Thursday 3 October 2013

Synod of Bishops' Statement - With Angels and Saints

Here is a media release following the meeting of the Synod of Bishops - the full Statement from the Synod of Bishops follows below.

Media Release: 1 October 2013

Statement from the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) this week committed themselves to support reconciliation and nation-building in Southern Sudan, approved an agreement with the South African National Defence Force, and expressed delight at the forthcoming visit of the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

Meeting on 30 September and 1 October at the Kopanong Conference centre in Benoni, Johannesburg, the 31 Bishops reflected on a wide range of subjects from the revision of the church’s prayer book through to next year’s South African elections, on which they called for tolerance and a rejection of political violence and inflammatory language.

The twice-yearly meeting welcomed as guest the Archbishop of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng Bul Yak, who briefed them on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan, and the South Sudan Committee for National Reconciliation which he chairs. He invited reflections on reconciliation processes within Southern Africa, and, accompanied by the Bishops of Natal and Johannesburg, held a fruitful meeting with former President Thabo Mbeki, the African Union Mediator between Sudan and South Sudan.

The Bishops discussed conflict in other parts of the world, including the recent terrorist attack in Nairobi in which James Thomas, a Cape Town church warden, was killed, and what seems to be a growing trend of violence against Christians around the world.

Closer to home, they affirmed an agreement with the SANDF on the appointment and deployment of military chaplains, after several years of negotiation.

On church affairs, the Bishops agreed to an assistant bishop in the Diocese of Niassa in northern Mozambique in response to strong church growth, and took decisions on problematic issues within the Dioceses of Pretoria and Umzimvubu. Provisional accreditation of courses at the church’s seminary, the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown was welcomed.

They also warmly welcomed the announcement that the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, with his wife, will attend their second ‘Anglicans Ablaze’ conference in July 2014.

Speaking after the meeting, the Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, said ‘this was a very encouraging time. Within a deeply prayerful context, we tackled a very broad agenda, from church governance through to global faith and political issues. In a short time we made significant progress on a number of matters. God is God of the whole world – and he will guide us in our calling to lead his people in every walk of life, and follow the example of all the saints who have gone before us.’

Note for editors: The Anglican Church of Southern Africa comprises Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and the island of St Helena.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Kelderman, 021 763 1320 (office hours)
The Revd Canon Dr Sarah Rowland Jones, 082 856 2082 (during ACSA’s Provincial Synod – to 4 October)

The full text of the Synod of Bishops’ Statement follows below:

"With Angels and Saints…"

The Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) met in Synod at the Kopanong Hotel and Conference Centre in Benoni from 30 September to 1 October 2013. We enjoyed strong fellowship and also wrestled with some deep and challenging issues.

As always our time was spent in an alternating rhythm of worship (both the Eucharist and Daily Offices) and work, with each informing and being informed by the other. In his sermon during the opening Eucharist, the Bishop of the Highveld reminded us of the broader context, the spiritual dimension of our life, mission and ministry. We join the angels and saints in proclaiming God’s praises – we are aware of their support and the power of the Holy Spirit in everything we do. The angels announced the birth of Jesus our Lord and Saviour when he came to us in weakness and vulnerability. Jesus also calls us to stand with those who are considered weak or unimportant.

In his address to us on our second morning, the Bishop of Matlosane reminded us that God is the ultimate judge, although he does not always act when or how we want him to! God calls us to be ministers of forgiveness and reconciliation instead of judgement and revenge. We must work for justice and peace and be magnanimous in our treatment of others at all times.

In this light we addressed a wide range of subjects. With joy in our hearts we considered areas of growth and fresh life among God’s people in our own church, with our ecumenical partners and in the global church. And we also reflected in sorrow on areas of conflict and violence at home and around the world. We were enriched by the presence of the Archbishop of Sudan, and above all we gave thanks for the God who is faithful, and who guides and leads us in the ways of justice and truth.

The Life of our Church

We welcomed three Bishops who were attending their first Synod of Bishops since their consecrations: Bishops Richard Fenwick (St Helena), Dintoe Letloelyane (Free State) and Stephen Moreo (Johannesburg).

The Synod of Bishops affirmed and endorsed plans to hold a second ‘Anglicans Ablaze’ Conference in Johannesburg from 2 to 5 July 2014. The first conference in 2012, the largest of its kind, attracted about 1400 Anglicans of all races, ages, theological persuasions and preferences. We expect more than 3000 people in 2014, and were delighted to hear that Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has accepted our invitation to visit Southern Africa and address the conference. During this time he and his wife Caroline will also meet with ACSA Bishops and their spouses.

