Sunday 26 December 2021

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu - Announcement

Announcement by the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

It is with great sadness that I have to announce that our dearly beloved Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town – and the 1984 Nobel Peace laureate – Desmond Mpilo Tutu died a short while ago at the age of 90.

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the whole faith community, and – I make bold to say – on behalf of millions across South Africa, Africa and the world, I extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Nomalizo Leah, to his son, Trevor Tamsanqa, and to his daughters, Thandeka, Nontombi and Mpho, and all of their families.

While we mourn his passing, as Christians and people of faith we must also celebrate the life of a deeply spiritual person whose alpha and omega – his starting point and his ending point – was his relationship with our Creator. He took God, God's purpose and God's creation deadly seriously. Prayer, the Scriptures and his ministry to the people God entrusted to his care were at the heart of his life.

He believed totally that each one of us is made in the image of God and ought to be treated as such by others. This belief was not reached through celebral contemplation; it arose from his faith and was held with a deeply-felt passion. He wanted every human being on earth to experience the freedom, the peace and the joy that all of us could enjoy if we truly respected one another as people created in the image of God.

Because he believed this, and because he worshipped God, he feared no one. He named wrong wherever he saw it and by whomever it was committed. He challenged the systems that demeaned humanity. He could unleash a righteous anger on those – especially the powerful – who inflicted suffering upon those the Bible calls “the least of these, my brothers (and sisters).” And when the perpetrators of evil experienced a true change of heart, he followed the example of his Lord and was willing to forgive.

Desmond Tutu's legacy is moral strength, moral courage and clarity. He felt with the people. In public and alone, he cried because he felt people's pain. And he laughed – no, not just laughed, he cackled with delight when he shared their joy.

In accordance with his instructions, the Church will plan his funeral and other memorial services with the generous support of the South African Government and the City of Cape Town. Details of these events, to be held under South Africa's Covid regulations, will be announced later.

In the meantime, let us prayerfully remember him by the epitaph he once chose for himself:

He laughed,

He cried,

He loved.

In the words of the prayer which his mentor and friend, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, first composed, and he then adapted as he extended his ministry from South Africa to the world:

God bless our world

Guard our children

Guide our leaders

And give us peace

For Jesus Christ's sake. Amen

May Desmond Mpilo Tutu rest in peace and rise in glory.

God bless you.

Friday 24 December 2021

Archbishop's Christmas Eve sermon

Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

Christmas Eve

24th December 2021

Isaiah 62: 6-12; Titus 3: 4-7; Luke 2:1-20

May I speak in the name of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.

On behalf of the Cathedral, the Diocese and the Province, my family and I wish all of you a blessed, peaceful and happy Christmas. Wherever you are – whether online or sitting in a Cathedral pew – please know that on this holiest of nights, you are equally welcomed, loved and cared for as a child of God. And thank you, Mr Dean and your staff, for all you have done in the difficult conditions of our second Christmas under Covid to make this Mass one that lives up to the finest traditions of this Cathedral's liturgy. 

Sadly, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is not with us in his customary front pew tonight. Please say special prayers for him and for Mama Leah and their family tonight; their health is not great but of course at their age we cannot expect otherwise. We are deeply grateful for his life and witness and when God in Jesus does call him home, we know he will be in the trusting and loving hands of the incarnate Christ.

I started my sermon last year by saying that 2020 had been an unspeakable year of intense suffering. Who could have predicted that 12 months later, after the hope given to us by the arrival of vaccines and the adjustments we have made to take this virus in our stride, that we would be faced with a challenge such as we have now? We were told that we would be hit with new variants, and so we were, with Delta and now with Omicron. But now we have to get our heads around the complexities of Omicron; that while it has not so far made people as ill as Delta has, one study in Hong Kong says it is 70 times more contagious than Delta. It reinforces the need for all who want to move around freely in our community to be vaccinated not only for their protection but for the protection of others – a need our church's Provincial Synod has underlined by making vaccination mandatory for clergy. 

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’“

It is hard to hear those words when so much of our lived experience this year drowns out voices of joy and celebration. The Covid pandemic, the loss of livelihoods, the pandemic of gender-based violence, rising unemployment, the ongoing scourges of racism and corruption, all rob so many of the joy of life. Yet this night, this holy night, is one of deep joy despite all that is happening around us. It is the night when the celestial has touched the terrestrial, holiness and humanity have met, and hope and history chime together.

There are moments in the Christmas story when joy comes in the shape of solidarity. In the shepherds' story we are told that it was at night, in the vulnerable time when the world is dark, that they received the good news. We are also told that the presence of the angels “shone with the glory”, breaking the tyranny of darkness. 

The Christmas story assures us that even in places of darkness today, light shines through to encourage and inspire us. God, our Emmanuel, is with us, amongst us, aware of our situations, so aware that God continues to send angels into our situations to bring light. Emmanuel is with all those who like Joseph knock on doors and find that they remain shut, those who seek proper places for their families, those who are going through tough times in their lives. Finding no room is the story of God's solidarity with those who, despite all the adversity and all the obstacles they face, yet discover that sometimes they are also the sites of new life, of new possibilities. 

Sometimes – and this is at the heart of the Christmas story – the joy of God comes disguised, in unpredictable ways. It takes our willingness to seek the Lord in those unlikely places, to sense God's abiding closeness, to understand that we need to look out for God's presence in the night times, the darkness, of our lives and when the doors are shut in our faces. Emmanuel – there also God is with us. 

The Scriptures tell us that Mary and Joseph went up to Bethlehem for the census. One of the reasons for a census was for the Roman authorities to establish how many men were available for conscription so that they could ensure there was peace in the territories they controlled, the pax Romana as it was called. Of course it was not the real peace that is born of justice, it was an assertion of power through bullying and war, a peace enforced militarily from the top. The other reason for the census was to bolster an economy that benefitted a very few, and exploited masses of people on the margins.

The lessons to be drawn from the Christmas story are particularly apt for contemporary South Africa. There can be no dispute that our economy benefits a very few, with the disparity between the rich and the powerful and those on the margins among the worst, if not the worst in the world. The consequences can be seen in the results of a recent report from Afrobarometer, the leading African opinion pollster. 

