Dear People of God
I am writing this Ad Laos as soldiers of the South African National Defence Force deploy in our communities to help deal with the emergency precipitated by the spiralling violence in our Church’s – and South Africa’s – beautiful mother city of Cape Town.
The decision to call in the army in response to the desperate pleas of residents who do not know where to turn after years and years of escalating drug-pushing, gangsterism and violence – demonstrated shockingly by the killing of six young people on one day, and five the next – is a judgement on us all. We should not have to be calling for the intervention of troops to deal with crime: that is the duty of the police, for whom the use of force is a last resort. If the police had been successfully investigating and prosecuting crime, with the help of communities – including the people of our and other churches, we would not be at this point.
But this is now where we are, facing the dangers that come with using soldiers for police work. I read that the troops involved are from an infantry division with experience in peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I pray that it means they will be hesitant to use force before it is absolutely necessary. As I have said in the media, in this deployment the army must follow police rules of engagement and use minimum force as a very last resort. If disproportionate force is used, angering the community, there is a real prospect of people losing the last vestiges of their faith in the authorities, which could lead to vigilantism and the complete breakdown of any kind of law and order.
As the army goes about its work, it is desperately urgent for the police to resolve their leadership issues in the Western Cape and to use the resources freed up by the use of the army to focus on investigating the violence thoroughly, arresting perpetrators and bringing them, the gangsters and the drug dealers to justice. Once the immediate crisis is addressed, the way to go is to focus on policing, with our help, not to use the military. Panic and fear are legitimate responses but are not useful – all of us, in all communities, need rather to direct our energies on dealing with the economic and social issues that are the root causes of this emergency.
August is Women’s Month and we have also in the past observed it as the Month of Compassion. I appeal to all to focus on how our individual parishes and communities can mobilise intentional prayer for an end of our economic woes, crime and hunger, and let us never undermine the importance of acts of charity, such as feeding people, in combating the challenge of crime. Above all, we cannot say that this crisis does not affect me and so remain indifferent to it. Nor should we be so scared that we forget that even in such trying times God, through Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, is at work, using us, protecting us and walking with us in our pain.
In the wider church in Southern Africa, it is election season in my pastoral and archiepiscopal role in our Province. An elective assembly in the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, which covers the far north of South Africa, has just filled the vacancy left by the departure of Bishop Martin Breytenbach, who has retired to Cape Town. We congratulate Dean Luke Pretorius of St Mark’s on his election as bishop.
Following the assembly, which was convened in Tzaneen in Limpopo, I visited the Diocese of Zululand to consult with the diocese and interested parties on its readiness to hold an elective assembly to fill the vacancy for a bishop there. Please soak that diocese in your prayers as we discern the way ahead.
And in Cape Town, as I write this the diocese is praying for the elective assembly convened for the end of July to elect a bishop suffragan, the Bishop of Table Bay. By the time you read this, I very much hope we will have elected the new bishop. Right now I am praying for the diocese and all who have offered their names for the assembly to discern the individual whom God is calling to be God’s faithful shepherd to lead God’s flock at this time. We thank God for this responsibility and look forward soon to a consecration and installation service during which we can give thanks for the shepherd so chosen.
There is still a vacancy in the Diocese of Mzimvubu, on the border between the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, after an elective assembly was unable to elect a new bishop. As provided for in the Church’s Canons, if no candidate can secure the requisite number of votes at an assembly, the choice of a bishop is delegated to the Synod of Bishops. Please pray for Mzimvubu as the synod elects the new bishop for that diocese in September. And pray also for Bishop Adam Taaso of Lesotho, who is incapacitated by illness as I write, and for Dean Tanki Mofana SSM, who is acting as Vicar-General.
In other news:
- The College of the Transfiguration is now fully registered as a higher education institution – good news after a long journey; thank you for your prayers.
- Our three-yearly Provincial Synod convenes in Gauteng next month. We will be receiving reports on theological education, the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality and the Safe Church Network, as well a spending time on legislative, financial and policy issues. Please pray for all the delegates.
- A group of Anglican leaders from Africa, comprising the Primates of a number of provinces, will meet in Lusaka from November 2 to 7 to reflect on ways in which we can make our Provinces more sustainable. Pray too for that meeting.
- Preparations are well advanced for the Lambeth Conference which brings together Anglican bishops around the world next year. Please pray for the Lambeth design team, which I chair, and for the success of the 2020 conference.
I thank God daily for each of you. To God be the glory.
†Thabo Cape Town