Monday, 21 September 2020

Celebrating 150 years of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba's introduction at a Service of Solemn Evensong, held at St George's Cathedral, Cape Town, with St George's, Parktown, on Sunday September 20, 2020. The sermon preached by Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury follows the introduction. 

What a milestone, what an occasion! We celebrate today 150 years of faithful, worship, witness and service as Anglicans in Southern Africa. 

I want to make special mention today of my predecessors as Archbishop and to our clergy and people down the last century-and-a-half – remembering in particular the two living Archbishops, Njongonkulu Ndungane and Desmond Tutu. We remember Archbishop Njongo for his powerful witness against poverty, and his fierce independence from secular power. We remember Archbishop Desmond for his courage, his powerful witness against oppression and injustice everywhere, and for reconciliation based on justice for all. 

Almost all of our forebears knew the importance of the ecumenical family, represented today by our partnership in this service with the South African Council of Churches. We are better Anglicans if we belong to the ecumenical family and the wider household of faith. Thank you very much to the SACC and to the Solidarity Fund for making possible both this service and the other denominational and interfaith services to follow in the coming weeks. 

We are privileged to partner with them both with the aim also of uplifting people's spirits in the time of the coronavirus, of inspiring the nation's courage in moments of darkness and of enlivening hope for the future for all our people. We are here to say thank God for God’s mercies and protection. Many have died during this time of COVID-19, and we are here to celebrate their lives and to recharge our resolve to do everything possible to wear our masks, observe health protocols, practise social distancing, wear personal protective equipment and encourage others to do so also. We also give thanks for the health workers and scientists, and pray for a vaccine and changes in behaviour which will keep people safe. 

Finally, our warm thanks to the Chair of the Solidarity Fund, Dr Gloria Serobe, and your team, to Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana and the the SACC team, to the Anglican and SABC teams here in Cape Town and in Parktown, Johannesburg – have a blessed day.

 President Cyril Ramaphosa’s message to us aptly sums up the essence of today: 

MESSAGE TO ANGLICAN COMMUNITY ON COMMEMORATION OF 150 YEARS OF FAITHFUL WORSHIP FROM PRESIDENT MATAMELA CYRIL RAMAPHOSA 

I extend heartfelt congratulations to the Anglican community in Southern Africa as they celebrate 150 years of faithful worship, witness and ministry in our country. 

Today they lead and open a series of interfaith services arranged by the South African Council of Churches and Solidarity Fund aimed at inspiring hope, gratitude and courage in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and the impact it has in our communities. 

 I wish you all well, and hope to join you in one of your future services. 

Mr Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa 
President of the Republic of South Africa


Reflections on weekday readings from Archbishop Thabo - Sept 21-25

  These readings and reflections are shared daily on ACSA's Facebook page and Twitter feed.  Copies of audio and video files are available for sharing


Saturday, 12 September 2020

Tribute to George Bizos SC, Madiba's friend and lawyer

Another giant of our struggle for freedom and a pillar of a non-racial vision for South African has fallen. George Bizos was a man who loved and lived social justice in our country. I met him at a couple of functions, but the most memorable was at Madiba's home at Qunu in the Eastern Cape, when he, Lungi and I arrived together for Madiba’s funeral and, finding the front door locked to visitors, entered the Mandela home together through the kitchen; we were sternly rebuked but were nonetheless welcomed.

George was a man who knew, smelt and touched township and village alike with his soul and the hands of his love. My family, the Church and I send his family, friends and faith community our condolences. His death calls on us to dedicate ourselves to non-racialism, equality, fairness and an economy with particular eyes for the poorest township and village. We will miss his tears and warm heart for all of humanity. 

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Three Biblically-based Challenges to Corruption

 A message for the launch of the SACC Churches' Anti-Corruption Campaign in South Africa on Sunday August 30: 

Having called for 2020 to be the Year of the Orange Jumpsuit, I am pleased and privileged to add my voice to this service of lament and protest and to support September as a month of church action against corruption. 

I have wept. I have agonized. I have prayed for long hours in my heart. I have spoken my heart out in public over these past few days, over the terrible, downright despicable theft of public money, the looting of state coffers, and above all, the undisguised theft from the poor. Corruption, as I said in a message to South Africa's president a few days ago, is annihilating the very lives of the poorest of the poor. It is as if the corrupt big-wigs – those people who joined the party only to enrich themselves – have declared genocide against the poor. Like the scribes and Pharisees who Jesus called out in Matthew's Gospel, they are hypocrites; they are thieves, and they must return the stolen treasures of the poor. 

As I have thought and prayed and agonized, my heart has often returned to that sobering story in 2 Samuel 12, where you will recall the prophet Nathan confronts, directly and unambiguously, the mighty David. I have three direct Biblically-based challenges that I ask you to open your hearts to.

When David reacted with shock and disgust to the theft of the lamb from the poor man, Nathan said: “It is you.” No wriggle room, no excuses, no pussyfooting around the fact of theft. It is you! I say the same to those accused of theft and corruption and deceit and of impoverishing the already poor. It is you! As with David, so it is with you. There is no wriggle room. Let me say categorically: it is not enough to take special leave, to stand aside or to disappear onto the side-lines unscathed, your crimes covered up. No, it is you! It is you!

