Wednesday 25 December 2013

[UPDATED] Sermon at Midnight Mass, George's Cathedral, Cape Town, December 25, 2013

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

May I speak in the name of God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of endless Peace, whose authority grows continually in His world! Amen.

What a joy and privilege it is to be here and share this Christmas Eve service with you all! Thanks to the Dean and his staff, all who make our fellowship and worship in this Cathedral Church such a great occasion for peace and joy! Congratulations too, Mr Dean and Bonita, on your 29th wedding anniversary.

We join you in thanking God for the gift and sacrament of marriage and of family life, all the more so today, for tonight we ponder on the news of the holy family starting their family life with a child born in a manger.

Wow, what an end to the year – especially with regard to the passing on of Madiba our icon. Let us be silent for a while as we further acknowledge the 9th day since his burial in Qunu and especially as we lift Ma Graca Machel and Madiba’s broader family in our prayers. [Silence]

Let me continue, for in the midst of death we have life in Jesus Christ our Lord and believe that both the living and the dead are in his hands, and are comforted with these words.

So, a happy and blessed Christmas to all of you who are present in this service, for you too are part of the broader family of God through the birth of Jesus Christ, which we are celebrating tonight. To our regular cathedral family members – even if for some, “regular” means attending midnight Mass regularly every year – welcome, we appreciate your presence tonight.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord Rowan Williams, used to tell a story which I am paraphrasing – and which my wife says I have told you too many times. Rowan would say, if someone rushed hurriedly into this cathedral, and yelled “Shut the door, run for cover, or dash out," very few would remain seated.

Today’s Gospel passage speaks into this situation, to our fear of the unknown, or a fear of the known which we have kept closely guarded. The Lucan gospel announces boldly tonight: "Do not be afraid."

In modern IT language - which of course is not apt theological language, but as an archbishop in a family raising two teenagers at the moment, I can use colloquial language - God is declaring, through his billboard, or his App, for the the whole world to see and hear, "I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people” – not just some people.

God declares, in the company of his heavenly host that he has seen in our world religion being politicised and the persecution of Christians globally escalated;

He has smelt the rot and pain of inequality in our midst and the resultant humiliation and exclusion of many from the economic order in his world of plenty;

God declares that he has sensed our anxiety and fear, our shame and disgrace when we cannot afford a maternity ward and have to give birth in a shack or a taxi after being sent off home from a local clinic;

God puts his feelings on his sleeve and opens up his heart, and his heart is as heavy and broken as are ours by our personal struggles and the global systemic problems of this mortal life. God sends us his heavenly host to call us back from our straying away from what creation was intended to be; to unveil a road back home.

Throughout our lessons, the consistent theme for today is: I am intervening, I am not an aloof God who is untouchable, distant and unresponsive to your longing.

As the Psalmist says elsewhere in the Bible, God says to us, "I will unloose your bonds." Today's passage from Isaiah puts this declaration succinctly, God declares: I will break the bar across your shoulder, lift your burdens and cast off darkness and fear and illumine you with Christ our light!

Christmas can thus be understood as the birth of good news. It is appropriately celebrated when we proclaim, in words and action, this good news, that God who is love, has pitched his shack in our midst for all people and his creation.

God loved us so much that his son, Jesus Christ, is born of human flesh and blood and encounters the joys and also the angst of human life.

In entering this world of time and space, he holds before us a mirror so that we catch a glimpse of both the divine and a true and full humanity. His birth as one of us transforms and offers us an opportunity to be moulded into the image of his holiness.

That is why we have reason to celebrate this day, this good news, even if life has dealt us a blow in one way or the other in human terms.

God, in this birth that we are celebrating tonight, declares that we can never be alone in our anguish or want, nor will we be left to our own devices, to discriminate against or to lord over the other, until we are wiped off the face of this earth. He is Emmanuel. He is with us. He is the one to whom we sing throughout Advent, “O come, o come Emmanuel!” and frees us from all that keeps us in captivity. In Christmas it is as if he says, "I am he! I am cometh!"

How should we respond to this Revelation, to this good news? Luke's passage from today gives us a way: the heavenly host responded to the news by breaking into worship and praise, saying (Luke 2:12 ff), “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!" The shepherds too in (Luke 2:20) “returned, glorifying and praising God..."

Our faith response to this good news of great joy should thus be to worship God, as we are doing right now, with awe, joy and reverence. In fact our ACSA vision statement has as one of its priorities “transformative worship”.

Yes, our faith response should be to worship God and use liturgies, hymns and prayers that transcend our everyday-ness into a realm in which God in Jesus Christ, through the quiet whisper of the Holy Spirit, reigns and utters the words, “Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of your liberation.”

The shepherds in our Gospel passage (Luke 2:17), we are told, "Made known (proclaimed) what they had been told and seen, about this child.”

We too are urged to proclaim anew and afresh, in our time and context for all to hear, this good news, this loving and saving act of God in Jesus Christ. This good news cannot be for private consumption only. We need to go out and tell, as we sing occasionally in this cathedral at the top of our voices, the good news that God's kingdom has come!!!

So first, let us in unison create melody as we sing to God, joining the beautiful voices of our choir and the organ accompaniment - as well as those who have worshipped here and are now at rest, and indeed the heavenly host, angels and shepherds - in thanksgiving and praise.

We cannot end here in this safe worship space, we can always start here, old or young, healthy or sickly, poor or rich, and by word as in the letter to Titus, we should also clothe ourselves with all that is more loving and peace-giving towards humanity and the whole of creation. We should, as I have said in the secular media, "peel off those scales in our lives that are old, cynical, tired and negative," and even fearful, and be ready to be light-bearers in God's broken but hopeful world.

In our Gospel reading tonight, the shepherds never sought permission from Emperor Augustus or Governor Quirinius to tell the good news, nor should we in times such as these. The shepherds became new persons, transformed and touched by the news and sight of Jesus Christ.

We too are constantly touched by the mystery of his birth each time we eat his bread and drink his cup until he manifests himself again. So like the shepherds, let this transformative encounter with Jesus Christ in Word, Worship and Sacrament, "compel you to go out and tell the good news."

Go and proclaim the demands for peace with justice and uphold these demands in your lives and community; go and proclaim in loving service the demands for equality, fairness and dignity for all, where the “emperors and governors” in church or state, in business or labour, are corrupt and abusing their power instead of serving God in his people.

As those whose plight God has seen and heard, and also as those fed by the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour, as those who are hearers of the good news tonight, and as those who are empowered for witness and service, we are sent to go and ask God's transformative questions and demand answers for God's sake in his created world.

What shall we ask?

Ask, who is benefitting from the new conflict in South Sudan, from the discord in the Central African Republic, from the killings of Syria, the bombings in Egypt, the xenophobic violence inflicted on economic refugees in our country and continent?

Ask deeper and piercing questions, without fear: about the extent and level of poverty, militarisation and corruption – for when you encounter Jesus Christ, the Comforter, Prince of Peace, the liberator who transforms us, you can never be superficial, nor be the same again.

My message to you is our gift on this special birthday, that we are all being sent to go out then and plead for the cause of the poor, of those without proper sanitation, of those learning in mud schools, the cause of the abused and those affected and infected by HIV and AIDS; for those suffering the pain and humiliation of economic inequality, or those exploited by economic practices. We have to ask, who are the investors and shareholders in exploitative companies, especially in the extractive industries, following the Marikana massacre?

Do not be afraid, for the zeal of the Lord will do this. Good news indeed! You are not alone and so go out, proclaim this celebration of God's utter and unreserved self-giving, the divine Word, mysteriously both human and divine, as the Word transforms your fears and makes you ready to be his salt and light in the here and now.

This birthday gift is a God who transforms us by his presence in our midst and calls us to imitate his holiness.

So let me end by going back to where I started:

Do not be afraid, for the zeal of the Lord will do this; it will enable you to speak for those like the holy family upon whom we are pondering tonight; for those who have no homes, those whose tin and plastic shacks have burnt down today in Valhalla Park, Cape Town, or those who have failed to pay their mortgage instalments and whose only homes the banks have repossessed.

