say, there was a very warm and cooperative atmosphere at the meeting. This is not to deny that divisions, especially in some Provinces, are very deep and serious, but they do not bring everything else to a halt. Please continue to pray our Communion may be ‘faithful and obedient’ in following God’s call.

On my way home, I visited New York, holding discussions with The Episcopal Church, particularly on their mission partnerships with us, through our Anglican AIDS and Healthcare Trust, Hope Africa and directly with a number of dioceses, and in supporting various individuals. We thank them for labouring with us in the vineyards of the Lord in this way. While there I was privileged to receive an honorary Doctorate from the General Theological Seminary ‘in recognition of outstanding service to the Anglican Communion’. As I said then, I feel this degree is for all Southern Africans who were denied access to education by past circumstances. Many of you, I know, would have loved to have been able to study, especially to study theology, and could not. Nevertheless, God’s Holy Spirit guided and strengthened the churches in our efforts to bring an end to apartheid and build a new reality in Southern Africa, through justice, peace and reconciliation.

This new reality means we must continue deliberately to share God’s love, walking with all who are in need in today’s broken world. Recalling Jesus command that we love our neighbours as ourselves, we must each ask ‘Who is my neighbour?’ and then treat every member of our global community in ways that uphold the sanctity of life, the dignity of humanity in all our differences, and the integrity of creation. These are our touchstones as we follow God’s call for social justice here and now – whether the urgent demands of poverty, hunger, malaria, HIV and AIDS, and TB, or the adverse affects of global warming. God’s loving concern for human well-being is best revealed through the attitudes, words and deeds of Christians acting together as the body of Christ, especially concrete cooperation, as we all walk more closely with one another on our common journey.

There is a similar spirit behind the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s call for a global Mandela day on his birthday, 18 July. They want everyone to spend 67 minutes ‘doing something that would make a difference in their communities’, and so recognise the 67 years Mandela spent fighting apartheid. I should like us all to take up this challenge, and not only act individually, but also with others, and especially in ways that bridge or break down the old divisions. For the genius of Nelson Mandela is that he inspires us not only to be the best that we can be, but also to bring out the best in one another, for the healing of the soul of our nation. For my part, conscious of the need for the healing of our very land, I shall plant an olive tree in the grove I have created in my garden to off-set the carbon footprint generated by the travel that my responsibilities entail. And of course, I shall take time for prayer: to thank God for the gift to us and to the world that Nelson Mandela has been, to seek his blessings of peace and contentment on Madiba in his retirement, and to ask that we may all take to heart the lessons we have learnt from this remarkable man and so, by God's grace, dare to dedicate our lives to the betterment of our planet and of all who live on it. I encourage you to spend these 67 minutes doing good to all, especially to those of the household of faith.

Yours in the service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

Friday 26 June 2009

Naught for your Comfort Award

While President Zuma has the right to hope South African voters will choose an ANC government ‘until Jesus comes again’, his prediction that that ANC would rule South Africa forever was unfortunate, anachronistic, and potentially dangerous, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town has said.

Speaking at the annual Naught for your Comfort Award ceremony held at Sophiatown’s Christ the King Church on Friday evening, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said that the Constitution’s guarantee of the freedom of religion meant anyone could allot to Jesus whatever role they wished, adding that the churches had no desire to ‘colonise’ Jesus, as some claimed. To speak of ruling ‘until the end of time as we know it’ was a political, rather than religious matter, he said, pointing to the enormous poverty and suffering one-party rule had often brought in Africa. He felt such an attitude reflected a ’1960s or ‘70’s view of our continent’, in contrast to perspectives on democracy and governance recently expressed by the African Union. He warned that the President’s comments risked ‘encouraging those who have a strong stake in – and economic motives for – prolonging ANC rule indefinitely’, even by unconstitutional means.

The Archbishop nonetheless assured the President and his government of his continuing prayers that they might successfully fulfil their promises to tackle poverty, expressing the hope that they might ‘follow the leadership of Jesus Christ, who came not to be served but to serve, and who taught us to put the needs of others before our own’.

Archbishop Makgoba was honoured as the first Rector of the parish of Christ the King, following its restoration to the Anglican Church, in 1997. It had been abandoned, and then sold, in the late 1960s, following population removals. Also honoured were the Smith family, whose generous donation in the 1930s led to the building of the church; Bishop Duncan Buchanan, retired Bishop of Johannesburg, who oversaw the church’s reclamation; and the Community of the Resurrection, which has a long history of supporting the parish and provided many of its earliest rectors. Among these was Trevor Huddleston, after whose book the award is named.

Linking the Award to the scriptural call to ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people’, the Archbishop challenged his hearers to consider what nature such comfort might take in today’s society, wherever people were prevented from flourishing. He said the church should press for God’s justice to be realised in the proper remuneration of health care professionals and funding of the health service, as well as in social grants, education, halting human trafficking and in sustainable development. He also called for politicians to be held accountable, and for greater truth and transparency in government, including in relation to the arms deal.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

Full text of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s speech

Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great privilege and pleasure to be with you this evening.

I am honoured to find myself a recipient of the Naught for your Comfort Award – and more than honoured to find myself in such august company as you, Bishop Duncan and Di, and the Smith family, and the Community of the Resurrection. I offer you my congratulations, alongside my own thanks, as a former rector, for all that you have done for this church, and this community, over so many years. Speaking of rectors, may I also express particular thanks to you, Fr Luke, as our host today – and may I congratulate you on your recent appointment to Christ the King, and assure you of my continuing prayers in this new responsibility. If you find yourself even half as much blessed through the life of Christ the King as I was, during my time here, you will be blessed indeed. And I am sure that you will be a blessing to those entrusted to your pastoral care.

Our theme for this Naught for your Comfort Award Lecture, is ‘Social Justice and the Church’. Since I am an archbishop, I hope you will permit me to begin with some words from the Bible, to set the scene for us. When we think of the word ‘Comfort’, I am sure that for most of us, the words that spring first to mind are from the first verse of the fortieth chapter of the book of the Prophet Isaiah – a passage that we read earlier this week as we remembered the birth of John the Baptist. As the King James Version so memorably puts it, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith the Lord.’

So the question I want to consider this evening, is this: ‘What is the nature of the comfort which the Lord is asking us to share with the community around?’ How does God want us to be channels of his comfort, in Sophiatown here and now, when, to quote further from Isaiah, ‘the term of bondage is served’, or, as another translation puts it, ‘they have suffered long enough’.

Well, the term of bondage ended fifteen years ago, for this country, and twelve years ago for this church, where I was privileged to serve as the first rector after the reclamation of the building. Yes, we suffered – we suffered enough. But now the bondage is over – now we have a new freedom to enjoy. So our first response is one of gratitude.

Indeed, in all of life, gratitude should be our first response – for the gift of life itself; and for the reality of God’s promises, that nothing in all creation can separate us from his love, and that there is no situation so terrible that he cannot work in it for good (Rom 8:28,39).

This surely is a source of sure and certain comfort to us all. We look back, and we see how God worked for good in, and through, and despite, our past. And so, when the present, when the future, seem to threaten, we can proclaim our confidence that God will work for good again, as we once more put out hands in his, and trust in him.

This is the first word of comfort that we can proclaim to our community. Yes, God works in all things for good, if we are prepared to let him – and so we dare to give him thanks, in good times and in bad.

Gratitude is the heart of thanksgiving – and thanksgiving is the essence, and the essential meaning, of the Eucharist: the sustaining meal of remembrance through which God’s presence is made real to us, and we lift up our hearts, and as we are caught up into the worship of heaven. As the Prayer Book tells us, this is the central act of the Church’s worship. In Christ, it is also our eucharist, our thanksgiving, to God, for his inexpressible love in giving his only Son for us: Lamb of God, bearer of our sins, redeemer of the world. It is also our communion – as we receive, in and through the consecrated bread and wine, the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice made once for all, and as we in our turn offer ourselves as living sacrifice to God. Now the Lord takes us and blesses us. He breaks us in renewed surrender and gives us as food for others.