Secondly, Nathan says to David, “I have anointed you the king of Israel and taken you out from under the hand of Saul.” We know what it took to bring this country out from under the hands of many Sauls – that proud and incredibly noble history, under the hand of God over the long years of struggle, in the harsh conditions of prisons and torture chambers across our country, in the lonely years of exile. We recognize and have saluted it over and over again. But let me repeat this very categorically. It is precisely that noble history, those sacrifices, the courage of the foot soldiers, that makes the betrayal and lies of so many of your leaders and those connected to the systems of patronage so much more despicable, so much more reprehensible. We raise the question which Nathan raised, and we ask it as he did, “Why did you despise the Word of the Lord and do evil?”

Please hear my last word, spoken with all the desperation I can muster. Verse 13 says: “David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.'” I beg you who stand accused, you who are still hiding, who are trying to wriggle out of your sin and complicity; with a pastor's heart I beg of you: repeat the words of David! Acknowledge your corruption and your collusion. Repent of your wrongdoing, return the monies you have stolen, step down from your positions no matter how high or low they are. It is you who we need to hear from.

If today I speak to you because you are currently in the dock, know that tomorrow I will talk to others. I will talk to those in business who rob the poor, I will speak to other political parties, for indeed, corruption is an insidious virus. I will talk to the churches, to my church, and the faith communities who have also often trampled on the poor and ignored the cries of those on the margins. But today is the day I choose to talk to you and, with you, to pray that God will bless our country, guide her rulers, guard her people, and establish her in justice and peace.

A call to transparency

To hold the corrupt to account, we need urgently to transform our corruption-fighting agencies, both by urgently cleaning out and strengthening existing agencies, and adding a Chapter 9 institution to fight corruption which is independent of the control of the Executive. Such a body needs a toll-free number to enable whistle-blowers to report corruption, and we need more robust protection for those whistle-blowers. We have seen too much interference with the investigative and prosecution arms of government over the past two decades to depend only on the Executive to ensure justice. 

However, ending corruption in our land does not only involve bringing corrupt individuals to justice – but we must also end the dependence of political parties and their leaders on donations from the rich and the powerful. This fundraising practice roots the crisis in the structures of political parties, so we must also overhaul the system of financing parties. As a means of curbing corruption, I call on President Ramaphosa to bring into effect legislation that will regulate fundraising for political parties. 

If our campaign to end corruption is to be credible, we should also be careful that in pointing out the motes in the eyes of politicians, we do not ignore the beams in our own eyes. This means that as well as campaigning against corruption, we must campaign on broader societal issues affecting the welfare of our people, such as secure access to food, climate justice, gender-based violence, and practical action to root out the patriarchy in our churches which often facilitates such violence. 

Finally, let us draw inspiration from the successes we have achieved in keeping up with ministry and worship during the coronavirus lockdown and follow it up by working to change our economic and governance models to bring about equality and the flourishing of all. 

The Most Revd Dr. Thabo Makgoba

Monday, 31 August 2020

Reflections on weekday readings from Archbishop Thabo - Aug 31-Sept 4, 2020

 These readings and reflections are shared daily on ACSA's Facebook page and Twitter feed.

Copies of audio and video files are available for sharing


Transform our corruption-fighting agencies!

 The Archbishop's contributon to an SACC Anti-Corruption Service held on Sunday August 30 to launch the SACC Churches' Anti-Corruption Campaign:

Having called for 2020 to be the Year of the Orange Jumpsuit, I am pleased and privileged to add my voice to this service of lament and protest and to support September as a month of church action against corruption. 

I have wept. I have agonized. I have prayed for long hours in my heart. I have spoken my heart out in public over these past few days, over the terrible, downright despicable theft of public money, the looting of state coffers, and above all, the undisguised theft from the poor. Corruption, as I said in a message to South Africa's president a few days ago, is annihilating the very lives of the poorest of the poor. It is as if the corrupt big-wigs – those people who joined the party only to enrich themselves – have declared genocide against the poor. Like the scribes and Pharisees who Jesus called out in Matthew's Gospel, they are hypocrites; they are thieves, and they must return the stolen treasures of the poor. 

As I have thought and prayed and agonized, my heart has often returned to that sobering story in 2 Samuel 12, where you will recall the prophet Nathan confronts, directly and unambiguously, the mighty David. I have three direct Biblically-based challenges that I ask you to open your hearts to.

When David reacted with shock and disgust to the theft of the lamb from the poor man, Nathan said: “It is you.” No wriggle room, no excuses, no pussyfooting around the fact of theft. It is you! I say the same to those accused of theft and corruption and deceit and of impoverishing the already poor. It is you! As with David, so it is with you. There is no wriggle room. Let me say categorically: it is not enough to take special leave, to stand aside or to disappear onto the side-lines unscathed, your crimes covered up. No, it is you! It is you!

Secondly, Nathan says to David, “I have anointed you the king of Israel and taken you out from under the hand of Saul.” We know what it took to bring this country out from under the hands of many Sauls – that proud and incredibly noble history, under the hand of God over the long years of struggle, in the harsh conditions of prisons and torture chambers across our country, in the lonely years of exile. We recognize and have saluted it over and over again. But let me repeat this very categorically. It is precisely that noble history, those sacrifices, the courage of the foot soldiers, that makes the betrayal and lies of so many of your leaders and those connected to the systems of patronage so much more despicable, so much more reprehensible. We raise the question which Nathan raised, and we ask it as he did, “Why did you despise the Word of the Lord and do evil?”