May renewed courage be your gift and special grace this Christmas.

May you yearn earnestly for justice and peace, holiness of life and joy, as you bring his light to this created world.

Finally, may His conception, birth, life, teaching, passion, death, resurrection and ascension transform you and us this day and for evermore.


+Thabo Cape Town

This text has been updated since first published to reflect the sermon as preached, with minor changes for readability in written form.

Monday 23 December 2013

Anglicans in Southern Africa Express Concern at Civil Strife in South Sudan

A letter to the Most Revd Daniel Deng Bul, Archbishop of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan:

My dear Archbishop Deng

I have read with a heavy heart the news of the outbreaks of fighting in your dearly beloved country, the newest country in the world, and of the appalling loss of life among your people.

It is only recently at our synods that you addressed the people of Southern Africa within the Anglican family and those gathered at my home in Bishopscourt, warning us of the possibility of looming conflict. You urged us to pray and to use whatever diplomatic means we have to ensure peace prevails in your country. You invited us to join the retreat for your peace and reconciliation team, but unfortunately we could not attend. Our Province took a synodical resolution to work with your Province and this we are committed to.

I write today, the Sunday before Christmas, to wish you God's strength and to encourage you as you lead your people at this time, and also to assure you of our prayers for an end to this new conflict. We know too well in South Africa that when conflict assumes ethnic dimensions, it takes on the nature of a ticking bomb which, if it explodes, can wipe huge numbers of God's people off the face of the earth. We have seen ethnic conflict descend into genocide south of your country, where our colleague, Bernard, in Burundi has had to minister in similar situations. We hope that after years of war, your country and people will step back from the brink at this time, mindful of the immense suffering that war has already wrought over the last half century.

We pray for a quick and permanent ceasefire, and that South Sudan will be given an opportunity to grow and to use its God-given oil and other resources for the common good, and not for the benefit of those in power as they seek to manipulate others for their own gain.

May the joy and certainty offered to us at Christmas by the advent of the Prince of Peace surround you and your people even as we strive for an end to war and conflict.

God bless you and your people

+Thabo Cape Town

Photo: Displaced people in the grounds of the Episcopal Cathedral in Juba, South Sudan. (Andrew Green/IRIN)

Friday 20 December 2013

‘Ad Laos’ – To the People of God - December 2013

My dear People of God

A blessed and joyful Christmas to you all! I am writing this letter in Advent, mindful that most of you will read it now, some of you around Christmas and some, perhaps, after Epiphany. My message will attempt to straddle these seasons in our church’s calendar.

Advent and Christmas, and Epiphany to some extent, are opportune times to look back, and also to look forward – to Christ’s first coming, as a precious and vulnerable baby, and to his coming again, as saviour and liberator, when God’s glory shall be manifested and all his purposes fulfilled.

Of course, there is the “here and now”, coupled with looking back and looking forward in order to complete the “gestalt”. How are we then to respond to Emmanuel – God with us (now), to God’s gift of himself in our earthly pilgrimage?

The celebration of Christmas offers part of an answer to his holy longing – for Christmas is not about wasteful consumerism. It is an echoing of God’s declaration that he loves us so much, our fallibility, warts and all, that he willingly sacrifices himself for us; he forgives our failings, heals our despairing souls, comforts us in our grief, and ushers fresh hope, Jesus Christ, the hope of Glory (Col 1:27).

Christmas then is God’s billboard that declares that we are never alone – God in Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit knows what it is to be human, to laugh, to dream, to hurt, to be disappointed, to be betrayed, to be tended to, to be scolded by parents and even to face murder. God the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us and helps us grow in faith, love and peace. Past every milestone until we find rest in our heavenly home, he carries us in the palm of his hand.

As we ponder on the mystery of this vulnerable Christ-child, the incarnate Son of God, let our hearts be touched and transformed by the love of children, and also by the plight of those who suffer: women in abusive relationships, those who suffer as a result of xenophobia and those who are refugees because of war. Let our love and our deep yearning for peace, especially for those in Syria and South Sudan, lead us to commit to action to do all that we can to bring an end to militarisation.

I want to thank God for the outpouring of love and condolences from across our Anglican Communion after the death of Nelson Mandela. I was humbled to receive messages of love and support from the Archbishop of Canterbury, individual parishioners, many bishops and primates from around the Anglican Communion. Your love, prayers and messages of support showed how caring we as Anglicans are and that when one is ailing, we all feel the pain together. Thank you on behalf of ACSA and the Mandela family. (See on my blog the prayers that I shared with the nation and at the Valedictory Service that I led with his family in Mr Mandela’s home just before the public funeral service.)

Looking forward, I commend the Lenten Bible Studies produced by Prof Gerald West, which will be posted both on our Province’s website and on my blog. It is my hope that every diocese and parish will use these Bible studies in 2014, allowing God to speak to us afresh as a Province through these scriptures.

Congratulations to Prof Barney Pityana and the staff and Council of the College of the Transfiguration (Cott) for successfully registering Cott as a Private Higher Education Institution in terms of South Africa’s Higher Education Act of 1997, and for the accreditation of its Diploma in Theology. This is the greatest good news of my archiepiscopacy so far, for which I give thanks to God.

As we ponder this Christmas on the awesome and precious gift of God himself, may the love of God overflow in you and in all those you love; may this love transform all that is unloving in us, in our community and the world over – even as we bring God’s peace to reign in all.

May you have a blessed Christmas as you also find your deepest wants and needs are met in Jesus Christ, whose birth we celebrate.

Yours in the service of Christ,

+Thabo Cape Town

Lenten Bible Studies for 2014 - by Professor Gerald West

In my Ad Laos for December, I commend the Lenten Bible Studies produced by Professor Gerald West to every diocese and parish for Lent 2014.

I hope they will allow God to speak to us afresh as a Province through these scriptures.

Our Provincial Synod 2010 approved the Vision, Mission and Priorites which are the focus of the studies, and Synod 2013 further endorsed them.

A Vision and Mission for our Church
A Bible Study series for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA)
Compiled and facilitated by Prof Gerald West
shaped by the Bible Study Group of
the Cathedral of the Holy Nativity, Pietermaritzburg

If you have any difficulty downloading this PDF document from Google Docs, it will also be posted on the Province's website.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Valedictory Service for President Mandela at Qunu Homestead

The following is the liturgy used by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba at Madiba's home for a service conducted before his remains were handed over to the military for the public funeral at Qunu on Sunday December 15, 2013.


The steadfast love of The Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end,
They are new every morning.

The Kyrie (isiXhosa)

Nkosi, senzele inceba.
Kristu, senzele inceba.
Nkosi, senzele inceba.

The Lord's Prayer

Collect for the Day

Almighty God, neither death, nor life can separate us from your love: with the whole company of the redeemed is heaven and earth; we praise and magnify your glorious Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God, blessed for ever.

Matthew 5: 3-10

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be children of God
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven


Madiba is dead.

Bathembu, Mr President and Deputy and all gathered in this centre of Madiba's home, the Gospel passage we have just heard assures us that “you are there” when you mourn, for God will comfort you. So I ask God's comfort and strength upon you all as you grieve the death of Madiba even as we gather for this family valedictory service to celebrate this remarkable man.

Many profound tributes have been paid to this outstanding man, who dedicated his life to the service of humanity, the cause of justice and care of creation.

Using today's gospel passage, he thirsted and hungered for righteousness and he is now fulfilled.

BaThembu, Masimkhulule, (Let us release him) to the merciful keeping of God – let us forgive each other where we have erred, or where the nation and world have erred.

Masimkhulule, by pursuing all that makes for peace. Let us never forget the price that he and his friends paid for peace and to get South Africa and the world to be where we are.

He remains a symbol of blessedness, hope, peace, admiration, wisdom, love and goodness. How do we or will we measure up to these qualities?

Ma Graca, Bathembu and all gathered here, may God fill you with his warmth and consolation, may he hold you together and sow love in you. May he strengthen you to grieve and mourn Madiba.

God bless you Ma Machel, Ma Winnie and all gathered here as we move to the final service for Madiba's burial. God bless South Africa and Africa. Amen.


