Pastoral Letter from the Southern African Synod of Bishops

 

Pastoral Letter from the Southern African Synod of Bishops

As Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), we met in Synod in Benoni from Monday 25 until Wednesday 27 September 2017. We welcomed among us the Vicar General of Khahlamba, the Revd Canon Moses Madywabe.

As always our meeting took place in a framework of worship and warm fellowship as we shared our lives and worked on issues facing the church and our communities. We met as church leaders who are deeply aware of the challenges facing our churches and communities and the desperate need for leadership of the highest quality. At our opening Eucharist we listened to an inspiring homily on the restoration and transformation of the temple in Jerusalem. The message was that this was the mission of Jesus in the world and if Jesus’ then ours too.

Our meeting coincided with the celebration of 25 years of the ordination of women to the priesthood in ACSA. The celebrations took place in the same venue where the Bishops met. This was a historic, memorable and joyful interaction as we celebrated the Eucharist together to mark the occasion.

The electoral college of the Synod of Bishops was constituted on the first evening of Synod. Names of candidates were considered for the election of a Bishop for the vacant See of the Diocese of Mthatha. After a process of thorough discernment and deliberation, Bishop Nkosinathi Ndwandwe (pictured), the Suffragan Bishop of Natal, was elected. Plans are afoot to have the Bishop enthroned on the eve of the Second Sunday in Advent, Saturday 9 December 2017.

The former Bishop of Umzimvubu, Geoff Davies now retired, is to be honoured with the Archbishop’s Peace with Justice Award for his extraordinary contribution to the Anglican Church of Southern Africa and to the broader Christian and Interfaith world for the role he played in mobilising churches and communities to act for ecological justice.

Synod also deliberated on the very difficult and painful matter of the situation in the Diocese of Umzimvubu, with which we have wrestled for seven years now and which has involved drawn-out proceedings in the secular courts. In an hour of silent prayer, Synod acknowledged the pain of one of our own and of the whole Diocese. In a tough decision taken with heavy hearts and after much prayer we accepted that the relationship between the Bishop and his Diocese has irrevocably broken down and Synod voted by a two-thirds majority to ask the Bishop of Umzimvubu to vacate his See.

Synod gave attention to a number of areas of mission and ministry in ACSA:

1. The Provincial Secretary Treasurer, Mr Rob Rogerson, gave a presentation on –

  • the Pension Fund “Guidelines/What to do” Checklist
  • the Duties and Responsibilities of Pension Fund Trustees and
  • the need to finalise the Reconstituted Provincial Trusts’ Board

He also gave a feedback on the state of finances at the College of the Transfiguration (COTT). The essence of the feedback concerned the financial viability and sustainability of COTT as an educational institution. After much discussion, the Archbishop challenged the bishops to consider and propose in writing new funding models for the College, and he is constituting a special commission to look at innovative ways of expanding the College’s reach to guarantee its sustainability.

2. A presentation on progress made by the Archbishop’s Commission on Human Sexuality was given by the Revd Dr Vicentia Kgabe. The Chairperson of the Commission is the Bishop of Saldanha Bay, Raphael Hess. The Commission consists of six Commissioners and has invited each Diocese to constitute a Diocesan Liaison Team to facilitate the work of the Commission at diocesan level, with the objective that the voices of all will be heard in a consultative process to hear and discern what every Diocese is saying. The mandate of the Commission is to present to Provincial Synod 2019 a proposal enabling the Church “to minister to those in same-sex unions and the LGBTI Community in the context in which ACSA operates in Southern Africa”. This mandate does not rescind the decision of Provincial Synod 2016: it neither assumes that ministry to members of the LGBTI community will include the blessing of same-sex unions, nor does it exclude that possibility, should that be the mind of Provincial Synod 2019. It also directs the Commission to consider the situation of Dioceses outside South Africa, in which there is no provision in law for same-sex unions. The mandate is in line with the injunction of the 1998 Lambeth Conference and Provincial Synod 2002 to listen to the views of the LGBTI community, and in particular with that part of Lambeth Resolution 1.10 which “calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals.” The Commission asked for prayers for its work and the members of the Commission.

We appeal to members of ACSA and the Communion please to commit these matters to prayer and offer yourselves to God to serve in God’s mission and ministry. We your Bishops will continue to lead as God’s servants and servants of the church, to the best of our ability.

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