Tuesday, October 02, 2012

October 2012 - Spectator or Participant?

Dear Friends

Vision in a Vacuum

I reported in detail last month on the progress made in reviewing our vision and mission for the Parish, specifically what had come out of our Parish meeting in mid-August. I have since wondered if we did actually print it, such has been the underwhelming response! I expressed my concern to Parish Council, and I reiterate it here, that this process of review should not be the Rectors’ vision and mission for the Parish, but ours as a collective. What are your thoughts on what I shared last month? Does what the August meeting came up with excite you? Demotivate you? Surprise you? Give you hope? Do you think the ideas shared touch on important issues or miss them? Do you see your experience of Corpus Christi, and your hopes for the Parish, reflected in what was discussed? Have we missed anything? Please, fill the vacuum!!


October is leadership month, and as you will see in the Diary section we will be holding elections for Churchwardens and Parish Councillors towards the end of the month. Having spent September focusing on Stewardship, we now have an opportunity to be good stewards of the gifts of Leadership. Standing for Churchwarden or Parish Councillor is an act of stewardship, a giving of our time and skills, a utilisation of these resources. All confirmed members of the parish are eligible. Please be prayerful and take time to encourage people you know and trust to stand for election.

What are we about?

Within the broad context of reviewing our vision and mission, our September focus on Stewardship, and our need to elect new Parish leadership for 2013 this month, along with the Synod of Bishops and Provincial Standing Committee meetings that took place last week, the upcoming Anglicans Ablaze Conference that will focus on exploring the Anglican Church of Southern Africa’s vision, mission and priority statements adopted in 2010, along with my own search for meaning and relevance, I am conscious of asking the question, “What is it that we are about?” … as Christians, as Anglicans, as South Africans, as Africans?

I spent some time today reading an address by Trevor Manuel, then Minister of Finance, to the Anglican Synod of Bishops in August 2004. In it he reflects on the need both in our wider society and within Government for the Church as an ecumenical movement to provide leadership, not by basking in the golden decade (1984-1985) when the Church was bold and articulate, and fully committed to bringing about democracy, but by embracing a sustaining and durable theology of reconstruction and development based on the premise of involvement and not spectatorship.

What are we about as Church? Manuel’s perspective back in 2004 was of the wider Church, largely uninvolved in the needs of society, occasionally attempting to broad-side government with accusations of failure from a spectator’s vantage point. I am wondering, reading this document in 2012, where the Church stands today on these issues? Do we continue to see responsibility for reconstruction and development as the preserve of Government, or are we acknowledging that we have a role to play, and are we playing it? Recent events at Marikana demonstrate that employers, Trade Unions, Government have lost the trust of the working class, and that they are even suspicious of the Church. Why is this? Is it, perhaps, because the wider Church has somehow lost its ability to be present to society? Manuel’s interpretation is that there is a powerful element – the Church Pty Ltd – in the wider Church environment that implores us to forget the concrete or contextual nature of incarnation, that leads us away from discovering our cause, our raison d'ĂȘtre, in serving the nations of Southern Africa, and the new South Africa in particular. In offering an alternative, Manuel identifies five pillars that, for him, needs define a Church with a cause. We need a Church that is aware of itself in the following ways:

  • A Church aware of what defines it – traditionally that of healer, intermediator, discoverer and uniter;
  •  A Church exploring its role as Convenor of itself and its congregation – re-motivating ourselves in order to lift the burden from the poor;
  •  A Church as keeper of values – building the norms of caring, campaigning against crime and corruption, helping society understand the difference between values and cash cost;
  • A Church as constructor of communities;
  •  A Church as the conscience of Society.

Manuel also quotes Thabo Mbeki, then president of the Republic, speaking to the South African Christian Leaders Assembly in July 2003, “… you bravely and at great cost to many among you, chose a path through the contextual understanding of your mission. Once again, your mission calls for a reappraisal on the basis of the real conditions that face all our people.” It strikes me that Trevor Manuel, a fellow Anglican and senior Government Minister, touched on key issues for us as a Church back in 2004, and that senior Church leadership has responded to these challenges, certainly within our Anglican context: the Provincial social development arm, Hope Africa, was expanded and better resourced; our Diocesan social development arm, Tumelong Mission, has been refocused; Bishops and Clergy throughout the Province have been exposed to social development training through courses run by Hope Africa; a vision, mission and priority statements have been adopted for the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. But how is this finding traction at grass-roots level in the wider Church environment? How do we experience a commitment to the reconstruction and development of our society in the more specific context, for example at Corpus Christi? Is our involvement with Louis Botha Homes, Iren Homes, Tumelong Mission, a sufficient commitment in this regard? How many of us actually pitched up and participated in the Environmental Clean-up day a couple of weeks ago?

An additional challenge is how we respond as the Church to the National Development Plan 2030 (see http://bit.ly/RxCSVx)? I have just read the vision statement, a powerful and profound statement of the Nation I believe we all want to be but are not yet, and I suspect, fear we will never be. It is written in the present tense and planted in 2030, and is a call to build our Nation. It proposes a powerful cycle of development approach to change designed to build social cohesion around three important cogs: active citizenry, effective government and strong leadership. I suggest that the Church, in a wider ecumenical context, can be a powerful force in encouraging active citizenry and participating in giving strong leadership. The vision statement begins with the words:

We, the people of South Africa, have journeyed for since the long lines of our first democratic election on 27 April 1994, when we elected a government for us all.

Now in 2030 we live in a country which we have remade.

We are suspicious of Government, often with good reason. But as God’s people we are people of Hope, people of passion, people committed to seeing the purposes of God, the goodness of God triumph in our world. Pre-1994 as Anglicans we sided with the politically poor and oppressed. In today’s world we need to side with the economically poor and oppressed. If we sit back and choose to be the spectator Church, the uninvolved Church, then we allow the Julius Malema’s of the world to set the agenda. As an involved Church we can participate with other committed parties, which include Government, in building up our communities and our Nation. As participants we can have a voice and we can make a difference.

In Conclusion

In the midst of all the above, who are we as Corpus Christi Anglican Church in Garsfontein? What defines us? What is our vision? What is our purpose? And how are we utilising our core practises of worship, care and fellowship, education and discipleship, service and witness to serve God in our world and serve those made in God’s image who populate our lives?


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