Bishopscourt Media

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ACSA Media Committee issues social media guidelines

The Church’s Provincial Media Committee has drawn up guidelines to help parishes and dioceses navigate their way through the fast-growing social media landscape.

Introducing the guidelines, the committee says most non-verbal communication between and among Anglicans in the Province takes place on social media, mostly posted at the discretion of individual Anglicans.

The committee adds:

“Social media have great potential for the Church to connect with people where they are and build relationships with those we struggle to reach through other channels. They provide for instant interaction among different Anglican communities and for spreading news and information quickly.

“The strength of social media outlets is that they are immediate, interactive, conversational and open-ended. This also carries risks. Their pervasiveness can be threatening to those in authority, who may feel that narratives are being propagated outside their control. But in this digital age where communities are formed online, we have no choice but to be part of the conversation and to take advantage of the benefits of social media while avoiding the pitfalls.

“The following guidelines are offered for the consideration of Dioceses and Parishes for their own use and for groups and ministries they supervise…”

The guidelines can be downloaded here >>

Provincial Synod resumes debate on human sexuality

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s ruling Provincial Synod continued to wrestle at its 2019 session with its response to appeals to be more inclusive of LGBTQI Christians.

After debates on three separate motions during its meeting this week, the Synod resolved:

    • To establish a “Permanent Provincial Commission on Human Sexuality” to “listen and continue to inform and advise the church on these matters,” and
    • To refer to dioceses for reflection and study a report by an earlier commission which recommended that those dioceses which chose to allow prayers for church members in same-sex civil unions should be permitted to do so for an experimental three-year period.

However, the Synod was evenly split on a motion which proposed that the Province’s Synod of Bishops be asked to prepare guidelines on ministering to people from the LGBTQI community. The voting was 75 for the motion and 75 against, with 14 abstentions.

At the last Provincial Synod, in 2016, a proposal to allow a bishop to “provide for prayers of blessing to be offered for those in same-sex civil unions” was lost by big margins in each House of the Synod: by 16 to six among the bishops, by 41 to 25 among the laity and by 42 to 34 among the clergy.

Commenting on the outcome of the latest Synod deliberations, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, the President of the Synod, said on Saturday:

“Because the Archbishop’s Commission has sensitised more people to the issue and got the broader church to think and reflect, there has been movement forward since 2016. At least we are now engaging with one another. But the discussion is still painful for everyone, and emotion, prejudice and fear rather than theological substance dominated this year’s deliberations on both sides.

“I am obviously disappointed in this year’s outcome, but take heart that (1) we now have a permanent commission, (2) we have tangible suggestions that we are sending to the faithful, and (3) that we have a year to review the situation. I will continue to soak everyone involved in prayer.”

The Archbishop set up an “Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality” in response to the 2016 Synod debate. It was this body which brought to this year’s Synod the proposal for a highly circumscribed experiment which would have allowed blessings for same-sex unions on a basis similar to that adopted when the Province first allowed the ordination of women in 1992.

In the scheme suggested by the commission, the possibility of same-sex couples marrying in church was ruled out – the Church’s Canon on Holy Matrimony “affirms that marriage by divine institution is a lifelong and exclusive union and partnership between one man and one woman,” and the commission did not propose changing this.

What it did propose was “a middle way” which would allow a bishop to apply for his or her diocese to become a “Civil Union Participating Diocese” (CUPD) – on condition the diocese agreed to this step by the special majority required to pass a “controversial motion” (usually a simple majority in each house, and a two-thirds majority overall).

The commission recommended that in a CUPD, the bishop could give permission to a priest and a local parish “to offer prayers for persons in Civil Unions” – provided the parish first went through “a process of prayer, education, consultation, discernment and consensus development that widely engages the parish community”.

No priest would be forced to take part in the arrangement against the dictates of her or his conscience, and prayers would be offered for couples in same-sex unions only “on the understanding that they seek to live in mutual love and faithfulness in a stable, life-long, committed monogamous relationship.”

The commission’s proposal has particular relevance for South Africa, where civil partnerships for same-sex couples, offering them the same rights, responsibilities and legal consequences as marriage, were approved by State law in 2006. No such provision is made for same-sex unions in the other countries in the Province.

The Anglican Church of Southern Africa includes dioceses in Angola, eSwatini (Swaziland), Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, St Helena and South Africa.

