Tuesday 28 February 2012

Inauguration as Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape

The address given on 28 February 2012, following inauguration as Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.

Chair of Council, Mr Brian Williams, and Members of Council; Vice Chancellor, Professor Brian O’Connell, and all other staff, students, alumni and members of the wider UWC family; honoured guests; ladies and gentlemen; it is a great honour to find myself being inaugurated as Chancellor of this distinguished university. Thank you.

I am deeply humbled by this privilege you have bestowed upon me, and I fully commit myself to uphold the responsibilities of this office, to the best of my ability. Knowing my predecessor well, I am quite sure that my feet are many sizes bigger than his; but nonetheless I am also certain that he has left me with the challenge of a very large pair of shoes to fill!

As I look back, almost my whole life has been bound up with education, in one form or another. After schooling, first in Alexandra then at Orlando High, came Wits university. Soon after graduating with my bachelors’ degree, I also completed theological studies for ordination in the Anglican Church, with time in Grahamstown. I then returned to Wits for honours, followed by a Masters of Education. I lectured part time at Wits, and was also Dean of Knockando, at Wits College of Education (formerly Johannesburg College of Education). And as if all that were not enough, I went on to pursue a doctorate, graduating in 2009 from the University of Cape Town. You might say that I am something of a perpetual student at heart, though teaching has also always been a great joy to me, whether in the corridors of learning or through the channels of the church.

Despite this long connection with studying and teaching, the privilege of becoming the Chancellor of UWC prompted me to revisit two key questions. First, what actually is the task of education? And what, in light of our answer, is the true vocation of a university within South Africa, in the unfolding years of the twenty-first century?

The simplistic response might be that the role of a university is to pursue and disseminate learning. But this begs the question of what constitutes learning. It is of course far more than the accumulation and communication of information: facts and figures, opinions and arguments, practices and procedures. For theory cannot be abstracted from the human contexts of surrounding societies and the wider world. As we well know, from quantum physics to the writing of history, there is no wholly neutral place from which to view our world, and no completely objective way of speaking about what we think we know; and nor can there be. One corollary of this is that there is equally no morally or ethically neutral way of pursuing or sharing learning. Both are always inextricably linked to the world around: the world in which we live; the world from which our students come, and to which they return.

Education must fit us for engagement with such a world. What we need then, is beyond mere knowledge – understanding, perhaps. But the word which resonates best for me is ‘wisdom’. From the hikmat of the Old Testament, to the sophia of ancient Greeks and the New Testament, this is a concept with a long and honourable pedigree. It calls us to ‘realised knowledge’, to ‘practical understanding’ (such as that of the skilled craftsman or woman), to shrewd discernment of situations and how to handle them. Wisdom is what enables human beings to be competent and skilled in engaging well with life, and in playing a constructive role in wider society. It is what enables us to be – so to speak – part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Of course, wisdom in Christian tradition is inescapably bound up with living according to God’s purposes for humanity – purposes which we believe are designed by an infinitely loving creator entirely for our well-being; in other words, for the flourishing of individuals within flourishing societies. This aligns closely with the concept, shared in many faiths and philosophies, of the moral life being directed towards the common good of all members of society. Yet even if one abstracts the concept from any specifically religious or philosophical context, it still retains an unavoidable ethical component. One cannot be wise and simultaneously pursue an immoral life – not merely in the personal sphere, but in any other walk of life.

And this is why for me, moral leadership and education must go hand in hand. Our task is both to provide moral leadership, and to help form the moral leaders, which our country, our continent, so desperately need.

For wisdom directs us to seek a world of justice and fairness for all, which moves towards overcoming inequalities – whether the legacies of the past, or the growing economic disparities of more recent years, to name but two – and strives to promote conditions in which all may have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

Within South Africa we are blessed with a Constitution that provides a clear picture of such a society. Its preamble describes a united, democratic, nation, with overarching goals that include healing the divisions of the past; establishing a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights, and which improves the quality of life of all citizens and frees the potential of each person.

This is the yardstick against which we must measure progress, success, morality. This is the vision to which we must commit ourselves, and which we can only achieve through strong ethical leadership that draws energy from the promises of the Constitution, and captures the hope that gave this nation birth. This is in many ways a deeply spiritual undertaking. We are speaking of the nurturing of the soul of our nation.

The choice for education – particularly tertiary education – is actually quite stark. Do we position all we say and do within such a context, committed to such goals, putting our weight behind the pursuit of such a vision – or do we not? Do we sit by while corruption grows, nepotism flourishes, freedom diminishes, and inequality deepens; and be happily, heedlessly, complicit while narrow self-interest, callous selfishness, and the pursuit of personal gain, of power, status, and material wealth, regardless of the consequences for other people or our planet, become the norm? Do we turn a blind eye as cutting corners, dropping standards, sharp practices, become the order of the day?

