Thursday 27 September 2012

Synod of Bishops' Statement: 'For such a time as this'

This statement was issued by the Synod of Bishops on 26 September 2012.

"For such a time as this" (Esther 4:14)

The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) met together in Synod at the St George’s Hotel and Conference Centre in Centurion, Pretoria from 23rd to 26th September 2012. It was a joyous reunion and a time of deep fellowship for all. Our time was spent in an alternating rhythm of worship (both the Eucharist and Daily Offices) and work, with each informing and being informed by the other.

We were privileged to have an opportunity to meet with Governor Gill Marcus, Governor of the South African Reserve Bank, and to be made aware of the extent of the global financial crisis and the long term implications it has for the nations of the Anglican Province of Southern Africa. Her address was challenging and inspiring. It would seem that the economic downturn will continue for some time, and that economic recovery will be slow, and that, as always, it will be the poor who suffer the most.

As we listened to our own bishops speaking about the national crisis in the South African mining industry, the massive challenges facing our education and health services, rising corruption in all sectors of the community, and the internal crises affecting the life of the people of God in our dioceses (most notably those in the Cathedral of Pretoria and the Diocese of Umzimvubu). We were struck by the fact that we are struggling with not only economic, but also social, collapse. Much of this crisis, we believe, reflects a desperate need both for principled leadership in church and society, and for Christians to live out their faith in community in ways that set the common good of all above the selfish desires of greed and personal self interest.

The readings in our worship have also spoken to us powerfully about anointed leadership. In a reading from the Book of Esther, Mordecai speaks to Queen Esther warning her that her destiny as a Jew is inextricably bound up with that of her people and suggesting that she has “come to royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). For such a time as this, we need Christian leadership that will stand in solidarity with all of God’s people. For such a time as this, we need prophetic voices that will speak God’s word with boldness and set before us the radical vision of God for a world transformed by God’s grace. For a time like this, we need faithful people willing to be conformed to the purposes of God rather than to the ways of the world (Romans 12:1-2).

This has much to say to us about developing and nurturing Christian leaders within the church, for leadership not only within our churches, but also for our world. We have begun discussion on ways in which we could more intentionally promote the spiritual formation of God’s people for this purpose. We are discussing the formation and training of new bishops, and ways in which we could better guide and mentor those experiencing difficulties within their dioceses.

However, we also recognised that the socialisation, training and formation of people for leadership begins in the earliest years of life. In this regard we recognise the need for the church once again to play a prominent role in education, especially amongst the very young. We strongly affirmed the Archbishop’s Initiative in Education and its proposed objectives:
• To strengthen what the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is already doing in the field of education
• To encourage parishes in the ongoing upliftment of all their communities through partnership with local public schools
• To create more excellent church schools for all.

We also affirmed the Lent Course, “People of the Way”, that was produced by the Diocese of Johannesburg and encouraged plans to expand it into a three year discipleship programme for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. In addition, we continued to discuss, in depth, the need for excellence in the theological formation of our clergy and future clergy. We gave thanks for progress made at the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown and committed ourselves to support the College as it continues and develops its ministry.

The Synod of Bishops gave thanks for the “Anglicans ACT” Vision and Mission Statement of ACSA and for the way in which they are catching the imagination of our people. In particular we endorsed the forthcoming “Anglicans Ablaze” Conference in Johannesburg and the Bible studies that were produced in preparation for it. We also encouraged Dioceses and Parishes to find ways to participate in the Celebration of “Anglicans ACT” on 25th November this year.

Central to the life of ACSA is a rhythm of daily and weekly prayer and worship. It feeds our common life, theology, ministry and mission. Through this rhythm we and our people engage daily with God and one another through the Scriptures. We therefore welcomed the introduction of the Revised Common Lectionary to guide our Sunday Bible readings and worship as from Advent 2012. This brings us into line with most of the church worldwide. We gave thanks for the wonderful resource, “Word and Worship”, which has been produced by an Ecumenical team based at Ekklesia in Stellenbosch. Arising from this discussion we have asked the Liturgical Committee to investigate the possible revision of the Anglican Prayer Book 1989 or the production of a new Prayer Book.

We welcomed Bishop Graham Cray, Missioner to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, among us. He addressed us on the missionary nature of the church and its implications in our changed and changing cultures. One strategy is to encourage a “mixed economy” of traditional and “fresh expressions” congregations in our dioceses and parishes. In all of this we recognised, once again, that making Christian disciples is the key. We also took note, with great interest, of the “New Monastic Movement” that is emerging worldwide.

The Synod of Bishops gave thanks for the faithful and effective ministries of our bishops who are retiring or have recently retired: Paddy Glover (Free State), Merwyn Castle (False Bay) and Brian Germond (Johannesburg). We prayed for those who have recently been elected to serve as Bishops: Ellinah Wamukoya (Swaziland), Dintoe Stephen Letloenyane (Free State), and Stephen Moreo (Johannesburg), and also for the Diocese of False Bay, preparing for their Elective Assembly in the coming week. We welcomed the appointment of Bishop Rubin Phillip (Natal) as Dean of the Province.

The Synod of Bishops rejoiced with all of ACSA at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the ordination of women to the priesthood. We gave thanks for the many ways in which the widening ministry of women continues to enrich the life of our church.

The Synod of Bishops gives thanks to God for the loving, wise and godly leadership of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. In all these things we thank our God of holiness and love for continuing to inspire and guide us as we strive to oversee the life, mission and ministry of the church in such a time as this.

“Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)