The Bishop's Charge Given at the Twenty-First Session of Diocesan Synod May 2009
In the name of God: Creator, Redeemer and Giver of Life. Amen.
Preamble: Writing for the April 1939 Journal of Missions, determined to raise funds for a new place of worship in New Brighton Housing Scheme just opened but the Municipality, the Diocesan Secretary of Grahamstown had this to say: "It is the duty of the whole Church to be interested in missions, but in reality it is a small band who actually are; and it is impossible for them to keep their interest unless they know what is going on. The idea of this monthly circular is that it shall reach those people who are interested, and give them knowledge and opportunities for prayer and work. It will be sent to secretaries and to any of the clergy who might like it". (H.M. Matthews, Diocesan Secretary). It is interesting to note that the work of Mission need to generate interest even among clergy who ought to be missionary in their outlook.
We welcome other Christian sisters and brothers of the Body of Christ in the City, together with Church Pastors, Bishops, Dominees, and Leaders of the Lord´s flock. It is joy to have you with us to night as we meet at our twenty first Session of Synod since we were constituted as a Diocese in 1970 A.D. As you have heard we were carved from Grahamstown Diocese, with Philip Russell as the first Bishop, and then translated to be Archbishop of Cape Town in 1975. He was succeeded by Bishop Bruce Evans (R.I.P.). Bishop Eric Pike became the next bishop in 1993. We salute these men of God who have done so much among us. May the Lord be praised from their labours! Then followed the present Bishop Bethlehem Nopece from July 2001 to date.
You are with us this Evening for `the same Lord and same Faith´ we share, for the same purpose of "Mission into the World." This is our Theme for this Synod. We cherish your presence among us. Together with us we are all called to mission, and carry the same Mandate of Jesus Christ who commanded us: "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen." (Mtt.28:19-20). The Mandate is obligatory. Mission and evangelism is the nature and character of the Church.
We believe in proclamation, not in creating cozy corners of our self-centeredness, personal interests and selfish ambitions. Mission is corporate. This is the duty of the whole Body. It is beyond denominational and traditional boundaries of our faith. It is not for Anglicans only. It is for all of us. The world must be redeemed. God so loved the world that he `gave´, and did so sacrificially in the person of Jesus Christ. It is true that without loving the world and pray for it, God cannot use us effectively to redeem it. (cf. Jn 3:16). The Church exists as a beneficiary to those outside it (Judge Merwyn King). We are calling upon all Christians to rise in all love and witness, and engage vigorously in meeting the mandate of our Lord `to go and make disciples.´ This is the programme of every cleric we ordain, and every believer we commission by the laying on of hands. Our programme aims at Growing the Church by the preaching of the word and the equipping of the saints.
We say to you all, feel at home among us!
Appreciations: It is our duty to cherish and affirm ministries, acts of love and mercy done out the generosity of the heart and out of the love for Jesus. The giving of the faithful of their tithes, talents, time and service, especially the laity members of our diocese up lifts our spirit in this ministry. As St Paul puts it: We "declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you - unless you believed in vain." As we see in the wardens´ meetings every first Saturday of March each year, be vigorously involved in the management of these resources, and we shall continue to employ the skills God has given us in you. The Church is wonderfully blessed by your presence. We appreciate your contribution to the welfare of the Kingdom of God. Keep it up!
To the diocesan staff we say bravo! The new Diocesan Secretary, the Revd Ruth Brandt and all of you in the office, your sacrifices and good work cannot escape our notice. May God continue to bless you with daily strength to accomplish your duties. To Canon Keith Rae, the retired Diocesan Secretary we cherish the job well done. The Bishop Secretary Mrs Jenny Cowling does wonderfully in executing her duties. In the Church it is not only the brain that does the work, but more than anything else, it is good heart with good relationship and fellowship. Jenny excels in this without complaining. Thank you!
The Legal Fraternity cannot be left unnoticed by us for their unwavering support and assistance in the interpretation of the Canon Law and Acts for our action. We, the Church as the Body of Christ, are up against all odds from the evil forces of principalities and powers, the rulers of darkness of this age and spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. (Cf. Eph.6:12). These seek to corrupt even the elect of Christ. Your contribution of legal expertise both in our diocese and in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa is received with great applause. Keep it up for the sake of Christ, who died our death!