Now, the University of the Western Cape has come a very long way since it started life as a so-called ‘bush college’, over half a century ago. The radical changes UWC has experienced through these decades mirror those our nation has undergone. Indeed, this place has had leaders, and produced leaders, who have been at the forefront in driving the best of these changes. Today, I am proud that we are one of the most diverse universities in South Africa – and this without compromising standards of excellence or quality of education. We have an international reputation, particularly for the research and development of open-source software solutions and open educational resources. Our historic commitment to genuine transformation, and to upliftment of all, has gone without saying.

Yet the situation we face demands that we relax neither our vigilance nor our commitment, for it is not at all clear that our country as a whole remains safely on the path to achieving the vision for which so many struggled, and for which so many gave their lives. It is all too evident that economic disparities remain vast, and are even growing. The situation in education is little better, for all that the headline statistics trumpet great increases in matric pass-rates. For beneath these figures lies the sad story that a good half of those who entered school in 2000 failed even to write matric. And what can a pass truly mean, when it is sufficient to achieve a mere 40% or even 30%?

We must not be afraid of excellence. We must reject any generalised attitude of acceptance towards the mediocre, even inadequate; and name it for what it is, especially where it is bound up with deep and complex apprehensions of inferiority, inherited from the past. For these we must seek continuing healing and wholeness, a liberation of the heart and mind and soul from any persisting legacy of the lies of apartheid. The other side of the same coin is to beware of grandiose and indefensible claims which can never be realised – from the capacity of our economy or our global political influence to the potential of our football team – which then only reinforce the idea that failure, suitably dressed up in fine rhetorical clothes, is all we can expect. No, we must be realistic about where we are coming from and what can be done, but always seeking to go forward, do better, make progress.

For we know that educational and economic poverty, left unaddressed, are mutually reinforcing, condemning generations to squalor; whereas education – rightly prioritised, resourced and directed – ought to be a primary means of escaping and overcoming financial deprivation, whether by individuals or of whole communities. We need an economic wind of change. We need the emancipation of all who are currently deprived of the ability, for whatever reason, to realise a decent and dignified standard of living.

The task of education, at every level, is to be alert and intentional in working to overcome these divisions and close these gaps, for their existence and their persisting, even worsening, is a scandal. It is truly immoral. Institutions such as ours must name and address these gulfs, speaking up against all in society that fuels their continuance, whether directly or indirectly, through the policies and practices of politicians, the private sector, civil society or anywhere else.

And in our own area of expertise – education – we must engage with policy makers and role players, not only in the tertiary sector, but in support of reform that will ensure schools provide our children with the basic knowledge, and technical and language skills, to succeed in life, including in preparing them adequately for further study where this is appropriate. Furthermore, unless we locate these skills within an ethical framework, which helps young people learn to pose and wrestle with deeper questions about life’s purpose, the human capacity for good and evil, and the need to choose between right and wrong, we are not going to build that ‘better life for all’ of which politicians and others so easily speak.

Universities have a particular task in searching out and offering better ways forward, across the breadth of human activity. For it is far easier to criticise and pull down, than to create and build up. Yet universities, more than most other institutions, are called to be pioneers of new ideas, researching and developing fresh possibilities, new options, better ways ahead; and then offering these resources to those who need to draw on them. And we must do all this not in isolation, either from one another within our different disciplines, or from others around us. For the comprehensive challenges of contemporary life require joined up responses, with joined up thinking and acting: across academic fields; between academic institutions in this country, this continent and beyond; and in partnership with other spheres of society. I am glad that, even in small ways, I am finding opportunities to engage with others across the continent, even the globe – with the African diaspora, and our friends – to bring new participants to the table as we seek effective solutions to poverty in all its ramifications.

‘Knowledge is power’ says the well-known maxim. In the past, knowledge – knowledge available to, and controlled by, a narrow elite; knowledge as one of the currencies of empire – was used to subjugate and maintain enslavement. Now, today, rightly harnessed, the power of knowledge, of true wisdom, can and must be deployed in the service of liberation and emancipation.

This brings me back to the question of moral leadership. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese leader and Nobel Peace Winner, has been quoted as saying that ‘the quintessential revolution is that of the spirit … To live the full life, one must have the courage to bear responsibility of the needs of others … one must want to bear this responsibility’ (Peter Popham, The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Rider, 2011, p.301). We need leaders prepared to bear this responsibility, prepared to undertake this ‘revolution of the spirit’ in the service of others, which is so counter-cultural to the individualist and self-centred trends of contemporary life.