Another encouraging development was that the Diocese of Niassa in Northern Mozambique was given the go-ahead to elect a Suffragan Bishop for the Area of Lúrio and Zambézia. This is necessary because of the rapid growth of the church in that area and the vast distances involved.

We addressed with rigour and love the situations of conflict in the Dioceses of Umzimvubu and Pretoria and took firm decisions about the way forward in each case.

We received with joy the report of the Liturgical Committee that the process of Revising the Anglican Prayer Book, to which we agreed in February this year, has begun. This is a mammoth undertaking and the first phase is expected to take about three years.

Theological Education

We were encouraged by the report from the College of the Transfiguration (COTT) in Grahamstown, which has received Provisional Accreditation at Diploma and BTh level from the Higher Education Quality Committee. The process of registration with the Department of Higher Education and Training as a site of higher education is underway. We also approved the proposal to develop a School of Ministry for distance Theological Education. Noting the number of students who will be graduating from COTT at the end of 2013, Bishops were encouraged to send new students at the beginning of 2014. We also gave thanks for the excellent Colloquium in Theological Education held at COTT in August.

We also noted positive developments in the Theological Education by Extension College (TEEC) where over 600 Anglicans are registered at present. Although the College has a new structure as a Non Profit Company, it continues to exist to serve its Supporting Churches. With this in mind a new Memorandum of Understanding between ACSA and TEEC was accepted and signed.

Our World-wide Anglican Family

The Synod of Bishops took note of plans to hold a second Global Anglican Futures Conference (GAFCON) in Nairobi later this month. We agreed that Bishops are free to attend if they feel so called.

We also noted with joy that Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has been elected an alternate member of the Crown Nominations Commission (CNC) – the body that leads the process of selecting the Archbishop of Canterbury when that position becomes vacant.

Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ – our Ecumenical Partnerships

The Synod of Bishops received a full report on recent progress in the Church Unity Commission (CUC). Although the emphases have changed since the establishment of the CUC over 40 years ago, our commitment to finding unity in our diversity remains strong.

We were delighted to learn that Archbishop Thabo will be moderating the Plenary Group on Global Peace at the World Council of Churches gathering in Korea between 29 October and 7 November 2013. Other Southern African participants will be Bishop Johannes Seoka (Diocese of Pretoria and President of the South African Council of Churches) and Fr Michael Lapsley, as well as Ms Louisa Mojela, our Anglican Consultative Council lay representative.

Southern Africa and the World

We welcomed among us Archbishop Dr Daniel Deng Bul Yak of the Province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan. He shared the challenges facing the two countries of Sudan and Southern Sudan, which are recovering after war. Many tensions still exist, for example between cultures and religions. Archbishop Daniel was concerned about the on-going danger of war breaking out, especially where there are border disputes and clashes in oil-rich areas. He spoke of the need to rebuild the economy and infrastructure, particularly in the South – with special reference to health, education and agriculture.

During his time in South Africa, Archbishop Daniel and his delegation explored ways of dealing with their issues of healing, peace and reconciliation. They made contact with the Institute of Peace and Justice, and with Fr Michael Lapsley and the Institute for the Healing of Memories. Together with the Dean of the Province Bishop Rubin Phillip, the Bishop of Johannesburg and the Provincial Executive Officer, Archbishop Daniel also had a fruitful meeting with former President Thabo Mbeki, who is the African Union Mediator between Sudan and South Sudan.

More broadly, the Synod of Bishops reflected on many parts of the world which are suffering from violence and conflict. We grieved the death of James Thomas in the Nairobi Mall attack of 21 September and prayed especially for his wife Colleen and their family. James was Churchwarden of St Peter’s Church in Mowbray, and was due to represent the Diocese of Cape Town at our Provincial Synod this week. We reflected on the conflicts in Syria and Egypt among others; and noted what seems to be a trend of increasing violence directed against Christians, for example, in Nigeria and Peshawar in Pakistan.

In the Southern African context we call upon our leaders and people to act responsibly and with magnanimity as South Africa approaches national elections next year. We call on all our people to reject all forms of political violence and to avoid making reckless or inflammatory statements.

After several years of negotiation, the Synod of Bishops approved an agreement between ACSA and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) which governs the appointment and deployment of Anglican Chaplains in the SANDF.


Giving thanks for all that God has done, is doing and will continue to do, we join the angels and saints in singing:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:12-13)