Let us now pray before the military takes over.

We give thanks for those who nurtured Madiba, including his father, his mother, the people of Mvezo, and the people of this community of Qunu, including the boys and girls with whom he ran through this beautiful countryside;

We give thanks for those who helped form him in his early days in Johannesburg, for his mentor, Walter Sisulu, and Albertina, for OR Tambo and Adelaide, for the attorneys who gave him his first job in the law, and those who studied with him, such as George Bizos, going on to become lifelong friends.

We give thanks for those, not all of whom shared his politics, who supported him and the cause of liberation while he was on trial and then incarcerated on Robben Island and in Pollsmoor.

The list, Lord, is too long to name all the names, but in a representative capacity we give thanks for:

• The chaplains from the churches who visited him and those with him in prison,

• The chaplains and clergy present here and not who prayed for the family and Madiba throughout his life,

• The lawyers, such as Arthur Chaskalson, Issy Maisels and Duma Nokwe, who defended the leaders of his generation,

• Those such as Helen Suzman and Jacques Moreillon of the International Committee of the Red Cross,who campaigned to ameliorate conditions for him and his fellow prisoners,

• The artists, such as Nadine Gordimer, Hugh Masekela, Caiphas Simenya, Letta Mbulu, Jonas Gwangwa and others, who used their international reputations to support him and our struggle,

• The church leaders who held the torch high while our leaders were imprisoned; people such as Trevor Huddleston, Beyers Naude, Stanley Mogoba and Archbishop Desmond Tutu,

• His friends from the Rivonia trial to his last days, such as Ahmed Kathrada, Andrew Mlangeni and Denis Goldberg,

• For those who cared for him in his last years: the medical professionals, the bodyguards, the drivers, the household staff and the staff of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, from Jakes Gerwel to his dedicated assistant Zelda le Grange;

• Those in the planning committee for this mourning and funeral service, family members, government and others unknown to us, you know them, Lord.

• For all the members of his family, who loved and cared for him, for his spouses, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren: for his first wife, Evelyn; for Winnie - whose defiance constituted an anti-apartheid struggle all of its own; and for Graca, who brought him happiness in his last years and kept faithful vigil to the end.


O lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen,
And the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over,
And our work is done.
Then, Lord, in your mercy grant us safe lodging, a holy rest,
And peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

We now hand over to the military, Bathembu, in the peace of Christ.


Friday 13 December 2013

Prayer at the Memorial Service for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, Johannesburg, 10 December 2013

Let us pray.


Are rapeleng.

Laat ons bid.

Creator God, Lord of Life and Love

You hold the whole universe in your hands and

Yet you also number the hairs on all our heads

You know the fates of the nations, and

The hopes and fears of each individual.

On this day of Madiba’s memorial service

We pray for the peace of the world –

for peace without and for peace within.

Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace,

May your Shalom touch every place of conflict, division, brokenness or fear,

May it fill our communities, families and lives.

From the horrors and turmoil of nations in conflict,

to the fractured relationships and

violence of too many homes, bring your reconciling love.

We pray for South Africa in particular on this Memorial Day.

Help us to draw on the best lessons of our past and

build on the firm foundations, that by your grace, Madiba laid for us.

Give us courage to hold fast to his values, to follow the example of his praxis and to share them with the world.

We lift our hearts, with gratitude for your loving care that you have called Madiba home, to his eternal post, where pain and suffering are no more.

We commend his soul to your merciful keeping and his family to your continuous love,

As we pray:

Go forth, revolutionary and loving soul, on your journey out of this world, in the name of God, who created you, suffered with you and liberated you.

Go home Madiba, you have selflessly done all that is good, noble and honourable for God’s people.

We will continue where you have left off, the Lord being our helper.

We now turn to you, Lord, in this hour of darkness, sadness, pain and death, in tears and mourning,

We wail, yet we believe that you will console us, that you will give us the strength to hold in our hearts and minds, and the courage to enact in our lives, the values Madiba fought and stood for.

We turn to you, Lord, and entrust Madiba‘s soul to your eternal rest and loving arms as he re-joins the Madiba clan, his comrades and all the faithful departed.

We pray particularly for his closest and dearest, for Ma Graça Machel, for his children, grandchildren and all his relatives; may you surround them with your loving arms, your fatherly embrace and comfort.

At this dark time of mourning, at this perfect time when you have called him to rest and a perfect end, accept his soul and number him among the company of the redeemed in Heaven.

Console and comfort his family, South Africa, Africa and the world.

May his long walk to freedom be enjoyed and realised in our time by all of us.



+Thabo Cape Town

Sunday 8 December 2013

Celebrating Madiba’s legacy and its lasting impact around the globe

An excerpt from a homily delivered by the Most Revd. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, at Holy Cross Church, Nyanga, Cape Town on the Day of Prayer and Reflection for Nelson Mandela on Sunday the 8th December 2013.

On the international stage, the name Nelson Mandela is synonymous with the universal struggle for human rights, freedom and the fight for democracy, issues that resonate just as strongly today as they did when he himself walked free from prison 23 years ago. Today, this Nobel Peace laureate is revered around the world as an inspirational symbol of peace and forgiveness. He acts as a powerful and continuing reminder that individuals do have the power to make change happen in the world, no matter how mighty the obstacles might be. The vision of hope I am talking about from the Romans and Isaiah’s passage read today.

So, how do we celebrate Madiba’s lasting legacy to the world? To some, he is one of the world’s most revered statesmen, who has inspired generations of global citizens through his leadership in the struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy. This legacy will undoubtedly be one of continuing inspiration. To many, Nelson Mandela is regarded as the greatest statesman in the world. His political leadership steered South Africa through the most difficult time in its history, all the while never succumbing to political pressure, never compromising his ideals or principles, and never pandering to the world’s media. He will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest leaders because of the impact he had, not just on the lives of South Africans, but on the lives of countless people around the world; he has made an irreversible difference to the global fight for democracy and human rights – or put differently the values of the Kingdom or radical hospitality that today’s bible lessons say we must usher in during our time, in the likeness of Christ for God’s glory and for the good of his people and creation.

Since leaving public office, Nelson Mandela has continued to be an inspirational advocate and champion for peace and social justice, both in South Africa and around the world, inspiring change where conflict and human rights abuses still exist. His establishment of highly respected and influential organizations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Elders, an independent group of public figures committed to addressing global problems and easing human suffering, continue to make a difference. Perhaps one of his greatest legacies to both South Africa and the world is his vocal advocacy of AIDS awareness. As far back as 2002, Mandela became a highly vocal campaigner for AIDS awareness and treatment programmes in the country, confronting a culture where the epidemic had for many years been fuelled by a combination of stigma and ignorance. On a personal level, the impact of HIV/Aids was deeply felt as the disease later claimed the life of his son Makgatho in 2005, just as it did the lives of thousands of South African citizens during that period. His inspirational and passionate voice on the subject of AIDS awareness, contributed to the change in attitudes and behaviours being experienced today in the country as South Africa sets its sights on working for an AIDS-free generation.

Over the years, Nelson Mandela’s contribution to the betterment of the world and humanity as a whole has been recognised through the highest accolades, awards and recognition being bestowed upon him, the legacy of which continues today. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of his country and his people, sharing the 1993 prize with F.W. de Klerk, the last president of the apartheid era who worked with Mandela to end the scourge of apartheid. He was the recipient of the prestigious U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of Canada, becoming the first living person to be made an honorary Canadian citizen. Nelson Mandela is also the last person to have been awarded the rare Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union, and the Bailiff Grand Cross of the Order of St. John and the Order of Merit, awarded to him by Britain’s Elizabeth II. There are many more prestigious awards that would take too much to mention during this service – we are grateful to God that the human family saw it fit to these honours bestow upon this son of our soil, Madiba.

Perhaps his greatest legacy can be summed up as the continual inspiration he has provided – as the one leader who has worked tirelessly to make change happen by appealing to people’s common humanity, and by leading by example – to many other leaders around the world who are still trying to achieve such change in their own political and social environments. Past US President, Bill Clinton, has said of the impact Madiba has had on him personally over the years: “More than any human being, Madiba has been the great inspiration for the life I lead and the work I do, especially in the area of HIV/AIDS... In return for everything Madiba has taught us, we each owe it to him to support his work and legacy by doing and living our own as best we can... throughout our entire lives."