All of us, in one way or another, have the capacity to be leaders, and to be moral leaders. For all of us live in a world of choice; and the choices we make, or fail to make, for good and for ill, inevitably affect our own lives and the lives of others around us. How we handle relationships, how we act as parents, how we deal with bosses or employees or clients, our role within our neighbourhood, our willingness to serve on school boards, our readiness to stand up and be counted – all of these are potential acts of leadership.

Some of us, however, find ourselves in positions where we have the gift – the responsibility – of being able to exercise influence on a wider level: perhaps as academics and teachers, as community activists, politicians, journalists, writers, religious leaders, and so on. Perhaps the decisions we take in our work – as government officials, as business people, or in many other walks of life – impact upon our society, upon our world, and their wellbeing. Or perhaps we are still at the stage of learning, and aspire to become such a person.

In such situations, all of us must remember that those who are in greatest need are those whose voices we are least likely to hear, whose influence upon us is likely to be far weaker than that of those already enjoying power, wealth, status. We must be mindful in paying attention not only to what is big and loud and right before us. We need to take account of the small, the hidden, the marginalised, the weak, the poor. Indeed, more often than not, we need to put them first. Only in this way can we turn around the systemic injustices that are legacies of the past or symptoms of current unsustainable policies.

This may take considerable courage. It goes against the grain of so much of contemporary life. But this is a mark of true moral leadership, of genuine wisdom: to be able to see with clear eyes what is the right course of action to pursue, and not only to follow it, but to give others the encouragement to do the same. Psychologist Nathaniel Branden said, ‘Innovators and creators are person who can to a higher degree than average accept the condition of aloneness. They are more willing to follow their own vision, even when it takes them far from the mainland of the human community. Unexplored places do not frighten them – or not, at any rate, as much as they frighten those around them. This is one of the secrets of their power. That which we call “genius” has a great deal to do with courage and daring, a great deal to do with nerve.’

Genius, courage and daring: all in the service of wisdom, all in the service of others, of society and of our planet. Can we make these the defining marks of the University of the Western Cape? I pray it may be so. I commit myself to this vision. And I ask you to join me.

Thank you.

Our Church and Canon Law

This is the edited version of some reflections shared on 28 February 2012 with a group considering the re-launch of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa's Canon Law Society.

Thank you for coming today, to consider the re-launch of ACSA’s Canon Law Society. Let me offer a few reflections, from my own perspective.

I recently asked staff to put together a file of papers on the canon law issues that have crossed my desk since becoming Archbishop barely 4 years ago. The file, I have to say, is far too fat! And it seems to me that there are two reasons that contribute to this.

The first is that there is not enough awareness of how and where to apply and implement canon law – and there is a particular need for Bishops to be better equipped in this area. So my first challenge to a new Society, to you, would be to compile a sort of ‘Dummies’ Guide to Canon Law’ – a user-friendly manual. Particularly helpful would be some guidelines that say ‘If situation X arises, do Y’, where this is appropriate.

But the second issue we face is the need for a right understanding of when to resort to canonically based actions. As someone has said, the Canons do not replace the Bible! And scripture is clear. While Jesus came to fulfil the law, he was against legalism. St Paul also writes about avoiding – and avoiding provoking – legislative procedures, especially in secular courts, wherever possible. Both put the emphasis on relationships and actions that are rooted in, unearth, and birth, love and compassion.

In equipping Bishops and church leaders, all should know how to respect and uphold canon law and the regulations of the church, in all forms. But, more importantly, they must be chief pastors, and understand how our first obligation is always to exhaust the pastoral routes open to us.

At Morning Prayer today, we read the 23rd Psalm, and I was reminded again of the calling, particularly to Bishops, to shepherd our sheep as Christ does his flock. Legal actions should, generally speaking, always be the last resort. And the legal advice that comes to us should share this same perspective. The laws of love and grace are our priority.

Those giving legal advice should not be afraid to challenge Bishops! We need this. We need to be told if we are thinking of heading in the wrong direction – in the procedures to which we look, and in their appropriate application. If you don’t tell us clearly, you are not helping!

There is another angle to this, specifically in relation to clergy ‘vocation’ questions. I know that the relationship between Bishops and clergy as not one of direct employment remains where we stand in terms of case law. But this is no excuse whatsoever for Bishops to treat clergy poorly. The church should behave towards its clergy better than the best practices of any employment code. She should live the biblical values of what it is to be human and created in the image of God, as well as demonstrate the wider constitutional context within which she serves.

I know that in the past rectors treated curates, and bishops treated clergy, often more than high-handedly. But we need to wake up, and acknowledge that this was wrong; and that it is completely unacceptable to perpetuate either such attitudes or such practices today.