And so we have a two-fold movement: the call to come, ‘draw near, and receive’ – and the summons to move out into a needy world, ‘go in peace to love and serve the Lord’.

Tonight, we are gathered here in recognition that we have been able, in so many different ways, in so many difficult circumstances, to ‘draw near and receive’ – though the life and ministry of Christ the King. We are affirming and acknowledging, very particular channels through whom we have been drawn closer to the Lord, and received from his bounty:

* We thank God for the Smith family, for their generous donation of funds that allowed the building of this house of the Lord, this sacred space, in which so many could find a place to draw near to him

* We thank God for the companionship in the gospel, the Christ-like service, and the spiritual nurturing, that we have received from the Community of the Resurrection, over so many years, in running the Church, and in so many community projects – and especially their faithfulness in some of our darkest years.

* We thank God for Bishop Duncan, who, as our Diocesan Bishop, gave leadership, guidance and encouragement, through the complex and often painful process of reclaiming this church, and who has been a mentor to so many people.

Through them all, so many of us, myself included, drew closer to God, and received his comfort.

In turn, we must now also ‘go out’ from here, sharing the peace of God – sharing the comfort of God – as we love and serve the Lord; as we love and serve his people, his world. And so I want to ask tonight – how are you using these lectures, to help you love and serve God and his world, to help you bring the true comfort of God to those around you, who need it most?

Preparing to come here this evening, I did a little homework. I read the text of Archbishop Njongo’s lecture, of two years ago. I wonder if you remember it. I wonder what you have done about it.

In his book Naught for your Comfort, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston warned us about being caught up in words, words, words – saying something along the lines of ‘I hate words, because the church slumbers while the people suffer.’ Archbishop Trevor took the title ‘Naught for your comfort’ from a poem by G K Chesterton. Two years ago, recollecting this, Archbishop Njongo drew on some other words from Chesterton. These spoke of the importance of understanding our own history, of understanding how we got to this place, this moment – in order to understand better how we can go forward.

Archbishop Njongo spoke about how important lament is, in helping us remember our raw and painful past, in ways that transforms us to a place of ‘hopeful recollection’. So, have you been learning how to lament the pains of the past?

* That time of exile as Sophiatown was destroyed, and the people removed to Meadowlands?

* The years of feeling like the ancient people of Israel, deported to Babylon?

* And this church under what felt like foreign domination, as the Jerusalem Temple was in the time of Isaiah?

* The long wait until you could return, and rebuild, as the Jewish exiles finally did?

What have you learnt from your lamenting? What healing are you finding for this painful history?

And how is lamenting teaching you to walk alongside those who are hurting today – walking as Christ the King walked with us, a king who knows what it is to suffer ‘even unto death on a cross’? What has your experience been of following Archbishop Njongo’s call to intentionality in recollecting, in order to create bridges of hope for the future? Or, as Chesterton would put it, What new understandings of the past are you learning, so you can better go forward?

I know that I have been changed in the years since I was Rector here.

In those days when the pain was still so raw, I preached often from the radical experiences of the liberation theologians, who used the images of Jewish Exodus and Promised Land, and of exile and return, very powerfully in their understanding of the God who stands with us in our woundedness, wherever we may be – and yet who ultimately promises to bring us home.

Now we are home – we do not deny our past, but we are not its prisoners. We live in a context where the bondage is over, and God’s comfort has been made real to us. It is our turn to be channels of his comfort.

I am finding this in my own ministry – challenged to a greater balance, a greater breadth, a greater hope, in preaching not just exile and return, but the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who promises life in abundance to everyone, in whatever situation they find themselves.

So let me now pick up the key question I raised earlier this evening. What is the nature of the comfort which the Lord is asking us to share, here and now, with the community around us?

We can find some guidance in answering this question by returning to Isaiah chapter 40, and reading the verses that follow. Here, the Prophet speaks of preparing the way of the Lord in the wilderness, making a straight highway through the desert, by lifting up valleys, bringing down hills, and levelling the rough ground – and then the glory of the Lord will be revealed. So, let us ask tonight: where is there wilderness and desert in this community? Of course, I do not mean literally, where is there barren dry land – unlike the barren and vacant plot at the back of the church, which you should consider how best to use!

We need to think more broadly about wherever there is desolation, instead of the flourishing that God desires for humanity – sharing in community, where each of us loves, and is loved by, our neighbours as ourselves. The question then arises of ‘Who is my neighbour?’ within the family of the Church, within our communities – even among our colleagues and business contacts. Yes, everyone is our neighbour. There is no-one who crosses our path who is not our neighbour, someone with whom to share the comfort of God. And so, within these human networks to which we belong, we need to consider: Where is there wilderness, desert, barrenness, where instead there ought to be life, flourishing, growth, development?

And what about straight ways? Where are the ways of life, in your community, in your work, in your parish, not straight? Where is there crookedness – perhaps crime, corruption, bribery, bending the rules, cutting corners, being elastic with the truth, playing it a little too clever, taking the easy way out … How can you bring in the straight ways, and live by the measure of righteousness?

Then there are the valleys and hills – the gaps and the obstacles. Where are the gaps, the shortfalls, between how we are, and what we are called to be? And what obstacles stand in the way of us living the lives God purposes for us? And finally, there is levelling rough ground. Where do we still trip up, even though the way ahead, on the face of it, seems relatively clear?

I am sure with very little imagination, you can provide me at once with all manner of answers!

And we can address these issues with confidence, for we serve a Lord who says, Comfort, comfort my people, and we know his word does not return empty! How then, shall we bring the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to all these pains of today’s world.

What is the social justice for which our God would have us strive? Some of us do not find it easy to answer this question. The world around is complex and ambiguous, and we do not know where to begin. Many of us grew up with one big simple question, for the church and for the country, to which there was one big simple answer – the end of apartheid. Now, in both politics and faith, we have to deal with complicated and diverse issues, with no big simple answers – and we are not used to the new mindset this requires. You might even say, it takes us outside our comfort zone!

For democratic life is messy. This is a reality. But, for us who are new to it, it can be confusing, and unsettling, as the tides of politics ebb and flow, and personalities and politicians come and go. And often devout and deep-thinking Christians are divided on all manner of issues from the death penalty through to the best way to tackle poverty. But we should not be discouraged. God can work in this democratic world as easily as in the bad old days – for nowhere is outside God’s comfort zone!

Instead of one big question, one big answer, we can find God at work in many detailed ways, answering every question, however it comes. So each of us can ask, within our own circumstances, as well as within the parish, and within the community, the questions I asked above:

* what are the barren deserts,

* what are the crooked ways,

* what are the gaps,

* what are the obstacles,

* and what is it, even when life seems sorted out, that still trips you up in your attempts to go forward?

And then we must ask ‘how can I best be a loving neighbour, in tackling these issues wherever I encounter them?’

Each of us may come up with slightly different answers and priorities, depending on our own contexts, our own callings. The particular challenges facing politicians, business people, journalists, teachers, doctors, clergy and so forth, are all likely to be different – just as our personal and family situations, may be different. But in them all, God wants to make the road forward straight and level, for the glory of the Lord to be revealed in our lives. God wants to bring abundant, flourishing, holy, life – a life of justice and truth – and he will do so in whatever manner is most appropriate for each person, each context.

So do not worry that, with the loss of the big question, and big answer, the Church has ‘lost its vision’. No, in changed circumstances, we must learn to express God’s vision, God’s comfort, differently, appropriately to the complexities and varieties of our lives. Now we face the challenge of discerning the finger prints of God in the ‘little things’ of life, in every time and place. Do not forget – we serve a God who numbers the hairs on every person’s heads. He has made-to-measure promises, that deliver tangible comfort, for every single one of his children.

