Friday, 26 October 2018

Women destined for God’s purpose - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

An address to the 2018 Provincial Conference of the Anglican Women’s Fellowship:

Theme: Women destined for God’s purpose

President of the AWF, Mrs Lucille Henniker, 
Members of your Provincial Executive Committee, 
Bishop Dan, your  Liaison Bishop, 
Your host bishop, Bishop Ebenezer, and
Delegates to this Provincial Conference, 

Thank you so much for inviting me to this conference today, and thank you also to the visitors and guests here present. Let me acknowledge past Presidents Overmeyer and Titus as well as clergy who are here as chaplains.

It is an honour and privilege to stand here today as the Patron of the Fellowship and to share some thoughts and reflections on the theme of this conference. The last time I addressed you was in 2010 in Lesotho as Bishop Nopece was retiring as Liaison Bishop and Ms Overmeyer was handing over to Pumla. Thank you to all Diocesan Presidents and your most informative reports. I have gone through your agenda book and there is a lot that Provincial meetings can learn from you. Your statistical form is a good tool that the Province can adopt to ensure proper records of our parishioners.

I am delighted that there is a wide representation of delegates and guests from the dioceses of our Province here. This is indeed a sign that you, the AWF, are able as one of our Province’s leading organisations to live out faithfully ACSA’s Vision statement, and are moving forward in your ministry and mission.

You may be aware that at the last meeting of the Provincial Standing Committee, we revised ACSA’s missional priorities, and that we now group them into three priorities, in line with the Province’s Vision statement.

You will recall that in our Vision statement, we say that Anglicans ACT, meaning that we are firstly:

-- Anchored in the love of Christ. 

Secondly we are:

-- Committed to God’s mission.

Thirdly, we are:

-- Transformed by the Holy Spirit.

We now express this by saying that we will demonstrate our rootedness in the love of Christ through liturgy, which we are renewing, and worship, which we are transforming.

Secondly we will express our commitment to God's mission by equipping disciples for leadership and ministry through theological education, formation and leadership development.

And thirdly we will demonstrate that we are transformed by the Spirit by exercising a prophetic ministry in the world, which will include advocacy in education, the nurture of the young, a focus on women and gender, and on the environment and health.

Let me start my talk by reflecting on one of the lections for the Eucharist this morning: Ephesians 4:1-6. In this passage, Paul encourages Christians to lead a life worthy of the vocation to which they have been called. This does not mean that our aim should be to win a place that is deserving of God’s favour, but rather that the place we occupy is already a favour from God, and that we should, in thanksgiving to God, recognise that this requires a great deal from us. So the focus is not on our own worth but on the worth of our calling.

This, I believe, is what ‘women destined for God’s purpose’ should be striving for. So if we are destined to fulfil God’s purpose, then what does it mean to live a life worthy of that calling from God?

Paul emphasises that the way to lead a life worthy of our calling is to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’. Maintaining spiritual unity involves a soul-searching in pursuit of humility, meekness,  patience and forbearing in love.

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians in essence addresses unity. He lays down a micro-platform that concerns two main sources of discord amongst those who profess to follow Christ. The first one has to do with temperament and the other with teaching. Recognising these sources of division and acting upon that recognition could go a long way towards healing divisions.

Friends, our Christian faith is our avenue to God in the here and now. It is therefore crucial, in pursuit of Christian unity, that we appreciate the importance of the belief system that we have embraced. For us, it is not just ‘a’ religion – it is ‘the’ religion of divine sanction.  In view of this foundational truth, we as  Christians must walk worthily of the vocation to which we are called and pursue unity and peace.

As members of AWF, God calls us to respond to what we have become in Christ. Every Christian is called to be a disciple of Jesus and to serve as part of the wider body of Christ. Our call to unity is our calling to ministry and Christ has given us gifts of grace for ministry which come together in one common goal of maturity in Christ.

