Saturday, 31 March 2018

Archbishop's Easter Sermon

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's sermon, preached at the Easter Vigil at St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town:

Is 55:1-11; Ps 114; Rm 6:3-11; Mk 16:1-8

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we meet this Easter, joining the whole Communion and faithful Christians across the world in singing this acclamation, and celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mr Dean, Cathedral staff, clergy, the wardens, lay leaders, choristers, the unsung leaders of our church, and members of the congregation, thank you for all that you are and that you continue to do for God and God's people.

People often speak of the lowest point in something also being potentially the turning point. In my ministry I have often heard alcoholics and recovered drug addicts talk very movingly of having reached rock bottom, and then in desperation and with fear and trembling, taking the first step away from this experience of death, towards a new life and finding this to be a turning point. They talk about the importance and value of Second Chances. By Second Chances, meaning that someone is not giving up on me.

Easter in every sense is about the lowest point becoming the turning point. The hour of failure, the hour in which darkness covers the whole earth, the hour in which the disciple’s dreams of the Kingdom coming into being came crashing down. Yet that low point on that first Easter Sunday morning becomes the turning point. Those close to Jesus would experience this intimately. The disciples on the road back to Emmaus enveloped in sadness would, in the presence of the Risen One, experience their hearts burning within them, and Mary Magdalene in the garden – blinded by her tears – would slowly recognise the Lord and in utter astonishment call him “Master”.

The Resurrection invites those disciples to let go of the things they held onto, the familiar, the old patterns of relating, indeed even the old prejudices. In both instances Jesus invites them to move on, to engage in a different narrative; as indeed he urges us this evening, and to engage in a different way the truth of ourselves, our relationships and our lives together as communities and nations.

In this powerful way, Easter challenges us to look into the places that hold us back from living life abundantly, and to decide to make different choices. The great Scottish-American preacher, Peter Marshall, said: “The stone was rolled away from the entrance not to permit Jesus to come out, but to enable the disciples to enter.”

The Gospel writers make it clear. The grave clothes were folded precisely. They were undisturbed. We are left with the understanding that Jesus could have exited the tomb in a number of ways – he didn’t need to roll the stone away. So Marshall is probably correct: Jesus rolled the stone away so that the disciples, you and I, could enter and face our deepest fears, our disordered histories, our shameful pasts, all the things that hold us in bondage and which disempower us and render us dysfunctional.

When we enter our own everyday tombs, we are faced with a God who has emptied them of the power that holds us in those places. We are faced with a God who sees beyond the tomb to what we can become. The God of turning points.

This Easter, here in South Africa, the God of second chances reminds us that if Easter has taught us anything, certainly as compared to the most recent Easters past, God is not giving up on us and he’s certainly not giving up on South Africa. He has given us a second chance, giving us the opportunity to slow down, even stop, and reflect by asking anew the question: “What kind of South Africa do we want our children and grandchildren to grow up in?”

There has never been a more opportune moment for reflecting on the importance of the New Struggle. Getting a second chance in life is one thing. Using it to make a better life, that’s the trick. To use words of wisdom my father was fond of quoting: “Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.” We cannot start over. But we can begin now to write a better ending. The past administration trampled on our institutions and values, to the point where we now live in a South Africa that has the same inequality of opportunity, inequality of healthcare, inequality of social services, inequality of education and inequality of service delivery that our grandparents suffered.

Let us resolve never again to allow our government and our leaders to talk us down, to let us down or to keep us down. God can give anyone a second chance and he has given South Africa that opportunity. So my wish for this Easter is that President Ramaphosa and the ANC should see this time as a moment in history to embrace the principles and objectives of the New Struggle – a struggle to which we all should commit: a struggle for equality, a struggle about values and institutions rather than personalities, a struggle to build strong systems which cannot be undermined by one party or person’s whim.

You have often heard me preach from this pulpit at Easter and Christmas about the failings of our government and the need for the New Struggle. But tonight I want to pause and to turn our gaze inwards, and onto ourselves and our church. I cannot stand here with integrity and point to the speck in my neighbour's eye if I don't speak of the log in our own eye.

