Sunday 9 September 2012

Tribute to the late Bishop Duncan Buchanan

Statement on the Death of Bishop Duncan Buchanan

On behalf of the whole Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I express my profound sadness at the death of Bishop Duncan Buchanan, a great friend and dear brother in Christ, who was also for me – as for so many – a father in God who deeply influenced my life and ministry. Therefore I also offer heartfelt thanks for the rich life of this faithful servant of God, whom so many of us remember as successor to Desmond Tutu, as both Dean and later Bishop of Johannesburg. He was also a great teacher and pastoral counsellor, especially in leading, guiding, educating and shaping so many of today’s clergy across our church, who trained with him in Grahamstown.

As Bishop he encouraged my vocation, made me a deacon and ordained me a priest. He opened many doors for me, pressing me to keep on growing; and he exposed me to many ministries within and beyond the church – for example, as his representative on the Council of St John’s College. Indeed, he never stopped mentoring me. When I was first a Bishop, he loaned me his pastoral staff and gave me my first vestments. And when I became Archbishop he did not stop mentoring, advising and giving me feedback, one of those rare soul-friends offering both caution and encouragement to press on. He would send messages, ‘Thabo, phone me!’ or ‘Thabo, take it easy!’ and remind me ‘God is not in the business of rushing – slow down and take time to discern the mind of God!’ I shall miss him deeply, and am filled with gratitude for his influence upon my life.

So I give thanks to God for his wisdom, his humour, his strong presence in any gathering. I thank God for his courage, and his readiness to confront those things that needed to be confronted, including in his leadership during the struggle to overcome apartheid. I am sure many around the Anglican world will also thank God for his significant contribution to the 1998 Lambeth Conference, helping a very diverse group to wrestle deeply together and produce the clear, yet sensitive, report on human sexuality that stands behind the resolution that was ultimately passed – a report that deserved far more attention than, sadly, it received. He was also a keen ecumenist, committed always and everywhere to building up the body of Christ.

Just a few months ago, in June, the Diocese of Johannesburg celebrated the 90th anniversary of its founding. I am especially thankful that I was able to spend some quality time with Duncan, connecting and reminiscing.

‘Dunc and Di’ as he and his wife were known to so many of us, were a wonderful team, a formidable team, in life and in ministry. Di, our hearts are sore for you, and we hold you in our love and prayers, together with everyone else who loved Duncan and mourns his death. We are so sad that we shall not hear his laughter again, but we know that heaven will be a livelier place! Yet in our pain and grieving, we entrust him into the eternal arms of the Lord he loved so deeply, confident that ‘we are more than conquerors through him who loved us, for nothing can separate us from God’s love in Jesus Christ our Lord.’

Hamba kahle, faithful priest in the church of God.

May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

+Thabo Cape Town