What does it mean to be the body of Christ in such times as these? To what discipleship are we called? And what does the cost of our discipleship entail? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves if we are to be women destined for God. Put differently, Jesus says to the young rich lawyer, the one thing that you lack is.... What is the one thing that you lack to be His disciple ?

Over the 10 years I have served as your Archbishop, I have come increasingly to realise the centrality of the doctrine of the Incarnation for us as Anglicans. As a former Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, once said, “Modern Anglican theology owes many of its  characteristics to the central place held within it by the Incarnation.” Speaking for myself, I have returned to it again and again as a lens through which to explore both theology and its implications for our place in the world.

For me, Incarnation is God taking a human form and in so doing becoming part of the contemporary world. Through incarnation, God invites us to discern how best to realise our true humanity and to be directed how best we work with one another in service to God and in respect for God’s creation. 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.”

Also during my time as Archbishop, I have devoted attention to the need for us as Christians and Anglicans to seek the common good. What is the common good? Simply put, it is based on the recognition that what is good and beneficial for the other who is my neighbour is what is good and beneficial for me. Too often, many of our us and our leaders seem to have forgotten what is it to seek the common good.

This past Sunday at the centenary celebrations of Ma Sisulu in Johannesburg, I said that Jesus is the embodiment of his ethic, he preaches what he says. Women destined for God’s purpose follow the example of Jesus at responding constructively to a challenge.

As women destined for God, how do we become part of the contemporary world, seeking the common good for our neighbour? In the latest World Economic Forum rankings, South Africa is ranked 17 out of 136 countries in gender equality. Does that mean our women are free from all types of violence? The answer, of course, is no! We may be doing better than some other countries, but there is still no  gender equality in South Africa. In a report that was released by the Commission for Gender Equality, it was revealed that women still bear the brunt of gender-based violence and other related atrocities. Women are unable to walk freely in our streets, in our towns and cities and in some rural areas, for fear of all sorts of harassment and abuse. Statistics from the SAPS reflect that violence against women is still alarmingly high.

Not only that: women are still exposed to sexual harassment both at home and in the workplace (GCE, 2018). And they are inflicted by harmful traditional practices such as under-age forced marriages, genital mutilation and virginity testing. The legislation needed to combat these pratices may exist, but at times the laws are either ignored or not applied effectively. If we look at the situation in South Africa, there need to be reviews of the implementation of the Children’s Act, the Sexual Offences Act, the Domestic Violence Act and other related statutes to ensure that the purposes for which they were adopted are being fulfilled.

Of course it is not only on issues relating specifically to women that you as our sisters in the AWF have a role to play, in both our church and in society. While you have particular strengths through your unique experiences as women, you are of course citizens who are as entitled and needed just as much as men to speak and to act on any and all issues facing our societies in this Province.

Looking at those societies more broadly, in all the countries of our Province there is a desperate need to fight to eliminate the inequality of opportunity which condemns millions of people to inter-generational poverty. We cannot deny that those born to educated, privileged families have better chances in life than those born to poor families without access to networks which secure them jobs and good incomes. Inequality of opportunity undermines people’s capacity to use their God-given gifts to improve their lives, and our passion should be to work for better opportunities and to create an environment which benefits all, and to work against the continued exclusion of the marginalised in our society.

In South Africa, at an ecumenical level, a meeting of the National Church Leaders’ Consultation this week reflected on the difficult times the country has been going through recently, and concluded that people of faith we need to bring a message of hope at this time. I quote from our statement:

Mindful of our own failures, disunity, struggles and brokenness we are yet awakened to the fact that we are called to be agents of hope, healing, peace, unity and reconciliation. Refusing to be captured by State propositions, ideologies and party-political interests, we seek to reclaim the message and role of the Church as we exemplify the life and teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ, live the Gospel imperatives, proclaim good news to all and advance the ideals of the Kingdom of God. 

