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