The current US President, Barack Obama, recognises the impact that Nelson Mandela has had on the world, calling him as an inspiration who has given everything to his people. Speaking on Nelson Mandela International Day on 18 July last year, he said: “Madiba continues to be a beacon for the global community, and for all who work for democracy, justice and reconciliation. On behalf of the people of the United States, we congratulate Nelson Mandela, and honor his vision for a better world”.

Ultimately, Mandela’s legacy exemplifies wisdom, strength and grace in the face of adversity and great challenge, and demonstrates to all citizens of the world that there is a viable path to follow towards achieving justice, reconciliation and democracy, and that change can happen through individual and collective acts of service. Through his example, he has set the standard for service to country and mankind worldwide, whether we are individual citizens, cabinet ministers or presidents, and continues to call on us all to better serve our fellow human beings and contribute to the betterment of our communities.

Today, Madiba is thought of as Father or Tata to all South Africans but, to the rest of the world, he is undoubtedly thought of as one of the outstanding heroes of the last century, alongside other inspirational global leaders such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. Each of these individuals was committed to the global struggle for human dignity, equality and democracy, and Madiba still remains a beacon of hope and an inspiration for those around the world who are still fighting for their freedom and for justice. As we look back and learn from Nelson Mandela’s own long walk to freedom and reflect on his life-long dedication to instilling the values of Ubuntu, integrity and learning, his legacy is an inspiring one. It will continue to inspire generations of people to come who themselves want to change the world and make it a better place in which all citizens can live and thrive.

May Madiba’s soul rest in peace. May his nearest and dearest be comforted and consoled and may we continue where he has left, the LORD being our helper.

And may this account of this fallible one man, not a saint but a hopeful and whole person, loving person and dare I say a holy man, inspire us to serve God in others and God’s creation till we too are called to God’s rest and are given a perfect end.

Friday 6 December 2013

A Prayer for Madiba

Go forth, revolutionary and loving soul, on your journey out of this world, in the name of God, who created you, suffered with you and liberated you.

Go home Madiba, you have selflessly done all that is good, noble and honourable for God’s people.

We will continue where you have left off, the Lord being our helper.

We now turn to you, Lord, in this hour of darkness, sadness, pain and death, in tears and mourning,

We wail, yet we believe that you will console us, that you will give us the strength to hold in our hearts and minds, and the courage to enact in our lives, the values Madiba fought and stood for.

We turn to you, Lord, and entrust Madiba’s soul to your eternal rest and loving arms as he rejoins the Madiba clan, his comrades and all the faithful departed.

We pray particularly for his closest and dearest, for Ma Graca Machel, for his children, grandchildren and all his relatives; may you surround them with your loving arms, your fatherly embrace and comfort.

At this dark time of mourning, at this perfect time when you have called him to rest and a perfect end, accept his soul and number him among the company of the redeemed in Heaven.

Console and comfort his family, South Africa and the world.

May his long walk to freedom be enjoyed and realised in our time by all of us.



* Thabo Cape Town

Monday 2 December 2013

A Letter to Mozambique and Angola

December 1, 2013

Dear People of the Dioceses of Lebombo, Niassa and Angola,

On behalf of the whole Province, I want to express our sorrow and shock at the accident involving LAM Mozambique Airlines flight no. TM470 and the deaths of all those on board.

We send our condolences to the bereaved and our prayers to you all. We hope that the investigation now under way will establish why the accident happened - although knowing the cause will not bring loved ones back, it is important to know the cause so that remedial action can be taken in future to prevent a repeat.

God bless you and your nations at this time of mourning,

+Thabo Cape Town

Saturday 30 November 2013

To the Laos - To the People of God, November 2013

My dear People of God

There is certainly never a dull moment in the life of an Archbishop! In the last months I have visited Lesotho for the 50th celebrations of the ministry of our diocesan mission hospital at Mantšonyane, St. James. The celebrations were attended by His Majesty, King Letsie III, and the Prime Minister of Lesotho, the Honourable Tom Thabane, as well as representatives of Hope Africa, Us (or United Society, which we formerly knew as the USPG), volunteers from America and hundreds of parishioners, nurses and doctors, who together made it a great occasion. Congratulations to Bishop Taaso and his diocese on this milestone. I then blessed the new house of the bishop and the diocesan offices, now called the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba diocesan offices!

I then travelled to South Korea together with Lungi for the World Council of Churches' 10th Assembly. The experience of the Assembly is priceless. I have written daily reflections during our time in Busan. If you have not read them, these are on my blog. I then went to the Diocese of Kimberley and Kuruman for a Gala dinner and diocesan service. The dinner was to raise money for an Endowment Fund to buy cars for struggling parishes. It was my first visit as Archbishop, the diocese having last had a pastoral visit by an archbishop a long time ago. I met various diocesan officials, and was also taken to the MacGregor Museum.

Both the museum and the Kimberley Club, known for its close association with the mining magnate and British imperialist, Cecil John Rhodes, rekindled within me the pain of the fierce wars of dispossession and displacement caused by the colonial power's scramble for diamonds; but also reminded me of the courageous resistance and triumphs of the local people who were armed only with hope. The inequality engendered by these wars is still glaring and persistent in Kimberley.

The diocese, one of the largest in our Province, needs funds to buy vehicles to enable church planting and for clergy to travel and serve all community members in this vast, unequal, mainly rural area. If you have an extra vehicle parked in your yard, Bishop Ossie says they can put it to good use in his diocese.

You will recall that the Synod of Bishops released a statement in October referring to our discussion on problematic issues in the dioceses of Pretoria and Mzimvubu, which we had addressed in love and rigour during our meeting. This past Sunday, five Bishops joined in a pastoral visit to Mzimvubu. Three of us stayed behind after a diocesan “conference” and did confirmations during a diocesan service, held in the incomplete cathedral structure. We confirmed 921 candidates. Although the diocese is facing major tensions, being at war within itself, the service was a healing moment for most of us. I ask you to soak the diocese in your prayers, that we may end the long-standing impasse.

I then visited St Alban's Cathedral in Pretoria, where I hosted on behalf of Tearfund, Hope Africa, UNAIDS, SAFFI, NRSAD and other community organisations, the launch of a We Will Speak Out chapter in South Africa. The launch coincided with the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign. I urge you to use these 16 days, which coincide with part of the Advent season, to recommit yourselves to speaking out against gender-based violence in our workplaces, our homes and parishes, or elsewhere in the community. You will recall that I have previously suggested the "ring a bell" initiative, in which we suggest that when you become aware of abuse, you should ring a bell or an alarm, and alert the police or others so that together we speak out and root out sexual violence in our communities.

The Revd Terrie Robinson from the Anglican Communion Office has also sent very useful material and prayers that we can use during these 16 days of activism. Look at it this way: girls between the ages of 12 and 18 who are subjected to sexual violence are 66 percent more likely to contract the HI Virus than those not so subjected. I urge all of us then to make every day, the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

Let me end by thanking all who continue to give toward the College of Transfiguration. Please continue to pray and give generously towards its work within our church in shaping women and men for ministries “in times such as these.” In my December To the Laos, I will be writing about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit to our Province next year and the second Anglicans Ablaze conference. Ablaze is happening from July 2 to 4, so please do register for it if you have not done so already.

Lastly, Professor Gerald West has produced a series of Bible studies for Lent 2014. These are based on the ACSA‘s Anglican ACT vision and mission statements as well as our priorities. I urge all parishioners to use them next year and enable the Province to read and pray from the same well together. I will post the Bible study material on the ACSA website and send a link to you in To the Laos. I will also send a copy and link to every diocesan office too so that they are accessed by as many people as possible.

Yours in the service of Christ
+Thabo Cape Town

Thursday 7 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - Final Reflection on Peace From the WCC Assembly in Korea

Tomorrow we have the closing plenary and sending-off prayers and after these reflective and enriching days at the WCC assembly, Lungi and I will be travelling back home.

