Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas Sermon

This sermon was preached at Midnight Mass, at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town.

Isaiah 9: 2-7, Titus 2:11-14, Luke 2:1-20

The angel said ‘Do not be afraid; for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people: to you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ, the Lord!’

A blessed, happy Christmas to you all! Dean Michael – happy Christmas to you, your clergy colleagues and staff, and to all of you who contribute to the life of the Cathedral through the year. Thank you everyone – this beautiful place of holy worship is a wonderful gift to us, each Christmas, and throughout the year. Dean Michael – let me also congratulate you and Bonita, on the celebration of your 28th wedding anniversary last Saturday! May God grant you many more happy years together.

The angel said ‘Do not be afraid – I am bringing you good news.’ What is good news for us?

Well, one piece of good news is that, to nobody’s great surprise, the world did not end last Friday! [A banner is displayed: ‘The end is nigh'] The general response was for everyone to just carry on – business as usual.

Yet perhaps you saw the picture that was going the rounds on Facebook – a small grubby child, in tattered clothes, clutching a piece of bread in a dirty little hand, and looking with big eyes at the camera. The caption said ‘I’m not afraid the world will end in 2012: I’m afraid it will carry on with nothing changing.’

There is a lot we’d like to change – a lot we need to change. 2012 has been a hard year, in many ways – we can look back on the Limpopo text-book fiasco; the Marikana shootings; the Cape farm workers’ strikes. Farther afield, there is the continuing terrible conflict in the DRC; the ongoing struggle to secure lasting peace in Southern Sudan; and, of course, the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut.

More generally, we want to see change in the ongoing issues of poverty, unemployment, inadequate health care and education, corruption and inefficiency, and environmental degredation. President Zuma may have been re-elected President of the ANC – but we say to our politicians and all in positions of leadership and influence, it cannot be ‘business as usual’. There has to be a greater urgency, a deeper commitment, to doing more and doing it better.

Instead of the end of the world, we need a new beginning. And this, of course, is the message of Christmas. Jesus’ birth invites us to see the world as changed into a different place, full of new and hope-filled possibilities.

We often describe the end of the world as ‘apocalypse’. But the word apocalypse actually means ‘revelation’. Therefore, Christmas is the true apocalypse, this December – and every December. [A new banner is now displayd ‘The Beginning is nigh']

Christmas, Christ’s birth, is God’s revelation of God’s true self, in human form. Christmas is God’s declaration that we are not created by a distant deity who sits on a remote cloud issuing condemnations upon our fallibility. It is the bold expression that God is more than on our side: God is with us.

God in Jesus Christ experiences what it is to be human, with all life brings, its joys and disappointments, friendships and betrayal. He knows the turbulence of adolescence, and the challenges of adult responsibility. He knows what it feels like to face mortality. The child in the manger becomes the man on the cross, who puts death to death, rising with a promise of eternal life.

Christmas says it is no longer ‘business as usual’. Christmas says God loves us so much that he willingly sacrifices himself so that we can have what we most need in life. And I don’t mean ipads or flat-screen TVs! Our greatest need is for forgiveness for our failings, healing of our brokenness, comfort in our sorrows, fresh hope and encouragement in all we encounter, strength to persevere in doing the right thing. We need the knowledge that God will always be Emmanuel, (literally ‘God with us’), helping us grow in love, in all that is good, every step of the way until we find our heavenly home. We need to know God’s new beginning, always available, always fresh, in our own lives – and his promises of life and love triumphing over death and destruction.

Confident of this, let us pray for God’s great light shining wherever people walk in darkness, and for the Prince of Peace to reign in justice: in the DRC, in Southern Sudan – wherever conflict and strife has a hold –in Syria, in Egypt, in Israel and Palestine, the birthday place of our Lord and the Holy basin for Abrahamic faiths

Confident of this, let us pray for ourselves, that God, incarnate through the Christ-child, may fill our own lives, our homes, our families, with his gifts of love and inner peace – so that they may dwell within us; and so that we too may be channels of love and peace in God’s world.

Confident of all that Christmas brings, let us spare a special prayer for God’s full healing of Madiba. This is the prayer that is being used around the world for him, and for Me Graça, at this time:

At Advent we sing and pray, O come, O come Emmanuel.
We ask now, for Emmanuel, God with us, to be with Madiba and Me Graça
Come Emmanuel and release our Madiba from the scourge of ill health;
Come Emmanuel and offer Madiba everlasting healing;
You are a God who knows vulnerability, weakness and frailty,
You are Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Lord of life and death,
Your power sustains us in life and death.
May your arms of love, stretched wide on the cross for us,
Now enfold Madiba, and Graça, with compassion, comfort and
the conviction that you will never forsake them but that
you will grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering.
And may your blessing rest upon Madiba now and always. Amen.

May God’s blessing rest upon all of you also: may the eagerness of the shepherds, the joy of the angels, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ-child be yours, this Christmas, and always. Amen.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Urgent Prayer Request for Tata Madiba and Me Graça

Dear Friends,

You will recall that last week I spend three days fasting and prayer for our country. I ended my prayers at Freedom Park at a service for Reconciliation Day and prayer.

During my prayers and fasting, God in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, kept on giving me the refrain to also pray for Me Graça Machel and Tata Madiba. Would you kindly intensify your prayer for him at this time, and in your parishes and all places of worship tomorrow and this Christmas ask your followers to spend a significant amount of time praying for him please. Because I am making this call today, I will also make it via the public media to reach as many of you as are possible in a short space of time.

This is the prayer I composed for him and Me Graça. You may want to use your own as may be relevant in an ecumenical or interreligious context or no faith, but spare a moment please.

At Advent we sing and pray, O come, O come Emmanuel.
We ask now, for Emmanuel, God with us, to be with Madiba and Me Graça
Come Emmanuel and release our Madiba from the scourge of ill health;
Come Emmanuel and offer Madiba everlasting healing;
You are a God who knows vulnerability, weakness and frailty,
You are Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Lord of life and death,
Your power sustains us in life and death.

May your arms of love, stretched wide on the cross for us,
Now enfold Madiba, and Graça, with compassion, comfort and
the conviction that you will never forsake them but that
you will grant Madiba eternal healing and relief from pain and suffering.

And may your blessing rest upon Madiba now and always. Amen.

Yours in the service of our Lord and Saviour

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

Friday 21 December 2012

Church Leaders' Message to President Zuma and other Leaders

You can read the letter that Church leaders sent, earlier this month, to President Zuma at http://www.sacc.org.za/content/SACC%202012%20DOCS/DEC%202012/JOINT%20letterhead_dear%20president%20Zuma_final.pdf.

We sent similar letters to Premier Helen Zille and other key figures in the political and economic world.

The message we enclosed is at http://www.sacc.org.za/content/SACC%202012%20DOCS/DEC%202012/The%20church%20speaks%20_Final%20%2030%2011%202012.pdf.

Thursday 20 December 2012

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

Dear People of God

'Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing which has taken place’ say the shepherds to one another – and in doing so, invitation us all to come with them to the manger and kneel before the tiny infant who becomes our Saviour and Servant King. Babies and children move our hearts in special ways, putting us in touch with something within us that we do not want to lose – perhaps that ‘childlikeness’ which Jesus says is necessary for entering the kingdom of heaven.

Once again, I have been touched by the Christmas party which Lungi, Nyaki, Pabi and I hosted, for the third year, at Bishopscourt, for 200 girls and boys from Anglican orphanages and children’s homes. It is always a day full of fun and games, as we join ‘children being children’ in spite of the harsh realities they have faced.

Thanks to generous sponsorship, we have now bought a trampoline for use every year. We also had a clown, volunteers from the City Council's Childline, and St Johns Ambulance on stand-by for bumps, scratches and other first aid. The Anglican Students’ Fellowship lent a hand, as did the stalwarts of the Church Men’s Society, and many of the ‘mothers’ of the diocese were here to give home carers a break. Hope Africa has also become a key supporter and board members enjoyed interacting with the children. We are always grateful to the Science Centre for sending their mobile laboratory, with complex, stimulating, games. I tried a science puzzle on eye-hand coordination: tracing a maze while looking at your hand only through a mirror. I founded I needed more ‘flexibility’ in my thinking, to move my hand as I wanted!

The children love the swimming pool, so girls from Anglican schools, Herschel and St Cyprians, acted as life guards. Others offered face painting. St George’s and Bishops schools’ boys could not attend but sent generous donations of food and Christmas parcels. Nyaki lent a hand, even though he had to leave early for an Art examination that afternoon, and so Pabi joined her mother and her team, doing ‘double duty’ for them both. It is always a delight to see the parking area full of mini-buses from the homes and other cars, and children taking over the whole estate.

The kids are great theologians and philosophers, asking questions with a curiosity and directness that adults never match: ‘Archbishop, why do you wear such a big ring?’ ‘Why did you invite us here – I thought only important people came to Bishopscourt?’ One little child asked, ‘When Father Christmas arrives here to collect the presents, where does he park? Do you keep the addresses of all the Christians in Cape Town for him?’ They certainly made me laugh at their vivid imaginations! Yet the sense of appreciation from the kids is always humbling. God willing, we will meet again next year. Some of the children will have moved on – do pray the older ones can establish a settled life – and others will have joined them. Please keep them all in your intercessions. Perhaps you can make a donation to children in need either through Bishopscourt or Hope Africa, or in your own diocese or parish.