In the past few weeks, a number of individuals have spoken out, either publicly or privately, to give accounts of being abused in Anglican parishes when they were young boys in the 1970s and 1980s. I cannot pass judgement on these accounts – that can be done only in the proper tribunals, where those accused have the right to defend themselves. And if charges are brought and upheld under church law, I would have to handle any appeals, so I must not pre-judge matters. I also cannot say reliably how widespread abuse may have been in the Church. My impression is that it has involved only a tiny minority of those licensed to minister, but I am still waiting for the Bishops across the Church to notify me of cases brought to their attention.

But no matter how many cases there may have been, we should welcome and embrace the newly-found willingness by some to speak out and we must use it as an opportunity to address the issue.

In recent years we have done a great deal of work on our Canons – our church law – when it comes to disciplinary matters. We have developed comprehensive Pastoral Standards which priests, church workers and office-bearers are required to obey. The Canons make provision for people who are accused of offences – including the specifically-named offences of sexual assault and sexual harassment – to be charged in their Dioceses and, if convicted, to be suspended, deprived of their office or deposed from Holy Orders, which effectively means being expelled as a priest or deacon.

So the structures enabling us to deal with abuse exist. But this is not sufficient. Do people know enough about what the Canons provide? What do we do in cases where the alleged perpetrators have retired and no longer hold licences? What do we do if they have died? What do we do if those abused have left the Church and perhaps converted to another faith? Are the measures in place in church schools adequate and widely enough known? In the past, we have sometimes referred those alleging abuse to the police, in the belief that they have more expertise in investigating cases than we have. But in at least one case, we have learned that the police cannot investigate on the grounds that the case is too old.

Most importantly, what about the survivors of abuse? Whether or not charges are brought in Church or State courts, what is far more important to us as pastors is to address the needs of those who have been abused, to restore their dignity and to bring about holistic and sustainable healing. We don't have to wait for reports from the Dioceses or for answers to the questions I have just asked to take effective action.

To begin with, I have asked the Bishops across the Province to appoint multi-disciplinary teams at Diocesan, Archdeaconry and Parish level to help and give guidance to people alleging abuse in parishes, church schools or other institutions. They should include a psychologist, social worker or counsellor; someone who is qualified to give legal advice; a community worker from outside the Church; and the head of the affected entity within the Church.

I am also consulting widely on a more comprehensive and detailed response. This week I had a very productive meeting with the Church's legal advisers. Arising from that, our Canon Law Council will meet representatives of the Safe Church network this month to formulate clearer policy so that we have in place and can publicise a system that is both effective and is seen to be effective for both survivors and alleged perpetrators. One of the matters I have raised is to offer formal Church support for efforts to change the law to ensure that old cases can be dealt with in secular courts.

Our efforts to address abuse should not detract from the fact that the overwhelming majority of clergy and church workers in our Province is comprised of dedicated and caring pastors with a deep commitment to the welfare of all our people. But even one case of abuse is one too many. Those who allege abuse need a place where they can be heard, and those who are accused of abuse need a place where they can be heard.

Every human being deserves to have the dignity bestowed on them by God respected. Anyone who demeans this through any form of abuse demeans themselves and God. As I have said previously, I take responsibility for what has happened in the church in the past and where we have wronged or failed anyone, we beg their forgiveness.

Returning to my Easter message, James Torres, a priest who accompanies gang members in Los Angeles in an intervention programme aimed at helping those trapped in the tombs of drugs, poverty and violence, says, “We see in the homies what they don’t see in themselves until they do.” That is the heart of the Resurrection: God seeing us when we can't see ourselves, and loving us into what God knows we can become if we face who we are and name our tombs.

Greg Boyle, another priest in the same intervention programme, talks about this Resurrection life as not being about quick successes. He adds that he tries to approach “intractable problems with as tender a heart as I can locate, knowing that there is some divine ingenuity here, 'the slow work of God,' that gets done if we’re faithful.” That is the logic of the empty tomb.

Lucy Winkett, formerly a priest at St Paul's Cathedral in London and now Rector of St James in Picadilly, picks up on this transforming power of the Resurrection and sees it at work in silence and in small, often unnoticed, loving gestures. She writes: “Silence is potentially a transfiguring experience when the depths of ourselves are plumbed, when we dare to spend time alone without distraction, where we let God hear the tinnitus of fears and confusions that deafen us in our everyday interactions. Where we take off the mask we wear in front of others and let God see the light and the fire that is deep within us.”