And so, wherever we are, we can promote God’s comfort, Christ’s gospel, through pursuing the highest moral principals, ethical standards, values of ubuntu, and strengths of democracy. In God’s strength, we can press for God’s justice; expressed, for example:

* in adequate social grants for all who need them, for all who are entitled to them;

* in a properly funded health service, properly remunerated health professionals;

* in safety in schools, in supporting teachers, in helping schools deliver quality education;

* in politicians being accountable to their electorate

* in truth and transparency – not least in relation to the arms deal

* in equitable distribution of the world’s resources, between rich and poor

* in sustainable development and environmental protection

* in halting human trafficking, especially child-trafficking

And in all of this, our desire is for every human person, every child of God – each of us created in, and reflecting, his image – to be treated fairly, with dignity, with respect.

It is a great privilege to live in a country where the provisions of our Constitution, though not grounded in the Christian faith, so fully reflect our beliefs in the intrinsic worth and value of each person, and the fundamental equality of treatment and of opportunity due to every individual.

At this point, let me dare to stick my neck out and risk a remark about President Zuma’s comment on the ANC ruling until Jesus comes again.

Neither the Anglican Church, nor the South African Council of Churches – of which we are a member, and which we strongly support – wants to ‘colonise’ Jesus, as some have claimed.

Of course, our desire is that everyone, everywhere, should know him and follow his ways – because we believe that this offers the best route to human well-being.

Yet we express this desire within the context of our Constitution, which respects freedom of religion – the freedom to believe whatever you want to believe, as long as you do not contravene the basic rights of others. And this means, that you, that anyone, can allot to Jesus whatever role you wish. In this way, Muslims believe Jesus to be one of their prophets, and they are free to do so.

No, the reason that we, and others in broader civil society are unhappy with the President’s comments, is not actually a matter of religion at all. It is a matter of public policy.

Therefore, I believe it is wholly right that, tonight, we should evoke the legacy of Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, and tell the ruling party precisely why we are unhappy, even if it does give them ‘naught for their comfort’ to hear us say it.

President Zuma, as leader of the ANC, does have the perfect right to express the hope that South African voters will choose his party as the country’s government ‘until Jesus returns’. But it is another matter to predict the party will rule until the end of time as we know it.

It takes only a glance at history to show the enormous damage that one-party rule has done to too many of Africa’s people; and the poverty and suffering it has caused, not least through encouraging greedy elites to hog resources. In this light, the President’s comments are unfortunate.

More than this, given the roots of one-party rule, the President’s comments are anachronistic, reflecting a 1960s or ‘70s view of our continent. A 21st century perspective on Africa should surely rather reflect, for example, the understanding expressed in the African Union’s own Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance.

And, finally, the President's predictions of unending ANC rule are potentially dangerous, to the extent that they might encourage those who have a strong stake in – and economic motives for – prolonging ANC rule indefinitely, and tempt them to take unconstitutional action to preserve it.

But let me say that we wish President Zuma and his government well, and we shall continue to pray that they may be successful in following the leadership of Jesus Christ: who came not to be served but to serve; and who taught us to put the needs of others – especially the poorest, the weakest, the most marginalised – before our own.

May they be successful in the goals they have set themselves: in tackling poverty and crime and unemployment; in building up health and education; and – in so many other ways – bringing tangible, sustainable and lasting comfort to those who stand in greatest need.

Let us not forget how far we have come in 15 years, how much there is to celebrate, how much there is to affirm, and how much there is to continue building upon.

We can rejoice in all that is good and true and honourable and just; in whatever is pure and pleasing and commendable – as St Paul tells the Philippians. Wherever there is excellence, or anything worthy of praise – our minds should rest on these, and our words should encourage them, and our actions support them.

Even if Bafana Bafana did not beat Brazil last night, a semi-final place was quite an achievement, and we congratulate the team. And we can look forward to 2010, knowing that sport builds relationships, and creates better neighbours – as well as providing leverage for jobs, skills upgrades, and all manner of other opportunities for our country and its people.

Remember, God calls us to be a people of hope. As the poem containing the phrase ‘Naught for your comfort’ tells us – God does not give us guarantees of an easy life, but he guarantees us that he is with us, through thick and thin, working his good. And so with confidence we can proclaim his message of comfort, knowing that he will make straight his paths, and level the valleys of despair and hopelessness.

May his comfort be felt in the life of Christ the King, in the life of Sophiatown, and in the life of all those whom you encounter. Amen.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Statement Following the Air France Plane Crash

Since we heard of the loss of the Air France plane, I have been praying for all those people, families and friends of passengers and crew, who have been affected by this tragedy. We do not know the cause of the crash - and even if we did, it would not alter the way that our hearts weep within us for all those who have lost their loved ones. On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I send condolences to those countries whose citizens have died, and assure them of our prayers. We pray also for those engaged in attempting to salvage the wreckage, and locate the remains of those who perished, as well as those tasked with investigating the cause of the accident and working to ensure that it does not happen again.

At times of sudden tragedy, it is right that we should mourn and weep, and honestly face the depths of our grief. Inevitably we will ask questions of what has happened and why. Often there will be no easy answers - and even when we can identify some cause or contributory factors, this knowledge cannot turn back the clock, and restore to us those whom we have lost. At such times God promises to be a strong, safe refuge. He understands the pains of human mortality. God in Jesus Christ wept at the death of his friend; and himself was prepared to suffer death and pain, on the cross, for our sakes - and so his love and compassion, wrought in the trials of his own experience, can touch us tenderly in our own pain. More than this, his resurrection offers us all a sure hope and comfort that death need not have the final word, as he encourages us to put our hand in his and find in him the reassurance that we need in times of fear and sorrow.

This then, is my prayer today, for all who grieve for the loss of life in the Air France plane crash. And it is my prayer for everyone who faces tragedy and loss, and the trauma of death: may God, as we know him in Jesus Christ, be for us a source of hope, strength, and comfort - a light by which we can dare to go on walking, in our darkest hour.

Monday 1 June 2009

To the People of God – To the Laos, June 2009

Dear People of God

As some parts of our Province are celebrating Youth Day this month, let me devote this letter to the subject of children and young people. Though I bear the responsibilities of an Archbishop towards them, I am also writing as a parent, the father of a 14 year old boy, and a 9 year old girl, and much of what I want to say applies primarily to parents – though I hope that it will also speak to everyone else within the wider family of the church, among whom our young people grow up.

God has a very special place for children in his heart. We know this from Jesus, who rebuked the disciples when they tried to keep parents from bringing their little children to meet Jesus (Mk 10:13-16). Jesus has as much time, as much love, for every human person, no matter how old or how young (and the same applies to those who are differently abled). We are all special.

‘Let them come to me’ he says, pointing us to what matters most about how we raise children: bringing them up to enjoy and develop a relationship with Jesus, as friend, as Lord, as Saviour. No child is too small to begin to know God’s love and care for them, which is why Anglicans baptise the children of our church families – just as Paul baptised the family of the jailer in Philippi (Acts 16:33).

We do this, as the Prayer Book service says, ‘on the understanding that they will be brought up as Christians within the family of the Church.’ To promise this means far more than merely teaching them about God, about the Christian faith – it means both showing them and helping them to live it. When I taught my daughter to ride a bike, I did not sit her down and instruct her in the theory of cycling. No, I showed her myself, and then spent many hours explaining and encouraging, pushing the bike with her on it, until she got the hang of it for herself.

When the Old and New Testaments speak of teaching, what is in mind is generally far closer to what today we might call modelling and mentoring. At the heart of this letter, then, is my prayer, my plea to parents, and all who guide children and young people: that you will see yourselves in this light, and intentionally pursue a lifestyle that models the best of the Christian life and that mentors and coaches young people as they learn to live it for themselves. This is most of all the responsibility of parents, and should not be left to clergy, confirmation classes or school teachers.

The Catechism in the Prayer Book gives excellent teaching about what Christians believe (and I commend it for regular reading for everyone! It is on p.423). But our faith is far more than statements of belief, or even a set of rules about behaviour. It is a way of life, the best and most fulfilling life that we could ever ask for, the only life that helps us to deal with the challenges that come our way, and the ultimate questions of human fallibility (sin) and human mortality (death). We need to help young people learn how to apply God’s eternal truths to the actual contexts of their lives today – we are not teaching them to live in ways appropriate to when we were kids! The Confirmation Service speaks of growing in a life of ‘worship, witness and service’; and in our families, as well as through the structures of Province, Dioceses and parishes, we must ensure that we are directing our efforts relevantly to helping our young people live such a life for today.

