Sunday 23 June 2024

Reflections from the Episcopal Church's General Convention in the USA

My Cape Town-Newark-Louisville flights – to attend Bishop Michael Curry's final General Convention as leader of The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the United States – were not bad, viewed against the backdrop of my flights of recent months to places such as Rome and Jerusalem. (Bishop Michael, the Presiding Bishop (PB) of TEC, is of course best known outside his church for his electrifying sermon on love at the marriage of “Harry and Meghan” in 2018.)

On arriving here in Kentucky, I checked into my hotel and took a walk around the surrounds before taking a nap to recover from the journey. We are six hours behind the time in South Africa and I took the opportunity to connect with the family and the office to assure them I had arrived safely.

At 7 pm Kentucky time (1 am my body time!), I attended a big dinner arranged by the Union of Black Episcopalians to honour Bishop Michael. Americans do things on a huge scale!. Most of the lay leaders of the church were known to me as part of family but the Bench of Bishops has changed a lot. (However, retired bishops also attend their General Convention, so I knew a lot of them.)

The PB stressed the importance of rootedness and referred to the forthcoming American elections, in which President Joe Biden will be pitched against former President Donald Trump. Bishop Michael said that “voting is the most powerful non-violent tool each Episcopalian possesses”. He urged every Episcopalian to vote in November. As he faces retirement, he also assured everyone that God will never give up on any of them and urged them too not to give up on the Episcopal Church.

After dinner I retired to what will be my room for the next nine days, had chamomile tea and slept until jet lag woke me up at 4.20 am. I am writing these notes from lying in my bed in Louisville, the home town of  Muhammad Ali.

I listened to a podcast recorded in German, read with deep feelings by the narrator. I did not understand but heard the correct and beautiful way in which she pronounced the “schädel” (skull) of my ancestor, of  Kgoši Makgoba. (We think his skull ended up in Germany after he was decapitated in Makgoba's Kloof in 1895 by forces serving the Transvaal Republic.) I had not planned to reflect on this, but it was a beautiful moment when a German friend sent me a podcast, coinciding with my arrival here.  


Archbishop Thabo

Friday 14 June 2024

Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town


Charge to the Synod of the Diocese of Cape Town

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Archbishop of Cape Town

Commemoration: Anthony of Lisbon

Witnessing to and working towards God’s New Creation”

Readings: 1 Kings 18:41-46; Psalm 65:7-13; Matthew 5:20-26

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

Sisters and brothers in Christ, I greet you all in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and welcome you to the 67th Session of our Diocesan Synod. I also extend a warm greeting to all our special guests, including our ecumenical and interfaith partners, the bishops of our neighbouring dioceses, my counterpart in REACH, the heads of our schools, recipients of the Diocesan Award and members of the Order of Simon of Cyrene. A special welcome to Cameron Benjamin and John Solomons, who will receive the Diocesan Award tonight, and to John Gardener, who will be admitted into the Order of Simon of Cyrene, the highest honour we can confer on an Anglican lay person in the Province of Southern Africa.

Thursday 13 June 2024

Archbishop calls on Israel and Hamas to accept UN ceasefire resolution "immediately and unconditionally"

 A statement read for Archbishop Thabo by Dr Mamphela Ramphele at a news briefing held at Desmond & Leah Tutu House, Cape Town, on June 12:

Last week I joined Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary of the SACC, on a solidarity visit to the heads of the Christian churches in Jerusalem. (We were also joined by the Rev. Dr. Tyrone S. Pitts of Churches for Middle East Peace in the US, and our visit was very helpfully supported by our ambassador to Jordan.)

In Jerusalem, we heard of the pain and the suffering that has resulted from Israel's razing of much of Gaza to the ground, in a war in which more Palestinian civilians have been killed than in two years of Britain's notorious bombing of Dresden during World War Two. We also heard of the deep longing of the Palestinians for peace with justice and reconciliation.

I welcome the UN Security Council's unprecedented 14 to nil vote this week, adopting a resolution which calls for an immediate, full, and complete ceasefire in Gaza, for the release of Israeli hostages, the exchange of Palestinian prisoners, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza, the return of Palestinian civilians to their homes and the safe and effective distribution of humanitarian assistance at scale throughout the Gaza Strip.

Israel and Hamas must accept the resolution immediately and unconditionally, failing which all who supply them with weapons must apply a comprehensive arms embargo against them.

We in the church thank the Tutu legacy organisations, the Tutu IP Trust and the Desmond and Leah Tutu foundation, for their daily act of solidarity with the Palestinian people by displaying the kufiya-clad statue of our Archbishop Emeritus outside their offices. As South Africans, we must not waver in our support for an end to Israeli occupation and the complete liberation of Palestine. There is no room for compromise on this issue. The future of Israel and the security of its people lie only through achieving justice for the Palestinians.

The Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba

Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town

Monday 3 June 2024

An Archbishop's Reflections from Six Eastern Cape Dioceses

I've been in and out of the Eastern Cape in recent weeks – soon after returning from the meeting of the world's Anglican Primates in Rome, then the SACC's National Day of Prayer for the elections, held in Johannesburg, I was in Gqeberha at the Nelson Mandela University for a public lecture we sponsor, then in Makhanda for the celebrations of DSG's 150th anniversary.