As we ponder on the mystery that the vulnerable Christ-child was also the incarnate Son of God, we can let our hearts be touched by all children in poverty and need. Pray especially for those who suffer systemic oppression, particularly through such abuses as child slavery and militarisation. We thank God for all NGOs and others who work with children, and pray for them to prosper, and bring genuine tangible hope, and new beginnings to the boys and girls they seek to serve.

I also strongly commend to you the ‘Promising Life’ campaign of the Micah Challenge: Christians supporting the Millennium Development Goal of dramatically reducing mother and infant mortality. See http://www.micahchallenge.org.za/.

Ten days later I travelled to Maputo for Bishop Dinis Sengulane’s wedding to Lina Valoi. First, we attended the funeral of Fr Germano, giving thanks to God for this faithful pastor and PSC rep, who had died two days earlier, as custom dictated we deal with death before turning to celebrate life. We then went to bless the new house that +Dinis and Lina are building; and on to Lina’s home to complete the lobola process. It was a fascinating ‘indaba’ process, as representatives of the two families engaged in dialogue. Finally the bride-to-be was called from her bedroom to check the groom was indeed the right chap, and that she was prepared to marry him. There was great rejoicing at her affirmative answer – celebrated with a wonderful lunch!

‘Everyone’ was at the church wedding the next day, from ACSA, ecumenical interfaith partners, state, business, labour, every part of the nation and with many international guests. The church was packed, and the fans struggled to produce a cooling breeze. We rejoiced as the bridal couple chanted psalms and joined the choir in song and dance. +Dinis used the opportunity to launch a new hymn book and a guide to Christian living – ‘excellent resources’ said one guest, a convert from Islam, on scanning the booklet after the service. The vibrant, colourful occasion was even broadcast live on TV! Afterwards, around 700 of us were entertained at the reception, including the president’s wife, prime minister, and current and former cabinet ministers. It was a multilingual party, with representatives from the US, the Church of Norway, partners ALMA and MANNA, and French and Portuguese speakers too.

On Sunday, the bishops who were present (including five of us from ACSA) were sent for ‘mission experience’! I preached, presided at the Eucharist, and baptised a baby, for an English service, attended by +Dinis and Lina, and two other newlywed couples. We also had prayers for a widow, 30 days after her husband’s death, and marked the 30th anniversary of the Portuguese and English congregations joining. The context was truly of life and death, from baptism, birthday and wedding celebrations to grief and mourning. The tiny church was packed: if we had been in Joburg, fire inspectors would have banned us from meeting because of fire hazard!

We then travelled to +Dinis and Lina’s new home, for the traditional welcoming of the new bride. Further family negotiations then took place, to confirm assent to the lobola, while we ate and chatted. Then there were smiles and we knew all was well, the process was complete, and they were legally, theologically and culturally married!

This is my last letter until March, as, from late January I shall be away, to follow the ‘Full Spiritual Exercises’ of St Ignatius of Loyola, which involve a 30-day retreat. I’m looking forward, with anticipation, and some apprehension, to this stretching spiritual journey, and discovering how God wants to meet me and deal with me. I’m praying that in my personal walk with him, and in my ministry, it will be a time of refreshment, fresh focus, and, I’m sure, deep challenge and new calling.

Before I leave, it will be my great joy to preside at the consecration of the Ven Margaret Vertue as Bishop of False Bay on 19 January. In March the consecrations of the Revds Dintoe Stephen Letloenyane and Stephen Moreo, as Bishop of the Free State and of Johannesburg, will be in my calendar, together with a Synod of Bishops meeting. Provincial Synod also meets this year, in October. Please begin praying about this too, and considering motions you wish your diocese to bring before us.

Let me end with the traditional Christmas blessing, which reminds us that God in Christ meets us each of us just as we are, and touches us with love that is tailor-made: May the eagerness of the shepherds, the joy of the angels, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ-child be yours, this Christmas, and may the blessing of God almighty, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be with you always. And may you also have a happy and blessed 2013.

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Tuesday 11 December 2012

To the Laos - To the People of God - Advent 2012

Dear People of God

‘Come, thou long-expected Jesus’ is a well-known Advent hymn which goes on to describe Jesus as ‘hope of all the earth … desire of every nation … joy of every longing heart.’ Advent has been described as a ‘season of desire’. It is a time for us to listen to the yearnings of our hearts, our souls: our profound longing for Jesus to come with the fullness of his redemption, into our lives and the situations around us. It is a time for giving voice, in prayer, to the ache we feel for every person, every circumstance, which needs the compassionate, loving, healing, touch of our Lord and Saviour. It is also a time for giving thanks for all that we have seen of God at work in our lives, and fervently asking that he may be present in ever greater abundance.

I have been pondering this, particularly as I look back on November, which was a truly remarkable month, diverse and full. When it began, I was in New Zealand, participating in the Anglican Consultative Council, with other Anglicans, nearly bishops, clergy and laity from around the world. We shared deeply together around all aspects of the Anglican Communion’s ministry and mission – often from very different perspectives, but in a way that I felt was healing to relationships. Please pray that it may be a turning point for moving ahead united in Christ, even where we do not wholly agree; and especially that the ‘Continuing Indaba’ and ‘Bible in the life of the Church’ projects will keep on bearing fruit. Please pray too for God to further guide and bless major issues which we tackled: the environment; violence especially against women and children, and churches as places of safety; and Christian witness in a multi-religious world. There is much here that we can pick up on, to enrich our own lives, and equip us in our own calling to be faithful witnesses to the good news of Jesus Christ. You can find out more through the links at www.anglicancommunion.org

It was the last Anglican gathering with our beloved Archbishop Rowan before he steps down and returns to academic life. My heart was full to overflowing – and so were many others – as he gave his final address to us. We give thanks for his remarkable servant ministry over the difficult times of the last decade, and ask God to bless him, his wife Jane and family, in their move, and to continue to make him a blessing to so many others. In the same vein, we thank God for Bishop Justin Welby, who will succeed him in the new year, and pray for him, together with his wife Caroline and their family, as he prepares to take on the great responsibilities that lie ahead. I am reminded of the ‘Charge’ in our service of ordination and consecration of a bishop, which says ‘No one is sufficient for these things’ but then says ‘May the God who makes us able ministers of his new covenant equip you with grace and give you his blessing and joy.’ This is surely what we long for, for the new ‘ABC’.

And I am sure it is our prayer also for our newest Bishop in Southern Africa, Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, whom we consecrated in Swaziland with such joy on 17 November – the first Anglican woman in Africa to be made a Bishop! We rejoice with her and her diocese, and ask the ‘long-expected Jesus’ truly to be ‘Emmanuel’, God with her, and her clergy and people, as they go forward into this new chapter of life. We pray also for The Ven. Margaret Vertue, who will be consecrated Bishop of False Bay on 19 January; and the Revd Dintoe Stephen Letloenyane and Revd Stephen Moreo, who will be consecrated Bishop of the Free State and Bishop of Johannesburg, respectively, in two services in March.

As we thank God for, and pray for, those he calls forth as leaders, shepherd of his flock, in every generation, let us also pray for the Church of England, so traumatised by their long synodical processes around the consecration of women to the episcopate, and the failure of last month’s vote. May God give them light in their darkness (a powerful Advent theme), to show them his path ahead.

For our part, we are moving forward on the path we believe God has set before us, the path of our Vision, ‘Anglicans ACT’, which we celebrated in a service in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town at the end of November. You can watch it on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5-9b7tWFFw, and copies are being made available via Dioceses on DVD. The various teams are making progress in their work – watch this space in the new year, as plans unfold for helping equip dioceses and parishes in our priority areas!

So, within the life of our church, at home, and globally, we have much to thank God for, even as we desire to grow more into the newness of life that is his promise. But when we turn our eyes to look at the world around, our yearning for God’s redemptive touch becomes much more urgent. In South Africa, we have had the tragedy of Marikana, now being investigated through the Commission of Inquiry headed by Judge Ian Farlam who is ACSA’s chancellor. All involved need our prayers. There is also the complex situation around farm workers’ salaries in the Western Cape, where we yearn for just living wages. We also anticipate the ANC conference in Mangaung from 16 to 21 December. With a vote on the ANC’s, and hence the country’s, presidency, it is of major importance to our future, and our ability overcome trends of corruption and self-interest among political leaders, and return to putting the needs of all citizens at the top of the agenda. Elsewhere around our Province, countries battle with consolidating democracy, with food shortages, with wise use of mineral resources, with the scourge of HIV and AIDS, and with the ongoing long slow struggle to overcome poverty and all its consequences.

Therefore, especially for those in South Africa for whom 16 December is the Day of Reconciliation, I am calling for a day of prayer and fasting. Let us not be afraid to pour out our hearts to God – bringing before him all our hopes and fears for our countries, all our yearnings and desires for his kingdom to come and his will be done among us. In Advent we look forward to God’s promise to reconcile all things in Christ to himself (Col 1:20); and we also recall how he has entrusted his ministry of reconciliation to us also – so let us make this a day truly of God’s Reconciliation.

Let us plead that we may know the fuller coming of Christ, ‘risen with healing in his wings’ within our nations and our communities, especially where there are divisions – whether of history, politics, economics, language or race, personality, or through some unhappy force of circumstance. Let us pray fervently that God will meet us in all our needs, in Jesus Christ, so that there may be good news for the poor, freedom for the oppressed, liberty for all who are afflicted (Lk 4:18). May those who walk in darkness find a new light dawning (Is 9:2), and may all of us have the wisdom, the courage, the commitment, to walk in the paths God lights before our feet (Ps119:104). May justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (Amos 5:24), and may God’s kingdom be found among us.

