Wednesday 28 December 2011

Funeral Sermon for Judge Fikile Bam

The following sermon was preached at the funeral of Judge Fikile Bam, on 27 December 2011.

Texts: Isaiah 6:1-8; John 1:6-14

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

Let me once again greet you, in the name of the Lord, and acknowledge our distinguished guests today – your Majesties, your Excellencies, chiefs, kings, rulers, political leaders; your Graces, Bishops, and other clergy; dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear friends. Most of all I greet you, dear Xoliswa, your children, the wider Bam family, and all who loved Fikile and are today here to mourn his death.

It is particularly sad to be dealing with death at a time of year when we especially focus on birth – the birth of Jesus. Yet the good news that comes to us with the birth of Jesus, is the same good news that we most need to hear today, as we come together to mourn the passing of our dear friend ‘Bro Fiks’, even as we celebrate his life. ‘Do not be afraid’ said the angel of the Lord to the shepherds, in the fields with their sheep, on that dark night long ago. ‘Do not be afraid’ is still God’s message to us, in the darkness of sadness and sorrow. ‘Do not be afraid – because a Saviour is born.’ The child in the manger grew to be the man on the cross, and the man who rose from the grave, breaking for all eternity the power of death.

God gave himself, in Jesus Christ, who truly is our Saviour – so that he might offer us the greatest gifts, of: life beyond death; redemption beyond failings; healing beyond illness; wholeness beyond suffering; peace beyond pain; joy beyond sorrow. He promises, to all of us who put our hand in his, that he will bring us to a heavenly home, where one day we shall all be together in his loving embrace, and he will wipe away every tear from our eyes. ‘Do not be afraid’ is Christ’s message to us today. ‘Do not be afraid of death, for I have overcome death, and it cannot harm you, it cannot harm Fikile.’

So we meet today, and dare to hope, even as we weep for ourselves, at the loss of this dear man whom we loved so much. And we must weep; and weep whenever the sadness of loss comes to us. Jesus himself wept at the grave of his friend Lazarus, though he knew he would be returned to life by his Father in heaven. And Jesus tells us all, ‘blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ He says to us all ‘Do not be afraid to grieve’ – for in grieving, we come before God acknowledging the depths of our love, the depths of our loss, and perhaps also other pains of unfinished business, words unsaid, issues not dealt with. Yet when we open ourselves to God in our grieving, we open ourselves also to receive his comfort, his strength, his encouragement to go forwards.

So do not be afraid of death, and do not be afraid to grieve. These are Jesus’ words to you, today, Xoliswa, and to all your six children; and to all who loved Fiks, and whose hearts are sore at his dying. We also know that Jesus, who lived and died and was raised, stretches out his arms to hold both the living and the dead – and we can say to him what we might still want to say to Fikile, and know our words will not be lost. So today we are here to mourn, and bring God our sadness, our regrets, our sorrow, our tears.

Yet we are also here today to celebrate the life of a remarkable man, a wonderful man – not without his faults, his quirks, but nonetheless, a very special human being. I will not say too much about him. So many words were shared last week, and more will be said later today. But I will say a little! For he has been a dear friend to me and to my family over many years – including as a parishioner; and an astute critic of the church, which we have also needed. He has also been a wise advisor to us, the Makgobas, in our own ongoing land claim. He, with you, Xoliswa, were also overwhelmingly generous to me and my family when my mother died and when my sister died – your support, from the heart, touched us deeply, in our times of need. Thank you, thank you.

Let me recall that today in the Anglican calendar we remember St John the Evangelist, the writer of the Gospel from which we heard verses read just now. John and his brother James responded to Jesus’ call to them, ‘Follow me’, in very much the same way that the prophet Isaiah answered ‘Here am I, send me!’ – in the Old Testament reading set for today’s celebration of St John. Dear Fikile was also one who dared to follow Jesus, and to go wherever God would send him – a faithful Anglican, a faithful Christian – whose 74 years took him from Tsolo to Robben Island, and finally on to the Land Claims Court – with impressive detours in business and academia.

Yet, wherever he went, Bro Fiks was not afraid to live like that other John mentioned in the gospel reading – John the Baptist, who pointed others to Jesus, who ‘testified to the light, the true light, which enlightens everyone’. So much of Bro Fiks’ life was spent in promoting this light – the light that heralds the kingdom of God, the kingdom that Jesus came to bring. He laboured and strove for justice, for freedom for the oppressed, for good news for the poor. That is what took him to the darkness of the Island. That is what, when the new light of democracy dawned, motivated his time as an advocate and as a judge.

I thank God for him, and for Christian lawyers like him – for those who are not there to make money by turning every situation into an opportunity for expensive litigation at the service of the rich; but who really work to ensure justice for all, and especially for the poorest, the neediest, the least educated, the powerless. Within the New South Africa, the rural poor, most of all, have needed such a champion, and they found it in Judge Bam. There are many who have enjoyed Christmas in their own home this year, because he took the trouble to ensure that the law was implemented without fear and favour, to ensure justice was done – that the past exclusions of the homelands, and the marginalisation that has come with today’s tendency to focus on urban living, should not stand in the way of ensuring that right was done.

Let me say to those of you here, here who wield power and influence, especially in these areas of law and justice – let your lights shine as Bro Fiks did! Let his legacy live on, through you, your departments, your professions, your businesses – put them at the service of the poor and weak, the frail and powerless. Be vigilant, for the sake of our country, of all of us; and do not let all that we have achieved, and for which those like Bro Fiks were imprisoned, and then laboured, be lost or distorted by greed or corruption. We must not squander God’s gift of constitutional democracy. We must use it as he intends, for the good of all.

God in Christ, the second person of the Trinity, was not afraid to leave the power and the glory of heaven, to be born amongst sheep and cattle. There is no doubt that the King of heaven stands in solidarity with the rural poor – and, as the gospels remind us, our attitude towards what appears to be even the most insignificant individual, is what God records as our attitude towards him. This is why we must not fail to prioritise rural development.

Let me end by returning to St John’s Gospel, in which we find the mysterious figure, called ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved’. Some think that this is a reference to St John himself. Some wonder whether, at the same time, St John is inviting all who hear or read his words to put themselves – to put ourselves – in that position, and so to live, discovering what it means to be Jesus’ disciple, and what it means to be loved by Jesus. For Jesus loves each one of us – with the love of the Christ-child in the manger; and with the love that took him to the cross to save us. We meet here in sorrow, but also in hope, because we know that Fikile was truly a disciple whom Jesus loved. And I am sure also that Fikile will hear those words that come to every disciple, as we put our trust in Jesus who helps us through to our journey’s end, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant – enter now into the joy of your master.’

May it indeed be so. May he rest in peace – and rise in glory. Amen

Monday 26 December 2011

Sermon at Midnight Mass

The following sermon was preached at Midnight Mass at the Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr, Cape Town.

Isaiah 9: 2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-20

‘For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us … to live lives that are self-controlled, upright and godly.’

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.

Seeing the model of the Christ-child on the altar, ready for the Dean to place in the crib, just now, reminds me of this story. There once was a small girl, who was taken by her granny to see the nativity scene at her local church. ‘Isn't that beautiful?’ said the granny. ‘Look at all the animals, and Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.’ ‘Yes, Granny’ replied the little girl, ‘it’s lovely, but I’m a bit worried about the baby Jesus. Isn’t he ever going to grow up? He's still the same size he was last year.’

How often small children see things with a clarity that is beyond us! In fact, Jesus in his adult ministry rebuked the religious authorities by quoting from the Psalms that ‘out of the mouths of babes and infants’ comes true understanding and praise of God (Ps 8:2, Mt 21:16). So the question that little girl poses to us tonight is this: is the baby Jesus ever going to grow up, or does he, for you, always remain an infant? Hand in hand with this goes much the same question, put the other way round: Is your faith stuck at the infantile stage, or are you growing up, and maturing, in your belief and how it is reflected in your life?

Now, of course, Jesus also said to his disciples, ‘unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 18:3). But there is a great difference between being child-like, and childish. Any parent of over-tired small children, throwing a wobbly, in the week before Christmas knows all about that!

But we need to ask ourselves, do we too expect God, just like some eternal Santa Claus, to give us just what we want, in the way that we want it, right here and now? And if we don’t get it, we threaten him as a cross toddler does ‘Daddy, I don’t love you anymore!’ ‘God, I don’t believe in you anymore!’

Human parents know that sometimes their children just do not understand what is good for them. They are too little to see the whole big picture. And they are too immature to realise they must depend on their parents, and do things their parents’ way – and that if they don’t, they might find that what they want to do will only hurt them. We also are too small, beside God who is infinite, to understand everything fully. But he does, and he is the God of love, who cares for us more than we can ask or imagine.

So we ought to learn to trust him, and do things his way – for he really does know what is best for us. And to live according to his ways is the path to true happiness, true satisfaction, true peace of mind – the sort of peace of mind, and courage, and strength, that we need when life is tough, and we don’t understand why things don’t turn out as we want them.

And because Jesus is God incarnate – fully human, fully divine – we can be honest in bringing him our hopes and fears. Here too the trusting openness of children can help us. Last week, my children and I were stuck in a lift at the airport for over an hour, with a mother and her two daughters. It was horribly hot and oppressive, and the younger girl became very anxious and upset. She finally said ‘I am cool on the outside, but I’m scared on the inside.’ And, being open about her fears helped her to deal with them, and allowed the rest of us to help her too – even as we too were also helped by her to own our own unspoken fears. We need to be open about our fears, and bring them to Jesus – and in opening ourselves to him, we open the door for him to come to us and help us in the areas of our lives where we most need it.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, because he grew into the man who can help us become truly the people we were created to be. If we want to fulfil our true potential, if we want to live significant lives – lives that make a difference for all eternity – we must start by worshipping the baby in the crib, but then we must get off our knees, and follow his example. Living the self-controlled, upright and godly lives, of which St Paul wrote in his letter to Titus, is not for babies. It takes guts to commit ourselves to saying the right thing, doing the right thing – especially in a world where it is seen as clever to be bending the rules, cutting corners, telling white lies, jumping the queue – everything short of being found out.

