Wednesday 5 October 2011

Anglicans Plan for the Future with Confidence

This press release was issued on 5 October 2011.

Southern Africa’s Anglicans are planning confidently for the future. This was the clear message from the Provincial Standing Committee of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA). Whether it was putting flesh on the Church’s ‘Vision Statement’ or laying out the steps towards whole-scale renewal of theological training at the College in Grahamstown, the meeting engaged enthusiastically with development planning for the years ahead. Speaking after the meeting, The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, said he had been energised by the level and maturity of debate at the meeting. He felt that a clear local identity was emerging, which also took seriously the Church’s place both on the African continent and globally. There was a willingness not only to ‘talk the talk, but also to walk the walk’ and to get involved in God's mission across all sectors, working in such areas as theological education, health, environment, leadership and finance. He added ‘though tired after a long week of meetings, I returned home refreshed by the commitment and enthusiasm of Anglicans anchored in their determination to spread God's love.’

Bishops, clergy and laity from across the countries of the Province met in Benoni, East Rand, from 28 to 30 September 2011, for their task of taking forward the work of the Church’s Synod in those years in which it does not meet. Prayers and daily Eucharists provided the context for the discussions. Routine business included the budget, which was recognised as tight, in the current economic climate, and a resolution was passed to consider the level of representation and duration of Provincial Synod, given its great cost. But participants were encouraged by reports from Bishop Stephen Diseko of Matlosane of the level of attendance and participation by young people, and challenged by the Provincial Youth Coordinator, Mr Tony Lawrence, to address the initial results of a survey with young people that pointed to their need to be fully welcomed in, and receive a breadth of support through, the church.

Delegates also heard presentations from Brother Korubo and Brother Emile from Taize; and the Revd Edwin Arrison (Kairos Africa) with Mr Rami Kassis and Mr Ayman Abuzulof of Justice Tourism (Palestine). Brief reports were given on a range of ongoing issues, including progress on the Anglican Covenant, the Bible in the Life of the Church project, and the Continuing Indaba process. It was noted with satisfaction that the process of bringing the Omokunda development organisation completely under ACSA control would be completed in November. Bishop Brian Germond of Johannesburg commended a Lent Course his Diocese had developed, The People of the Way, which was proving particularly popular with young people.

Mrs Janette O’Neill, Chief Executive of USPG, and Bishop Oswald Swartz of Kimberley and Kuruman spoke about the new Memorandum of Understanding being developed, and their hopes that the longstanding partnership would be developed to help strengthen the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown, and support the world of St James Hospital, Matsonyane, in Lesotho. They affirmed the shared commitment to reflecting the care and compassion of Christ; the dignity of each person in Christ; cultural diversity; integrity, truth, and courage.

Development of the College of the Transfiguration was the subject of a comprehensive presentation by Revd Prof Barney Pityana, Dean of the College. A timetable to register the College as an accredited place of further education would be followed in parallel with renewing and upgrading both the physical structures of the entire campus and its facilities, and its courses, so that the college could be a more productive resource for ACSA and beyond. The focus would be on training quality church leaders, rather than prioritising academic theology, which could be pursued elsewhere. It was hoped to have the plan fully in place by 2015, though this would require a major fund-raising initiative. Dr Pityana encouraged Dioceses to give their full support, and suggested that 2013 might be designated the ‘Year of Theological Education’. His proposals were endorsed the Standing Committee.

A stirring presentation on the risks from climate change, made by Mr Maropeng Mohaloa of Hope Africa and Mr Shaun Cozett, who stressed that we do not inherit the land from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children, and so are challenged to pass it on in better condition than when we received it. This was picked up by one of the nine working groups, in which delegates spent a significant amount of time, tackling with enthusiasm the task of giving greater direction for implementing the Church’s Vision and Mission statement, agreed at Provincial Synod in 2010. This will be done through the various missional priority areas identified as those with should be tackled at the level of the whole church, in order to resource and support individual dioceses and parishes in their own priorities for mission and ministry. Following full reports from the groups, which were warmly welcomed, the Standing Committee then passed a range of motions reflecting these deliberations, and proposing that a full-time coordinator and a fundraiser be appointed from the New Year. On climate change, delegates endorsed a call for the whole church to engage as fully as possible in promoting significant agreement at COP-17, and to promote care for the environment at every level from liturgy to the practical life of parishes and dioceses, to pressing government and business to engage as urgently as had been done for the HIV pandemic. Other motions included calling on Dioceses to support the White Ribbon Campaign, opposing domestic abuse; widening the scope of the Health priority area and encouraging South African dioceses to register for NPO status where they had not done so, in order to access government funding; and a range of initiatives aimed at strengthening work with youth and promoting vocations to ordained ministry among young people; and inviting Growing the Church and the Liturgical Committee in development of fresh worship resources .

In other business, the Provincial Standing Committee agreed to work for the development of a single, integrated and provincially recognised co-ordinating body to set forward the work of education by ACSA; and that this should map out a consolidated agenda for ACSA’s witness in education, including through representative consultation with heads of church schools and other interested parties. Another motion noted how the current South African two-tier health system is neither just nor sustainable, and, in light of the Government’s Green Paper for a National Health Insurance, called for just and compassionate public healthcare for all, throughout the countries of ACSA. Following the call of the 2010 Synod for the legacy of conscription to be addressed, information was shared of ongoing work in the wider field of the legacy of armed conflict by various bodies including the Healing of Memories Institution of Fr Michael Lapsley and also SANDF chaplains, and proposals under development in dioceses of Pretoria and Natal. The Standing Committee commended these initiatives to all concerned, and, recognising the lasting pain and destruction from the years of armed conflict, observed a time of silent prayer.

The Provincial Standing Committee sent its warmest congratulations to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on his forthcoming 80th birthday, and to Mrs Leah Tutu on her birthday which follows shortly afterwards. Condolences were expressed on the death of Nobel Prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai. Love and prayers were sent to the Church of the Province of Central Africa, with particular congratulations on the celebration of 150 years of the Anglican Church in Malawi. Other motions called on the Synod of Bishops to encourage and facilitate the practice of pilgrimage in the church’s common life and mission, and requested parishioners travelling to the Holy Land to be mindful of the presentation from Justice Tourism; promoted the link between ACSA and the Mission to Seafarers.

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

Note to editors - The Anglican Church of Southern Africa encompasses Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, St Helena, South Africa, Swaziland and Tristan da Cunha.

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa’s vision, is that it “seeks to be: Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God's Mission, Transformed by the Holy Spirit.” Its mission statement is that “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.”

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