Thanks for your prayers, the peace plenary happened and we will leave it to those who attended to evaluate it. In Sepedi we say, "Ngoana wa Mosotho, senne o ipolela, Motho o motle, ha a bolelwa ke ba bang." In sum, you can't promote yourself, or you need to allow others to critique you.

But I felt privileged to moderate this last plenary on peace as part of the assembly theme, "God of life, lead us to justice and peace." Ms Leymah Gbowee, a Nobel peace laureate, and Korean theologian Prof Chang Yoon Jae shared their perspectives on peacemaking and the underlying issues that undermine peace.

Ms Gbowee shared the situation in her country, Liberia, that led women to march and present a petition to the former leader, Charles Taylor. Prof Chang raised his concerns about the lack of peace in Korea and the need to be critical of nuclear power. He gave theological insights important for understanding the politics of nuclear energy and its dangers.

We also listened to Stan Noffsinger from the Church of the Brethren, a peace church in the US, and two young members, Agatha Abrahamian from Iran and Fabian Corrales from Costa Rica shared their personal stories. Then the young people broke into song and dance, holding placards carrying peace messages.

We formed a human chain across the auditorium, reflected on the message we heard today and resolved to be peacemakers as we leave BUSAN. After a short peace greeting, we offered one another the sign of peace.

Thank you all for reading these reflections, I hope they gave you a little glimpse of what took place at the WCC 10th assembly. You could follow in depth the proceedings on the WCC Twitter feed and website.

The God of peace who raised Jesus from the dead, make you strong and courageous in all you do as you pursue peace in the world and with God's creation.

God bless
+ Thabo

PHOTOS: Liberian Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee spoke at the peace plenary on Thursday (top photo) and Archbishop Thabo (below) moderated discussions. (Photos by Teresiah Njoki/WCC)

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - Reflections on Peace and Justice

In the Assembly's statement on just peace, the following words struck a chord with me: “Social justice confronts privilege, economic justice confronts wealth, ecological justice confronts consumption and political justice confronts power itself.”

Today' s plenary on justice did exactly that: it painted vividly some of the injustices that continue in the world; the inequality, the discrimination based on gender and HIV status. The session made most of us quietly uncomfortable and privately visit the bathroom to wipe away the tears.

Two speakers brought to the plenary real-life issues which particularly touched me.

The first was a 19-year-old girl from Malawi born with HIV. She was courageous and said she is a churchgoer but she has many questions that she wants answered by the church and people outside. She wants her church to guide her in life as she wrestles with sex and sexuality, and with reproductive rights, because she longs one day to have children who are not infected by her. She knows she can't be cured of the disease but she wants healing from her church – very deep, pointed and theological questions from Ms Mvula. In sum, she raised questions on human nature and the nature of God, asking the ecumenical family to wrestle with the themes not in the abstract but in the face of real life challenges.

The second was the Revd Phumzile Mabizela, the head of Inerela. She is a priest who is living with HIV and AIDS. She highlighted some of the discrepancies in our messaging as the church to those living with the virus, and cautioned against us speaking for “them” when they are present. She also challenged the global injustices perpetrated by pharmaceutical companies and the politics of medication for the poorest of the poor. She longed for this to be highlighted, especially by assembly members coming from the West and the North where these companies come from.

A difficult session indeed, for we were reminded in a forceful manner that we are complicit in these injustices if we don't go deeper to understand their root causes and then help prevent them. We are complicit if we carry on only with charity, without asking what causes poverty and inequality.

I left the business session at 18:00 to attend the launch of Fr Michael Lapsley's book, Redeeming the Past. I said a few words to introduce him and left for a rehearsal which was happening shortly after the introduction. If you have not bought and read this personal account of a transformative journey by Fr Michael, I suggest you acquire it and learn more about the cost of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The rehearsal for the peace plenary was long but useful. It is the last plenary and I have been asked to moderate the session. I ask for your prayers and for you to think of areas in your home, church, country and the world which need you to advocate for peace, and then do something about at least one of these.

Peace be with you!

PHOTO: Archbishop Thabo introducing Fr Michael Lapsley at the launch of his book during the WCC assembly.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - Reflections on Church Unity, Ecumenism - And a Little Gossip?

Today we discussed church unity, with Dame Mary Tanner from our Communion moderating the session. She concluded her opening remarks by saying, "It remains a scandal and a wound that we can't share together at the table of the Lord."
These words are apt and real and sum up the doctrinal and ecclesial wedges which have separated us over many years. In some ecumenical gatherings, at least in Southern Africa, this has eased a bit and I hope we will one day share not only in ministries but also the same cup of the Lord regardless of denomination, especially those who take sacramental ministries seriously.

In the unity plenary, we were careful not to raise the core issues of Orthodoxy and orthodoxy. His Excellency Metropolitan Nifon raised important theological matters, stressing that we all inherited our kinship as brothers and sisters in the Lord through baptism and that we need to remember the perichoresis, the concept that holds the Trinity together, as holding us together too, not allowing room for any differentiation or discrimination. But then he contradicted himself and said ecclesiology remains a challenge because "confessional dress" should lead to exclusion if we don't interpret the same understanding that God's eternal ideals are unchangeable. He did not dwell on this point and assumed we understood and agreed with this statement. A fellow South African, Ms Alice Fabian of the United Congregational Church, presented a view of church unity from the perspective of two congregations, who were once separated by apartheid and are now joined together to be one parish. The other presenters sketched the real issues of race, sexuality, class, gender and denominational dominance as they impacted on church unity.

Among statements which the main business plenary deliberated on was the unity statement, which was careful to raise only biblical and theological matters and the historical journey of the the WCC, staying away from controversial subjects, at this stage avoiding even mentioning same-sex unions. However, the participants forced the referral of the statement back to committee and for further submissions. The session was lively, it becoming apparent who the assembly's most eloquent spokespersons were -- they never failed to use their God-given time to approach the microphone and state their case on any issue.

The ecumenical conversations ended today. Bishop Jo and I have religiously attended these and we both agreed that we now have a better grasp of the concept of just peace. We both attended the Madang presentation by the Norwegian church on peace and signed our names to be included on any global network or initiative for peace if done ecumenically.

It is nearing time to say goodbye and termination anxiety is setting in. So completing the ecumenical conversation was the first stage of the goodbyes. In the business sessions we sit behind two Aussies, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, the Primate of Australia and the Archbishop of Adelaide. We connect daily and reflect quietly on the process, its similarities to and stark differences from the assumptions and practices of the Anglican way doing things. On my left, we are next to Archdeacon Bruce Meyers from Canada, who was a student I was suffragan bishop in Grahamstown. So we are well placed among Anglicans and can confer (or is it gossip?) on matters from time to time.

Again I conclude with where we started the day. We had greetings from the CEO of The Lausanne Movement, who reiterated the need for us as the household of faith to pursue unity, maintain ongoing dialogue and at least to foster partnerships in our mission and ministry to God's world. And as I reflected on bridges on Sunday, may we indeed continue to be "pontiffs", bridges that foster this unity that our Lord and yearned and prayed for.

God bless

Top - Dame Mary Tanner; Middle - Business plenary; Bottom - Morning prayer (All photos by Peter Williams, WCC)

Monday 4 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - Mission From the Margins

I took the early part of Monday to rest, observing my day of reflection and recouping as I do on Fridays back at home, and we joined the WCC sessions only after lunch.

I had interviews with the Evangelical Advocacy Alliance CEO and their media officer, as well as a YWCA officer. Our conversations were on the need for ongoing dialogue on faith and reproductive rights as they impact HIV and AIDS, and on the need to move beyond the language of human rights towards a focus on terminology which, although it is about rights, shows a God who cares for humanity and leads us to lives of holiness. What might holiness and truth for us as Christians be like, in a world of human rights, in the face of discrimination, growing conservatism and militancy?

The interview was recorded for use at ICASA, the international AIDS conference in Cape Town this December, and for encouraging the fight against HIV and AIDS within the religious sectors, especially as as the epicentre of infections is shifting to stable and married couples.