After debate, this year’s Synod adopted a resolution saying it “notes, acknowledges and recognises” the work of the Archbishop’s commission, and sent the report to dioceses “for reflection, study and reporting back” to a new commission and to the annual meeting of the church’s Provincial Standing Committee (PSC). The resolution was proposed by Bishop Allan Kannemeyer of Pretoria and seconded by Bishop Steve Moreo of Johannesburg.

In another motion, Bishop Kannemeyer proposed that since “issues of human sexuality are complex, diverse and evolving” the Province needed a permanent commission to replace that set up by the Archbishop. This resolution said the commission’s membership should reflect “the divergent views in the Province on this matter”. The motion, seconded by Archdeacon Moses Thabethe from the Diocese of Johannesburg, was adopted unanimously.

In the third motion, representatives from the Diocese of False Bay, which includes large swathes of the Cape Town metropolitan area as well as rural areas, proposed that the Archbishop and the Synod of Bishops provide guidelines for ministry to people from the LGBTQI community.

Proposing the motion, Archdeacon Lundi Joko said if a same-sex couple in his parish wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of their civil union under State law, he needed guidance on how he could minister to them: “Am I allowed to attend? Am I allowed to pray over them? Can I refuse to baptise the child of a same-sex couple… This motion is saying help us to make sure we can effectively minister.”

His seconder, Canon Delmaine Petersen, said that “our brothers and sisters in Christ” from the  LGBTQI community “continue to experience hurt, exclusion and uncertainty about their place in the church… we are in dire need of direction in our quest for complete inclusivity.”

However other Synod representatives, especially those from rural dioceses within and outside South Africa, voiced concern at the implications.

One questioned whether the church would allow polygamy in future, while another expressed the fear that traditional chiefs who had given parishes land to build their churches on might reclaim it.

Some indicated implacable opposition to liturgies for ministry to same-sex couples. But others suggested that adopting the motion would be divisive at this stage in the church’s history, saying: “The time is not yet.”

Since the Synod split evenly in favour of and against the motion, it was lost.


Full texts of approved resolutions:


Establishment of Permanent Provincial Commission on Human Sexuality

This Synod noting that:

1.    The issues of human sexuality are complex, diverse and evolving.
2.    The advancement of science and human development present ongoing areas of need in terms of ethics and welfare.


Resolves to:
   1. Establish a Permanent Provincial Commission on Human Sexuality that will listen and continue to inform and advise the church on these matters.
   2. The Synod of Bishops shall take heed of the divergent views in the Province on this matter, and the membership of the Commission shall reflect this.
  3. The Metropolitan, after consultation with the Synod of Bishops will determine the terms of reference for this commission.

Proposer:  Bishop Allan Kannemeyer (Diocese of Pretoria)

Seconder:  Archdeacon Moses Thabethe (Diocese of Johannesburg)



Receiving of the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality Report

This Synod notes that the report of the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality has been received.

This Synod notes, acknowledges and recognises the work of the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality. 

This Synod refers the report to the Dioceses of the Province for reflection, study and report-back on progress to the Commission and the next PSC.

Proposer:    Rt Revd. A Kannemeyer
Seconder:     Rt Revd. Steve Moreo

[This report has been amended since first published to reflect the wording of the resolution above as provided by the scrutineers of the Synod minutes. The principal change reflects that the Synod “refers” – not “commends” – the resolution to Dioceses.]

Church declares ‘climate emergency’ and calls for ban on plastics

Provincial Synod has declared a “climate emergency” and called on parishes to recycle and to ban the use of plastic in their congregational activities, including items such as plastic straws, cutlery and water bottles as well as plastic and Styrofoam cups.

A resolution on the use of plastic was proposed by Ms Mandisa Gumada of the Diocese of Natal and Bishop Vicente Msosa of the Diocese of Niassa. It read:

PLASTIC

This Synod noting that:

1. The equivalent of one garbage truck of plastic enters our oceans every minute and by 2050 there will be more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish;

2. Plastic is killing marine animals and seabirds, destroying the marine environment as well as people’s livelihoods, infiltrating the human food chain and causing cancers and birth defects. Scientists have found plastic in tap water and even in salt. Microplastic enters our lungs;

3. South Africans use 8 billion plastic shopping bags per year;

4. By contrast 28 African countries, such as Kenya, Rwanda, Morocco and Cameroon, have banned the use, manufacture, importation and distribution of disposable plastic bags.

Acknowledging that:

Plastic debris not only results in high cleaning-up costs but also brings huge losses for the tourism, fisheries and shipping industries. It threatens our health, constitutional rights, water resources and climate.

