Friday 26 September 2014

Statement from the Synod of Bishops meeting at Benoni in the Diocese of the Highveld, 21-24 September 2014

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16)

To God be the glory:

The Synod of Bishops met for its bi-annual meeting at the Lakes Hotel and Conference Centre, Benoni. Bishop David Bannerman, in his farewell speech to the Synod, aptly described the spirit of this gathering and the past fellowship of the Synod of Bishops as “a place of grace”.  We experienced this sense and God’s redemption as we gathered daily, immersed in worship and prayer and being fed through the Word and Sacraments.  The homilies at the Eucharist each morning, which sought to remind the Synod of our identity in Christ and our vocation as Shepherds in the midst of the ethical challenges of the day were delivered by Bishops Ndwandwe, Wamukoya and Marajh. Steeped in prayer, worship and reflection on Scripture, we were able in love and frankness to confront the pastoral challenges that we are currently experiencing in the Province. 

    We evaluated the minimum canonical qualifications required for ordination. Prof Barney Pityana of the College of the Transfiguration and the Revd Craig Dunsmuir of the Theological Education by Extension (TEE) College provided vital input in this regard and Bishop Peter Lee facilitated this session. 

    Advocate Ronnie Bracks, the Provincial Deputy Registrar, gave an animated presentation on the need for good governance.  John Brand, a South African mediation expert, gave a presentation on mediation and the need to use it as the first resort rather than using mission money on litigation.

    We agreed to establish the Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice, in which we will acknowledge people who live and contribute in their communities to the virtues espoused in Micah 6:8:    

    He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
       and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness,
       and to walk humbly with your God?

    We also celebrated the news of Bishop Nathaniel Nakwatumbah being recognised with the Namibian Award for Building Democracy, “First Class”, for building democracy in Namibia.  We bade farewell to Bishop David Bannerman, who retires at the end of 2014.  We will miss his deep, quiet spirituality.  We wish him well in his retirement. 

    We also congratulated Bishop Martin Breytenbach and the Revd Trevor Pearce, as well as the group of volunteers who organised the recent Anglicans Ablaze Conference.  The group from the Diocese of Johannesburg and staff at Bishopscourt were also thanked for their part in organising the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Mrs Welby.  Mrs Lungi Makgoba was acknowledged and thanked for her hospitality when the Archbishop visited our Province.

    Earlier this year, each bishop was given Fr Michael Lapsley’s book, Redeeming the Past, to read.  We spent some time reflecting on the book and how it touched us, helping to deal with our own hurt and pain, either currently or in the past, and to expose these to the loving embrace of Jesus.  This sharing enabled the bishops not to be only cerebral, but “to do” theology through their own personal experiences.

    We prayed for the Mozambique Peace Accord and coming elections as well as the situation in Lesotho.  A number of the bishops, including the Archbishop, will visit Lesotho to offer solidarity with and prayers for Bishop Adam Taaso and the people of Lesotho.  Please hold the bishops in prayer during the visit to Lesotho, scheduled for 1st October 2014.

    The Synod of Bishops expressed its appreciation to Bishop Peter Lee for his leadership of the Anglican Board of Education and the development in this portfolio.  He was acknowledged also for his pivotal role as Chair of the Provincial Trusts Board Management Committee as he hands over the reins to Bishop Brian Marajh.

    Theological Education and the Liturgical Renewal for Transformative Worship initiative remain top priorities for the Synod of Bishops.  We received with joy the news of the appointment of the Ven Dr Vicentia Kgabe as the first woman Rector of the College of the Transfiguration (COTT). We also congratulated Bishop Raphael Hess for the 2013 Theological Education Sunday effort which raised almost R1 million.  In 2015, Theological Education Sunday will be on the 23rd of August.

    A Leadership Conference is planned from 27th-30th October at St Philomena, Durban.  We invite all who are interested in reflecting and planning for leadership development in our Province to attend or contact Fr Duncan Mbonyana at COTT.

    We want to say to all God’s people in the Province, in the midst of the challenges and issues of this mortal life, “Hold onto the Resurrection hope and may the grace of God be revealed through you, wherever you may be.”

    After formally dissolving the Episcopal Synod, the Archbishop burst into song:

    “To God be the glory, great things he has done, so loved he the world that he gave us his Son”.