This Advent-tide, let us wholeheartedly pray for Jesus Christ to come to us, ‘Come, O come, Emmanuel!’

Yours in the service of Christ

+Thabo Cape Town

Call for Prayer and Fasting on Reconciliation day

The following statement was issued on 12 December 2012

The Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town is calling on South Africans to fast and pray for the nation on Reconciliation Day.

In a call made first in The Sunday Independent on 25 November, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is urging people of all religious communities to tap into the strength of their faith for the sake of the country, much as they did in apartheid years. ‘It is too easy to feel hopeless, even despairing, after the Marikana tragedy, unrest among Western Cape farm-workers, crises in education and unemployment, failures in service delivery, and endless reports of crime and corruption’ said the Archbishop. ‘But we are not helpless, and should not let ourselves feel overwhelmed.’

‘Prayer and fasting are concrete actions, which connect us with the strong foundations of our beliefs: the power of God, eternal moral guiding principles, however we want to describe them’ he said. ‘They will provide new focus and energy, to work for all that is right and true and wholesome for South Africa, in which all people of good-will can join us. Standing together and speaking out together, as so many did before, is the best way to ensure that the vision and promises of the struggle are achieved.’

‘Reconciliation Day is entirely appropriate for such prayer and fasting, especially for Christians’ said Archbishop Makgoba. ‘In the weeks before Christmas, we think about Jesus coming not just as a baby, but also as the one who reconciles all of creation in the love of God the Father. In Jesus Christ, God promises to overcome divisions, heal relationships, mend our brokenness, defeat evil, and ensure that all that is good and right and loving finally triumphs. Furthermore’ he noted, ‘as St Paul tells us, God also entrusts this “ministry of reconciliation” to all who follow him. So we have to play our part too.’

The Archbishop added ‘Therefore, we are truly in the business of promoting genuine, eternal, reconciliation. Perhaps the government did not realise how profound it was to rename 16 December ‘Reconciliation Day’! Yet I like to believe God guided their hand, because I know that true reconciliation is one of God’s greatest desires for our nation. May he bless us, and help us to grow in authentic reconciliation, based on our best hopes for the future, for the sake of all South Africans.’

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

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Deaths of Prof Jakes Gerwel and former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson

This statement was issued to the media on 4 December 2012

With the deaths of Professor Jakes Gerwel and former Chief Justice Arthur Chaskalson, we have lost two great figures of the struggle, who also showed us what it means to uphold the highest of the principles that shaped and drove those years, in the new era of democracy.

In academia and education, and in law, they reached the top of their profession, demonstrating the much needed lesson of how this can be done in the service of our nation and all its people. Speaking out at the heart of the establishment, they served the voiceless and marginalised. They set an example from which we should all learn. We offer thanks to God for their life and witness, and the indelible influence for good that they have left us. We pray that by God’s grace we may follow in their footsteps, and uphold their legacy.

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, I extend my condolences to their families and all who loved them, and assure them of our prayers for these good and faithful servants of freedom and justice of our times.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Celebration of Anglicans ACT Vision!

This sermon was preached at the Celebration of our Anglicans ACT Vision, on the Feast of Christ the King, 25 November 2012, at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town. You can also watch the service at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5-9b7tWFFw

1 Peter 2:4-5, 9; Matthew 13: 44-52

Scripture says: ‘Come to Christ … and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house … so you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’

May I speak in the name of God: Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of Life. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I greet you in the precious name of Jesus whom today we celebrate as Christ the King. May his kingdom come in your life, whether you are here in the Cathedral, or watching a recording of our service. And a special greeting to all of those who participated earlier this afternoon in the ‘1000 men march’ – the procession of witness in support of the 16 days of Activism for no violence against women and children. Wherever you are, I am delighted to be sharing with you in celebrating the Vision that we believe God has given to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

In our second reading, Jesus described all who are trained for the kingdom of God as being like those who can bring out of their treasure what is new and what is old. This is, for me, a wonderful description of what our Vision and Mission statement are all about.

First, we have what is old: the great, eternal truths of the gospel, of God’s love for his people, his world, his creation; his promises of salvation and redemption; his call to us, to be living stones, a holy priesthood. And as living stones, we are to build on the legacy of all he has done through his people, in the generations who came before us.

But we also have what is new: learning how to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ loud and clear, in fresh ways that address the particular circumstances we find ourselves in today. Wherever we find ourselves – from big cities to rural villages, from Mozambique to St Helena, from coast to Karoo – God calls us, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and every baptised member, to be his witnesses. Or, to put it in the words of our first reading, God calls us to ‘proclaim the might acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvellous light.’ We believe that God has given us a Vision, to help us do this better – to help us become more fully God’s living stones, his holy priesthood.

Let me say a bit more about how we came to have this Vision – a vision that we should be: Anchored in the love of Christ, Committed to God’s mission, and Transformed by the Holy Spirit – Anchored, Committed, Transformed – A, C, T – in other words, that we should be Anglicans who ACT. And we need to be Anglicans who ACT here, and now – as the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, acknowledging our past, but facing the new challenges of the twenty-first century.

For much of the last century, the task of the church was to model and share the good news of Jesus Christ in terrible circumstances of conflict, strife, oppression – even full-blown civil war. And so we did: proclaiming the Scriptures, speaking up for God’s truth, standing for righteousness, opposing oppression, burying the dead, comforting the sorrowing, and – no matter how dark our darkest hours – always holding up the light of Christ, always sharing the hope of the gospel.

When democracy and peace finally came to South Africa, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu famously said ‘Now we can get back to truly being church!’ Well, what does it mean for us to be truly church, in our new circumstances, in all our countries?

This seemed to be the key question that God was asking of us all, as I prepared to become Archbishop. It became the starting point of the Charge which I preached at my Installation, here in St George’s Cathedral, in 2008. Right at the beginning, I said to all of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa ‘Thank you that you are partners with me in the gospel.’ And then I spoke of our need to ‘seek afresh to discover what it is to be the body of Christ in our time, and who God is in Jesus Christ, for us here and now’.

Who is God in Jesus Christ, for us, today, in Angola, in Lesotho, in Mozambique, in Namibia, in South Africa, in Swaziland, even in St Helena and Tristan da Cunha? What is God’s desire for our church, and for our world? What is his message, of judgement, yes, but also of redemptive hope, for all of us and our nations?

To explore this question as comprehensively as possible, I launched a consultative process, led by Ms Glenda Wildschut. We asked Dioceses and Parishes and other bodies to send in their visions and their mission statements. We held consultations with Provincial organisations, from Hope Africa and the Health Care Trust through to the Mothers Union and AWF and Bernard Mizeki and the Provincial Youth Council, and other networks. I also invited comments – and asked for prayers for the process – through my monthly letter To the Laos.

A team drawn from across the Province then sifted and discussed all we had received. The Synod of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee made recommendations for further work. Finally, in 2010, the Vision and Mission statement were presented to Provincial Synod and endorsed.

Let me read them to you again.
Our Vision is that the Anglican community in Southern Africa seeks to be:
• Anchored in the love of Christ
• Committed to God's Mission
• Transformed by the Holy Spirit
Anchored, Committed, Transformed: A, C, T – so we are Anglicans who ACT!

And our Mission Statement is that, across our diverse countries and cultures, 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

We also identified 8 priorities for action at Provincial level. This is not the same as saying they are the priorities for all of the Province – for we know that each Diocese, each Parish, must preach and live the gospel in its own context; and so must set its own priorities. But some things are best tackled at provincial level, in order to resource, strengthen, and support, Dioceses, Parishes and individuals in whatever God calls you to be and do.

Therefore we identified these priorities:
1. Liturgical renewal for transformative worship
2. Theological education and formation
3. Leadership development
4. Health, including HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis
5. The Environment
6. Women and gender
7. Protection and nurture of children and the young
8. Public advocacy

In addition to these, there are two further, critical, themes, which run through all the priorities. They are
• transforming the legacies of apartheid, and
• holistic mission rooted in a full commitment to evangelism.
Of course there is another common thread – that of resourcing, of financing, all this work.

But now, it is all going ahead. We have coordinators for each missional priority, working with teams, who have developed strategies, and we are beginning to forge ahead! We are finding that the Vision is providing focus and direction to the way we tackle the tasks before us.

In 2010, PSC decided to devote three year cycles to three priorities at a time. In the present cycle, the first of our three particular priorities is theological education and formation: 2013 has been endorsed as our ‘Year of Theological Education’. Second is Leadership Development. We are about to appoint a Leadership Coordinator based at COTT. We’ve also made a start with the Bishops – we already now have training for the newly elected and consecrated, and are developing an on-going programme for us all to follow. Thirdly, Liturgical Renewal for Transformative Worship – a number of initiatives are underway, which include considering whether and how we should revise the 1989 Prayer Book.

So then, what does this mean for you? How can you take ownership of all this for yourselves?

First, for yourself – make a copy of the Vision and Mission Statement, and the special prayers we are using in this service. Paste them in your prayer book. Reflect on them for your own life. Pray to be more anchored, more committed, more transformed.

Second, in your parish – discuss how the Vision and Mission Statement impact on your own life and the challenges you face. Download the Bible Study and sermon resources from the Growing the Church website, and use them together. And think about what sort of resources and encouragement from the Province would most help you – be in touch with the Coordinators, or the PEO’s office. Keep an eye too on the ACSA website (www.anglicanchurchsa.org), where we’ll be posting more information, and resources to download.

Third, in your Dioceses – again, discuss how the Vision and Mission Statement intersect with your own priorities, challenges and concerns. And at this level too, keep the dialogue going with the coordinators and their teams. Some of the teams have reps in dioceses. Make use of them – and in your parishes too!