Exploring the love that is at the heart of the Resurrection and how it gently infuses our lives, she says: “Love is potentially transfiguring when we know ourselves to be beautiful in another’s eyes, when a friend is spectacularly kind, when a lover touches us with tenderness, when our family accepts us as we are.” Then we experience Resurrection. With the God of second chances, no one is beyond the power of God's grace.

Mark makes clear in his Gospel that the Resurrection is God's doing when, talking about the stone in front of the tomb, he emphasises the passive voice and says the stone had already been rolled away. God is in charge. Mark adds the description that the stone was very big and thus we are left in no doubt that no matter how great our difficulties, how intractable our problems, how uncertain our future, the Risen Lord stands somewhere in the shadows. Like Mary Magdalene, we too will be surprised to find Him nearer than we thought.

One final thought. The Easter story is not merely a powerful proclamation of new life, it is also a mission that we must accomplish. We must take the new life to every dark place, every oppressive situation, to all exploited people and unjust structures. It is a challenge that is rooted in reading the gospels and indeed the gospel of our own lives from the perspective of the Resurrection. The mandate is to go to Galilee, to the place which is so much a part of the gospel story and to re-read the gospels and the story of our lives through the lens of Resurrection.

The gospels tell us that this new life is a threat to those who wield different types of power. The soldiers were terrified of the consequences of this challenge. The high priests were so concerned that they resorted to bribery in order to suppress the truth. A Nobel Peace laureate once said that it is not power that corrupts but the fear of losing power that often opens the powerful to corruption. We see it in the Easter story and it endures to the present. Little wonder that Clarence W Hall could ponder: “If Easter says anything to us today, it says this: you can put truth in a grave but it won’t stay there. You can nail it to a cross, wrap it up in winding sheets, and shut it up in a tomb, but it will rise!”

God bless you, God bless your family and God bless South Africa. But most importantly, God loves you… and so do I ! Alleluia.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Archbishop receives honorary degree from Stellenbosch University

The text of Archbishop Thabo's acceptance remarks appears below the video clip. 



Remarks on receiving the degree Doctor of Theology (Honoris Causa) at Stellenbosch University, on March 20, 2018:

Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, students, staff and guests,

Ladies and gentlemen, Dames en Here,

My warm thanks you to for your welcome.  I want to thank you, the representatives of this historic and distinguished university, for conferring this honour on me. When I was a young person growing up in Johannesburg, people used to say of Stellenbosch that it was where the country's prime ministers were educated. Those days are gone for now, but if you are as successful as you aim to be with your transformation into a university fit for purpose in 21st century South Africa, I am sure those days can and will return, and that we will yet see a Matie as president of a liberated, democratic South Africa.

I receive this honorary degree on behalf of all the lay people in our respective churches, the people who are the pillars who hoist us up to meet the challenges of today. Many of them had the ability to benefit from a university education but were denied that opportunity. In the past that was often because of poor schooling or the colour of their skins; now it is still often because of poor schooling or because they struggle to find the means to pay.

Since the honorary degree you have generously chosen to bestow on me is in theology, let me say a few words today about the doctrine of the Incarnation – the doctrine that holds that Jesus is both fully God and fully human, that he is the divine Son who was, as we say, made flesh – that he took on a human body and human nature.

What does the Incarnation mean in South Africa today? To me, it means that God is part of the contemporary world. So although the president and members of his Cabinet, or the captains of business and industry, or the leaders of universities and churches, may play important roles in our society, we should not be looking for God in the spaces they inhabit.

No, we should be looking for God in other places. Just as the wise men in the Christmas story found Jesus in a stable, we need to look for God among those the world regards as unimportant – those who are seemingly insignificant; those regarded as illegitimate, illiterate, defenceless, of no worth to the economy and of no consequence in society.

So as we celebrate all who graduate tonight, as you look back over the hard work and the support from your families and your sponsors which got you here, let's dedicate ourselves to serving our society in a way that will enable those that are the least among us to live lives as full and as rich as those we aspire to live ourselves.

Congratulations to the graduates and to those who have supported them. God bless you.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Archbishop consults on improving Church's response to sexual abuse cases

Statement by the Most Revd Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town:

“In recent weeks, four individuals have either spoken out publicly or contacted my office privately to report experiences of sexual abuse in two dioceses, apparently during the 1970s and 1980s.