And, on a more personal level, isn’t it the case that at Christmas, under pressure to have a good time with our nearest and dearest, we are most likely to find ourselves, tetchy and short-tempered, and rubbing one another up the wrong way! It is very tough always to be loving, caring, generous, kind, patient, truthful, self-controlled (especially when it comes to another helping on our plate, or in our glass!).

But here is the Christmas good news – and the reason why I am, and will remain, an Anglican, a Christian. When God calls us to become our very best selves, he also promises to help us. This is why we call Jesus ‘Emmanuel’, which means ‘God with us’. He is alongside us – rather like a coach on the side-lines of the football pitch – telling us what to do, encouraging us, so we find that we have that extra bit of energy, strength, courage, commitment. And when we make a mess of life, when it is as if we have fallen down with our face in the mud – then Jesus is also beside us, always ready to hear us say ‘sorry’, and always holding out his hand, to help us to our feet, so we can have a fresh start – no matter how many times we need it.

As St Paul wrote to Titus ‘He [Jesus Christ] it is, who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds’ (Titus 2:14). The baby Jesus in the crib is inseparable from the adult man who hung on the cross. The Christmas message they both have for us is this: that God’s love is greater than we can ever imagine, greater than all of life, greater than the power of death, and he will never stop loving us.

And this is true even on days we are more childish, than child-like. We just need to remember to be like the toddler, having a tantrum, who sits on his father’s lap, as he beats his little fists on his father’s chest, saying ‘Daddy, I hate you!’ – yet all the time he knows that his father’s arms are wrapped around him, holding him safe, and never letting go.

So may you know yourselves enfolded in the love of God this Christmas – as you worship the infant in the crib, and as you respond to the voice of the adult Jesus Christ, who calls each of us by name, saying ‘follow me’. And may all the blessings of Christmas fill your life and your home, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

To the Laos - To the People of God, Christmas 2011

Dear People of God

A blessed and joyful Christmas to you all! May the love of God overflow in you and all those you love, this festive season, as you share in celebrating the greatest Christmas present of all, God’s gift of himself, Emmanuel – God with us, always and everywhere, no matter what we face in life.
There is a story about a small girl, who was taken by her granny to see the nativity scene at her local church. ‘Isn't that beautiful?’ said the granny. ‘Look at all the animals, and Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.’ ‘Yes, Granny’ replied the little girl, ‘it’s lovely, but there’s one thing I don’t understand. Isn't baby Jesus ever going to grow up? He's still the same size he was last year.’

Whether the story is true, I have no idea. But I do know that sometimes we concentrate on Christ’s infancy, and fail to grasp that Christmas is at least as much about his deity – the eternal Word taking flesh, to be the Saviour of the world. His complete vulnerability and weakness as a tiny baby points to the vulnerability and weakness he will embrace as he allows himself to be crucified for the sins of the world, to bring healing and redemption wherever there is brokenness and destruction, and to overcome death so we might have life in abundance, in this world, and in all eternity.

St John the Evangelist, in the famous words that begin his gospel, speaks of Christ being to us a light in our darkness, a light that no darkness can put out. These words of course resonate more strongly at Christmas time in the northern hemisphere winter, but even in the height of our southern summer, I find them powerfully speaking of the promise of true hope, no matter how bleak our circumstances.

The hope we have in Christ, for this world and the world to come, was very much in evidence at the beginning of December, when I fulfilled a long-standing desire to go to Namibia, to participate in ordinations. It was especially moving to visit Northern Namibia, where so many wars were fought, and so many lives destroyed. Though what Namibia faced was unique, there are many similarities, as well as interconnections, with South Africa’s apartheid history. Achieving independence in 1990, they were an inspiration for many of us as we hoped and prayed to follow a similar path to freedom and justice. St Mary’s Mission at Odibo, in Ovamboland, is one of the oldest Anglican centres in the country, in time building not only a church, but also a school and seminary, and a hospital. The Mission produced many clerics and political leaders, and educated the current President of Namibia as well as the present Bishop and his two predecessors. The iconic leader, Herman Andimba Toivo ja Toivo, who spent 16 years on Robben Island, was both a pupil and a teacher at the Mission school.

The Angolan border is only 5 minutes away, and this area was ravaged by the South African Defence Force, with much destruction and loss of life. Ruins from those times, including of our seminary building, are still evident, while the emotional, spiritual and physical scars remain among people on both sides of the border (as well as among those who were exiled there, or coerced by the SADF into fighting an illegal and unjust war there), as I saw when I made a brief excursion into Angola, and felt in exchanges with Bishop Andre Soares and 4 of his clergy, who in turn came to join us in Odibo.

Yet, against such a dark background, the light shone, as we gathered for the ordination of 40 deacons and 2 priests. Present with us where the President of Namibia, the governor of the North, the Queen mother of the North, and the head of the local council, and I was able to voice a public apology for all that South Africa had done during the illegal occupations. I stressed how knowing and making known the truth of this terrible past and its atrocities can become, through Christ’s redemptive power, a means for us to find healing, and to be made his conduits for reconciliation and peace-building. As Christmas draws near, it seems to me that in bringing, as we must, our stories, our memories, our woundedness, to Jesus, we are almost offering them as the Wise Men offered their gifts, the marks of their own lives, kneeling before the infant king – so that he can transform them for his own, life-giving, purposes.

The Wise Men came to the manger because they had spent long years learning how to interpret the heavens, and so recognised the importance of the star when it appeared. I said to those being ordained that reading the signs of the times is the task of all Christian leaders, so that we can bring to bear the truths of the gospel, with all its promises of life and liberty, wherever we find war, death, oppression and their lasting effects at work. This is God’s promise for Namibians, and for all his children throughout his world. And so we must not be afraid to speak truth to power, and be responsive to the needs of God’s people, whom we are called to serve through joining in God’s mission. In ordination, in particular, we aspire to be like the prophet Isaiah, responding to God’s call by saying ‘Here am I, send me!’ (Is 6:8) Yet, the words of St Paul in Romans 12, which are also read at ordination services, remind us that this response finds its place within a far wider missional context of presenting ourselves as ‘living sacrifices’. (This is, of course, an essential part of the incarnation – culminating in Christ’s sacrificial death upon the cross.) St Paul goes on to remind us that we must not ‘think too highly of ourselves’, but rather find our place within the body of Christ, the Church, called to serve one another with whatever gifts we are privileged to receive; and together to serve the world around us. ‘Peace be with you! As the Father sends me, so I send you’ said the risen Christ to his disciples, in our Gospel passage (Jn 20:19-23) – and this is still his message and his call to all who would follow him.

The ordination of 40 deacons was the fruit of a 3-year ministry formation course, promoted by Bishop Nathaniel and his team, the Dean, retired Bishop Petrus, and the Ven Kaluwapa L Katenda, who ably steered the 3 year ministry formation course: study by correspondence, with support both from COTT and the US, funded by Trinity Wall Street and USPG. I congratulate them all on taking theological formation so seriously. I am delighted that some of those who followed the course will go on to pursue Masters and Doctoral studies. The importance of having well trained theologians, who can themselves become theological educators, cannot be underestimated, and is one of the key planks of our commitment to theological education within our ACSA vision.

My visit to Namibia came as COP-17 was ending, and drove home the message that our reading of signs of the times must also include both political awareness, and responsiveness to the scientifically measurable changes that we see in our environment – from flooding to droughts and desertification. We need to recognise the effects of human activity on our surroundings, and respond appropriately.

I’ve written about Namibia at some length, so you may all pray for this vast Diocese, in its many needs. If some of you feel moved to offer support to a Namibian student at COTT for 3 years, please get in touch with the PEO at Bishopscourt. COTT too needs our support, including resources to upgrade the college so we can continue training future generations of servant leaders for God’s people and God’s world.

So then, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, may you all have a wonderful celebration of Christmas – worshipping the Christ-child, and also growing in your own knowledge and love of God so you may not be mere ‘children, tossed to and fro and blow about’ by every difficulty and temptation that comes your way, but rather may come ‘to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.’ (Eph 4:13,14). To him be glory in his church, at Christmas, and always.

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Sunday 27 November 2011

Cradle of Humanity must not become its Coffin

This is the text of the greeting to the ‘We Have Faith – Act Now for Climate Justice’ Rally, held at King’s Park Stadium, Durban, on 27 November 2011. At the end of the multi-faith Rally and Concert, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu handed over a petition calling on world leaders at COP-17 to commit their governments to a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement.

'We want Climate Justice NOW!'

I greet you today not only as the Archbishop of Cape Town, and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, but also, in my capacity as Chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, on behalf of Anglicans everywhere.

Jesus famously called his followers to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ These memorable words reflect a far more ancient principle, shared by most religions and philosophies, and often known as the Golden Rule. It is the call to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves.

Today’s world is a global village. Our choices, our actions, affect everyone. In the twenty-first century, all of us are neighbours. How each of us behaves – and how we behave as societies, and as nations – reveals whether we view others with love, or with contempt. So today we ask ourselves, and we ask our governments, these fundamental questions: How do we want to be treated? How can we reasonably expect to be treated by others?

Who wants their health, their livelihood, their security, their very existence to be threatened by climate change? None of us, I am sure. Then all of us must act together to ensure it does not happen. And this means that all our governments must ensure it does not happen. For we elect our governments to promote our well-being. And our well-being can only be ensured if the well-being of all is also ensured. And the well-being of all can only be ensured if we all, and all our governments, act together.

Faith, justice, and democracy coincide here. We might even say that selfishness and selflessness demand the same outcome. All of us, every person on this planet – and indeed, every living creature on this planet – needs COP-17 to make clear, ambitious but just, binding commitments, for the sake of our very future.