Please hear my last word, spoken with all the desperation I can muster. Verse 13 says: “David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.'” I beg you who stand accused, you who are still hiding, who are trying to wriggle out of your sin and complicity; with a pastor's heart I beg of you: repeat the words of David! Acknowledge your corruption and your collusion. Repent of your wrongdoing, return the monies you have stolen, step down from your positions no matter how high or low they are. It is you who we need to hear from.

If today I speak to you because you are currently in the dock, know that tomorrow I will talk to others. I will talk to those in business who rob the poor, I will speak to other political parties, for indeed, corruption is an insidious virus. I will talk to the churches, to my church, and the faith communities who have also often trampled on the poor and ignored the cries of those on the margins. But today is the day I choose to talk to you and, with you, to pray that God will bless our country, guide her rulers, guard her people, and establish her in justice and peace.

A call to transparency

To hold the corrupt to account, we need urgently to transform our corruption-fighting agencies, both by urgently cleaning out and strengthening existing agencies, and adding a Chapter 9 institution to fight corruption which is independent of the control of the Executive. Such a body needs a toll-free number to enable whistle-blowers to report corruption, and we need more robust protection for those whistle-blowers. We have seen too much interference with the investigative and prosecution arms of government over the past two decades to depend only on the Executive to ensure justice. 

However, ending corruption in our land does not only involve bringing corrupt individuals to justice – but we must also end the dependence of political parties and their leaders on donations from the rich and the powerful. This fundraising practice roots the crisis in the structures of political parties, so we must also overhaul the system of financing parties. As a means of curbing corruption, I call on President Ramaphosa to bring into effect legislation that will regulate fundraising for political parties. 

If our campaign to end corruption is to be credible, we should also be careful that in pointing out the motes in the eyes of politicians, we do not ignore the beams in our own eyes. This means that as well as campaigning against corruption, we must campaign on broader societal issues affecting the welfare of our people, such as secure access to food, climate justice, gender-based violence, and practical action to root out the patriarchy in our churches which often facilitates such violence. 

Finally, let us draw inspiration from the successes we have achieved in keeping up with ministry and worship during the coronavirus lockdown and follow it up by working to change our economic and governance models to bring about equality and the flourishing of all. 

The Most Revd Dr. Thabo Makgoba

Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

August 30, 2020




Thursday, 27 August 2020

ANC's 'corrupt bigwigs' must return 'stolen treasures' – Archbishop Thabo

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to ensure that “hypocrites” and “thieves” in the ANC return what they have stolen from the public and be sent to jail. 

He made the call in a message recorded to support a new anti-corruption campaign launched by the SA Council of Churches, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, the Foundation for Human Rights and the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution. 

Representatives of the organisations met the ANC's “top six”, headed by President Ramaphosa, on Monday, where they said that “the governing party leadership appears compromised within itself.” They added: "There comes a time when the moral depravity of some in positions of authority, and in the private sector, undermine the very notion of nationhood and the underlying value of public service. We are compelled to assert: This is not how we shall be known as a nation. We refuse to allow corrupt networks in different provinces to go about their criminal activity, trampling on the rights of honest and law-abiding people.” 

Addressing President Ramaphosa a video and audio message, Archbishop Makgoba said: 

“Mr President:

“In the Book of Kings in the Old Testament, God tells Elijah to leave the cave to which he has retreated, and to engage with the world. Similarly today, God compels us as the Church to come out of our sanctuaries and to speak out about the conditions that afflict our people. If we don't, then as Jesus says in Luke's Gospel, the very stones will cry out. 

“Today, Mr President, our hearts, our souls, our bodies and our minds are consumed with the national crisis that faces South Africa. The public's money, life-saving money that is meant to provide oxygen to the breathless poor in the midst of a pandemic, has been misappropriated, stolen in brazen defiance of the commandment in the Book of Exodus which enjoins each of us: Thou shalt not steal. 

“Mr President, this is not only stealing. It is annihilating the very lives of the poorest, it is almost genocidal in effect. Corrupt big-wigs who have joined your party, not to serve the common good but to enrich themselves, act with impunity – their attitudes are debilitating, life-drenching. 'Ha bana letswalo, Mr President, ba feteletse.' They are, like the scribes and Pharisees Jesus called out in Matthew's Gospel, hypocrites. 

“At this time in the history of our country, we must draw a line in the sand and say anew: Thus says the Lord, on whom our hope is founded, the hypocrites and the thieves must return the stolen treasures of the poor, and they must be dispatched to jail, where they must wear orange jumpsuits.”

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Archbishop hopes Church will declare GBV "evil"

 Amid the Covid-19 lockdown this National Women's Day in South Africa, gender-based violence has become a “second pandemic” as serious as the coronavirus, in the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa. The South African Council of Churches has responded by launching a process to guide and train church leaders to address the crisis, and the St Bernard Mizeki Men's Guild in the Diocese of Cape Town has marked Women's Day by marching to the Provincial Government to show their  commitment to hold themselves, the Church and the broader community accountable. 

