Kindly be advised that after the 5th ballot, the clergy and representatives of the laity of the Diocese of Mthatha decided today to delegate to the Bishops of the Church of this Province the power of choosing their next Bishop.
Please do continue to pray for the Diocese of Mthatha. – The Venerable Horace Arenz, Provincial Executive Officer
An Elective Assembly will choose a successor to the retiring Bishop of Mthatha, the Right Revd Sithembele Mzamane, this week.
Please pray for the Elective Assembly and for the candidates nominated for election:
- The Revd Canon Bonginkosi Justice Mditshane – Rector of St Alphage, Gxulu;
- The Revd Jemuel Tembinkosi Ngombane – Rector of St Andrew’s, Ngangelizwe;
- The Very Revd Mcibesi Pinayana – Dean of the Diocese of Mthatha and Vicar-General.
The text of the sermon preached by the Revd N Barney Pityana at the funeral of Emma Mashinini:
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him
in Hebrew ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher).”
John 20: 16
Today we are gathered at this Cathedral Church of St Alban, the Martyr, Pretoria to mourn the loss of a dear soul, a mother to countless younger people and women in our country over a very long time, a mentor to many, and an exemplar of an extraordinary and gifted life. That she was popularly known to all and sundry as “Mama Emma” was no misnomer or an empty attribution of respect. It was deeply meant to all who felt so moved to name her, and it came out their experience and love of her.
But the inevitable has happened. Mama Emma is no more. Her children mourn, we mourn. This nation mourns, flags fly at half-mast as a sign of respect. Our hearts are troubled. And so it should be. She was one of a kind, so generous in her readiness to share her maternal instinct, so giving materially to any who were in need, so fulfilled in her love and readiness to love; and just as colourful and elegant in her dress sense, and so particular about how she presented herself. She was always an elegant lady – a revolutionary in stilettoes! She was a loving mother to her family, a community activist and among friends she was a faithful friend and neighbor. To her intimate friends she was simply, “Tiny!”
Mama Mashinini was surely all of that and more. We need to bear in mind that we dare not categorise her in a linear fashion. She is perhaps better known as a feisty trade unionist, a formidable activist for social justice. In our church she was a struggle heroine, one who lived the values of the gospel, and in whose life prayer she was an anchor that held together one’s diverse characters, and in worship she found her being as a child of God.
For us as the human family, death and dying produces a flood of emotions and ambiguity. There is the loving embrace of our mother and all that she represented, her teachings, her smile, and favourite food, and her loving ways, and moments of anger and dispute, of suffering and of triumph, in sickness and in health. It is about the good life in its totality. For that we remember her, and we thank God for her.
That is the life we celebrate. And yet, or because of it, there is also a profound sense of loss and bereavement. The inevitable has happened, and what we would, if we could have delayed as long as possible, comes into full cycle. We mourn, and all manner of emotions become hard to ward off and keep away. Forgetting is not an option, embracing in love, and the attraction of that which we might not have wished becomes our comforter. The one who is no more is forever present; our loss is our gain, because the one who is no more continues to live in us. Her memory is what comforts us. We desire to know that which we are conscious of as unknowable. We push the boundaries of knowledge, and we ask questions that are unanswerable.
Wits University social scientist, Achille Mbembe, puts this very well in a recent book, A CRITIQUE OF BLACK REASON, when he says, talking about race and which I translate into the experience of mourning and bereavement, that the experience of separation, of putting away, of loss is hardly that which we wish, but one that is to be expected as inevitable. It is not just forgetting or locking up our consciousness into an iron cage. It feels us with a profound and physiological pain and suffering, a bitter-sweet memory and remembering. We wish we could have done more, we cannot avoid at times the feelings of regret, and we wonder about the possibility of the impossible. This loss is an obscure feeling and that which we do not acknowledge. It is obscure and shadowy, expressed in mourning and melancholia – and, in his words, it is a desire for the obscure and unreachable desire, a nostalgia for that which is doomed to disappear.
In reality it is that sense of loss that produces the spirit of rebellion, of outrage, of freedom, and of the contemplation and overcoming of that which might have been, but is no more. It is the imagination that makes many of the questions we harbor ultimately meaningless, and we embrace the limitations of thought and understanding, an imagination “that it escapes the limitations of the concrete, of what is sensed, of the finite…” It is in the power of the imagination that we hold the possibility of memory or of reunion with that elusive past.
