Pastoral Letter from the Synod of Bishops – September 2017

27 September 2017

As Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), we met in Synod in Benoni from Monday 25 until Wednesday 27 September 2017. We welcomed among us the Vicar General of Khahlamba, the Revd Canon Moses Madywabe.

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. We met as church leaders who are deeply aware of the challenges facing our churches and communities and the desperate need for leadership of the highest quality. At our opening Eucharist we listened to an inspiring homily on the restoration and transformation of the temple in Jerusalem. The message was that this was the mission of Jesus in the world and if Jesus’ then ours too.

Our meeting coincided with the celebration of 25 years of the ordination of women to the priesthood in ACSA. The celebrations took place in the same venue where the Bishops met. This was a historic, memorable and joyful interaction as we celebrated the Eucharist together to mark the occasion.

The electoral college of the Synod of Bishops was constituted on the first evening of Synod. Names of candidates were considered for the election of a Bishop for the vacant See of the Diocese of Mthatha. After a process of thorough discernment and deliberation, Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe, the Suffragan Bishop of Natal, was elected. Plans are afoot to have the Bishop enthroned on the eve of the Second Sunday in Advent, Saturday 9 December 2017.

The former Bishop of Umzimvubu, Geoff Davies now retired, is to be honoured with the Archbishop’s Peace with Justice Award for his extraordinary contribution to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and to the broader Christian and Interfaith world for the role he played in mobilising churches and communities to act for ecological justice.

Synod also deliberated on the very difficult and painful matter of the situation in the Diocese of Umzimvubu, with which we have wrestled for seven years now and which has involved drawn-out proceedings in the secular courts. In an hour of silent prayer, Synod acknowledged the pain of one of our own and of the whole Diocese. In a tough decision taken with heavy hearts and after much prayer we accepted that the relationship between the Bishop and his Diocese has irrevocably broken down and Synod voted by a two-thirds majority to ask the Bishop of Umzimvubu to vacate his See.

Synod gave attention to a number of areas of mission and ministry in ACSA:

1. The Provincial Secretary Treasurer, Mr Rob Rogerson, gave a presentation on –

  • the Pension Fund “Guidelines/What to do” Checklist
  • the Duties and Responsibilities of Pension Fund Trustees and
  • the need to finalise the Reconstituted Provincial Trusts’ Board

He also gave a feedback on the state of finances at the College of the Transfiguration (COTT). The essence of the feedback concerned the financial viability and sustainability of COTT as an educational institution. After much discussion, the Archbishop challenged the bishops to consider and propose in writing new funding models for the College, and he is constituting a special commission to look at innovative ways of expanding the College’s reach to guarantee its sustainability.

2. A presentation on progress made by the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality was given by the Revd Dr Vicentia Kgabe. The Chairperson of the Commission is the Bishop of Saldanha Bay, Raphael Hess. The Commission consists of six Commissioners and has invited each Diocese to constitute a Diocesan Liaison Team to facilitate the work of the Commission at diocesan level, with the objective that the voices of all will be heard in a consultative process to hear and discern what every Diocese is saying. The mandate of the Commission is to present to Provincial Synod 2019 a proposal enabling the Church “to minister to those in same-sex unions and the LGBTI Community in the context in which ACSA operates in Southern Africa”. This mandate does not rescind the decision of Provincial Synod 2016: it neither assumes that ministry to members of the LGBTI community will include the blessing of same-sex unions, nor does it exclude that possibility, should that be the mind of Provincial Synod 2019. It also directs the Commission to consider the situation of Dioceses outside South Africa, in which there is no provision in law for same-sex unions. The mandate is in line with the injunction of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and Provincial Synod 2002 to listen to the views of the LGBTI community, and in particular with that part of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 which “calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.” The Commission asked for prayers for its work and the members of the Commission.

We appeal to members of ACSA and the Communion please to commit these matters 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.

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17 Responses to Pastoral Letter from the Synod of Bishops – September 2017

  • How it hurts to see that our fellow leaders are pushing this same-sex agenda so hard to pass in 2019, it clearly seems our church has lost leadership. One can only hope we don’t follow the episcopal church in USA and Scotland.

    • One of the gifts of the 21st century is a growing awareness that human sexual orientation exists on a continuum, and that we are all deserving of God’s love without discrimination.