In the church, as we prepare for our Provincial Synod next year, I also invite you to play your full role in addressing the important decisions our Church faces on how we order our collective life: on how we transform our liturgies so that we worship God in ways best suited to the times in which we live; on how we respond to the need for sensitive and effective ministry to those in same-sex unions; and on how we ensure that our congregations are safe spaces for all our people, especially vulnerable children.

Last month's meetings of PSC and the Synod of Bishops have already taken action on making the church a safe space, without waiting for Provincial Synod. In future anyone wanting to be ordained to serve as a clergyperson will have to provide a police clearance certificate. From next year, this will apply to lay ministers too, especially those involved in youth ministry and Sunday School teaching.

In other steps:

    • We have set up an email address to make it easier to report allegations of abuse;
    • We will set up a central register of complaints, including details of what action has been taken; and
    • The Bishops have emphasised that it is urgent and important for every Diocese to set up a team to deal effectively with allegations of abuse in the church. These teams will receive training, and the bishops will receive training at the next meeting of their Synod in February.

In South Africa, both church and society are being  challenged to work out how best we can manage and develop our land – both urban and rural land – to ensure that all our people flourish in an economy that provides work and dignity for all. In the Church, the Provincial Standing Committee resolved last month that we should carry out an audit of church land and make recommendations for the use of vacant land. We have also commissioned theological reflection on the issue of land expropriation without compensation. In society as a whole of course, the question of land is the burning issue of the day, one which will require enormous dedication and patience, but also a willingness to take quick and decisive action to bring about sensible reforms which both fulfil the demands of justice and the practical need for economic growth and jobs.

But the problem is not insoluble. Twenty-five years ago, we didn't know quite how we were going to get of apartheid, but we worked together and we succeeded. Just a year ago, we didn't know how we were going to restore good governance in a country which was heading for economic destruction. But now, although we are not out of the woods yet, we are on the way to doing that too.

So I encourage all of you as members of this organization to continue striving for what is ethically good in our communities. Let us discern and fulfill our vocations to the best of our ability – by so doing we shall have responded positively to Paul's exhortation to the Ephesians.

And before I end, one more thank you, and a final appeal: thank you for the role that you play in encouraging women to come forward in your dioceses to be considered for ordination. Please continue to nurture and promote young women of potential in your dioceses and parishes. Thank you especially for supporting women in full-time training for ministry at the College of the Transfiguration, and I appeal to you – no, I challenge you: please ensure in your diocese that you are always supporting at least two women training at Cott. In that way you will secure the future of our church and ordained ministry within it.

Finally, let me thank the President together with her executive for the sterling work they have done during their term of office, and in the same breath congratulate the incoming President and wish her and her executive all the best as you reach out and live  lives worthy of your calling.

May God bless you all.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Archbishop pays tribute to Albertina Sisulu - "One of the mothers of our nation"

Sermon preached at the Thanksgiving Service for Mrs Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu, on her 100th birthday, at Holy Cross Parish, Orlando West, on October 21, 2018:

Readings: Job 38: 1-7 (34-41), Psalm 104:1-10, 35-36; Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 10:35-45