A survey which Afrobarometer conducted in May and June of this year illustrates starkly how distrustful South Africans have become of their politicians. It found that whereas 10 years ago, 61 percent of South Africans had trust in our governing party, by this year this had dropped to 27 percent. Trust in opposition parties also declined, from 40 percent a decade ago to 24 percent this year. Parliament and provincial premiers suffer the same lack of trust – 28 and 27 percent respectively – and although by this year our current President enjoyed a little more trust, it was still limited to fewer than four in 10 South Africans (38 percent). 

Many factors contributed to the rioting and looting that swept KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in July. But can there be any doubt that the lack of trust in state institutions has undermined the authority and legitimacy of our government? In fact the only institutions which enjoyed the trust of most South Africans were the media – which has distinguished itself in recent years by exposing public and private sector corruption – and the Department of Health – which has engendered trust by its handling of the pandemic. More than 60 percent trust the media, and 56 percent trust the Health department. 

This year's local election results bear out the conclusions of the Afrobarometer survey. We face difficult times ahead, especially if political parties cannot succeed in working together in coalitions. One of the other findings of the Afrobarometer survey was that two-thirds of South Africans would be willing to sacrifice regular elections if a non-elected government or leader could impose law and order, and deliver houses and jobs; moreover the most trusted government institution after the Department of Health was the army. The message is clear: if coalition politics do not improve people's lives, then there is a real danger that South Africans will turn away from democracy to authoritarian rule. That has never ended well - ask those of our fellow Africans who have lived under an authoritarian regime.

But there is another side to the story of Christmas, and that is that we are not helpless in the face of the manipulations of politicians and profiteers who run society in order to enrich themselves. It is significant that the coming of the Christ, he who proclaimed the revolutionary message that all are equal in the sight of God, was announced not to the powerful. It was announced to shepherds, people who lived on the margins of an already marginalised community. They were people regarded as so low in status that they were not even allowed to participate in or give evidence in court proceedings. It was not the powerful in Jerusalem who first heard the Christmas message, no it was those on the margins, people who were counted as nothing, who first received a message that inspired them, enhanced their confidence, upheld their dignity and built their agency.

A close reading of the Gospels also shows that the God who enters our fragile world does so as a vulnerable baby, on the very periphery of society, far away from the places of power and institutional religion in Jerusalem. The Christmas story reminds us that peace and prosperity are not the playthings of the rich and powerful, not a commodity for politicians and profiteers; no, the realisation of true peace and prosperity are in our hands. Like the shepherds in the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus, we have agency, we are empowered to articulate a new narrative, a different course of action, to speak hope where until now despair and fear of the authorities has dominated. We need to take inspiration from the Christmas story, and use our agency to build back trust in government, and to realise the promise of democracy. 

In the Old and New Testaments the image of the glory of God was an affirmation that God was right there, that those who experienced it were in God’s presence. There is something powerful in the thought that men who were ritually unclean most of the time and could not enter the Temple were not excluded from being in the presence of God. The God who was being revealed was not a God who was far off, not distant because of status or purity laws. God was present amongst the poorest, the most excluded and the most marginalised. Maybe the great joy that the angels spoke about was also about God such as our God who was close to the broken-hearted, who had a special concern for the widow and orphan and the stranger dwelling with you in the land. 

It is incredible that those who could not give testimony in court now gave testimony in the public spaces and with such authority that people wondered about all they said. It is something that we are learning in so many parts of the world where the poor suffer, where needs are great, where all the pandemics of these days tear away at our personal well-being and our social cohesion, it is still the testimony of the poor that rings with authenticity, that underlines that God is in our midst, doing something new, raising different voices, exploring spaces of hope and for those who are sensitive to those intimations, 

Christ is born again in the very concrete realities of our lives. There is something powerful about the shepherd’s faith, that they leave their flock, their security, and test it against this new leap of faith that God has asked them to take. Sometimes in life we have to stretch out beyond the familiar, the affirming, the comfortable and trust God to take us to places of new possibilities, new life. Pursuing Jesus no matter where it takes us, is a priority for our lives.

In going out to speak about Jesus, the shepherds literally and spiritually found their voices. It is unlikely that they were qualified to speak or theologise. There was certainly no commandment to go out to share their discovery. They did it simply because it opened up new vistas for them; it included them and all like them who were thought of as outsiders. They did it because the spirit within them was ignited with fresh possibility with new hope that was being actualised nearby them in Bethlehem.

We too cannot be silent about the good news God has given us in this baby, of the way in which new life has emerged from the margins or the peripheral places in our lives, in our relationships and in our communal life together. When this begins to grow in us, then we will with  the eyes of faith and our feet firmly on the ground, know once again the truth of the angel's message, that news of great joy has come to us.

A very happy Christmas to you. God loves you, and so do I. 


Sunday 12 December 2021

Reflection & Prayer at the official Memorial Service for former President FW de Klerk

 The following are the texts of (1) a reflection by Archbishop Thabo of Cape Town at the Memorial Service for former President de Klerk in the Groote Kerk in Cape Town, and (2) an opening prayer for the State funeral proceedings.

The reflection was one of three by clergy during the service which preceded the State memorial. The prayer was the opening prayer of the State-led proceedings. 

Memorial Service for former State President FW de Klerk

Reflection by the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba
Archbishop of Cape Town &
President of the SA Council of Churches

Groote Kerk, Cape Town

December 13, 2021

Reading:  1 Corinthians 13: 12-13

Mrs Elita de Klerk, Jan, Susan, your children, members of the wider De Klerk family;

Mr President, Premier, Mayor, fellow South Africans and guests:

I greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, and I bring you, members of the De Klerk family, the condolences of the wider ecumenical family I represent.
It is said that John Donne, the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London in the 17th century, was looking out of his study window when he saw the coffin of a pauper being carried out of the church. More accustomed to the pomp and ceremony of the funerals of the high and mighty of the land, he suddenly had a mystical insight which has become part of the Western canon of thought, namely that, and I quote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...”

In the 1st century, St Paul wrote powerfully of this shared humanity in his letter to the divided church community at Corinth, when he reminded them that the “body is one, though made up of many parts, and that no part is more important than the other.”

The same concept is embodied in our African canon of thought. Only in our case, the ancestors who bequeathed it to us called it ubuntu, or botho – that a person is a person only through other persons, that you are incomplete without me, and that I am incomplete without you.