South Africa is the cradle of humankind. We must not let it become the place where we drive the nail into our own coffin. This is what we pray for, we call for, we strive for.

'We want Climate Justice NOW!'

May it be so. Amen

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Inquiries: Ms Wendy Tokata on 021-763-1320 (office hours)

Protection of State Information Bill needs Public Interest Provisions

The following open letter to President Jacob Zuma was issued on 27 November 2011. It calls for him to return the Protection of State Information Bill to Cabinet, for inclusion of an adequate public interest provision.

Dear Mr President,

I write to you as one who grew up under a system that oppressed and censored the media – a system that invoked fear in anyone who dared to read, or embrace, different views to those of the government of the day. The passage of the Protection of State Information Bill has stirred up in me vivid memories of my time as a student in the 1980s at Wits, and the traumatising experience of police ransacking our residence as they looked for classified material. The undercurrent of fear running through our lives that this created is so totally in contradiction to the open atmosphere of constructively critical readings of our life and times which we so much need in South Africa today.

Of course, every country has state secrets, and needs to classify them as such and protect them. I fully understand this. That South Africa needs to replace the old law from apartheid times, I also fully agree. Yet I also hear the cry that the current bill passed this week lacks the one necessary thing, an adequate public interest clause that relates to the criminality of those who ‘transgress’ on these grounds. I have heard some lawyers, with politicians, argue that this is not necessary, and that the law will not be used to penalise those who bring wrong-doing to light. But across the journalistic world, among members of civil society and trade unions, and in community-based and faith-based organisations, there are wide-spread concerns at both the severe sentences, and the wide-ranging provisions for classification of material by any organ of state. These have the potential to create an atmosphere similar to repressive apartheid censorship, and thereby gag the truth; hide corruption; conceal maladministration, incompetence and unjust practices; and stunt our open society at every level from the national and international to the most local.

Therefore I respectfully appeal to you, sir, to consider sending the bill back to cabinet before signing it into law. We know that, if signed as it stands, it will be challenged in the Constitutional Court. Surely South Africa needs the time and energy this will consume, to be directed to the far more urgent needs of social cohesion and rebuilding the ruins left by apartheid. These are so evident in most of our townships, for example in their health, education and housing infrastructure, let alone across rural South Africa.

As a fellow South African and Christian, I ask you not to sign this bill. Listen again to the cries of your people.

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Inquiries: Ms Wendy Tokata on 021-763-1320 (office hours)

Monday 21 November 2011

Visit to Diocese of Natal - Interview in The Witness

The following interview appeared in The Witness on 21 November 2011, and can also be found at

THABO Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), has challenged the government on issues of service delivery and corruption, and is a “proud” member of the Press Freedom Commission. In the province recently, he spoke to The Witness about a range of hot topics in the church and society. It was clear that Makgoba (51) is cast from the same mould as some of his illustrious predecessors like “the scourge of apartheid”, Joost de Blank and Geoffrey Clayton (who refused to obey the Native Laws Amendment Act), and Desmond Tutu.

Julius Malema

“I agree with Julius Malema when he raises questions about the need for economic emancipation. I agree with him when he raises questions about the number of unemployed youth who voted the ANC into power but whose votes have manifestly not translated into creating jobs, better education, or access to health care. I agree with him, but I don’t agree with him on how he thinks this should be achieved. I disagree with the suggestion of nationalisation without putting the specifics on the table. Will nationalisation increase access to health care, improve the national education standards, address the housing backlog and sanitation and improve the living standards of unemployed youth? Without specifics, I cannot agree with him.”

The Church and politics

“The understanding persists that the church should not be involved in politics. I have a different understanding of religion and what God in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit calls us to do and be. We cannot privatise faith — there is a eucharistic imperative that sends us into the world to love and serve. This entails asking why some people are more privileged than others, why some have too much food while others go hungry? And asking why and which structures and systems support that? Poverty and hunger are not because some people are more blessed or work harder than others. There are lazy rich people and poor people.

“As soon as you ask questions people call it ‘politics’. But in the Bible Jesus Christ learnt and cited the Torah and studied with the synagogue leaders — that is education. We need to raise these things, we cannot leave them to the party political heads.”

Apartheid reparations

“This is one of the things that Julius Malema is articulating, but in a clumsy way. The TRC, Desmond Tutu and other commissioners (who were mostly people of faith), could have done better in terms of reparations. They produced a document but then left it to politicians to put into action, which either did not happen or happened too slowly. Now it is coming back to bite us. The TRC did not address the economic and apartheid structures and systems that sustain and maintain poverty and economic inequality, so now we need to find a vehicle to do that.

“Desmond Tutu’s idea of a wealth tax is a way of recognising that politicians have not done what should have been done.

“The church could have done far better in addressing this issue, seeing that it was the church — specifically, the Dutch Reformed Church — that gave the moral, spiritual and theological basis to apartheid.”

The Press Freedom Commission and corruption

“I am proud to be part of the Press Freedom Commission under the chairmanship of Justice Pius Langa, to review best practice and regulation within the print media. An effective free press, and the ability of all to speak truth to power, is indispensable to successful constitutional democracy. The Secrecy Bill and Media Tribunal have the potential to undermine press freedom. If the citizenry does not engage with these they could undermine the core of our democratic ability to make constitutional values a reality.

“[The commission] will contribute to making this country’s democracy work, encouraging people to speak out and makes those we have elected serve the citizens and transform corruption. There is too much corruption and we want to make South Africans intolerant of it.

“To a large extent we are still a moral and Christian country. We must use that, not to proselytise, but to make this country shine.”

Transformation in the church

“We have talked the talk but not walked the walk in this area. The legacy of apartheid needs to be transformed, for example, priests live in houses of very different standards. Even Bishopscourt in Cape Town where the archbishop lives is a legacy of colonial times that predates apartheid. What was — and what is — the relationship between the church and the structures of power? How does it benefit some and not others? Those are the kinds of questions we need to ask if we are to be transformed.

“It can also mean changing those areas of church life that were socially engineered by apartheid, like barring people from worshipping across colour lines. It means looking at the Biblical apartheid of having only men as bishops. The Anglican Church in southern Africa has been going since about 1860 but we have only been ordaining women for about 20 years. There are 30 bishops in this province and not one is a woman. We need to start to walk our talk.”


“The issue of transformation in the church touches on this issue too. There are those who feel called by God to be in a same-sex union, and those who believe it is against the Bible and God’s principles to be in that state. We need to allow God through the Holy Spirit to continue working in us and we need to keep talking until God prevails, and not us. There are no easy solutions. We must remember that it took many years before the book of Revelations was included in the canon of scripture. Look at the Nicene Creed (325): people argued and talked and died for many years before that was settled.

“I have always held that homosexuality should not be a church-dividing issue, but we need to take seriously people who take an either-or position. We need to wrestle together to understand scripture and our vocation to the world.”

Climate change and the environment

“These are also issues of social and economic justice and human rights, and we need to raise them. If you look at the mine dumps in Gauteng and the West Rand, you see a pattern that mirrors racial and political divides in geography. If you look at economic development you see big business and politicians in cahoots to get their hands on opportunities to benefit only themselves, like oil rights and access to energy. You see the developed world as the worst producers of carbon emissions at the expense of the developing world.

“There is a lot of greenwashing going on ahead of Cop17 in Durban. The government preaches the right message but does not practise it. We are far behind in developing renewable energy sources. Eskom pays huge subsidies to big industry at the expense of the poor, which is scandalous, and the government is planning another coal-burning power station.

“I hope Cop17 will be a chance to highlight these issues and I encourage everyone to make their voice heard. Sign the pledge to care for the environment in the We have Faith — act now for climate justice campaign and attend the interfaith rally at the start of the conference on November 27.”

Who is Thabo Makgoba?

CONSECRATED in 2008 at the age of 48, Makgoba was the youngest archbishop to head ACSA. He grew up in Alexandra township, Johannesburg, and went to school at Orlando High, Soweto, during the politically turbulent eighties. He is a qualified psychologist, holds a PhD in spirituality from the University of Cape Town and is a committed father to Nyakallo (17) and Paballo (12) and husband to Lungi, a former development consultant.

The Feast of Christ the King

This Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King, was preached at a ‘Pontifical High Mass’ at the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Observatory, Cape Town, on 20 November 2011. The Mass was sung to Haydn’s Missa Sancti Nicolai, with additional music by Edward Elgar and from Handel’s Messiah.

The readings were those set for ‘The Coming of the Kingdom of God,’ on pp.389ff of the Southern African Book of Common Prayer: Colossians 1:12-20; John 18:33-37.

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let me again say what a pleasure it is to be with you. It is a pleasure also to welcome you, Dean Michael Weeder, to this service. Thank you, Fr Richard Girdwood and Wardens, for your invitation, and thank you to everyone who has contributed to this morning’s service: whether through participating or as one of the many unsung heroes and heroines behind the scenes. Let me also at this point congratulate Fr Richard on his appointment by the Minister of Arts and Culture to South Africa’s Heraldry Council. This is wonderful news! Let us offer him a round of applause.

Today, on the last Sunday before Advent, the Anglican world observes the Feast of Christ the King. This postdates the Book of Common Prayer, so Fr Richard has been creative in proposing the readings set there for ‘the coming of the Kingdom of God’. And in fact our Epistle today is one which is set every third year within the Revised Common Lectionary. The objective is the same – to help us reflect upon the coming of God’s kingdom, and the coming of Christ as King of kings and Lord of Lords, both in this world, and for all eternity.