The Old Testament tells the ancient Hebrews to speak to their children what it means to be the people of God – both the commandments, and the story of how he called and rescued them, and all he has done for them – and says ‘teach them, talking about them when you are at home, and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up’ (Deut 11:19). Faith is not just for the Sabbath, for Sundays – it is for the whole of life, for every part of our daily lives.

Perhaps you worry that you are not a very good example, and don’t know how to mentor. Do not be discouraged! For God does not just leave us to get on with the task – he is model and mentor to us! Jesus is our model, and as we heed his call to ‘follow me’, he will help us to walk in his Way, know his Truth, live his Life. And the Holy Spirit is our mentor, alongside us, guiding and encouraging us like the best possible coach or trainer, as we might say with less than a year to go to the football World Cup! And in turn, we should help our youth to follow Jesus, and to hear and respond to the Spirit’s leading, for themselves.

‘Leadership development’ is another way of talking about what we must do. And we are not only investing in leaders for the future. Studies show that friends of their own age are often the most significant influence in young people’s lives – so we are performing an important task for today if we enable our own children and teenagers to be ‘peer educators’, models and mentors for all that is best in life, among their own age group.

Because every Christian is fully a member of the body of Christ, and ‘to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good’ (1 Cor 12:7) we can expect young people to bring a contribution from God to the life of the Church. St Paul wrote to Timothy ‘let no-one despise your youth’ (1 Tim 4:12). We must allow young Christians to participate fully – with support that is sensitive. Remember, St Paul also wrote ‘Parents, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord!’ (Eph 6:4).

The Anglican Communion has an International Youth Network. At the recent Anglican Consultative Council meeting, we proposed that each Province should have an annual ‘Ministries with Young People Sunday’ with a special offering to support the churches’ activities with the youth. We shall be discussing this and other ways of promoting the life of faith among our young people. Another priority is appointing chaplains to universities and tertiary institutions.

Let us all, whether or not we are parents or others who model and mentor the life of faith, pray regularly for our young people, remembering that unless we too become as little children, we shall not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3).

Finally, congratulations to the Diocese of Mpumalanga on their fifth birthday! I was privileged to join the celebrations, and to feel there a sense of the energy of Joshua, another young man called to great leadership. There was such a great vibrancy, not only among the young people, but in everyone, reflecting the glorious beauty of flourishing creation all around!

Yours in the service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

Friday 22 May 2009

Archbishop Receives US Honorary Degree

‘This is for all South Africans who were denied access to education’

The text of a news release from Bishopscourt:

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town has said that the honorary degree he has been awarded by an American seminary ‘is for all South Africans who were denied access to education’.

The degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, was conferred on Archbishop Thabo Makgoba in New York by the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church ‘in recognition of outstanding service to the Anglican Communion’.

Archbishop Makgoba, speaking in advance of the ceremony on May 20, said that circumstances of the past had prevented many of his parishioners from studying as they had desired. Nevertheless, he said, God’s Holy Spirit had guided and strengthened the churches in their efforts to bring an end to apartheid and build a new reality in Southern Africa, through justice, peace and reconciliation.

‘We must continue to share God’s love, walking with all who are in need in today’s broken world’ he urged Christians in America as well as Southern Africa. Recalling Jesus’ command to love our neighbours as ourselves, he said ‘We must each ask, “Who is my neighbour?” and then treat every individual and our whole global community in ways that uphold the sanctity of life, the dignity of humanity in all our differences, and the integrity of creation. These are our touchstones as we follow God’s call for social justice here and now.’

He pointed to the adverse effects of global warming on Africa’s poorest countries, who were least responsible for climate change, and to the urgent demands of poverty, hunger, malaria, HIV and AIDS, and TB.

He said God’s loving concern for human well-being was best revealed through the attitudes, words and deeds of Christians acting together as the body of Christ, and urged concrete cooperation, saying ‘Let us all walk more closely with one another on our common journey.’

Photo: Placing the hood on the Archbishop is Professor Mitties De Champlain, Commencement Marshall of the General Theological Seminary. Conferring the degree is the seminary's Dean and President, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing.

Friday 1 May 2009

To the People of God – To the Laos, May 2009

Dear People of God

South Africa’s elections fell between Easter and Pentecost, so I have been considering what it means to live as those who are raised with Christ, indwelt with the Spirit, and called and sent to be the salt in this complex messy world of ours. I have been greatly helped by recent conversations with my predecessors – drinking from the well of many years of wisdom and experience in ‘speaking truth to power’. I thank Archbishops Desmond and Njongo for all they have learnt and shared, and affirm my support for the public stance that each continues to take, particularly in South Africa, in calling on politicians to uphold all for which the Constitution stands.

After the leading role churches played in opposing apartheid and supporting the transition to democracy, I have found it extraordinary to encounter so many recent claims in the media that religion should have no place in political life. Of course, I share others’ wariness of political parties claiming God as their supporter; but to believe that faith is irrelevant to the national life is a real failure to understand mature religion, and how much we can contribute to the flourishing of human society. Anglicans have long believed engagement in public debate is inevitable, for God is either God of everything or of nothing. Therefore there can be no area of human activity in which he has no interest, and into which he does not call us to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! Any attempted distinctions between the secular and sacred, the personal and the political, are artificial and unsustainable.

Yet this does not mean that churches should try to micro-manage government policy. Instead, we must help people understand how the eternal truths of the gospel apply in whatever context they find themselves – from the voting booth, to community forums, to a seat in Cabinet! This approach was set out by William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942-4, who said it is the church’s responsibility to ‘announce Christian principles and point out where the existing social order at any time is in conflict with them. It must then pass on to Christian citizens, acting in their civic capacity, the task of reshaping the existing order in closer conformity to the principles.’ Because mature democracy offers the best context for debating Christian principles – and more general pursuit of mission and ministry – I see one role of the church as being to act as ‘the friend of the Constitution’. This is why I took a lead role in election monitoring bodies, which encourage political tolerance, freedom of speech, healthy debate, and so forth.

South Africa’s Constitution is a wonderful document, bought at great price – many lives lost, others permanently scarred. Its first commitment is to ‘heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights’. As Christians, we also want to bring God’s healing and wholeness to humanity. Many other principles that we want to promote are also reflected in the Constitution, such as upholding truth, honesty, accountability, transparency, justice, fairness, and all that exemplifies good governance. We also want to prioritise those in greatest need – the weakest, poorest, neediest, marginalised, and voiceless – and in this, to ensure that for them the Constitution’s promises of equal rights and benefits are properly realised. In practice, this includes adequate prioritisation of HIV and AIDS, TB, malaria, safety (I am particularly concerned at present about safety of our young people in school), and many other urgent areas of social need – as well as ensuring that urgent and critical environmental considerations are properly reflected in all policy-making.

Now the voting is over, here at least, though other parts of our Province will face elections later this year. After the counting is done, the church must lend its voice to ensuring that those who are elected pursue the common good of everyone – not only of themselves and their families, friends and supporters. We should be a vital part of the conscience of our nations. As St Paul tells us, we will support our governments, our elected representatives, as long as they are ‘God’s servants for our good’ (Rom 13:4). But where they fall short, we will be unafraid to tell them so – and it is to the best of our Constitutions that we will hold them accountable.

Jacob Zuma, just before the elections, spoke of Constitutional Court judges as being ‘not Gods’ and ‘only human’. Quite so – but the same is true of politicians, and this is why we show loyalty to the Constitution and all its checks and balances, with none of judiciary, legislature or executive holding all the power.

It is for us also to acknowledge that Jacob Zuma is ‘only human’, and affirm that, whatever his flaws, he has now been elected to the highest office in the land through a fully free and fair process (and let me here give warm congratulations to Hlope Bam and her colleagues at the IEC for a difficult and complex job well done). As our new President, he deserves our congratulations, and our prayers that he will discharge the responsibilities now entrusted to him to the very best of his abilities, and for the good of every citizen and resident of this country.

