This was a wonderful meeting for giving legs to our discussions’ said Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba on Friday. ‘We’ve talked the talk about vision, mission, and priorities; we’ve talked about theology and serving God’s world. Now we’re getting on with walking the walk.’
Dr Makgoba was speaking at the end of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s Provincial Standing Committee (PSC). Nearly ninety bishops, clergy and lay people, representing ACSA’s 28 Dioceses, gathered to implement and take forward decisions of the church’s triennial Provincial Synod. They met, with invited guests, at the St George Hotel and Conference Centre near Pretoria, from 26 to 28 September.
‘Our focus was making our vision and mission statement concrete’ said the Archbishop of Cape Town. ‘To help us, we sought theological input and practical wisdom about the state of our world. We were delighted to hear Bishop Graham Cray, Archbishops’ Missioner in the Church of England talk about “Fresh Expressions”, imaginative initiatives for developing authentically Anglican congregations for those who do not connect with traditional ways of worshipping. South African Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, presenting the National Development Plan 2030, provided a stimulating framework for understanding the economic and socio-political challenges of our region.’ Dr Makgoba said that the church shared many of the Plan’s ethical assumptions, as well as its objectives to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality.
The meeting also evaluated many existing activities. Dr Makgoba stressed ‘Education is one of our top priorities, both within the church, and for transforming our nations,’ which include Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and St Helena alongside South Africa. A panel of church leaders discussed developments in theological education, promoting the ‘People of the Way’ bible studies, and strengthening initiatives with schools. ‘I am delighted we affirmed support for developing the Vuleka school network in northern Johannesburg’ said Dr Makgoba. He recalled that the church has declared 2013 the ‘Year of Theological Education’ with special focus on redeveloping its theological training at the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown.
Retired Bishop Geoff Davies gave a challenging presentation on ‘The Spirituality of the Environment’. Bishop Martin Breytenbach spoke about how the ‘Anglicans Ablaze’ celebration in the first week of October, would be the largest gathering of Southern African Anglicans in living memory. Group discussions on these and other key priority areas brought broad policy objectives into debate with the breadth of delegates’ experiences on the ground. A number of resolutions followed, from the meeting, including on youth, women and gender, environment, public advocacy, health, inter-Church relations and liturgy. Other resolutions addressed the budget and practical matters, including keeping down escalating meeting and travel costs, for example through better use of technology.
The Bishops presented their continuing reflections around providing pastoral guidelines to the church in relation to same-gender civil unions. Noting the broad a range of views within the church, Bishop Martin Breytenbach urged delegates ‘Let us continue to journey together’, and Bishop Peter Lee called for deeper, more reflective, listening and debate. Delegates were asked to promote thoughtful consultations in dioceses and parishes, and to bring feedback to Provincial Synod in 2013.
‘One of the great highlights of our meeting was the celebration of twenty years of women’s ordination to the priesthood’ said Dr Makgoba with a broad smile. ‘We were delighted to have Bishop Barbara Harris, the first woman Bishop in the Anglican Communion, to preach at our opening Eucharist. She may be 82 years old, but she powerfully stirred us up to follow the risen Jesus Christ!’ He noted that, while PSC had been preceded by a meeting of the all-male Synod of Bishops, there had simultaneously been a conference of women clergy. This was attended both by Bishop Barbara and Revd Ellinah Wamukoya, who will become the first female Anglican Bishop on the whole African continent, when she is consecrated Bishop of Swaziland on 17 November. Two other bishops-elect, Ven Steve Moreo, of the Diocese of Johannesburg, and Revd Steven Letloenyane, of the Diocese of the Free State were also welcomed at PSC.
Worship and prayer, as well as times of fellowship over coffee breaks and meals, were an essential element of the meeting, said the Archbishop. ‘All of these enable us to grow closer to God and closer to one another, as we together to be faithful and obedient to our Christian calling.’ After adding his own tribute to the meeting’s retirement wishes to Bishops Brian Germond of Johannesburg and Merwyn Castle of False Bay, Dr Makgoba ended by saying. ‘We give thanks to God for a meeting full of joy and encouragement, hosted by Bishop Jo Seoka and the Diocese of Pretoria, and held in the beautiful surroundings of St George’s, with the blessing of both sunshine and refreshing rain.’
Issued by the Office of the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
Inquiries: Ms Wendy Kelderman 021 763 1320 (office hours)