Resolves to:

Call on ACSA to become a #zerowaste Church and call on Parishes and Dioceses to commit to becoming Zero waste by;

1. Not using plastic bottled water;

2. Not using Styrofoam;

3. Reducing paper as much as possible;

4. Setting up compost heaps and food gardens where possible;

5. Installing recycling bins for church and, if possible, for community;

6. Not using plastic cutlery, cups, water bottles and straws;

7. Displaying a #zerowaste signs at the church

8. “To rethink our consumption practices”.

9. Calls on the governments of South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Angola, Mozambique and St Helena to ban single use plastic as a matter of urgency.

The resolution declaring a climate change emergency was proposed by Bishop Msosa, seconded by Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, and motivated by Canon Rachel Mash, the Province’s Environmental Coordinator.

CLIMATE CHANGE EMERGENCY

This Synod noting that:

We face a triple emergency of climate change, biodiversity loss, poverty and inequality with reference to:

1. The latest Climate Change Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that we have less than twelve years to make a rapid transition away from fossil fuels to renewables or will face out of control climate change;

2. This is a Kairos moment;

3. Rapid climate change, with its increasingly severe weather patterns is having devastating effects on humanity, with its detrimental effects on agriculture, the increase in diseases and various negative impacts on human health;

4. One million out of the 5 million species on this planet face extinction due to human activity;

5 Our economic system is making the rich richer and the poor poorer. In 2018, 26 people owned the same amount of wealth as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity;

6. South Africa is the most unequal country in the world;

7 We cannot eradicate poverty unless we tackle climate change.

Further noting:

1. Mozambique has suffered devastating environmental damage and loss of life from Cyclones Idai and Kenneth. “Beira will go down in history as the first city to be completely devastated by Climate Change” said Graca Machel;

2. Parts of KwaZulu-Natal also suffered devastating floods with loss of life;

3. Namibia is suffering from massive drought;

4. Water crises are being experienced in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape.

Acknowledging:

1. The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC 17) meeting this year, passed three significant resolutions, which pertain to ACSA, calling for Provincial Action on Climate Change, (A17:05), Climate Resilience (A17: 06) and the Sustainable Development Goals (A17:11) and encouraging Provinces to:

1.1 Declare a Climate Emergency;

1.2 Identify Environmental related threats;

1.3 Hold Strategic planning Conferences on the SDGs and Climate Change.

Resolves to:

1. Appeal for ACSA to declare a Climate Emergency for our Province.

2. Respectfully requests the Metropolitan to cause a Provincial Consultation to be convened on Climate Change In collaboration and at the cost of the ACSA Environmental Network and Hope Africa and to encourage as much as is possible the participation of the Bishops of the Province, Diocesan Social Development Representatives, Environmental Representatives, and Gender Representatives.

3. Ensure the participation of young people and women’s voices.

4. This consultation should strive to achieve the following objectives:

a. Identify climate related threats;

b. Develop an action plan for individuals at Parish, Diocesan and Provincial levels on the Environment and Social Development, to include the following inter alia:

b.1 gender and other social considerations;

b.2 policies and procedures to increase the use of renewable energies and incorporate creation care into all aspects of church life, including into liturgical practice;

b.3 mainstreaming eco-theological reflection across all levels of theological education.

c. Report on the implementation of this resolution at the next Provincial Standing Committee and Provincial Synod.

Synod establishes ‘Safe and Inclusive Church Commission’ to combat abuse

In a demonstration of its commitment to eradicate abuse, including sexual abuse, in the Church, Provincial Synod has adopted a ‘Resolution of Permanent Force’ which establishes a ‘Safe and Inclusive Church Commission’ to oversee the process.

The nature of the resolution gives it higher status in church law than ordinary resolutions of the Synod. It is proposed that at the next Synod the ‘Safe Church’ initiative will be entrenched as an Act in the Church’s Constitution and Canons.

The resolution was proposed by the Revd Anastasia Huntley of the Diocese of Johannesburg and seconded by Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town. [Corrected ** ]

The full text of the resolution follows:

RESOLUTION OF PERMANENT FORCE: THE ANGLICAN SAFE AND INCLUSIVE CHURCH COMMISSION OF SOUTHERN AFRICA

This Synod noting that:

1.As the Anglican Church of Southern Africa we are called to be people of God and to embody the spirit of God that needs to be nurtured and brought into the fulness of life.

2.Our places of worship and learning have for many caused untold pain, hurt and harm, that has left individuals and families deeply scarred.