That said, I remain concerned at the many unanswered questions around not only Jacob Zuma and the NPA, but also the entire arms deal. Some politicians say we should draw a line, forgive and move on. But – regardless of whether or not judicial proceedings are involved – one lesson that we learnt through the TRC (and which is intrinsic to all forms of ‘restorative justice’) is that people cannot forgive, unless they know who they are forgiving, and for what. South Africans deserve to know the truth. Unless this is uncovered and acknowledged, it will inevitably remain a festering sore in our political life. I am convinced that the over-riding interests of our country would be best served by a full arms deal enquiry.

However painful revealing the truth may be for those involved, this is the only path to the healing and fresh start South Africa and its new President crave and need. As St John wrote, ‘If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 Jn 1:8-9).

May I end by asking your prayers for another of my predecessors – Archbishop Phillip Russell, who did so much to hold our church together in divisive times, inviting us to receive in greater measure the Spirit’s love and empowerment. Remember him, in the increasing frailty of old age. Please also remember me and everyone participating in the Anglican Consultative Council meeting of 1 to 13 May.

Yours in the service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

Friday 24 April 2009

World Malaria Day Statement

‘The cost of preventing and treating malaria is only a fraction of what the disease costs us in terms of lost lives, lost income, lost productivity, lost learning’ Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has said. ‘The world must get its priorities right in tackling this preventable and curable disease, which claims a million lives a year, and causes the death of a sub-Saharan African child ever 30 seconds.’

Speaking on the eve of World Malaria Day, the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town added ‘with half the globe’s population at risk from malaria, including within substantial areas of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I fully endorse the call of Bishop Dinis Sengulane of Libombo Diocese in Mozambique, for us all to take time on 25 April to consider how we can contribute to overcoming this scourge. We must continue to pray for all those infected, affected, and at risk – but we must also act wherever we can to defeat the menace of malaria.’

He underlined the need for better information on preventing, curing and eliminating malaria, saying ‘First, we must get rid of stagnant water wherever possible, and ensure everyone in malarial areas has mosquito nets. Second, people must understand that swift medical treatment can make all the difference in saving lives and limiting the effect of the disease – do not delay in getting yourself, or your children, to the clinic if you think you may be infected! Third, the international scientific community needs to make this a far higher priority, reflecting its impact on the world as a whole.’ He added ‘It is unacceptable to see malaria merely as a “disease of the poor” and for medical research, and those who fund it, to focus disproportionately on diseases largely in the developed world, which impact on far fewer people globally.’

Noting that in some areas of Africa and elsewhere, steady progress was being made, the Archbishop nonetheless urged greater urgency, in pursuit of the UN Secretary General’s 2010 target for delivering effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria. ‘In partnership with Hope Africa, the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund, and others in the US, UK and elsewhere, the Anglican Church in Southern Africa will continue to do what it can to achieve this necessary goal’ he concluded.

Friday 10 April 2009

Statement on the Death of Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri

"I was saddened to learn of the death of Dr Ivy Matsepe-Cassaburi, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to her family and friends," said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, following his return to South Africa late on 7 April after lecturing in the United States.

"She was a remarkable woman - a pioneer among women, particularly in chairing the SABC and as Premier of the Free State, and among the trail blazers in parliament and in the Cabinet. I also want to pay tribute to her work in the fields of gender, education, economic development and local government. Her life stands as an encouragement to all young women in this country to take their rightful place in leadership in every sector, from politics and business through to the church.

"Dr Matsepe-Cassaburi's passing in Holy Week comes as we contemplate the mysteries of human mortality, and how Jesus' Christ's self-giving and death upon the cross and rising again, offers us a sure and certain hope of life beyond the grave' said the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. 'My prayer is that those who loved her and now mourn her loss will find comfort in the promises of the one who called himself "the Way, the Truth, the Life" and who has opened for us the gateway to the life of heaven. I commend her to the infinte love of our eternal God, praying she may rest in peace and rise in glory."

Thursday 9 April 2009

Archbishop Speaks in U.S. on Forgiveness

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba delivered the annual Willard and Jean Garvey Lecture at the Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, on 3 April 2009. Addressing the topic 'Forgiveness Made Concrete: Lessons from the South African Experience', the Archbishop discussed various aspects of the South Africa's recent history, including the peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, and the background to, and operation of, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He explored wider lessons of forgiveness, reconciliation and justice for South Africa and beyond, and considered the application of these in current global affairs.

The Garvey Lecture

‘Forgiveness Made Concrete:

Lessons from the South African Experience’

Friends University, Wichita

3 April 2009

Thank you for the invitation to give the Garvey Lecture. It is a great privilege and honour. I am particularly grateful to Dr Dixie Madden, and her colleagues at the Garvey Institute of Law, for all they have done to make me feel so welcome.

I am particularly glad to be able to come to Kansas, to Wichita – a part of the US I have not visited before. Though I must say, when I saw news of last weekend’s blizzards, I wondered if I was going to make it!

My task today is to speak about ‘Forgiveness Made Concrete: Lessons from the South African Experience.’

What I hope to do is this: •

first I shall describe South Africa’s apartheid history; and how it was that – broken, battered, and torn apart by our past – we would feel the need to pursue a new, and healing form of justice, and so set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, •

then I shall explain what was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – or TRC, as we tend to call it: how it operated, what it hoped to achieve, and what was realised; •

then I shall conclude by reflecting on the lessons about forgiveness we should draw, both for South Africa as we continue with our democratic journey, and for the wider world.

In these reflections, I want to consider two particular questions. •

The first is the place for so much religious, and specifically Christian, imagery in what was a government-sponsored body. •

The second is to explore what resources a commission set up to address politically motivated violence can offer us at a time of global economic and environmental crisis, and what is the place of forgiveness here.

Setting the Scene

Let me begin at the beginning, though it is hard to know where the beginning actually lies.

Perhaps you know that the world’s oldest traces of anatomically modern humanity lie in South Africa!

However, today’s story dates from 1652, when the first European settlers arrived.

Colonial expansion inevitably led to struggles for power – between settlers and indigenous peoples, and between the Dutch and British.

When these two sides finally reached agreement, the increasing exclusion of the black population from the political arena followed.

Racial discrimination were already extensive when the National Party came to power in the 1948 elections.

Now a full-blown policy of apartheid was pursued with ruthless single-mindedness.

It is hard now to grasp quite how vicious apartheid was, and how far it was designed to treat the vast majority, close to 90% of the population as, frankly, less than fully human.

Everyone was classified by race. This classification determined: •

Where you could live. •

What work you could do. •

Which shops you could use. •

Which bus you could catch. •

Which hospital would treat you. •

Even who you could make out with or marry.

Everywhere, the best, the finest, was reserved, often exclusively, for the whites – who were the only people with a real vote.

Everywhere, the worst, the poorest, and often no provision at all, was for those classed as black Africans.

I struggled to finish school, studying by candlelight in a crowded township house with no electricity, and no money for extra candles.

Though my grades gained me provisional acceptance at the traditionally white Witwatersrand University, deliberate government administrative delays prevented my studying there for three years, through a discriminatory policy called ‘Ministerial Approval’ intended to bar Blacks seeking entrance at these institutions.

Once there, I was determined to make the most of every opportunity, reading widely outside my major, and developing the insatiable love of books I still have!

But the whole process scarred me emotionally.

My intervening years at a black university were counted as nothing – and there I had been traumatised by police and army, when students demonstrated at the nutritionally inadequate food we were given.

Even the right to protest against injustice was denied by law!

Those, of whatever background, who opposed the system were met with the harshest response, including beatings, torture and death.

And the government tightly censored the media, so the full truth of what was happening was hard to come by within South Africa – though the rest of the world watched with condemnation.

The Challenge to the Churches

Instead of ‘apartheid’, the minority government often spoke of [quote] ‘separate development’ [unquote] between races – claiming biblical support, particularly Old Testament teaching that the ancient Hebrew people were to keep apart from, and certainly not intermarry with, those of other tribes.