Pope Pius XI first instituted this commemoration, in 1925, in response to the growing nationalism and secularism he perceived in the years following the First World War. In Italy, the Fascists, under Mussolini, were increasingly influential, and the Pope realised that both the faithful and the wider world should be regularly reminded that ultimate power of every sort lies in the hands of God, and allegiance to him overrules all other claims on our loyalties. Following a decision of Pope Paul VI in 1969, the Feast has been observed on the last Sunday of the church calendar, and has increasingly been adopted by Anglicans and others.

This is with good reason – for the need remains both to proclaim that Jesus is Lord of all; and, furthermore, to insist that all legitimate power and rule are to be exercised and understood according to the model of Christ our King. Both the wider world and the church itself need to be reminded of such truths.

Three weeks ago I came the closest I have ever been to preaching to a king, when the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall came to St George’s Cathedral! By chance, the lectionary had set for our Old Testament reading a passage in which the prophet Amos warned the leadership of Jerusalem that all their religious observances – no matter how fine – were worse than useless and brought only judgement, if they were not matched by holy living and the pursuit of righteousness and justice. As we sat in the splendour of the Cathedral, with wonderful music uplifting our liturgy, it was a salutary warning to the church also.

And I guess the same must be said today, in the magnificence of this pontifical mass. However much we adore Christ as King, with all the trappings of majesty and might, we must also follow him faithfully – as the one who emptied himself of the glories of heaven; the one who came not to be served but to serve and to lay down his life for his friends; the one who calls us all to take up our crosses and follow after him.

As Pilate was perplexed to hear – as our Gospel reading recounted – Jesus’ kingship is very counter-cultural to the expectations and standards of the world.

For on the one hand, he is a far greater King than any human monarch. He cannot be relegated to some constitutional figurehead with limited engagement in the daily running of his realm. All power and majesty and might are his. Yet the exercise of his sovereign rule bears no resemblance to even the most powerful absolute head of state. For, if Jesus truly is the ruler of all, we might ask how it is that so much of the world seems out of step with the kingdom of God – from the sinfulness of humanity to the levels of suffering unconnected with human malpractice. It doesn’t seem to point to a very effective kingship. And indeed, at no point does Jesus ever force us to follow his rule.

But the answer lies with the second counter-cultural aspect of Jesus’ rule – that of the suffering servant who lays down his life for his people. This is the subversive kingship who does not confront the powers of the world by overcoming them with greater strength. Rather evil is to be overcome by good, those who are prepared to give up their lives will gain life immortal, our enemies are to be loved, and the few cents that the poor widow gives add up to far, far more than the large donation made from the surplus of the wealthy man. (Though having said this, let me not undermine the generous giving of sums both large and small to St Michael’s Stewardship campaign, which I understand concludes today! All that we give to the Lord’s work is valued and used by him, of that I am sure!)

So the question with which we are posed, when considering the coming of God’s kingdom, in this world and the world to come, is this: what does it mean for each of us to live as citizens of the kingdom of God? What does it mean for us to be not so much ‘proudly South African’ as ‘proudly Jesus people’? For certainly, we should bear our allegiance to him with pride, and not be ashamed to call him Lord! And while rugby or cricket or football can call us to sport our green and gold shirts, or rainbow scarves, we can demonstrate our loyalty in many ways, not just, for example, through dog collars or crosses and ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bracelets.

Through our lives, our actions, our words, our attitudes, there are two messages we want to proclaim. First is the challenge to anything else that tries to claim our primary allegiance. This may come in many forms – we might use the broad terminology of idolatry. This can span both the public and private sphere.

So, for example, Christians say loud and clear – as Pope Pius XI intended in creating this feast – that any ideology, from secularism to nationalism, from the claims of any political party, or economic theory, or philosophy of life – it must all come second to the kingdom of God. Furthermore, since God is God of all of life, all of creation, there is no part of human activity that can fall outside his interest. This means that it is for us to critique every area of life, according to Christian principles – to the standards of the Kingdom.

Idolatry also extends to money – though remember that Scripture does not say that money itself is the root of all evil, but that love of money is the problem. Money, and what it can buy, can be very seductive. But we should not be afraid of it and should learn to use it wisely. There was a banner at the Occupy Wall Street protests that put it well: ‘You don’t have to be poor to be good, you don’t have to be rich to be bad, but you have to be fair to be right.’

Idolatry can come in other forms, in our private lives, and includes any sort of addictive behaviour – not just alcohol or drugs. There may be other aspects of our lifestyle that have an unhealthy hold on us. These might include our attitudes to others and ways we speak about people, and perhaps even exploit them. It may be that we have a superiority complex, seeing ourselves as something of a ‘king’; or the reverse, an inferiority complex where we always want to please others as if they were ‘kings’. Or it may be our self-image, our good name, our status, the opinions of others, that we most care about – vanity and pride. Our sexuality and how we express it can also become idolatrous, especially in a world that over sexualises so much and promotes promiscuity, pornography, and the objectification of other people for our own gratification.

But, whatever it is that we battle with, thanks be to God, he does not just tell us to put him first – he helps us! By the power of the Spirit dwelling within us, if we ask him, he will help us place every aspect of our lives under his rule.

And the second message we have to proclaim is that God’s ways are best – the way of peace and love and honesty and truth. The story of the widow’s mite tells us that even the smallest acts of compassion and kindness bear unimaginable value in God’s scales; and what might seem insignificant lives, if lived through his love, can have consequences that will make their mark on eternity. To be a proud citizen of the kingdom of God, we do not need to make a big splash. We just need to be faithful and obedient, in our own context, in whatever are the circumstances of our lives.

Let us therefore, in this Eucharist, be conscious of offering ourselves to God as his loyal citizens, as followers of Jesus Christ. We come to his table, with our hands open to present ourselves, wholly without reserve, in his service – and open to receive whatever he gives to us: both his bread for the journey, and the path on which he calls us forward.

Yes, today we celebrate the coming of the kingdom of God – the kingdom of the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and we remember the words of Jesus to Pilate: ‘Everyone who belongs to the truth, listens to my voice.’ May we be those who listen, and follow faithfully. May it be so. Amen.

Thursday 17 November 2011

To the Laos - To the People of God, October / November 2011

Dear People of God

Once again, I must wrap two months into one! It is not always easy to find time, but I am grateful these letters make me pause and consider a wider perspective on my life and ministry. I was very encouraged last weekend, when a priest in Natal Diocese said ‘Please don’t stop writing! My sermons have improved a lot because of your letters!’ Certainly, it is my hope and prayer that in sharing my own reflections on God’s call on my life, I can help enrich your understanding of God’s call to you, and help inform your prayers for our whole Province. So whenever I am late in writing, please conclude that I am particularly busy and in even more need of prayer than usual!

When I last wrote, we were preparing for Synod of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee. At Synod, we grappled with stretching questions of faith, culture, and ‘reading the signs of the times’. We affirmed that ‘true expression of the Gospel of Jesus Christ within our cultures must be exercised graciously and with great carefulness, for example, in the pastoral care given to those claiming to have a call to Isangoma training – recognizing that these two worlds, of Christianity and this aspect of African traditional life, will never meet.’ We noted that ‘other inherited cultural values (such as giving honour to God; respecting grey hair; virginity testing for young people; upholding honesty, and the values enshrined in the philosophy of ubuntu) need to be vigorously debated …’ Our discussions were enriched by the presence of Canon Grace Kaiso, General Secretary of the Conference of Anglican Provinces in Africa (sadly, Archbishop Ian Ernest, CAPA President, was unwell, and could not join us). The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church was also briefly with us, at the end of her short visit. We acknowledged many differences, including over human sexuality, but pledged to continue dialogue. Please pray her time here will have given her a better understanding of this part of the Anglican Communion. You can read the Synod’s full statement at

PSC was up-beat, despite economic and other pressures, and enthusiastic planning for the future ranged from developing our Vision to renewing theological training. I came home feeling we are deepening our grasp of the identity into which God is calling us to grow, taking seriously our place both within Africa and globally as we seek to share his love, his redemption, his new life. You can read more at

At the beginning of October it was a great joy to join Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu in laughter-filled the celebrations for his 80th birthday, and also Mama Leah’s birthday the following week. Tata, Gogo, we love you more than words can say, and pray that God may bless you richly in retirement.

After such happy celebration, it was sobering to travel with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to Harare, to express our solidarity with Bishop Chad and his Diocese, as well as Anglicans elsewhere in Zimbabwe, who have suffered all manner of outrageous persecutions at the instigation of the breakaway Bishop, Albert Kunonga. Do not believe press reports which say this is a disagreement over human sexuality – that is just a smoke screen for shameless political thuggery and self-enrichment. Even President Mugabe seemed surprised by the scale of events when we presented him with a dossier. Yet we also found great hope. Over 10,000 worshippers gathered on Sunday morning in the Sports’ Stadium, to hear our messages of support, and, as I said there, if God is on our side, who can ever be against us (Rom 8:31). (You can read my fuller reflections on the visit at It seems to have been some improvements in conditions. Pray these will be sustained, and uphold our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe in your intercessions.

After Cape Town’s Diocesan Clergy School, and parish visits which are my usual Sunday fare, I was soon on a plane again – to Toronto, to deliver the Snell Sermon. A former Bishop endowed an annual lecture on ‘The incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ – his person and his message in contemporary theological thought’, a theme which is close to my heart. Jesus is at the heart of God’s mission, and so must always be our goal, our guide, and our model. You can read what I said at, and the sermon I delivered in Toronto Cathedral, for the feast of All Saints, at I also discussed the Anglican Church of Canada’s support to ACSA, e.g. through the Primate’s Fund, and the link between the Dioceses of Toronto and Grahamstown.

