Thursday 30 September 2010

A statement by the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

We, the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, have met in Synod at the Kopanong Conference Centre, Benoni, Gauteng East Rand from 27 to 29 September 2010. In prayer and fellowship - the hallmarks of our Synod - we deliberated over many matters affecting the life of the Church: our own Church, the wider Anglican Communion and the ecumenical Church of Southern Africa. In this time we heard the stories of achievements and pain from the Bishops of Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique and St Helena.

The presence of Bishop Zaché Duracin, Bishop of Haiti, among us reminded us of the devastation that his country had recently experienced and of the long road that still has to be travelled towards full restoration. We are grateful for Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s pastoral visit to Haiti and for the many Anglicans of our Province who contributed towards the rebuilding efforts.

The Bishops who attended the recent meeting of African Bishops in Uganda, gave mainly positive reports. However, while not able to endorse all that was said and done at that meeting, we state our full commitment to the Anglican Church in Africa, of which we are a part.

We, the Bishops, were deeply disturbed to hear from the Bishop of Swaziland of the growing human rights abuses in his country. He also challenged the Church to become more involved in the urgent quest for democracy; we agreed.

The Bishops of St Helena, Namibia and Lebombo (Mozambique) reminded us of the many missional challenges facing their countries.

We noted with joy the creation of the new Diocese of Mbhashe. And we received a request from Bishop Dinis Sengulane for the multiplication of his diocese – all signs of the growth of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.

We reflected on other ways of growing our Church, and in this regard encouraged the use of “Rooted in Jesus”, a Church growth programme.

The draft document entitled “Pastoral Guidelines in Response to Civil Unions” was given careful consideration. It has been drafted in response to pastoral situations that are arising within parishes as a consequence of South Africa’s Civil Union legislation. An amended document has been referred back to the Diocese for comment and will be discussed by us again at the February Synod of Bishops. As Bishops all are acutely aware of the need to act pastorally and prudently on this sensitive matter, while at the same time committed to remaining within the accepted teachings of our Church on marriage and the ongoing dialogue within the Anglican Communion.

The important subject of “African Spirituality, Traditional Practice, Orthodoxy and Traditional Healing” received attention once again. At the heart of our discussions was the question: What does it mean to be a Church in Africa, in terms of liturgy, pastoral practices, such as healing, Christology, etc.

We re-stated our support for the “Anglican Covenant”, a document which was issued for consideration by the Churches of the Anglican Communion in response to the difficulties currently facing our church. It can be a tool for healing and for helping the Communion move forward. We noted that this matter will be raised at Provincial Synod.

The Bishops were mindful of meeting at a time when many pressing problems are facing our countries, especially poverty and rising unemployment. We therefore call on all our political leaders to put aside its internal divisions and to focus on addressing these and other problems.

However, in the midst of all the pain and problems within our region, we rejoice at what God is doing in our church and the peoples of all our lands. As we walk in the faith so God will be glorified. To God be all the glory.

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