Nor can we ignore the changed legal context, which has rebalanced working relationships, providing workers with far fuller rights than in the bad old days. In my view, then, vocational and employment matters are also first a moral and then a legal question. There is no justification for Church practices to be anything less than the best we see in the world around. Therefore, on moral grounds at least as much as legal grounds, I hope that we resort to this area of law as little as possible.

I also hope that through regularising clergy licensing across dioceses, we will also be able to avoid some of the recent sorry tales – including where (as in the case of Fr Mbombo and the Diocese of the Highveld) secular courts have told us that we are failing in our responsibilities, including at the highest level, through our appeals system.

There are some other reflections I want to mention briefly.

The first is this, that all of us need to be aware of the high, high, cost of litigation. It is scandalous that we have to spend such vast sums, which ought to be directed towards the mission and ministry of the church. Indeed, I would put it stronger – we are depriving the church of these sums, which were given precisely for mission and ministry. It is appalling stewardship. People, on whatever side of whatever argument, need to know this. (For example, ensuring the consecration of the Bishop of Mbashe in the face of court challenges cost ACSA a lot of money. And there are other examples I could mention.)

Arising from this is the thought that we need to do better in ensuring matters of canon law are included in training clergy. I know some dioceses are now including this within Anglican Studies modules, but we need to do this more widely. This not only means College of the Transfiguration (COTT), but – and perhaps especially – with those who follow more general courses that are not taught within an Anglican framework. Perhaps you might be able to help with producing training materials.

So, as is clear, there is plenty on the canon law plate for you to get your teeth into! May God bless your discussions – so that you, and your work, may be a blessing to God’s church and God’s people, in our ministry and mission to God’s world. Thank you.

Monday 27 February 2012

Lenten Reflection - The 'Good News' about Sin

This reflection draws on recent sermons at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, and Christ the King, Sophiatown.

‘Turn away from sin, and believe the good news.’ These are the words with which each of us are anointed with ash at the beginning of Lent, and they tell us that sin and good news go hand in hand. You don’t get one without the other.

Sin is of course a very unfashionable word in contemporary society, but there is no escaping it. More importantly, we must not deny its reality, for we cannot have God’s good news if we do not acknowledge our involvement in sin. In other words, if we are better to appreciate, and receive, the fullness of God’s good news – the gospel of salvation and redemption – we, and our world, need a better grasp and fuller acknowledgement of sin, in every area of life.

This means we need to be honest about our shortcomings, weaknesses and failings; about our mistakes and misjudgements; about our bad attitudes, inappropriate thoughts, ill-chosen words and wrong actions – and not just in the personal, domestic, sphere, but also in public arena. Alongside politics at every level (national to local, elected to official), this also means in business and professional life, in academia, in the media, across civil society, even within the communities where we live, and among whom we network and socialise.

The aim of bringing sin into the light is not to put ourselves or others under condemnation, but rather, to open up ourselves, our church, society and world, to the glorious opportunities for God’s salvation and redemption in every area of human life and activity. And let’s be honest: we certainly need God’s rescue and recovery in so much of society! Yet if we do not acknowledge sin, how can we receive God’s more than wonderful solution to sin?

But admitting guilt, and feeling shame, appear increasingly alien in today’s societies. Sometimes it seems the only sin is being caught. Short of a criminal conviction, we are asked to believe, and act as if, everyone is more innocent than the proverbial dove. And no matter how dubious a person’s reputation, or how dodgy their track record, if that person’s suitability for some task or role is questioned, then it seems that the questioner is the one branded as being in the wrong. Further, when apologies are issued, too often they are given, in terms not of an admission of wrong doing, but rather of regret that someone was offended. It is as if the offended person is being blamed for being too soft-skinned!

Why have we got ourselves into this position?

It seems to me that the main cause is as much about failing to understand salvation, as it is about failing to understand sin. For if there is no hope of salvation – no hope of forgiveness or redemption, no hope of God wiping the slate clean of guilt and shame, and providing an opportunity to make a fresh start – then no wonder we don’t want to admit to being in the wrong. We see it in little children: ‘Did you eat the chocolate cake?’ we say. ‘No Daddy’ replies the small child, even when caught with a face smeared with icing! As adults, we are little better – though we may be far more skilled at constructing (or having our spokespeople construct for us) sophisticated excuses about how we really weren’t at all responsible, and should not be considered as having failed in any way, or as bearing any sort of guilt in the matter!

But if no one is guilty of anything; if no one has failed, or fallen short, or let anyone down – then how can we go forward? How can we speak of righting wrongs, of addressing shortcomings, of doing better? It is a recipe for accepting mediocrity and failure – and this is a disaster for our societies, for our nations; a disaster for all hope of moral and ethical living.

