Wednesday 12 October 2022

Address to Diocese of Cape Town clergy school 2022

 Diocese of Cape Town Clergy School 2022

Opening Address by

The Most Revd Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

11th to 14th October 2022

Matthew 28: 18 -20

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

Bishop Joshua, Clergy of the diocese and invited guests, I'm grateful to be able to join you in this way from Makhanda, where earlier this afternoon I was installing the next Rector of our only residential college, Dr Percy Chinganga. I would have loved to be with you in person, but doing so online is better than not at all.

Today is a Rogation day and we commemorate Philip the Deacon. Saints and Seasons notes that that Philip was one of the first seven deacons elected for the apostolic church. During his time he preached the Gospel in season and out of season, and by baptising a senior official serving the Queen of the Ethiopians, he is seen as being responsible for the first preaching of the Gospel in Africa and the founding of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Today’s passage from Matthew's Gospel presents to us Jesus's final commissioning. Even among the disciples, there seems to have been a sense of being torn between faith and doubt, but it may have been only that they were uncertain until Jesus came as someone who had now received universal authority as a gift from God. Here the Messiah had come into his own, though the full implications of this had not yet been experienced by the disciples. However, contained within his instructions is the apostolic mission of the church, giving the disciples the authority to baptise and form Christians. And the universal authority of the Lord leads to the universal mission of the church, to be proclaimed not only to the people of Israel but to be offered to all nations.

Here is the authority for Christian baptism. It would likely not have been practised so early after Pentecost but rather administered in the name of Jesus, the name indicating ownership. In due course it came to be administered in the name of the Trinity. Here as the new Moses, Jesus stresses the importance of obedience to his commandments. One of the functions of the disciples was to teach obedience, just as Jesus himself had a ministry of teaching. Jesus had accomplished his work in His Incarnation and he now assured us of His ongoing presence with us so that we may fulfil our vocation.

As the clergy of the Diocese of Cape Town, what is our vocation as we emerge from Covid and life returns, not to normal but to a post-Covid new normal? What is God calling us to do in our various parishes and ministries, in our differing contexts, in the here and now. And what are the tools we have to carry out our ministry? How are we to measure the work we are called to do?

As we grapple these questions, resolutions of our Diocesan Synod are instructive to us and I encourage you to read them in the Acts and Resolutions which we published after our last session. Synod wants us to move on from expecting that what we did in the past will work today and to move confidently from maintenance to mission. As we encourage people to return to the pews after Covid, we must know that we are sent out into the world, and in turn we must send our people out into the world in obedience to the Great Commission.

One of the main issues we dealt with at September's meeting of the Synod of Bishops, and at the annual meeting of our Provincial Standing Committee, was theological education and formation and ongoing training for ministry. As I told PSC, these are not optional extras for the church: they are our lifeblood, since it is critical to ensure that we have the leaders who can navigate the challenges which church and society face. And, as I have said before, this matters not for the sake of the future of the church as an institution, but because - as the recent Lambeth Conference reminded us – this matters for the sake of God's suffering world. We must go and equip ourselves to go out into the world 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.

Both the bishops and PSC devoted time to discussing the report of a commission convened by Professor Barney Pityana on the future of theological education. We mooted the idea of Indaba as a way of engaging amongst ourselves and with our ecumenical partners. It is my dream that as clergy and lay people alike we should strive during our lifetimes towards living and fulfilling the Great Commission effectively and in ways relevant to the first half of the 21st century.

My dream for us in this Diocese is that our parishes and homes, as well as being institutions of prayer which offer the Eucharist and the offices on a daily basis, should also become institutions of teaching and learning, places at the forefront of theological education. Each parish needs to see itself as the moral campus for its local community. Our parishes are uniquely positioned to be centres of learning and on-going training for both lay and ordained. I challenge you to form units that offer education for clergy, post-ordination training, lay ministers' training, Sunday school teacher training, youth training and Confirmation classes, as well as training in stewardship and of skills development instructors. These are but a few ideas, and I am sure you can think of others appropriate to the community which your parish serves.

As I always say, visions do not realise themselves, they need to be worked on and given life by people as committed as you are in your parishes. Virtuous education – be it theological or otherwise – is at the heart of our church and our capacity to grow our vision as a Province. Teaching must therefore include enabling individuals to become competent and skilled in engaging well with life. This education and teaching must prepare young and old to wrestle wisely and well with the ethical and moral questions that perpetually arise in every area of human activity. This will equip our people to play a meaningful role in wider society.

Sisters and brothers, it is not enough to speak broadly on issues of social concern when it comes to justice and the common good. We also need to have sharp mental tools that help us to analyse more specifically what it means in praxis so that we may discern what may be tangibly possible and achievable. This is what the Great Commission is advising us to do - a great task indeed.

As we discovered at the recent Provincial Standing Committee meeting, we still have a lot to learn about how to live with one another’s different and distinctive norms and positioning in ways that affirm all that is good, as well as how to uphold one another's dignity and to treat one another with the respect that each child of God deserves. There is still much work to be done in this area. We do not do ourselves any favours if we pretend that these challenges are less significant than they are, or that there are easy solutions. As Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The teaching and the learning to which we commit ourselves is imperative in helping us to discern the truth and act upon it, responding by ensuring justice to all.

As clergy in your parishes and institutions, it goes without saying that you have important roles to play in the Church – living out your Archbishop and Bishop’s ministry, which is called to be apostolic, prophetic, theological, pastoral, educational and prayerful. As archbishops and bishops, when we contemplate issues of theological education and training our thoughts are with Jesus, that remarkable teacher who provided us with the model of a perfect life by caring for everyone; who taught by humbly walking with every individual; and who encouraged and delighted with brilliant thought-provoking parables.

Through the Great Commission he gave us, Jesus calls us all to follow in his steps and minister to God’s people with zeal and compassion.

I wish you a fruitful and informative clergy school.

God loves you and so do I.

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