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our two readings this evening were full of optimism and joy, about all that God has done for us, and all that he calls us to be. We are his pearls of great price that he seeks out; we are the buried treasure for which he gives his all, as Jesus did upon the cross. We are his chosen ones, his royal priesthood, his holy nation. He has called us out of darkness into his marvellous light – and we are to be his light-bearers wherever there is darkness in the world.

As St Paul wrote in the letter to the Romans, ‘If God is on our side, who can be against us?’ (Rom 8:31). So let us with joy and confidence, strive to be more deeply Anchored in God’s limitless compassionate love. Let us Commit ourselves afresh to his mission. Let us open ourselves more fully, more unreservedly, to the transforming power of God’s Holy Spirit.

And let us pray that God might help us keep on discovering what it is to be the body of Christ in our time, so we might declare more clearly, more fully, who God is in Jesus Christ, for us – and for the world around – here and now. May he bless us, and make us a blessing to others. Amen

Wednesday 21 November 2012

St George's Cathedral: Heritage and Witness

Remarks made at the book launch of 'St George's Cathedral: Heritage and Witness', edited by Mary Bock and Judith Gordon, at the Cathedral on 19 November 2012.

Thank you, Dean Michael, thank you Mary, for your words of introduction. Thank you also, John, for your reflections, and for reminding us of who we are; from where we’ve come, and where we ought to be heading. As I start, I’m just checking that I have the right notes – having just come back from New Zealand, being in Swaziland at the weekend, and having spent today in Worcester listening to farmers and farm workers and their families. I ask your prayers for the whole situation.

I am particularly grateful for the invitation to say a few words this evening, since it is here that I have my ‘Cathedra’ – my seat, as Bishop of the Diocese of Cape Town, and as Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. And so it has been since 1847, when the Church of England decided to send Bishop Gray here, to establish Southern Africa as a Province of the Anglican Communion.

This was, of course, after a visiting Bishop of Calcutta, stopping at the Cape on his way to India, commented ‘The Church in this colony wants a head. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes’ (pp.19-20). And though we have come a long way since then, perhaps the continuing legacy of that characteristic of Cape people is what led Dean Ted King to remark that more Christian charity had been lost in the Cathedral’s car park than anywhere else – something I recognise today when I come here, often to the 8am Sunday Eucharist, on those days when I am not required elsewhere.

This place and its people have a very special place in my heart. It is wonderful to come and be quiet in this building, and to breathe in its history – and the longer history of this site – as a place of worship, and also as a place of equipping for ministry and mission, and being sent into the world. Here God has, again and again, met people, and sent them out to proclaim his truth, with clarity and courage, through difficult and challenging times.

Earlier today, at Morning Prayer, our reading from the Letter of St James told us firmly that ‘faith without works is dead’. Well, now we have a wonderful record of some of the godly works of this community of faith, especially through the hard years of the struggle. So thank you – to Mary and to Judith – who themselves have had faith, since 2007, to continue the hard work of commissioning chapters, conducting interviews, collecting photographs, and getting to grips with all the details of publishing! Thank you for all you have done – and thank you to everyone else, who has contributed their time and their talents to this project.

Reading through, though I see the firm guiding hand of the editors, I also see it as a labour of love of so many who hold this place and its people in their hearts. Without the whole Cathedral community, and its wider circle of friends past and present, I doubt there would be any book at all. It is wonderful that so many voices, in such variety, are given space to speak; and that we have a glimpse of the rich tapestry of the stories of so many different lives, woven together to reflect the vibrant history of St George’s.

Mary and Judith, I know you have both worshipped here for close on 40 years, and been more than active. I ought to tell everyone here, if they don’t already know it, that, even today, alongside all the work for this book, you, Mary, are the current President of the Friends of the Cathedral, and you, Judith, are the Cathedral Archivist. So thank you again, for your hard work and dedication – and especially for your selflessness, in that all profits from the book will go to the Cathedral.

Let me also, on behalf of us all, express thanks to Brian Gannon and Martin Stabrey of PreText, the publishers – whom I know well from a project we did together in 2004. I was not surprised to hear that you have been enthusiastic supporters and wise guides to the whole project since its early days. Thank you for all you have contributed, in so many ways, to enable the production of this excellent publication, at such an affordable price.

It is my hope and prayer that many will buy this book, and be inspired by it:
• not just by the splendour of the building,
• or the beauty of the windows,
• or the recollections of stirring music,
• or the moving poetry of Harry Wiggett and others,
• or even by the fascinating accounts of how the history of the Cathedral and its people intersected with the wider history of our nation.
Of course, all that, and much more, is to be found within the covers.

But it is my hope that people will also see through to the deeper truth behind it all – which is best summed up by quoting some words of Ted King, from the chapter on ‘What is a Cathedral’. He wrote in Gateway: ‘… it is a grave mistake for Christians ever to believe that we can somehow separate human and social life, as it happens, from the life and death of Jesus Christ’ (pp.165-166). For it is to God to whom our greatest thanks are due today – for his faithfulness over more than 160 years; and for the outworking of his redemption, won for us through Jesus Christ, and declared and experienced in so many different ways through the Cathedral, in the generations before us, and even in our own times.

And so I want to end by recalling other verses set in our lessons today – from the Eucharist, where we heard the letter to the church at Ephesus from the Book of the Revelation to St John. It begins ‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance ... I also know … that you have not grown weary.’ Yes, I thought, as I heard the passage read this morning, these are words that might equally be said to St George’s Cathedral today. But then, for the Ephesians came a warning ‘you have abandoned the love you had at first.’ I hasten to add that it has not been the case here – as Dean King attested; and reading further in that same chapter there are many personal accounts of the way the Cathedral has been a place of deeply encountering God, and of spiritual growth and renewal, through the times of Colin Jones and Rowan Smith and to today. It is my fervent prayer that it may continue so into the future.

Dean Michael, your chapter, which ends the book is also in many ways a beginning. ‘Seeding God in our Midst’ you have titled it – looking back at the many unknown individuals who reflected the gospel in some way. And yet is it also a call to go forward – sometimes clearly hearing the call of Christ to follow; sometimes journeying in perplexity but finding the risen Christ alongside as on the road to Emmaus. But through it all, it is a reminder that, much though we may be taken up with the work of the Lord, we must never forget that, above all else, it is the Lord of the work to whom we first owe our hearts, our minds, our spirits, our lives. And it is his joy to bring us newness of life, and a message of hope for the world.

So, finally, I heartily commend this book to you all. Please buy it – it will make a wonderful Christmas present for yourself, or your friends and family! And may it inspire you, as individuals, and as part of the Cathedral community, or wherever you may be – may it inspire you in your own life of witness in God’s world. Thank you.

The book is available at the Cathedral Book and Bric-a-brac shop at R190, or by telephoning 021 689 1800. It can also be bought on line, at www.pretext.co.za/shop, at R220 including postage and packing, and R390 for overseas orders.

Monday 19 November 2012

This blog in international news!

Yesterday's post about the consecration of Bishop Ellinah has even made the news in the UK's Guardian Newspaper!

See http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/18/female-bishops-history-church-of-england

Saturday 17 November 2012

It is done! Welcome, Bishop Ellinah!

And now our task has been completed!

We formed into three processions, and, like good Anglicans, we sung our beautiful hymns to a beautifully and prayerfully crafted liturgy. From the back of the procession, I could see nine mitres ahead of me, piercing the sky, as each procession went into the Mavuso Trade Centre, where between three and four thousand faithful gathered to witness Ellinah being 'done'. The Dean of the Diocese of Christ the King, the Very Revd David Dinkebogile, received applause for his sermon, and so too did his interpreter. He stressed the fact though Ellinah is a woman, we were gathered to consecrate and ordain a Bishop in the Church of God: not a black woman, not an African, not a Swazi woman, but a Priest of the Church. She was to be pastor to all, to men and women, to black and white, to Swazis and all others in her Diocese.

It felt like a bit of a scrum as the ten bishops surrounded Ellinah (with the Bishop-elect of the Diocese of the Free State also in attendance), and prayed together and laid their hands on her. She emerged from this tight circle wearing her episcopal insignia to applause and excitement. Among our guests we had representatives of the Africa desk of The Episcopal Church and of the USPG – now US – from the UK and Ireland; we had the Ugandan consul, and groups from Kenya, Mozambique, and Nigeria, as well as South Africa, Lesotho and Mozambique. It was a colourful display of beauty, smiles, laughter and tears. ‘Mr Bishop’ shed tears for his wife as she lay prostrated. Bishop Mabuza handed over his pastoral staff to the Dean of the Province, he handed it on to me, and I presented it to Ellinah. It was a symbolic display of both continuity and change, newness, within our ecclesial environment.

Then in a confident, well projected voice, Bishop Ellinah said, ‘I, your Bishop, thank you for your welcome and prayers, and I assure you that I will lead my diocese in a godly manner.’

Yes, it has happened! The thunder is rumbling as I write: we have witnessed a great occasion, and now it does indeed seem that the heavens are about to fall upon us – the falling of rain, which this country and its people so desperately need. The ‘cosmic powers’ are not upset, but rather, as we say in Sepedi, ‘pula, nala’ – ‘peace, rain, prosperity’. It is the thunderstorm and rain of blessing and the promise of good health that follows good crops.