In response, the World Council of Churches decreed that apartheid, which denied even basic rights to so many, was a heresy.

Most of the South African Churches – and some very brave individuals within the Dutch Reformed Church – said a clear no to apartheid. They said: •

it is all of humanity, equally, that is made in the image of God; •

it is all of humanity, equally, that Jesus embraces in his incarnation; •

it is all of humanity, equally, in whom the Spirit dwells by baptism;

These churches argued that everyone, equally, is deserving of respect and dignity. God’s promises of justice and true shalom peace are so everyone may prosper and flourish, here and now – and not only in the heaven that is to come.

During this time, our churches enjoyed significant support from around the world. We shall always be grateful for the strong links between my own church, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and Episcopalians and others in the United States.

Even though most churches spoke out against apartheid, it took more determination to avoid being complicit in other ways.

Some denominations had separate structures, or even parallel churches with different pay scales. Congregations tended to reflect regulations over who could live where, and often clergy appointments did so too.

The Anglican Church later apologised to Archbishop Desmond Tutu for not fully supporting him, including over his call for international sanctions.

There was even less agreement within the churches over whether Christians could, in certain circumstances, support the armed struggle; that is, support opposing the apartheid regime by force.

The Path to Democracy

The beginning of the end came in 1960.

First, the African National Congress – the ANC – and other African political groups were banned.

Second was the Sharpeville massacre, when police fired on a demonstrating crowd, leaving 67 dead and 186 wounded.

Political violence escalated.

People disappeared, others were beaten and abused, tortured and even killed in custody, or sentenced to lengthy imprisonment often with hard labour.

Between 1960 and 1994, some 2,500 were given the death penalty for political crimes and hanged.

In 1976, when school children in Soweto protested at being forced to study some subjects, like math, in Afrikaans, the whole country seemed to boil over.

Many townships and rural areas became extremely unstable and violent.

By the late 80s it was clear the situation was unsustainable internally and externally. International isolation and economic pressure had also grown, with the United Nations declaring apartheid a crime against humanity.

Finally, with little alternative before him, President de Klerk dared to begin dismantling apartheid.

In 1990 the ANC and other political parties were unbanned; and Nelson Mandela was released after 26 years in prison.

Nelson Mandela and F W De Klerk worked together for a smooth transition, and were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

In 1994 we held our first ever fully free and fair democratic elections.

Mandela became President, and though the ANC had a 63% majority, he formed a government of National Unity.

This symbolised commitment to seeking unity for the whole country and all its people.

Living with Democracy

Well, this has been a long introduction, but I hope you now appreciate the enormity of what the new democratic government faced.

Many had predicted that apartheid would inevitable be followed by a blood bath, as those who had suffered so much and for so long, responded with the justice of retribution, and revenge.

But that was not the vision that inspired the new leadership.

At his trial, 30 years earlier, Nelson Mandela had said:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for … But if needs be, it is an ideal I am prepared to die for.

After all he had suffered, Mandela still desired freedom and harmony for everyone, no matter what their race or background or political affiliation.

To achieve this, the country needed a fresh start, and a new beginning: one that did not deny the horrors of the past, but somehow allowed people to acknowledge them fully, deal with them appropriately, and then move forward into a better place.

The past must not hold the future hostage.

As we shall shortly see, the key that sets us free lies with forgiveness.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established by an act of Parliament in 1995 with the objective [quote] ‘to promote national unity and reconciliation in a spirit of understanding which transcends the conflicts and decisions of the past’ [unquote].

To achieve this, it was to uncover and record the extent of gross human rights violations, to evaluate amnesty applications, to propose reparations, and provide a comprehensive report on those dark days from 1960 to 1994.

The Commissioners were selected through public consultation and interview, and the recently retired Archbishop of Cape Town – my predecessor-but-one – Desmond Tutu was appointed chair.

In the next two years they addressed over 50,000 cases of gross human rights violations.

These ranged: •

from deliberate killings and deaths that resulted from extreme maltreatment; •

to torture, beating, burning, shooting, mutilation, and mental and sexual abuse; •

through to abductions and all manner of other serious infringements, and all as politically motivated acts.

The great majority of the violations were committed, directly or indirectly, by the apartheid government’s forces; but other violations were the responsibility of movements opposed to apartheid – some of which opposed each other.

The 140 public hearings that were held across the country are what most people know best about the TRC.

In addition, over 20,000 individual statements were taken, and over 7000 amnesty applications received. There were also special investigations and research projects.

The stories that people told of what had happened to them or to their loved ones, and the admissions people made of the atrocities which they had carried out, are almost beyond comprehension.

At one point, I had to stop watching the nightly television broadcasts of the day’s hearings, because it was too traumatising, even at that distance.

It was not surprising that the TRC had to set up a mental health unit to support victims and perpetrators, communities, and also the TRC’s own personnel.

The Question of Justice

So then, what could be done with this unimaginable burden of past pain and injury?

Of course, some people had argued for something like the Nuremberg trials, the ‘victor’s justice’ that followed the Second World War.

This was never feasible.

Further, it would have only exacerbated division, and undermined the reconciliation and healing to which the country dared aspire.

No, trials and retribution could not be the way forward.

But neither could we do nothing.

This would have further victimised the victims, by silencing their past, and so denying the awfulness, and the lasting legacy, of their experiences.

Justice and Freedom

Perhaps you remember Ariel Dorfmann’s play Death and the Maiden – made into a film with Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley. [Desmond Tutu refers to this in the TRC Report.]

A woman by chance encounters a man whom she believes raped and tortured her years previously. She is ready to kill him, as long as he denies these acts.

But when he admits what he did, she lets him go.

His admission has acknowledged the reality of what she faced. It has restored her dignity, her identity.

She is affirmed truly as who she believes herself to be – and as herself, even bearing the scars of her now-acknowledged past, she can go forward feeling respected.

By choosing to be free of the past herself, somehow she can also grant freedom from the past to her torturer.

There is something profound at work here.

Of course, it is encapsulated in Christian theology – but the fact that it can be depicted in such powerful theatre demonstrates that it is not only Christians that can grasp this mysterious reality.

‘You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free’ said Jesus – himself called the Way, the Truth and the Life.

It is my belief that those who walk in Jesus’ way, and pursue his truth – even if they do not realise, or do not acknowledge, that this is what they are doing – will nonetheless experience his life-giving grace, and so shall find the path to freedom which he promises.

In other words, this principle really works throughout human experience – because it reflects, and therefore taps into, God’s best and loving purposes for humanity.

In ways that we may not be able to explain – but which we can nonetheless powerfully experience – the truth does indeed set us free, free from the power of evil.

It sets free those to whom evil acts were done – and it also frees those who were caught up in those evil acts.

They too were, in a strange way, victims of evil. In South Africa, we knew that everyone, even those who had benefited from apartheid, had to be set free from the past, in order to be able to participate in the new future we dared to pursue.

Truth and Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an unavoidable part of this process of finding freedom through truth-telling.

What do we mean by forgiveness?

The TRC report says this

‘Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about seeking to forego bitterness, renouncing resentment, moving past old hurt, and becoming a survivor rather than a passive victim.’

This is a very important insight.

It underlines how, first of all, a person who forgives is, as it has been described, ‘doing themselves a favour’.

It is reaching a point where one can let go of the stranglehold of the past – and be freed to go forward, not on terms dictated by the past and its pains, but on one’s own terms.

To offer forgiveness to another is also to set them free.

None of us can change our past.

But forgiveness offers us the gift of a new future, a future free from being held hostage by the past.

But freedom comes at the cost of truth that can often be heart-breaking – and we must not forget this.

This is why those who had participated in human rights violations, had to be fully honest, if they wanted to receive either forgiveness from their victims, or the official amnesty that was part of the TRC’s task.

St John, in his first epistle, sums up the principle:

‘If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:8-9).

The forgiveness we receive from God in Christ, came the price of his own death on the cross – yet it was a death freely given, in order to set us free, and give us a new future of abundant life as beloved children of God.

