MODISA – THE SHEPHERD SPEAKS
DSC 18 February 2017
A Complete Low
The events in Parliament and the deaths of 94 psychiatric patients indicate that our journey in the democratic era has reached a complete low. We must accept that the opposition parties will always want to exploit perceived weaknesses in the ruling party to gain political traction. But what we saw last Thursday goes way beyond political point-scoring. It is indicative of a crisis – a crisis of discontent that was communicated clearly with the results of the local government elections last year. Our liberation movement is in decline, and my fear is that our hopes and dreams of a new, a better South Africa seem compromised.
We must commit, pray, and work for a change of course by the ruling party, or its downfall if there is no evidence of the former. Our people deserve better. Our fallen comrades deserve better. This is not the South Africa many gave their lives for.
The Israelite experience, their primal narrative about their slavery in and freedom from Egypt, was about oppression, liberation, a journey, and a destination. We have had our oppression, and our liberation, and now we are on the journey to that destination we all long for. On our way we shall become despondent. We shall loose our way and build golden calves to worship. Just like our forebears in the faith have done. God will be there for us to bring us on course again, just as God was there for our ancestors in the faith.
This is true about our Diocese as well. God has always been there for us. In fact God has brought us to where we are now. And if we think our present day challenges will have the better of us, let us remember that God is faithful. God will not fail us. God has already dealt with our fallen state by blessing us with his Son Jesus Christ – he who embraced the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. The loving and pastoral heart of God will not let us fail. Ours is simply to respond to his love and seek to engage pastorally with each other, following the example of His Son our Lord Jesus Christ.
Memorial Plague In Memory Of The Late Dean LL NGEWU
It is in this respect that I did what I did at the unveiling of a memorial plaque in memory of the late Dean LL Ngewu. At the occasion I shared my decision, and I wish to stress this, it was my decision, taken after prayerful reflection and without consultation. I took this course of action because I wanted to avoid the polarisation of the people of the Diocese which this issue brought about in the past. I took this course of action because I wanted to provide the kind of pastoral leadership that I am convinced is needed to put the past behind us.
So the decision I was prayerfully led to take was to make a symbolic statement which sought to lay to rest the ghost of the late Dean Ngewu. I withdrew the charges that the late Dean faced during his Tribunal, and I lifted his suspension.This, in my view, was morally and spiritually the right thing to do, the pastoral thing to do, and I do hope that you will understand why I did it and have appreciation for the less than perfect way in which it was done. I pray that you will respect my decision.
God’s- Holy- Faithful-People
I have had the privilege to travel to many of the parishes and share with God’s people in worship and fellowship. Austen Ivereigh, in his biography of Pope Francis (2014), writes about one of the Pope’s special missional priorities. The Pope calls for a special focus on God’s-holy-faithful-people. A focus on God’s-holy-faithful-people will serve as a vaccination, he says, a preventative measure against the lure of ideology, whatever form the ideology may take. It is a refreshing reminder – that God’s-holy-faithful-people is what the Church should really be about. So often we get caught up in issues and controversies and challenges. So often our work in offices, in meetings, in seminars and conferences deplete our resources, so that we fail to bring the joy of the Gospel to God’s-holy-faithful-people. Conversely, it is when we are able to spend quality time with God’s-holy-faithful-people, that we ourselves come to experience the joy of the Gospel.
So I came to end my week on a Sunday evening by giving thanks to God for God’s-holy-faithful-people. We are blessed with an abundance of God’s-holy-faithful-people. Two weeks ago I spent a Saturday visiting ten worshipping communities in the parish of Moretele West. I found, as I did all over the Diocese, a vibrant spirit and goodly fellowship amongst God’s-holy-faithful-people. I found people responsive to the ministry of their clergy. Herein lies the true wealth of the Diocese – where God’s-holy-faithful-people are cared for, and led by clergy who really want to live up to the challenge of their calling. I want to affirm the clergy in their calling, and ask them to continue to serve God’s-holy-faithful-people with faithfulness and pastoral zeal. I also want to thank God’s-holy-faithful-people for their faithfulness and their love for the Church and the Lord of the Church.
Our financial situation remains our most pressing challenge. A recent reflection on the state of our Diocesan Finances revealed that, at the rate we are going, we would be able to cover the expenses of this year and next year, then we will have no option but to begin to sell our assets. We are eating into our current reserves, and in another year’s time we will have to begin eating into our immoveable assets. What can be done? We have identified three initiatives which may help us in the short term.
- Reduce the Diocesan staff complement
- Increase the pledges of those parishes with full time clergy, but who cannot / will not increase their pledges. The reality is that the Diocese cannot continue to subsidise the stipends and allowances of clergy whose parishes do not meet the cost of a full time clergyperson.
- Review the Consolidated Allowances payment structure with a view to aligning these Allowances with what is paid by the parishes, create parity, and reducing the overall cost to the Diocese.
I conclude with news of the formal formation of a not so new ministry. At the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) in 2014, a motion was passed to call on parishes in ACSA “to include creation care as an essential component of Christian mission and encouraged parishes to become part of the eco-congregation movement in order to inspire, encourage and assist congregations to become centres that demonstrate sustainable living as they seek to fulfil their responsibility to God to care for life on this planet”.
The Provincial Synod noted amongst others that “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew life of the earth” is one of the five marks of mission of the Anglican Communion.
Some of our parishes have taken up the call, and it is wonderful to see the various initiatives in our Diocese. The collection of bottle tops under the Tumelong Mission banner, the collection of glass bottles in skips on church properties, the placement of special containers on church premises, the inclusion in pew leaflets of tips to recycle, reuse, and reduce, all add up to our collective efforts, and are found all over the Diocese.
The time has come for us to formally acknowledge and organise this ministry. It is my wish that our DSC meetings in future will hear reports about this important missional priority of the Anglican Communion. So I give notice here that we will seek to organise the different eco ministries under one umbrella, who will report to this body on their work.