I then attended the workshop at Madang, the marketplace and place of exhibitions and of conversations or indaba, where there were many workshops to choose from.

I have always been interested in Gandhi's peaceful resistance but out of respect for him and his movement have always lacked the courage or the language to raise my deep discomfort about the caste system in India. But I am of age now and able to raise these questions earnestly, but in love. Gandhi's “seven deadly sins” have always resonated with me and recently in Cape Town at the Gandhi peace walk I quoted him as the walkers lined up at the beginning. I have wrestled with how he, as a leader who spoke with and for the marginalized, failed for so much of his life to challenge the caste system.

In a workshop with a representative of the Dalit community, I was struck anew by the line: “You can't serve Christ and the Caste." It sounds very much like the phrase “You can't serve God and Mammon” although this deep question may not be simply resolved through this biblical phrase. I know I need to go more deeply into the issue and read more, but the societal stratification characteristic of the caste system, with the Dalit at the bottom of the rung, seems to me more than discriminatory. As in apartheid times in South Africa, it treats some members of Indian society as less than human because of their religious and social standing.

If my assertions based on this preliminary reflection are correct, then as we pursue peace, Christians in India need to decry the system and proclaim the Christ who does not discriminate, who calls the marginalized to the centre. I was touched by the presentation and the stories of the Dalit representative, who succinctly explained in words and visuals what appears to be regarded by many as a socially acceptable and sanctioned discriminatory system. I think I will engage my colleague, the Moderator of the Church of South India, on the issue upon returning home.

The joys and challenges of such international gatherings are that you catch a glimpse of some of our discrepancies and contradictions. For example, we want to speak collectively but there are sacred cows, like doctrine and discrepancies within our local witness and systems. The caste system may be one such contradiction which we need to unpack as together we pursue just peace.

In our ecumenical conversation, we started going deeper into the question of just peace, understanding the concept from our different contexts and using some real examples. The session started making sense and felt too short. We will continue on Tuesday.

Our business session dealt with elections. Although we always couch them in the language of service, elections are always about power. We got bogged down in procedural issues, and who has more numbers and thereby who will be in charge of the ecumenical voice in the next eight years. At least we elected the eight regional presidents of the WCC, and I am so proud that it the ratio of women to men was 50:50. The president for Africa is from South Africa: the Revd Dr Mary Anne Plaatjies van Huffel of the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa, based in at the University of Stellenbosch. Congratulations to her.

Today's main emphasis was on the need to realign our mission focus to reflect the perspective of the marginalized. What might these be? - the Dalit, the immuno-compromised, the Christian minorities, the Africans, the same-gender couples, the environment, the youth, the poor, the women. The list is long but for today, I was particularly touched by the story of the Dalit community and want to spend time praying and writing on their plight.

What might the God of life lead me and you to do for them in the quest for justice and peace which the assembly urges us to pursue?

God bless

PHOTO: Musicians in Madang Hall at the World Council of Churches assembly in Busan, South Korea. (WCC photo)

Sunday 3 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - Crossing Bridges for Sunday Worship and Reflection

In Luke 8:22 Jesus says to his disciples, "Let us cross over to the other side." Today, we got onto our denominational buses and went to local parishes. Few crossed to the other side in terms of the "rivers" separating denominations -- I was one of those longing for a "good Anglican Mass" and so instead of going to my allocated local parish we went to the small local cathedral in BUSAN.

The bus literally crossed over a reclaimed part of the sea over to the other side. Structural engineers have constructed quite complex bridges joining the side of town in which we are holding the assembly and the older side of Busan where the cathedral is located. In real life, crossing over to the other side from yours is as complex as building the bridges; although it may not need structural engineers, it can nonetheless be difficult. Anglicans often see themselves as bridge-builders, and our Province in particular sees itself as a bridge-builder in Communion matters. When I saw the bridges crossing over the sea today -- at the same time experiencing changeable weather -- I appreciated the depth and complexity of some of our challenges when acting as bridges to carry others over to the other side.

Unlike a bridge, which will one day collapse if it is not properly maintained on site, we are nurtured and "maintained" by word and sacrament daily, wherever these are preached and celebrated anywhere in the world. This Sunday, we were part of an international congregation which joined the local parishioners to fill the cathedral. Bishop Alan Abernethy of Connor in Northern Ireland was the preacher and the diocesan bishop, Bishop Onesimus Dongsin Park, the celebrant.
Much as we crossed cultural, linguistic and location boundaries, there is something always special about the familiarity of Anglican liturgy and worship. We could join in melody, humming along, and we always knew where we were in the service. Reflecting on the readings, Bishop Alan coined a phrase summing up the essence of the assembly, saying that "God in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit is at work in unexpected places," suggesting that we need to open our eyes and ears to discern this presence so that, like Zacchaeus, we feel his transformative presence.

It is indeed in those defining moments, transformative moments, when we consciously and unconsciously connect the dots, in life, in worship or our thoughts that we cross to the other side. Like epiphany moments, we connect the dots not for our own sake, but for the other as we join with what God is up to in his world. At lunchtime, Bishop Alan and I connected the stories of Belfast and South Africa; I recalled the 1998 pre-Lambeth Conference international youth conference at Stranmillis, and he recalled our time at the 2008 Lambeth Conference, relating how useful he found the Indaba process. His son works in the Diocese of Natal, and my son, when on a Face to Face/Faith to Faith interfaith youth leadership programme made friends with an Irish team.

Crossing over to the other side is not about bridges, boats and buses but people taking the first step, and maintaining the subsequent ones in engaging at a deeper level, ensuring relationships last and can withstand both the human and natural elements. It my prayer that the WCC assembly will ensure we form deeper and lasting relationships with those of different denominations or no denominations as we all witness for peace with justice in our world.

Back at the assembly, the children's choir at tonight's Korean cultural evening was for me about crossing over to the other side. The Gospel was retold through cultural lenses in a such a beautifully choreographed manner, through both a Western eye and a Korean eye, and the subtle synergies were profound. May the harmony of their little voices and the movements we saw today characterize our ecumenical witness and remind us that ecumenism does not only matter but is the lifeblood of our Christian identity, a bridge which will enable all to cross over difference and serve the common good.

God bless

Saturday 2 November 2013

Blogging From Busan - In a Breathtaking Wetland, Reflections on Ecology, Economics and Development

Upo Wetland, near Busan in South Korea.

Today, delegates had 16 exposure visits to choose from and Lungi and I chose the BUSAN-ecology option. We travelled about 115 km by bus from BUSAN and, although long and uncomfortable, it was a scenic journey through the hills and valleys and thick forestation of this part of South Korea.

It was, however, disturbed by evidence of excessive development and the obvious disturbance of this beauty and tranquillity by a lack of integrity in the nature of the development. What we saw today can be summed up as the dichotomy of ecology and economics: though in Greek both have the same root, ecos, household, they did not seem to have an orderly coexistence in the area we travelled to. There was a clear wedge driven between the wetlands and the agricultural area, and the use of the river for power production resulted in a dearth of plants, birds and other fauna.

There were these massively tall buildings overshadowing the beauty of the streams and ravines. The pace of development for me as a stranger and visitor seemed too excessive and not sustainable. Because there is fast-paced development, there will be greater demand for energy and food, in the long run fomenting divisions between the people of this place. I am always cautious about predictions, and especially sensitive to the charge that when developing countries succeed there is always scepticism about it, but in this situation I am cautious about the fast pace of development everywhere I went. With big economies struggling, I hope this one will manage.

The Upo wetland, which has existed for centuries, was breathtaking with all sorts of bird life and plants, and surrounded by mountains. We experienced great generosity from a house church, called Disciples Church, as they invited us to pray with them and provided a meal for all of us in the bus. The 12-year-old girl of the house played the violin and a Korean instrument beautifully during lunch. She played a piece from the film, The Mission, which was so appropriate, as in this humble house church between two mountains we were surrounded by forest and thick vegetation; appropriate because in the film Jesuit missionaries were martyred protecting the indigenous heritage and context such as the one we were in.

