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THE CHARGE OF BISHOP BETHLEHEM NOPECE
In the name of God, Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life! Amen.
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say: ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’, and in the morning, ‘It will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast’. You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Mtt. 16:1-4; 12:36-45 cf. Lk.19:41-44).
We are gathered here at the Twenty Second session of Synod in the Diocese of Port Elizabeth, having been summoned to do so. We are very grateful for this call to Synod that we are given, and give all praise to the Almighty who reigns above in majesty supreme, the Father who creates, the Son who redeems and transforms to bring to a new beginning, and the Holy Spirit who sustains all that God has made and redeems!
We assemble at a point in time in our history when the value of human life seems to depreciate, good godly governance and all our departments and systems on the verge of collapse, both in communities and in the political arena. The fight for succession within political parties greatly hampers service delivery, which should be improving the lot of the poor and the disadvantaged. The Church is seemingly not vocal enough to the frustration of the multitude whose voice cannot be heard. The example of this rot can be sighted in departments of Education, Health and Welfare, to mention but a few, and particularly in the Eastern Cape. This by far does not mean nothing good is happening - like open doors and invitations to engage from the government. This is highly appreciated. However, ‘talks about talks’ without progressive plans of action and their implementation, with ill-discipline civil servants making all these efforts fruitless, resulting in millions of Rands of financial resources being wasted in fraudulent acts and delayed disciplinary actions.
It is a time when the graph of moral life is pointing to rock bottom once again, as it did in ages past of the Middle and Dark Ages up to the Reformation. Modernist Reasoning is gaining the upper hand, being critical of the Natural Law of Cause and Effect, as ordained in the Creation Narratives of the Yahwist, and the Priestly accounts of the beginning as set out by God. The New Age thinking of self salvation, self-sufficiency and self reliance seeks to out-date the plan of God’s salvation in Jesus Christ ‘who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven … was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, died and was buried, and on the third day he rose from the dead ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God to intercede for us ... and will come again to be our judge’ (Nicene Creed, APB p 109). This is the basic faith the liberal mind seeks to strip of its power and impact on regulating human life. It is a faith passed on to us by our forebears to be preserved for generations to come for better loving and considerate life, ubuntu, for all people. The signs are such that faith is disappearing on earth. This may sound pessimistic, but it is a fact that gradually human behaviour recorded in history stands to judge us.
It becomes clear to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear that unless those who have the light of the gospel begin to be vigorous in their mission and evangelistic campaigns to the world, our salvation cannot be seen and be effective in the lives of many. It is true that ‘it is not so much what we do, but what we are that allows God to live in the world. When the presence of God emerges from our inmost being into our faculties, in whatever we do, whether we walk down the street or drink a cup of tea or soup, divine life is pouring into the world either by silent visible presence or by the word of our testimony’ (Keating, T.: Open Mind open Heart,p.63 cf.Rev.12:11). This we do in the name of Jesus Christ, and need not be apologetic about it or afraid (Joshua 1:9).
SALUTATIONS and AFFIRMATIONS.
We wish to welcome with great appreciation those here present, who kindly responded to our invitations to join us this evening as our Synod commences. Of these we are delighted to mention our predecessor, retired Bishop Eric Pike, the Christian leaders in the City of Port Elizabeth, namely Bishops Lunga Magqwagqwa ka Siboto from the Ethiopian Episcopal Church; Musi Losaba from the Methodists, with Mr Trevor Jennings from Transformation Christian Network; the Roman Catholic representative has sent apologies. From the Metro Branch of the South African Council of Churches (S.A.C.C.) and Presbyterian fold we acknowledge the Revd Xolani Mzendana, the chairperson with Archdeacon Zweli Tom the Secretary from our own fold. From the Nelson Mandela Bay Consultation of Christian Churches (NMBCCC) welcome to Archdeacon Zweli Tom and Canon Gill Bowman of our own fold with appreciation. From around the diocese, various worshipping communities of Christian faith in the four archdeaconries, with all their delegates, welcome.
With great appreciation we welcome Mr Peter Hopper, our new Diocesan Secretary-Treasurer whom we commend on a job well done in bringing our bookkeeping to the standard it deserves, working with Cano Relton Groepe, the BEO and Canon Greg Moses; together with tirelessly devout staff Mesdames Busi Gwentshu in the Payroll Section, thanking the Almighty for her good health, Miriam Stiemens in Bookkeeping and Thursia Francis the Receptionist/Administration. We are indebted to Mrs Debbie Vencencie as the Bishop’s Secretary, with Canon Mark Derry the Bishop’s Executive Officer (BEO) for making sure that the Bishop’s administration is up to the required performance standard to the glory of the Lord Christ. Mark is currently overseas for further theological training. Thanks to Provost Sharon Nell for temporary taking over the duties of BEO. We cannot forget Mrs Jenny Cowling, the former Bishop’s Secretary, for her unwavering support and willingness to fill the needy gaps especially in this Synod, when called upon to do so in the service of the Lord. We appreciate with joy and fulfilment the Bishop’s Consultative Council (BCC) for how much work they do, over and above their responsibilities of parish work, in their different categories and portfolios. The dream of full time Archdeacons is still unfulfilled due to financial constraints and diminishing generosity of God’s people as a result of unemployment, a lack of committed giving in obedience to the demands of Scripture, and financial recession. Lay canons have been appointed in accordance to our statutes at the recommendation of Judge Mervyn King’s Commission to involve and empower lay people to serve in the top structure of our leadership and Church governance.