3.Ministry is a unique and sacred trust that has been given to us and we need to seek ways to nurture and protect this trust in the way we discern, train, educate and select our ministers and exercise our accountability and discipline as a church.

4.The Pastoral Standards of Ministry, included as Act XV in our Canons has set the foundation for this work, and will continually be expanded upon.

5.The call of the Safe Church Commission of the Anglican Consultative Council (the “ACC Commission”) is to adopt its Charter and implement its Protocol, as far as practicable in accordance with its guidelines;

6. ACSA seeks to establish its own Safe Church Commission to oversee this work, which will include the following:

6.1 to develop recommendations for enhancement of the safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults in the Church,

6.2 to establish a network of those with safe church/safeguarding responsibilities in the Province and;

6.3 to liaise regularly with the ACC Commission in relation to its work.

Resolves to:

  1. Commit itself to a programme of action in which it seeks to improve, through an iterative process, that will be shaped and informed by experience and the implementation of these principles.
  1. To draft an Act consistent with the Constitution and Canons of ACSA as well as the principles, procedures, safe-guards, resolutions of the Anglican Consultative Council and guidelines referred to below:

2.1. the witness of Scripture to God’s love for all members of the human family and the priority given in Jesus’ ministry to children and the vulnerable of society;

2.2 the resolution of the Lambeth Conference in 1998 that each member Church represented make an intentional effort to work toward eliminating abuses affecting women and children (Resolution 1.3);

2.3 the commitment of ACC-13 in 2005 to the highest standards of care for all young and vulnerable people, seeking to ensure their protection (ACC Resolution 13.50);

2.4 the testimony of the Lambeth Conference in 2008 to the many forms of abuse of power within society as well as the church from which women and children suffer disproportionately, and the challenge to reclaim the gospel truth of the dignity of the human person and to exercise power in ways that would always be life giving (Lambeth Indaba: Capturing Conversations and Reflections, paragraphs 47 to 50);

2.5 the call of ACC-14 in 2009 to member Churches to take appropriate steps to assist the healing of indigenous families, including the protection of women and children from violence and human trafficking (ACC Resolutions 14.19 and 14.33);

2.6 the statement of the Primates in 2011 that our churches must accept responsibility for our own part in perpetuating oppressive attitudes towards women, and in penitence and faith we must move forward in such a way that our churches truly become a living witness to our belief that both women and men are made in the image of God (Letter to the Churches of the Anglican Communion): and

2.7 committed itself to promoting the physical, emotional and spiritual welfare and safety of all people, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults, within the member churches of the Anglican Communion, and to this end called upon all member churches to adopt and implement the charter. This charter has been adapted for our own situation and this was formally adopted by the Synod of Bishops in February 2019, and reads as follows:

  1. That the Commission will draft the intended Act in conjunction with the Anglican Canon Law Council.

4. The intended Act will incorporate the Charter for Safe and Inclusive Church passed by the Synod of Bishops in February 2019.

5. To establish a commission known as the Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission of Southern Africa, whose members will be appointed by the Metropolitan after consultation with the Synod of Bishops.

6. That the constitution of the aforementioned Commission, responsible for the implementation of the Charter, will include the following principles.

6.1 The Commission is an integral part of the Church, functioning under and reporting to the Metropolitan and Synod of Bishops (“SoB”). The Commission will table its report from time to time at Provincial Synod, PSC and the Provincial Trusts Board (“PTB”)

6.2 The Metropolitan, after consultation with the SoB will appoint a liaison bishop for the commission

6.3 The purpose and objectives of the Commission are:

  1. To implement the ACSA Charter and the ACC Protocols as its guidelines, to the extent practicable;
  2. To develop for the Province, its dioceses, organisations and institutions, the framework for the implementation of The Charter, its protocols and guidelines;
  3. To serve as the advisory body for the Province, dioceses, organisations and institutions regarding the implementation of the Charter, its protocols and guidelines, and to identify and develop safeguarding measures;
  4. To maintain ACSA’s membership of the ACC’s Safe Church Commission and the Metropolitan to appoint a representative to liaise with that Commission regarding this work;
  5. To develop resources, do training and liaise in all matters relating to The Charter;
  6. To maintain a register of complaints and convictions (both Church and secular);
  7. To develop and implement a management system for records and maintenance of screening clearances;
  8. To provide a framework for dealing with adverse findings on clearance requirements for ministers;
  9. To provide (or advise on, as appropriate) support for those involved in hearings conducted under The Charter; and
  10. To advocate its work throughout the Province.

