Saturday 10 October 2020

Archbishop announces ACSA 150th anniversary appeal - Ad Laos - to the People of God

Dear People of God

The top deliberative body of our church in Southern Africa between our three-yearly Provincial Synods is the Provincial Standing Committee (PSC), which meets annually at the end of September. This year’s meeting was unique for two reasons: firstly as a consequence of the coronavirus we had to hold it virtually, with more than 100 people linked up on video screens from diocesan hubs as far away as Angola and northern Mozambique; and secondly in 2020 we are celebrating the inauguration of the Province in 1870.

Our 150th anniversary is indeed a momentous milestone, and as we look back over the decades we can see that what has been achieved is nothing short of God-inspired. From the five founding dioceses of the Province – those of Cape Town, Grahamstown, Natal, Saint Helena and Bloemfontein (now Free State) – we have grown to 29, covering not only South Africa but Angola, eSwatini (Swaziland) Lesotho, Namibia and Mozambique. We have touched the lives of countless people from all walks of life and played a pivotal role in the shaping of our respective societies through the leadership and sacrifices made by many Anglicans. And in an exciting development which we heard about at PSC, the existing four dioceses in Mozambique and Angola plan to multiply into 12 and, in time, to form their own Province with Portuguese as their lingua franca.

To celebrate both our history and our present reality, I am launching a Sesquicentennial Campaign to raise funds to digitise our church records and archives. Over the past century-and-a-half we have generated immense quantities of written and printed material, from liturgies and records of celebrations to St Helena’s parish baptism registers dating to 1680, to letters from David Livingstone and James Calata, to Charles Johnson’s letterbooks from Zululand, to the angry letters of Desmond Tutu to P W Botha in the 1980s, to documents on the clash that Archbishop Njongo had with Madiba in the late 1990s. Wits University, which has kept our archives for more than 80 years, is running out of space; not only that, but numbers of our parishes and dioceses are now keeping only electronic records, necessitating a complete overhaul of our archival systems.

The aim is that this Campaign will become an ever-evolving record of the life of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, an easily-accessible resource for researchers and Anglican lay people and one which enhances the theological formation of our clergy. Please support this campaign with your prayers and financial contributions.

Diocesan representatives brought a diverse and encouraging range of issues to PSC: poverty and inequality; “Building Back Better” after COVID-19; gender-based violence and the patriarchy that underlies it; the integrity of the environment; the evil of racism which lives on in some of our schools; and domestic matters such as the need to hold “virtual” elective assemblies online to fill episcopal vacancies in the dioceses of Kimberley & Kuruman, Lesotho, Natal and Zululand.

You can read more detail in the news section of the Provincial website but at the heart of all our efforts is the need to move our church from maintenance to mission, for our ecclesiology is sound and relevant only if it is missiological. Mission is about people and where we live and move and have our being. Hence we must care not only for human life but for the whole of God’s creation, not as an optional extra but as a focus essential to the future of human life on our planet. As we end the Season of Creation, have you used the season to give back to future generations?

One way of contributing to the mission of the Church is to invest in the theological formation of all our people, from infants at baptism to the elderly in their last years. Anglicans Ablaze this year played its missional and teaching role online and the College of the Transfiguration (Cott) does it for ordinands. Please remember to give generously on Theological Sunday to the work and ministry of Cott.

Also commit to your own theological nurture, reading and discussing scripture to understand current concerns about the effects of patriarchy in church and society, and doing your part in naming it and rooting it out. Ask your clergy to help you with resources such as contextual Bible studies.

Let us also pay heed to what Pope Francis says in his new encyclical, in which he warns us that the “magic theories” associated with what he calls the “dogma of neoliberal faith” is not resolving the inequality which is threatening the fabric of societies in many parts of the planet. What steps might you and your parish, as individuals and families, take towards transforming elements of our local economies which annihilate instead of nurturing abundant life?

Finally, a very happy birthday to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond, who as I write turns 89, and to Mama Leah, who also has a birthday in a few days. I pray with him regularly, and I know he also prays for you.

God bless

†Thabo Cape Town

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