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.” 

Thursday, 22 July 2021

Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town

The Archbishop's Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town, Church of the Good Shepherd, Protea Village, July 22, 2021: 

Readings: Song of Songs 3:1-4a; Psalm 63:1-9; John 20:1-18

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

Members of Synod, sisters and brothers in Christ, wherever you may be: Good evening and welcome to this 66th session of the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town. It's hardly necessary to say that we meet in extraordinary times. As far as I have been able to establish, never in our history have we met in Synod during a pandemic, and very rarely have the lives of our parishes and Diocese been as topsy-turvy as in the last 18 months.

And of course, apart from the pandemic which has disrupted Synod, when it comes to the question of sharing the dividends of our democracy fairly among all, over the last two weeks the chickens have truly come home to roost. The looting and the burning we saw mainly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng last week may have been set off by developments around our former president, but the speed at which the mayhem spread spoke to the ills and the toxicity of our divided society. I will return to this subject in a few minutes.

Perhaps it has only been in times of war that our lives have been turned upside down in the way they have since the coronavirus struck early last year. As I began writing this Charge, soon after Level 3 was imposed and before the events of recent weeks, I have to confess to you that I felt trapped in the heaviness of now, battling to find a ray of light at the end of a tunnel. However, an important counter to that feeling has been reflecting on how magnificently you have all risen to the challenge of bringing ministry to fellow Anglicans during this long-running crisis, one unprecedented in our lifetimes. It has been especially exciting to see how those of you with the means have brought virtual, online ministry to your parishes. I am privileged tonight to greet not only members of Synod, but also members of our congregations who are sharing in this Eucharist from the comfort of your homes on a cold winter's evening. Welcome to you in Christ's name.

Among members of Synod, a special welcome to Bishop Joshua – attending Synod for the first time in your capacity as Bishop of Table Bay, and, thank God, having overcome Covid-19. My warm thanks to the leaders of the Diocese for all you have done for us since last Synod, and are doing for us over the next few days: to Bishop Joshua, to the Dean, to Chapter, to Standing Committee, our legal advisers, to our Diocesan Administrator, Canon Charleen van Rooyen, to Diocesan staff, to the Synod Advisory Committee and to the Synod Manager, Keith de Vos. Charleen, you and your staff seem to have survived your big move remarkably well; we hope you are settling down in your new premises. Our greetings and thanks also go to the ministries and institutions run under the auspices of the Diocese: the various chaplaincies, the Warehouse, and the schools and homes which nurture the precious lives of the young. I also thank you all for upholding in your prayers my family and my ministry. Please do keep in your prayers our Archbishops Emeriti, Njongonkulu Ndungane and Desmond Tutu – the latter will celebrate his 90th birthday in October and the 60th anniversary of his consecration as a priest in December.

A special mention tonight for victims and survivors of the pandemic: we pray for those who are grieving or suffering as a result of death, losing relatives and friends, and for those who have lost their jobs or had their wages cut. I know you will join me in sending heartfelt condolences to the lay and clergy families of those in the Diocese who have died. In the wider church in Africa, we extend condolences to the family of our beloved Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who died at the beginning of the pandemic, and to sister Provinces in Africa who have lost bishops to Covid-19.

Since Synod last met, a number of clergy have died. Please observe a moment's silence for them – as well as for all people who have died in the pandemic. Let us give thanks to God for the ministry of the Revd Terry Wilke, Canon Rowan Smith, the Revd Bob de Maar, Canon Suzanne Peterson, the Revd Patricia van der Rede, the Revd Ashley Petersen, the Revd Mlamli Mfenyana, the Revd Andrew Henderson, Bishop Edward McKenzie and the Revd Nevil Callander.

The 18th century Irish philosopher, Edmund Burke, wrote of another epoch that “an event has happened upon which it is difficult to speak and impossible to be silent.” The same can be said of the events of the past year-and-a-half. Even before the recent violence, it has been a time of “multiple pandemics”: of Covid-19 with its inhumane losses and its legacy of grinding poverty with job losses, food insecurity and social fragmentation; of horrific violence, including a sharp rise in the scandal of gender-based violence and violence against children; and an era in which naked, unmasked racism has re-emerged in all its evil manifestations, in many parts of the world.

