Justin Welby offers support for Thabo Makgoba in the Cape Town archbishop’s dispute with SA President Jacob Zuma
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, has declared international Anglican support for Archbishop Thabo Makgoba after controversy between Church and State in South Africa.
The support was expressed in a sermon preached at Evensong in St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town, on December 30.
Archbishop Welby is on a private visit to Cape Town, where he has visited Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, 85, who has twice been hospitalised in the past 16 months.
In his Christmas sermon, Archbishop Makgoba rejected a call by South African President Jacob Zuma for the church to stay out of politics. In a statement which followed, President Zuma said he had meant the church should stay out of internal party matters.
Archbishop Makgoba responded by agreeing, but saying that when “issues… also become the subject of internal debate in a party, we walk a fine line in distinguishing between issues of public debate and internal party matters.”
Preaching at Evensong, Archbishop Welby referred to the Anglican Church’s role in the apartheid era and continued that “[M]ore than 25 years later, the issues sometimes seem to go round and round. Archbishops are warned to stay out of politics.
“You may as well tell a fish to stay out of water. Water is where fish swim; the polis, the organisation of the city, the country, the region, is where people swim – because they are people in relationship, and relationships of citizens need structures, and those structures need good values… and that means politics.
“Religious leaders commenting on values and politics in England are often unpopular! Party politics is what we avoid, but politics is where we live – and it is a central theme of the gospel. Politics is ultimately about the Kingdom of Heaven. Your Grace, dear brother, we stand with you.
“Being opposed is not fun. It does not lift our spirits. And when, as you have in South Africa, you spent decades and decades facing an atrocious and deeply evil ideology of apartheid, even a trace of wrongdoing brings back the taste of injustice. One thinks, ‘Perhaps we are simply going round the circle again.’ Yet we are not.