22 March 2012
To All Clergy and Laity
in the Diocese of Pretoria
Update on the Diocesan Leadership/Cathedral relationship
In our capacity as leaders in the Diocese and Cathedral Chapter, we write to give you a summary report on where the impasse between the Diocesan leadership and the Cathedral Parish stands at the moment.
Firstly, we thank you for your ongoing prayers for resolution of the breakdown in relationship between the Diocesan Leadership and the Cathedral community. Please continue to pray for the resolution of the problems and restoration of relationships between the Cathedral community and the Diocesan leadership. As the Diocesan Leadership (the Bishop, Chapter, and the Diocesan Standing Committee) we reiterate that we remain committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the impasse that has developed.
Secondly, our present journey with the Cathedral Parish contains the following elements:
At the Diocesan Standing Committee (DSC) meeting on Saturday 3 March 2012 it was resolved that the priestly services (Sacramental ministries) suspended in November 2011 are to be restored; that Archdeacons take turns to conduct Sunday Eucharistic services; and that a sub-committee of Diocesan Standing Committee meet with the Parish Council to deal with the issues raised by the Cathedral Council on behalf of the Parish; that a special Vestry meeting to elect new leadership be held; and that the Bishop appoints a senior priest to take pastoral responsibilities at the Cathedral until such time as matters are resolved. This decision was communicated, along with relevant dates, to the Cathedral Parish Council on Monday 5 March 2012.
On Sunday 11 March 2012 the Bishop, Chapter and members of Diocesan Standing Committee attended the 09:30 Service at St Alban’s Cathedral and reinstated the Eucharist, formally reclaiming the Cathedral for the Lord and restoring priestly ministries. This event was marked by the continual and loud singing of choruses throughout the service in an attempt to disrupt the Eucharist, along with a demand that the congregation be addressed by the Bishop on the issues raised by the Parish Council on behalf of the Parish. Despite this chaos the Eucharist continued around the High Altar, and a number of parishioners joined the Bishop, Chapter and members of Diocesan Standing Committee in receiving Holy Communion. The disrespect shown to the Office of the Bishop and to the Sacrament of Holy Communion was difficult to stomach. Some people left disappointed by such behaviour in Church and in the presence of the Eucharist. At the end of the Eucharist the Diocesan leadership and those who participated in the celebration of the Eucharist processed out. Those who sought to disrupt the service remained behind and conducted their own service of Morning Prayer.
On Saturday 17 March 2012 the sub-committee of Diocesan Standing Committee convened at St Mary’s DSG under the chairmanship of Judge Tati Makgoka in expectation of a meeting with the Cathedral Council to discuss the issues raised by them on behalf of the Cathedral Parish. We were disappointed as a letter, received late the day before, was tabled by the Diocesan Administrator indicating the Cathedral Council would not attend. The letter said, “The Council might consider a meeting with DSC on a mutually agreed future date and venue provided DSC agrees on the appointment of a mutually agreed, external independent mediator to facilitate the process.” The meeting agreed to either of the two Archbishops’ Emeritus, as suggested in the Cathedral Parish plan received by Diocesan Standing Committee on Saturday 3 March 2012, being invited to facilitate such a meeting. The meeting also agreed that the resolution of the DSC to restore the Eucharistic ministries at the Cathedral, and the appointment of a senior priest would continue as planned. However, it was agreed that the special Vestry to elect new leadership be postponed.
On Sunday 18 March 2012 the decision of the sub-committee of Diocesan Standing Committee was communicated by letter, which was read out to the Cathedral Parish during the 09:30 Eucharist service by the present chairperson, Judge Tati Makgoka. Archdeacon Elias Lekoro presided over the Eucharist, and reports that the Eucharist went ahead with some limited disruption during the prayers. Notwithstanding, there was a substantial participation by members of the Cathedral Parish in receiving Holy Communion.
Finally, the Diocesan leadership have purposely not invoked the Canons or Diocesan Rules as a method of dealing with the present impasse, believing that such a step at this time is not conducive to dealing with the issues raised, or with possible underlying issues. Recent emails, from an anonymous Gmail address claiming to represent the Cathedral Parish, received by the Bishop and Chapter members, suggest there are other issues at play. It is the Diocesan Leadership’s belief that the present journey will yield fruit and that true reconciliation will be brought about.
Please continue in prayer and fasting, that the Holy Spirit of God will truly embrace the process as it continues to unfold, along with all involved.
Yours in the service of Christ and his Church
The Archdeacons and Canons: Cathedral Chapter
on behalf of the Diocesan Leadership: Diocese of Pretoria