All of these expressions of what it means to be human point to the understanding that the lives of every person are woven together in the rich tapestry of a shared humanity, embedded in a common history. And all of us, like John Donne, discover at some point in our journey through this world that coming to acknowledge our common humanity is in fact the most humanising moment of our lives. As I became one of those who ministered to FW de Klerk in the last months of his life, I came to realise that he too had experienced this discovery.

Can you imagine a more unlikely scenario than me acting as one of FW de Klerk's pastors? Consider the ironies: FW de Klerk, the  descendant of Huguenots who fled a European empire to seek refuge in South Africa in the 17th century; and me, the great-grandson of one of the last African kings in our country to be overthrown by Mr de Klerk's people. The irony extends even further: Mr de Klerk, the last political leader of a generation who overcame domination by another European empire, receiving pastoral care from the leader of a church which, although now transformed, was once the religious arm of that empire. Truly, we can say: only in South Africa.

When Mr de Klerk and Elita first invited me to play this role, many asked me: “Wow, are you going to do it?” And he himself told me, “My enemies are going to devour you, Archbishop.” But when I was ordained a priest, I was charged with the responsibility to provide pastoral care to all who need it, whether to an individual or to a nation. And it is always a particular privilege to become privy to the inner workings of a dying man’s or a dying woman's heart.

In Mr de Klerk's case, it involved relinquishing partisanship, setting aside my prophetic ministry as a church leader, incorporating the pastoral and the prophetic. I soon learned the wisdom of St Paul's words, also in his letter to the Corinthians, that “for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see him face to face.”

As the relationship unfolded, I saw how, during our lives on earth, that all of us get only a partial glimpse of one another's lives and of the life of the body politic; that we won't ever know everything about one another's motives and perspectives, and that the glimpses we do see depend on the unique lens through which each of us sees life.

What I learned about FW de Klerk, as the descendant of a bullied minority in France, was his hatred of bullying – including that, as he said, perpetrated by the PW Botha administration of which he was a part. It also became clear that as he travelled down the road of negotiating the country's future, he came to realise the power of the biblical history of God's people down the ages: that since liberation is ultimately assured by God, he could never dissuade that energy. So while he may have embarked on that road as a pragmatist, seizing the moment at which he could still influence that future, the biblical narrative of liberation came to be part of his motivation.

It also became clear that although he may have, as he said, disputed that apartheid was genocidal, he accepted that it was indeed a crime against humanity. More important to me as a person of faith, he was unequivocal in describing apartheid as a sin.

I also came away not doubting that FW de Klerk had a deep faith in Christ Jesus. He believed that although on earth he saw through a mirror only dimly, when he died he believed he would see God face to face. He was ready to face death.

The Spanish priest and mystic, John of the Cross, wrote “that in the evening of our lives we will be judged on love alone.” While others assess the accolades and the contestations over the public life of a leader, the pastor is called to witness the legacy of love in an individual's life, and to understand things humbly in that light, for love is the practical manifestation of the peace that we are talking about this morning. That legacy of love always endures, always inspires and always offers hope, and so it was in the life of FW de Klerk.

Let me conclude with a prayer for us, using the words of 1 John 3:2: “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But what we know is that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

May Frederik Willem de Klerk rest in God's gracious and eternal peace.

State Memorial Service for FW de Klerk
Groote Kerk, December 13, 2021
Opening prayer by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Let us pray:

Oh God our Creator, our Redeemer and our Sustainer,
Still our hearts, calm our minds,
And give us that peace which is your gift to humankind.

Help us, as Abraham Lincoln once said,
To be touched by the better angels of our nature,
To draw on the ubuntu, the botho, our ancestors bequeathed to us;
And in the presence of a grieving family and people
To quieten our partisan passions,
And to turn our focus towards you, the Holy and the Merciful One.

As the Church, the Family, the State and the Nation gather here at the Groote Kerk in Advent tide, we offer our prayers of condolence to all, especially to members of the De Klerk family and all who love them;

We pray for the sharing of that peace and love which comes from true healing and genuine reconciliation;

We offer our hurt, our brokenness and the sins of the past to you, praying for your redemptive presence to manifest itself in our lives;

We pray for all who will speak today, that we will have the courage and the faith to heal and not to wound;

And finally we pray for our President as he delivers his eulogy, and offer this service to God's honour and glory.

May the soul of Frederik Willem de Klerk rest in peace.

“Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and for ever. Amen.”


Monday 1 November 2021

Explaining and Praying for the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

The next 12 days will be critical to life as we know it on the planet, and especially for Africa.

In Glasgow, governments which have signed up to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change hold the 26th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the convention (COP26) to decide how to prevent climate  catastrophe.

António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has described the climate crisis as "code red for humanity". 

The current aim is to reduce carbon emissions – from coal, petroleum and natural gas – to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above the temperatures seen before the industrial age. To achieve this, by 2030 global emissions must be halved, and by 2050 we must reach "net-zero", meaning the greenhouse gas we produce should be no more than that removed from the atmosphere.

But Mr Guterres warns that despite action already taken, we are headed for a "catastrophic" global temperature rise of 2.7 degrees Celsius.

The impact of the crisis is particularly serious for Africa. Scientists of the World Meteorological Organization say that the continent is warming, and sea levels along South Atlantic and Indian Ocean coasts are rising, more rapidly than the global average.

Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture with the African Union Commission, says that if there is no change, by 2030 up to 118 million extremely poor Africans (those living on less than U.S.$1.90 a day) will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat.

Scientists at the University of Cape Town forecast that rainfall in eight African countries they have studied will decrease by well over 20mm in the driest months, and by more than 100mm per year in the worst hit nations.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the specialised United Nations agency which works to improve food security, says this will have a devastating impact on yields of staple and cash crops grown by small-scale farmers.

It explains: "This could have a catastrophic impact on poverty and food availability unless there is an urgent injection of funding to help vulnerable farmers adapt how and what they farm."

IFAD adds that developing countries need between $70 billion and $100 billion a year to be able to adapt, and by 2030 they will need between $140 to $300 billion. But at present the international community is providing only $22 billion a year.

So we face a Kairos moment – a moment of truth, a critical turning point – in the struggle to avoid climate catastrophe.