“Last month, before these developments, the Synod of Bishops held a detailed discussion on the Anglican Communion's 'Safe Church Network'. This is an international body on which we are represented and which was founded some years ago in response to what the Communion has acknowledged is the betrayal of trust by some clergy and church workers who have abused children and adults for whom they have had pastoral responsibility.

“In Southern Africa, the Canons make provision for someone who holds a licence to minister in the Church, and who is accused of sexual assault or harassment, to be charged before a church tribunal within their diocese, and disciplined if found guilty. We have also advised complainants in the past to lay charges with the police.

“However, it is clear from the experiences reported in the last few weeks that we are lagging behind in our care for victims of abuse.

“In Cape Town, I established a team some years ago to advise me on the handling of complaints. The team included a psychologist, a lawyer, a priest and the head of an institution involved in a case.

“However, since that team does not have the capacity to advise bishops across Southern Africa I wrote to all our bishops last week advising them to establish similar advisory teams in their dioceses and in their local archdeaconries and parishes.

“I have asked that these teams be appointed to intervene when there are allegations of abuse in parishes or church schools. They should include a psychologist, social worker or counsellor; someone who is qualified to give legal advice; a community worker from outside the church; and the head of the affected entity within the church.

“I am also urgently consulting more widely on how the Church can not only act more effectively, but be seen to act effectively in cases of sexual abuse. Key to my efforts is to achieve holistic and sustainable healing. 

“I plan to address the issue further at Easter.

“As I have said previously, I take responsibility for what has happened in the church in the past and where we have wronged or failed anyone, we beg their forgiveness.

“Every human being deserves to have the dignity bestowed on them by God respected. Anyone who demeans this through any form of abuse demeans themselves and God.



Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Courageous Conversations as Public Theology: In Search of New Partnerships for Justice

A keynote address to the Together for Justice Conference at the University of the Western Cape:

Friends, colleagues, sisters and brothers in Christ: I greet you all in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives.
Thank you for honouring me with the invitation to speak here. A special welcome to our friends from abroad – as you well know, the ecumenical witness of the world-wide Church of God had a profound influence on the theological and political fight for justice against apartheid in South Africa.
In particular, we celebrate  our longstanding links with the Church in Germany, which has been an overwhelmingly positive influence for good among the Christian churches of South Africa. Although on the one hand, the development of the theology of apartheid was influenced by South African theologians who studied in Germany in the 1930s, in later years opposition to apartheid was profoundly influenced by the church struggle against totalitarianism in Germany, especially by examples such as the Barmen Declaration affirming the sovereignty of God in Christ over all other claims to authority.
The EKD gave magnificent support to the South African Council of Churches during the darkest days of our struggle, when my predecessor, Archbishop Tutu, was the council's general secretary. It has also given significant support to the All Africa Conference of Churches. As a young person, my university education was financed largely by donations from overseas to the council's African Bursary Fund. In exchange, I worked in the SACC's photocopy room during university holidays. I must have copied many documents from the EKD in my time there, and perhaps also shredded those we did not want the apartheid government to see!
Reformed theology also generated confessional documents rejecting apartheid. Led by people such as the late Dr Beyers Naude and Dr Allan Boesak, the ecumenical movement, through the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, played an important role in rejecting apartheid as a heresy. The Dutch Reformed Mission Church – now part of the Uniting Reformed Church – developed the Belhar Confession, which resembles the Barmen Confession in that both asserted God's authority over the dominant political ideology. Later, theologians of all denominations responded to the South African crisis of the mid 1980s by adopting the Kairos Document.
Of course I am an Anglican and, as Archbishop Michael Ramsey of Canterbury once said, “Modern Anglican theology owes many of its  characteristics to the central place held within it by the Incarnation.” When I was installed as Archbishop 10 years ago, I spoke of the need to “seek afresh to discover what it is to be the body of Christ in our time, and who God is in Jesus Christ, for us here and now.” Since then I have come to realise the centrality of the doctrine of the Incarnation for me, and have returned to it again and again as a lens through which to explore both theology and politics and theology and economics.
As I said when I addressed the last meeting of our church's ruling Synod, “Simply put, by incarnation I refer to God in Jesus entering the everyday experience of human living to point us to God’s reign and to prepare and invite us through our everyday lives to enjoy the blessedness of this reign... [M]y writing and advocacy on the theme of the incarnation and politics is born out of the struggle of God’s people with political systems in Southern Africa that demeaned all of us and which were not designed to address the concrete needs and experiences of our daily lives or to respond to God’s call to human flourishing.” The Incarnation, as I have said elsewhere, “communicates to us that God is... on our side. In Christ Jesus, God demonstrates God’s solidarity with the human condition. He is with us, alongside us, and, more than that, one of us – to a degree we probably will never adequately understand this side of heaven.”
In South Africa, since our liberation in 1994, we have had to ask: what does the incarnate Christ say about the fact that political liberation has not been accompanied by economic liberation? What does the incarnate Christ say about the corruption which has seeped into many levels of government and the private sector? What does the incarnate Christ say about the fact that we  remain one of the most unequal countries in the world. What does the incarnate Christ say about the continuing inequality of opportunity, which determines that those who are likely to flourish in our society are the sons and daughters of the elite, and those who will struggle to break out of a vicious circle of poverty are the daughters and sons of the poor?
One of the issues we have to face up to is that the Church has failed to act with the courage that people such as Beyers Naude, Allan Boesak, Desmond Tutu, the Roman Catholic archbishop, Denis Hurley, and many others showed during the struggle against apartheid. Too often we have not spoken out when our political leaders have failed. As Beyers Naude said as far back as 1996: 