The clerics who know him who called us and give them selves to the cause of his kingdom are a great delight. We are proud of you my dear sisters and brothers. You are servants of the Lord we can lean and count on. Thank you for loving our Lord and faithfully discharging your duties with selfless service and sacrifice without moaning. You continue to shepherd the flock of Christ with integrity and honesty, always on the side of the "good" (Gk. àgathon) and not the "bad" (Gk. kakon), bringing solution to the problems and not adding more. How can you not be appreciated in your engagements in Mission and Evangelism, in community building programmes and ecumenical ventures? We salute you! May the Lord increase your resources and add his blessing on you. A cleric who loves Jesus has good fellowship with the Bishop and all with all the faithful for a job well done.
Canon Mcebisi Xundu has been elected the President of the Eastern Cape Provincial Council of Churches (ECPCC) for the second term at our last Sixth Triennial Conference for the Province. Congratulations Mqwati, we wish you God´s speed. You can count on us for both prayer support and assistance in any way as far as our ability to do so. You and Auntie Thandi and the rest of the family we wish you well.
Our best wishes go to Jean Lerotholi, Mazoe Nopece, and Nelson Nongauza for election as presidents for A.W.F., Mothers Union and Bernard Mizeki respectively. We expect blessings from the Lord through your organisations for the building of his Kingdom in this City and beyond. Still to come is Church Mens´ Society and Guild of St Mary Magdalene, organisations whose coordination is diligently handled by Canon Greg Moses. Our big thank you goes to him and to all concerned.
The HIV and Aids ministry under the fervent pastoral care of the Revd Sipambo Ludidi and expertise of Canon Linda Ncaca continues to offer hope to the needy. The ministry of Siyafundisa and Vana Vetu is well managed with Ms Pinkie Libala and Ms Babalwa Kani appointed as new field workers. Ms Rosette Jaftha is the director of Vana Vetu programme, with Ms Nosipho Dyonki doing a lot of hard work on the field. We congratulate these. Hlubi, well done Ngele-ngele, may the Lord increase your resources and be the source of strength always. May our Aids and HIV ministerial Team be blessed with all the strength they need from above.
We wish also to express our unending indebtedness to the Bishop´s Consultative Council for the unwavering support to the ministry of the Bishop. Imbizo planning meetings are a good focal point at Isivivane for the vision to move forward in Growing the Church for Mission to the World. The Dean, the Provost, the Archdeacons, both clerical and lay Canons together with the Bishop´s Executive Officer, our deep gratitude goes to you all for sharing the burden of leadership with us. Many thanks to your families, especially your spouses who enable you to do so. Convey our love to them as well.
In the political arena we wish to congratulate the new President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma and his cabinet, and wish them God´s blessings in their many challenging duties for good governance, efficiency and delivery for better life for all people of God in this land. May God grant him wisdom, good character and protection.
We always praise God for Archbishop Desmond Mpilo Tutu´s continued unwavering prophecy with truthful disturbing utterances to the erring. May God continue to bless his child with love, strength and protection.
Our love and best wishes, with great appreciation go to Thabo, the Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the ACSA. We wish him and Lungi and children God´s speed. We are sure them of our prayers.
We also congratulate Bishops Ebenezer Ntlali, Bishop of Grahamstown; Adam Taaso, Bishop of Lesotho; David Bannerman, Bishop of Highveld. Together with their spouses we wish them God´s blessings.
The Story from Ages Past: The story of `God with us´ is better understood when we go through the pages of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The story of the Lectio Divina (the Bible) is not just another reading, desensitized to the sacred, but the savouring of the text lingering leisurely in the divine revelation. (Thomas Keating: Intimacy with God). The liberal theology tends to forget this. The Bible is not just a primary source of Christian theology; it is the Word of God - Lectio Divina, as we have said. The remarkable thing, as Keating puts it, reading about Jesus´ story develops into friendship with him. Like the people of God in ages past, we walk with God in a personal relationship as he challenges our moral life and takes it to an upper level of godly character and integrity.