Accordingly, I invite all people of faith to pray for COP26 on each day of the talks until November 12:  

Lord God,

We give thanks for the world in which you have placed us

For the beauty which surrounds us

And for the natural resources you provide which sustain us

We pray for all those gathered in Glasgow for COP26

We pray for the heads of state and government representatives

We pray for the negotiators and scientists

We pray for the climate activists 

That all will unite in a common effort to avert climate catastrophe

We also pray for those in fossil fuel industries whose livelihoods are at stake

And for the rapid development of renewable energy sources which will create new jobs 

Lord God,

We ask you to move the hearts of leaders of the industrialised nations which produce most carbon emissions

That they will hear the cries of developing nations, which suffer the worst effects of climate change

And that COP26 will generate the resources needed to help poor nations adapt to meet the crisis

In your name we pray.  Amen 

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Sermon at Anglican schools' confirmation service

Combined Confirmation Service for Anglican Schools in Cape Town

Bishops Diocesan College, Rondebosch

10 October 2021

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

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

Brothers and sisters in Christ, dear people of God, heads of participating schools – Mr Antony Reeler of Diocesan College, our host this year; Mrs Heather Goedeke of Herschel; Mrs Shirley Frayne of St Cyprian’s; and Mr Julian Cameron of St George’s Grammar School – also friends and families, I am pleased to join you to share in this important milestone in the lives of the confirmation candidates under the challenges of Covid-19.

A warm welcome to you all. Thank you for inviting me today and, most importantly, thank you to the school chaplains – the Revd Monwabisi Peter of Bishops, the Revd Lorna Lavello-Smith of Herschel and the Revd Andrew Weiss of St Cyprian’s, for preparing the candidates for confirmation. A special welcome to those who attend this service for the first time in their new capacities. A special welcome also to the parents and godparents of those to be confirmed.

Thanks, Revd Monwabisi, for being our host, for preparing the service and for a wonderful service booklet. It is always a joyous occasion when Anglican schools in our diocese meet and worship together, but in the face of this devastating pandemic it is all the more important that we stand together in solidarity at this time of crisis in our land and the world. Many of us have lost friends and relatives to Covid-19, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to those who have lost loved ones.

Today we come in the presence of God to give witness to the special gift with which God, out of his goodness, will endow you, the confirmation candidates: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit into your lives. The rite of passage that you pass through today will help you to practise your faith more effectively in every aspect of your existence, expanding your relationship with God and strengthening your spiritual lives.

The gifts of the Spirit equip us for worship, witness and service. Of these three, I always say worship is the most important because everything else we do flows from this. In worship we praise and give reverence to God. It begins with fear of the Lord – meaning that we should stand in awe of the Lord. Fearing, or standing in awe of God, is one of the gifts of the Spirit. So through worship we show respect for and love of God, admiring God with those who believe in him.

The Gospel reading today, Mark (10:17ff), presents us with Jesus’ encounter with a rich young man. In the mind of the young man, the concept of eternal life probably had an eschatological meaning, referring to life in the age to come and not a concept which gave him any sense of security in the here and now. In this passage Jesus takes a word the man uses, and throws it back at him for deeper consideration. Jesus might be saying that, in an absolute sense, goodness belongs to God our Creator alone. Whether Jesus could be seen as good was in a sense subject to growth and testing in the circumstances of the incarnation, in which He would learn obedience through what he suffered.

Despite the rich young man's need for a sense of security for the future, judged by the standards of the law he felt himself to have attained a measure of goodness. What he now expected was to be told to undertake something difficult and praiseworthy, to make good anything that might be lacking.

Friends, it is this popular idea of striving for goodness based on merit that Jesus attacks. The lesson Jesus taught is that the kind of human achievement the young man aspires does not produce what is described as “good” in God’s sight in the way Jesus uses the term. In fact, this man was breaking the first commandment: for his possessions were his god. As his teacher, Jesus responds by giving him a liberal dose of that which will bring him to Christ: that he would be justified by faith and not by works. The command that he sell his possessions does not necessarily apply to all of us – it was an admonition to that particular person in that particular situation, arising out of the reality that he was entrapped by his possessions.

Neither did Jesus promise him eternal life in return for the sacrifice of his riches; he promised him only a secure treasure in return for an insecure one. Jesus outlines a way of life which involves ridding ourselves of whatever would hinder us from following him. The disciples were astonished when Jesus pointed out how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, for it was the prevalent opinion in Judaism that riches were a mark of divine favour. But it is also true that it is possible to part with one’s possessions in some good cause without becoming a true follower of Jesus; having one's life shaped by one's faith involves our hearts and minds, not simply actions. This of course has implications for depending on wealth and possessions for happiness.

In our Old Testament reading, Job begins in this passage with the heartfelt wish that he could find God so he could press his case. He is voicing a longing for God's presence. “What I would give to know where to find God,” is his plea. Job has already given everything to end up where he is: his family, his wealth, and his physical health, and now he seems on the verge of giving up his spiritual health as well, just to reach God. This longing, this desperate need for an answer to the whys of suffering, then at least some sense that God is near, concerned, interested and caring, is sure to resonate with anyone who hears it.

As learners at our Anglican schools, what can we learn from this example? What is one thing that each of us can take back to our schools, communities and families?

Those of you who have heard me before at these occasions know that I have an abiding passion that our church must promote the common good in our society by providing – and not only providing but actually radically expanding – opportunities for quality, affordable education in schools which are fully inclusive and reflect the demographics of our country. I am repeating myself because it bears repeating: While I know that most of our schools are committed to opening up places for boys and girls whose parents don't have the means to send them here, I do wonder whether the wealth and relative privilege reflected our most exclusive Anglican schools is not sometimes an obstacle to an in-depth understanding of the society in which we live. As I have said before, for all the facilities and educational opportunities we provide, they will count for nothing unless we are preparing a representative cross-section of society to serve and develop a nation which meets the needs of all.

Since I last spoke to schools in Cape Town on the challenges we face, we have seen public outbursts of hurt and anger, especially from alumni, at their experiences of marginalisation, exclusion, and discrimination at our schools. In response, last year's meeting of the church's Provincial Standing Committee – the body which meets annually to oversee the running of the Anglican Church across Southern Africa – asked me to appoint a task team to look at this problem broadly and propose ways we could address it. The team is headed by the Wits University educationalist, Professor Mary Metcalfe of Wits, an Anglican herself, and recently provided us with a progress report.

