Tuesday 9 May 2023

Address to the 2023 Western Cape Synod of the Ned Geref Kerk

 Address to the 2023 Western Cape Synod 

of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba

Monday May 8th, 15h30

Voorsitter – my vriend, Dominee Nelis,




Ander lede van die Moderatuur, 

Susters en Broers in Christus:

 Ek groet julle in die heilige naam van onse Here en Verlosser, Jesus Christus: Goeie Middag! 

Dit is vir my 'n besondere groot voorreg om hierdie nege-en-veertigste sitting van die Sinode van Wes Kaapland aan te spreek. En dit is nie net 'n groot voorreg nie; as 'n mens die lang geskiedenis van verhoudings tussen ons twee kerke inagneem, is dit miskien 'n historiese gebeurtenis. Baie, baie dankie vir die uitnodiging. Namens die hele Anglikaanse Kerk van Suidelike Afrika, ons waardeer die uitnodiging meer as wat ek in my swak Afrikaans kan sê. Ek is net jammer dat ek nie fisies by julle kan wees nie. Alhoewel hierdie nuwe tegnologie ons help om meer verpligtinge in ons skedules in te pas, kan dit nie persoonlike kontak tussen ons vervang nie.

In ons onlangse Paas-eredienste het ons Anglikaanse gemeentes die verhaal in die evangelie volgens Matteus gelees van die vroue wat op Paasoggend na Jesus se graf gaan, net om dit leeg te vind. Ek lees van Matteus, hoofstuk agt-en-twintig, verse een tot agt:

Na die sabbatdag, toe dit die Sondagmôre begin lig word, het Maria Magdalena en die ander Maria na die graf gaan kyk. 

Skielik was daar 'n geweldige aardbewing. 'n Engel van die Here het van die hemel af gekom, na die graf toe gegaan, die klip weggerol en daarop gaan sit. Sy voorkoms was so blink soos weerlig en sy klere so wit soos sneeu. Van skrik vir hom het die wagte gebewe en soos dooies geword.

Toe sê die engel vir die vroue: “Julle moet nie bang wees nie. Ek weet julle soek Jesus wat gekruisig is. Hy is nie hier nie, want Hy is uit die dood opgewek, soos Hy gesê het. Kom nader en kyk: daar is die plek waar Hy gelê het. Gaan gou en sê vir sy dissipels: ‘Hy is uit die dood opgewek, en Hy gaan julle vooruit na Galilea toe. Daar sal julle Hom sien.’ Dit is wat ek vir julle moes sê.”

Hulle het toe haastig van die graf af weggegaan, bang maar baie bly, en hulle het gehardloop om dit aan die dissipels te vertel.

Note those words: "Bang, maar baie bly." I see that in an older Afrikaans Bible, the translation is a little different. It says, "met vrees en groot blydskap". It is easy to understand the conflicting emotions of those women, living in a state of fear after Jesus's arrest, his trial and his brutal execution, struggling with conflicting emotions as they come to terms with the unbelievable news, the earth-shattering news, that we proclaim at Easter: “He is risen!” 

This Easter, as we contemplate the joyful message of the Resurrection, then contrast that with how we feel about what is happening in our beloved country today, we can understand all too well the feelings of the women: “Bang, maar baie bly.” In fact, if we consider the problems which South Africa faces, we might be tempted to reverse the order of the words, and say: “Baie bly, maar ook baie bang!”

Looking around us, it is easy to despair. We live in a nation in which we are still haunted by the yawning, immoral gap between the rich and the poor. Too many South Africans cannot find a way out of the tomb of poverty to live lives of dignity and hope. We are experiencing a near biblical vortex of greed and corruption in which the unscrupulous steal from the poor and swallow the hope of ending inequality. Too many of those who would claim to be our leaders have been tempted by the lure of quick wealth. Others appoint incompetent public servants, which means money that is available to improve people's lives goes unspent. Too many South Africans are shut up in tombs of community violence, gangsterism and fear, while others are trapped in toxic relationships and live with the horror of domestic violence perpetrated against women and children. We face manifold crises on many different fronts, almost too many to count.

But we were warned this might happen. Thirty years ago, as we were celebrating our new constitutional democracy, Desmond Tutu gave the warning in these words. He said the following: 

“The Bible recognises that we are a mixture of good and bad. We must therefore not be too surprised that most human enterprises are not always wholly good or wholly bad... Even a freely-elected democratic government is still made up of frail, vulnerable human beings who may or may not succumb to the blandishments of power.”

And our church leaders gave notice back in those days that the church still has an important role to play. Apart from our actions as church in meeting the needs of our people, we also need to hold our governments to account. Hear the words of Beyers Naude, our beloved Oom Bey, in 1996:

“People tend to say that now that we have a new government, now that we have a new Constitution, now that we have solved our political problems, for the time being, there is no prophetic role for the Church at the moment. I think such a perception is a very serious mistake.” 

As Desmond Tutu said at around the same time:

“The church must never become this or that party at prayer, however laudable its policies... We must not compromise our prophetic independence.”