It is not just me who travels – as mentioned above, others come to us! It was a privilege to have the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall worshipping at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town during their visit to South Africa. In my sermon, I was able to speak about the ability of the Anglican Communion together to do far more than merely the sum of our separate actions, as we seek to respond to God’s call always to ‘stay awake’, ready to take every opportunity to let God’s ‘justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everlasting stream’. (You can read my sermon at

Finally, I have just made a busy pastoral and teaching visit to the Diocese of Natal. At the heart of this was the consecration, in a packed Cathedral, of Bishop Tsietsi Seloane, the new Suffragan. Pray for him and his wife Rachel in this new chapter of their lives. I also visited local community projects and presented Hope Africa awards for excellence; spoke with Prof Barney Pityana at a dinner raising funds for the redevelopment of COTT (; and shared reflections on the life and work of a priest at a Clergy Forum ( On Sunday, I preached at on ‘Anglicans in Mission: Here am I, send me!’ (

It was also my privilege to deliver the Third Rubin Phillip Peace Lecture at St John’s, Pinetown (see This provided an opportunity to pay tribute to Bishop Rubin (and of course also to Rose), and his Diocese, for all that they do, not only in KwaZulu-Natal, but for the Province as a whole, through generous financial support, and in many other ways. We keep them in our prayers, in this, and in all their evangelistic and mission endeavours. Their ‘radical hospitality’ was shown also to the Synod of Bishops earlier this year, and later this month they will be deeply involved in the witness of faith communities to COP-17, as we call on governments to make binding commitments to safeguard our planet’s future. Meanwhile, I have asked Revd Canon Rachel Mash (who heads HIV and AIDS work for the Diocese of Cape Town) to coordinate the Province’s environmental work, and assist me in my new responsibility as chair of the Anglican Communion’s Environmental Network.

Please keep our Province and me in your prayers at this busy time! (And apologies to those who do not have internet access, for providing so many web links.)

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Historic Church Leaders' Meeting

The following Press Release was issued on 17 November 2011.

An historic meeting of Church leaders took place Tuesday, 15th November, at Bishopscourt in Cape Town. Its aim was to tackle divisions between historic and newer churches, where labels such as ‘ecumenical’ and ‘evangelical’ have undermined a broader shared Christian witness within society and nation. Leaders made a renewed commitment to enhance working together for the good of all South Africans.

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, chair of National Church Leaders Consultation, hosted the meeting which brought together leaders from three major Christian groupings: Revd Mautji Pataki, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC); Revd Moss Ntlha, General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA); and Mr Miles Giljam, CEO of African Enterprise (AE). Methodist Bishop Ivan Abrahams, out-going chair of the National Church Leaders’ Consultation also participated, and Dr. Renier Koegelenberg, Executive Director of Ecumenical Foundation of South Africa; and Dr Welile Mazamisa, EFSA board member, were also present. Archbishop Stephen Brislin of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town was invited but unable to attend. He indicated his support of the meeting.

The meeting followed the January 2010 National Church Leaders’ Consultation which expressed the need for organic unity amongst Christian groupings, and strongly recommended that SACC,TEASA and AE leaders meet and explore common concerns as a way forward.

“Now is a kairos moment, “said Miles Giljam after Tuesday’s meeting. “People want leadership and answers. We also need to instil hope in people.”

“The year 1994 was the end and the beginning of history in South Africa,” commented Dr Welile Mazamisa. “The churches stepped back and others have taken that space – we now need to reclaim it.”

“We need a space to analyse together and work on our commitment to one another and to the people of South Africa,’ said Dr. Moss Nthla.

“In our current context, where the dream of our being a rainbow nation is not being realised in certain quarters, it is important that as Christians, regardless of our differences, we should meet and hold to the vision that a united country is possible,” Archbishop Makgoba added.

The Christian leaders shared individual perspectives and identified common priorities. They then considered the Overview of the National Development Programme 2030 and discussed the contribution Churches can make to the way forward.

Participants agreed on key issues in South African society needing urgent attention, including corruption, poor service delivery, and problematic health care and educational systems. They also affirmed the desire of the broader Christian community to be a partner in addressing the problems which are facing our people and our communities.

The meeting concluded with an enthusiastic commitment to continue meeting for reflection, dialogue and common action.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. Inquiries: Ms Wendy Tokata on 021-763-1320 (office hours)

Anglicans in Mission - Here am I, Lord, Send me!

A Sermon preached at St Paul's, Durban, on 13 November 2011, on the theme 'Anglicans in Mission: Here am I, Lord, Send me!'

Isaiah 6:1-8; Colossians 2:6-7; John 20:19-23

May I speak in the name of God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Dear people of God of St Paul’s, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear Fellow Bishops – Bishop Reuben, Bishop Tsietsi and Bishop Nkosinathi – let me say again what a great joy it is to share in this morning’s celebration with you. Archdeacon May, I am particularly grateful to you, and to all those who have worked with you on today’s service – everyone involved in preparation, and everyone participating, and all those who work so very hard behind the scenes. Thank you for your ministry.

My theme is ‘Anglicans in Mission: Here am I, send me!’ How often have we heard that rousing passage as Isaiah tells us how God called him to be a prophet. How often do we feel our own hearts and souls rise within, yearning to echo Isaiah’s words, ‘Here am I, send me Lord!’ What we so often fail to do, however, is to read the verses that follow immediately after ‘Here am I, send me Lord’.

The Lord answer’s Isaiah’s cry, and I quote those verses ‘Go, and say to the people, “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; you keep looking, but you do not understand”.’ From the word go, Isaiah discovers that his calling is not going to be an easy one. Neither rulers nor people will listen to his warnings of judgement – and so that judgement will come, as he warns, through exile. Only beyond exile lies the promise of the fuller and greater redemption, which Isaiah did not live to see.

And yet Isaiah words have lived on – the living word of God, spoken through Isaiah, has not returned empty, but instead (as we read in Isaiah chapter 55) ‘the living word of God accomplishes that which God had hoped for, and succeeds in the things for which God sent it’. The words of Isaiah continue to bear fruit among us today, as so many of us can attest, in terms of the impact that this, and other passages, have in our lives. And yet, Isaiah was not to know this.

Last night, at Evening Prayer we read the verses where Jesus tells his disciples, ‘If you want to become my followers, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their live for my sake will find it’ (Mt 16:24-5). And of course, Jesus himself, sent by the Father, was, as St Paul writes to the Philippians, ‘obedient even to a point of death – even death on a cross’ (Phil 2:8).

And So, dear friends, responding to God’s call, saying to God ‘Here am I’ should not to be taken lightly. God rarely takes us where we expect him to lead us. Often our calling comes at a great personal cost. And God’s idea of what constitutes success and reward, as we see from the life of Isaiah, and from the life of Jesus, from the life of St Paul, is different to our contemporary society. It doesn’t say I have joined the church or I have joined the struggle to be rich. We don’t say ‘Here am I, send me God’, if our ambition is to amass wealth!

What then, some people may ask, does it mean to say ‘Yes’ to God’s call – to respond to Jesus who says ‘follow me’, and then, all too often, leads us to places outside our comfort zone. We follow, because, in a way probably far less spectacular than Isaiah, we have nonetheless somehow encountered something of the living God. We have felt our lives touched by Jesus who is King of kings and Lord of lords; the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; that second eternal person of the Trinity, who was born in a stable, and who died on the cross for us. We respond by saying ‘Yes, God, here we are’ because we have met Him; and we have recognised our need of him, of his salvation and redemption, in all our failings and in all our human weaknesses. We say Yes to God because we know that we cannot live without God.

When many of Jesus’ followers turned away, once he began to teach that discipleship is costly, you will recall that he even asked his disciples ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ We stay because we are those whose hearts echo the words of St Peter, ‘Lord, if we go away, to whom else we could go? Lord you have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (Jn 6:66-9). We respond to God because we have grasped the fact that, as it says in today’s Gospel, that, as the Father sent Jesus, and so he sends us. And dear friends this for me is mind boggling, that this all-powerful God shares his mission of love and forgiveness, of reconciliation and redemption, to his world, through you and I, warts and all. God chooses to work through you and me, it remains mind boggling.

This is the wonder of it all, that we can make a difference, we can make God’s difference in responding to his call with faithful obedience and we can find that we can make God’s difference; in responding to his call with faithful obedience we will find that the things we say and do make a difference to the world – a difference that might last for centuries, a difference that may have eternal significance.

And if we think of it this way, what better calling could there be? What could be more successful, than changing the course of history, and leaving a mark that matters even in the heavenly realm!

This is the basis for all ministry, for all mission. And I rather suspect that I am today in many ways clearly talking and ‘preaching to the converted’. For I know that over the decades, this particular parish of St Paul’s, through individuals, as a congregation, and in its leaders, has not been afraid to answer the costly call of God’s sending. This parish has followed Christ in ways that have sometimes taken you outside the comfort zones of our churches – but you have been a beacon to many.

And in giving yourselves to the ministry of the Lord, you have put your hands deep into your pockets and you have given with great generosity to the work of the Diocese and to the work of the Province. You have been a great encouragement to many – and let me today, publicly, offer my thanks on behalf of the Province to you, and to the rest of this Diocese. The Diocese of Natal, you may not know, remains the highest giver of any Diocese within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. You continue to support the Diocese of Niassa, you continue to support the College of the Transfiguration (our only Anglican residential college), and you continue to support the Anglican House of Studies – to name but three of the projects that you assist. And I am sure that you are making a godly difference by saying ‘here we are’ through those three examples I have mentioned.

You have lent your resources in other ways too – in people. This particular parish has nurtured many – laity and clergy who have served here, of which there are a number present today! – who have then gone on to serve the church in more demanding positions. I know that the Dean was here also. Thank you, for building up such treasures, and thank you for being able to let them go.

And human resources have been shared in other ways. This Diocese has been ahead of the curve in many areas of management and good governance, and has brought these skills to play within our Province. For example, though Bishop Rubin and Robin Green often ask the most difficult of questions at Provincial Finance Committee, and criticise poor practice without holding back; their contribution has made a vital difference, which both Archbishop Njongo and I have come to value, even as it has stretched us to do better! And for that we are grateful, Bishop Rubin.