In a perceptive and nuanced assessment, the task team says it is on a rigorous journey of learning about what it describes, and I quote, as “the complex and often unrecognised or ‘invisible’ features of discrimination experienced by members of school communities.” It continues: “Our society, and the values and attitudes that we absorb daily, constantly reinforce a dominance and exclusion, and practices of disciplined reflection need to be embedded in the institutional culture of schools if discrimination is to be addressed at the depth required.”

The task team says we need to make a conscious decision to challenge the deeply-held assumptions underlying our thought and action, and it calls for us to commit to a process of learning more about all forms of discrimination. It recognises that despite making mistakes along the way, many schools have made determined and consistent efforts to provide greater opportunities for students’ voices to be heard, and that in turn some students have felt empowered to help build a new culture at their schools.

Importantly, it recognises that if the team is to develop helpful recommendations, they need to be owned by schools. It says that recommendations which are not the outcome of authentic engagement and which have not been enriched by the experiences of those who must adopt the recommendations will exist on “paper” only and will not be incorporated into the essence of the life of schools.

So although a lot of work lies ahead, and the task team says the pace of change needs to accelerate, it has made a good start in helping us to provide the framework for addressing our current challenges and providing an education that prepares our young people for the 21st century.

Confirmands, it is at turning points such as this in your lives and in the life of our communities and our country that our destiny is shaped. Destiny is a matter of choice, not of chance. I appeal to you, as you embrace Jesus's call to be his disciples, to allow him to shape you and form you in accordance with His will for your lives. And in our national life, I pray that all of us will embrace our New Struggle, that we will awaken our consciences and demonstrate solidarity and commitment to a culture of values-based decision-making and care for one another in ways including the protection of women and children. In that way we can be of service to our schools, our families and our beautiful country.

As I conclude I want to thank all the educators and learners, who during the turbulent times of Covid-19 have ensured that learning and teaching has continued to take place.

The God who began that good work in you, will perfect it into the day of Christ Jesus (Phil.1:6). Congratulations on your confirmation, and may God bless you, your family and South Africa.

And as you know, God loves you and so do I.


 Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Archbishop's Charge to Provincial Synod 2021

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

36th Session of Provincial Synod

ACSA Discipling Communities for a Changed World”

Charge by the President of Synod, the Most Reverend Dr Thabo Cecil Makgoba

Archbishop and Metropolitan

September 21, 2021

Readings: Proverbs 3: 9-18; Psalm 19; Matthew 9: 9-13

May I speak in the name of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. Amen.

Welcome & Acknowledgements

Members of Synod, sisters and brothers in Christ gathered in your Diocesan hubs, members and friends of our church watching online, a very warm welcome to the opening Eucharist of this, the 36th Session of Provincial Synod.

A special welcome to those of you attending Synod for the first time. Although I will miss meeting you in person, I hope you will feel included and encouraged to play your full part in proceedings. I also want to recognise members of the Order of Simon of Cyrene and all our Provincial office-bearers, those with full-time jobs who give generously of their time and effort to the Church. Speaking about generosity, I encourage all members of Synod to give generously at the offertory, since your giving will support bursaries for theological education in the province. A report in the Addendum to the 2nd Agenda book emphasises the need for a Province-wide conversation on critical decisions that we need to make on re-imagining the training and formation of our clergy.

Since Synod last met in 2019, one bishop in service and several retired bishops have died. We recall the tragic loss to Covid-19 of Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, as well as the deaths of Bishops Mlibo Ngewu, formerly of Mzimvubu, Tom Stanage, formerly of Bloemfontein, Edward MacKenzie, Suffragan in Cape Town, Merwyn Castle of False Bay, Eric Pike of Port Elizabeth, and Derek Damant of George. We acknowledge too the deaths of former members of Provincial Synod: Ms Agnes Mabandla, Dr John Healy, the Revd Malusi Msimango, the Revd KL Mashishi, the Revd Canon S Mupfudzapake and Mr Kenson D Qwabe. We also pause to remember clergy and their families, as well as the many others who have died due to Covid-19. May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Also, since the last Synod, there have been a great many changes in the bench of bishops. I take pleasure in welcoming newly elected bishops to their first Provincial Synod in their new capacities: Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe of Natal, formerly of Mthatha, Bishop Tsietsi Seleoane of Mzimvubu, formerly Suffragan in Natal, Bishop Luke Pretorius of St Mark the Evangelist, Bishop Joshua Louw of Table Bay and Bishop Vikinduku Mnculwane of Zululand.

We acknowledge with thanks to God the ministries of those who have retired or resigned: Sebenzile Elliot Williams of Mbhashe, Adam Taaso of Lesotho, Oswald Swartz of Kimberley and Kuruman, Martin Breytenbach of St Mark the Evangelist and Dino Gabriel of Natal.

For several bishops still in service, this will be their last Provincial Synod before retirement. We recognise the faithful witness and ministries of Bishop Andre Soares of Angola and Bishop Luke Pato of Namibia.

Church Governance under the Coronavirus

In the time of the coronavirus, we have faced considerable challenges in governing the church, from meetings of parish councils to convening synods and elective assemblies. Fortunately, hard work by IT specialists and our lawyers have guided us through the difficulties, and we will address some of the results as we work through the First Agenda Book.

As a result of the pandemic, we have been slower than we would have liked in filling episcopal vacancies and have had to rely much more than usual on Vicars-General during the interregna. However, we are beginning to overcome the backlog, and we congratulate the new bishops elected during this week by the Synod of Bishops: Bishop Brian Marajh of George, to be translated to Kimberley & Kuruman, and Dr Vicentia Kgabe, to be Bishop of Lesotho.

There has been a lot of comment about the number of elective assemblies in the past few years which have decided to delegate the election of a new bishop to the Synod of Bishops. Many rush to brand such a decision as a failure to elect, but as I told the Diocese of Natal recently, it is far from that. Of course, dioceses ideally want to make the decision themselves, and there is a proposal in the Second Agenda Book which seeks to address the matter. However, when a diocese chooses to delegate, I regard it as a spirit- and God-filled act. The Synod of Bishops takes the invitation to elect very seriously – and of course God can also work through the Synod of Bishops!

Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola

In the realm of church growth and church governance, the most exciting development to come before this session of Synod is giving birth to a brand-new Anglican province in Southern Africa – the Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola. When I addressed Synod in 2019, I said one of my hopes and visions was that “one day in the not-too-distant future we will inaugurate a new Province in the Communion: an independent, stand-alone, Portuguese-speaking Province in Southern Africa.”

Even I did not imagine that the dioceses in Mozambique and Angola would have been able to act so quickly. As a result of the intensive planning and work of Bishops Carlos Matsinhe, Andre Soares, Manuel Ernesto, and Vicente Msosa, supported by Mrs Mototjane in the PEO's office, the PEO, the Revd Dr Makhosi Nzimande, the former PEO, Archdeacon Horace Arenz, Provincial Officers and our lawyers, we received the approval of the Communion for a new Province in August. On September 1, the day on which we commemorate Robert Gray, we adopted the Canons and Constitution, and on Friday IAMA will be inaugurated, with Bishop Carlos as the Acting Presiding Bishop and Bishop Andre as Dean of the Province. And all this has been done virtually, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Their hard work is an example to us all.

Of course, it is a bittersweet moment for ACSA. The Diocese of Lebombo was established in 1893, and these important dioceses of our Province have enriched our lives immensely over the past century. Now, in a part of God’s vineyard in which there were four dioceses a few months ago, there will soon be 12, with nine now. Next year, God willing and Covid-19 permitting, we will hold the re-scheduled Lambeth Conference. If it can indeed go ahead, we can be proud and pleased that our part of the world will be represented by not one Province but two. Praise be to God.

Discipling Communities for a Changed World

Across all the countries of the Province, the last 20 months have been as challenging as any through which any of us have lived. They recall the memorable words of the English novelist Charles Dickens, who writes in the opening paragraph of “A Tale of Two Cities”:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...”

Our personal lives, our deepest relationships, have felt both horrific spikes of violence and destruction, but also the kindness of strangers as people have reached out to give succour and refuge to others. We traversed through a winter of despair when those already living in chronic poverty took on new burdens as unemployment spiralled. Hunger has haunted the faces of children. Domestic violence has scarred the lives especially of women and children. Both in South Africa and across the Western world we have witnessed the spectre of racism. The phrase “I can’t breathe” became the grim reminder of both the pandemic of racism and of the virus. We have heard cries for greater democracy on the streets of eSwatini, we have seen devastation and unparalleled violence in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. We have heard the echoes of the incessant bombardments of war in Cabo Delgado. Amid it all, the pandemic has ravaged our lives and livelihoods. We have experienced vaccine nationalism, in which the prosperous countries of the world have hogged life-giving inoculations, and we are still experiencing some vaccine hesitancy, despite the magnificent work being done by ACSA’s Covid-19 Advisory Team under the leadership of Canon Rosalie Manning.

During this Synod, one of the most controversial issues we will debate is whether vaccinations should be made mandatory, which is a sensitive issue not only here but across the world. Anti-vaccine lobbyists defend their right not to be vaccinated, which is all well and good if they are willing to stay at home in isolation. But as soon as they move into spaces occupied by others, their rights become limited by the rights of others. In the words of the legal philosopher Zechariah Chafee, “Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other person's nose begins.” In a deadly pandemic, the right of your neighbour to life inevitably circumscribes your right to do as you like.

In the church, there is a strong case for clergy to be vaccinated because we are necessarily near other people, we visit vulnerable people to provide pastoral care and numbers of people in our congregations are vulnerable by virtue of age or comorbidities. The labour writer Terry Bell has put forward a powerful case for employers to make vaccinations compulsory, citing the cardinal principal of trade unionism, “an injury to one is an injury to all”. And is it expecting too much to require travellers sitting near others on aircraft flights to be vaccinated? Let us take seriously our prophetic role in society when we debate this matter.

In this time of suffering, unprecedented in its nature in the last hundred years, we have often felt bereft of answers and struggled to remember that tremendous reassurance that the Lord is with us. We have often felt the burden of failure, but we have also been encouraged by Madiba’s exhortation: “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” In the words of St Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th century, we are indeed passing through an hour of “faith seeking understanding”.

As we try to get up on our feet again, as we look to our faith in groping towards understanding, we can take encouragement from today’s Gospel reading. The parallels between the age in which Matthew lived and our own reality are stark. His work as a tax collector put him into a particular category of people in a deeply unequal society. Scholars tell us that two percent of the population at the time of Jesus comprised the ruling elites. Another five percent were people like Matthew – retainers or agents who served the elites and the Roman Empire. Ninety-three percent were the poor, the peasants, those excluded from the benefits of the economic system, a system built on their labours.

Those figures call to mind statistics which Moeletsi Mbeki gave us at a seminar at Bishopscourt a few years ago. At the top of the pyramid, he told us, there is an elite who earn more than R60,000 a month. They constitute less than half a percent of working age people. Then there are independent professionals who make up two percent of the population, and a middle-class comprising just under 10 percent, who earn between R11,500 and R60,000 a month. Against that, 38 percent or nine million people are blue collar workers earning less than R11,500 a month, while 50 percent of working age people – a total of 12 million South Africans – are either unemployed or part of what he described as an "under-class". Recently we learned another shocking statistic, that the official unemployment rate among people under 25 in South Africa is 46.3 percent, meaning nearly half of our young people have no jobs. The resolution on youth unemployment on our agenda could not be timelier.

The organisers of the Camissa Project, the series of discussions on black theology being hosted by St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, portray the challenges of Covid-19 vividly. "Race, class, gender and disparities were starkly exposed,” they say. “The frailties of life and ongoing exploitation were displayed for what they were by the stroke of a pandemic. Oppressed people worldwide experienced this pandemic as yet another burden in addition to the pandemics brought upon them in five hundred years of imperialist invasions, colonisation, oppression, enslavement, and capitalist exploitation. Similarly, gender-based violence has been described as a pandemic, hugely exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Palestine in the Roman era and Southern Africa today are worlds in which Jesus was and is now at home, populated by people battered from every side; people upon whom, in Matthew’s words, Jesus looks compassionately for “they were like sheep without a shepherd”; people crying out for shepherds to raise their voices, to speak prophetic words, to instil hope and to work for justice. It is worth noting that Jesus’s invitation to Matthew was to leave the space he occupied as a tax collector. It was a challenge that reminded Matthew that a system which was built on corruption, that robbed the poor, that created desperation as a matter of course, was no place to find growth or fulfilment, no environment for becoming fully human.