We cannot but appreciate within our ministry operations the work of Organisations within Canon Greg Moses’ portfolio, especially Anglican Women’s’ Fellowship under the leadership of Mrs Nomalungelo Lungsi Ntlokwana as President. We are grateful for the marked growth shown in hardly a year of her presidency; and we congratulate her with thanksgiving and praise to God. We appreciate Mama Mazoe Nopece, having been elected into the second term of Mothers’ Union Presidency. The Mothers in purple display a visible degree of growth, respect and maturity, especially in their meetings. Our appreciation and gratitude go to both Provost Sharon Nell and Revd Vincent Mdidimba as chaplains of these organisations, respectively. We salute with joy both Bernard Mizeki Guild, with Revd Ste Rini as President, together with Church Men’s Society with the Chairperson, Mr Rodney White and Revd Jacob Plaatjies as chaplain. We praise God for his much restored health. Jesus remains the Healer! Further to this, we congratulate Revd Elliot Masoka for election to the Presidency of Provincial Bernard Mizeki Guild. We note with thanksgiving the progress made among young people, with Zukisa Jeyi as Diocesan Council Representative, with their chaplain Revd Joshua Koening. It is under this youth umbrella that the guilds of St Mary Magdalene together with St Agnes and the newly formed Girls and Boys Friendly Society (GBFS), mentored by MU should operate. We appreciate what Ms Nontembiso Nogaya, St Mary Magdalene President and her team are doing to bring new life to girls whom Christ ‘so loved’ and invites to a new beginning both here and at Provincial level. With the GBFS we still look forward to an increase of base operations in at least twelve parishes for a fully fledged existence within our diocese and jurisdiction, since at present they only exist in two parishes, St Matthew, Kwa-Magxaki and St Stephen, New Brighton. We commissioned a group of these young people with men and women that joined together to attend a world conference in Ireland. The Servers’ guild, with Ms Melissa Awu as President, continues to display respectful solemnity and glory to God at the altar as we celebrate Eucharist to the glory and honour of our God Almighty. It is this group that will form a good nucleus for our future leadership of the Church, God being our helper. With good discipling and mentoring we shall achieve this.
We appreciate the ongoing ministries to Prison, with Jogra Gallant diligently looking after this ministry, over and above her parochial duties; Mission to Seafarers with Sipho Bodlani the Chaplain. We appreciate the job well done by both the Revd Ruthell Johnson and Archdeacon David Stansbury as previous chaplains; Health and Welfare Ministries which portfolio is Canon Linda Ncaca, with Revd Sipambo Ludidi as co-ordinator, and Revd Thokoza Mngomezulu with Hospitals as chaplain, all over and above parochial duties. We affirm with greatest appreciation Canon Relton Groepe for being instrumental together with the BEO, Canon Greg Moses and Diocesan Secretary in helping set up the Organogram of Resource Management in our Diocese, with good accounting and transparency of the resources God has given us.
We appreciate the work done by those serving in various committees of the diocese with distinguished devotion, and wish them God’s blessing into a bright future. Our special appreciation goes to Mrs Frankie Simpson and her team on the good management, editing and publication of iindaba newsletter. Many thanks to Mr Neville Lobb the chairperson of the team, for time spent to the glory of God.
The ministry of the House of Resurrection Haven Children’s Home continues to thrive under financial constraints. Thanks to the Administrator the Revd Nicolette Leonard and the many donors who keep the light of Christ’s compassion burning, even to those less fortunate than ourselves. All praise to God for the job well done!
We are indebted to the Fraternity of our diocese, the Registrar Mr Roger Schärges and the Chancellor Advocate Daryl Newton for constantly bringing our attention in line with the requirements of Canon Law and for their sound advice. We are also indebted to Advocate Ronnie Braacks, Mr Henry Burnett and Judge Ian Farlam for working hand in hand with our Legal Team and ourselves in matters of our Church governance and Synods. With greatest appreciation to all of you!
On Theological Education and Formation, we have much to praise God for in our success stories in the diocese!
We have appointed Canon Andrew Watt as the Director of Training for Ministries (TFM) and Dean of Studies, with Provost Sharon Nell being the warden of Fellowship of Vocation. The Churchwardens’ Forum and Training of Laity is entrusted to the capable hands of Canon Relton Groepe. The Center for Spirituality is temporarily taken care of by Archdeacon David Stansbury, while the Revd Dave Doveton takes over Continuing Clergy Education and Stellenbosch Theological Institute. Lay Ministers’ Training is with the Revd Zola Nanana, with Theological Education by Extension College studies (TEE) together with Ordinands are with the Revd Mike McCoy. The Regional co-ordinator of TEE is the Revd Howard Lancaster in his retirement. We appreciate the devotion he gives to this important aspect of our ministry.