If you read accounts of how, through the TRC, perpetrators sought forgiveness from those they had hurt, or whose loved ones they had killed; and how many of these, often against their own expectations, were able to offer forgiveness, it will move you to tears.

So often, through forgiveness both victims and perpetrators found immense, and often unanticipated, relief and release.

Often they did speak of God’s influence on them, but let me stress that Christians do not have a monopoly on forgiveness.

Yet, because forgiveness is God-shaped, we should not be surprised that the power of forgiveness to bring new, free, futures, through truth-telling, has been found to work elsewhere in human experience.

Restorative Justice

Let me mention just one such example.

Perhaps you have heard of Restorative Justice.

This is an approach that is increasingly used in the secular world, often alongside what we call Retributive Justice – the traditional approach of a punishment for every crime.

It is used because experience shows that very often, punishment alone does not solve underlying, far more fundamental problems – whereas restorative justice can indeed bring restoration of an all round better solution.

Restorative Justice can also be used to break log-jams when relationships have gone sour in other ways.

In the United States, I understand it is being applied in areas that range from prisons to child welfare. It can even be used in breakdowns of relationships in a place of work.

Let me explain what Restorative Justice is all about.

The aim is to bring about solutions that do far more than merely address wrong-doing, but instead aim to bring healing and wholeness – not least, to the victims of injustice, but also to the entire underlying situation.

Restorative Justice recognises that sometimes wrong-doing is only a symptom of something greater that is not as it should be – and that needs to be addressed too.

Therefore, it is as though the bad situation itself becomes the very crucible in which new beginnings are forged; and the wrong-doing (and there may be wrong-doing on more than one side) is transformed into a stepping stone to a better future.

This happens as part of deep and honest encounter between all the concerned parties, that emphasises healing the wounds of everyone involved – whether offended against, or offending, since all are damaged by division.

At the same time, questions are pursued about what will make for greater wholeness in whatever is the wider context or community.

The desired outcome is that everyone will become contributing members of a community that grows and shapes itself to minimise the possibility of similar harmful actions finding fertile ground in the future.

Though not identical to the TRC procedures, I hope you can see that there are a lot of parallels. There is certainly a shared goal of transformative reconciliation –in which forgiveness sought and offered plays an inevitable role.

But let me stress, neither the TRC amnesty process nor Restorative Justice are soft options.

Neither lets perpetrators off the hook lightly. They have to face what they have done, and the human consequences of their actions. They have to admit guilt and, to use a word from religion, they have to repent.

Restorative justice expects those who have caused injury to take steps to repair it, and they may also have to face legal consequences – Retributive Justice may well be part of the picture too.

And in South Africa, while the TRC granted 849 applications for amnesty, 5,392 were denied.

In the majority of refused cases, people were trying to give a political justification – an excuse, in fact – for what was no more than a straightforward criminal act, in the hope of avoiding prosecution. That could not be allowed. They had to face the music.

Others were refused because they denied their guilt, or failed to give the full story, or seemed to be in pursuit of personal gain.

But where people had been caught up in the greater evil of the apartheid political system itself, no matter on which ‘side’ they had been, the country decided it was prepared to give them amnesty, if they told the truth, and were truly sorry.

I find Restorative Justice profoundly ‘gospel shaped’.

It breaks into negative cycles with redemptive hope.

This is what St Paul promises in the letter to the Romans( ref), when he writes that God can and does ‘work for good in all things’, in every circumstance of life, no matter how desperate, if only we are prepared to let him.

This is perhaps a new way of thinking about justice that we ought to consider more widely – at every level from personal disputes to the global community.


The Goal of Justice

Let me raise the fundamental question of ‘What do we want from justice?’

Traditional justice, Retributive Justice, the justice of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, on its own is zero-sum justice.

Rarely is anyone left better off; the underlying situation is seldom improved; and little account is taken of the victim’s needs.

What help is such justice?

We know we are all ‘only human’, and struggle with the failings of our humanity. We do not want to be trapped in our worst selves. We need redemptive hope.

In South Africa, retributive justice would not have promoted national unity and reconciliation, nor helped us transcend our past.

In contrast, Restorative Justice, handled properly, can lead to a win-win situation. Taken overall, it can move us forward into a better situation than the one we left behind, and open up a better future.

Isn’t that what we all need, whatever injustices we face?

This is what we dared to hope for through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Shortcomings of the TRC Process

Of course, as the Commission itself admitted, the TRC had shortcomings, though these are outside the scope of what I want to address today.

Of greater concern is that its undeniable achievements were not adequately built on, and its recommendations not fully implemented.

It is often said the TRC delivered Truth, but this was not sufficiently matched by Reconciliation – and for this the South African, ANC-led, government must take its share of the blame.

First, the Commission judged that some level of reparation to victims of gross human rights violations was a necessary complement to truth seeking.

This would express a nation-wide public moral responsibility towards victims and shared national commitment to healing the wounds of the past.

It was part of the overall justice package, though one cannot put a price on life nor trauma.

Yet payment of reparations was delayed and fell significantly below what the Commission proposed.

The ‘justice’ element of the restorative justice nature of the TRC was also undermined by government failure to address proposals addressing land ownership and business.

But two other shortcomings have been more serious in their consequences.

The first is the failure of the new government to address sufficiently urgently or adequately the economic legacy of apartheid upon the poorest sectors of the population, in relation to everything from pensions and child-grants to education to health provisions.

This (along with land and business questions) brings into the equation a further form of justice – ‘distributive justice’ – but this lies outside the scope of what I have time for today.

Secondly, government failed to act on recommendations to consolidate the TRC’s achievements through deliberately promoting a nation-wide culture of reconciliation, tolerance, human rights and unity.

This was a particular concern to the TRC, since it was not itself asked to address the fact that 90% of the population suffered oppression under apartheid.

And though the TRC hearings were cathartic for many – including those who felt their own stories were told through the testimony of others with similar experiences – some were left with uncovered trauma, and feelings of anger and disappointment. Certainly, we have inadequate mental health resources in this country to handle the emotional pains of the past.

So, even though we are undoubtedly better off than if we had pursued a route of retributive justice alone, we are nonetheless left with a double burden – of material need, and of emotional need.

Both were partially addressed in the TRC, but governmental completion of the task has been sadly lacking.

Shortcomings of Government and Society – in South Africa and Beyond

I have to say that government negligence seems to reflect a focus by too many of the new black elite on gaining power and wealth and status; and leaving behind their old roots with hardly a backward glance.

Well, perhaps who can blame them?

Democracy came, and with both hands, they grasped what democracy in the West has been about for far too long: rampant easy consumerism with little thought for the true cost, for sustainability, or for the effect on others.

As Gordon Gecko said in the 1987 film, Wall Street, ‘greed is good’.

Globally, we are now facing the economic and social consequences of such behaviour.

Though the credit crunch is hitting places like the US very hard – and I guess Wichita’s aviation industry is facing very uncertain times – in fact the greatest and most lasting effect will be among the poorest populations and nations of the world.

These are also the ones who are increasingly experiencing the most severe consequences of that other result of rampant consumerism: global warming and environmental degradation.

In Southern Africa – my own country, the other countries of the Province of which I am archbishop, and our neighbours – the last few years have seen unprecedented floods, unprecedented storms, unprecedented droughts. And the trend is steadily worsening.

Yet it will not do for us to sit back and put all the blame on a few greedy bankers, a few greedy oil barons, a few greedy politicians.

Actually, all of us, who have consistently voted in economically liberalising governments over the past two or three decades, and who have enjoyed rising consumerist standards of living with little thought for the real cost, must take our share of the blame too.

The TRC required admissions of guilt. Restorative justice requires readiness by all to admit shortcomings and complicity in allowing unhealthy contexts to persist.

In this season of Lent, we are all called to self-reflection. Have we demanded the unsustainable from our politicians? Have we pursued lifestyles with destructive carbon footprints? Is not each one of us called to humility, to seek forgiveness, to repent?

Remember: in the Greek of the New Testament, to repent is to change direction.

We most certainly need a change of direction if we are to rebuild our economies in ways that will allow the world and all its inhabitants to flourish.