As this literal historical message of Scripture challenges us to a level of good morality, then we are taken to new levels of our faith beyond the moral sense, into the allegorical sense of the Holy Writ. As we grow in the grace of God in our spiritual life, a character of godly life is built in us `to make us a kingdom of priests´ who stand and serve before our God. (APB: canticle 15/ Rev.5). It is at this higher spiritual inter action with God that we begin not only `to hear, read, mark, learn but inwardly digest them´, but to allow ourselves to be wholly immersed in Scripture. They are no longer historical documents anymore, but stories of closer walk with God in obedience and trust in our spiritual journey since the day we first believed and were baptised. Once this takes place, the unitive level of our experience of Scripture takes place. This is called anagogical. The Word wells up from us as a continuing revelation to influence others and our life situation.
This is how we look at Scripture. What ever kind of behaviour or thinking we encounter, we test it against the moral demands of the Holy Writ (Article XX). In our diocese therefore, we align ourselves with all Bible believing Christians in informing our theological thinking. Reason cannot just be for its sake since we are all fallen human beings, and have come short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23). Together with the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA) we up hold the authority of Scripture as an integral part of our fellowship with all the children of God. We affirm the reality of Incarnation and the mighty glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ as true essential occurrences forming integral part of our faith, and never just a "myth". The historical Jesus remains "unique" from the ages past into the unknown future. He is with us `always, even to the end of the age.´ (see Nazir- Ali: The Unique and Universal Christ).
For that reason therefore, we give our full support to the Bible Society and we applaud their efforts in the printing of the Bible. Some times we often feel that there is not much support given to the printing of the Word financially. Let us aim to contribute generously to make the Word available to all who believe, even in lands far beyond us.
The Broken Body: It derives me great pleasure to see that the bigger Body of Christ readily accepts her members than it used to be. In Southern Africa, in particular we seem to be doing well, especially in the City of Port Elizabeth. This is due to bodies like Transformation Christian Network (TCN), Interdenominational Ministers Association of Southern Africa (Idamasa), The ECPCC, The Evangelical Alliance of Southern Africa (TEASA) Africa Enterprise (AE), to mention but some. The TCN still concentrates on City Leadership, though Youth programme is in the pipe line, as well as Man-at- Prayer. This is due to Mr Trevor Jennings and those in the TCN. May God continue to speed them up for the unity of the Body.
We need to give more support to the ECPCC than we do at the moment. More interaction is desirable than what it is at the moment, not because we have `our own´ Revd Mcebisi Xundu there, but also for a bigger and more racially integrated fellowship of the Body for a united witness to the world. This goes the same for Idamasa. We commend Mr Trevor Jennings for his courage to reach out to these bodies. He needs more support from us.
We continue to enjoy closer bond of fellowship and unity of purpose with the Ethiopian Episcopal Church (EEC) in terms of doctrinal understanding and episcopacy. May the Lord continue to bring us closer together. We share same baptism and ministry with the Methodists, Presbyterians and Congregationalist. We have three ecumenical congregations in the diocese, two of which are stable, in Somerset East and Thornhill. BlueWaterBay has been hijacked by a cleric for his own ministries. This matter is still under discussion.
It is our duty to pray for all Christian peoples for the fulfillment of Christ´s Prayer that "they may be one" (Jn.17). When we pray God listens to the payer of faith and things begin to move. Pray for the bigger Body of the Church that love and true dialogue with other faiths may bring them all to "become one flock with one shepherd." (Jn.10:16).
Our Journey with God: Thus far God continues to journey with us in the diocese. We are showing very little growth numerically, especially in acts of communion over Easter and Christmas services since last Synod. In both English and Afrikaans speaking churches, noticeable is the exchange of new members from other churches. The same may be the case in the Isixhosa speaking churches. However there is a degree of unchurched people brought to the Lord through revival meetings and door to door evangelism. Motherwell, Kragga Kamma and Kwa-Nobuhle are areas of growth at the moment.
It terms of the quality of faith i.e. commitment to Christ, confessing him as Lord and Saviour; Anglican Identity and articulating and defending the faith using Biblical Revelation, there is still a lot of in depth teaching that needs to be done by the Bishop through Archdeacons, Rectors, Youth Leaders, Sunday School Teachers and the rest of parish leadership. We are vigorously pursuing through Training for Ministries programmes that seek to equip the people of God. Canon Mike McCoy continues with diligence to lead this programme of equipping the saints.
We bring Indaba Process of Lambeth Conference to continue at our Synod. The aim is to hear the people of God speak on issues of Missions to the world and equip them for that mission. We shall still continue after Synod to the logical conclusions.