May I speak in the name of God the Father, Son and the Comforter. Amen
A warm welcome to you all on this wonderful occasion where we commemorate one of the icons of our struggle. Welcome especially to you, leaders in Government, and to all the members of the Sisulu family here present.
Thank you also to the church representatives present, to you Bishop Steve for hosting us in your Diocese, and to the Revd Lankiri Thaba, the Rector of Holy Cross Parish, situated just across the way from the home from which Mama Sisulu held her family together through so many years and through so much sacrifice.
Thank you for inviting me to share in this Thanksgiving Service with you as we mark the 100th year of Mama Sisulu's birth. When we gathered for her funeral at Orlando Stadium across the valley seven years ago, I shared a message about encouragement and comfort, of how Mama Sisulu, who never saw herself as a leader, embodied the characteristics of a great leader. She inspired others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and to become more. Today, celebrating Mama’s 100th birthday. we meet to give thanks to God for her life.
Nontsikelelo Albertina Sisulu was never here merely to exist. She lived to make a difference, and her contributions are what makes her life so significant. She not only made South Africa a better place, but she made the world immeasurably better, and that ultimately is what reallly counts. We are her legacy.
I am grateful that there are others here whose task it will be to pay an adequate tribute to Mama Sisulu, since the scope and quality of her life and work is such that it defies description in a short sermon. However, there are a few points that I do feel qualified to make. The first arises from my own experience as a young person growing up in Pimville. One of my most vivid memories is going with other young activists to consult Mama in the 1980s to guide us around the Release Mandela Campaign. We were embarking by bus from Johannesburg to Cape Town for the launch of the United Democratic Front, of which she was to become the co-president. And what I remember most clearly is the forthright questioning she subjected us to. It wasn’t enough that we were protesting – she wouldn’t let us leave until we had clearly, carefully and succinctly explained to her, not what we were doing, but why we were doing it. She was both confirming and galvanizing our conviction, so that our cause was driven by our hearts as much as by our heads.
I remember that during her funeral, I reflected on the fact that these days – or at least in those days – criticism was too often labelled anti-revolutionary. It is a refreshing ray of hope and sunshine that our current administration encourages, not discourages, speaking out. We’re seeing the rule of law taken very seriously, and our most senior leaders are following both Mama and Jesus’ admonition, “the truth will set you free.”
The second observation I want to make is that in many ways, the story of Mama Albertina Sisulu encapsulates in a single, remarkable human being, the story of our people, and especially the story of our struggle. She was both a leader in her own right, as her presidency of the UDF demonstrates, and at the same time she was also the matriarch of a generation of fighters against injustice and oppression. If she were alive today, I’m confident that she again would be on the front lines of the New Struggle: the struggle for equality of opportunity.
As one writer said in the early 1990s, Mama’s family story is heroic: “There can be few families in the history of South Africa,” the writer said, “that have been torn apart as relentlessly by the political struggle, and few that have survived it so intact.” That is a sad fact, but it's true. For a period of 30 years, at least one member of the family was always in prison and at least one in exile. At one time in the 1980s, six were in prison. Albertina spent most of the 24 years Walter was in prison either restricted, under house-arrest or detained—and once, in solitary confinement for almost a year.
My third observation arises from my second. Elinor Sisulu writes in her wonderful biography of the Sisulus of how when Mama went to a Roman Catholic boarding school at Matatiele in 1936, she was introduced to a routine in which the school day began at 4 am. Elinor quotes Mama as saying, "We were generally trained to be orderly and organised." It seems to me, that this could be said of Mama Sisulu for the whole of her life. Through all of her suffering and the suffering of her children, she remained a model of heroism, and a figure of dignity and discipline. I like to think that it was in recognition both of her own leadership in the struggle and her status as a disciplined member of her movement that she was chosen in 1994 to be the Member of Parliament who would rise to formally propose that Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela should be elected as the first President of a democratic South Africa. I think we can justifiably describe Mama Sisulu as one of the mothers of our nation.
Turning to today's readings, the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (5:1-10) says that those called to high priestly office have to fulfil certain qualifications. A candidate had to be selected from among the people and thus be able to represent them before God. Also he or she had to be called by God. The writer moves on to show how Jesus more than fulfilled these qualifications during his time on earth.