Even in the midst of so much suffering during the pandemic, unscrupulous people have profited from it. We have seen unmitigated corruption and looting from the public purse; corruption which amounts to theft from those who are most vulnerable; looting which has so damaged the credibility of politicians that last week’s appeals to the “have-nots” to stop looting from the “haves” were but a cruel joke. These are things, to use Burke’s language, of which, because of their depravity and gravity, it is difficult to speak and yet, things about which we dare not be silent.

What would our ancestors in faith and struggle have said about these times? What insights would they have offered? I have often recalled the hermeneutic offered by Steve Biko, who our church commemorates on the 12th of September. The Collect we have adopted for that commemoration reads:

Lord of the Cross, you taught us

in the life of your servant Bantu Stephen Biko

that it was better to die for an idea that shall live

than to live for an idea that will die:

grant us the faith to take up our Cross daily

and to follow Christ ;

who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy

Spirit, one God now and ever.

In the spirit of Steve Biko, let us take up our Crosses daily, and mobilise together across barriers in society to fight the evils we have experienced during the pandemic and the greed which is destabilizing our society. Let us emulate the courage of those, in South Africa, in the United States and elsewhere, who have taken up the struggle for recognition that Black Lives Do Matter and that we need to build a society and an economy in which that is fully reflected.

The events of the past two weeks demand that, as leaders and followers, we need to reflect deeply on what our country has become. We cannot go on as we are. We need to re-set our compasses and choose a different direction. In the spirit of Paul writing to the Corinthians (1 Cor 9:16), we are under a burden and a demand to preach into what is happening, an obligation to preach a Gospel of peace with justice – and woe betide us if we do not speak.

Those wedded to a capitalist model have to acknowledge that our current financial and economic systems are not serving the common good; they are creating joblessness and inequality, to the extent that unemployment is running at 32.6 percent, youth unemployment is 46.3 percent, and the World Bank says we are the most unequal country on earth. We have to recommit to closing the gap between the excessively rich and the debilitatingly poor.

As we begin our Synod proceedings today, we commemorate Mary Magdalene, “the apostle to the apostles”. Her witness offers us important insights in these times when all of us are challenged by our various pandemics, whether of the virus named Covid-19, or of violence perpetrated on women, children and the victims of gang warfare in too many of our communities, or of the violence of poverty and dispossession.

Note how Mary Magdalene and her companions are there at the place of the Crucifixion and at the empty tomb, determined and resolute. In contemporary terms, they are the women in our communities who gather around the bodies of young people brutally killed in gang warfare, or who bury young girls who have been molested, raped and murdered. By not leaving – indeed, we are told that “they stand” – they display resilience, not weakening under the weight of what goes on around them. They won't be silenced, and their resilience becomes something shared, allowing them to face an uncertain future together. They challenge us likewise to remain resilient, to refuse to overlook the pain of our current conditions, the poverty and the widening gaps in income and the stares of hungry children.

Their witness offers us the rays of hope and light I was looking for when I started this Charge. So do the words of the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He points out that by casting doubt on what he calls “the assumption of guaranteed security” that the prosperous in our world have enjoyed for decades, the pandemic brings home to us that we are always “in a situation of shared failure and shared insecurity”. The hope is to be found when we recognise this shared reality, and take the opportunity to open our hearts to one another.

Faith, says Rowan Williams, “invites us to confront our shared fragility with honesty and compassion, recognising our need of one another, our need for the neighbour to be well and safe — instead of falling back on our fearful attempts to be safe at the neighbour’s expense.” Ends quote. If only the G7 countries, and others in the Global North, would hear this, end their vaccine nationalism, and move speedily to help the rest of the world get vaccinated at the same rate in every country. For our part, those of us in the Global South must stand, raise our voices, share our skills, strategise with others and keep vigil until those who have power in the private and the public sectors make good on their early Covid-19 commitments.