6.3 The Commission’s governing body will be comprised of:

6.3.1.1 the Liaison Bishop, appointed by the Metropolitan as aforesaid;

6.3.1.2 two legal lay persons, being Provincial or Diocesan Chancellors or Registrars, appointed by the Metropolitan in consultation with the Metropolitan’s Executive and with input as needed for from the Anglican Canon Law Council of Southern Africa (“ACLCSA”) and the Council;

6.3.1.3 two Bishops, Suffragan or Diocesan, appointed by the SoB;

6.3.1.4 two psychologists or other specialists involved in counselling, spiritual guidance or support in cases of abuse, appointed by the Metropolitan from a list of recommended people prepared by the Council (save only that in the first instance the list may be that prepared by the steering committee involved in the preparation and presentation to Provincial Synod of this Act); and

6.3.1.5 the Provincial Treasurer, or alternatively the Provincial Executive Officer.

  1. The terms of office of the Commission’s members will be:
    1. the Liaison Bishop, at the discretion of the Metropolitan;
    2. the two legal lay persons, for periods of three years, which may be renewed for no more than two terms;
    3. the two Bishops, at the discretion of the SoB;
    4. the two psychologists or other specialists, for periods of three years, which may be renewed for no more than two terms; and
    5. the Provincial Treasurer or Provincial Executive Officer (as the case may be), for as long as their appointments endure.
  1. The Commission shall elect its own Chair, Deputy Chair and Secretary at its first meeting each calendar year, and thereafter during a calendar year if and when such an office becomes vacant. The quorum for Council meetings shall be the majority in number of the Council members at the time including the Chair or Deputy Chair.
  2. The Commission shall have no financial powers independently of the Church. All income and expenditure shall be duly authorized, held and paid by the Church, through the office of the Provincial Treasurer. The Council will prepare an annual budget for a succeeding year by the end of March in the preceding year, for consideration and approval by the Provincial Trusts Board, which will cover the Commission’s authorized requirements from the said Board’s own resources, save that where there will be a shortfall in such resources, the same shall be applied for, to the Provincial Treasurer, who may approve such an application.
  3. The Commission shall make such arrangements for meetings and conferences as it shall deem necessary; for publications and consultations as may be required; for research and advice as may be needed; for related travel, accommodation, office and other assistance that may be called for. All such expenses must be costed, included and cleared by the Provincial Treasurer on behalf of the Provincial Trusts Board.
  4. The Commission may make such rules of procedure and byelaws, and establish such sub-committees, as it considers necessary and appropriate for the furtherance of its work.

[** The name of the seconder has been corrected since this item was first posted]

Synod calls for special ‘Day Against Xenophobia’

Provincial Synod has called for the declaration of a Day Against Xenophobia, using resources such as a special liturgy, readings, sermon material and posters and social media materials.

“We should show publicly that the Anglican Church is a safe space for all,” Synod said in a resolution.

The resolution, proposed by the Revd Canon Shearsby Mupfudzapake of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, and seconded by Mrs Helena B. Simone of the Diocese of Niassa in Mozambique, read as follows:

Whereas

  • South Africa has been hit by a wave of xenophobic attacks
  • Recognising that we have the day of 20th June as a day of refugees in our lectionary, but it is often not used as it clashes with June 16th
  • We need to identify the cause of these attacks and identify the role of the Anglican Church as a multi-country church

We ask for the Church to

  • Declare itself strongly against Xenophobia
  • Declare a special Day Against Xenophobia, with readings, liturgy and sermon materials, as well as posters, hash tags etc.
  • We should show publicly that the Anglican Church is a safe space for all.

Provincial Synod speaks on violence against women and children

Provincial Synod has singled out “belief in the dominance of men over women” as one of the causes of violence against women in society.

Proposing a resolution voicing “abhorrence” at violence against women and children, the Very Revd Andrew Hunter, Dean of Grahamstown, said the culture of “toxic masculinity” in society “teaches boys that girls are there for their use and pleasure.”

The resolution passed by Synod said this belief is “an abuse of power and was never displayed by our Lord.”

Synod called on the men present “to examine their inherent belief and practices, and to change whenever and wherever they stand in opposition to Christ with respect to their beliefs and treatment of women and children.”

It also urged men “to speak clearly and boldly” against male domination to other men in society and “to make active space for the voice of women to be heard”. It also sent its love, deepest sympathies and assurance of its heartfelt prayers for all impacted by sexual violence.

The resolution was seconded by Bishop-Elect Luke Pretorius of the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist.