But, thanks be to God, we have a remedy! For God too does not want us to be left standing under condemnation. Therefore, as we well know, God sent ‘his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’ (Jn 3:16). And the next verse further underlines for us – should we have any lingering doubts – that God is far, far, more interested in liberating us from the quagmire of our weaknesses and failings, than he is in pronouncing us guilty. It reads ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’

And so, now we live in a world where Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken away the sins of the world (cf Jn 1:29); where he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet 2:24). We live in a world where forgiveness is freely offered for true repentance and readiness to make amends.

Even more than this, the God of infinite love promises to redeem all that has gone awry; to rescue what is lost; to heal every hurt; to mend the broken; to cleanse what is marred; to overturn evil and bring good out of every situation and circumstance: all of this, and more besides, provided we turn to him, acknowledge our failings and our dependency upon him, and put ourselves into his hands.

So then, what is the particular lesson for us this Ash Wednesday, this Lent?

It is this: that we must be gospel people, good news people, in declaring through the way we speak and act and live our lives that God forgives the sins of all who turn away from sin, and turn to him. We must demonstrate that we are not afraid of sin – not afraid to admit we are ‘only human’: that we are less than perfect, that we often fail, that we get things wrong, that we make mistakes, and even that we sometimes intentionally choose wrong over right. And in declaring we are not afraid of sin, we also declare – even more loudly and clearly – that the God of love desires to deal with sin: not through condemnation, but through salvation and redemption; through rescuing and restoring; through his infinite love and compassion for his needy children and his needy world.

This is what we need to hear, throughout the whole of human society – private and public. It is especially what our leaders need to hear, in every walk of society and nation. They need to know that the ultimate good news only comes to human beings when we acknowledge the reality of what it is to be ‘only human’ – and this is something of which we do not need to be afraid. For to admit our failings is not the worst thing that can happen to us, but rather it is the key to opening the door to the best thing that can happen to us.

So then, in conclusion, what is God’s word to us this Lent? What is his word to us, which we need to share with one another, and with God’s world? It is surely no more and no less than this: ‘turn away from sin, and believe the good news’.

May it be so. Amen

Saturday 25 February 2012

To the Laos - To the People of God, February 2012

Dear People of God

Though it is only February, it has already been a busy year, and this will be one of my longer letters, including the statement from the recent Synod of Bishops.

But let me begin by thanking you for all your prayers, especially for the time that Lungi and I spent in Davos at the World Economic Forum last month. It was a very stimulating and stretching few days, considering how best to insert values-based thinking into a context which is primarily marked by ‘worshipping the financial bottom line’. Please do continue to hold in your prayers all who seek to promote ethical perspectives in politico-economic debates. This is so vital at this time of global rethinking of our financial systems.

On the plane, I read John Suggit’s new book ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’. It lives up to its title, offering key tools for biblical interpretation in John’s typically simple, accessible, yet profound, way. I recommend it to you all, perhaps as something to take on for Lent. It is available from the ACSA Publishing Committee. For further details see http://www.anglicanchurchsa.org/view.asp?ItemID=65&tname=tblComponent2&oname=Publications&pg=front, and you can order it via publish@anglicanchurchsa.org.za.

In similar vein, I highly recommend the Lent Bible Study course, ‘People of the Way’. Produced by the Diocese of Johannesburg it is a valuable resource to us as we seek to live as God’s faithful people in Southern Africa.

Another resource I commend to clergy and all who preach or are involved in preparing Services, is ‘Word and Worship’. This is a collection of suggested sermon outlines and liturgies based on the Revised Common Lectionary, produced by a South African ecumenical team with strong Anglican participation! The first volume, for Year B, is available through Dioceses, and from Ekklesia, the Ecumenical Centre for Leadership Development and Congregational Studies at Stellenbosch University. Year C will be available before Advent begins (for more information, contact ekklesia@sun.ac.za).

I know from personal experience it is hard to make time to read good books and pursue theological study, but it is vital we make this a priority; and parishes must encourage clergy to invest time in this. The whole church benefits from such studies, and I commend those who persevere, especially with higher degrees and research, and offer congratulations to those who have recently passed this hurdle, including Canon Sarah Rowland Jones, my researcher, who has been awarded a PhD by Nottingham University. I encourage clergy and laity alike to consider further training, and to take advantage of the opportunities offered, for example, by our Anglican House of Studies at the University of KwaZulu Natal for postgraduate study, or the Theological Education by Extension College (TEEC) for other courses. Diocesan Directors of Training should also know about courses in your area, or have resources you can follow.