It is not only in the international domain we need to act, it is also right here at home, here where our much-lauded Constitution guarantees the right of access to basic health care. Yet those who have access to technology to sign up for vaccines are at an advantage. Those with money, access and private health care have an advantage over those with very little or none. In a time of national crisis, people without voices or resources remain invisible or only partially visible.

In an ongoing or post-Covid world, we need to think and pray about what a new kind of missionary focus, one that intuitively reaches out to encounter and engage with others, would look like. I was interested to hear recently of something that Nicky Gumbel is reported to have said: that when the fearful run away from an encounter with suffering and sickness, Christians run towards it – and it makes a great difference to church growth. But it is not only in the realms of physical health and church growth that we need what I think of as a new missionary praxis – we need it as a way of facing up to all of our society's social pathologies.

In our own Diocese, the patterns of ongoing privilege and exclusion which I spoke about a moment ago at a national level still bite deeply in Cape Town, for example when it comes to the continuation of apartheid spatial planning. The poor and people of colour who depend on public housing continue to be shifted to the outskirts of cities, to dormitory suburbs, far from places of work. Voices are thankfully being raised now for the release of vacant sites, to release national land and re-purpose buildings so that we can move towards that most basic of human rights, the right to shelter. As churches we need to find ways of leveraging power to shift the needle.

The challenge may be daunting, but we need to replicate Steve Biko's emphasis on jointly seeking composite answers and creating communities of sisters and brothers. Now is a time when the pandemic – and the last week’s events – have brought new perspectives to old fissures, exposed new wounds and highlighted unresolved tensions. In the light of these signs of the times, we have to engage again, and with an even greater urgency.

We must not forget, as we set about these critical ministries, that the Church has its own legacies of compromise and complicity with the wrongs of the past. Our words, our resolutions of opposition to apartheid, to exploitation and to the injustices that have shaped our culture do not absolve us or wipe away the ongoing systemic consequences of those involvements and benefits. They will continue to undermine trust and attempts at reconciliation. Yet we cannot forego the slow task of building a more solid foundation for the future. Our churches have the reach and the inner resources to continue to be places of healing, reconciliation and hope.

In this year of Archbishop Tutu’s 90th birthday, and the 60th anniversary of his consecration as a priest, we turn to his wisdom. “Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or to our loved ones,” he says “are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth.”

Early on in the pandemic, the great Indian novelist Arundhati Roy posed the question: “What lies ahead?” She answered, “Re-imagining the world. Only that.” Christians, with our unique spiritual gifts, with compassion written into our very DNA, must, as part of our missionary impetus, ask the same question and bring our anointing into shaping the future.

As God's people in the Diocese of Cape Town, we need a new missionary praxis, one in which we examine anew the relevance of all our practices and structures with a view to moving from maintenance to mission. We must live out our conviction that, indeed, our Redeemer lives! Rooted in that certainty, we must – we can – renew, re-imagine and rebuild. We can bring about fairness, equity, generosity, sharing and caring for the environment. We can both realise and share the dividends of our democracy. May we have the courage to continue our journey until, in the words of Chief Albert Luthuli, we will have built “a home for all.” May God hasten that day.

God bless you, your families, this Diocese and South Africa. Amen

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Archbishop discusses unrest with Newzroom Afrika

Thabo Mdluli of Newzroom Afrika's programme, InFocus, discusses the unrest in South Africa with Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. This is Part II of the interview after 10pm on Wednesday night, July 13, in which the Archbishop refers to live footage of local residents gathering to defend Maponya Mall, near where he grew up as a boy in Pimville, Soweto.


Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Reflection on South Africa's current crisis

Listen to and share the reflection below.

In recent years I have delivered a number of papers in which I sought to apply theological thinking – from incarnational theology to a “theology from below” – to our current condition in South Africa. I was particularly impressed by the first Ecumenical School on Governance, Economics and Management, which I attended in Hong Kong five years ago. At that international gathering of theologians, economists and senior church officials, we identified the market economy which dominates so much of the world as a self-serving mechanism for elites which is not providing for the needs of most of world's people, nor for the environment which sustains life on earth.