“People tend to say that now that we have a new government, now that we have a new Constitution, now that we have solved our political problems, for the time being, there is no prophetic role for the Church at the moment. I think such a perception is a very serious mistake.”

In 2003, the National Religious Association for Social Development developed a vision for a new South Africa as a shared agenda between different faith communities. This declared that “we strive to build a just and equitable society, a society that cares for all its citizens, especially for those that are weak and marginalized; a democratic society that respects our constitution, the rule of law, that guards against the misuse of power, that fosters our diversity and plurality, and that fosters the role of civil society. Such a society can only be built on the shared moral values within our diverse traditions, in order to build a wholesome society.” This formed the basis for a collaborative approach between faith communities and government under President Mbeki to fight poverty. Because we were now a democracy, we would adopt a position of critical solidarity with our government. But there was too much solidarity and too little criticism.
Twenty years after our transition to democracy, the National Church Leaders’ Consultation – a gathering of 35 senior church leaders from different denominations – declared in a joint statement:

“As church leaders we confess to the brokenness and pain of our society – we have a crisis of hope and an urgency to respond. We have seen and heard the plight of the poor. We confess that we were not conduits of creating a just and peaceful society. We should speak boldly about the challenges and issues confronting us.”

My own response to the challenges that we have faced in recent years has been to promote what I call the New Struggle. The old struggle, of course, was that against apartheid. I have argued that the New Struggle is needed because-

“It sometimes feels as if some of our leaders stopped their fight for a new South Africa at the point at which they joined the ranks of those who corruptly and immorally amassed wealth under colonialism and apartheid. Our struggle now should not be for the new, multiracial middle class to live as the white elite lived under apartheid: it should be for a new society, a more equal society, a society of equality of opportunity in which the wealth that comes from new economic growth is shared equitably among all.”

The replacement of President Jacob Zuma by our new President, Cyril Ramaphosa, does not take away the need for this New Struggle. As I said in my Christmas sermon in 2015:

“[L]et us not make the mistake of thinking that the solution to our problems lies simply in replacing one leader with another. The new struggle is about values and institutions rather than about personalities.... [W]hether or not [President Zuma] is replaced before his term ends, we need to build strong systems and institutions which cannot be undermined by one party or person’s whim.”

