Wednesday 14 October 2015

To the Laos - To the People of God

Dear People of God

I write to you at a challenging time in the life of the leadership of our Church, in which a succession of some of our most senior bishops are retiring one after another, and dioceses across the Province have met and are due to meet to elect their successors. At the last meeting of our Provincial Standing Committee, on bidding farewell to bishops Rubin, Jo and Mark, my deep emotions overcame me and I even shed tears. The coming few months and years will indeed be a time of new leaders, new contexts, new energy and new hope.

Please pray for the Elective Assembly of the Diocese of Zululand, which will meet on December 9 to choose a successor to the Right Revd Dino Gabriel, recently elected to replace Bishop Rubin Phillip as Bishop of Natal. Pray for the consecration, God willing, of the new bishop on April 24 next year, and also for the installation in Natal on November 21. Your prayers are asked too for Bishop Jo Seoka of Pretoria, who retires on December 31, for the Elective Assembly taking place in Pretoria on February 4 and, God willing, for the consecration on May 15.

As a result of the resignation of the Right Revd Mark van Koevering as Bishop of Niassa in northern Mozambique, an election there is scheduled for January 26 and a consecration on May 29. Finally the Synod of Bishops will elect the new Bishop of Namibia at its February meeting, after an Elective Assembly referred the decision to the bishops. Please pray also for those dioceses. 

On the other hand, I am very glad to announce that South Africa's courageous Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, and our own distinguished theologian and educator, Professor Barney Pityana, have been named as the inaugural recipients of the Archbishop's Award for Peace With Justice. Advocate Madonsela was decorated at a function at Rhodes University where she spoke on values-based leadership. Prof Pityana was decorated at a special farewell service held at the chapel of the College of the Transfiguration. This is a new award established by our Church which acknowledges those within the life of the countries of Southern Africa who make outstanding contributions in their communities which reflect the values espoused in Micah, whatever faith they espouse or do not espouse and whether they are lay people or clergy. We are honoured that Advocate Madonsela and Prof Pityana have accepted the award, bringing distinction on it by doing so.

I am pleased also to share with you the decision of the Provincial Standing Committee at its recent meeting to adopt a new stewardship handbook developed by dioceses in the Western Cape. We have spoken for years, in many dioceses, of the need for a special and renewed focus on stewardship and giving, so the new material which will guide us theologically and practically is particularly welcome. 

Accompanying this letter is a presentation I made last week at what we called “A Day of Courageous Conversations” at Bishopscourt, a quite unique and ground-breaking meeting involving about 60 leaders from the mining sector, civil society and faith communities. Growing out of an initiative that began at the Vatican, then continued at Lambeth Palace, the South African meeting sought to begin a process of repositioning the sector as one that can be a partner for long-term sustainable development with host communities and governments. Mining forms a crucial part of our economy and, as the Marikana crisis and falling commodity prices demonstrate, it is in many ways under threat. Please pray for the industry and all within it, as well as for this initiative.

As I write this, I am heading off on retreat, then later in the month to a meeting in London of the Compass Rose Society – an international group of generous Anglicans who seek to support the ministry of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion. Then at the beginning of November I will attend the installation of Bishop Michael Curry of North Carolina as the new Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States. We celebrate with TEC and send our greetings as they begin this new era in their life, ministry and witness. Please pray for him, for our global church and especially for our stewardship of this special gift that we have been endowed with, the Anglican Communion. When the Son of Man returns, may he find faith in it. (Luke 18:8). 

God bless you,

†Thabo Cape Town

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