In Hong Kong, we asked to replace the current global governance of money and financial systems with a less exploitative system that distributes resources and income more equitably. This sounds impractical, I said at the time, but as stewards of God’s creation we know that nothing is impossible with God.

The economic ordering of society and the question of how we develop our material resources is directly relevant to the violence we have seen in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga in the last few days. For much deeper forces than anger over the jailing of Mr Zuma are at work in the mayhem we are seeing. As in many other countries, the market economy is failing to address poverty, inequality and unemployment.

The vast majority of us are good people at heart. But when people go to bed hungry, unemployed, dominated and marginalised, the good in us can be overwhelmed, especially if we see no end to our suffering and especially in times of instability when it seems all bets are off. Desperation can take over, especially when people lose confidence in their political parties and perceive the police as unable to protect their communities.

But violence and looting are not the way to solve the problem, and deploying the Defence Force to support the police can only be a stop-gap measure. Those of us who are independent of politics and government need to say:

  • Of course we all have the right to protest, but without harming anyone else. We have to condemn the criminal behaviour which takes advantage of instability;
  • However, this is not like the apartheid era, where protest was the only weapon most of us had. Now we also have the right to vote. If people believe politicians and their parties are failing them, we need to mobilise and vote them out of office at the next local and national elections;
  • Violence and looting actually make the problem worse, because those who are its victims will be tempted to hit back with more violence. We have already seen some alarming signs of racist violence from civilians against looters. This will tear us apart into warring communities of “haves” and “have-nots” in which no one will win and everybody will suffer even more than they are now.

In the old struggle against apartheid, even when we did not have the vote, we said our protest should be disciplined and dignified. Lawless mayhem in which everyone did as they pleased, and local criminals took advantage of all of us, only weakened us. Disciplined political and protest action is powerful, and that is what will take us out of our current crisis. It can also lay the foundations of a more equal and less exploitative society.

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

Friday, 2 July 2021

Pastoral letter to the Laos of eSwatini

Dear People of God,

Since the sad and untimely death of Bishop Ellinah Ntombi Wamukoya of Covid-19 related complications last year, the Canons (laws) of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa dictate that, as Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Church, I act as Bishop of her Diocese until the election of her replacement. 

It is therefore in my capacity as Archbishop, as Bishop of the Diocese and as a simple pastor concerned for people's welfare, that I reassure not only Anglicans but all the people of eSwatini of my love and prayers at this difficult time.

The Gospels require that I do not point to a speck of dust in the eye of another and ignore the log in my own eye. (Matthew 7:3; Luke 6:41) Thus it is in full awareness of the problems in other countries in the region that I urge the people of eSwatini not to get caught up in cycles of conflict.

In the midst of the turmoil that many of you are experiencing, I urge you not to resort to violence, nor to the excessive use of State power, as you confront your current challenges. For violence begets more violence, and injury and death generate anger which makes problems only more difficult to resolve.

As a bishop and a pastor, while I am bound not to compromise the truth, I am primarily called to a ministry of reconciliation. As I have always advocated in places where there is no peace, I urge you all to repudiate the use of force, to sit around a table, and to talk to one another with the aim of finding an amicable Swazi solution to the challenges that the Kingdom is facing.

As well as reassuring you of my prayers and my willingness to do what I can to support efforts for a peaceful and just solution, I also want to urge the organs of SADC to come alongside the Swazi people when invited, in order to journey with them to finding a lasting solution.

May God bless all the Swazi people at this time.

+Thabo Cape Town


Tuesday, 29 June 2021

On Mr Zuma going to prison - Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

President Zuma visits Bishopscourt in 2009.

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town has pledged to visit former South African President Jacob Zuma in prison. 

The Archbishop said this in a statement issued in response to the Constitutional Court judgement jailing Mr Zuma for 15 months for refusing to obey a court order to appear before a commission of inquiry into high-level government and private sector corruption. 