And this Diocese – and Bishop Rubin in particular – have not only helped in the formal life of our Province; but also often behind the scenes and outside legal structures, for example, walking with Dioceses that are going through difficult times. So, Thank you – thank you, thank you, particularly to Bishop Rubin and thank you to Rose for allowing Bishop Rubin to exercise that ministry and do what he has done – thank you for all you have done, and for all you continue to do, offering yourselves unreservedly in the service of the Church, despite the personal cost and pains you have suffered. We thank you both, from the bottom of our hearts.

As you all know, gratitude is the heart of mission. Gratitude is in the heart of saying, ‘Here am I Lord, send me’. Today it is my great privilege to express gratitude to you at St Paul’s, and to so many associated with you, and to the wider Diocese, and to your Bishops, for all you do.

Yet gratitude is at the heart of mission in another very profound way. For God in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit has done ‘everything’ for us. He has created, he has redeemed, he has sustained, every moment of our very being – how could we not be grateful and respond to the call ‘Whom shall I send?’ And how could we do otherwise, than to share our resources with the overflowing love which we have generously received from God?

The name of doing this, the sharing of the overflowing love is called ‘mission’. People of God are inevitably people of mission – mission is nothing else but a state of being, a state of living responsibly to all that we have received from God; a state of allowing his love to pour through us; of letting ourselves become the people God calls us to be – called and sent in whatever way God chooses.

And I think it is fair to say that doing of mission comes from being. We do mission because it flows from our being. For, if, as we heard in our second lesson, we ‘have received Jesus Christ the Lord’, and he continues to live in our lives, how could we do anything else? Jesus’ whole live was lived in mission. He said ‘I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me’ (Jn 6:38). We too, must be God’s sent people.

God has sent us in many ways – for God is God of mission. Indeed, Mission has been described, in the words of the National Council of Churches of Australia, and I quote, as ‘the creating, reconciling and transforming act of God, which flows from the community of love in Trinity, which is made known to all humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, which is entrusted to the faithful and which is witnessed by the people of God, in the power of the Spirit, and it is a foretaste, of the reign of God here on earth.’

That’s quite a mouthful! But all we need to know about mission is signposted here – first it is about the character of God, the God who is Trinity, the God who is made known in Jesus Christ. And second, that mission is entrusted in us – we are empowered by God’s Spirit, so that we can go and act in God’s world in his words and action, and show others that God reigns. In the conduct of mission, we know that the Anglican Communion has identified what we call ‘Five Marks of Mission’. I invite you to use the internet to learn what all those five marks of mission are all about, and be guided by them.

As you seek to proclaim the good news of Christ, as you teach, as you baptise, as you respond to the needs of this world, as you transform unjust structures, as you respect Gods creation, may God indeed help you to respond in whatever way you feel God is calling you. But my plea is this: as you say ‘Here am I, send me’, may God also help you to heal our land, but to always begin with yourself; to heal our nation but always to begin with our communities; to make you compassionate, to make you caring and to make you concerned. And in all this, let yourself be healed, even as you seek to heal others and to make your community caring and compassionate.

This list could go on and on, because mission and being sent are my great passion and so I could keep you here for the next 3 days! But I have realised that I have to go back to Cape Town and so I have a plane to catch. But in whatever way you feel that God is calling you, whether you are a student, a priest, a bishop, a housewife or househusband, a business person … just let God open his love to you, pour his grace on you, dwell in you and continue to send you, as you say ‘Lord here am I, send me – I am prepared to labour for you, I am prepared to make your difference so that this world may actually encounter you as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’

As I conclude I want to re echo the words of Jesus. He still says to me and to you, ‘As the Father has sent me so I send you’; and to those who respond he says ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ In other words, he will never send you alone, he will always empower you. Therefore, let us be open to God as once again he asks us, ‘Whom shall I send, who will go for us?’ Let us confidently say, ‘Here we are God, send us.’

My prayer is, may it be so. Amen

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Support Development of the College of the Transfiguration

A summary of remarks at a dinner on 12 November 2011, hosted by St Thomas’ Church, Durban, to raise funds to upgrade and develop the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s residential training facility, the College of the Transfiguration (‘COTT’). The Rector of the College, Revd Prof Barney Pityana also gave a presentation. Further details of development plans can be found on the College website at

As you may know, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa last year affirmed a Vision statement for what we believe is God shared calling to us to be and do, across our whole Province of 28 Dioceses.

It is this: The Anglican Community in Southern Africa seeks to be ‘Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s Mission, Transformed by the Holy Spirit.’

We have also set out our Mission Statement, describing in fuller detail what this might mean for us in practice: Across the diverse countries and cultures of our region, we seek:

• To honour God in worship that feeds and empowers us for faithful witness and service

• To embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation

• To grow communities of faith that form, inform, and transform those who follow Christ

In following this calling, we have identified eight provincial priorities. These are areas which we see as being the responsibility of the Province to take forward, so as to resource and support Dioceses and Parishes as they set their own locally-rooted priorities for mission and ministry.

The eight priorities are: Liturgical renewal for transformative worship; Theological education and formation; Leadership development; Health including HIV and AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; The environment; Women and gender; Protection and nurture of children and young people; Public advocacy.

Tonight Prof Pityana and I want to focus on theological education and formation, and particularly the way we pursue it through the residential opportunities provided by the College of the Transfiguration.

But before I talk about fund-raising, let me first express my gratitude to you for the generosity so many of you have already shown both to the Diocese of Natal and to the wider Anglican Church in Southern Africa, in a great number of ways. You have made a significant difference to our ability to be the people of God we believe he is calling us to be. In many ways, you here this evening represent the spine, the backbone, of this Diocese – supporting it with financial and human resources, with your time, with your prayers. Let me again say ‘thank you’.

Most of all, our thanks are to God. God’s love for us, God’s care for us, God’s redemptive giving of himself in Jesus Christ – crucified for us and raised from the dead – is more than we can begin to imagine. God’s generosity to us is without limit. And it is for us to respond with grateful hearts, with similar unreservedness. Generosity is at the heart of mission – and so too is thanksgiving.

Yet at the heart of mission we also need good, theologically trained, and spiritually formed, Christian leaders. This is what COTT offers us. Yet its ability to do all that it might is seriously constrained by its limited facilities. We need to improve the environment for learning, for growing in knowledge and love of God.

Since becoming Rector at the beginning of the year Prof Pityana has worked hard for their upgrade – both the physical facilities, and through pursuing formal registration with the Department of Higher Education. Concrete plans are being taken forward.

But these need support – financial support. Tonight I am particularly asking you to help with the renovation of the kitchens. Frankly, they are a health hazard. And second, we are unable to pursue registration while they fall so far short of the health and safety standards that the Department rightly requires.

So, with grateful thanks to Bishop Rubin for his hospitality to us all this evening, let me ask the Rector to say more about his plans for COTT; and may I urge you to support these, and to continue to support ACSA in living out the vision we believe God has entrusted to us.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Prayer for COP-17 - Second Sunday in Advent

COP-17 - the 17th Conference of the Parties' to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - meets in Durban from 28 November to 9 December. This prayer may be used on the Second Sunday in Advent, 4 December, for example, when lighting the Advent Candle, as a sign of light and hope that, by God's grace, we might be wise stewards of his creation.

Prayer for the Second Sunday in Advent – Lighting the Advent Candle

Father of All, We thank and praise you for your wonderful world. Forgive us for not being good caretakers of creation and its resources Forgive us for the poverty and suffering we inflict through actions that damage the environment.

Lord of life and hope, Give us a vision for how our world could be. Lead us into just and sustainable practices that benefit all life on earth.

Spirit of renewal and transformation, Guide our leaders at every level to forge new paths for development. Fill their dialogue and negotiations with hope, a cooperative spirit, and a sense of family where each works for the benefit of the other.

Give this wisdom to all who gather for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban.

And may all your children live within our means, blessing one another, and nurturing your gracious gift of creation.

This we ask, dear Father, in the name of your Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Monday 14 November 2011

'The Life and Work of a Priest'

These two talks were delivered at a Diocese of Natal clergy forum on 10 November 2011

1. The Life of A Priest

Thank you for the invitation to speak on ‘The life and work of a priest’. The phrase of course comes from the first of the questions to candidates in the ordination service: ‘Do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to the life and work of a priest?’ As the questions and answers continue, above all else it is clear that there is only one adequate response to this calling – to say ‘With God’s help, I will’ – though perhaps we ought also to say ‘With God’s help, WE will.’ This morning I want to focus on living and working so that we are always, and increasingly, open to God’s help. For it is a strange life we lead – it is neither entirely up to us, nor entirely up to God. But by his gracious mystery, he calls us, as he calls all his children, to be partners with him in his mission to his world

Let us begin with the life of a priest, before turning to the work of a priest. It is right that living comes before working – who we are shapes how we act. We are ‘human beings’ before we are ‘human doings’. And though much of what I want to say relates to all Christians, we, as clergy, as presbyters or priests, have a very particular calling – that, as the Ordinal question reminds us, comes from both God and his Church. Our calling is to serve both – we are priests for the sake of God, and for the sake of his Church, and his world. We are priests for others, never for ourselves.

One very specific part of this call is, as the Ordinal reminds us ‘to preside at the Eucharist with reverence and wonder.’ It is God’s own daunting invitation to declare God’s holy mysteries in the words he gives, and to stand at this sacred intersection between God and Church, heaven and earth – as we both look back to Christ crucified on the cross, and forward to the wedding feast of the Lamb, described in the second reading for Morning Prayer today. In the name of Jesus Christ, and in the name of the whole people of God, we stand at the altar table. We take bread, we take wine – what human hands have made of the bounty of God’s creation. We speak Christ’s words of thanksgiving, for God’s overflowing generosity, goodness and grace. We break the bread, we pour the wine – recollecting the brokenness of Christ, the shedding of his blood. We share out what he has given – the gift of himself, for his people – to feed us, our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our souls – to nourish and strengthen and equip us and his whole Church for the life to which he calls us.