We support fully the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) programme for Theological Training, the College of Transfiguration and the House of Studies. We congratulate the new Rector of the College the Revd Dr Bill Domeris, who has in a very short space of time initiated a tangible change in terms of the character of the College. We also congratulate the Revd Peter Wyngaard as the new head of the House of Studies in Pietermaritzburg. Our love and support prayerfully and in sending students, go to them and the rest of their staff. We also fully engage ourselves to the ACSA Growing the Church (GtC) initiative.
We are also committed to Environmental Issues, Ecology and Nature Conservation Efforts for the beauty of our planet Earth. Canon Viv Malloy looks diligently after this ministry.
We are committed to the on going fight against poverty and unemployment, and join hands with the communities and sister churches to uplift the standard of living for our people. We join hands in support the government in the ventures of poverty alleviation and wellness programmes in eradicating HIV and Aids. This is by no means compromising our mandate of Christ to prophesy and call to order, in the name of God, all that is amiss in our society. We continue our partnership with H.O.P.E. Africa for projects of development and self help schemes to drive hunger away from our homes in the face of economic recession at 6.4%, and establish healthy living life styles. Things are happening as Canon Mario Hendricks takes leadership as our liaison in this programme.
We call upon those in the governing positions to put right, with immediate effect the dispute over fair salaries with the medical fraternity in our land. The state of our government hospitals in the Province of the Eastern Cape is causing a great concern. This needs to be rectified with immediate effect. Clinics are poorly managed. Schools are in the state of disrepair and gross mismanagement and poor learning facilities. We applaud with great admiration those heads of schools and teachers who lay down their lives in sacrifice for the future of South African children. We salute with appreciation NxubaPrimary School in Cradock, recently visited by the Bishop during his Episcopal visit to the Parish of the Ascension, for the efficient running of the school and cleanliness shown on the well kept grounds and buildings. May the Lord continue to grant them more blessings.
Theft, dishonesty and laxity are very worrying in our government circles. Little effort done to eradicate this, much as it is in calling to order those youth who show disrespect to the elderly and the rule of law. We appreciate with admiration the measures that the office of the President of the land puts in place to report the above directly to his office. We note with great concern the bloated cabinet which is to cost the tax payer over a Billion Rand. We would have thought more people are needed on the ground for more efficient delivery of services.
We thank God for the vital contribution women make to our society, at home and in Church for a better community and good citizenship. We are set to affirm the ministry of women, as already done, in all spheres of our leadership portfolios, and to bring in inclusive language. We regret the all male cabinet of the Western Cape Province from a lady of Mrs Helen Zille´s stature. The sooner she puts this right, the better for all especially Democratic Alliance (D.A.) women.
We regret that in our own Church in the ACSA we still have no lady Bishop. While we do not seek to be politically correct and allow discernment process to take place, we note with great concern that some women are in the fore front to shoot down female candidates at Elective Assemblies.
We shall continue to call the people of God to prayer and intercession, for needed strength from the Almighty whose Mission it is to reconcile everyone to himself, and heal the body, mind and soul (Mtt.11:28-30; 2Cor.5:17-6:2).
Since Last Synod:
Bishop David Beetge RIP; our greetings and condolences go to Carol his wife.
Finis: Dr Anthony Grant, giving a talk in Bampton Lectures on Missions has this to say: "Bearing the name of Christ to a perishing world is not an inglorious service; ...In it the followers of Christ´s Army have striven; saints have been made perfect, talents have been put on their noblest energies; the church has been edified, Christ has been glorified and the brightest crowns have been won. And those crowns have not yet been expended; they are stored in heaven for those who will claim them; none has yet the numbering of the army of martyrs. The roll is yet open and in their ranks are places yet unfilled" (Anthony Grant,1843). Though written in centuries past, this call for sacrifice in Mission still remains true. Our sacrifice is obligatory in accordance with the mandate of Christ. We still pick and choose to our convenience in the service of the Master. We look for cozy comfortable parishes as clergy, refusing the Bishop´s appointment `to go´. What a pity! The Karroo still calls for more efficient clerics to come. It is lands at our door step calling: "come over to help us". On the laity side, the unreasonable refusal of good clergy who calls people to order when need be, is frustrating and disappointing. Let us open up to God´s Mission and be prepared to give sacrificially as he did to our salvation (Jn.3:16).
We have the privilege of this ministry and its `treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - Always carrying about in our body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.´ 2Cor.4:7-10).