Southern Africa Synod begins today

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The top legislative body of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), its Provincial Synod, will meet online this week, from Tuesday September 21 to Friday September 24.

The Synod will begin with an opening Eucharist on Tuesday at 3.30 pm, during which the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Dr Thabo Makgoba, will deliver his Charge, the address in which he summarises the life of the Church and the challenges before it.

At the service, church members will receive various awards for distinguished service: the Archbishop’s Award for Peace with Justice; membership of the Order of Simon of Cyrene, the highest award for lay people; and Lambeth Awards, made by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Synod comprises clergy, lay people and bishops representing dioceses of the church in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, St. Helena, South Africa and Swaziland. However, this Synod will be the last attended by dioceses in Mozambique and Angola.

On Friday, the Synod will end with an inaugural service for a new Anglican Church in Africa, to be entitled Igreja Anglicana de Mocambique e Angola (IAMA), during which the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, will deliver the homily.

The formation of this new church in the world-wide Anglican Communion was recently approved by leaders of the Communion. The historic development reflects the growth of the Anglican Church across Africa, coming a year after the formation of a new church in North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Episcopal/Anglican Province of Alexandria. There are now more than 40 independent, autonomous churches in the world-wide Communion.

This week’s ACSA Synod is expected to debate issues including:

  • Covid-19 vaccinations to be made mandatory for clergy, and a call for vaccine mandates for others in society also.
  • A ban of the use of polystyrene at all church events, a call to press governments to sign the Global Plastic Treaty proposed by the United Nations Environment Programme, and an appeal to householders to separate recyclable material from their trash to accommodate informal waste pickers.
  • A call for bishops to support a halt to gas and oil exploration in Africa.
  • The church to lobby government on action to address the crisis of youth unemployment.
  • The report of the church’s Safe and Inclusive Church Commission, the body which is stepping up efforts to combat sexual and other abuse in the church.
  • A new commitment to people with disabilities, including making all churches fully accessible to people with disabilities.
  • The adoption of definitions of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, issues which became controversial after the last Provincial Synod in 2019 voted to support non-violent action to end Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.
  • A request to the Lambeth Conference, the world-wide meeting of Anglican bishops scheduled to be held next year, “to initiate a process, in collaboration with international organisations such as the United Nations and global faith bodies, to lead to a negotiated settlement that will bring justice and peace in Israel and Palestine within a set timeframe.”
  • Allowing an increased number of ballots to be held at elective assemblies for new bishops, following decisions by a number of assemblies to delegate their elections to the Synod of Bishops.