Reformation is ‘GPS’ for next 500 years, says S. African Anglican leader in Luther’s town
May 29, 2017
The Reformation was a defining moment 500 years ago but can also serve as an inspiration for the next five centuries, South African Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has told tens of thousands of people at the German Protestant Kirchentag, or church festival.
“It is impossible to overstate the contribution of Martin Luther to that part of the world influenced by Europe and its thought,” said Makgoba, in a sermon at a 28 May service at Wittenberg, the town celebrated worldwide as the place where Luther’s Reformation began, when in 1517 he denounced church abuses in his 95 Theses.
Luther’s questioning of authority “mobilized millions, in an unstoppable movement, to embrace the right to participate,” said Archbishop Makgoba at the open-air service that concluded the 24-28 May Kirchentag and inaugurated a “Reformation summer” of activities in Wittenberg.
Organized every two years, the Kirchentag this year coincided with the Reformation anniversary and brought more than 100,000 people to Berlin, many making the 90-kilometre journey to the Reformation service on the banks of the river Elbe, just outside Wittenberg.
Interpreted in today’s context, the Reformation “can become our guide, our inspirational GPS, our global positioning system for the next 500 years,” continued Makgoba, who became archbishop of Cape Town in 2007.
Behind the stage where Makgoba was preaching could be seen the tower of Wittenberg’s Castle Church, where Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses on 31 October 1517, setting in train the events that would lead to the emergence of Protestant churches.
People had started to gather on the banks of the river Elbe the previous evening, where they joined in prayer with the ecumenical Taizé community in a “night of lights” of candles lit as the sun went down.
Makgoba challenged young people in particular “to hear the cries of others and of the planet as God would,” and to take action, “for love’s sake, dignity’s sake, for freedom’s sake, for Christ’s sake.”
He described how Germany in the Nazi era and South Africa under apartheid had “histories of unspeakable cruelty but they are also histories of God’s unfailing faithfulness.”
Worshippers included German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Protestant who is a past member of the Kirchentag’s presidium. Addressing participants, he recalled how the Reformation had reinforced faith but the divisions between Christian traditions it entailed had also led to suffering and misery, hatred and violence.
However, he continued, “the fellowship we now experience between Christian traditions would have been difficult to imagine even half a century ago.”
After 500 years of division between Protestants and Roman Catholics, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, who heads the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), said in a closing message, “we now want to share with each other the whole richness of our traditions.”
Founded in 1949 by Protestant lay people in Germany to strengthen democratic culture after the Nazi dictatorship and the Second World War, the Kirchentag has gained European and global reach in recent decades.
Many of the 2,000 events during the Kirchentag involved representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its member churches from several continents.
“In this year marking the 500th anniversary of the events of the Reformation, the Kirchentag is one of the milestones of our pilgrimage of justice and peace that motivates us to discover in these past events resources that help transform the world,” commented WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit. “This discovery is both the true meaning of grace and the true meaning of faith.” – WCC
“Obama and Makgoba to visit Germany for 500th Reformation anniversary.”
That is how the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and its annual “Kirchentag” festival headlined their announcement that they had invited Archbishop Thabo to preach at the culmination of this year’s celebrations in Wittenberg, the university town in which Martin Luther sparked the Reformation 500 years ago.
The organisers say they expect 100,000 people at the festive service, which will be held on Sunday May 28 in a meadow the size of 50 football fields on the banks of the River Elbe outside Wittenberg.
Ahead of the service, on Ascension Day, former president Barack Obama will join Chancellor Angela Merkel, an observant Christian, for a discussion on “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally”. It will be held at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Announcing the participation of President Obama and Archbishop Thabo, the EKD and the festival noted that the United States was “strongly marked by the Reformation and its historical impact.”
The president of the Kirchentag, Professor Christina Aus der Au, added: “Protestantism has not remained a European affair – it has shaped societies and nations all over the world. We are thrilled that Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has agreed to preach at the Festive Service, coming as he does from a country that has a very intensive history of Protestantism.”