In the gospel reading from John’s Gospel, the first thing that we note so powerfully, is that the passage begins with “But…” The New Testament does that to signify a turning point, a change in the narrative – the unexpected, if you like, against the flow of the story. There is a turning point in the texture of the narrative, in meanings and imaginings. Having been thus prepared to expect the unexpected, we are swiftly drawn to the mind of the characters: Mary Magdelene, the disciples, the angelic figures – and the absent Jesus who becomes present, but no longer entombed. We are aware especially, of the persistent the human questions, the frustration of not knowing, that preoccupy the mind of Mary Magdelene: they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him. No answers are forthcoming. These are questions without answers, or that are unanswerable.
Mary Magdelene was at the tomb early to perform the burial rituals associated with the ones one loved dearly. She got there early “while it was still dark.” She saw that the stone had been removed. She then runs to report this strange happening to the elders: was it suspicious? Was it supernatural? It was sufficiently worrying and disturbing for her to notice as to raising it with everyone she came across. She then makes this remarkable observation: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have placed him” (20:2). They (the apostles/disciples) then accompany her back to the burial place, and their “seeing” is a little bit more that that which Mary herself had seen first time round, and from which she had come to the conclusion that “they had taken away our Lord”. They ‘saw’ the linen wrappings. “They saw and believed”. Strange that is. Instead of producing or confirming what must have been their lingering doubts, instead it confirmed their faith. What that faith was, the writer does not tell us.
But for Mary that was not the end. She stood there, helpless, weeping, flooding in her own thoughts and imaginings. Looking into the tomb, she could now “see” more than they had previously seen: two angels in white were occupying the place where Jesus had been. In response to their enquiry about her distress, she repeats her previous observation and puzzlement: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” For Mary there is this puzzling “they”. There is a cognitive distance between those who belonged to Jesus and who were mourning his death, and “the others” who are not part of their community, and they could do such a dastardly deed. All she wanted was to know where the body might be so that she could do the rituals that were a duty of care and of love. She is deeply puzzled, but does not have any answers.
In her state of utter confusion she then turns around and she “sees” Jesus standing there. She recognized him without the certainty of knowing who he was. She reckoned that he was the:”gardener”. She supposes that he is the caretaker of the cemetery, she sweeps aside the direct question that is asked, and she shoots back with her own questions: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” This is a bold response, and one that could have got her into trouble because this Jesus had been convicted of treason. It is a moment of identification with a felon, a moment of commitment. She put her cards on the table. She thus laid her own soul bare.
At that moment, Jesus says to her “Mary” and she replied, “Rabbouni!”(I can imagine that this was instinctively). She did not have to think, and she might have even surprised herself. She replied “Rabbouni!” that is to say, “Teacher!” That was his identity. That is how he was known. That was his self-disclosure. One can imagine a moment, or a split second of mutual identification. For her, it could have been both relief, and fear, and shock. But it was also a time of joy, of recognition, of overcoming. This was “the Rabbouni!” the Teacher. There is the confidence, and joy of knowing. That is all. What she had been enquiring about was right there in front of her eyes. What had been was no more. None of the earthly deeds and rituals of love and respect were necessary any more. Jesus had defied the inevitable. The tomb could not contain him. He had transgressed the bondage of human nature. He had transcended the power of confinement.
I imagine that Mary could not believe her eyes. The immediate, human response was to touch, hold, embrace, but Jesus held back, “I have not ascended to the Father…” For him, his moment of Glory was not yet. It was a case of “already” but “not yet”! A difficult state and condition for Mary surely to take in. She had to live with this incomplete knowing because she could not exercise all her senses as she had wished. Instead she was sent to the disciples with the message: “I am ascending to the Father, to my God and your God” (20:17). She saw with her own eyes, heard his voice, but could not touch him. How then could she confirm that indeed he had risen? The hardest thing at times for human nature is to accept that which we do not know, and we dare to know that which is unknowable.
As we all know, out of this Biblical episode, has been built a whole theology of the Resurrection. It states that the Jesus of the flesh, of history, had become the Christ of faith; that the evil of the world could not triumph. That would not have been possible without a profound sense of the imagination. It is the imagination that takes one out of one’s body, out of one’s skin. It is the imagination that stretches the capacity to envision that which had hitherto not been possible, and to dare or confront the possible with the unknowing. In some ways that is what makes human believing such an exciting thing.