There is also the opportunity to pursue Continuing Ministerial Education as groups – with support from the College of the Transfiguration. There is money available in the Provincial Budget for this, but it is very rarely drawn upon. Please contact COTT if you need more information, or have a proposal to put. And may I ask you to keep the college, and the Rector, Revd Prof Barney Pityana in your prayers, and to support them and their work as you can. We give thanks for his leadership, as he works to set the college on a firm foundation for the future, through the registration process, upgrading infrastructure, and pursuing an Endowment Fund to support longer term sustainability.

Very sad news for the Province is the death of the Very Revd Lubabalo Livingstone Ngewu, Dean of Pretoria, Provincial Trustee and former Rector of the College of the Transfiguration. I extend heartfelt condolences to his family, on the death of this remarkable and gifted man, and dear friend of me and so many. May all who loved him be consoled and comforted by the love of Jesus, who died to bring us life, and find hope and strength for the future.

Wishing you all a blessed and holy Lent

+Thabo Cape Town

[The Statement from the Synod of Bishops follows - available at http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/02/statement-from-synod-of-bishops.html]

Friday 17 February 2012

Sermon for Dean Lubabalo Livingstone Ngewu

The following sermon was preached at the Memorial Service for Dean Lubabalo Livingstone Ngewu, in Pretoria Cathedral on 16 February 2012.

1 Thess 4:13-18; Jn 6:37-40; Ps 121

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

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, here we are, gathered before God, to mourn the death of our dear friend and brother, Lubabalo Livingstone Ngewu, and to seek God’s comfort, God’s strength, God’s compassion; and, most of all, to seek the certainty of his promises of salvation and redemption, healing and wholeness, for this life and for the life to come.

I want to begin by thanking you, Bishop Jo, Chapter, and the whole Cathedral family, for your invitation to me to preach at this Memorial Service. In my sermon, I hope to do three things. First, I want to share the word of God, offering God’s own consolation to you, to the Ngewu family, and to all who loved Lubabalo, or Livingstone, as so many knew him. Second, I want to add my own tributes to those that have been given to him, for he was my friend also. And finally, I want to offer a challenge to you all.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are gathered together here in the house of God, who is three and who is one. He is
• The Father, who watched his Son die in agony on the Cross;
• The Son, who wept at the grave of his friend, Lazarus; and
• The Spirit, who bears the deepest groanings of our hearts to the throne of grace.
Therefore, in the presence of this God of infinite love and mercy, the God who knows our inmost hearts, let us have courage to bring before him those deep groanings of our hearts; our weeping for our friend; our agonising over the brokenness of recent weeks and months. Let us open ourselves in all our pain, to the God who is for us; the God who is with us; the God who is within us; the God who is among us – so that we may know his tender touch upon our lives; and hear his still small voice promising hope, and newness of life.

Let us dare to grieve today:
• to grieve for Lubabalo, for Livingstone, and for the hole his death will leave in our lives; and
• to grieve for all that feels lost, and for all we wish might have been different.
But, as our first reading urged us, let us not grieve as those who have no hope.

As Lubabalo himself would have been the first to remind us – let us turn to the one who is the Living Stone, and find in Jesus Christ a firm place to stand, in all the uncertainties and confusions that Lubabalo’s death has brought us. We lift up our eyes, and look: not to the hills, or anywhere else on earth, since there are no earth-bound answers for us; but we look to the Lord, who has made heaven and earth. He is our keeper, our defence – and he is Lubabalo’s keeper and defence also.

Jesus’ own words, in our Gospel Reading, put this very clearly. All that God the Father has entrusted to him, will come to him. No-one who comes to Christ will ever be driven away. It is God the Father’s will; it is God the Son’s will; that all who believe and trust in God will be raised up, to new and everlasting life.

This is the new life of which St John caught a glimpse in his Revelation: the life of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, when all the old things have passed away. It is the life where God makes his home among his people, for ever; where he wipes away the tears from every eye; where there is no more death, no more crying, no more pain. In God’s nearer presence there is no more grief; no more failure; no more misunderstandings and broken relationships; no more falling short of what God desires of us and what we desire to be and become by his grace. Here, Jesus makes all things new: all broken hearts are mended; all shattered lives are restored; all wounds are healed; and all the imperfections of this life are made whole and new and fresh and bright and lovely and perfect within God’s perfect love.

This is the fullness of life which we believe and trust – with all the certainty of the promises of God – that Lubabalo, that Livingstone, now enjoys: going from us to be with the Lord for ever.

These same promises are for us also – and not only when the time comes for our mortal lives to end.