I wondered as she played, what will become of this forest when development is so rapid in the next couple of years. This 12-year-old wished to work with the UN possibly to influence policies that affect her communities. It is my prayer that she attains this vision and that we join in encouraging development only if it's sustainable and serves the common good. Currently, development serves the few richest individuals of our world and this order is maintained by our economic policies which in fact should be declared obsolete or, like apartheid, evil.

These are my reflections on ecology and economics or development. What do you think of these reflections? What is your view, about southern Africa or your own country? Who is benefiting from your local and national economic prosperity? Does this augur well for peace and justice?

Tomorrow, we go to the local churches and have a Korean evening.

God bless

Friday 1 November 2013

Blogging from Busan - On All Saints Day, Meeting Anglicans, Moving Stories from Asia, Discussing Just Peace and Raised Blood Pressure

Today, on All Saints Day, let me start at the end of the day.

The Anglican Church of Korea hosted a dinner for our Anglican confessional group at the Novotel. There were about 160 Anglicans present, plus some of our hosts. I proposed a toast to our beloved Anglican Communion and to Archbishop Justin and Caroline Welby. A delightful evening with good company and delicious food on the occasion of the 123rd year of the founding of this diocese, as Archbishop Paul Kim of Korea pointed out. The dinner reminded us that nothing replaces face-to-face encounters with other Anglicans, for through these we appreciate each other more and consequently grow in love for God and one another, for this is communion.

The dinner was preceded by a service celebrating All Saints Day, and Archbishop Justin preached a sermon reminding us of the gift and responsibility we have as Anglicans to care for one another even as we value our differences. In a plenary session in the auditorium, Archbishop Justin had also addressed the WCC assembly, again drawing on our Anglican heritage and highlighting the enormous privilege and also responsibility of defining our identity within the broader ecumenical framework.

In another WCC plenary dedicated to Asia, drama and speeches drew our attention to the life, witness, worship and near-martyrdom of the church in this continent. This was very moving, drawing us into their story and how they perceived their position as a persecuted minority which faced near-extinction in certain places. There were also redemptive stories, especially one related by a missionary doctor who told of his experience of two parents at first rejecting a pair of Siamese twins, but then – when one died after an operation to separate them – reclaiming the surviving twin. Again, we were challenged by the difficulty most communities have in dealing with difference and disability.

Today, I also had an opportunity to connect with Presiding Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa at the assembly's health machine vendor, where as we measured our blood pressure we chuckled at how ecumenical work raised it. I also had some time with Bishop Jo of Pretoria, just connecting at a personal and informal level. Bishop Jo and I are together in the “Just Peace” conversation group. Today we were running behind schedule at this session, and there was less input by speakers and more rushed conversation. But it was still very useful since although we went off initially at a tangent, we finally got stuck into discussing the real definitional and conceptual issues of what a just peace is all about, as well as strategies for praxis.

The business plenary was tense and rigorous, which reflected our reality and was to be expected, especially after one of the speakers raised issues of marriage and sexuality and posited his theological view as the correct one. There is a growing conservatism – and I say this without advocating moral relativism – which can lead to the trashing of God-given freedom and rational thought, as well as of the celebration of diversity. Of course there should be limits to everything, such as we found in our ecumenical conversation, where we were starting to explore a call to close down a nuclear power plant, mindful of the fact that we are only a few kilometres from one in South Korea.

As most of you know by now, for me communications and accountability are key. Today I spent time with the Episcopal News Service in the person of Matthew Davies, as well as with WCC communications people, exploring further ways in which I and our province can communicate more effectively. We recorded an AIDS day message as well as one about our perception and understanding of ecumenism.

Tomorrow, we have excursions around the area where we are meeting and, God willing, we will go to the port and ecological areas preserved around Busan. It is our daughter's birthday today, so I want to end this on the personal and send her “hugs and kisses,” as she would normally say when she is in a good mood.

May God our parent who looks after us all shower her and all parishes named All Saints with blessings. We are all saints if we do the will of God who sent us.

God bless

PHOTO: A performance at the WCC assembly features Asian concerns, acknowledging struggles of churches seeking justice and peace.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Blogging from Busan - Of Anglicans, Aids, Pamphlets and Pickets at the WCC

At the World Council of Churches assembly in Korea today, we spent more time in a “business plenary”, “ecumenical conversations” and then a “theme plenary” as well as in regional groups. (See an explanation of the programme here>>)

Prior to these, I had the opportunity to meet privately with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi with the head of UNAIDS, Mr Michel Sidibé.

We spoke of the need to address as an Anglican Communion some of the systemic issues that still cause new HIV infections when in general the rate is dropping. Inequality has robbed many of a voice in calling for access to treatment and the church is urged to speak up urgently on this. The concern is that epicentre of this crisis has shifted into stable heterosexual relationships and this is of great concern, says Mr Sidibé. We three archbishops agreed to collaborate with UNAIDS, particularly around the forthcoming 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence and on AIDS Day. We noted the growing marginalization of some groups, especially in homophobic countries, and how this may indirectly spread infection as people hide both their sexuality and their HIV status.

In the theme plenary, we listened to the church address its impact or lack thereof in the mission field. We heard of the isolation and pain of the Coptic Christians in Alexandria and of the need to come alongside them in this difficult time.

In our ecumenical plenary, I chose the the justice and peace session and was again struck by the notion of “just peace” and the reminder that "the strength of the powerful depends on the obedience and compliance of its citizens..." Citizens do have the capacity to use non-violent means to change a violent order, to give voice to the voiceless and accomplish reconciliation. The session enabled us to explore this notion of just peace in a little more depth.

Jape Heath, a priest from our province now working in Sweden, who is both HIV positive and in a same-sex relationship, is open these issues and shared with the Archbishop of Canterbury and me the work of INERELA+ – an organisation now comprising thousands of immuno-compromised religious leaders who are ready to share their redemptive stories on living with the HI Virus.

We ended with an Africa group regional meeting, sharing issues as they affected the continent and recommending candidates for election to the Central Committee of the WCC. I was so proud of how our continent, without compromising the process, performed in reflecting a gender balance in nominations. Pray for the candidates as nominations close.

Let me end with what we started with after morning prayer. We had Chung Hongwon, prime minister of South Korea address us and bring greetings. He spoke passionately and demonstrated the importance of church-state relations. Please pray for the ecumenical witness in our country. Today at the regional meeting, I was able to see colleagues from our country's ecumenical bodies and could at least "praat”, “khuluma” and “buwa” our country's languages. There are of course some who, as is customary at these gatherings, are picketing us, putting pamphlets in our faces because they like neither the conference theme nor the WCC. Pray for us all.

God bless
+ Thabo

PHOTO: Dr Wedad Abbas Tawfik from Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria speaking at the WCC assembly in Busan.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Blogging from Busan - Day One of the WCC Assembly in Korea

DAY ONE: After a long journey, we arrived at BUSAN in South Korea for the opening of the 10th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on Wednesday.

Other South Africans from ACSA include Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria, Canon Nangula Kathindi of Namibia, Mrs Lungi Makgoba and Professor Bev Haddad of the University of KwaZulu/Natal, all attending in various capacities.

We had a good "reunion" with other bishops and Primates from the Anglican Communion, as well as some clergy and laity, but the auditorium was too full to accommodate everyone for the opening plenary so we had to sit in the worship space and follow proceedings on a screen.

Jet-lagged and finding screens too impersonal, we decided to go to the conference's market place, where we were struck by many of the exhibitions - but chiefly by the ecumenical work which is being done for the disabled. I don't think that is an aspect of ministry which we as a province have spent much thought on, or are doing much about.

Then to the first business of the assembly, when we listened to the general secretary, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the moderator of the Central Committee, the Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, and other programme directors present their reports or move for their reception.

What stuck out for me was the call by most for "Just Peace". The reports gave a synopsis of the work of the past seven years and the vision for the next under the assembly theme of “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.”

Parishioners at home should know of the longing by South Korea in particular for reunification with North Korea so that lasting peace is attained.

One objective of choosing Korea for the venue of the assembly was to support this longing, and to amplify the voices of the Christian minority to the majority, hopefully contributing to the achievement one day of lasting peace with justice.