So now, we have taken this step, and we wish the Church of England ‘God speed’ as they deliberate this week. We feel all the more enriched by today, because by virtue of our baptism we are called to join in anything and everything that God is doing in his world – and we have felt his leading and responded to his call. So I end by repeating my congratulations to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa for taking this step, and to Bishop Ellinah herself. May we all continue to follow Christ in calling all those who are at the margins of our church and society so they may find themselves at the centre of God’s love and his welcoming embrace.

Preparations for the Consecration of Bishop Ellinah!

This morning (17 November 2012) we shall consecrate Bishop Ellinah in Swaziland - here is the news as we prepare for the service!

On Friday, Lungi and I left home for Cape Town airport to travel to Swaziland for a momentous occasion in the history of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa and the wider Anglican church. We were travelling to consecrate the first woman to the episcopate in our Province – twenty years after having passed a resolution enabling women to be ordained priests and three years late confirming that women might also be bishops. We travelled, aware that the Church of England General Synod will discuss the latter issue from this coming Tuesday, and so let us all we send our prayers to this Synod and pray they may know God' s guidance in their deliberations.

On the plane we found ourselves sitting not far from first woman to be Defence Force Minister in democratic South Africa, Lindiwe Sisulu; the first woman may of Cape Town in democratic South Africa, Nomaindia Mfeketo, and our first, and youngest woman honorary lay canon, Delene Mark. Perhaps it was coincidence, but I could not help but notice! It felt as if it was almost choreographed – foreshadowing the new ‘first’ for women, for which we were heading.

We arrived in Swaziland and were met with song and dance and great rejoicing. Bishop Rubin and Bishop Dino joined me, with, of course, Bishop-Elect Elinnah, for a media conference at the lounge in the airport (see http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=45432). We were joined by Revd Canon Edgar Ruddock, from the UK, representing the USPG – now known as US. Later, at the rehearsal for today’s consecration service and at dinner we were joined by groups from the US, UK, Scotland (Swaziland has longstanding links with Brechin Diocese) and many women clergy from around Southern Africa. It was a great reunion.

On our way home after the rehearsal at a massive venue, the heavens opened, as if in approval of, and showering blessing on, all we were doing, with lighting, thunder and heavy rain. We battled our way back to the hotel in the Dean’s car, through this heavy downpour.

Now it is Saturday morning and we are preparing to go down the hill to the consecration. We are staying in a beautiful hotel on the hill, overlooking the hills and valleys of this mountain kingdom. It is such a beautiful country in spite of its social challenges. The sun is bright. We were woken up by the sound of birds but also by a neighbour in a room adjacent to us, who started praying out loud at 3 am. We endured till 4 am but as she was not ending and getting louder and louder we got up – but then found someone else had requested quiet. How ironic that the hotel security had to be called to say she must pray softly, or move to the seminar room!

So now we are all awake, and ready. I counted at least 7 bishops here so far, including one from the Scottish Episcopal Church. Words can hardly express the calm and yet deep excitement of today. I feel the prayers of so many people here, around our Province, and across the world. Ellinah herself is calm and reflects the sense that we are surrounded by a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who indeed have trod this journey of faith before, though not in the same way as we are about to walk this new stretch of God’s path for us today, through our own time and context.

Keep us all in your prayers – especially Bishop-Elect Ellinah, as we now proceed to the Consecration!

Friday 9 November 2012

Welcome to New Archbishop of Canterbury, with Experience of Africa

This media statement was released on 9 November 2012.

‘I am delighted at the appointment of Bishop Justin Welby as the next Archbishop of Canterbury’ said the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, after the much anticipated announcement was formally made in London earlier today. ‘The Church of England, with the Anglican Communion, has followed a long and careful discernment process, supported by much prayer around the world. I am glad that they were able to take whatever time they needed to reach their decision – for it is clear that this has allowed them to make a good and wise choice.’

Dr Makgoba has not yet met the current Bishop of Durham, but commented ‘I was particularly encouraged to read of his experience in the secular world, of business and finance, prior to ordination. It is clear that he will bring great gifts to his new role. Each Archbishop of Canterbury is different, bringing their own unique blend of abilities, experience, and character to this tough and stretching responsibility. We have been inordinately blessed through the last decade by the ministry of Dr Rowan Williams, with his combination of profound spirituality, enormous intellect and wisdom, and his courageous voice connecting the challenging essence of the gospel with all areas of life. Bishop Justin comes from a very different background, but will, I am sure, make his own mark, his own significant contribution, as Archbishop of Canterbury. It will be good to have someone with such experience of economic questions which bear so heavily on the church’s primary concerns of overcoming poverty, and promoting comprehensive justice and peace.’ He added that he was very much looking forward to working with the new Archbishop, noting ‘it will be exciting for us in Africa to work with someone who knows our continent, having worked in Nigeria both in the oil industry, and, more recently, in reconciliation. He has faced the tough realities with which so many live, and even looked the possibility of violent death in the face. He knows the harsh daily experience of so many here and around the world.’

The new Archbishop will be enthroned and take up his position early in 2013, after the current Archbishop steps down at the end of the year to return to academic life, becoming the Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Archbishop Thabo said ‘My wife Lungi and I, as well as the whole Anglican Church of Southern Africa, will be holding Bishop Justin, his wife Caroline, and their family, in our prayers, as they prepare to move to Lambeth Palace. We also pray for Archbishop Rowan, Jane, and their children – thanking God for all they have done for us. Our God is above all the God of hope and new life, and I am excited by the prospect of this fresh chapter unfolding both for the Church of England, and the worldwide Anglican Communion.’

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

Tuesday 6 November 2012

News from New Zealand - 10

Tuesday 6 November – The weather shifted from blue clear and warm sky, to wind and now showers. I could not stay to the end of today’s agenda, for an informative session this evening on witnessing in a multi faith context, as too much sneezing and a runny nose compelled me to go back to the hotel.

I am grateful for the dinner hosted on Monday night by tikanga Pakeha (the European ‘thread’ of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia). We enjoyed beautiful music by the diocesan school for girls’ choir. This morning we continued with our daily rhythm of worship, fellowship and work. Our business included discussion of the Continuing Indaba project. You can read more about it at http://continuingindaba.com/, and my own words about what the concept and practice of indaba might mean for the Communion, at http://continuingindaba.com/2012/06/15/indaba-and-scripture/. (There is also a link there to the longer address, from which these comments are taken, which I gave in 2010 to the annual conference of the USPG – now known as US.) The presentation and draft resolution raised a lively debate. This is exactly the approach Anglicans should take! Indaba does not remove robustness but instead aims to ensure a context in which we can trust one another and so allow ourselves to speak with this freedom and honesty, knowing that we all value each one’s opinion as we together seek the mind of Christ. As a result of this frank discussion, we agreed that the programme should continue.

We then heard a report on the Communion’s Communication work, and passed a resolution on this as well as another on the work of NIFCON (our inter-faith network). We also had some thorough discussions of the Instruments of Communion, and talked about the Anglican Covenant. Another task was to choose the ACC’s representatives to the Communion’s Standing Committee – we offer our congratulations to the six who were elected, who represent a good balance of laity and clergy, gender and geography. I am delighted that our own Louisa Mojela, attending her first ACC meeting, is among them. Louisa is a businesswoman, and a parishioner in the Diocese of Johannesburg. We wish her well, and assure her, and the others who were elected, of our prayers as they serve our global Communion at this highest level.

Tomorrow is our last day, and we will have the closing Eucharist and then begin our journey home. I will end my blogging tonight. Thank you for reading and for your feedback. I will incorporate tomorrow’s closing reflections into my monthly ‘To the Laos’ letter, in which I also aim to include comment on the resolutions agreed at ACC, and provide links to where you can find further information about our meeting, what we decided, and how we hope to take these decisions forward for the benefit of the whole Communion and each of its member Churches.

Till we meet again, may the road rise up to meet you, and may God hold you in the hollow of the palm of his hand and assure you of his love and protection on all your journeys. To all Kiwis, let me say a huge Thank You for your generosity and care of us all. May you continue to be a blessing to all.

Monday 5 November 2012

News from New Zealand - 9

Monday 5 November - I do not do well with farewells. Today I kept humming quietly to myself the Lord’s Prayer, which was sung by the choir at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday. It was sung in Maori, slowly and with deep meaning. I hummed this throughout the day as if protecting myself from what I knew was coming at Evening Prayer tonight. It was the last address by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, as President of the Anglican Consultative Council, at his last ACC meeting as Archbishop.

The moment arrived. We were all overcome by a welter of emotions. He spoke from the heart and it was hard. When he offered the blessing, my eyes were too heavy and my heart as well, and my ears could not hear the words.

Archbishop Rowan spoke about authority: about enabling, life-giving authority, and corrective, reactive, authority within the Communion. (You can read more detailed coverage of his address at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2012/11/5/ACNS5233, and follow the link to the audio-podcast that will soon be online.) I just wanted to record the sense of joy and gratitude for having had the privilege of having worked with him as the Archbishop of Canterbury, ever since I became bishop suffragan right through until now; and also to acknowledge the deep and heavy heart of saying good bye to him as Archbishop. I have been so enriched, and so touched, by listening to his reflections, both to the ‘pins in the skin’ that the office has inflicted on him, and equally to his sense of joy for having served; and his deep gratitude for, and acknowledgement of, the support of others and God's grace that has seen him through. He is a wonderful example to all in Christian leadership.