As ACSA, we lament the incidence of this violence and we recommit ourselves to just, fair and transparent processes to root it out. We recommit to celebrating and respecting women, as we are called to do by the example Jesus set in his interactions with women. We hope and pray that our Synods and PSC will declare gender-based violence as evil and contrary to the will of the One who calls us and promises us lives of fullness.

To the women of the Province and the world, we will walk alongside you as we change the policies of Church and State to reflect our commitments. The road will be painful as we search for the life-transforming truth of Christ, but we shall overcome and will celebrate with you when together we end this scourge. To all the women of our church, we wish you a blessed Women's Day. 

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Weekday Reflections by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba - August 3-7, 2020

These readings and reflections are shared daily on ACSA's Facebook page and Twitter feed.


Friday, 7 August 2020

A message to the people of Lebanon

We send our heartfelt condolences and prayers to the people of Beirut after the explosion in the city's port on Tuesday. We have our own corruption and mismanagement to fight, but we are all part of the human family. In the interests of the families of the injured and the dead, we must speak the truth and condemn the inaction of the Lebanese authorities which led to the disaster.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba 


Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu loses his sister, Sylvia

On behalf of the Province, I have sent our heartfelt condolences to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond and the Morrison family on the death of his older sister, Sylvia Morrison. 

Please soak Archbishop Desmond and his family in prayer. He and Mama Leah have permission to drive to Johannesburg to be with the Morrison family - please pray for travelling mercies and that they will keep safe and healthy on their travels. We commend them to the love and pastoral care of the Diocese of Johannesburg. 

When I called Archbishop Desmond today, he said Sylvia had a "good innings" of more than 90 years. We are grateful for Sylvia's life, and may she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Monday, 3 August 2020

To the Laos - Daily Reflections on Eucharist Readings - COVID-19 - Patriarchy in the Church

Dear People of God

As someone who has benefitted from the reflections of others on the daily Eucharist readings, I plan – beginning this week – to issue a thought for each week day from lockdown in Bishopscourt. You will find the first one here and at the end of this post. I hope you will find them useful.

Five months into the coronavirus pandemic, most parishes and dioceses across the Province are still in preparation mode for the return to worship – only the Diocese of Khahlamba in the northern part of South Africa's Eastern Cape province has indicated that it plans to open churches, which it will do next Sunday, August 7.

The protocols that must be observed before you can return to church are strict. Most countries in the Province do not allow congregations of more than 50, and we advise the elderly not to come back to worship at all at this stage. (As a reminder of the stringent conditions, see pages 3-8 of the South African Council of Churches' guide, to which we contributed.) 

Since I last wrote, some of our clergy, their spouses, and a number of our parishioners have died of complications related to COVID-19. Please pray for their families as they mourn, and that those who have died will rest in peace and rise in glory. 

We are going to have to learn to live with the coronavirus, and possibly with a second wave of infections, at least until a vaccine is available for all in our region. This means we have to change our behaviours, especially those involving physical contact with others, and also to keep hope alive – especially since scientists are reporting good results with vaccine trials so far. The “virtual worship” initiatives which most of you have adopted, offering services via Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp and the like, are admirable, and essential in this time, but they can never replace in-person worship.

At a Communion level, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury has launched The Together in Unity Appeal to raise funds to address the needs of the most vulnerable in our world-wide church. Speaking during the week in which the Lambeth Conference was due to get under way, he has encouraged dioceses and parishes to support one another during the pandemic. Last week, I appeared on the BBC World Service to support the initiative and to talk about our experience in Southern Africa. (You can view the interview below my reflection at the end of this post.)

At least for the present – and in some areas of our life into the future – the coronavirus is changing how we do church. On September 1, the day on which we commemorate our Church's founder, Bishop Robert Gray, we will consecrate the new Bishop of Table Bay, Joshua Louw, in St George's Cathedral in Cape Town. In line with lockdown regulations, we will limit attendance to 50, which means only Bishop-elect Joshua's family and diocesan office-holders are likely to be present. 

In another step necessitated by the virus, we will consider at Provincial Standing Committee (PSC) a motion dealing with how we can amend our canons to hold elective assemblies for new bishops in the current environment. This is an urgent need, since the pandemic has already forced us to put on hold elections for the dioceses of Kimberley & Kuruman, Lesotho, Natal and Zululand.  Canon 22 stipulates that the Metropolitan is diocesan in such vacant dioceses, although a vicar-general is appointed. You can all imagine my wish and prayers for this particular motion to be passed.

Both the September Synod of Bishops meeting and PSC will be held virtually. Members of PSC will gather at diocesan hubs, with each diocese connected online to Bishopscourt. Other matters on the agenda include plans for establishing a new Southern-Central African Lusapho Province (comprising our dioceses in Angola and Mozambique) and reports from the Archbishop’s Commission on the election of women as leaders in the Church and from the Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission.

Recently I joined an online meeting with a group of eight women to discuss a statement they had drawn up on patriarchy in the Church and the gender-based violence it generates. Although there was some criticism for engaging with a self-selecting group, mostly from Cape Town, I was happy to join the debate on how the Church, in the words of their statement, can “strive for the Kin-dom of God, where justice for women is restored” and for “a new, beloved community where all humans are affirmed as image bearers of the living God.” 