I am suggesting that the generation of the likes of Emma Mashinini. a Johannesburg girl born into the obscure life of apartheid South Africa; a worker at a very young age, whose future might have been confined by the rigidity of the race laws, oppressed by the limitations apartheid dished out to her, hemmed in on all sides by cultures and customs of patriarchy. In many respects apartheid was a tomb – there to be forgotten and finished only to be at the mercy of one’s loved ones for whom rituals of life and passage have meaning, and make us human. There would have been a moment, I am sure, when it dawned on her that she was not to live her life in totality in the sphere of the garment worker, or as a mere chattel of men and circumstance. She was a liberated woman. She became the Mary Magdelene who knocked on doors, asked the uncomfortable questions, sought unpleasant answers, pushed the boundaries between life and death. She it was who brought the men-elders to “see” for themselves what she had seen. She it was who confronted the angels, and to the man who greeted her “Mary!” she made the connection between life and death. She knew who he was. “Teacher!” she cried.
Emma Mashinini was always looking beyond, challenging the present to produce outcomes of hope and of human nurturing. She represents for me that movement some of us associate with, of Christian socialists who believe that the sharing equitably the resources of God’s world will produce more holistic and more flourishing human communities. And so she did not shy away from the calling to struggle against all forms of injustice, to have a hand in building a workers movement in our country, and to the church to bring to bear the good news of justice and peace. That life was from beginning to end a life of struggle. I am struck by the fact that she embraced, in all the episodes of her life: as a mother and a worker, in the trade union work, in the women’s movement, and as a church worker, her time at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and at the Commission for the Restitution of Land Rights where she ended her working life – she brought a vibrancy, vitality and a challenge that made the purveyors of lies, and bullies to shake in their boots. And so, she led workers into strikes for a just wage and more humane working conditions, and in the church she was among those who campaigned for the ordination of women. In this Cathedral Parish I remember that she persistently persuaded the then Dean to open a branch of the Mothers’ Union! As was the case in the Christian socialist movement, and the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement it was never possible to separate the various phases of one’s life. They held together like the Trinity – indivisible and integral to the art of being human. Her world was shaped by the struggle for justice, and by life and faith.
Now, we all know that the country that Emma Mashinini lived and would have died for is in deep pain. It is pain that has been inflicted by some of her comrades. It is pain and hurt caused by selfishness and greed, and blatant violations of all that is sacred in the struggles of the working class. Day by day, with each passing day, service delivery protests by community activists even to the point of death by Andries Tatane confronting the might of a police state, the workers at Marikana are killed by police bullets while protesting against the injustice of slave wages, with each day that women and girl-children are found dead, raped or sexually molested in our communities and at our university campuses; with each day that the poor go hungry at night, and homeless, to name only a few of the atrocities that have become part of the daily grind of our lives in South Africa today, Emma Mashinini would be there as a reminder that it should not be like that. Her association with Corruption Watch and CASAC, and Save South Africa speak to her ongoing commitment to find a better world. In our church she stood out and spoke against any form of injustice.
Any society without any moral order, and for whom moral agency was a threat and not an opportunity, is a society bereft of any real sense of right and wrong. In fact, I would go further and say that such a society ideologises that which is evil and seeks to present evils ways as justifiable and necessary. Such a moral order produces a less caring society where we no longer serve as our brother or sister’s keeper, but where selfishness becomes a credo of life. Moral agency ensures consistency in the application of standards, and that at the end, make sure that no one is left behind, makes it possible to have reasonable expectation in life and ensure accountability. That is the world that Mama Emma wished to leave behind in South Africa. Much has been done to undermine that dream, but the question is what are we doing to confront the evil that confines us to the margins, as if we do not matter. That “Mary” moment, that moment of reckoning must come to us too.
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” and she turned and said to him in Hebrew “Rabbouni!” May the spirit of Emma Mashinini bind us together; may truth and justice prevail.
N Barney Pityana GCOB
Cathedral Church of St Alban, the Martyr
Pretoria, 15 July 2017.
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa admitted Emma Mashinini to the Order of Simon of Cyrene at Provincial Synod last September. After her death this week, the citation is an eloquent tribute which helps us to celebrate her life:
If anyone meets the criteria set out by the House of Bishops for the award of the Order of Simon of Cyrene to a Lay member of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Mrs Emma Thandi Mashinini is one such and thus truly worthy of receiving this award. Indeed, on reflection the award is long overdue.