The full text of the resolution read:

This Synod, noting

1. the current level of gender-based violence against women and children

2. the implied patriarchy and belief in the dominance of men over women

3. that such patriarchy for whatever reason; cultural, religious or implied is an abuse of power and was never displayed by our Lord.

Calls upon the men of this Synod – in the light of the example of Christ

1. to examine their inherent beliefs and practices, and to change whenever and wherever they stand in opposition to Christ with respect to their beliefs and treatment of women and children

2. to speak clearly and boldly in their respective settings, and to conscientize other men to this truth of Christ in his respect and acceptance of women and children

3. to make active space for the voice of women to be heard as they share their experiences

4. to encourage men to speak and define their belief and practise with respect to their treatment of women and children

5. to make a stand in this Synod which displays their abhorrence of the current violence against women and children, and

6. sends its love, deepest sympathies and assurance of our heartfelt prayers for all impacted by sexual violence.

We continue to pray for the perpetrators of these violent acts so that God can edify their hearts, their minds and their lives;

We need to examine our use of scripture and its application that has been harmful to women and children;

We should not be ashamed to ask for forgiveness.

Proposed: Very Revd Andrew Hunter

Seconded: Very Revd Luke Pretorius

Homily for Day Three of Provincial Synod 2019

Friday 27 September
Provincial Synod
Day 3 Homily 3
Esther 8: 1-8, 15-17

  1. There was restorative justice for Esther and her people. What might restorative justice look like for you, especially your worshipping community?
  2. Who in your opinion has the power to bring about restorative justice? Consider where you live and work and worship
  3. Are there ways in which ACSA can bring practical ways of restoration to God’s people? How can we use our policies and legislation to restore hope and healing to breathe new life into God’s people?

Restore

by Natalie Simons Arendse

[Available as a PDF]

Haman has been disposed of and now we see Esther begging the king to write a counter decree that will undo the one that called for the annihilation of the Jews. Esther has explained her relationship with Mordecai, and she is given Haman’s estate which Mordecai now gets to manage for her.

The king doesn’t write the new decree that will bring restoration for the Jews; he gives that honour to Mordecai and it is sealed with his signet ring.

Now the lectionary for some reason omits verses 9-14 of chapter 8; but let’s review what the story behind the story is for leaving these verses out.

Read verses 9-14 – The king’s secretaries were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded, to the Jews and to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language. He wrote letters in the name of King Ahasuerus, sealed them with the king’s ring, and sent them by mounted couriers riding on fast steeds bred from the royal herd. By these letters the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to assemble and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods on a single day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. A copy of the it was to be issued as a decree in every province and published to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to take revenge on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift royal steeds, hurried out, urged by the king’s command. The decree was issued in the citadel of Susa.

Mordecai is now second in command of the kingdom and the power dynamics have shifted. He writes the new decree which gives the Jews an opportunity to take revenge. Mordecai was one of the victims of the abuse of power but now that he has power, power that is rightfully Esther’s because she is promised up to half of the kingdom; he becomes the perpetrator. The oppressed has now become the oppressor. The child who is bullied can become the bully.

BUT this is NOT what Esther had put her life on the line for. If I perish, I perish..

Esther advocates for abundant life.

As we conclude this synod, having reviewed some of our practices and policies; and as we review how Mordecai placed ashes on his body as he lamented the decision by the king to have the Jews killed; we as the people of ACSA must rise out of the ashes of our complacency and write new decrees.

We must write new decrees for those who are not here, for the oppressed and marginalised, for women and children; for the disenfranchised and the environment; and for members of the LGBTQI community.

26 years ago, this church wrote the decree that would allow women to be ordained as priests and bishops. It was a painful process to get to that point. Policies and decisions had to be overturned and rewritten, but what a Kairos moment it was. ACSA is better for it, our churches and communities are better for it and God’s church has not yet collapsed!

It is not by coincidence that you are here attending this synod helping to make decisions that will breathe abundant life into all of God’s people.

Let’s not do what Mordecai did, he became the perpetrator; instead we should do what Esther did; she had decrees written that would give life in abundance as Jesus Christ intended for each one of us.

We came to review, to renew and to restore…. We are here for such a time as this.

Amen

Homily for Day Two of Provincial Synod 2019

Thursday 26 September

Provincial Synod

Day 2, Homily 2

Esther 7:1-10

  1. There seemed to be renewed hope for Esther and her people after she acted. When have you been called upon to act and did you? What hindered you from acting?
  2. How is your worshipping community exploring renewed ways of inclusion for those who feel excluded?
  3. What kind of power dynamics are at play in the spaces in which you find yourselves? Think especially of the recent events in our country.