As it turned out, my exhortation that the way to achieve change in the Church is to work through those structures which can adopt and implement change was underlined afterwards by reactions from around the Province calling for a more inclusive, thorough-going approach. I urge all women – including those unhappy about not being included in the dialogue with me – to take up issues in their parish, diocesan and provincial structures. 

For instance, questions of language and liturgy are best worked through with the Liturgical Commission; theological matters with the Southern African Anglican Theological Commission; canon law with the Canon Law Commission; issues relating to women's leadership with the Archbishop's Commission on the election of women; theological education and doctrinal matters with coordinators of theological education and the relevant diocesan and provincial structures; gender-based violence with Safe and Inclusive Church; and wider gender issues with the Provincial Gender Desk. 

Since men do not suffer the lived experience of patriarchy, we need more women as leaders in the Church. As I told Provincial Synod last year, I am very concerned that we have only two woman bishops in the Province. Hence the decision to appoint a commission to make recommendations to address the problem. But we need to go beyond the episcopate – perhaps we need to legislate that there ought to be 50 percent representation of women among lay representatives at all levels of church leadership? 

We also need to make our language more inclusive. The use of the phrase “Father” in English has long been challenged for promoting patriarchy and male headship in the Church (apart from sitting uncomfortably with those in our more evangelical parishes). The problem is not as acute in the languages spoken by most of our members – at Bishopscourt, the rule has long been to address all clergy as “Moruti”, which is not gender-specific. In the Episcopal Church in the USA, numbers of parishes call their priests “Mother” – but what is your experience, and how would you suggest we address woman priests? I am comfortable with Thabo, but “Arch” is beautiful. Some call me variously Moruti, Solufefe, Mobabatsehi, Sua Graca or Aartsbiskop, but Olga Kgoroeadira will never stop calling me Father Thabo!  

In this Month of Compassion – and Women's Month in South Africa – I invite all of us to orient ourselves to the experiences and plight of women, and to shine a spotlight on those behaviours that are life-transforming for us all.

God bless.

†† Thabo Cape Town




Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Statement on the death of Andrew Mlangeni

The sad loss of Andrew Mlangeni marks not only the passing of a generation prepared to lay down their lives for justice and freedom, but of a leader who continued to model ethical, values-based leadership in the interests of the poor.

Our society owes an inestimable debt to the Rivonia generation, and we owe it to the memory of Baba Mlangeni and his comrades to recover their values and work not for our own personal gain but instead pursue the common good.

I will miss seeing and warmly interacting with Baba at the annual State of the Nation address.

We send our condolences and those of the wider Anglican Church to his family. May he rest in peace, and rise in glory.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Condolences to the family of Zindzi Mandela

On my own behalf and on behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, we send our condolences to the family of Ambassador Zindzi Mandela upon her untimely death.

She was one of the icons of our struggle and I personally recall her appearance at Jabulani Stadium in 1985 when, during a celebration of Archbishop Tutu's Nobel Peace Prize, she memorably delivered a message from Madiba in prison in which he refused an offer of conditional release and declared "I shall return".

Our prayers ascend for her and her family, including her "second mother", Graca Machel, and we pray that they may experience God's consolation in their sad loss.     

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Sunday, 5 July 2020

The Challenges of COVID-19, Gender-Based Violence and Conflict in Mozambique & the Holy Land - To the Laos, the People of God

Dear People of God


More than three months into the coronavirus pandemic, we are beset by ever-changing challenges as governments ease lockdowns to help save jobs and the economy, while at the same time the incidence of COVID-19 cases is rising in parts of our church Province.

Since I issued my Pentecost letter, hardly two days go by without reports of people known by name in the Church dying, being hospitalised or going into quarantine after being tested positive – parishioners, clergy, clergy spouses, bishops and their families. As I write, the number of cases in South Africa alone has exceeded 160,000, with the number of deaths heading towards 3,000. As Bishop Brian Marajh of George says in an Ad Clerum, “These numbers are no longer just statistics made up of numbers, the numbers have faces, and it is persons known to us or to others that are close to us.”

The financial implications of the pandemic are also afflicting the church, notably bringing about the sudden closure of the Bishop Bavin School in Bedfordview, Gauteng. The school, founded in 1991, was having difficulties already when the pandemic and lockdown hit us, putting paid to efforts by the school and the Diocese of Johannesburg to rescue it.

At a time such as this we are all called upon to be leaders, helping guide our congregations and our communities to make decisions which both keep them safe and allow them to live their lives as normally as possible. But with changes coming so fast, we don't always know in advance what we will be called to make decisions about. Asked at a recent webinar hosted by the Gandhi Development Trust about leading in times of crisis, I emphasised the importance of how we make decisions in disruptive times: approach problems with an open mind; hold firm to your values but be flexible on the policies and actions you adopt; listen to experts with differing opinions; follow the data and the science; seek to find a consensus response; and then communicate your course of action early and often. I repeated this call in an address to the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business.

Most important, in the Church we should strike a note of hope as we steer our way through the pandemic: hope in facing the challenges with eyes of love, sensibility and as much certainty as we can. We need to be asking, who is my neighbour and how do I care for her or his welfare? What can I do to alleviate hunger? How can I help those in quarantine? And we must be disciplined about wearing masks outside the home, observing distancing and generally behaving as Christians with loving hearts, acting lovingly towards others.

