Wednesday 1 March 2023

Launch of Lenten Bible Studies - “The Bible And The Land Called Holy”

Anglican Church of Southern Africa

Launch of Lenten Bible Studies

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop and Metroplitan

28th February 2023 @ Synod of Bishops 

A very warm welcome to the launch of these Lenten Bible studies this evening: to the facilitators and advocates, to my brother and sister Bishops, and to all the faithful people of God who are joining us.

A special thank you to the team which has ably put them together, headed by Bishop Luke Pato: Canon Janet Trisk, the Rev Edwin Arrison, Ms Dudu Masango, Ms Nonhlanhla Shezi, Archdeacon Andrew Warmback and Bishop Charles May.

As Anglicans who are concerned about the injustices of the Middle East, who are distressed by the pain of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and who long for a just peace for both Palestine and Israel, we have been on a long journey. It goes back many decades, to the visits of our Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu, in the 1980s and 1990s, to my visits to the Holy Basin, and more recently to the declarations of our Provincial Synod, Provincial Standing Committee and Synod of Bishops. 

Time and again, both our Anglican forums and the SA Council of Churches have emphasised that the situation in the Holy Land demands our concern because it is the place where Jesus was born, nurtured, crucified and raised, and because our own church has both a deep understanding of what it is like to live under oppression, as well as experience of how to confront and overcome unjust rule by peaceful means. 

In expressing our concern, we have experienced pushback from both Jewish and Christian Zionists. Some of the critics within our church imply that because the Jewish people are a nation chosen by God, we must take the side of Israel in the current conflict in the Middle East. But as  these Bible studies show us, the nation state of Israel established by Western powers in 1948 and the Israel of the Bible should not be confused with one another. And we are opposed not to the Jewish people but to those policies of the current government of Israel which oppress Palestinians. I think particularly of the growth of Jewish settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan, an area which is designated as part of a Palestinian state if there is to be a peaceful solution which will allow for the creation of two states, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians. 

As the Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem, Archbishop Hosam Naoum, who is Palestinian, said at the last Lambeth Conference, Israel is a state that deserves the security and protections of a free state, but just like any other state it is also subject to the demands of international law. And for their part, the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination under the  United Nations Charter. 

So please pray for the land called holy, for an end to the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and for lasting peace in Palestine and Israel. It is my hope that these Bible studies will deepen our understanding of the issues of the Holy Land and unify Southern African Anglicans in our desire to see both justice for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis. 

We yearn for the peace and wholeness of God to be made manifest in Palestine, in Israel and among their neighbouring countries. So, as we commit our Lenten journey to God, seeking the mind of Christ as we work for a just peace, let us pray the prayer we adopted at Provincial Synod:

Lord God,

Bless the people of the Middle East;

Protect their vulnerable children;

Transform their divided leaders;

Heal their wounded communities,

Restore their human dignity,

and give them lasting peace.


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