Tuesday 24 July 2012

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

Dear People of God

Many of us have enjoyed time with our children during the school holidays, despite the cold and wintry weather! Talking with my own children, and listening to their hopes and aspirations, has again underlined for me the importance of education – both in schools, colleges and university, and nurturing within the family of the church. We are called to be trained in living the Christian life, in following Jesus’ call and example in faithful obedience, in ‘growing in knowledge and love of God and of his Son’, and in reflecting all that God is in Christ for us by his Spirit, in the totality of our lives. In Jesus, the Teacher, we see how we too should teach and mentor those who are young in years or young in the faith: listening to their concerns, carefully explaining, and also giving them ‘parables’ to prompt them to learn for themselves how to apply the principles of faith to the many and varied circumstances of life that come our way.

One of the NGOs with which I am proud to be associated is ‘Equal Education’, which works for quality education to be made available to every South African child. They are one of many bodies working across our Province in this important area. Earlier in July I was privileged to speak at EE’s first ‘Congress’, which marked a new phase as those who launched the NGO bring those whom it is designed to help into consultations about how to focus its work, and into its leadership structures. A wide range of people, including educators and learners, were at this energy-filled gathering.

We should always go forward with hope, despite the many problems within our education systems. It is tragic that there are still schools without adequate buildings or other facilities, and scandals like the delivery of Limpopo’s textbooks. It is also shocking to hear of teachers who turn up late or drunk, or fail their learners in other ways – and then even boast of being protected by their unions against any form of discipline for their inadequacies. But instead of getting downhearted, we should roll up our sleeves and do what we can to make a change for the better. Most of all, we should not lose the vision of educational excellence for every child of our Province. This must be our goal, and we should encourage our societies to insist that we will not settle for anything less.

In all life, if we keep our vision at the heart of our thinking, talking, planning, it will be the magnet that draws us in the direction in which we want and need to go. Behavioural scientists today tell us that to focus on our goals is far more effective than letting what is holding us back dominate our lives and drag us down. This should come as no surprise: St Paul said much the same, in his letter to the Philippians, writing: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things’ (Phil 4:8).

This principle underlies our Provincial vision – our desire that to be a Christian community ‘Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s Mission, and Transformed by the Holy Spirit.’ Holding the vision before us will help PSC guide our common life, as we meet in September. Do pray for PSC, and consider coming to the Anglicans Ablaze conference in October. For both those who are coming, and those who cannot make it – for ALL of you! – I commend the ACSA Vision and Mission Study Guide produced by Growing the Church, which can be used for a sermon series and in small groups, to help us all explore the rich fruits the Vision promises within our own contexts. The materials can be downloaded at http://www.anglicansablaze.org.

Theological education, for training ordinands, and supporting those already ordained, and lay people too who are the bedrock of so much of the life of the church, is also one of the key priorities in planning for the future. We need to consider our targets, strategies and tactics – learning from the effective approach of Equal Education. I have been heartened by the positive initial response to appeals to support the work of COTT, as well as to local initiatives such as the Archbishop’s Educational Endowment Fund in the Diocese of Cape Town. But strengthening theological education is a long term project, and will need support for many years to come: so, thank you to those who have made donations; and may I encourage many more of you to include this in your giving.

The coming months see 4 elective assemblies: I’ve just returned from Swaziland where Revd Ellinah Wamukoya was elected – the first woman in our Province, indeed in Africa, to be chosen as Bishop! We congratulate her! Please prayer for her as she prepares for this great responsibility. It is particularly apt that Swaziland should take this step, as it was in Swaziland in 1992 that Provincial Synod opened the door to the priesthood and episcopate equally to men and women. There are then elections in the Free State in August, Johannesburg in September, and False Bay in October. These underline the need for ably trained men and women to lead our Province at every level. Please pray for the elective assemblies, and the life of our Dioceses.

As I travel around, I never cease to thank God for the ways in which the priorities we discerned for Provincial action are so often reflected and being implemented in Diocesan life, strengthening the synergies between the various levels of the life of the Province. I’ve just had the delight of sharing with the Diocese of George in their centenary celebrations. Though they have faced serious challenges in recent years, the diocese is alive and building on strong foundations as it moves forward. I congratulate Bishop Brian and his team. I am looking forward to visiting Angola in August.

Please continue to pray for those Dioceses facing difficulties, especially Umzimvubu and Pretoria, as we seek to support them through the careful pastoral frameworks set out in our Canons. I’m happy to say that next year our newly revived Canon Law Society will hold a summit to look at how we can best use the Canons to serve the life of the Church, and consider producing a manual to guide us all. Canons should be our ‘good servants’, supporting prayerful, pastoral discernment, indaba and dialogue, when problems arise. They are not there to promote taking legalistic stances – as St Paul warns the Corinthians (1 Cor 6)! In wider society too, legal battles too often provide answers that divide, rather than building up, communities and nations. I’m therefore glad to be part of the ‘Finding ways to walk together’ initiative that promotes dialogue for handling difficult questions, including race, class, sexuality and so on. We need to maintain the biblical vision of nations united in seeking the good of all, which speak out against corruption and all that demeans us.

Yours in the Service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town