I have written before of the shocking occurrences of gender-based violence during lockdown, not only here but across the world. In an important initiative, the authorities in South Africa want to create a National Council for Gender-Based Violence and Femicide which would have as its objective "amplifying the national response to GBV" by building "a strengthened, survivor-focused, resourced and coordinated strategic response" to the problem. Such developments challenge us: what is our response as a Church to the problem, which affects us also? Please pray for the Sithole family in the Diocese of Natal, where Mrs Nomthandazo Cynthia Sithole, the wife of the Revd Sandiso Sithole, Rector of St James Parish, Tongaat, died tragically recently. (Since writing this has come the tragic news that Father Sithole was shot and killed overnight.)

Pray also for the Revd June Major, formerly a priest in the Diocese of Cape Town, who at the time of writing was camping and on a hunger strike outside the gates of Bishopscourt after alleging that she was sexually abused in 2002. Our Canons, Pastoral Standards and the Charter for Safe and Inclusive Church now lay a firm basis for dealing effectively with allegations of abuse – you can find full details here: https://anglicanchurchsa.org/safe-church-guide/ (Also since writing this, we have issued this statement.

Please pray for the people of northern Mozambique, and especially the Diocese of Nampula, where an insurgency that has grown in recent months and years is bringing terror to people's lives. Bishop Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo reports that last weekend the town of Mocimboa da Praia, in the province of Cabo Delgado, was invaded and 30 people were butchered, and their bodies set on fire with petrol from motorcycles in the town. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and Bishop Manuel Ernesto is living in fear.

Pray too for the people of Palestine and Israel, where the Israeli prime minister is threatening to annex the West Bank. Already the establishment of Jewish settlements there has undermined the viability of the long-promoted two-state solution (one supported by the Lambeth Conference) to the ongoing conflict in the Holy Land. Annexation would finally put paid to it.

God bless.

† Thabo Cape Town

We don't have to be “Doubting Thomases” in a time of coronavirus - A Homily for St Thomas' Day

Homily preached at a Diocesan Family Service of the Diocese of Cape Town for St Thomas' Day, celebrated on  4th July 2020. The full recording of the service appears at the end of the text: 

Isaiah 43: 8-13 ; John 14: 1- 7

I greet you all in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of our lives. Amen 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, after being forced to be physically distanced from one another for more than three months, it is wonderful to be together electronically to celebrate the life of the Apostle Thomas and to rekindle our love for the Lord of the church. 

Friday, 3 July 2020

The Need for Steward Leadership in Times of Disruption

Allan Gray Centre for Values-Based Leadership

UCT Graduate School of Business


"The Need for Steward Leadership in Times of Disruption” – Webinar in the Allan Gray Speaker Series


The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

June 30, 2020


Introduction

Thank you, Prof Kurt April, for your kind introduction and welcome. Thank you all for joining me in my reflections as we seek together to make this world a better place for us, our children and their children.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Transforming Anglican schools - Statement by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba


The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) acknowledges the anger of some in our schools who have once again challenged the church to face the pain of experiences of racism and of feeling that they do not belong.

They urge that we address with new urgency the processes of recognition and reconciliation which have occupied our church and its schools over many years in our journey towards  integrity in our Christian identity, ethos and witness.

We affirm those school leadership teams which have been addressing these painful issues over time. We regret the inequities and consequent pain which continue. We recognise that the pace of both recognition and change needs to be accelerated in many contexts.

We urge schools and dioceses to ensure that policy and practice designed to foster institutional cultures of healing, inclusion and justice are set forward in any place that bears our name.

We ask the Anglican Board of Education to help strengthen oversight and support for journeys of recognition and reconciliation embarked upon by our schools towards transformation and integrity in our identity and witness.

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Sermon on the Feast of Corpus Christi in a time of coronavirus

A Virtual Service for Corpus Christi in the Diocese of Cape Town, June 11, 2020

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

1 Corinthians 10: 16-17; Psalm 146

Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to these midday prayers on this wonderful Feast of Corpus Christi. Thank you to the Vicar-General, Father Keith, for convening us, and to the Liturgy Team for developing the form of service for us. Thank you, Archdeacon Mark, and all the readers.

Today we gather online to give thanks for the institution of the Eucharist, the Sacrament in which Christ is made real among us, in which we identify ourselves with Christ's obedience to God and in which we find fellowship with another and are then sent out into the world to be God's instruments of love.

It goes without saying that it is a strange time in which to be commemorating the institution of the Lord's Supper, a time – unprecedented in the last 100 years – when we can't gather together physically to do so because of a pandemic. For Anglicans, it is especially disconcerting, since for us, as Archbishop Rowan Williams has said, ”the Church is most truly itself when it is engaged in sacramental worship; that when above all it meets for the Eucharist, it… expresses its deepest identity.”

Monday, 8 June 2020

Religious leaders hold 'Black LIves Matter' prayer vigils

At St George's Cathedral, Cape Town (Photo: Craig Stewart)
Religious leaders in Cape Town and Pretoria held prayer vigils on Trinity Sunday in solidarity with people who have died at the hands of law enforcement officers during lockdown in South Africa and abroad.