Renew

by Natalie Simons Arendse

[Available as a PDF]

Yesterday I concluded the homily with the words: “Everyday life for us should include reflection and review of how we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to live an abundant life? We read in chapter 7 that Esther pleads for her life and that of her people. She says that if they had been sold into slavery it would not have been as bad; but they are going to be eliminated as a people. What is really happening in the palace? Let’s review..

Esther, although she is queen has no real authority without her identity in her husband the king. She is a foreigner, she is not safe in her own home, her title doesn’t mean anything as she pleads for her life. Haman doesn’t observe the protocol of keeping his distance from Esther and as soon as the word molest leaves the king’s lips; the blood drains from Haman’s face. If Esther had screamed the words; would it have had the same effect on Haman?

Is Esther enjoying an abundant life? Are we enjoying abundant lives? As we listen to the experiences and the horror of gender-based violence in our homes, at work and in our churches; we hear that they do not enjoy abundant lives.

Why is there a need to establish a safe church commission if all God’s people are offered abundant lives in Jesus Christ? Do you feel safe in your home, in your church; when sharing the peace?

The Jews living in Persia as exiles and foreigners do not enjoy an abundant life. They have had to integrate their cultural practices; their worship and dietary rules are compromised, and they are heavily taxed. The Jewish women and girls are also taken into the palace to become concubines of the king; they too must plead for their lives. Those who have been violated and killed because of the genocide taking place against our women and children right now; also pleaded for their lives. Uyenena pleaded for her life while she was raped and killed in the Post Office, metres away from the Police Station.

The king promises Esther anything up to half of his kingdom. That would seem to be very generous, but there are conditions that come with such promises. Esther will always just be the king’s wife; she is not affirmed in her own right.

In his charge the Metropolitan called on the church to create a new culture, a culture of inclusion and acceptance. We are fearful of what this could mean. Change creates uncertainty and upsets the power struggles that are at play in the spaces in which we find ourselves. Fear of the unknown creates suspicion and mistrust amongst us while the most vulnerable members of our communities are affected by our fear of what change could bring.

We claim that we celebrate our diversity because it makes us stronger, but we struggle to accept diversity in all levels of our lives. We are God’s people and we are gifted differently but finding expression in that difference hinders us to live abundant lives because we are afraid.

What are we afraid of? Why do we limit the women’s ministries in the church to raise funds, but they don’t get consulted on how the money is used? Why do we say that children need to learn to behave in church and then we send them out as soon as the worship has finished to go to children’s church? Why is it that whenever our 2 female bishops are in the same space; do they have to share that space? How is that affirming?

Jesus promises that he will be with us until the end of the age; so, what are we afraid of?

The church is facing a Kairos moment, what is moving us, where is the Spirit of God blowing the Anglican Church of Southern Africa? What is before us that needs to be renewed so that we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ?

Haman is hung on his own gallows and Esther is given a renewed opportunity to live an abundant life. BUT not really.

She is not the liberator of her people as we have come to read and accept. Esther cannot undo the decree that was sent out to the Jews in the kingdom of their annihilation. The king is going to have to write a new law.

Esther is not going to be able to release the women who have been taken against their will to be concubines in the palace. Only the king can make that decision. Esther is going to be given Haman’s property, but she will not be able to own it and Mordecai is going to have to oversee it on her behalf.

God is not mentioned by name in the book of Esther, but we know that no person would be able to come up against the kind of misuse of power that Esther had to without the Spirit of God hovering over her.

Let me put it another way..

Behind every successful man is a woman and we know that behind every woman is a powerful God and She is at work in a mighty way!

Amen.

Homily for Day One of Provincial Synod 2019

Wednesday 25 September

Provincial Synod

Day 1, Homily 1

  1. What are the things that we are currently reviewing and what should we be reviewing as ACSA?
  2. Part of reviewing is to be honest about our failures. How did King Xerxes fail Mordecai? How have we failed those who are seeking refuge?
  3. If we are serious about reviewing and reflecting; who should we be reflecting with? Who is invited to the discussion?

A quick walk through Esther in 2019

by Natalie Simons Arendse

[Available as a PDF]

Esther’s parents had been killed and she was being raised by her older cousin Mordecai. They did not return to Jerusalem after the exile and made their home in Persia. Her real name is Hadassah but because she lived in a foreign place she took a foreign name.