Theology is what God is up to in God’s creation. Economics is how God’s household organises itself in response to God’s creative love. What does looking at the economy through the lens of the Incarnation say to us?
The economic ordering of society and the question of how we develop our material resources is central to the crises that afflict us, both in South Africa and the world. In South Africa I have said that the old economic order must go. But inequality is not confined to South Africa, or Brazil, or the United States – it affects us all. Two years ago, I attended the first Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management in Hong Kong. There theologians, economists, students and senior church officials from across the world resolved to become advocates of a new form of global governance and a new economic model, pledging to seek practical ways to transform the market economy from a self-serving mechanism for elites to one which serves our environment and all the world's people.
When we look at not only the South African economy but the world economy, in an era in where there is growing xenophobic nationalism and resurgent racism in many places, we again face a kairos moment. We have a shared responsibility - across the regions of the world, across political divisions, across cultural and religious diversity, across economic and social differences – to ensure a future for the coming generations. The challenges we face on a global, regional and local level are similar and related: poverty and inequality; rapid technological changes; protection of the environment and natural resources; interfaith and inter-cultural cooperation; strengthening democracy and social justice, addressing the causes of migration and refugees. Through dialogue and conversations with leading religious, political, business and civil society leaders, we must strive to foster better understanding of the complexity of the challenges we face,  strengthen mutual cooperation and trust and facilitate common action through partnerships.
Our task as the heralds of Good News is to remember, as God's people did in times past, to remember what God has done for us and to consciously allow God's great deeds in history to continue to empower us. We must rekindle our own hope and the hope of our people.11
Thank you, and God bless.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

College of the Transfiguration - 2018 Graduation Ceremony

Graduation address at the College of the Transfiguration: 