Scholars tell us that Matthew’s Gospel is deeply influenced by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. When Jesus looks on the marginalised, he does as the prophet Ezekiel also did – he admonishes those who abuse their leadership for their own interests and protect ill-gained wealth or prestige. Hear the words of Ezekiel:

Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.”

Rowan Williams, in his new book, “Candles in the Dark: Faith, hope and love in a time of pandemic”, has pointed to how Covid-19 can offer us a way forward into a world which better reflects the values of Jesus. He writes that the pandemic has turned upside down the belief, especially among the affluent, that humankind is steadily bringing our environment under control. Instead, the pandemic has created what he calls a “new and unwelcome solidarity in uncertainty.” He continues:

The Christian gospel repeatedly tells us that we are always involved in a situation of shared failure and shared insecurity; it tells us that this is overcome only when we stop denying it by closing our hearts to each other; and it announces that our closed hearts can be and are broken open to each other through the action of God in Jesus and the Spirit.”

And he adds that in the time of the virus:

Perhaps we have learned more about our dependence on one another; perhaps we have learned something of the need to accept the limits and risks of living in a world we are never likely to tame successfully and totally. Or perhaps we have had our eyes opened to who is least safe in our neighbourhood – and not just our immediate neighbourhood, but our global neighbourhood...”

In this time of an ongoing pandemic, as we work out what it means to “disciple our communities for a changed world”, as our Synod theme says, if we have learnt anything, then it must be that we must use our gifts, rekindle our imaginations, harness our spiritual energies, and employ our skills, to choose again that fundamental option for the poor. As the story of the call to Matthew reminds us, it is never too late to leave our old ways and follow Jesus into implementing the Kingdom.

Choosing to focus on the poor and the marginalised has implications for how we organise our lives as the Church. I have occasion to meet with the Provincial Treasurer to pray and reflect on challenges that confront the Province broadly and some Dioceses specifically. Covid has made this time of reflection important particularly given the financial strain that many dioceses are experiencing. With so much change taking place in the secular world, both locally and internationally, we as a church need to begin a process of re-imagining ourselves, how we can remain relevant in a very changed world and meet the needs of our people. It is a time to look to our roots – at that which made us the Anglican Church in Southern Africa. We need to look to our clergy being well trained, not only ahead of their ordination, but beyond – with a strong emphasis on life-long learning. Looking at leadership development at all levels of the church, we must not lose sight of our role as servant leaders. We need to look to our laity and their gifts and skills and how they can assist the church to deal with the complexity of so many areas of church life – management, finance, property, education, leadership training, medical, legal, and so many more diverse disciplines. For our Bishops we need to remember that we are the servants of the servants of Christ and that we have a pivotal role in shaping the dioceses that we lead through our prophetic witness, building on the work of our predecessors and leaving a legacy of growth in mission and ministry and in the sustainability of our dioceses.

Choosing the option for the poor also has implications for our prophetic ministry to the world beyond our stained-glass windows. I have previously spoken of my participation a few years ago in the first Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management in Hong Kong. At that meeting, four major international Christian groups – the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Council for World Mission and the Lutheran World Federation – brought together theologians, economists, church leaders and others to discuss how we can develop a new form of global governance and a new economic model, one that transforms the market economy from a self-serving mechanism for elites to one which is less exploitative, one which distributes resources and income more equitably, and which serves both our environment and all the world's people.

Ahead of COP26, the forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, we are called to re-evaluate our relationship to our environment, and I am pleased to see that Synod representatives have put the issues of plastic pollution and the future of gas and oil exploration on our agenda. I was struck recently by the strong words used by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world's top experts on sustainable development, at a recent meeting. He said the world’s food system is based on large multinationals and private profit, and on what he described as “the extreme irresponsibility of powerful countries in regard to the environment, and a radical denial of the rights of poor people.” In the 1980s, when the fight against apartheid reached its peak, many of us adopted the Kairos Document. It recognised that South Africa had reached a “kairos” moment – a moment of truth, a critical turning point – requiring a deeper commitment to the struggle. Today the climate emergency offers us another Kairos moment – an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the crisis.

In these frightening times, the Lord calls us to re-imagine our economies, to put people before profits, to enhance a sense of belonging and to repair the frayed social fabric of our communities. Part of repairing that fabric must involve intensifying our efforts to eradicate the scourge of gender-based violence. I have written in my memoir, “Faith & Courage”, of my first exposure as a priest to the depths of depravity that men can sink to, when I volunteered at a shelter for woman victims of violence in Johannesburg and witnessed the horrifying cruelty men can inflict on women.

Turning to the issue of how this affects us within the Church, one of the most difficult exercises in providing spiritual ministry is to learn to listen and hold space open for those who are hurting. In the Province our Safe and Inclusive Church Commission has helped us to do this even at the most difficult moments. We have amended the Canons to ensure that we can deal with abuse more transparently. Now we need to amend them also to help us challenge patriarchy and its values and practices within the church. It is not only critiques of our behaviour that will bring change; we need sustained teaching and modelling of an ethic of care and dignity (what we call “Seriti” in Sepedi) until everyone is free and safe, and treated equally in all our churches.

The societal challenges that we face are daunting, but we can respond to them in faith and hope. After the unrest in parts of South Africa in July, one of the acts of hope we saw emerged from people who found solidarity with each other and began to demonstrate against looters and rioters, to declare “not in my name” and to help clean up in the aftermath. It was a small beacon of hope, the kind of hope that Jurgen Moltmann spoke of in book. “Theology of Hope”, as “forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionising and transforming the present.”

We are called to be a church for such a time as this, shepherds for such a time as this. But when we hear the call of Jesus, we need, like Matthew, to follow quickly. It is part of the genius of Matthew that he also points us to practical ways of transforming lives to guarantee us a welcome in heaven, for example in Chapter 25. And he challenges not only the elites and the retainers; although they have a greater responsibility because they have resources and power, all of us, the 90 percent, have the responsibility to carry out compassionate ministries, to act with justice and to contribute to a different, transformed world. Every sheep is also a shepherd. No one is exempt from being part of ushering in the Kingdom. All of us are challenged to enhance the agency of the poor. That is what it means to be salt and leaven.