All Christians by virtue of their baptism are admitted into a community of believers who are called, after the example of Jesus Christ, to servanthood. The Order of Simon of Cyrene takes its inspiration from the one who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus and we are all called to “bear one another’s burdens”.
Emma Thandi Mashinini, or the “Tiny Giant” as she is fondly referred to, was born in Rosettenville, Johannesburg, in 1929 and attended the Bantu Secondary School in Sophiatown. At the age of 14, she was forced to drop out of school and go to work due to domestic circumstances. In Soweto she was a member of the Parish of Holy Cross in Orlando West where she was also a member of the choir. Mama Emma regards the church as her stronghold.
In 1956, she took on a full-time job working in the Henochsberg’s clothing factory and there joined the Garment Workers’ Union (GWU). Later, when it was rendered difficult for blacks and whites to belong to the same trade unions (although not unlawful!), she became active in the National Union of Clothing Workers whose General Secretary and leading light was Mrs Lucy Mvubelo. That meant that this union of predominantly black women became a satellite union of GWU. She was elected shop steward by her co-workers in 1970 and was later appointed floor supervisor by management. In this capacity, she fought to improve the working conditions of the employees. In standing up to a labour system that disadvantaged black women in particular, she achieved one of her greatest victories – the breaking of job reservation at Henochsberg’s. Her union was able to negotiate better working hours, wage increases and the right of workers to have unemployment insurance. She was elected to the National Executive Committee of the National Union of Clothing Workers (NUCW).
In 1975, Mrs Mashinini resigned from Henochsberg’s and took up a position as president of a new union that she had helped to establish, the Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (CCAWUSA). Despite a slow start, the union had 1 000 members by 1977 and, within five years, had opened offices in Durban and Cape Town. By this time, CCAWUSA was the second largest union in the country behind the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). She is very proud that during her time as President of CCAWUSA her union was among the founding affiliates of COSATU in 1985.
In 1986, under the influence of then Bishop Desmond Tutu, who was Bishop of Johannesburg, but previously General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Emma Mashinini took up a position as Head of the CPSA’s Department of Justice and Reconciliation, in which role she worked alongside the likes of Sheena Duncan, and the SACCs Dependant’s Conference. She valued the opportunity given to her by the church to serve in this capacity, and it added to her own role as an active member of the Mothers’ Union in her parish. In this role she dealt closely with the families of detainees who had been incarcerated during the state of emergency.
From 1993 to 1995, she served as deputy chairperson of the National Manpower Commission, a state body under the Department of Labour at that time. She was appointed Commissioner for the Restitution of Land Rights, with responsibility for the Province of Gauteng. Emma Mashinini is a patron of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) and is also a founder member of both United Cerebral Palsy and of the women’s stokvel “Be United”.
Mama Mashinini has been widely recognised at home and abroad for her sterling contribution to justice and equality, and for her support of the struggles of the people. Perhaps the most prestigious of these is the Order of Luthuli (bronze) awarded by the President of the Republic of South Africa in the National Honours Awards 2007. In 2012 the University of South Africa conferred on her the D Litt et D Phil honoris causa.
Mama Emma has been a lifelong, dedicated, faithful and active member of the Anglican Church. As a Christian she has given sterling public service to the benefit of others – as a trade unionist, a community worker and as a member of the Mothers Union. Mrs Mashinini has been a fighter for justice not just for the workers, but also for gender equality, and land rights. It is therefore, as a courageous campaigner for justice, and as a faithful Christian that the Anglican Church acknowledges her contribution in the most fitting manner available to the church.
Wife, mother, factory worker, trade unionist, leader and role model; fearless and unrelenting fighter for equal rights in the workplace, a social justice campaigner, as much as a human and gender rights activist. The indomitable Ma Emma, the “Tiny Giant”, now in her eighties, continues to uplift many a person in the new environment of South Africa, giving hope to many and a role model to younger generations.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is to publish a memoir in October, recalling his upbringing and early ministry – and ending with an account of his prayer ministry with Nelson Mandela for the last five years of the stateman’s life.
The memoir – entitled “Faith and Courage: Praying with Mandela” – will be published by Tafelberg.
He discussed the book with Anglican World, the magazine published by the Anglican Communion Office in London, in its latest edition.
Further details of the book will be posted on this site when available from Tafelberg. Anglican World is available here.
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.