Let me just repeat the words I said in March, when we learnt that Archbishop Rowan would step down at the end of the year:
“My heart is very full at the news that Dr Rowan Williams will stand down at the end of this year. We in the Anglican Communion, and indeed the wider world, have been inordinately privileged to have such an able theologian and deeply spiritual thinker, as Archbishop of Canterbury over the last decade. He has exercised remarkable gospel-shaped leadership during tumultuous times for our Communion, in which his commitment to consensus seeking, rooted in his refusal to take quick and easy solutions that fail to address the more fundamental issues, has shown great courage and deeply profound rootedness in the faith to which we are called. Again and again he has returned us to the central questions of whose we are, and for whom we are to be – in loving, faithful, obedient, service of God, of God’s church, and of God’s world. I look forward to the fresh contribution he will be able to make in coming years to the Christian voice in the public space, as he moves to Cambridge.
“I personally, and we in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, will miss him very much. He has been a great friend to us, and especially to me when I was first appointed Archbishop and learning the ropes. As Southern Africans we say he is ‘Truly Umtu’, someone who lives and embodies the fullness of ubuntu – that it is through others we find our own humanity, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. We wish him, his wife Jane, and children Rhiannon and Pip, great joy and blessing during the rest of their time at Lambeth Palace, and in the new chapter of life that lies ahead. They have the assurance of our fondest love and prayers in the coming months. “

Today that same love, those same prayers, for Rowan and Jane, are echoing in me deeply, and I know I shall continue to carry them in my heart and before God as I return home. Please join my prayers for these beloved servants of God.

Sunday 4 November 2012

News from New Zealand - 8

Sunday 4 November - Yesterday I observed a Sabbath from writing. Sunday was a day for ACC members to have ‘Mission Encounters’: through worship, conversation and hospitality at the invitation of churches in Auckland and the wider Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia. So on Saturday evening I travelled from Auckland to Wellington on the southern tip of North Island, and stayed overnight with Tony and Susan Browne, delightful and hospitable hosts. They gave a great dinner, over which I enjoyed meeting some of their colleagues and friends.

On Sunday morning Canon Jenny Wilkens, the priest in charge, also gave me a warm welcome at St Paul’s Cathedral and showed me the ropes . The Cathedral is situated opposite the Houses of Parliament, rather like our St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town. I enjoyed preaching at both the 8am and 10am services today and appreciated the parish lunch afterwards. I shared a thirty minutes PowerPoint presentation about the life and mission of ACSA – I hope it will soon be available on our ACSA website, for you to see and comment on. It was fulfilling to hear the views of senior laity, committed to our church and wanting it to be relevant in its vocation and teachings about Christ, and its prophetic ministry in situations where there is no fairness and justice. It was a great time, and I enjoyed discussions about church and state, including with diplomats and former diplomats. I was particularly glad to meet South Africa's High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner to New Zealand at the 8am service.

The people were very warm. We may be different in locality, race, and other particulars, but the way we are able to share in worship underscores that the Anglican Communion family is one, among the baptized people of God. We share far more profound similarities than superficial differences. In both worship and fellowship this was evident.

Wellington is a beautiful city, though windy like Port Elizabeth in South Africa. The air strip is surrounded by water on both sides – it reminded me of landing at Port-au-Prince airport, when I visited Haiti after their terrible earthquake. We were all asked to bring back a picture from our Mission Encounter, and write 100 words about our experience for sharing with the ACC plenary on Monday. I took a photograph of the picturesque scene where North and South Islands almost meet, from the hill that overlooks Cook Strait – it is rather like Signal Hill overlooking Table Bay in Cape Town! It was a beautiful sight, and I am grateful to my hosts who took me for a tour after the service and lunch.

This afternoon I travelled back to Auckland and I will now have an early night to bed in readiness for our final week of work. As a preparation for coming down from this ‘mountain top experience’, I am starting to reflect on the weeks ahead, back in Southern Africa. Soon after I return, Lungi and I will go to Swaziland to consecrate our first woman bishop in the Province, Revd Ellinah Wamukoya. Pray for us, and for Ellinah as she takes this enormous responsibility of serving Christ in this new role.

Friday 2 November 2012

News from New Zealand - 7

Friday 2 November - We have kept the same rhythm, day by day, and it finally feels that my – and most others’ – jet-lag has dissipated. This was evident in the energy levels during our plenary sessions today.

After our Bible Studies, we concluded our discussions on environment issues, with a session which I was privileged to facilitate. Afterwards we looked at the report on the Communion’s ‘Bible in the Life of the Church’ project. This is a helpful report and I encourage every Anglican to read it. You can learn more about it at http://www.aco.org/ministry/theological/bible/index.cfm, where there is a link to download the full report (20MB). I will post the link separately, and also make sure copies are available at COTT and in each diocesan office. The report looks at key principles of how we as Anglicans handle scripture. It is quite concerning that it concludes that the level of biblical literacy is not satisfactory. The motion ACC is considering on this has been sent back to the resolutions committee for further work. We then dealt with a report from NIFCON (Network for Inter-Faith Concerns) which reflects on Christian Zionism and suggests how Anglicans can approach this matter. There was a lot of energy and discussion around this report, and an appreciation that at least a study had been written on this matter.

Tonight we had a Polynesian dinner. We were again fed good food and entertained through cultural music and dance, as Archbishop Wilson read the creation story and pleaded for good stewardship and care for the environment. There are people already being displaced by the rising sea levels, and climatic change for them is no longer a theoretical debate but a life and death matter. It does not matter whether scientist have made wholly correct calibrations or how far the changes are natural and/or induced by human activity: the fact is that these changes are adversely affecting the Pacific Islanders. He made a strong plea through music, dance and story-telling, in a fun way which at the same time conveyed a serious message.

At lunchtime, I fielded a couple of questions from church reporters at the press conference on the same topic. One question I was asked was ‘What might a moral intervention by a Christian as opposed to a politician look like?’ What do you think?

I want to return to the themes that we discussed yesterday, on the topic of the environment, food, water and energy nexus. The thought of the Eucharist as bread, food, from heaven stayed with me throughout today. I asked the audience to think deeply about the relationship between the sacrament and the environmental crisis, and to reflect on food as Eucharist, water in baptism, and energy as the sacred space we worship in.

I just want to attempt some brief comments on receiving the Eucharist, as it is a practice I follow most weekdays with staff at Bishopscourt and almost every Sunday. I want to raise some questions for reflection, and I hope these will also help provoke your own reflections and questions. If you want to share these with me, I will value that.

There are many perspectives within Christian (and Anglican) tradition in which we have reflected on what it means to receive bread and wine as Jesus taught us to do in remembrance of him. As I said in a sermon recently, we might think of it as
- the Lord’s Supper – the foretaste of the heavenly wedding banquet of the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world;
- or we might think of it as Communion – our being drawn into intimate closeness with our Lord and Saviour;
- or as Eucharist, which means ‘thanksgiving’ – a celebration of all Jesus Christ has done for us;
- or even as the Mass – being ‘sent’ into the world, so that having been fed and strengthened by all that Jesus Christ has won for us, we can share all this with the needy world around.

In fact, we probably ought to think of it as a combination of all of these! Furthermore, in the Eucharist, we share God's faithfulness to us, that whilst we are still sinners, he sends us a gift of life in this meal; he send us his Son, so that we can be touched by his life and be fed, nurtured, and strengthen for his service.

There isn’t room here even to attempt to give a full theological survey of the Eucharist here but I find the following Bible readings helpful as a start: Ex 12:1-14; Deut 8:2-3; Luke 22:7-20; John 6:51-58; 1 Cor 10:16-17 and 11:23-26.

This meal is provided by God, and therefore, although those that celebrate are fallible humans, this does not detract from the giver of the gift, nor from our being touched and healed by the gift. In our turn, we are called to ensure food security for all, as the Eucharist demonstrates it can be done.

One other point that I want to mention is very emotive. This when in church we are denied this holy food because of certain doctrinal positions (for example, Roman Catholic clergy are not permitted to give the Eucharist to Anglicans). Yet I understand the pain of the one that denies others, and will not for a second discount it. Another matter that I am flagging, is when because of some disagreement over approach or understanding with the priest, someone might ‘boycott’ the Eucharist. I need to reflect deeply on this, as I recall that when I was Bishop of Grahamstown, our bishops recalled students from the College of the Transfiguration, when they had boycotted the Eucharist because of a disagreement they had with college management. I just want to highlight these sensitive, stressful, matters, and ask the questions: Who are you boycotting? And what does this say about your understanding of the Eucharist, this gift of life, faithfully provided by God? What is your own understanding of the Mass? Would you stay away from receiving Communion because you have a grievance? Shouldn't partaking heal you and allow Jesus to touch you afresh and renew you, even as you go and discuss your qualms with whoever has offended you?

Here in New Zealand, we have been fed by strangers and they have become friends for life. God, who meets us in our sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ in the Mass, will faithfully invite us to be fed with these foods of life.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Independence of Faith Communities from Government and Political Parties

This statement was issued by the Western Cape Religious Leaders' Forum on 1 November 2012. No invitation to President Zuma's meeting with 'the religious sector' was received at Bishopscourt.


The Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (WCRLF) notes with concern the report on “Nation Building through Social Dialogue with the Religious Sector,” a conference convened at the Good Hope Centre on Tuesday 30 October 2012. The conference was organized by the ANC Legislature at which President Jacob Zuma was the keynote speaker. We note with further consternation that the conference purports to ‘strengthen the ANC’s association with the interfaith movement’ and hailed President Zuma as ‘having worked hard to unite the religious people of SA’.