For, as St Paul makes clear in his letter to the Romans, Jesus Christ ‘died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living’ (Rom 14:9). Jesus truly is Lord of both the dead and the living. His promises of redemption hold good for us here too – for us as individuals, and for us as the community of God’s church, with all the brokenness and failings, the pains and conflicts, that characterise all human institutions. For we must remember that we are all redeemed sinners, and we remain sinners, and fallible, to the ends of our lives on earth. And our church too, is fallible, and we make mistakes, and we get it wrong, even as, at the same time, God works within us and makes us his instruments, to spread his gospel and build his kingdom.

Therefore, as individuals, and as the church:
• whenever and wherever we need it – as we inevitably do, time and again, always and everywhere – God’s forgiveness is there for us, if we are only ready to open ourselves in humility to receive it.
• whenever and wherever we need it – as we inevitably do, time and again, always and everywhere – God’s redemption is also there for us, if we can accept it.

As St Paul puts it, We know – yes, we know - that in all things, God works for good, for those who love him, whom he has called according to his purposes (Rom 8:28). This is not to say that all things, all situations, all events, are good. Far from it. But no circumstance is so bad, or so sad, that God cannot or will not work in it for good. There is no stumbling block that he cannot turn into a stepping stone – the Living Stone who is Jesus Christ, Lord and Saviour.

So we come today, daring to believe this – and daring to ask that, by the power of Christ’s cross, his death and resurrection, God’s immeasurable goodness might be at work redemptively in our lives; in our relationships; in our differences and disagreements; in our church; here and now.

We dare to ask that he may comfort us in all our griefs – and here we pray especially for Lubabalo’s wife Nosipho; for their children Funeka, Xolani and Unathi; for their broader family; and for all those closest to Lubabalo and who most deeply mourn his passing.

Christ’s word to us is that we should not be afraid to weep, nor afraid to acknowledge the depths of our sadness, our depression, even our anger, that this death should come at this time. We can be honest about all this to Jesus, who knows our breaking hearts, and desires to touch them with unimaginable tenderness. He encourages us with those famous words from the Sermon on the Mount ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’

And because Jesus Christ is the Lord of both the living and the dead, we can offer to him all our unfinished business – all that we would like to say about Lubabalo, about Livingstone; all that we would like to say to him. We can come to Christ with all our uncertainties, even our failures, about whether we could, or should, have spoken or acted differently. Before Christ, we can remember Lubabalo / Livingstone with honesty – with all the love and affection, as well as the frustrations, that this remarkable child of God, provoked within us.

We remember someone larger than life – a big man, with great gifts and talents, especially of writing and speaking. A man with a strong personality, and, dare I say it, a strong will. Yet most of all, I remember a man of great joy, a man of enormous laughter; and a man of deep faith – a man who influenced so many for good, and pointed so many towards a closer walk with Jesus, not least through his time as Rector of COTT. We thank God for this man: for Lubabalo Livingstone Ngewu. We thank God for his blessings upon him; and for making him such a blessing to so many others and to the whole Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Finally, I said I would end with a challenge. My first challenge is to you, Bishop Jo, to your Chapter, and to Diocesan officials. It is this: remember that the Canons have no authority over the dead. I urge you, before Lubabalo is buried next Tuesday, to drop all the outstanding charges against him. And hang his portrait, like those of all other deans, in the Cathedral vestry.

And there is a further challenge, to everyone who has been caught up in any way in these tragic disagreements: to all of you I say this: find it within your hearts to create time and space to begin a process of reconciliation and forgiveness. All of us are called to live out the Christian virtues which Livingstone so fully taught, and himself espoused and strived to follow. It is not just my challenge, but it is God’s challenge – and also his encouragement and his promise – that we should dare to walk within his ways of mercy and peace.

So I end by once again thanking God for the life and ministry of our friend and brother, Dean Lubabalo Livingstone Ngewu.

Rest eternal grant to him, O Lord – and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace – and rise in Glory.


Wednesday 15 February 2012

Statement from Synod of Bishops

Statement by the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2

We, the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, gathered from 6 to 10 February, 2012, under Mantsopa Mountain at the St Augustine’s Centre, Modderpoort, in the Diocese of the Free State, for a time shaped by worship, prayer and reflection around the theme of spirited leadership.

Inspired by the beautiful scenery surrounding the diocesan centre, we worked and relaxed under the generous hospitality provided by Bishop Paddy Glover and his team, in the comfortably refurbished mission centre.

We began our work with a lively discussion facilitated by Bishop Brian Germond around the topic of creatively thinking outside of the box. We re-examined some of the mission opportunities God provides us, and the recent proposals of multiplication coming from the dioceses of Mozambique challenged us to think again on how we might respond to the fresh manifestation of the Spirit of God in our midst. We were challenged to take imaginative and courageous action that might include alternative models of ministry, mission and episcopal oversight. We agreed that we must willingly take risks, in faith.