The chair of the EKD’s council, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, added: “Thabo Makgoba has become an example for many people, not only in Africa. This due to the passion with which he so authentically and visibly lives out his Christian faith in a country that is rich and yet deeply divided. We can really look forward to his sermon.”
In another honour for African Christians recently, a Nigerian Lutheran bishop, Archbishop Dr. Musa Panti Filibus, was elected as the 13th president of Lutheran World Federation. The global communion of Lutheran churches held its assembly in Namibia earlier this month.
By Samantha Carolus
Spiritfest runs throughout the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown from 29 June to 9 July, celebrating the Arts in the context of the Christian faith with an array of new items along with the familiar favourite performances and events. Spiritfest continues to grow, with more Christian denominations involved this year than before.
New this year are a multi-media service ‘Under African Skies’, which will feature choral music and hymns from South Africa and beyond our borders, accompanied by lively, evocative images of the African landscape projected on a large screen.
The two Sundays of the Festival will see special Festival services in a variety of churches: A Unity Mass at which the congregations of four local Catholic churches will come together to worship; a Jazz Mass at the Cathedral, a Festival service at the Every Nation Church, and on the last Sunday of the Festival Bishop Andile Mbete of the Grahamstown Methodist District will lead a Procession of Witness down the High Street with choir and musicians, culminating in a Festival Service in Commemoration Church.
Spiritfest favourites which return this year include the Lucernarium, a service of candlelight and plainsong, St Michael’s Marimbas, 40 Stones in the Wall Group Exhibition- with book reading of ‘The Bear Who Stepped Up’ by Hilary Murdoch, Winter School, Guided Meditation and Prayer as well as an Open Mic session for poetry lovers.
Music this year will bring the likes of the Grahamstown Circuit Choir conducted by Siyabulela Lali and Reuben Maselwa, and a Stephen Holder Organ Recital titled: ‘Mystery, Modes and Grace’. Singer song-writers and capella musicians are invited to perform Acoustic and Unplugged at two Open Mic evenings.
The Spiritfest Winter School, ‘Faith and Resistance’, will feature lectures, discussions and book launches with the theme ‘#must fall’, looking at aspects of the struggle for freedom and justice from the perspective of Christian faith. Father Anthony Egan SJ will lecture on ‘The Ethics of Protest’, while Zuko Blauw and Sister Aloysia Zellman will lecture on ‘Sister Aidan lives on’.
The Revd Dr Barney Pityana will speak about Steve Biko’s faith, and Lindsay Kelland will be talking about ‘Recovering from Rape Together’. Book launches of ‘The Road to Emmaus’ by Chris Mann and ‘The Book of Joy’ by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama will take place, and a panel discussion, ‘Faith and #must fall’ will be led by Christian students and student leaders. Fitting into the same theme will be a dramatic reading: ‘Bonhoeffer’, about the German pastor who was executed for his part in a plot to kill Hitler.
Faith in the Real World – Pastoral Letter from the Synod of Bishops
(A PDF version of this letter is available at the end of the statement.)
Dear People of God,
We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), we met in Synod in Benoni from Monday 20th until Saturday 25th February 2017. The full bench of Bishops was present, including:
– Those from all the countries that make up our Province of the Anglican Communion – St Helena, Angola, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and South Africa;
– Those who were Consecrated Bishop on Saturday 25th February – Rt Revd William Mostert, Bishop of Christ the King (southern Gauteng) and Rt Revd Vicente Msosa, Bishop of Niassa (northern Mozambique).
As always our meeting took place in a framework of worship and warm fellowship as we shared our lives and worked on issues facing the church and our communities. At our opening Eucharist we heard the words of Jesus, “All things can be done for the one who believes!” (Mark 9:23) and the response, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). We met as church leaders and people of faith who are deeply aware of the challenges facing our churches and communities and the desperate need for leadership of the highest quality.
