Wednesday 7 September 2016

To the Laos - To the People of God - September 2016

Dear People of God

This month marks the anniversary of significant milestones in the lives of the two living previous archbishops of Cape Town.

Thirty years ago today, September 7, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was enthroned as Archbishop. As I write, he has been in hospital receiving treatment for a recurring infection, and his office has announced that he will undergo a small surgical procedure today to address the root cause of the infection. I visited him upon my return from overseas at the weekend, and he was in good spirits. Please keep him, Mrs Leah Tutu, and their family in your prayers.

Also this month, Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane celebrates the 20th anniversary of his becoming Archbishop. It is also 25 years since his consecration as Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman, and to cap it off he has celebrated his 75th birthday this year. Our warm congratulations to Archbishop Njongo, and our thanks to him for his continued public service in different capacities.

I write this against the background of last month's South African municipal elections. I am grateful that people went to the polls and voted in such numbers and with such enthusiasm, so that our democracy can be said to be both vibrant and legally intact. What is most encouraging is that South Africa has a legislative framework which establishes institutions and mechanisms that enable the electoral process to happen successfully—so much so that although the ruling party lost political control in major cities, the outcomes were accepted by all. So we need to compliment our political role players but especially that framework and those it empowers to keep our democratic processes operating.

Whether we voted or not, what all of us must now do is to act with the urgency that is demanded of us to make South Africa work and to make our nation what God has destined it to be. I say this also against the backdrop of my short stay in Rwanda recently, where I attended a meeting of the Council of the Anglican Provinces of Africa. Leaving the meeting in Kigali, the capital, to visit the city's memorial to the 1994 genocide, I could not help but be struck by how the city really does work. There is effective policing, the place is clean and when you get to a shop, even if stocks are limited there is a commitment to service. But although the city works, I had the impression that it was a result of what one might call an obsession: a desire to run away from the dreadful past, from the messiness of a system that did not work. That makes me all the more grateful for how our electoral system mediates political conflict, and leads me to re-commit myself to making our country work, and to call upon all our parishioners to play their part in helping that happen.

Since returning from Kigali, I have been reading all the motions, measures and reports that will come before Provincial Synod—our Church's top legislative body—when it meets in September. Reading the reports from provincial ministries and organisations reminds me of the humbling privilege I have as Metropolitan to have a “helicopter” view of all that the Province does. If one looks only only at the difficulties being experienced by a problematic diocese or parish, or at the financial challenges we face, one doesn't appreciate the beauty, the energy and the excitement of what is being done in our church right across Southern Africa. The Province is busy, the Province is active and the Province is alive with worship, mission and service. For that I give thanks to God.

We have resolutions before Synod which may be controversial, one of them on human sexuality, and we too have legislative mechanisms which can help us to address such matters successfully. The Canons allow us to go into Conference, which frees us of the sometimes stifling rules of debate when we are considering a motion. The Synod's advisory team has decided that we need to create more time and space than would normally the available to discuss the motion on human sexuality, so we will go into Conference for our initial discussion of that motion. I am hoping that Synod will be a time of robust and open debate as we confront and work through the issues.

God bless you

†Thabo Cape Town

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