Statement by the Synod of Bishops

Statement by the Synod of Bishops

Of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa

February 2011

LEADERSHIP IN OUR TIMES

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. (Mark 10:45)

We, the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, meeting at Mariannhill in the Diocese of Natal from 7-12 February 2011, greet our people throughout Southern Africa in the Name of the Lord – in that great sweep from the north of Angola on the west coast of Africa to Tristan da Cunha in the south, and from there to the border between Mozambique and Tanzania in the east.

Leadership

Our theme at this Synod has been leadership, and we took time to reflect on our own roles and ministries as bishops, and our need to be effective leaders in these days of rapid change.

We have also discussed the leadership required of our clergy, and the spiritual formation, theological and pastoral education required for their work. We heard an assessment of the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown from the Revd Professor Barney Pityana, the College’s new rector, and we are considering the consequences of his report as we plan for the future of the College.

We are also keenly aware that leadership in the Church is exercised not only by the ordained. Training in good leadership and stewardship is required at every level of the Church – from the trustees of the Province to the chapelry council of the most remote congregation. We commit ourselves afresh to be, as bishops, the trainers of the trainers of the people of God.

Governance and Public Policy in South Africa

We were privileged on Wednesday 9 February to receive for dinner, King Goodwill Zwelethini and Queen Thandi, members of our church (Queen Thandi is a member of the Mothers’ Union). The King is well known for his leadership on key issues, especially those of HIV and AIDS, and we appreciated hearing him speak in person about them. We congratulate the King on entering the 40th anniversary year of his accession and we commend him, with the royal family and the Zulu people, to the grace of God.

On Thursday 10 February many of us watched President Jacob Zuma of South Africa give his State of the Nation address. We wish to assure the President and his government of our support in the work of governing South Africa, and in providing for the needs of all our people without lining the pockets of the few.

We welcome the President’s many undertakings for the future while sharing the widespread concern across the nation about the ongoing gap between promise and delivery. The words of Bongokuhle Miya which the President quoted should haunt every public employee in South Africa – ‘If the government, which is doing very well, could just pay more attention, with a bit of urgency to such areas.’

We also welcome the President’s commitment to combat corruption – what is often now known as ‘systematised and structuralised corruption’.

The poor are all too evidently still with us and, after years of principled struggle for justice and the common good, we do not accept that their lives must remain forever as they are.

As we see the local elections looming in South Africa, we reiterate our commitment to peace and to the democratic process at the local level. We are disturbed at reports of running fights in some of our communities between the supporters of competing political candidates, and even within the same parties. We dread what may happen when the parties start to face each other, unless restraint prevails. We call on political parties to campaign with dignity and discipline, and with due regard for the constitutional rights of all our citizens, including the right to hold differing opinions. No politician should demonise another. No political organisation has a divine right to public support.

Climate Change

The 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP 17) will take place in Durban this year. This affords another dimension of the search for the good of all and we implore world leaders not to miss another opportunity to address climate change and its impact on livelihoods.

The Nations of Southern Africa

Once again we wish to urge high standards of ethical conduct and principled leadership upon all public leaders in all the countries which make up our Province of Southern Africa. We continue to be concerned, for example, about repressive conditions in Swaziland and we call for open dialogue between the government and civil society to decide the future of that country.

Africa and the Middle East

Further afield we pray that leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and the Sudan may offer servant leadership in the crises in their respective countries. We have written fraternal letters to Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt and Archbishop Deng of the Sudan and have held them in our prayers together during our meeting.

Our Archbishop’s Role

Returning to the Church, we wish to affirm the developing leadership of our Metropolitan, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. In addition to visiting many dioceses and fielding a multitude of issues, Archbishop Thabo travels internationally to speak on faith in the public sphere and to promote dialogue and bridge-building, even now in Israel-Palestine.

We are in unanimous support of the Archbishop’s attendance at Anglican Communion meetings. We urge the leaders of the Anglican Church in Africa not to abdicate leadership of the Communion to the First World.

Human Sexuality and Civil Unions

At home Archbishop Thabo has taken a lead in bringing concerns to us from the dioceses in the Western Cape concerning the pastoral care of persons who have entered into civil unions or are considering doing so. This is not a matter of legitimising same-sex unions but of care for worshippers who are already in them. Our Church does not consider any relationship to be marriage unless it is the historic relationship of a man and a woman uniting, ideally for life.

We reiterate that we do not regard sexuality as a church-dividing issue. We continue to draw upon our experience of holding together by the grace of Christ in a time of acute tension and disagreement in this subcontinent, as a basis for our work and for a possible bridging role in the tensions in the Anglican Communion.

It is difficult to give blanket guidelines because the position is starkly at variance in the legal systems of the seven countries where we work.

We continue to work on creating guidelines in several areas of difficulty raised by the issue of civil unions. A draft for discussion in dioceses is in development. However, we note that guidelines in other areas could also be useful – such as supporting and acknowledging those who choose celibate singleness in their Christian discipleship, whether pending future marriage or for life.

Lausanne III Congress

On a wider front we rejoice in having had the 3rd Lausanne Congress in Cape Town recently – a body which has long exercised leadership for good in the broadly evangelical Christian community worldwide – at least since 1974. We rejoice that Anglicans from Southern Africa and elsewhere played key leadership roles in the Congress and that Archbishop Thabo was able to attend some of the Congress events.

The Church in Mozambique

One of the greatest but least known stories of leadership over many years has been the heroic ministry of our Church in Mozambique, embodied supremely in the person of Bishop Dinis Sengulane. In times of war, of disease and of post war reconstruction – and now in face of new challenges such as human trafficking – our church in Mozambique has played a sacrificial role in ministry and in church expansion. Now both the Dioceses of Lebombo and Niassa are raising the possibility of reconstituting themselves into several new dioceses and we are considering how best to enable this to happen.

Internal Disputes in the Church

We are deeply grieved at the breakdown of pastoral leadership in and loyalty to our Church, reflected in isolated disputes reported from a number of places in the Province. Some of these have borne ugly fruit in inappropriate and costly court actions and in one case, in a series of disgraceful electronic mails. All of this is utterly beyond the framework of godly dispute resolution in the Church, especially given the extensive work invested in recent years to reinforce due process and fairness in our procedures. We must take account of this in our leadership training procedures.

Conclusion

We also join in the prayers and petitions of all and wish Madiba, our beloved former president, and his family God’s peace at this time.

With these concerns and words of encouragement, and always seeking to follow the light and example of Christ, we commend you to the grace of God.

The Bishops of the Province

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