This is through the reference to Christ’s agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. He did not shrink from physical suffering and death by crucifixion, but accepted the indescribable agony of taking humankind’s sin on himself. Jesus was made perfect through temptation, suffering and his ordeal on the Cross. Though he was the eternal son of God, it was necessary for him as the incarnate son to learn obedience – not because he was disobedient but because he was called on to obey to an extent he had never before experienced. The temptations he faced were real and the battle for victory was difficult. Where Adam failed and fell, Jesus resisted and prevailed.
Friends, when we look at the life and witness of Mama Sisulu today through her struggle for freedom and what the Hebrews scripture is saying, there are parallels. What can we learn from the example set before us by Jesus? What can we learn from the example set before us by Mama? Mama was one of my and South Africa’s most influential teachers. As such she affected eternity; history still cannot accurately record where her influence stops.
In our Gospel reading, Mark (10:35-45) gives us another picture of leadership during Jesus’ time, in the story of the desire for positions of prestige and power of the sons of Zebedee, James and John. Matthew in his Gospel (20:20,21) mentions that this request came through their mother, Salome, the sister of Mary – Jesus’ mother. So, James and John would therefore be first cousins to Jesus. This was a family attempt to gain position, probably to steal a march on – to have a surreptitious advantage over – Peter, a third member of the trio.
Jesus’ response to their request was that it would be realised only if they willingly submitted to servanthood. He told the two brothers that the positions to which they aspired – to sit on Jesus's left and right – were only for the Father, that is God, to bestow. And those positions would be bestowed not as a result of favouritism but on the basis of fitness of character.
It is as if Jesus was saying to the relatives of a local mayor in South Africa today: you can get a job if you are fit and qualified to do it, not because you are the mayor's cousin. What would Jesus be saying today to directors of the VBS bank in Venda, whose directors and the politically connected stole from the poor instead of serving them? The sons of Zebedee had forgotten their mission and had misunderstood the mission of Jesus Christ: they were drunk on power, status and position and had forgotten that they were called to be servants of the people. Jesus explains that those who are truly powerful are the ones who deliver: so we can see that service delivery is in the Bible!
When the other disciples heard this, they were bitter at the two brothers. Jesus responded by taking them aside and explaining the essential difference between worldly greatness and spiritual greatness. In the kingdom of God, true greatness flows from lowly and voluntary service, as the Letter to the Hebrews also indicates.
Friends, what is unique about Jesus in this Gospel is that he practised what he preached. He is the embodiment of his own ethic. His work is presented in two parts – to serve and to give. Mark clearly explains that the ministry of the Son is to serve or be of service. What can we learn from the example set before us by Jesus and from the example of service and sacrifice presented to us by Mama Sisulu?
What do their examples tell us about how to respond to the role of values, of values-based decision-making and of moral leadership? We need to support those who are courageously fighting corruption and greed in our country. The worst diseases in the the world are not just AIDS, Ebola or malaria; they include corruption. And while there might not yet be cures for the first three diseases, there is one for corruption. And that is transparency.
As our leaders sit here in God’s church today, please know, we the Church stand with you, behind you and for you – if you say “No” to corruption! You can do better. You must do better. I know, you will do better.
What is our pledge as we move forward from the centenary of Mama Sisulu's birth? It must be to be of service to God's people and our nation. It must be to join the New Struggle with the same fervor, the same passion, and the same conviction as Mama Sisulu had for the Old Struggle. The gap between the rich and the poor is increasing daily. The poor are highly marginalised. The crime rate is alarming. People are picketing for better service delivery in their thousands, in hundreds of places around the country every year. This is a great concern, especially if we are to ensure peaceful elections in 2019. There is a great need to address political stability, education, health care, job creation and the economic welfare of our people.
As Archbishop, I commit myself today to play my part, and to keep on pressing politicians and government to play theirs also. At the same time, we acknowledge the many positive achievements since the dawn of democracy, many bright light achievements which we need to celebrate.
As the Psalmist praises God for all creation and the glory of the natural world, may we also praise God for creating the terrestrial features of sea and land, for supplying our needs and enabling our lives. And may we respond to God's generosity to us by following the examples of Jesus and Mama Sisulu by sharing that generosity for the benefit of all of God's people.
God loves you… and so do I.
God bless you, your families, our President, and God bless South Africa.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Sermon at the 140th Anniversary Celebration of the Diocese of Pretoria

