Excerpts from the Bishops’ Communiqué

The September 2023 session of the Church’s Synod of Bishops issued a detailed Communiqué on its deliberations, covering matters ranging from theological education, liturgical renewal and Safe and Inclusive Church to Anglicans Ablaze, chaplains to the South African security services and the state of the Anglican Communion.

The full text of the Communiqué can be found here: Communiqué from the Synod Of Bishops

However, excerpts on matters of wider public and lay interest follow:

Technology and Ethics

The Archbishop’s Commission on Technology and Ethics produced three arresting pillars for action. The Right Revd Vikinduku Mnculwane, Bishop of Zululand and chair of the commission, articulated the importance of:

1. Developing technological infrastructure in each Diocese for communication and to close the digital divide;

2. Educating our people to develop their digital literacy; and

3. Developing, as part of our missional platform, codes of conduct for using the new technology.

The theological implications of the technology and ethics commission were recognised as an important facet of this work. A theological framework is to be developed to deal with digital technology and the deep philosophical, ethical and theological questions it raises. We asked the question: What does it mean to be a human being in the light of the phenomenal development of artificial intelligence (AI)?

Human Dignity

Bishop Raphael Hess presented the report of a Synod sub-group on Human Dignity (which included the Church’s thinking on human sexuality). This presentation was probably the most significant achievement of the Bishops in the 20-year conversation seeking to develop “Pastoral guidelines for persons in civil unions”. Sixteen draft prayers developed by the sub-group of four Bishops, reflecting varying emphases, were accepted for incorporation into the Dean of the Province’s report to the Provincial Standing Committee.

The draft Pastoral Guidelines and Prayers are to be sent to Dioceses to comment on and report back to the Synod of Bishops by mid-January 2024. An enabling motion shall be put before the Provincial Standing Committee to endorse the Bishops’ decision to send to Dioceses. Inputs from members of our Church, including comments and questions, should be sent to the Provincial Executive Officer for further processing. The February 2024 meeting of the Synod of Bishops will reflect once more on the process of reception of the Prayers in Dioceses and by mid-May 2024 a resolution will be prepared to place before Provincial Synod in September 2024.

Youth Unemployment

The Right Revd Dr Vicentia Kgabe, convener of the Archbishop’s Commission on Youth Unemployment, urged the Bishops to encourage our leaders to be the voice of our youth and act to break the cycle of youth unemployment. The church must seek to actively involve young people in its work and ensure their participation in the economy by creating youth development projects and programmes such as making the vestments used in our parishes. We should also audit and list their skills with a view to making use of them in our Dioceses.

Western Cape floods

The Bishops heard from the Bishops of the three Western Cape Dioceses on the unseasonal, destructive weather patterns emerging in the Western Cape. The Vicar-General of the Diocese of False Bay reported that thousands of homes had been flooded, and in informal settlements many homes containing everything families owned had been swept away. (The Vicar-General’s Pastoral Statement to the Diocese is attached.)

Full text: Communiqué from the Synod Of Bishops