Most of our time this week was devoted to receiving training in the basics of Economics and Management, and reflecting on how God is calling us to exercise leadership in today’s economic climate. We were ably led by Prof Martin Büscher (Institute for Diaconic Science and Diaconic Management (IDM), Protestant University of Wuppertal/Bethel, Germany) and Dr Bright Mawudor (Deputy General Secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches). They helped us to understand the prevailing economic theories; challenges of globalisation; the New St Gallen Management Model; financial management and accounting; personnel management; innovation and creativity; and church and property development as mission.
We had an informative and challenging time wrestling with the interface between economics and theology: profit-making and the prophetic; the market place and mission; self-interest and compassion; market value and Kingdom values; personal wealth and community-building; corruption and integrity; free trade and fair trade.
Dr Mawudor said, “When money is lost, something is lost. When health is lost, more is lost. When integrity is lost, everything is lost”. We accepted the challenge to live and lead with integrity ourselves as we demand integrity in our political, business and community leaders. We also recognised the need to work ecumenically in this area.
In our own leadership structures, we affirmed Archbishop Thabo’s appointment of his Management Team:
- Bishop Stephen Diseko: Dean of the Province
- Bishop Dino Gabriel: Theological Education
- Bishop Martin Breytenbach: Provincial Finance Board
- Bishop Brian Marajh: Provincial Trusts Board
We were saddened by reports of loss of life, injuries and devastation caused by tropical cyclone Dineo, especially in Mozambique. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba wrote a pastoral letter to those who were affected in the Dioceses of Lebombo, Mpumalanga and St Mark the Evangelist. We are working with H.O.P.E. Africa to find ways to assist those who are most affected.
As Bishops we continued to debate, with great concern, the state of higher education in South Africa in the light of the ongoing “Fees must Fall” campaign. We call for the release or charging of Bonginkosi Kanyile who has been incarcerated since September 2016, insisting that there should be no detention without trial. We agreed to write to the government and other stakeholders expressing our concerns.
We gave attention to a number of areas of mission and ministry.
1) We heard about steps taken and progress made on issues in the Dioceses of Umzimvubu and Lesotho. We agreed on further action that will be done.
2) We received a report on Theological Education, including successes and challenges at the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown (COTT). We rejoiced in the progress that has been made and affirmed the importance of having a residential Theological College alongside other training schemes. We recognise that we will need to consider new funding models for COTT and its students.
3) We adopted a proposal for the training of new Bishops and the ongoing training of all Bishops. Training includes a course for new Bishops at the International Study Centre at Canterbury Cathedral; a course run by the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA); “Episcopal Accompaniment” sponsored by Us (formerly USPG); and mentoring of new Bishops by those who are more experienced.
4) We received a presentation on the proposed establishment of a Youth Academy to equip the church for more effective ministry to children and young people. We welcomed the idea and affirmed the importance of training those who minister to our youth. However, we identified a number of issues that need to be investigated more fully before it can be implemented, and agreed on steps to do this.
5) We received a report about the “6th Trumpet of the Global South” which took place in Cairo from 3rd to 8th October 2016. This report highlighted both the commonalities and the tensions within the Anglican Communion at present. We remain committed to being a reconciling presence in the Communion and to engaging with all those involved.
6) We committed ourselves to continue to support the training of suitable people from our Dioceses to conduct formal mediation processes – particularly people with a legal background. Retired Bishops Rubin Phillip and Peter Lee have already received advanced training in this area.
7) We were deeply disturbed by the death of about 100 mentally ill patients following their transfer from the Esidimeni Life Hospital to NGOs that were not equipped to care for them. One of those who died was the son of a priest in the Diocese of Johannesburg, Canon Joe Maboe. We commended the Bishop of Johannesburg and others who are walking alongside them, and encouraged them to continue to do so.
8) We heard about the ongoing pain of those related to the three employees of the Lily Mine in Barberton who are still trapped underground after a year. We continue to work with the South African Council of Churches to engage with the mine and all those involved.