Readings: Job 23:1-9,16-17; Ps 22:1-15; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10: 17-31

May I speak in the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Bishops, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God:

It is an honour and a privilege to have been asked to share with you the Word of God on this historic milestone in the life, witness and ministry of the Diocese of Pretoria. Thank you, Bishop Allan, the clergy, your leadership team and to the whole diocesan community for inviting me. Thank you everyone for your warm welcome. Thank you too to those who were involved in the preparations for this day.
It was a joy to meet with your Diocesan Standing Committee yesterday. Interacting with your Diocesan leadership was enriching, and I shared with them four key matters occupying my time recently:
  • The work being done by the Province's Liturgical Committee to produce material for transformative worship and to revise our Prayer Book;
  • The wide-ranging examination of theological education being carried out by a Commission chaired by Professor Barney Pityana;
  • The Safe Church Network's efforts to ensure that women, children and vulnerable adults are protected from abuse, which involves training and getting police clearance for those in ministry; and
  • The work of the Archbishop's Commission on Human Sexuality, and the decision of the Synod of the Diocese of Saldanha Bay to allow for the blessing of same-sex civil unions, subject to the approval of Provincial Synod.
I come to you having recently attended the Anglicans Ablaze conference in KwaZulu-Natal, where young people from all over the province were affirmed to continue as ambassadors of Christ wherever they are. I know everyone there would want me to greet those of you who couldn't make it there, and to bring you their and the Province's congratulations.
What an extraordinary journey this Diocese has made in the past 140 years – so unlikely, in fact, that we can understand it only if we accept that your origins and your transformation into what you represent today are the consequence of God's intervention in our lives.
As Bishop Allan has pointed out, Anglicans – just like the followers of other churches which have their roots in Britain – came here first following the paths of explorers and the agenda of British imperialism. (1) The first bishops who sought to minister to Anglicans in what was then the Transvaal Republic – the bishops of Bloemfontein and of Zululand – were responding to the needs of white English-speakers; although the bishop of Zululand did tell one of the first priests he ordained, and I quote, “not to neglect the natives.” (2)
The first recorded act of Christian missional work in what is now the Diocese was recorded in 1871, with the establishment of a school for the children of English and German settlers, the School of the Holy Trinity, in Rustenburg. (3) Bishop Bousfield was sent here to establish the Diocese in 1878 after the British had seized the Transvaal in the previous year. He was a product of the British establishment who attended an exclusive public school and Cambridge University, and whose only prior service was in parishes in England.
He was once quoted as saying that, and again I quote, “the natives of South Africa are wholly unfit for the franchise which, if granted, would ruin them...” (4) Yet missionary work among local people was one of his early priorities, albeit conducted under the paternalistic regime of the time. As Bishop Allan has written, the first recorded missionary activity among local people was the establishment of the Good Shepherd School for Poor Children. (5)
South African church historians have observed that while white clergy may have established most of the early missions in South Africa, it was Africans who were the most effective evangelists. Testimony to this is provided by Canon Edwin Farmer, one of the best-known early missionaries of our Province. Of the Diocese of Pretoria, he wrote:
“In 1894 there were 50 Native men working hard for the Church. I found that I had to register… thousands who had been converted by these men each year… I was also surprised that these Natives had built for themselves, without any prompting or assistance, rough buildings for churches… One of these evangelists is Jacob Dabani. He lived evangelically, never went back to his cattle and possessions but walked from village to village preaching wherever he had opportunity. He had no home of his own ever. He called his converts his children. His influence was marvellous.” (6)
Beginning with five clergy, the Church grew steadily under Bishop Bousfield's supervision through the first British occupation, then under the South African Republic until the Anglo-Boer War, when he had to go into exile. These years also of course marked the era in which either ZAR or British troops, with Pretoria as their capital, crushed the last independent indigenous kingdoms of the former Transvaal – including that of the Makgobas. It was under Bishop Bousfield's successor that the real growth of the Diocese took off. From one diocese for the whole of the former Transvaal in its early days, the Diocese of Pretoria has given birth to six more dioceses, beginning with Johannesburg in 1922. We give thanks to God that the missionary work begun here 140 years ago has now multiplied to include the Dioceses of St Mark the Evangelist, the Highveld, Christ the King, Matlosane and Mpumalanga.