    • The only lost leadership is the one that chooses not to embrace continues to marginalise the very people its called reach out to.

  • The same sex marriages debate is become an issue within our church.
    The bible is clear that a woman shall live her parents house and to her man
    In the book of 1st corinthians the author who was an apostle is clear that man who sleep with other man wont pass the gates of heaven
    This indicates that the same sex marraiges are sinful and unpure
    Our church can not condone such thing

  • The same sex marriages debate is become an issue within our church.
    The bible is clear that a woman shall live her parents house and to her man
    In the book of 1st corinthians the author who was an apostle is clear that man who sleep with other man wont pass the gates of heaven
    This indicates that the same sex marraiges are sinful and unpure
    Our church can not condone such thing

    • The bible is also very clear on many other things you very obviously seem to ignore. Perhaps you might want to check your plate the next time you eat at ocean basket or the next time you get dressed in the morning wearing clothes with mixed linens. (See the rest of Leviticus 18)

      Leviticus says not to eat shellfish (Lev. 11:9-12), use mixed seed or fabrics (Lev. 19:19), harvest the corners of fields (Lev. 19:9), and that homosexuality is wrong (Lev. 18:22; 20:13). If homosexuality is wrong because Leviticus says so, then shouldn’t we also obey the other laws about shellfish, seed, fabrics, and fields because that is in Leviticus as well? If not, then why not? Why would Christians pick and choose what parts of the Bible to follow?

      Perhaps the same gates of heaven might be closed to you too.

    • AMEN +AMEN

  • God is great for The Diocese of Umzimvubu, really we experienced the Historically of Isreals being in Desert, what it is mean.

    I so wish The Bishop can respect and accept the decision so that we can praise God in peace now,

    May God be with You

  • I believe that we need to explore more understanding & educate at every level on this perntenient issues facing human sexuality. The gospel of Jesus Christ is revolutionary & radical not to suit our opinions & preferences. We must be relevant as the church in this 21st century.. I think that we want to maintain the status quo & also want to be politically correct, with regard to race, with need to look at merit, gifting & most importantly authentic, integral Leadership to lead God’s Kingdom His Church.

  • So sad about some of the above replies. Pls can we leave room for God’s Holy Spirit to do God’s work amongst us as discerned by our Bishops, and be open to learn more facts before we prejudge what we don’t know by misquoting biblical texts… Praying for more open hearts…

  • Let us agree that God was wrong when he destroyed Gomora and Sodoma bible is against same sex marriage

    • But if one looks at the Lot story, it speaks of gang rape of men by men. It does not speak about same sex marriage.

      Gen 19:4 ESV But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.”

    • God may not have destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality. Consider that it could have been due to immoral living, rape, lack of hospitality( a big no no in those days, so much so that Lot was prepared to send his daughters out to be raped, to save his”visitors’)) theft, worship of false gods, child sacrifice, adultury?

      I believe God judges as he loves. We are only asked to love. Sometimes we need to to remove the mote from our own w eyes. Who of us can caste the first stone?

  • Dear Bishops , we welcome your decisions and we will continue to uphold you in our prayers so that God may guide you to pull this church out of Leadership crisis.The problems which diocese of Umzimvubu had are also there in other parts of the province. So I pray that God continues to empower you to excise your ministry even beyond the borders of Republic of South Africa

    • It is a huge concern to me that monarchical bishops wield such power over their dioceses and that as Fr Sello says, there are dioceses elsewhere where similar problems to those in Umzimvubu are occurring. I know of one such case where the bishop was found by the College of Bishops to have been very heavy-handed in his relations with his clergy, yet nothing was actually done. Are these issues being dealt with firmly with concern for the people, as well as the bishop.?

  • We welcome the decision that you took about the crisis of the Diocese of Umzimvubu. This is all by God’s grace. We will continue to pray for Unity and ask God to bring all those who had been against us to come and join us to rebuild our Diocese together. We will also continue to pray for Bishop Ngewu and his family. He is the child of God and our brother.

  • May God of mercy and peace be with us at the Diocese of Umzimvubu .We need prayers ,for us to focus and serve the Almighty with dignity and gratitude. GOD BLESS US.

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