It is not that we as priests are the ones who ‘make’ Christ present – but that he calls us to be his instruments, as we ‘do this in remembrance of him’, so we might know his presence, and make his presence known; so that we all might enjoy true Communion with him. Nor are we, as priests, called to ‘be Christ’, either at the Eucharist, or anywhere else. For it is the Lord’s Supper, not ours. He instituted it, he calls us to recall it. He alone is the Lord of the Banquet. And he alone is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, who brings redemption and life, where death and decay are at work. Thank God, we are released from having to do any of that ourselves, in our own strength! Our task is to let God help us – and to let God help us help others – follow Christ, put on Christ, grow in Christ-likeness, and in having the mind of Christ, in living the life to which he calls us, and, like Jesus Christ himself, doing the work for which his Father sends us.

As St Paul says, all this is treasure in clay jars, earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7). As God knows only too well (but perhaps our parishioners sometimes forget!), clergy are ‘only human’, as truly fallible flesh and blood as any other child of God. Indeed, I have heard it jokingly said that God calls to ordination those he cannot trust to remain as faithful lay people! We have our weaknesses, our failings, our ups and downs, our good and bad days. We get tired and frustrated; we can get anxious and upset; we can become confused and doubting; and sometimes we can get it wildly wrong – through ignorance, through weakness, and even through our own deliberate fault. Yet, in our ability to model our continuous need for God’s help – God’s forgiveness, God’s healing, God’s renewing, God’s directing, God’s new beginnings – in every area of life, we model for others what it means to ‘put off the old, and put on Christ’.

Living open to receive God’s help requires humility. It means living with an attitude of acknowledged neediness and dependence – that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and that he knows better than we do what is best for us and for those to whom he sends us.

Somehow, as I reflect back on my own journey towards inhabiting more fully the life he calls me to live, I realise that these were lessons that circumstances forced me to learn quite early on. When I was growing up, I sought to make decisions amidst the squalor in Alexandra Township, near Sandton – decisions whether to be a gang member or join the armed struggle like some of my peers and family members. And I realised I needed God’s guidance and his help. I found two Psalms particularly informing my search for a way through life: Psalm 139, ‘Lord you have searched me and know me very well’ (paraphrase); and Psalm 42, ‘As a deer longs for running brooks, so longs my soul for you my God’. These shaped my openness to receive the good things of God, which I knew I could not manage alone.

They also opened me to another area of necessary dependence – to receive the things of God through the people of God. (I shall say more about the importance of this, and about shared leadership, in my second talk.) And so God led me to mentors and role models, particularly those I found through the Anglican school. Formerly St Michael’s School, then called Pholosho, it provided a much needed structure for me to arrive at life choices.

Now, in Bishopscourt, I continue to pray that God will keep me dependent upon him, and upon his people. If nothing else, I need a fierce spiritual director, who will challenge me to give a regular and honest account of how far I am keeping my promises – the promises of baptism and confirmation; and the promises of the ordinal, as deacon, priest and now bishop. It is something we should all do.

I did my most of my growing up in Alexandra, and then Pimville, to which we were forcibly removed when I was 14. I must say these forced removals caused my father heartache, amongst other things – like him also being an absent father. It was a tough life for us five children – and I pay tribute to my mother for raising us faithfully through thick and thin. ‘Thick and thin’ is in part, I admit, coded language for the difficult and erratic relationship we had with my father. Since then, through becoming a father myself, and through exploring the Fatherhood of God, I have found myself re-evaluating those hard times, and my own father’s failings. I’ve been inspired to strive to be a parent in ways that transcend, even redeem, my own experiences of the fallibilities of human fathers.

These reflections also taught me something of how much our experience of human fathers colours – and inevitably distorts – our own relationship with God as Father; and indeed, how we inhabit the title ‘father’ as clergy. Similarly, the experience of their own fallible human fathers, affects the way parishioners relate both to God and (especially male) clergy. In those places where we like to us the term ‘father’, what a psychological mine field we are walking in!

Most of all, my relationship with my father has taught me of my continuing need to seek ever greater healing and wholeness in my emotional and spiritual life, so that I might not impose the distortions of my own areas of brokenness and woundedness on others. This is indeed a life-long journey, until I come to the future wholeness that awaits me when I finally see Christ face to face.

The key to receiving the help I need, for my own life, and for my ministry, is reflected within another of the questions of the Ordinal: will you be diligent in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture? Earlier, I drew a link between the Eucharist and one of the passages set for this Morning’s Office. As the Preface in the APB reminds us, the word ‘Office’ relates to a Latin word for ‘duty’. It is our duty to say the Offices each day. We need this time in the presence of God, probably far more than we are ever going to realise this side of heaven. What matters is that we do it – that not to do it feels as bizarre as failing to brush our teeth in the morning. Ultimately, it is not a question of what mood we are in, what our attitude is, how we feel, whether we are distracted, if we are on a high or a low. What matters is that we ‘show up’, and do our part.

For prayer is God’s gift. What is required of us is faithful obedience, putting ourselves where we are able to receive that gift – whether it comes to us in some glorious sense of God’s presence, God’s leading, God’s encouragement, during that time; or whether it comes through our finding ourselves in the right place at the right time, just ‘by chance’; or whether we find out, even some time later, that some words, some phrase, we had said, even without realising its importance at the time, had somehow become for another a vehicle of God’s gracious touch.

And all of this is gift! Sometimes the Lord drives this message home to us particularly powerfully in times of spiritual dryness, or when we are exhausted and running on empty. We find that somehow, despite our human inability, our service of others clicks into place, because we are faithful and obedient in prayer – and this happens when it seems we are doing no more than going through the motions, our words almost empty and meaningless, and our prayers barely rising from the floor, let alone passing the ceiling and reaching to heaven!

Certainly, such regular experiences drive me to the chapel each day in Bishopscourt, to be fed by the Eucharist, and transformed through prayer! There are so many new issues that cross my desk, and often I am way out of my depth in human terms – but I know what it means to say ‘I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit’, who takes the offering of my time in prayer and worship, and bears fruitfulness beyond my prior imagining. Prayer is the oil that enables the cogs of the church to run as God intends them!

The Offices also help us live ‘under Scripture’. By following the lectionary, we are taken regularly through the whole breadth of God’s word. Other denominations often do not realise how deeply and comprehensively Anglicanism is rooted in reading the entire Bible. We are steeped in God’s word – so that all of it is familiar, and a ready verse or passage springs to mind when we need it. Further, if we keep on reading all of Scripture, it saves us from our own prejudices (even our good prejudices!) by ensuring that our favourite passages do not distort a balanced understanding of the whole broad message of God in his living word. We are also saved from stagnation, in a faith that has found its comfort zone and is disinclined to go on being stretched so it continues to mature.

And there is more! I love the way that, again and again, I encounter the living action of the Holy Spirit through the way that Scripture passages that I would never have thought to choose, unexpectedly speak into whatever situations I face. Instead of me deciding what Bible verses apply to some situation or other – in essence, giving Scripture a secondary place in support of my own understanding – instead, Scripture provides the dominant interpretive context. So I am repeatedly challenged to see situations from new perspectives that I would not have thought of for myself. And God speaks to me in new and fresh ways.

For me, at this point in my ministry, saying the offices and sharing in the Eucharist daily with staff in the chapel at Bishopscourt has become an essential anchor for my life. Of course, I also need regular times of private devotion – but these alone would not sustain me, in my current situation.

All of us will find that different patterns work best for us at different times. What matters is that we ensure we are doing what it takes to be like Mary, who ‘chose the better part’ and sat and listened at Jesus’ feet (see Lk 10:38-42). It is all too easy to be caught up, like Martha, with demands pressing in on us. We need to find out what works for us, here and now, in ensuring that busyness, worries and distractions do not take over. We need to battle to ensure that we are at least sometimes like Mary. Alternatively, we can ask ourselves the question of how we best abide in the true vine, and keep on abiding – so that we are continually drawing on the Lord’s leading and guiding, resourcing and strengthening? I’ve prepared some short reflections which we can use, after some questions, for 15 minutes – so we stop talking about the foundations of our ordination calling, and instead, share and practice what it really means to pursue the life of a priest.

[Notes for Reflection:

Luke 11:1-4: Jesus was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

1. Spend 10 minutes in groups sharing your current practices of prayer. What is your current rhythm of prayer through each day, each week, each season? What have you learnt about prayer over the years? In what ways have you felt strengthened, and that God answered your prayers, even when your prayer time was dry and hard going? (Don’t get caught up in anecdotes of what doesn’t work!)

2. Then spend 5 minutes together in companionable silence. Reflect through your life, from earliest times through to the present, identifying periods or occasions when prayer was dry and hard going. Ask the Lord to show you how he used those times, whether to help you grow or to answer the needs of others. Pause with each memory, and thank God for the gift of that answered prayer, even if you had not appreciated it at the time – before moving on to the next period. Ask God to help you remember how he answered your prayers, next time you feel dry.]

2. The Work of a Priest

Having shared earlier about the life of a priest, now we come to the work of a priest, our calling as ‘human doings’! I am sure you have heard about the parish looking for the perfect rector. Their job description went like this:

We want a rector who is young and fresh, with about 30 years’ experience. We are looking for someone married, with kids, who can reach out to other parents and children; and who is free from family ties in order to dedicate themselves 100% to parish life. Alongside a burning desire to work with teenagers, ministry to senior citizens will be a priority. Our new priest will preach for less than 10 minutes, providing deep and thorough Biblical exegesis that connects with the full range of current affairs each week; and be someone who condemns sin roundly but never hurts anyone’s feelings. Our rector will spend each day parish visiting; and always be in and available when anyone phones or calls. Attending every one of our impressive range of groups, organisations, committees, meetings and services, our minister will be fully engaged with society outside the church. In a life centred on prayer, meditation and Bible study and leading sacramental worship, social activism will be at the heart of this priest’s ministry ...