At the invitation of the Bishop of Umzimvubu, we dealt at length with the complicated issues presently affecting his Diocese. After extensive discussions, we unanimously resolved the diocese should be placed under the care of a provincial administrative team. The team, appointed by the Archbishop, is mandated to take immediate action to resolve specific legal and financial issues; to offer pastoral care for the people, clergy and the bishop; and to initiate a longer term process of reconciliation. A letter to this effect will soon be read to the Diocese of Umzimvubu, by Bishops Rubin Phillip and Ebenezer Ntlali.

We revisited the issue of pastoral standards for civil partnerships, recognizing that we are engaged in a long term process even though many of our people now face immediate pain, isolation, and loneliness. While circumstances vary from diocese to diocese, all of us are openly engaged in a process of listening and discernment. Several bishops presented feedback from their dioceses. Special thanks were afforded to Bishop Bethlehem and the Diocese of Port Elizabeth for their example in readily engaging so deeply and thoroughly with this pastoral reality. We reaffirm that all dioceses continue to observe only the orthodox teaching and pastoral practices long held by the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

We noted the importance of having a clear and uniform provincial policy on licencing clergy to ministries in our dioceses, and examined a draft policy paper. Bishops were encouraged to enable all clergy to be well informed about this policy. We also received, with thanks, templates, canonical references, and a draft agreement for implementing this policy in our dioceses.

We acknowledged the important historic role we have had in the work of education in the countries of our Province and, in the spirit of the Archbishop’s Regeneration for Education vision, recognized the opportunity for us to take on an innovative role within the dynamic reality of our nations. Therefore, we resolved to appoint a standing body under the leadership of Bishop Peter Lee. This will coordinate our diverse educational activities, and describe a set of principles for engagement with the work of education in our Province. We also congratulated the Archbishop on his recent appointment as Chancellor of the University of the Western Cape.

The Archbishop supported a call from the Dean of the Province that each diocese should send a further two students for training at the College of the Transfiguration. The Bishops agreed to consider this request seriously, and act upon it.

We joyfully acclaimed the life of Elizabeth Paul, recognizing her vibrant ministry of preaching, healing and exorcising demons in the Diocese of Umtata during the 1950s and 1960s. We agreed to place her feast in our liturgical calendar for 13 May. We also praised God with the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist for the recent positive developments at Jane Furse, and continue to hold the centre in our prayer.

We rejoiced at the news surrounding the Anglicans Ablaze conference scheduled for 3 – 6 October, 2012 and we strongly encourage all God’s people to take advantage of this inspirational opportunity. We also took delight at the presentation of the new Lenten Course developed by the Diocese of Johannesburg, and we wholeheartedly recommend it for use in our parishes. Together with the entire of Church of God, we joined in giving thanks to God for the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women in our Province. Each Diocese committed itself to send at least one women priest to participate in the upcoming celebrations.

We noted with concern the recent incident concerning children under the care of the Sisters of the Community of Jesus’ Compassion in the Diocese of Natal and support the decision to establish a review committee.

We send our greetings, prayers of support and good wishes to our brothers and sisters of CAPA meeting this same week in Rwanda. May God enrich your fellowship together. We also send our prayers of support and greetings to our sisters and brothers of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in New Zealand later this year; and to the General Synod of the Church of England, meeting in London this week.

We acknowledged the notice of retirement of the Rt. Revd. Paddy Glover as Bishop of the Free State and Dean of our Province. We will greatly miss Bishop Paddy’s enthusiasm, generous spirit, and fellowship in our Synods, but wish him and Kirsty a well-deserved rest and our heartfelt prayers as they enter a new phase of life together.

We gave thanks to the Archbishop and his planning team for providing the opportunity for us to enter into retreat together. This time of prayer and reflection on our roles as spirited leaders refreshed and challenged us in many ways. The Jesuit Institute South Africa provided three wonderful facilitators: Puleng Matseneng, Raymond Perrier and Fr. Thomas Plastow SJ, to lead our retreat. We were introduced to Ignatian Spirituality and the importance of identifying our deepest desires through daily reflection. This tool seeks to increase our self-awareness and thereby make us more aware of our own strengths and weaknesses. We spent time in small groups, silent reflection, writing journals, and open discussion as we examined various ways in which we can better live out our call to Spirited Leaders in God’s Church. Mr Adam Kahane’s presentation on the need to walk in tension between the extremes of power and love clearly touched many of us. Adam’s ten laws of power and love proved a very useful tool that we hope to share with leaders in our dioceses.

We thanked God for our time together, and the opportunity to grow closer to him and one another, and through this to seek God’s transforming renewal of our minds, our lives and our ministries.