After returning to Cape Town for office commitments – and another lecture at the University of the Western Cape – it was back to my old stomping ground in Komani (which used to be Queenstown, and where I was based as suffragan in the Diocese of Grahamstown) for the election of a new Bishop of Khahlamba. In one of a series of successful elections in dioceses recently, the assembly elected the Very Revd Siyabonga Sibeko as their next bishop, in the sixth ballot on the first day.

Back to Cape Town, then last Friday it was off to the Dioceses of Mzimvubu, Mthatha and Mbhashe for the weekend, and today I return home after briefly calling on Canon Ntshingwa, who is not well at all, in the Diocese of Grahamstown.

I have enjoyed the countryside, where we've travelled on both good and bad roads, passing through both decaying and thriving rural communities and towns.

In Kokstad on Saturday, the bishops consecrated the new Bishop of Mzimvubu, the Right Revd Phumzile Cetywayo, in the incomplete cathedral structure. The original “eco-cathedral” was burned down but there is still a bare altar and evidence of the fire. It was cold, and the tent-covered structure within the cathedral was far less glamorous than our vestments and altar elements! But the service and the music was godly and brought all of us “nearer” to God. The meal afterwards was particularly special, although of as a pescatarian, I could eat only the veggies and samp.

At 14:30 we took the N2 and detoured to Tabankulu, a town I have been yearning to visit. When in the 1990s I was counselling mine workers suffering from crushed spines in rockfalls, many were from Mozambique and Lesotho but a lot of the injured came from here, giving me a deep spiritual need to see the area. We drove towards its mountainous background until we reached the town and stopped at the local Anglican Church.

We then had the option of returning to the N2, or going via Flagstaff, another special place where my mother-in-law was born. But on the advice of the lady petrol attendant, we went back to the N2. As we arrived in Mthatha, it was drizzling. We slept there and the rain poured gently through the night.

On Sunday, the final results of the country's national and provincial elections were coming through, with the country again becoming abuzz with noise and energy. Our governing party for the last 30 years has the most votes, but not enough to give them a majority in the national parliament. The same day, Orlando Pirates, my favourite soccer team, won 2-1 over Sundowns to clinch the Nedbank Cup! But nobody won these elections with that kind of margin. Three colleagues and friends wrote to remind me that a while ago I called for a government of national unity. With no party having a majority, something like that seems necessary. What might it look like?

In Mthatha, I presided over a Canon 14:4 consultation with various diocesan officials, an open and democratic process before we extend, or not, the tenure of their incumbent bishop. It is not an election but it involves listening, engagement and looking at the needs of a diocese and its people. At 14:00, St Bede’s Hall at the Diocesan Centre was packed. It turned out to be a great worship occasion and after the consultations I retired to my room and enjoyed the gentle rain outside. I wondered whether there was anything from the consecration on Saturday, the Canon 14:4 process, and the handing over of toilet facilities to a school in Mbashe Diocese that was to come, that could inform political parties as they consult on the formation of a new government.

This morning, we were due in Mbhashe Diocese, at a school in Centane to donate toilet facilities. The donation is possible from a collaboration of the Makgoba Trust, the Sibanye-Stillwater mining company's foundation and the Diocese's of social responsibility outreach. This will conclude my three-week long journeys to the six dioceses in the Eastern Cape.

This afternoon, before I board the plane back to Cape Town, I will meet via Zoom the praesidium of the SACC (in my capacity as president of the council). I made my call for a government of national unity at a time when it looked as though President Ramaphosa might lose support over the scandal around money stored at his Phala Phala game farm. Now, what can we add as the ecumenical family to the discussion of how the country should be governed? Just a few weeks ago, on eNCA, I said former President Zuma must retire, but now his party is a key element in the political arena. I also asked whether Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu's warning that the country might turn against the ANC would come true. Is this where we are?

We must pray that in the coming days, all will make their decisions on the basis of what will promote stability, peace, development, equality, security and the common good.

God bless.

††Thabo Cape Town

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Prayer for South Africa's 2024 National and Provincial Elections

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba prayed the following prayer at the Western Cape offices of the Independent Electoral Commission in his capacity as chair of the Electoral Code of Conduct Observer Commission (ECCOC):

We pray to the Creator of us all:

Creator God, all power belongs to you,
Yet you grant us free will and share with us the ordering of your world,
Bless us today as we exercise the right which you have given us
and for which many have fought and died.

Help us to perform this solemn civic duty with the reverence it deserves,
And to use wisely this gift of freedom of choice.

Grant us tolerance and respect for one another,
and peace through the day.
Guide all those who will administer the elections,
Bless them with wisdom, tact and efficiency.

We pray that all who vote will accept the outcome
And that candidates and parties will be magnanimous in victory
and gracious in defeat.

May all who are elected serve our nation faithfully and diligently
for the good of all its citizens,
and the upholding of our Constitution.

We ask these things in the name of He who is Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of Life 


Thursday 23 May 2024

Ad Laos - To the People of God – May 2024

As published in Good Hope, the newsletter of the Diocese of Cape Town:

As Bishop Joshua wrote last month, Diocesan Synod is around the corner, and we ask for your prayers as the clergy and lay representatives of all the parishes in the Diocese gather from the 13th to 15th of June.

Synod is a time for clergy, laity and bishops to come together and take counsel on the needs of God’s church. We look at theological, pastoral and spiritual matters that should help us govern the church together for the next three years. We change our laws (the Canons) and pass resolutions to enable church order as well as to make our Diocese safe and inclusive.