Pastoral letter from the Archbishop of Cape Town
My dear People of God
Easter has once again been a busy time for travel: on the evening of Easter Sunday I left to chair a meeting of the Design Group for the 2020 Lambeth Conference. Preparations for the conference are well on their way, and the theme is: “God’s Church for God’s World: walking, listening and witnessing together”.
Lambeth is a meeting of all the world’s Anglican bishops which usually happens every 10 years, and has been held since 1867, when the controversy involving our founding bishop, Robert Gray, and Bishop Colenso of Natal was one of the reasons it was first called. The 2020 conference will take place from July 24 to August 3 at the University of Kent in Canterbury, and Archbishop Justin Welby will send out formal invitations to more than 900 bishops and their spouses – including our own – later this year.
Archbishop Justin has explained on the newly-unveiled conference website that “It will be a time of addressing hurts and concerns; of deepening existing relationships and building new ones; of grappling with issues that face the Church and the world.” Please support your Bishops as they prepare for Lambeth, and pray for the success of the conference.
I arrived home the day before our son, Nyaki’s graduation at the University of Cape Town, and after presiding over a graduation at the University of the Western Cape the day after that, it was off to Rome to a consultation on mining and miners with the Roman Catholic, Methodist and wider Anglican churches. Our own “Courageous Conversations” on the future of the industry in Southern Africa are part of this initiative, begun nearly five years ago when the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace hosted us in Rome. Our dialogue with managements, labour and governments seeks to re-position the sector as one that can be a partner for long-term sustainable development with host communities and governments.
Flying back from Rome to Johannesburg, I arrived just in time to attend the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (I responded to her death while in London.) As we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the assassination of Chris Hani, we conveyed our condolences to the Mandela family, and also to the families of former minister Zola Skweyiya, in many ways the architect of our social grants system, to former ambassador George Nene and, in Cape Town, to the property tycoon Pam Golding.
In my book, Faith & Courage, I discuss the national trauma from which we still suffer as a result of the aftershocks of apartheid. The reaction to Mama Winnie’s death shows once again that South Africa needs deep healing, and the more we pretend we don’t need it or postpone it, the deeper the hurt and the more destructive its impact will be. Around the time of the funeral we saw Stratkom – the strategy which the apartheid system used to turn us against each other – come alive once again, seeking to destroy our social fabric by sowing misinformation and suspicion against our comrades. Whatever allegations and misinformation are sown anew around journalists, activists, respected leaders and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, let us remember we have a nation to build and find socially cohesive ways of dealing with the controversy. With national elections scheduled in South Africa for next year, we hope the mudslinging we have seen will not be abused for political gain. We have huge challenges – the land question foremost among them – to wrestle with without destroying each other.
Looking ahead at challenges in the Province, I am hoping that by the time you read this we will have issued some clear guidelines to help us deal with the allegations of sexual abuse which have been made in three of our Dioceses. The preliminary remarks which I promised in my last letter are available as part of my Easter sermon on my blog. As I write, some of South Africa’s leading lawyers have met to discuss the matter, and the Canon Law Council is consulting with our Safe Church network in order to formulate proper protocols which respond to the needs and welfare of survivors.
Looking further ahead, the annual meeting of Provincial Standing Committee in September will focus on theological education and a report from the Commission on Human Sexuality. We will also reflect how to follow up on the celebration this past year of the 25th anniversary of the decision to ordain women as priests.
In this season of Easter, as we anticipate Pentecost, please join me in praying and working for “Thy Kingdom Come”, the initiative to pray for mission and evangelism between Ascension Day and Pentecost – May 10 to 20. Here’s a link to a discussion with Archbishop Justin and more information.
†Thabo Cape Town