The Revd Fumanekile Kula looks after the welfare of Self Supporting Clergy. Dean Dudley Greenshields arranges Retreats, while Archdeacon David Stansbury co-ordinates Growing the Church programme. All the Archdeacons take care of Internship Training, with Archdeacon David Grobbelaar as the co-ordinator. The Revd Dr Eddie Daniels has been appointed to the Provincial Theological Education Board. Congratulations! Canon Gill Bowman elected by Provincial Standing Committee is a member of the College of Transfiguration Council and Executive, with Canon Mark Derry representing us at the Biko-Bowcott Trust, with Canon Keith Rae representing the Metropolitan. The Revd Dr Barney Pityana, a Port Elizabethan currently heads the College of the Transfiguration (CoTT). We need to support his excellent and very focussed Vision for CoTT, and pray that more students will be available to keep our only Provincial College going. This is our Team of Theological Educators. We commend them, with appreciation and thanksgiving to the Almighty, to the prayers of the Church!
Our teaching has been characterised by themes such as: Church’s Mission to the World; Being a Loving and Caring Church; The Story of Long Ago is Our Story; The Heavenly Vision; Discerning The Signs of The Times, calling upon the people of God from the ‘us and them’ mind set, to an ethos of ‘God’s Family’ within the diocese with unity and humbleness as a basis for our functioning and ministry. We aim at uplifting Christian values following a diocesan Vision from the BCC Imbizo processes (which we are launching at this Synod) which links up with that of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA). Our people are beginning to articulate and defend their faith from those who prey on them with misguided and unbiblical teachings. We aim at maintaining biblical orthodox teaching amidst the challenges of New Age and liberal revisionist thinking that seek to lower our standards.
There is a favourable increase in women taking up leadership seen as well in the church of Christ within our diocese. For this we praise God, despite resistance in some quarters.
There will always be challenges in our ministry and functioning. All power belongs to God. This we acknowledge and it is in this token that we confidently move forward to fulfil our duties:
In this entire ministry we will not give up, until the set vision is realised and the set goals accomplished. In obedience to the Mandate Christ gives us, and in his authority we ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching, mentoring and nurturing them’ with the sincere spiritual milk of the Word until ready for solid food (Mtt.28:16-20 cf. 1 Peter 2:2f).
It is therefore, our hope to preserve the unity of the one Body of Christ, the Church, at all costs; in complete humbleness and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, keeping unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Some have claimed ‘homosexuality is divisive’. Yes, it is so truly, but with caution that it is homosexual practice that divides the Body much as all sin does, as in promiscuity, adultery and all sexual sin. Where sin is, grace of God abounds for repentance, transformation and a closer walk with God. Let us preach the gospel in season and out of season not only by word of mouth, but by the example of holy living to bring to all the unity and sanctity of the Body of Christ which he sacrificed his life and prayed for (Acts 20:28-31cf. Jn.17:6-end). We have listened to the struggles of homosexual people, with testimonies of their everyday toils until they consistently come to the foot of the cross daily. For us the cross sometimes is a casual “by the way”, taking breaks to engage in the sexual sins and other worldly desires of our own hearts. For them it is everyday life struggle. Let us be compassionate and be wary to talk schism, while we have not begun the struggle against sin to the shedding of our own blood. It is true others in ages past until to date have suffered for the gospel, but let us be watchful in discernment for those who call for schism for their hunger for power and self gratification.
God calls us to unity in the bonds of love. In the diocese the priorities are poverty and unemployment, disease HIV/Aids and abuse. However, we strongly believe that homosexual controversy is our missional challenge. We cannot ignore it, but bring in the transforming power of the gospel for a ‘new person’ according to God’s promises in Christ Jesus our Lord and Saviour; for a change of life and character from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor.3:17-18). We must be prepared for works of service according to the gifts God gives us to build up the Body, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature in the faith, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ, built in the love of God (Eph. 4:11-16). This is our calling to be doers of the Word. This is not a fairy tale, but practical everyday life. Like good Anglicans we must not forget, but bravely lead the war of liberation from a life of sin and personal choices of comfortable zones, to sacrificial living of laying down our lives for others (Jn.15:13-17). Our life should so shine before people that they may see us taking sides with the good (âgathōn) in us, not the bad (kakon), bringing solution to problems, to the glory of God the Father (Mtt.5:16).
In conclusion let us be reminded of this rule of life: ‘the failure of our efforts to serve teaches us how to serve; that is, with complete dependence on divine inspiration. This is what changes the world; when the habit of service to others is developed by trying to please God in what we do and exercise of compassion for others, beginning with those we live with’. (Keating, T.: Invitation to Love, p.129; Open Mind Open Heart p.16).
All power comes from God. We have that power. We shall overcome, as Christ has overcome the world, amidst many tribulations (Jn.16:33)
Sisters and Brothers pray for us, as we pray for you.
Yours in the love of Christ,
Bishop Bethlehem Nopece, Port Elizabeth. Pentecost 2012A.D.
Date Added: 2012-05-28
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