In 2014, in a lecture I delivered in memory of Beyers Naude, I acknowledged that the church as a whole had failed since 1994 to act with the courage that people such as Oom Bey and Arch Desmond had shown in earlier times. I acknowledged that on matters of social development, we may have been correct in engaging with our government and the institutions of our democracy. But we also made  the mistake that Oom Bey and Arch Desmond warned us against. Too often we silenced ourselves by practising quiet diplomacy with those in authority. We were flattered by access to power and ready too quickly to acquiesce when we heard how difficult their task was. 

The excesses of the Zuma administration forced us to speak out more clearly and more loudly. Now, as we face what are probably the biggest challenges of the democratic era, we need to summon up the courage to take a lead in setting an example of moral courage to our people and our political and community leaders. Let us look again at that reading from Matthew's Gospel, and focus especially on the reaction of the women to the angel's message. Despite their fear, despite their conflicting emotions, despite the fact that they could not explain fully what they had seen and heard, what began to grow in the women as they left the tomb was courage: a courage that empowered them to defy the religious and political establishments who had crucified Jesus. Growing in confidence, they were not intimidated. Instead they began to shape a different, almost defiant narrative of new life, going out to encourage others with the Good News. 

Looking back to Jesus's ministry in Galilee, the story which we read in three of the Gospels about Jesus's appearance to his disciples on the lake, after the feeding of the five thousand, reinforces this theme of courage. In the picture portrayed in Matthew, Mark and John, Jesus comes to the disciples in the dark early hours of the morning, in the middle of devastating seas. Mark and Matthew talk of their boat being battered by the waves, and of the disciples being terrified by the storm. When Jesus appeared they thought they were seeing a ghost – until they heard those words: “It is I, don’t be afraid.” The message to the disciples is clear – fear is banished by the realisation of the presence of Jesus. 

Dear sisters and brothers, at this hour of need in South Africa, we must set aside our fears and summon up the courage to become active citizens in our democracy. Since 2014 I have been advocating what I call the New Struggle, a new struggle to replace the old struggle against apartheid; a new struggle for a new generation, a struggle to regain our moral compass, a struggle to end economic inequity, a struggle to bring about equality of opportunity.

This Eastertide I have been urging especially young South Africans to join this struggle. Too many of our young people, because they are disillusioned by politics and politicians, instead pursue a rampant consumerism because we have failed to give them a vision which would attract them to public service. So they reject becoming involved in public life, and won't even register to vote. I am urging those young people: Please organise among yourselves, please register with the Independent Electoral Commission, then campaign and vote in next year's elections. We need a peaceful revolution in which young people stand up, reject corruption and self-dealing, and help us to realise the promises of our Constitution.

I make this appeal to all South Africans, both black and white. I said in my Beyers Naude lecture that we must bring to an end the failure of white South Africans to speak their minds. When you keep silent for fear of being called racists, you fail to contribute to solving our problems. In the past few years, I have exchanged views with former President Mbeki over our shared concern that the Afrikaner community is becoming alienated from our national life. In the South African Council of Churches, our General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, has expressed a similar concern. One of President Mbeki's responses was to urge the adoption of a national plan, including all sections of our community, promoting economic reconstruction and reform. 

For my own part, I have urged the adoption of sensible policies of land reform which will not prejudice our economy. I think it is fair to say that the government's land reform has failed, and I can bear witness to its failure among the Makgobas in Limpopo Province. In my advocacy of land reform, I have tried to introduce Gospel values into the debate around it: sharing, reconciliation, healing and taking care of our neighbours. I have said that we should decentralise the process by allowing people to work out local solutions appropriate to local situations, backed by a legal and policy framework provided by government. A fully-developed policy of redistribution needs both to take into account that there is more demand for urban than for rural land, and to provide an economic model for developing rural land, including clear proposals for education and practical help for those who want to work the land. It should not be a political tool but a tool for real transformation, to address the inequality of opportunity and the high rate of unemployment from which we suffer.

In summary, land reform does not have to be a zero-sum game – sensible policies can find compromises which both protect our economy and meet the most urgent needs of those who want to farm the land and produce food for our people. 

To conclude, as we celebrate Eastertide and move towards the Ascension of our Lord, I invite you to move from feelings of any feelings of guilt or dis-empowerment you may experience, and to claim the place in our society which our Constitution guarantees you, namely one of critical participation in our democracy, and to join in building a democracy which.

Jesus tells us in John's Gospel (10:10): “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” It is my prayer that as we walk together into the future, we will build a South Africa in which all will have life, and have it abundantly. 

God bless you, and God bless the deliberations of this Synod. 

* * * * *

1 comment:

  1. God bless South Africa. This is such a postive piece of advice. My main concern for our country is the lack of education in which standards are so low that young people will forever be enslaved by the government who then at the end will control how they think and how they vote. With education and a proper job there are dignity but our government know state dependency will keep them in control at the poling stations. We all have an obligation to let us voice be heard at governmental level and fight all kinds of immorral agendas coming from the WOKE WEST through politicians.


Thanks for your feedback! Note that we do not normally publish your Anonymous comments here. Rather comment on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/anglicanmediasa/