Tuesday 12 March 2013

Synod of Bishops' Statement

Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, March 2013

Jesus spoke to them saying: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

We, as the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, meeting at St Augustine’s, Modderpoort, in the Diocese of the Free State, from 5 to 8 March 2013, greet God’s beloved throughout the length and breadth of this our beautiful Province in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord!

As we gathered, our hearts were filled with gratitude for the many blessings that God bestows on us as a church.

We continue to celebrate the gift of two sister Bishops, Ellinah Wamukoya (Diocese of Swaziland) and Margaret Vertue (Diocese of False Bay), to the Church, as we meet at this historic Synod of Bishops, where we can be both sister and brother Bishops together.

We are also grateful to God for the growth that we, as the Church in this Province, are experiencing at present.

The Diocese of Niassa has borne witness to an amazing outpouring of God’s grace resulting in a process of spiritual and numerical growth that is nothing short of miraculous. In response to a proposal to multiply, the Synod of Bishops gave unanimous approval to the establishment of a new episcopal area and election of a Suffragan Bishop. The Archbishop has set the processes in motion for them to realise this dream.

We were pleased to hear from the Rector of the College of the Transfiguration, the Reverend Canon Professor Barney Pityana, of the positive developments at the College. We applaud the Rector, the Staff and the College Council for the progress that has been made with the accreditation of the academic programmes and registration of the College. We also express thanks to all who contributed generously for the refurbishment of the infrastructure.

The Provincial Standing Committee has declared 2013 a year of Theological Education in our Province. We support this initiative and call upon all Anglicans throughout the Province to make special monetary contributions to the College of the Transfiguration on Theological Education Sunday, which will be on 18 August 2013.

We commend and encourage those educators, officials and concerned citizens, at all levels of the educational system and society, who are working exceptionally hard to turn the situation around and who are doing their very best to ensure quality education for all. There is no doubt that education is a key sector for building the future. However, the state of the education system in South Africa continues to cause great concern and pain. We urge those whose task it is to shape, nurture and educate the next generation of leaders to take their task very seriously. We call for stern action to remedy the situation and for bold steps to be taken even if it requires the dismissal of those responsible for the situation and the replacement of incompetent officials.

We further support the Archbishop’s Education Initiative and commend Bishop Peter Lee, from the Diocese of Christ the King, who drives this process.

At the same time, our hearts are deeply troubled as we gather. Through our sharing and praying we have again become deeply aware of the hard realities of our varied contexts and of the cries of God’s people throughout the region.

We have noted with sadness the ever widening gap between the rich and the poor. Many of our people are trapped in the ever deepening spiral of abject poverty. We note the evidence for a close correlation between corruption and poverty. We, as a church, strongly condemn all forms of corruption, whether it is in the church or in civil society or in government or in business.

We call upon all of us to strive for a corruption free society and to challenge the governments and businesses in our region to do the same.

An area of particular concern is the escalating violence in South African society. It was particularly poignant that our discussions fell on International Women’s Day. The shocking fatal attack on the young woman Keamogetswe Sefularo at Mohlakeng which occurred during our meeting, as well as the brutal rape and murder of the young woman Anene Booysen at Bredasdorp, and also the violence displayed by the police towards a Mozambican national, Mido Macia, at Daveyton, who subsequently died, vividly highlights this crisis.

We condemn any form of violence, whether it is civil or state violence, domestic or public violence. We call upon all our people to strive for a violence-free society and, by so doing, to allow the light of Christ to permeate our society. We urge everyone, ‘Raise your voice! Stand up and be counted!’

We were moved by the homily of the Bishop of Khahlamba, at our Thursday Eucharist, on the inseparable link between the reform of liturgy and spiritual renewal. We, as Bishops, re-affirm our unqualified support for the initiative for the renewal of liturgy. There is a great sense of excitement as we embark on this process, as the Province, of revising the Anglican Prayer Book 1989. We realise that this will not be a hasty process, especially since we want to ensure that it will be a dynamic tool for mission and ministry, which will give expression to our distinctive identity and spirituality.

The problems experienced in the Dioceses of Pretoria and Umzimvubu presented us with particular challenges and we wish to assure our people in these Dioceses that we share their pain and have adopted strategies that, we hope, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit will lead to healing and wholeness in the Body of Christ. We implore you to pray for these pastoral interventions so that we may be whole, in answer to the prayer of our Lord Jesus, who prayed that we ‘may be one’ (Jn 17:11,21).

We acknowledge with gratitude the inauguration of the Canon Law Council of our Province, which was launched from 21 to 24 January 2013, in Grahamstown. We affirm the wide need for a better understanding of when and how to resort to canonically based action, while noting that Canon Law should be viewed as a good servant but poor master; for we also recall that Jesus, who came to fulfil the law, was against legalism, and that God’s people live under grace not law.

We give thanks for the fellowship in the gospel we share with our brothers and sisters around the Anglican Communion, particularly praying in joyful expectation for Archbishop Justin Welby and his family, as he prepares for his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury. We also gave thanks for the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, on which the Archbishop reported.

We pray that we as the Church will listen intelligently to what God is saying to us at this time; observe diligently the signs of God’s restorative grace that is breaking through in places where our people are struggling; teach faithfully what God commands us to do; and continue to be God’s Good-news people wherever we live and work.

With these concerns and words of encouragement, and always seeking to follow the light of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, we commend you to the grace of God.

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