Sometimes even our own expectations of ourselves tend towards the impossible. But our impossible expectations, and our inability to live up to them, are more often a failure in theology – our theology of the body of Christ – than a failure in our calling. For we cannot speak of the work of a priest, without speaking of the work of the whole Church. And we cannot speak of the work of the whole Church without speaking of God. For the calling of the Church is to share in the ministry and mission of God. And the ministry and mission of God is that the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit, declares that God is love and reconciles all of creation to God’s own self.

For us too, ministry and mission, and the work of a priest, are always shared. They are shared first with God. This is so, because it is God’s mission and ministry into which we are called – and which he chooses to share with us. Therefore we need his help to know what we should do, and how we should do it; and his resourcing and directing, so we do it in his power, in his way, in his perfect time. This bears more fruit, more lasting fruit, than any other way of going about our work! Living as dependently upon God as we are able – even as we shoulder our own responsibilities for faithful obedience – is more important than anything else.

And when we speak of Jesus as head of his body the Church, we are not merely according him some honorary position – a sort of figurehead, while we get on with the real business of running the Church! Not only as individuals are we to follow Christ, put on Christ, grow in Christ-likeness. Together we are to have the mind of Christ, and live the life to which he calls us. There is no such thing as a self-sufficient Christian, and especially not a self-sufficient Christian leader! Clergy who are ‘one-man bands’ model the heresy of a Unitarian God. All authentic ministry is Trinitarian, exercised in mutuality and interdependence.

As well as being dependent upon God, we are dependent upon one another. For, as St Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, ‘To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.’ And, speaking of the Spirit’s many and varied gifts, he adds ‘All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually, just as the Spirit chooses’ (1 Cor 12:7,11). Every Christian has a part to play – and all of us, whether clergy or laity, are responsible for helping one another make our best contribution, and discerning our common calling.

Now this takes us into more challenging territory. Those of us in leadership probably find it easier to decide for ourselves what we think should be going on, and then hand out jobs to others! Yet, if we stop to reflect, how often can we look back and recognise that discernment has often come to us through many different channels. Little bits of God’s jigsaw come to us in many different ways, contributing to a fuller picture. Perhaps our readiness to share some insight has encouraged someone else to share another, so that together we have begun to see a bigger pattern emerging. And one way or another, we will find that the pattern points to the good news of Jesus Christ being made manifest – often in ways we had not expected, but into which we are called to participate.

Looking back on my own life, I see this more clearly than I did at the time. I had always thought of myself as called to be a pastor – yet, wherever I went, I found myself sucked into politics too. In South Africa, in the 80s and 90s it was perhaps inevitable – especially when I was based at the Cathedral in Johannesburg, and then in Sophiatown. Pastoring in the midst of politics also included going with mothers to mortuaries to identify sons shot by the military; or listening to parents desperate to feed their children, but with no chance of work or honest income. I encountered such pain, through this ‘stoep traffic’, of those who turned up on my doorstep with their suffering, their struggles.

And yet, everywhere I went, I found acts of mercy and grace, people who lived by bringing Christ-shaped hope to what appeared to be hopeless situations. Often it was the people who seemed least important in the parishes who saw the potential of the gospel with clearest eyes – perhaps it was because they had no egos, they were more able to rely on God. Often too they were the praying engine of all we did. Politics and pastoring were also inextricably linked in Grahamstown. This ‘city of saints’ also knew poverty so dire it was as if one could smell it, touch it, almost literally cut it with a knife – and it called out a response from God’s people.

Then I came to Cape Town, and found the heavy weight of expectation that Archbishops must participate in public debate. I suppose I have my predecessors to blame, especially the one known as ‘Arch’! But it should not be any other way. For there is almost no part of human life that is not in some way ‘political’. Certainly, no part can claim to be outside religion – unless all life is outside religion. For either God is God of everything, or he is no god at all! Therefore both the Church, and Christian individuals, have a right and a duty to speak out, and often also take action, on any and every aspect of human activity!

The greatest challenge is learning to discern together what God is calling us to do in any particular situation. The rhythm of shared daily prayer and Eucharist at Bishopscourt enriches this area of life. It helps us know how each has a part to play, how all of us have particular gifts and callings and contributions – and that what we achieve together, by God’s grace, is far greater than merely the sum of our individual efforts. Sitting under Scripture – together – is often a key way of learning what God has to say in some new situation.

So, for example, Genesis 1 recounts how God created the universe, and it was ‘very good’. He also created humanity, whom he blesses, saying ‘be fruitful …’ Jesus echoes these words, when he says he came that we might have ‘life in abundance’ (Jn 10:10). Pastors cannot preach spiritual abundance, if we are not prepared also to be called to mission in opposing all that mars the goodness of God’s creation, or undermines the potential of every single person to be fruitful and flourish, in the circumstances we encounter. Often we express this through the church formally, as an institution. So, for example, in June, I preached in Orlando Stadium at the funeral of Ma Albertina Sisulu. It is certainly my primary task to share the good news of Jesus Christ, and his promise of life everlasting to all who will hear it; especially when we are faced with the enormity of death. But, in the presence of the President and political leaders, I also spoke of the gospel-shaped principles by which Mamma Sisulu lived, and of how her legacy is betrayed when politicians use political power, even blatant corruption, to enrich themselves and their families and friends.

Another Biblical paradigm that has helped in discerning how to engage with the broader sweep of political life is that of Covenant – and especially a talk that the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain gave to the Lambeth Conference in 2008. He particularly focused on God’s covenant with Noah. After the flood, God warned Noah and his sons not to shed human life – for humanity bears the image of God. God also said ‘I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants, and with every living creature – never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ And he gave the rainbow as a sign of this Covenant. This provides us with three principles, which can act as touchstones for discerning what is Covenant-shaped, God-shaped, and so to be promoted.

First – sanctity of life, and with it, issues of respect and dignity. Second – integrity of creation, never to be destroyed again – which helps shape our commitment to environmental protection. Third – dignity of difference, and with it honouring diversity – though also being sensitive to distinguish this from unacceptable ‘inequality’. In July I and other Western Cape religious leaders spent time in the poorest areas of Khayelitsha, where, frankly, people have to live in conditions that are barely better than an open sewer. Fruitful flourishing, with dignity, it is not!

Reflecting on these ideas has helped me also to see we can view our Constitution as a Covenant between all South Africans, and between Government and Citizens – a covenant for healing the past, and bringing genuine flourishing to all, which churches should support. It has also helped me focus my energies within this broad commitment to promoting Constitutional Democracy. Knowing that the truth will set us free prompted me to accept the invitation to join the Press Freedom Commission, set up under the chairmanship of Justice Pius Langa, to review best practice and regulation within the print media. An effective free press is indispensible to successful democracy, and the living out of a Constitution which potentially provides a framework in which every citizen has a real opportunity to flourish in practice.

Yet not all that Christians are called to do needs to be done through the institutional Church. We need to empower people on Sundays, for their Monday to Saturday life – and teach them to see the patterns of God at work in all areas of life – laying aside false divisions between private faith and public life. Some of our people hold positions of power and authority, in various walks of life – public and private sector. Some have influence in other ways – in the classroom perhaps, or in local community networks, like neighbourhood watch; even the golf club!

We need a better theology of economics – based on stewardship of a finite world; and not fatally flawed theories of limitless growth. We need a better theology of work – fundamental to human dignity, and indeed, part of what it is to be made in the image of God, who laboured creatively to bring our universe into being. We also need to promote Christian models of leadership. Jesus the Messiah, King of kings and Lord of lords, came ‘not to be served, but to serve’. The goal of leadership should never be solely self-interest.

One very effective matrix we can use, and help others to use, for discerning God’s calling on our lives, is to reflect together on where we are seeing the fruits of the Spirit. Another is that of the two Great Commandments. We are to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbours as ourselves. The flourishing to which God calls us can thus be said to have emotional, spiritual, mental / intellectual, and material / physical components – and these should not only interact with each other, but also be fruitful for us as individuals, and for the communities in which we share with our ‘neighbours’ – recognising that these communities can be drawn in all manner of ways.

As we look at developments around us, we can ask – what promotes, or what impedes, human flourishing and fruitfulness in each of these areas? We may be surprised to find that the gospel is impacting in places we had not expected – and God is opening our eyes to see our place in that mission. The Spirit moves wherever it will, Jesus told Nicodemus – and we will often be surprised as to how, and where, God is acting!

So let us not be slow to follow the lead of God’s Spirit. This is a Diocese, I know, with a long record of daring to go to unexpected places in response to God’s call. My prayer is that you will keep this up – and refine and model ways from which the rest of the church can learn. Let me end here – and ask for questions. Then we can take time for some more reflecting together, and singly, on the work to which God is calling you, here and now, within this Diocese.

[Notes for Reflection:

Luke 4:16-21. When Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

1. Spend 10 minutes in groups sharing the trends of your parish / area, and the sort of social changes that are affecting people within and beyond your churches. What enriches and liberates people – spiritually, emotionally, mentally, materially? – and as both individuals and communities? In what ways is God already using people in your churches, in local society, to bring such ‘good news’ in the face of impoverishment and oppression (not only material, but also spiritual, emotional, mental; as well as both individually and societally)? What relationships and partnerships is God already building?

2. Then spend 5 minutes together in companionable silence. Reflect through past times where you have seen this ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ being received in ways you perhaps had not recognised at the time. Thank God for them. Ask God to help you learn to discern more readily where his gospel is growing shoots and bearing fruit. Reflect on how being part of the body of Christ, shared leadership and ministry, has made a difference to you. Give thanks for these times. Ask the Lord to help you grow in ‘Trinitarian’ shared ministry and mission.