The WCRLF feels compelled to re-affirm one of its founding principles namely, that faith communities should strive to be an independent voice, free of government or party political interference. This is one of the most important lessons that we as religious leaders have learnt from the apartheid crime against humanity, when some churches became the racist National Party at prayer. In light of this tragic lesson, WCRLF has committed itself to resist the temptation of merely being apologists for the political authorities or of being co-opted by political parties to advance their own agendas. We do not need government to unite the religious communities of South Africa. The vital process of inter-religious dialogue and solidarity should and is being nurtured and promoted by the interfaith movement ourselves. The WCRLF and its partner organization the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative (CTII) have been contributing to reconciliation in modest ways by striving to overcome the stubborn racial, religious and class divides in the City of Cape Town for more than a decade. Neither the WCRLF nor the CTII were invited to attend the conference held in our city.

Furthermore, as religious leaders we have a prophetic role of being one of civil society’s strongest partners in holding our government accountable for its political and moral mandate. This is the only insurance for a robust democracy. In this regard WCRLF has recently joined a wide range of public intellectuals and social activists in expressing concern about the growing problem of corruption in public and private life. With half our population living in poverty and millions still without jobs, housing, electricity, adequate sanitation, and medical care the human cost of corruption is widely felt. We thus note with great distress and dismay that the 30 October 2012 conference, cost a reported R2.1 million! The WCRLF supports calls to fully investigate how the event and funding came about.

We call on religious leaders and communities to be vigilant about attempts by government and political parties to co-opt them and to continue their prophetic role of being the independent moral conscience of society alongside other civil society partners.

News from New Zealand - 6

Thursday 1 November - Today I presided at the daily Mass at the cathedral for the delegates and others who attend our services. All Saints day is special for many people. We remember Saints as those who have gone before us and are exemplar to our faith journey, the ‘cloud of all witnesses’ before and around us. We also acknowledge (reflecting the language of St Paul’s letters) our potential to be Saints for those who will come after us. It is always a joyous occasion for my family as our daughter was born on this day; and, if we are together with my wife's school (DSG, in Grahamstown), we always get to sing that great hymn ‘For all the saints, who from their labours rest …

The Saints trod this earth before they were recalled by our Maker. Today we had an excursion, and in the bus we were told the long account of the issues of the Maori land, and of the pain of dislocation caused by the wars which were fought in this land. Our destination, for which we set off after the holy mysteries, was Te Kingitanga, the Maori King Movement, and its head, the monarch, His Majesty Tuheitia and his wife. He occupies a modest piece of land and palace. He warmly received us, and fed us well. His staff was happy to know that there was a team from South Africa and requested that we have a picture with the King and his wife under a protea tree which was planted by President Mandela when he visited them. It was an honour to make another connection with this land, seeing a protea tree doing well in this climate. It was even more special because it was planted by Madiba, son of the African soil, who was so commited to global peace with justice. As he said, in the famous words of his defence statement at the Rivonia Trial, repeated on his release, ‘I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realised. But my Lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’ I was also reminded of other wise words of his, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ I felt that Madiba’s values held true, as I heard of the Maori quest for land reparation, and sensed the yearning in the voices of our guide on the bus, and of the King’s staff.

This context, together with our drive along the longest river in New Zealand, which also enabled us to see the mountains in all their spring beauty, set the scene well for our discussions this evening. We ended the day with a public forum on the environment, chaired by our beloved Archbishop of Canterbury. As chair of the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, I served on our panel, alongside Bishop Apimeleki Qiliho of Fiji, and Anglican Alliance director Sally Keeble We looked at the nexus of food, energy, water and environmental crises, and agreed that tackling this complex interplay of factors needs moral courage by all Christians. We heard stories from the Pacific, Africa and other parts of the globe, and affirmed that we have a biblical mandate to ensure justice in any structures and systems that threaten to destroy the planet, our home. Equally we agreed that this is a human matter and needs a human response. There are practical steps that we can take as individual and collectively. These included using our theological tools and biblical knowledge to open discussions on the issues of environmental crisis, informing ourselves, acting in a manner that is aware that our resources are not limitless, and ensuring ethical investment .

In May last year, on attending a World Economic Summit Africa meeting, I wrote an article entitled, ‘Climate change is a moral imperative for all’, which still remains relevant today. You can read at http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2011/05/climate-change-is-moral-imperative-for.html. We need both love and courage to advocate for good stewardship of our environment. Difficult question were raised tonight, such as why some are left so debilitatingly without water, food and energy whilst others have more than enough, and remain silent. What of the current world economic order as well as social order around our planet? We need clear, bold, and courageous voices that continue to speak up and speak out for the displaced, the poor and the hungry and also for creation.

Do surf the Anglican Communion Environment Network site for more information (http://acen.anglicancommunion.org/index.cfm). You might like to ask yourself, what are some of the environmental changes that are now evident on your context? What do you think ought to be done about these? May the cloud of witnesses that has gone before us join us as we seek peace with justice and harmony in this planet. May God grant the King justice and righteousness in all he does, and may indeed justice and peace kiss each other (Ps 85:10) as we faithfully restore our world back to God.

Finally, Happy Birthday to my daughter, Pabi who turned 13 today! Wow! May she and her children's children find a place to live and worship God, safely passed on from our generation.

Faith Leaders' Role in Shaping Perceptions, Addressing Poverty

Here are two recent opinion pieces, carried in The Star and The Sunday Independent.

Faith leaders can shape perceptions

The Star, October 24 2012 at 09:00am

For many countries, the need for nation branding on the world stage has become a major imperative in recent years. Whether stimulated by the need to pursue individual national objectives of trade and investment, or to support specific tourism promotion initiatives, positioning a country’s brand has never been more important.

With the backdrop of the recent events in Marikana that have projected our country in a bad light, it is crucial that all of us, including members and leaders of various faith persuasions, ask ourselves what role we are playing to position SA as a country which can still attract much needed investments from all over the world.

Positioning a country for investment purposes among others requires the active participation and support of all those decision-makers, opinion-formers and leaders in the country who are committed to spreading the positive word. This does not for a minute mean denial of the negative.

South Africa is a unique, progressive and caring nation that is open for business and ready to welcome the world to its shores. It needs consistent and constant messaging through a range of powerful global platforms, delivered by voices of authority, trust and knowledge, in order to reach the hearts and minds of those who need to change their perceptions.

In the world of global business, corporations would take the approach of focusing solely on their strengths to take attention away from any perceived weaknesses, however in the case of nation branding, a country brand is about positioning it in the best possible light while acknowledging that it has its own unique strengths and weaknesses. This is when unified voices of authority and trust come into their own when working to position SA’s nation brand on the global stage, and none more so than the voices of the country’s faith leaders.

There is a definitive role to be played by SA’s faith leaders in terms of contributing to the positioning of SA to the world and helping to shape perceptions of the country in the hearts and minds of diverse global audiences. Such a nation branding role would reflect the important and unique roles played by SA’s faith leaders in national life and also reflect a distinctly different perspective from the corporate or government voice in positioning the country on the global stage.

Faith leaders have the capacity to recognise the intrinsic, unique features of our country’s essential character and to differentiate it from every other country in the world. Through its rich traditions, the diversity of its people, its powerful history and heritage and its unique natural resources, SA has a unique story to tell.

Faith-based organisations and leaders have a powerful, non-partisan voice with which to convey good-news stories as well as bad news that have the capacity to express and amplify South Africa’s nation-brand in a non-commercial way, but focus on the planet and people. This in turn will dovetail with other complementary national branding initiatives seeking to percolate good-news stories.

Another important role to be played by SA’s faith leaders in positioning the country globally is to promote a spirit of inclusivity and openness between faith institutions and the international press and broadcast media. This will certainly improve relationships and the way that the country is portrayed in the global media environment. Faith leaders are well positioned to stimulate positive and meaningful dialogue in the media which support unifying nation brand themes and keep pushing country values that support South Africa’s strategic nation building position in the global marketplace.

The voices and messages of the country’s faith leaders ensure that accurate news and positive images of the country are proactively portrayed to enhance and support the overall national strategic positioning, while at the same time avoiding blatant distortions, manipulation or attempts to control press and media relationships, as in the fear of the secrecy bill.

Finally, faith leaders can assume an important ambassadorial role as that of enablers and facilitators. Through a process of advocacy and thought leadership, they can become a trusted and authoritative voice, spreading powerful news and messages about South Africa when travelling and participating in events across the world. They can shape more informed perceptions of the country on the part of overseas visitors and delegations of foreign faith leaders, providing accurate news, images and updates on new, progressive developments in the country. In turn, those visiting the country will take back to their own nations and peoples an informed perception of SA as a nation on the move in the global marketplace.

However, it must be recognised that with a more proactive role on the part of faith leaders in the positioning of South Africa, there comes social responsibility.

South Africa’s image in the global marketplace can also be negatively influenced by domestic issues and events that garner the wrong kind of global media and public attention, for example with the recent Marikana mine conflict.

This story was carried for many days around the world by a plethora of global media outlets, all reflecting poorly on South Africa’s image through their coverage of the tragic situation that unfolded. There was an opportunity missed by the country’s faith-based leaders, with the exception of a few from the SACC and other churches, to publicly show the world that they can play an active role in helping to reduce conflict and address the critical needs of society through a multicultural and interreligious approach that espouses religious tolerance and a shared concern for humanity.

Enlightened faith leaders and scholars of all faiths have a key role to play in situations such as the Marikana mine conflict.

Their advocacy and wisdom can influence political leaders and ordinary citizens alike. Their teaching and guidance can inspire people to new levels of responsibility, commitment and public service, and by their example, they can promote interfaith dialogue and bridge the chasms of ignorance and misunderstanding.