9) We welcomed the plans of Growing the Church (GtC) to be located in the Dioceses, with the office in Cape Town as a resource and training hub, and committed ourselves to appoint Diocesan GtC Teams to work locally. We started work on identifying the values that should mark Anglican “Fresh Expressions” of Church.
10) We received with appreciation a demonstration of the capabilities of “MyAnglican”, our Provincial Church Management System. This powerful, secure system can keep all our membership records, enable bulk emailing, keep service registers, record parish finances, manage conference registrations and much more (It can be accessed at www.myanglican.org) .
11) We said farewell to Bishop Mazwi Tisani, first Bishop of Khahlamba, who will retire before the next session of Synod of Bishops, and thanked him for his long, faithful and effective service in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.
12) We heard stories about the phenomenon of “Sugar Daddies” and “Blessers” and the vulnerability of young women. We are looking at various resources that will help the church to engage effectively with this social evil.
13) We discussed the Pastoral Guidelines for ministry to those in same-sex relationships, which are still incomplete. We asked Archbishop Thabo to set up a small group of Bishops to work on completing them, together with others who could help the process.
14) We received a request from the Diocese of Angola to change from a Missionary Diocese to a fully-fledged Diocese. This Diocese has grown in numbers and strength and would like to make more of a contribution to the life of ACSA. They are now in 14 of the 18 provinces of Angola, and will soon need to consider multiplication into two Dioceses. We agreed in principle to this request, subject to them submitting the required returns to Provincial Finance Board.
Dear people of God, please commit these things to prayer and offer yourselves to God to serve in God’s mission and ministry. We your Bishops will continue to lead as God’s servants and servants of the church, to the best of our ability.
Now to God who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
The bishops have sent a letter to those affected by Cyclone Dineo in the two dioceses of Mozambique and the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist extending their prayers and concern for the loss of life and devastation caused by the storm.
In a letter written from the Synod of Bishops, they added: “The loss of human lives, livestock and crops is a tragedy to God’s creation. We pray for God’s protection for all vulnerable communities as they seek to recover their losses and rebuild their infrastructure.”
In a resolution the Synod also decided to ask HOPE Africa, in discussion with the affected dioceses, to draft a relief intervention to assist communities and to call on all parishes and dioceses to contribute financial assistance to resource the relief plan.
The blue A5 file containing the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is once again available @ R120 each.
It contains all the amendments to the Canons arising from Provincial Synod 2016.
Supplementary pages for those who already have the file are also available, @ R60 a set.
Orders to email@example.com
News 26 February
State of the nation: Nigerian bishops set six-point agenda for Federal Government
Diocesan Alert: If you have news for the website please email Loraine Tulleken at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Cynthia Botha, Publishing Secretary
Liturgies do not only offer comfort, they also serve to challenge our present context, our assumptions and presuppositions about the world, about others, God and ourselves, as we look forward to Christ’s coming again. Our understanding of God, ourselves and the world change, and with it the way we express ourselves.
Do we have a Prayer Book today which is truly African in form and context? Does it represent the local Southern African situation? To be honest, one would say no. An Anglican Prayer Book, 1989 has been with us more than 25 years now and one may ask – does it really bear witness to the African context? In some areas it is more successful than others.
The process to revise APB 1989 was first proposed by the Synod of Bishops in 2012. The Bishops called for a revision that would deal with the masculine and patriarchal nature of the text, in particular with the masculine pronouns for God and for people that are used throughout APB 1989.
This proposal was taken to Provincial Standing Committee, who amended the proposal to include a thoroughgoing revision of the whole book in order to make it more relevant to and expressive of our Southern African context. This task was given to the ACSA Liturgical Committee. Together with a Prayer Book Revision sub-committee, the process of revision has started.
The first publication in the series of revisions is titled Celebrating Sunday with a sub-title Under Southern Skies in an African Voice and the idea of producing liturgy that is African in the southern hemisphere will govern the process going forward. Who we are and what we are in this Province of the Anglican Communion is important.
The whole revision project is expected to take about 10 years or more to complete.
See Provincial Notices on this website for regular updates on the revision of the Prayer Book
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