Readings: Jeremiah 17:19-27; Ps 78:19-27; Mark 8:1-10 

I greet you all in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives. Amen
Dean of the Province and Chair of the College Council, Bishop Stephen, Bishop Ebenezer, the Bishop of Grahamstown and other bishops present at this milestone in the life of our Province, members of the College Council, the Rector, Dr Kgabe, staff, students, graduates, your families, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honour and privilege for me, as the Visitor to the College, to speak at this graduation ceremony and to celebrate with you the 25th anniversary of the College of the Transfiguration.
During the past months, as I have approached the 10th anniversary of my installation, I have been wrestling with what my theological emphasis as Archbishop of the Province and an archbishop in the Anglican Communion should be at this time. During my time as Archbishop I have done some work on Workplace Spirituality, on Faith and Economics, on Faith and Courage and on Incarnation and Politics. But I have a strong passion for education generally and theological education in particular. As a teacher and counsellor, pedagogy is very important for me; also important is what it means to be fully human.
When forced to choose a discipline, theological ethics will feature, along with the disciplines of systematic theology and practical theology. These lenses aid me in wrestling with the Bible. And I have a particular and specific concern for what Anglicans are accused of being biased towards, and that is the doctrine of the Incarnation.
Theological education equips us to embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemption and healing for people and creation as well as to honour God in worship that feeds and empowers us for faithful witness and service. Dear friends, the modalities may vary due to our different contexts but in spite of these, we are all formed by our education and sent to proclaim these eternal, changeless truths to all and to feed on and be fed by them.
As you might have noticed by now, for me theological education is not about creating a band of elite clerics who are invisible during the week and seen only on Sunday. Nor is it a sanctuary for those who do not have the courage to face life’s challenges. The opposite is true: theological education equips us with wisdom, God’s wisdom to be loving pastors and shepherds of all, soaked in prayer and seeking God, and dedicated in to peace and social justice without fear or favour. Equally, it equips us to know when not to feel obliged to act, but rather just to come alongside God's  people, to be present with them when they are in need, holding them up as they seek God’s wisdom in their situations.
When I have spoken previously in this chapel. I have posed questions asking what kind of priest we are training at CoTT and what our understanding is of the contexts in which they will be ministering. I have laid emphasis on a number of areas, such as theological education and education more broadly and on our political contexts.
In addressing these, I said we need to explore how we can encourage families of ordinands to help in training and forming our clergy, and to explore options for funding training, including partnerships and formation in an ecumenical context. Today I want to ask: how far have we gone with that?
I have also spoken of the need to explore the best that information technology can offer us, of course noting that nothing can or should replace human contact in the art of formation. I referred to the E-Reader project we started at Bishopscourt and wonder today, how far has that initiative gone towards addressing that need and helping our students?
I have emphasised the importance of prayer and Bible reading ahead of elections in our countries; that we should drink from our spiritual wells, engage our consciences and be guided by these rather than fear and blind loyalty when we make our mark on a ballot paper. What have we learnt from that, especially as we in South Africa approach the 2019 national elections? And what lessons can we draw from our mistakes?
On one occasion in this chapel, I addressed the Synod of Bishops’ concerns on an Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, which was a gross violation of human rights. In our own context in Southern Africa, the bishops resolved to intensify the dialogue over our response as Christians to the debate on human sexuality both within Africa and in the wider Anglican Communion. In engaging this debate, I said we ought to be guided by the imperative to love our neighbours. The debates culminated in a motion that was tabled at Provincial Synod in 2016, and more recently I have appointed a Commission on Human Sexuality to take the debate further in the Province.
Today at this graduation, we meet to celebrate with the college 25 good years of service to the Church across Southern Africa as our only provincial residential college. So, after a quarter of a century, where do we stand? Building on the pioneering work of the founding principal, Luke Pato, now Bishop of Namibia, and his successors – and most recently, the fine work done by Prof Barney Pityana and Dr Kgabe – you are indeed a premier residential centre for theological education, developing a reputation as one of the leading institutions for training in Africa, respected across the Communion.
We have a website that enables communication to be effective between students here and anywhere in the Communion. The college is registered with the South African Qualifications Authority for theological education, which gives it great potential to do even better in the future. To cap it all, today I will be capping for the first time in the history of the college those that have completed their Bachelor's degree.
Of course, just as other churches in Southern Africa, we face big challenges in the field of theological education. Right now one of them – fortunately one of a completely different kind to the one CoTT has – is staring us in the face, and that is the crisis over the future of the Bransby Key College in Mthatha. But we are doing all we can to address the challenges.
To help overcome our financial difficulties, Dioceses have been challenged to make monthly donations over and above student tuition costs, and Bishop Ebenezer chairs a fundraising committee for the college. Notably, a commission chaired by Prof Pityana has been put in place to come up with innovative thinking and soul-searching on how we conduct theological training and ministerial formation in the future. Among issues the commission will examine is a possible radical structuring of theological education, the question of student-teacher ratios, the importance of residential training and the all-important issue of how to finance  it. It is our hope and earnest intent that CoTT will continue to thrive as a centre of training for future clergy amidst the challenges we face.
Today’s Gospel reading (Mk 8:1-10) presents to us the story of Jesus feeding four thousand people. Although there are striking similarities between this account and the feeding of the five thousand earlier in Mark's Gospel, (Mk 6:34-44), they are two distinct incidents, as indicated by the fact that Jesus himself refers to two different feedings. The differences in detail are as definite as the similarities.
Since the incident took place in the region of the Decapolis, the crowd was probably made up of both Jews and Gentiles. Decapolis was a league of free cities characterised by high Greek culture. The league stretched from a point northeast of the Sea of Galilee southwards to Philadelphia and all but one of the cities  were east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river.
In the earlier incident, Jesus initially showed compassion for the crowd because they were like sheep without a shepherd, beginning – as the text says – by teaching them many things. Now he has compassion for the 4,000 because they had been so long without food, for three days – much longer than in the case of the 5,000, who had gone without for hardly a day.
The significance of this later occasion is that Jesus was still among the Gentiles, to whom the bread of life is to be offered as well as to the Jews. The disciples’ questioning reflects their inadequacy, their inability to do anything, and their acknowledgement that Jesus alone could feed the people. They had not forgotten his feeding of the 5,000 and were probably giving him back the responsibility of procuring bread. Alternatively, their questioning may reveal their spiritual dullness – or  maybe they were just slow learners.
As you who are graduating today contemplate Jesus's ministry to those crowds, I would urge you to turn inwards and examine your own intentions for your  ministry to God's people, and how your education here at COTT fits into your vocation.
What are you graduating for? Is it to have a collar around your neck? Are you desirous of ordination for reasons of social status or money? What have you gained throughout your stay at CoTT? Are you transformed enough to hear, respect and address the needs of those who will cross you path in your ministry?
As we leave this college, are we able to identify the ones who need to be helped? As we will be celebrating TB Day this month, are we able to hear those who suffer from TB or are HIV positive? Do we know our own HIV status? What is our feeling about gender-based violence? Are we able to hear the cries of “Karabos” of our time?
And speaking of allegations of sexual assault, I need to take this opportunity to comment briefly on the allegations about our own church that have been made in recent days. I plan to address this issue more comprehensively in the coming weeks, but I want to say that the bishops of our Province are determined to address what the “safe church” network in the Anglican Communion has called, and I quote, “the tragic betrayal of trust by some clergy and church workers in Provinces and churches across the Communion, who have abused children and adults for whom they have had pastoral responsibility.” During the height of the abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church in America, there was a time when priests avoided wearing their clerical collars on public transport, so badly did the scandal affect their reputation. In our own Church we need to act decisively to address such allegations in a way that both brings justice to victims and protects clergy and church workers from malicious claims. It will be painful but it is necessary.
To return to the main focus of my address to you, when you leave CoTT you will be going out to to serve people who need support from government, such as young children who have passed their matric exams and have no means to further their education. What will be your solution to their predicaments? What other issues that are challenging our broader church?
These are the questions we all have to wrestle with as we leave college and return to our Dioceses for ordination. We need pastors whose concern is not for themselves but for the people, pastors who know where the bread of life is needed. We are today charged with the responsibility to feed God’s people with his Word, and to soak our lives in prayer in order to be of assistance to them. By meeting this challenge, the great pastors of our church will emerge from among you ranks.
In closing, let me convey my and the Church's congratulations to you who are graduating tonight, and also to your families who have given their love and support to you during your time here. Congratulations to CoTT too for the achievements, past and present, which this ceremony highlights.
May God lead us well and equip us for the journey ahead into the mission fields he sends us to. May we be able to fulfil God’s mission in responding to God's call to noble service in God's church.
God bless.
Amen.   