God bless you,


THE PHOTO ABOVE shows a dramatic performance which narrated a history of the national and Christian mission in Korea.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Mayoral Inter-faith service at the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr, Cape Town

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, friends from the Western Cape inter religious group, dear people of this beautiful city, dear friends.

It is a great joy to be with you as we celebrate what we have termed the Mayoral Service.

Thank you, Mr. Dean and your staff for hosting this service and for the Western Cape Religious Leaders' Forum for coordinating this together with the city and the Cathedral: to everyone else who is here, who loves this city or who lives in the city or offers services to the city, feel welcomed.

The ancient Greek notion of the city implied that the polis is about citizenship and the body of citizens. In short, how space and resources are organized in service to the people of the city and how the people in turn engage to shape their destiny collaboratively.

So you, we all matter, for without you, we would not have the mayor to organize the affairs of this city, nor the mayor without the citizens.

May I also, on behalf of the Dean and his staff welcome all the other visitors here today.

Madame Mayor, Patricia De Lille: thank you, also for your leadership and presence with us and for your encouraging and challenging words; thank you for your welcome – we feel honored and humbled that you agreed to be here and to grace us with your presence, for without it we could not have a "Mayoral Service" as an inter-faith congregation.

In the Christian sacred text that was read this afternoon, John 10:10, the Johannine Jesus says, "I came so that you may have life and have it in abundance."

What is life in abundance? What is eternal life? It is about the flourishing of all human beings and not only some who are powerful and connected. It is the flourishing of us all or, put differently, it is about the common good or the public good.

The common good, simply put, is ensuring that what is good and beneficial for me, is also good and beneficial for the other who is my neighbour.

Put in a language understood by most religions, this is about doing what I would like done to me (love, respect, care, compassion) done to the other too. Yes, it is about respecting the dignity of each individual as reflecting the humanity of God and the divine in God.

The famous words are from the Christian sacred text, love you neighbor, with all your mind, soul and body, and love the Lord your God with the same mind as you love yourself and neighbor.

Life in abundance is life lived with a mentality of abundance and not a mentality of poverty; life lived mindful that it is not useful to amass riches, thinking that when your end comes, you will take these with you; it is life lived with contentment and generosity, wanting to make profit but not ignoring people or the planet that generates your wealth.

How might this life pan out in our beloved city? Our city is doing relatively well. You only need to look at the Currie Cup final, even though we are sorry the Sharks won. Visitors and tourists to this city bring a lot of revenue.

Or you can look at our status as world design capital or at the film industry, conferences, tertiary education, media, the financial sector, small grassroots enterprises such as B&B’s, NGOs, industry, including thriving and not so thriving small industries, and the large number of companies with head offices in this city. The economy is indeed thriving here in spite of challenges elsewhere, heralded by Minister Pravin Gordhan and his belt-tightening for ministers.

Economically, we are doing relatively well compared to the majority of the other provinces of our country and countries in our continent. For this, we are grateful to our city and mothers for the flourishing of the local economy.

However, as religious leaders, as we give thanks for this flourishing, we need to also ask deeper questions:

-- Who is benefiting from this economic flourishing?

-- Is it serving the common good or benefitting only some who are powerful, politically and economically well connected?

-- Is this result of this flourishing what Jesus envisaged in the passage from John: I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance?

-- Are the people without a voice in the city benefitting as well?

-- Are we reaching out?

-- Does the economic benefit bring joy and benefits to those on the margins, not just trickle to them?

-- Are the dividends of our democracy and freedom benefitting all, and are those who benefit helping others to have access to this boom?

In this past week, I did "huisbesoek" to Auntie Pat Gorvalla* in Durbanville, then licensed a new priest in Christ Church Claremont and visited Mfuleni. I could not help but feel torn by the feeling that this abundant life in our beloved city is still skewed in favour of those of us from a particular race and class and not for all as Jesus wished for, suffered for and died for.

The work is thus enormous. I must confess that we in the religious vocation often overlook these challenges. We are often tempted by the trappings of power, money and proximity to politicians and the potential for personal or denominational gain from such proximity.

Whilst we need to affirm the good that the city does, we equally need to raise critical questions about who benefits from the city’s flourishing, and why spatial apartheid for instance is so stubborn 20 years into our democracy. We need to raise these questions without fear, for ours is not a political mandate but a vocation to serve all in spite of power, status and political affiliation.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, friends from the Western Cape inter religious group, dear people of this beautiful city, dear friends.
Often, we are too aligned, or our mouths are too full of resources, personal or for our churches, that we are afraid to speak out clearly and prophetically for the cause of those marginalized and excluded, and plead their cause in attaining this abundant life in the here and now, and not only in heaven.

We confess our failures today and ask for pardon from God, from the poorest of the poor and all who are marginalized, be it materially, due to their sexual orientation, class or race. We say Lord have mercy on us and pardon us, our sins.

Two weeks ago at the National Church Leaders' Consultation, we confessed this sin of omission, the lack of coherence in our prophetic audibility and our courage to speak. We committed to being part of the solution, especially in education, and resolved to seek an audience urgently with SADTU and other teachers' unions as we look together at ways we can make education the tool of liberation it is supposed to be.

As we confess and acknowledge our own shortcomings in our city too, we should not be navel-gazing and becoming trapped by this sin of omission or our helplessness for not doing and speaking for the cause of the poorest of the poor.

We should equally engage with all for their sake as we plead for respect for their human dignity and for their true freedom. Let us re-commit to taking seriously our God-given mandate to serve others.

We commit to working as a collective with the city , the polis, in serving God's people and in bringing hope; hope that nothing will separate God's people from the love and care of God even in the midst of pain, suffering and squalor.

We commit to the ministry of reconciliation, reconciling communities and different faiths, rich and poor, and we encourage the spirit of generosity and cohesion amongst all people of this city and province.

We commit to walks of witness alongside the people of God to highlight: janitorial services gone wrong; poor school infrastructure; poor conditions of service and remuneration for farm and domestic workers; the need to investigate the effectiveness of policing in our townships; the impact which endemic corruption has on service delivery and social cohesion; as well as the many glaring economic disparities in our city.

We will continue to care for the xenophobically displaced, those trapped by drugs and the impact of gangsterism. We will continue through the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC) to demand that our political leaders behave aptly as we all pray for, and ensure, a free, robust and fair context for electioneering and elections next year and beyond, as well as open the question of who funds political parties and demand transparency in this area.

Returning to the Christian sacred text as I conclude, the Lucan God, in Luke 4, reminds us as people of faith and in this city , that the spirit of the Lord God is upon me, he has anointed me and all of us to proclaim boldly without fear or favour good news to the poor....

Let us dare to do so.

May this mayoral service bring hope and courage to all in the city and a recommitment by us all to bring life in abundance for all especially those in the margins of the city?


Archbishop Thabo Makgoba
27 October 2013

* A leading citizen of Cape Town and former president of the Anglican Women's Federation.

Monday 14 October 2013

National Church Leaders' Consultation - Media Advisory

Media Advisory: 14 October 2013

National Church Leaders’ Consultation – Invitation to Media

A meeting of the twice-annual National Church Leaders’ Consultation will take place on 15 and 16 October 2013 at the Southern Sun Hotel, O R Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg.

The meeting will consider a report from the National Religious Association for Social Development (NRASD), which will address public health; education; economic and welfare policy, and the National Development Plan; and gender violence and human rights. Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa will lead further discussions on questions of education; and Bishop Malusi Mpulwana will head a session Towards a Rolling Church Action Plan for Social Change. The consultation will also hear presentations from Mr Pascal Paul Moloi, NDP Commissioner, and Mr Leo Makgamathe of BrandSA.

On Tuesday evening, His Excellency, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, will be in conversation with Dr Catherine Sozi, Country Director, UNAIDS. The Media are invited to attend this event, which begins at 18.45hrs.

A media statement will also be issued at the close of the Consultation, around 1300 on 16 October.

The National Church Leaders’ Consultation is currently chaired by the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town.

Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Kelderman, 021 763 1320 (office hours)
Mr Sipho Mahokoto, Senior Program Coordinator, NRASD, 083 745 3405, (during the Consultation)