The full text of Archbishop Makgoba's statement follows: 

“I had prayed that we would not get to the point at which Mr Zuma was jailed for contempt. 

“But it is to the credit of our democracy that the judiciary and institutions of accountability remain strong in the face of pressure. They are a source of reassurance and hope that all that we have struggled for has not been lost in this last period, years which the locusts have devoured. We remain a resilient democracy.

“The Court has done what it is mandated to do and that is to uphold the Constitution and its values without fear or favour. This is also a moment to pledge to continue to strengthen and respect these institutions, as they represent the best of our humanity and our social convictions as democrats and artisans of justice. 

“South Africa is built on a strong constitutional foundation and this judgement needs to be seen in that light. It needs to be stressed again and again that it is the Rule of Law that is paramount. That  includes the principle that no one is above the law.  We all need to respect the Rule of Law, its principles and the organs of our society that give expression to it. 

“To those who are inclined to push back against this judgement, to those who have been preparing the ground by denouncing the judiciary, I urge them:  do not go this route. Instead devote your energy to supporting campaigns to popularise our Constitution, to broaden education around the basic tenets of democracy and to engage in activities that offer hope for the future. 

“Jesus asked, 'When I was in prison, did you visit me?' As a pastor, my heart is heavy over Mr Zuma going to prison. I will pray for him and, when apt, I will ask to visit him.” 

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of Natal

 21st June 2021

Pastoral Letter to the Diocesan Family of Natal

Dear People of God,

Greetings to each of you in the name of our Lord.

I began this Ad Laos on the feast day of St Barnabas, who in Acts 4 is called “Son of Encouragement”, in order to encourage you as you discern the way forward for the Diocese. I also wanted to follow up on my Pentecost Pastoral Letter inviting you “to be courageous, to trust God” and to examine the relevance of your structures for today with a view to moving the Diocese from maintenance to mission.

Since that letter, Chapter has prayerfully reflected on the challenge and has expressed its mind. Last week I had an enriching encounter with the Diocesan Trustees, during which I presented to them the request to consider multiplying the Diocese. The invitation was issued in humility, acknowledging the wrestlings of the past and the uncertainties of the present, including Covid-19, but asking them to have faith in the Lord of the Church in taking this step.

After robust and thoughtful responses, the Trustees unanimously agreed in principle to the multiplication of the Diocese of Natal. They also agreed that the Archbishop as Diocesan should begin the process set out in Canon 21. This entails presenting the case to Synod of Bishops in September 2021, and consulting Provincial Synod thereafter. Following these consultations, a Provincial Task Team will begin a further process of consultation and evaluation of the feasibility of such a development.

The good news is that the Trustees recalled that the exercise has been done in the past, that there are records of its work and that we can revive a Diocesan “multiplication team” to work with the Diocese and Province. We experienced some anxiety, but also excitement and a sense that this is a Kairos moment in which we can trust God to carry us forward.

Please pray on the matter, engage others and share your thoughts with me or the Diocesan Secretary as we commit to this act of faith. When you read this, the Dean (acting as Vicar-General) will be on well-deserved leave for a month. I am so grateful for the leadership, friendship and love of this church which he provides, at times to the point of forgetting to take a break. Enjoy your break, Vicar-General!

In the meantime, I have appointed Canon Belina Mangena as Acting Vicar-General. Please pray and support her as she leads the Diocese from the North over this time.

Please also take special care of yourselves during this third wave of Covid-19. In our Province of Southern Africa, we have lost many parishioners and clergy, as well as the Bishop of Swaziland.

Lastly, I have summoned the Bishops of the Province to gather virtually on 9th July 2021 for an Elective Assembly of the Diocese of Natal. Please pray that we may discern well and that God will send us a faithful servant even in the midst of the multiplication of this huge and precious diocese.

Do not fear: over the past 31 years, the Anglican Church of Southern Africa has created six new dioceses, and we are about to birth a new Province in the form of the Igreja Anglicana de Moçambique e Angola (IAMA)!

Let us renew, reimagine and rebuild!

God bless you.

++Thabo Cape Town