The vigils took place outside St George's and St Alban's cathedrals. The full text of a message Archbishop Thabo Makgoba delivered at the end of the Cape Town vigil can be found beneath this SABC news report.



Message by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Black Lives Matter Silent Vigil, June 7, 2020

We are gathered here because Black Lives Matter, whether in South Africa, the United States, France, Australia or elsewhere.

Our prayers here today have been for Collins Khoza and all those he represents in South Africa who have been killed by forces deployed by the State to enforce lockdown regulations. They have been for George Floyd and all those he represents in the United States, for Adama Traore and all those he represents in France, and for David Dungay, an indigenous Australian who died saying “I can't breathe”, and all those he represented.

We are here because we are tired..... sick to death..... exhausted.... at the seemingly never-ending struggle that people of colour still face, well into the 21st century, 50 years after the American civil rights struggle, 25 years after the end of political apartheid, to be treated equally by arms of the State. We are here because we protest against the wanton, unnecessary use of violence by police and soldiers who break the laws they are entrusted to uphold and assault protestors of whatever race who declare that Black Lives Matter.

We are shocked at the way in which the SA National Defence Force, with the most rudimentary, inadequate reasoning imaginable, has exonerated its soldiers of any culpability in Mr Khosa's death, and at the repudiation of their minister's statement that the matter has not been finalised.

We are shocked at the blatant disrespect for law and order shown by members of the Buffalo, New York police squad, 57 of whom resigned from their unit not because two of their number were implicating in assaulting a 75-year-old man, inflicting head injuries, but because the two were suspended.

In South Africa, when President Ramaphosa announced that he would send law enforcement forces to our communities, he made a clear plea to both the police and the military that this should not be a time for “skiet en donder”. His words have fallen on deaf ears.

In our own backyards, at least 12 people are reported to have died at the hands of the police and army troops. We recognise that investigations are still ongoing, but we are deeply concerned that the plight of our sisters and brothers is going unnoticed and forgotten.

So we pray for and stand in solidarity with the families of the following people: [moment of silence after each name?]

    • Collins Khosa, 40, who died in Alexandra, Johannesburg on Good Friday

    • Petrus Miggels, 55, who died in Ravensmead, Cape Town on 27 March 2020

    • Sibusiso Amos, 40, who died in Vosloorus, Ekhurhuleni on 29 March 2020

    • Adane Emmanuel, who died in Isipingo, Durban on 2 April 2020

    • Robyn Montsumi, 39, who died in Mowbray police station, 12 April 2020
    • And for all others who have been brutalised during the lockdown.

We pray too for the families of the following Americans:

    • George Floyd, 46, killed on 25 May 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota

    • Ahmaud Arbery, 25, killed on 23 February 2020 in Glynn County, Georgia

    • Breonna Taylor, 26, killed on 13 March 2020 in Louisville, Kentucky

    • Atatiana Jefferson, 26, killed on 12 October 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas

    • And for all those who have been brutalised in the protests of recent days.

God bless South Africa. God bless Africa and God bless the world.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

A Letter for Pentecost - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

A Letter for Pentecost

.... that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” – 1 Cor 1:10

That SACC-affiliated churches be granted the opportunity to self-regulate for COVID-19 compliance... This we would ask for any other formation of religious communities (of any faith tradition) that can satisfy appropriate COVID self-regulation measures...” – From the representations by church leaders to President Cyril Ramaphosa

It’s an important shift, from control to collaboration.” – Comment on South Africa’s Level 3 lockdown regulations by Marianne Merten, Daily Maverick.


Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops

I love the words of the 2nd century bishop, Iranaeus, when he said: “In every language they sing a hymn to God in unison, for the Spirit brought the scattered people together in unity and offered to God the first fruits of the nations.” It has always struck me that it is only when the hard work of unity, of solidarity, is accomplished that we can truly offer a hymn to God, and there is no greater need for building unity and solidarity than at this uncertain, confusing and contested time in which the world struggles to comprehend the challenges of the coronavirus.

Since before South Africa's first lockdown came into effect, leaders of member churches of the SA Council of Churches have met regularly to discuss our role in the pandemic. As we worked through the issues and listened to the medical scientists, we heard that we will have to live with this virus for months, even years, and that it might return again and again to disrupt our lives. Moreover, it became clear that the question we faced was not whether worship would be resumed – we will not be closed in perpetuity, the question is rather when and how we will re-open. It also became clear that we cannot expect the Government to legislate in all the detail needed as to how to re-open, neither is it desirable to allow them to do so.

As a result, a sub-committee of church leaders that I led compiled detailed representations, based on the principle that we should regulate the re-opening of worship and other activities ourselves. (An excerpt from the representations which outlines steps to be taken before worship can resume can be found here. Later, the SACC released a comprehensive report, including some amendments, which can be found here. See pages 3-8.)

We held a number of discussions with Government, at the end of which President Ramaphosa announced publicly that they had accepted our representations. It has to be said that he acted unexpectedly quickly, and it is a pity that we were unable to co-ordinate our communications because his announcement led to unnecessary panic. But we welcomed the trust which the Government had placed in us, albeit in trepidation at the enormous responsibility placed on our shoulders.