We owe thanks to the many in this Diocese who kept the candles of faith and hope burning through the turmoil of our history. To name just a few, we remember Hannah Stanton, who served at Tumelong Mission and was detained without trial, then deported, for collecting evidence against the police for using violence against defenceless women. We recall also Father, later Bishop, Mark Nye, who gave hospitality to defendants in the Treason Trial of the 1950s and was also jailed after Sharpeville for his support of Hannah Stanton. We remember Bishop Richard Kraft's leadership during the stormy 1980s, including his leadership of the Pretoria version of the anti-apartheid marches which swept the country in September 1989.
And of course in the democratic era we recall with pride the role of Bishop Jo Seoka in standing up for the victims of Marikana, and how the Cathedral hosted a rally in November 2016 calling for President Zuma's resignation. As Bishop Allan has written, there is irony in the fact that a Cathedral which used to be a rallying point for anti-apartheid forces became the venue of “a meeting that demanded action from the liberation movement that it had helped to put in place.” (7)
Many deans of your Cathedral became bishops, and more recently we recall the contributions to our Church of that brilliant church historian, Dean Livingstone Lubabalo Ngewu. So today we remember and recall all the bishops, clergy, churchwardens and other lay leaders who paved the way for our worship in this Diocese today. They are our inspiration in leading the witness of Jesus through some of the most difficult times of our history.
Perhaps there are times when you, clergy and people of this Diocese, feel overawed by your illustrious past and wonder whether you are adequate for the challenges of today. Well, Job stands as an encouragement for us. This is good news for all of us. It is good news not because we are necessarily like Job – but because God is our God. And our God still delights in putting his spirit in us. It is God who enables us to live as Job did – going forward, believing in the righteousness and fairness of God. Job did not know the full story behind his suffering but he knew that he was suffering unjustly. He was living in a world that he could not understand and worshipping a God he could not fully comprehend.
Spurgeon, looking at Job, says that good men “are washed towards God even by the rough waves of their grief, and when their sorrows are deepest, their highest desire is not to escape from them, but to get at their God”. Job says “I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face” (23:17). What greater encouragement could we ask for? We need to play our part too, but we can do so inspired by faithfulness to and the promises of God. In today's Psalm also, we heard how the Psalmist felt abandoned by God and like Job laments or remonstrates. Later the Psalmist praises God and his plea is finally answered.
Our second reading reminds us that our God is alive and active, exposing everything in creation, penetrating us to the core of our being. As the reading vividly states, “Sharper than any double-edged sword, [the Word of God] penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” He is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart – the totality and depth of one’s being. This is the benchmark by which we are all judged.
Confronted by this truth, we are confronted by God before whom nothing can be concealed. This indeed makes us aware that all things are stripped and bare and exposed to His searching glance. Friends, in the final accounting we give of our lives, we must all look to God and be looked upon by Him face to face. The writer of Hebrews stresses the parallel between Christ’s temptations and ours. Christ did not have each temptation we have but experienced every kind of temptation a person can have, yet was without sin.
In this celebration of the faithful of the Diocese of Pretoria, what are we bringing before God as an account of our ministry?
We celebrate today 140 years of service and witness to God’s love and care in one of the principal cities – indeed the principal city of governance – in our country. The rise and fall of our country rests on the decisions that are taken in this city. In today's Gospel reading (Mk 10: 17-31), Jesus is faced by a young man in the area of Judea and Perea, the focus of Jesus's ministry at the time. This young man was perhaps like someone we might find in Pretoria – a person of great wealth and therefore of power and status.
