Friday 30 September 2022

Homily for the Opening Service of Provincial Standing Committee 2022

Provincial Standing Committee 2022

Homily for the Opening Service

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop and Metropolitan

28th September 2022

May I speak in the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

A very warm welcome to you all, in your Diocesan and Provincial hubs, to this year's PSC. A special welcome to those of you attending PSC for the first time; I hope that your fellow members in the hubs will help familiarise you with our procedures so you feel fully included in our deliberations. ADD LAWYERS We meet for the first time without Dioceses in Mozambique and Angola, after the inauguration of the new IAMA Province, so a special welcome also to representatives of the Dioceses of Lesotho, Namibia, St Helena and Swaziland in Eswatini.

To the Bishops, welcome back from the Lambeth Conference. We are due to hear feedback on Lambeth tomorrow, but I hope Bishops will have had, or will be planning, report-back sessions in your Dioceses. ADD NOTE Thank you to all of you, and to everyone in your parishes, for holding on and keeping going – especially in the face of the many deaths among our congregants – during the Covid crisis. At a Provincial level, it is my hope that in 2023 we will adopt a hybrid model, holding PSC and Synod of Bishops both in-person and virtually.

As you have already will learn from our first session, our PSC theme this year is “Re-imagining ACSA”. I hope that re-imagining how we do church in the post-Covid world will result in us being inspired by prayer and worship to rise from our knees, look beyond the stained windows of our churches and mobilise the resources we need to do mission and ministry, and do them well. To decide on our priorities in a re-imagined ACSA, we need to ask the questions: What are the barriers in church and society which currently inhibit our ability to do mission and ministry? How are we to be bridge-builders as we respond to the invitation to be God's church in God's world? What do we want our church to look like in five years' time?

Of course I will have retired by then. But Covid has shown us that things can change both rapidly and radically in a short space of time, so we do need to plan now for the future. Not only for ourselves but for the generations to come, we need answers to the questions: What barriers do we need to dismantle? What bridges do we need to build? What practical action do we need to take – not rushed, unthought-out action in which we shut things down, downscale them or try to “twin” them as has become fashionable, but courageous action to keep us growing.

Re-evaluating how we do church and re-imagining ACSA means making decisive interventions in a number of areas which are critical to our survival and growth in a 21st century setting.

One of our priorities at this PSC is to consider the important report of the Pityana Commission on the future of theological education in the Province, including that of the College of the Transfiguration. Theological education and formation, I need to stress, are not optional extras for the church – they are our lifeblood. It is, as the Commission has shown us, absolutely critical to ensure that we have the leaders, both lay and ordained, who can take this church forward and navigate the challenges which church and society face. I don't believe there is a one-size-fits-all solution to the funding dilemma. We need a comprehensive solution which as far as possible both retains priestly formation in a residential setting and provides answers to the difficulties facing our Dioceses in paying for theological education.

Another key to re-imagining our church is in the area of Canon Law and the work of the Safe and Inclusive Church Commission. As our Pastoral Standards say, in proclaiming himself the Good Shepherd, Jesus pointed to a number of characteristics of a reliable pastor: “[A] person of integrity who seeks to give life to other people, one who leads others to safety, one who leads by example and teaching, one who sacrifices time, energy, love and resources for the sake of others.” We need such people for both ordained and lay ministry principally because that is what Jesus demands of us. But it is also true that our integrity as an institution is at stake. Our credibility, and therefore our future, depends on our church and its institutions being places which promote, as we declared when we established the Safe Church Commission, “the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults.”

In that regard, we will also discuss at this PSC the report on discrimination at church schools produced by a task team led by Professor Mary Metcalfe. As I have told our Cape Town schools, the report offers real hope that we can protect our children from experiencing what the task force describes as “acts of intentional or careless discrimination, or systematic marginalisation of individuals or their identity.” But to realise this hope, Dioceses need to come alongside our schools to support them.

Working together, we can re-imagine ACSA as a church with a well-educated, well-formed, vibrant and engaged clergy and lay leadership, a church which is a safe space for all, where everyone, and especially young people and learners, is fully accepted and valued for who they are.

Why do how we form our clergy and shepherd our people matter? It matters not for God's church, but as Lambeth reminded us, for God’s world, ailing in some parts due to intergenerational inequity, environmental injustice, wars and conflicts, including that in the Holy Basin. We are reviewing and renewing, as we hear in Nehemiah or the Gospels, to go and rebuild, to be sent and re-sent as in the Mathean Gospel to disciple the discipled, to speak of the love and justice of God, both to those who have heard this Good News before and to those who need to hear it for the first time, so they will go out and act on it for the good of all.

Let me conclude with two new practical proposals for us to consider as we re-imagine how we do church.

Firstly, in dealing with conflict and matters of discipline in the church, I have been feeling over the last couple of years that there is a gap in our structures, and that is the lack of provision for mediation. It is my hope and intention to establish an ACSA mediation team following this PSC and to bring terms of reference consonant with the Canons to PSC 2023, and then formally to create a Mediation and Intervention Team to address matters which cannot be resolved by our existing procedures.

My second concern is that despite the multiplication of Dioceses that we have seen over the past few decades, many of our Dioceses remain large geographically, leaving our Bishops stretched thinly on the ground. Many Bishops will tell you that they do not provide the degree of episcopal presence they aspire to. Some are feeling pressured to ordain people who are not adequately formed in order to fill vacancies in parishes. Others struggle to find the resources they need to provide training in safeguarding, or to offer the number and quality of clergy schools they would like to see.

We need to reduce what I call the tyranny of distance and, in collaboration with the senior leadership in our Dioceses, to make our oversight more effective. It is my wish that despite the constraints of money, the dioceses of Natal, Kimberley and Kuruman, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth, George, the Free State, Zululand and Saldanha Bay, should consider electing Bishops-Suffragan, perhaps with a view eventually to form new Dioceses. Would it not be wonderful to multiply and realign the boundaries of our pastoral units to create smaller, mission-centred Dioceses, whose future leaders are well-formed – no doubt initially at CoTT – and able to offer Jesus-shaped ministry, helping each child of God – no matter her or his age, gender, race or sexual orientation – to feel equally loved and cherished by God and their fellow believers.

I have no doubt that we can achieve that goal, as long as we have the faith that God will empower us to do so, and as long as we act on that faith and apply our minds to re-imagining our church. So let's get to it.

God loves you and so do I.


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