Monday, 12 March 2018

The Church's response to writer Ishtiyaq Shukri's open letter

The South African writer Ishtiyaq Shukri has written an open letter in which he responds to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s recent stepping down as an ambassador for Oxfam after a scandal around allegations of sexual misconduct. 

In the letter, Mr Shukri said he was the victim of sexual abuse by Anglican priests and accused Archbishop Desmond of never fully addressing what he claimed was systematic and institutionalised sexual abuse happening in his own organisation.

In response, Archbishop Tutus office issued the following statement:

Archbishop Emeritus Tutu was mortified to learn this week of the suffering Ishtiyaq Shukri has described enduring at the hands of priests in Kimberley. Members of the clergy who break the law or behave immorally are as accountable for their actions – now, in the past and in the future – as any other member of Gods family. Archbishop Emeritus Tutu has retired from public life. He has the utmost faith in Archbishop Makgobas commitment to hold those clergy accused of wrongdoing to account, and support those whose trust in the clergy has been betrayed.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba issued this response:

The Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) was shocked and distressed to hear a report on Mr Shukris situation at a meeting last month. 

His experiences were reported to the bishops while they were discussing the work of the Anglican Communion Safe Church Network, an international body on which our church is represented. The body was created as a result of what Anglican churches world-wide have acknowledged is “the tragic betrayal of trust by some clergy and church workers in Provinces and churches across the Communion, who have abused children and adults for whom they have had pastoral responsibility.”

More background on the network can be found here:

Mr Shukri has been in touch with one of our bishops and I understand that he is unwilling to go into detail or name the person or persons who abused him.

While respecting his wishes, we usually urge victims of abuse to lay charges with the police and with church authorities. The police are often better equipped to investigate cases than we are, especially in cases which go back many decades and may have occurred in dioceses whose former leaders have died.

In recent years, arising out of allegations of past abuse at church schools and institutions, I have established teams – including a lawyer, a psychologist, a priest and the head of the entity concerned – to investigate and advise me on these matters. I have done this both to ensure that we respond to victims sensitively and respect their dignity, and to protect school and church workers from false accusations.

Every human being deserves to have the dignity bestowed on them by God respected. Anyone who demeans this through any form of abuse demeans themselves and God. Abusing others is unbiblical and cannot be condoned.

As the current Archbishop of Southern Africa, I take responsibility for what has happened during the time of my predecessors and where we have wronged or failed anyone, we beg their forgiveness. I am committed to giving the “Safe Church” initiative significant attention, especially when abuse has been reported and nothing done about allegations. Our Synod of Bishops is drawing up policies and procedures to ensure the safety of all in the Church.