This rich young man wanted eternal life, and he thought that he would earn it through righteousness. But Jesus taught him that it was a gift to be received. The goodness of Jesus was in some sense subject to growth and testing in the circumstances of the incarnation, wherein he learned obedience through what he suffered.
The primary focus here is on the need of the man who, despite his sense of insecurity for the future, would have felt that he had attained a measure of goodness judged by the standards of the law. The lesson to be learnt here is that human attainment, such as he relied upon, can produce nothing good in God’s sight. Jesus administers to this rich young man a liberal dose of the law that he would be justified not by works but by faith. And to inherit eternal life is to dispose of anything that hinders you – in this case material possessions – and then to follow him and the Gospel.
Friends, encouraged particularly by Job, the Psalmist, the rich young ruler and the promise of the persecuted Hebrews, I invite each and every one of us to look deeply into ourselves. Bishops, priests and lay people over the past 140 years have given all for the Diocese to be where she is today. What is it that each of you commit yourselves to? What are your individual contributions spirituality and discipleship of all especially to the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in your communities? What is Jesus asking to set aside and dispose of today as you move forward in your personal and communal lives? What hinders you from being true followers of Jesus? What are you hoarding? What needs deliverance?
And what will be remembered about this city? Is it greed? Is it fraud and corruption? Or will our descendants remember it as the source of life, abundant life as John says, for our country for the ages to come? Our church, our country, and therefore this Diocese and this city face some big decisions in the coming months and years. In the Church, we have important decisions to make leading up to Provincial Synod next year on how we order our collective life: on how we transform our liturgies so that we worship God in ways best suited to the times in which we live; on how we ensure that our congregations are safe spaces for all our people, especially vulnerable children; on how we respond to the need for sensitive and effective ministry to those in same-sex unions.
Both in church and society, we are challenged to work out how best we can manage and develop our land – both urban and rural land – to ensure that all our people flourish in an economy that provides work and dignity for all. In the Church, the Provincial Standing Committee resolved last month that we should carry out an audit of church land and make recommendations for the use of vacant land. We have also commissioned theological reflection on the issue of land expropriation without compensation.
In society as a whole of course, the question of land is the burning issue of the day, one which will require enormous dedication and patience, but also a willingness to take quick and decisive action to bring about sensible reforms which both fulfil the demands of justice and the practical need for economic growth and jobs.
But the problem is not insoluble. Twenty-five years ago, we didn't know quite how we were going to get of apartheid, but we worked together and we succeeded. Just a year ago, we didn't know how we were going to restore good governance in a country which was heading for economic destruction. But now, although we are not out of the woods yet, we are on the way to doing that too. Can you imagine a year ago a Cabinet minister offering his or her resignation because, even though they made some admirably brave decisions, they also made some mistakes? We wish more would do the same!
As you move forward into your next 140 years, I bring you a challenge and an assurance. The challenge is: What is your vision for this diocese for the next 140 years? What can you do to enable it to move confidently into the next 140 years? Your founders – through wars, world wars, the Anglo-Boer War, colonialism and oppression – planted this Diocese, I charge you today to pick at least one thing that will make eternal life felt in the here and now; something that will better the lives of many in this diocese and the world. The assurance is that God has, again and again, met people and sent them out to proclaim his truth, with clarity and courage, through difficult and challenging times in the past. And he will do so again today and in the future.
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the Gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Again, the Province warmly congratulates you on this anniversary.
God bless the Diocese and all her people.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

1. The 140th Anniversary of the Diocese of Pretoria: A Short Historical Overview, Allan Kannemeyer, page 1.

2. Compromise and Courage, Peter Lee, page 5.

3. Allan Kannemeyer, page 1.

4. Peter Lee, page 19.

5. Allan Kannemeyer, page 1.

6. Quoted in A History of the Church in Africa, Bengt Sundkler and Christopher Steed, page 412-413.

7. Allan Kannemeyer, page 2.