In many ways the Church in these challenging times hears the echoes of Jesus’ request to his friends on the night before he died, to watch with him. As we know, he was asking his friends not only to stay awake but to pay attention to the depths of reality. The English theologian Oliver O’Donovan points out that although the psalmist and the Old Testament prophets regularly call on God to wake up, this call is never sounded in the New Testament. The call there is instead that we should stay awake to God, that we should be alert to God’s work in the world. O’Donovan writes: “God has already awakened, has already acted. All that remains now is for the faithful to be awakened.”

Amid all the joys and sorrows, the hopes, and anxieties of our times, we are called to alertness, to mindfulness and to train our hearts to embrace the times and places when the glimpses of God appear. That surely is the task of the Church, just as it was for the disciples in their challenging hour, “to watch and pray’. And then, as with Peter, to feed the sheep. Every local congregation, big or small, every group, every individual occupying a pew, is both sheep and shepherd, and it is synergy which embraces both roles that will release the energies, creativity and discernment that will take our church forward confidently into the world that lies ahead. Let us use this Provincial Synod to equip us to take that journey.

Monday 2 August 2021

Climate emergency is a "Kairos moment" - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has told national government and business leaders that the climate emergency presents South Africa with a “Kairos moment” – a critical turning point and an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the crisis.

He was speaking on Friday July 30 to the third meeting of the Presidential Climate Commission (PCC), a body set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020.
In its account of the meeting, the newspaper Mining Weekly reported that President Ramaphosa agreed with Archbishop Thabo. It quoted the president as responding: “I welcome this, particularly as he [the archbishop] raises the fact that climate change is a moral issue and calls on us to look at this challenge that faces us – and, may I add, opportunity really – as a Kairos moment.”
Other speakers at the meeting included the Minister for Forestry, Fisheries and Environment Minister Barbara Creecy, the Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, the CEO of Anglo American, Mark Cutifani, and the CEO of Eskom, André de Ruyter.
The full text of Archbishop Thabo's contribution, which includes resource material provided by Green Anglicans, follows:

Third Meeting of the Presidential Climate Commission
30 July 2021
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Thank you for affording the faith community an opportunity to give an input into these critical deliberations. I see it as a recognition by wider society that climate change is not only an environmental, economic and social issue but essentially a moral issue, which needs a moral basis for the solutions it requires, and that the religious sector has a role to play in establishing this moral basis.

    That is not to say that faith leaders can be holier than thou in the debate over how to avert climate disaster. Six years ago, fellow Anglican bishops from all six continents – some from areas already far more seriously affected than us by climate change – came together in South Africa and recognised that we are as responsible as anyone else for the crisis we face. As I said at the time, “the problem is spiritual as well as economic, scientific and political. We [that is, we in the churches] have been complicit in a theology of domination. While God committed the care of creation to us, we have been care-less...” We have been guilty of thinking that God put humankind on earth to control and exploit the world, unmindful that humankind is but one part of a complex environment, part of a delicate network of interdependent units of creation. 

    As a result, we have in our churches committed ourselves to begin at home: to ensure that energy conservation measures are implemented in church buildings; to nurture biodiversity on church land; and to support sustainability in water, food, agriculture and land use. In our campaigning on the issue, for example at the Paris climate talks, we have taken it upon ourselves to advocate for the most marginalised in this debate.

    So for example, in Paris we supported the Least Developed Country group, representing 48 countries – mostly in Central, East and West Africa – in aiming to curb rising temperatures not by the two degrees was being advocated at the time but by no more than 1.5 degrees. We have also pressed for the voices of women to be heard more clearly. In the words of Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya, the Bishop of Swaziland and Africa’s first woman bishop, and I quote: Women are more often dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, so the contribution of women is essential in decisions around climate change.”

    Today I think I can claim that the religious community recognises that, in the words of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, “Climate change is the human rights issue of our time.” And as I have also said of climate talks, we don't only need initiatives to develop renewable energy, sustainable development and resilience; people need help to adapt, and when that is not possible – when people face loss and damage to the extent that no further adaptation is possible, there must be assistance to help them to move on. 

    In the 1980s, when the fight against apartheid reached its peak, many of us adopted what was known as the Kairos Document. It recognised that South Africa had reached a “kairos” moment – in ancient Greek, a moment of truth, a critical turning point – requiring a deeper commitment to the struggle on the part of the churches. Today we are standing at  another Kairos moment for SA – an opportune moment for new and creative initiatives towards a just solution to the climate crisis. 

    And it's doable: just look at Chile. Already 43% of their energy now comes from renewable energy and they will shut eight coal-fired power plants in three years time. Their goal is 60% renewable energy in the next ten years  and 70% by 2050. They have 5,000 renewable energy projects already operational – 5000 places creating jobs and hope. 32,000 more projects have been approved and by 2023, taking into  account jobs lost from the coal sector and new jobs created, they predict an  increase of 23,000 jobs overall. We can have the same objective, given the political will. 

    Decentralised renewable energy projects offer hope to young people. Imagine small factories placed in areas where youth unemployment is highest  - building solar voltaic panels, wind turbines, solar geysers. Imagine targeted training courses preparing young people for careers in renewable energy so that we don’t have to employ  technicians from abroad. New factories can be created in areas where the coal mines are closing. China created 2.2 million jobs in solar photovoltaics, why must we still import these items?

    For a just transition we need to prioritise the areas where jobs will be lost. New green jobs will require international  climate finance. Part of the $100 billion a year of climate finance for 2020-24 first promised over a decade ago still isn't forthcoming. South Africa should be a champion of climate finance in places like the G20, as we advocate for the Global South. 

    Given our economic challenges it is tempting to see gas as a quick fix. But large oil and gas explorations create environmental pollution, push rural people from their land, pollute our precious water sources and create wealth for the ‘one percent’ who have shares and stocks.  As the rest of the world moves away from oil and gas, we would run the financial risk having ‘stranded assets’ which were unsellable. Things are moving fast! 

    Let me end with the words of Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change:

    “Know that you can make a transformative difference to the future of all life on earth. You are not powerless. Your every action is suffused with meaning and you are part of the greatest chapter of human achievement in history.”