This is as much a factor in the process of successful nation building and the dispelling of uninformed perceptions of SA in the global marketplace, as any other marketing campaign or media exercise devised to encourage visitors and investment.
At the end of the day we have to answer the question on whether faith-based organisations have critically engaged with South Africa over the last 20 years to cement the fundamentals that can create sustainable stability necessary for investments to keep flowing, as well as flourishing, for the benefit of the poorest of the poor. Let’s play our part in holding up SA as a beacon of hope for the downtrodden all over the world.


Conditions for miners is sub-human

October 28 2012 at 02:37pm

One of the crucial issues facing SA is the dehumanising poverty levels of the majority of our population. Last week, as we marked World Poverty Day, the horrendous statistics of people living below the poverty line across the world were revealed. Closer to home, the last few weeks have put the mining sector in the spotlight and pointed to the fact that we, as a nation, must pay more attention to the critical question of economic redress as a precondition for fighting poverty.

The conditions of employment in the mining industry are in all honesty sub-human. In the wake of the Marikana tragedy, I was moved to write to the president to once again underline the question of urgent action to ensure that the underlying economic questions are addressed once and for all.

US president Franklin D Roosevelt, in his second inaugural address, said, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” This is the challenge that has been thrown up by the strikes that have afflicted that industry in particular, placing on the national discourse the morality of exorbitant bonuses for bosses and a pittance for workers who risk their lives every day to dig up the metals that are a source of riches for the few.

My heart is sore, and my spirit is grieving after visiting some of the mining areas, especially in the Northwest area. It felt as if the land was crying out to me, deep in my soul, saying, “All is not well, all is not well.” It felt like the calm before the storm, the eye of the hurricane. That part of North-West province teeters on a knife edge. The dire state of everything from living conditions to the issues in the mining community, stirred up revulsion inside me. This is the stuff from which revolution is far too easily made, if we allow it. Whether in the mines or anywhere else, living and working conditions that – 18 years after the coming of democracy – still deliver neither human dignity nor economic justice, have become a cancer spreading across our country.

Poverty and its consequences are clearly portrayed in scripture as evil. And this evil all too often arises from structural deficiencies rooted in moral failings. Of course, the problems can be complex. If there were simple, easy answers to poverty, to inequality, to unemployment, someone somewhere would have found them by now. This is why we need good research on strategies to overcome poverty and inequality. This is why we need comprehensive policy initiatives like the National Development Plan. But more important, we need a serious and urgent commitment to implement pledges that have been made since the dawn of the mining charter.

Those discussions recognised that the conditions under which mine workers worked were unacceptable. That situation still remains. We have not been true to the spirit of many of the policies passed in the past 18 years. Indeed the tragedy of Marikana did not come from nowhere. It came about because we have been content to let things slide. They have slid in policy-making and implementation; in attitudes that allow economic inequalities to grow; in acceptance of high and low-level corruption, and in ineffectual implementation of good governance and the rule of law. They have slid in the worsening trust between government and citizens, politicians and people.

In the midst of all this, trouble fermented in the mining sector in particular, and gave rise to the tragedy that shocked the whole world and cast all of us in a bad light. It is, as Mamphela Ramphele has said, above all a failure of leadership: in politics, but also in business, and in the cosy relationship they too often enjoy. Our leaders are the deaf, who cannot hear the loud cries of the hungry, the homeless, the needy, the oppressed. Our leaders are the blind, who cannot see what is right in front of their faces.

And what of the church? We must be doers of the word, not hearers only. We cannot remain silent. What we see and hear, we must speak out about. And so while there may be many other challenges that have led to this situation, it is important to speak quite clearly about the urgent need to fast-track transformation in the mining sector by asking a few difficult questions:
- Who is holding the mining sector accountable for the commitments they make to mining communities to plant back after they have extracted ore and profits from the mines? There is a moral imperative to ensure that if these commitments are not met there must be consequences.
- Who is holding industry accountable to ensure the mining sector transforms its ownership to reflect the demographics of our country? Neglect in this regard is responsible for the slowing down of change since the initial debates on our problems.
- Who is holding the worker organisations accountable for their role in the building of a suitable working environment and a collegial relationships between unions representing workers?
- Who is holding the government accountable for driving the transformation of this industry and monitoring commitments in line with various pieces of legislation.
- What is the role of traditional leaders, local government and civil society in mining communities in the face of what is clearly a stagnation in conversations?

It is clear from these questions that the recent developments in mining show us the huge gap that has been left to develop. Viewed differently these are questions which, when answered, can generate a sense of hope for what can be achieved. The inequality gap between the rich and poor – the worst in the world by all accounts – is clearly morally indefensible and economically unsustainable, if the downgrades by international agencies as well as the weakening rand are anything to go by.

Which means, as Roosevelt surmised, we will not succeed in engendering a sense of progress and hope until we provide for the poor and the downtrodden. We need to urge the social partners and government to start looking at what austerity measures are necessary across industries to once and for all focus on the big question of redress as a crucible of hope amidst all the despair that is the aftermath of Marikana.

My time in Marikana left me with the sense that this country is like a smouldering log that, left unattended, lies ready to ignite at the slightest wind. There is real urgency in these matters I am raising here. Yet I remain an optimist, for I have faith in the living God, whose word to us is peace and hope and new life. His gospel promises us a better future.

Therefore, this is not a message of doom – it is a call to wake up and act. All South Africans must rekindle the vision of a free, fair, just, South Africa which inspired the peaceful transition to democracy – and we must work and pray to bring it about. Never again must talk of “bloodbath” become a reality within our country. If we do the right things, hope is possible.

Makgoba is the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

The Sunday Independent


Wednesday 31 October 2012

News from New Zealand - 5

Wednesday 31 October - The breeze is chilly today, so it is just as well that I brought a pullover with me! We ended today’s business with a Festal choral evensong led by the cathedral choir. The lectionary readings included Ps 1:3 (see below) and Isaiah 40:31: those who wait upon the Lord will have their strength renewed, and they will rise up on eagle’s wings, they shall run and not grow weary …

These were encouraging readings, especially when read in conjunction with our Bible Study passage for the day, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18. In this we were encouraged to remember our sacred responsibility to take care to set aside any ‘veils’ or masks of what are, in truth, actually intellectual ineptness or cultural camouflage, which may make us impatient dissuaders instead of patient and generous persuaders . The Isaiah passage above and Psalm 1:3 – those who delight in and meditate on the law of the Lord ‘shall be like a tree planted by the waterside, that will bring forth its fruit in due season’ – summed up the day for me. It is the theme of faithfully waiting upon the Lord, faithfully connecting to the roots, the source, and so being nurtured by his love so that we can bear fruit in apt times.

This rhythm of Anglican spirituality is priceless! It encourages this waiting, this discerning and this ‘chewing the cud’ of our faith. Too often we become unreflective, and this rhythm and spirituality can be taken for granted in our busy world of checklists. So let me outline the day again, so you can see how its rhythm sustained and fed us: we shared together in fellowship at breakfast and in walking (or, today for some in the rain, driving!) to the cathedral where we broke bread together in the Eucharist; we then shared the Word together in bible studies, and then got into the days' hard work in our regional groups and in our reflection groups; and we ended up by sharing these reflections and discussing them in plenary , before then sharing in worship together at choral evening song, and finally eating dinner together.

In our work within the regional groups, we explored ways we could move ‘from words to action’ on the matter of violence and abuse in families. We asked ourselves, what preventative measures, protection and partnership are plausible within the SADCC region, and what might the Anglican Communion do to address abuse through partnering with other groups that are gospel-shaped. The emphasis here was to ‘be both hearers and doers of the Word’ as we strive to alleviate gender based violence and abuse in service to God in the world.

In our session on matters related to service to God within the church, we discussed The Anglican Covenant and received an update of how the different Provinces (ie Member Churches) of the Communion have handled the Covenant adoption process. We are also received reports and messages from our ecumenical partners and these were discussed in groups. Within our Province the long process towards the Anglican Covenant has been discussed at Synod of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee (see, for example, http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2010/09/statement-by-synod-of-bishops-of.html). The final text was formally adopted at our 2010 Provincial Synod, but this decision has to be ratified in 2013 for the adoption process to be completed (http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2010/10/southern-african-adopts-anglican.html).

There are concerns about The Anglican Covenant, but you know my take and the provincial position on it! I have written a couple of reflections on the Covenant, and articles in support of it, including a letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury and York. If you wish, you can read these on my blog at http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/01/necessary-covenant.html, http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/03/anglican-covenant-letter-to-archbishop.html, and http://archbishop.anglicanchurchsa.org/2012/04/alleluia-christ-is-risen-we-are-risen.html.

The Covenant is a relational and missional tool, that does not seek to be legislative nor blur Anglican polity. I am reminded of the Council of Nicaea, in AD325, which wrestled with putting a formula to articulate their faith and beliefs about what it meant for Jesus Christ to be the Son of God, and his relationship with God the Father. It may be that, in our debates around Anglican identity and the Covenant, we might be doing something much more profound than we realise. Therefore it is good that we should wrestle together, in the certainty that, as we wait upon the Lord and reflect on his Word to us, our strength shall be renewed and that we shall bear fruit in due season.

More news continues to reach us, including of the devastating effect of Hurricane Sandy in the Caribbean, with many deaths there also. My prayers go out to them too. And I also think of all people who are, in whatever way, going through ‘the storms of life’. Keep your focus on God and not life’s tempests, even as you deal with whatever your challenges are, and you too will be renewed like an eagle.