So let me turn now to the final section of my speech, and what other lessons the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can offer South Africa and the world – especially in relation to forgiveness, justice, and our desire to find a new and better direction for the future.

The Role of Community - Ubuntu

A better future must be for everybody, if is it to make any sense whatsoever.

The TRC was designed for the healing of the whole nation; overcoming the legacy of apartheid, which aimed to divide every community from all the others.

Restorative justice also situates itself within the wider community, wanting to change the context to minimise the possibility of repeating past injustices, and maximising potential for a better future for all.

In contrast, unregulated consumerism upholds the cult of the individual, and undermines social cohesiveness.

So the first lesson is that, at every level, we need to recover a sense of community, as the place where healing and hope can best happen.

In South Africa we often speak of the concept of ubuntu.

We say ‘Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu’, which means ‘people are people through other people’.

In other words, we discover and experience our humanity in our relationships with others, and not only with the people of our choosing, but with everyone.

The fullness, the best, of our humanity can only be found if we pursue it together.

Similarly, restorative justice processes in North America often draw on community-level experiences of First Nations people in dealing with disruptive issues.

When it comes to sorting out current economic problems – and certainly when it comes to tackling climate change – we have no option but to work as a global community.

You may not agree with Hilary Clinton or her politics, but she was right when she said earlier this year, that ‘America cannot solve the problems of the world alone, and the world cannot solve them without America.’

Or perhaps you prefer the words of the Bible ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.

In today’s globalised world, we are all neighbours.

Economically, and environmentally, we will stand or fall together.

Therefore we have no option, but to learn what it means to act lovingly towards everyone, and to be good neighbours to the whole human race.

The Golden Rule

This means following another principle that the Bible shares with other religions and with philosophy – often known as the Golden Rule.

Jesus put it this way ‘In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.’

This means treating everyone with the same respect and dignity that we would like to be treated with ourselves.

First of all, this includes paying attention to others – listening respectfully to their experiences, their understandings.

Such listening also acknowledges the huge diversity of humanity – whether in personality or culture or ability or experience or age or gender or anything else.

This mutual listening is rooted in the recognition that we are enriched when we can all share our own perspectives freely with one another. None of us has the whole truth, and together we can uncover a fuller picture.

We certainly need to continue affirming human diversity within South Africa, where we have 11 different official languages, and many more besides, spoken by those who live among us! We are truly a global microcosm!

Such community listening by everyone to everyone is at the heart of ubuntu and of First Nation practices.

It was reflected in the hearings of the TRC, where people could recount their stories, and know they had truly been heard.

What is Truth?

As well as challenging our ideas of justice, the TRC also challenged our understanding of truth.

The TRC report speaks four types of truth:

First is factual or forensic truth, about times, dates, events and so forth.

Learning the details of when, where and how people had died, could help bring some closure to their loved ones.

Conversely, concealing truth disempowers and demeans people – even where it does not abuse them.

This is why complete financial transparency is a non-negotiable in rebuilding healthy economies – transparency in everything from off-shore investing, to lending practices, to currency and commodity speculation, to betting against the market, to directors’ bonuses.

Second, is personal or narrative truth.

This is the truth that was heard and acknowledged as people recounted, in their own words, what they experienced and the effect it had on them.

By being heard and respected by the Commission, people felt themselves respected and heard by the Government and nation that had appointed the TRC.

This is also the truth that perpetrators were called on to offer – to acknowledge what they did in ways that recognised the human dimension of their acts, and their need of forgiveness.

I have already spoken of our need to be honest about our own shortcomings as part of greedy societies that have brought about our own downfall.

Future global economic systems must also explicitly acknowledge human truths – that some things matter more than dollars on balance sheets, that we live in a world of finite resources, and that the human consequences of economic policies and practices must always be part of the equation.

The third truth that the TRC sought was social or ‘dialogue’ truth.

This was the attempt to portray a full and complex picture of the many interrelating meanings, motives and perspectives that were at work within South Africa during our darkest days.

This is the truth that the Commission sought to express in its Report.

In today’s world, social, dialogue, truth reminds us that we are a single global neighbourhood, who must therefore pursue joined-up thinking and joined-up policy-making.

No person or nation, no sector of human activity, is independent of any other. Everyone and everything must take into account everyone and everything else.

More than this, social truth acknowledges our diversity, whatever its source. It acknowledges too that our differences may entail differentiated responses – especially responses that most protect the dignity and well-being of the weakest and poorest. There are rarely simple ‘one-size fits all’ solutions.

Finally, the TRC sought healing and restorative truth.

This is the truth the TRC tried to promote for the future, through the processes it followed, in the way it presented its Report, and in its recommendations.

Healing and restorative truth is the acknowledgement of all that has happened in a way that opens the door to new and transformative possibilities.

How do we go about finding such truth for our world today?

From Truth to Justice

The TRC Report reminds us that while truth precedes reconciliation, reconciliation requires not only truth telling and the admission of guilt, but some sort of justice – and that the most effective justice may not be the limiting dead-end justice of retribution.

Likewise, restorative justice requires offenders to make reparations.

Our global community needs more than apportioning blame.

We need new beginnings – and these must be built on deliberately overturning and rectifying the injustices of the past.

All of us need to ask, ‘How can we be part of the solution, not part of the problem – not only for ourselves, but for the world?’

I must say that the world has high expectations of the United States.

As Scripture says, ‘from those to whom much has been given, much will be required’.

Yet it is something of a tragedy that a country founded upon the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, that are enshrined within your Constitution: •

has become so entangled with the horrors of Guantanamo; •

or too often appears narrowly self-serving in its economic aspirations, foreign policy and military engagement; •

or has failed to join international efforts to combat climate change, or oppose racism, or take up so many other important causes that are promoted, rightly, through the United Nations.

Now, we have listened to the rhetoric of your new president, and we dare to hope of new beginnings, of community and partnership and neighbourliness.

We know that his first responsibility is to care for Americans – but we also believe he understands that Americans will be safe only when the whole human family lives in safety and security.

We also know that economic justice, political justice – the justice of mutual respect, of honesty in word and deed, of listening to others, of following the Golden Rule, is at the heart of a safe and secure global community.

So we pray for you, acknowledging that the road ahead is not easy, and that the burdens your country bears are very great – and yet also daring to believe that, if you and we act together, the crises of our current times can indeed become the crucible from which a new and better future is wrought.

The Voice of Faith

Finally, let me say more about the voice of faith in public life.

It is true that the TRC was headed by an Archbishop, who openly prayed at the beginning of hearings, and on other occasions. When he was absent, often a candle was lit, and silence observed.

He and other Commissioners often used Christian language – as did many of those who came before the Commission.

This has been criticised. The Commission itself noted that the Christian community has not always given enough space or respect to other faiths, or to those of none.

But drawing on Christian principles provided a foundation on which the TRC could effectively build.

In a country where Christianity remains very strong, it gave us a language for addressing our pains, and pursuing our hopes – and much was achieved – we were blessed indeed.

Yet, as I hope I have shown, gospel-shaped principles of truth, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation are also effectively used in secular contexts.

South Africa’s secularism is of course very different to America’s.

Our Constitution recognises that every citizen has their own culture, language, beliefs, sexual orientation, marital status, and so forth – and it is with all these particularities that we participate in our nation’s life.

In other words, while our Constitution guarantees neutrality and outlaws discrimination between all faiths and none, it does not ask us to pretend that somehow we all lose humanity’s spiritual dimension whenever we step outside our private homes.

In this country, separation of state and religion happens in other ways – and perhaps we can talk about this in the question and answer session.

Yet the whole world watched while two sets of prayers were said at the President’s inauguration, and as he placed his hand on the Bible while taking the oath of office.

So all Christians – and here, finally, is a lesson, a challenge, for every one of us – all Christians should use whatever opportunities are open to us, to promote gospel-shaped principles such as truth, justice, forgiveness and reconciliation

Because we know that whatever is gospel-shaped will, through the mysteries of God’s love, know his grace, and the blessing of his promises.

Amen. May it be so.