The Persian King Xerxes is a weak leader who is advised by a group of “leaders” who have their own ideas of how the kingdom should be run. When the king’s first wife Vashti refuses to degrade herself by parading her beauty and her body for the king’s advisors and friends; they recommend that she is dethroned as queen and that a beauty contest of all the virgins in the kingdom; Persians and foreigners be held in order for the king to choose another queen.

The women are rounded up like cattle and treated to beauty treatments and feasts while living in the palace; getting ready for their one night with the King. Yes, the king will choose the next queen by sleeping with each virgin who has been taken from her family and brought to the palace against her will to be part of the King’s harem.

Esther finds herself in the palace part of the King’s harem. Mordecai works in the palace as a scribe and is able to communicate with her via the servants. Esther is chosen as the next queen and soon a plot to assassinate the king is uncovered by Mordecai. The plot is averted and recorded in the journals of kingdom, but Mordecai is not acknowledged for this.

Meanwhile Haman; a descendant of the Aggegite tribe; a tribe whom God had ordered to be destroyed; finds his way into the advisory council of the king. He has an encounter with Mordecai who refuses to bow down to him and he makes it his mission to have Mordecai killed. Haman creates rumours about foreigners who are living in the kingdom; who follow their own laws; who are not loyal to the king. Tensions rise and soon the king succumbs to pressure from Haman; he signs a decree; giving the Jews 3 months to leave Persia or be killed.

Mordecai informs Esther of the decree and reminds her that she did not come to be placed in the palace to protect herself; perhaps she had become queen for such a time as this. Esther is afraid of what could happen if she breaks with the protocols of arriving unsummoned to speak to the king; but she is convicted and responds… if I perish; I perish.

Esther is granted an audience with the king and she invites him and Haman to a banquet. They attend and the king inquires of Esther what she wants; offering her anything up to half the kingdom. Esther responds by asking the king and Haman to attend another banquet the following day. The king agrees. And this is where our lectionary reading begins today.

The king cannot sleep and asks for the journals to be read. Here he learns that Mordecai had averted his assassination. He wants to good by Mordecai.. he wants everything to stay the same. Let’s throw another party for the man who saved the king’s life.

By reviewing the book of Esther; we must read it through different lenses and perspectives. What is the story behind the story? We cannot continue to read and preach the dominant narrative of Esther through the lens of a young Jewish woman who saved her people because she was obedient to God.

Considering what has happened in and around our country and its borders in the last few weeks; we cannot read Esther and conclude that it was a happy ending. There is human trafficking in the story of Esther, young women are taken away from their families against their will. There is exploitation of the vulnerable; women and foreigners. The Jews are living in Persia as second class citizens. There is patriarchy and weak leadership; as the king seeks advice from people who want to maintain the status quo and there is political instability because the king just wants to throw a party for any occasion.

By reviewing where we are as ACSA; we cannot continue to preach the dominant narrative of complacency. We must review and we must lament. We must lament for the way in which we
have failed God’s people, women and children, queer and divorced. We must lament for the environment.

But we cannot only lament; we must act. We are reviewing our policies and using inclusive language, but when will we invite other voices to be part of our decision-making processes? We must review who the people are that have the power to change our policies; maybe that group of people needs to be more diverse? Maybe more young people must be invited to the table?

Sunday’s gospel reading of the dishonest manager pushes us to look not only at the dishonesty of the manager but at the critical way in which he devised his plan to not get caught out. We need to think critically, and we need diverse voices and ages to contribute to our conversations and decisions. In his charge yesterday the Archbishop urged us to be a more inclusive church; not only on paper but in practice. He called on politicians to stop fighting and to start leading; when will we stop fighting about whether women are good enough to be deans and bishops and start electing them as deans and bishops?

Esther is the only book in the bible that does not mention God by name; one author describes God as being conspicuous by God’s absence in the book of Esther. Where is God in the midst of what is happening with Esther. As Jesus followers our hope is in a God who uses the mundane events of everyday life to accomplish God’s kingdom. Everyday life for us should include reflection and review of how we can live abundant lives in Jesus Christ.

New Bishop of Mzimvubu elected

The Bishops of the Province at the Electoral College of Mzimvubu held 22 September 2019 elected the Rt Revd Tsietsi Seleoane, after the 6th ballot, as the next Bishop of the Diocese of Mzimvubu.

Please pray for Bishop Tsietsi and the Diocese as they prepare to receive their new bishop.

Ven Horace Arenz

Provincial Executive Officer

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