Now we need to decide the when and the how. But we must be cautious and act prudently. The Spirit of Pentecost is also one of wisdom. Paul, who rejoiced always in the Spirit alive in him after years of ministering and exercising oversight of the churches, had to remind the Galatians that a fruit of the Spirit was also self-control.

As I said in my first response to President Ramaphosa's annnouncement, the conditions we have proposed for resuming worship are comprehensive and detailed. The detail, laid out in the documents I referred to above, needs to be studied carefully, but they require, for example, a limit of 50 people in services, disinfecting surfaces between services, physical distancing in churches, the avoidance of shared hymnals and prayer books, the wearing of masks during services, restrictions on singing, avoidance of the common chalice at Eucharist, no gatherings after services and rigorous hygiene in toilets and elsewhere.

Among those within ACSA whom I consulted on the SACC representations were members of the Provincial COVID-19 Advisory Team, which comprises medical, legal and theological experts, and is co-ordinated by Dr Arthur Manning assisted by the Deputy Provincial Registrar, Rosalie Manning. In response to South Africa's Level 3 lockdown, I asked the team to come up with a consenus view on how to move ahead. A number of Bishops have also consulted with their Dioceses and taken preliminary decisions themselves.

The COVID-19 Advisory Team gave me a preliminary report yesterday. From that, and the reports from Dioceses, the following main points have emerged:

  • The Advisory Team reports a consensus that it is not yet time to resume worship.

  • No Diocese so far has pronounced that it is ready to resume worship;

  • Most reports suggest that it will take a month or two – or longer – to gather the data needed before a decision can be made.

  • There is no one-size-fits-all approach to re-opening for worship. Dioceses outside South Africa have differing lockdown regimens. Within South Africa, different Dioceses face differing levels of infection and will have to adjust their strategies according to data on the level of risk in their areas (just as Government is doing).

  • The Advisory Team suggests that Dioceses should show solidarity by agreeing that either all parishes within a Diocese should resume worship, or none should. Since parishes with fewer material resources will find it more difficult to be ready for worship, this would encourage those with more resources to partner and share with others.

  • There is a need for legal clarity on levels of approval for coronavirus readiness plans and the legal liability of Dioceses and parishes in the event of infections contracted in church. Some Dioceses suggest that parishes need to be accountable to Dioceses for meeting conditions enabling them to return to worship, with designated Coronavirus Compliance Officers ensuring that safe conditions are met.

Apart from the steps to be taken to prepare for a return to worship, once services resume there will be other challenges. For example:

  • How should leaders in a parish respond if more than 50 worshippers arrive for a service?

  • How should they respond if congregants begin singing or mingling spontaneously?

  • There is very serious concern about the return of parishioners and clergy who are over 60 years old. In a consultation church leaders held last weekend with Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who chairs South Africa's Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, he warned us that the death rate for COVID-19 patients between 60 and 70 is three times higher than for others, and the risk is particularly big if conditions such as diabetes and hypertension are not well managed. For those above 70 with pre-existing conditions, the risks of having COVID-19 are very high, and they should self-isolate and stay at home until a vaccine is found.

All these issues, and others in the SACC guidelines, need to be addressed before we can return to worship. My hope is that we can develop a phased process of planning and return to worship, linked to significant festivals in the calendar, such as:

  • Trinity Sunday

  • Corpus Christi

  • The Feast of the Transfiguration, and

  • The Commemoration of Robert Gray.

There are also matters other than worship to address. Churches can be open for private prayer, for feeding the hungry, for helping with the overflow from schools and for testing where this is possible. Clergy who are teachers, school chaplains and professors will be walking alongside pupils as schools open, hospital chaplains will continue their ministry under guidelines laid down by hospitals, and police and military chaplains should continue supporting these men and women who ensure our safety and security. The National Church Leaders' Forum of the SACC continues to meet to review and study together all the areas which call for mutual action and joint articulation.

New, shared leadership and energy is emerging amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic. This is truly Pentecostal for it is what the Spirit always does; it calls to newness and to transforming power. Together, let us seize the opportunity to work with the challenge and come out of this time a better church and better Christians. As President Ramaphosa has reminded us, let us also remember Madiba's exhortation: “It is in our hands.”

God bless you.

††Thabo Cape Town




Tuesday, 2 June 2020

The killing of George Floyd shocks South Africans too

Many of us in South Africa have been shocked by the death by homicide of George Floyd, when a policeman crushed his neck with a knee for more than eight minutes in Minneapolis last week.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Archbishop Thabo's message on returning to worship

Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops

It is with awe and trepidation that I welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s acceptance of the representations made by religious leaders that faith communities will be responsible and careful enough to return to worship under conditions which will not allow the spread of the coronavirus.

In the next few days, once the government has published its new regulations, we will, with the help of our COVID-19 advisory team, consolidate the regulations and the guidelines that religious leaders have drawn up and update our own ACSA guidelines accordingly.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Archbishop's Eastertide News & Reflections – May 18, 2020

(Credit: Nelson Mandela University)
Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops

With no end in sight to coronavirus lockdowns, we are having to plan ahead for Provincial meetings to take place online. Already, retired bishops are communicating on WhatsApp, as are members of the Synod of Bishops. Other groups are being encouraged to connect and pray together online, and Liaison Bishops are meeting with bodies such as the youth, Provincial organisations and the like.