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    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
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Entries in ANC (5)

Sunday
Dec072014

Speaking truth to Power - even addressing ourselves

Last week a senior minister in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa was Honoured for the role he played in serving South Africa during the apartheid struggle. He also happened to be a senior member of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) during his life.

The event at which he was Honoured was held in a Methodist Church, and the prominent display of ANC banners on the stage has caused some concern and a lot of discussion on the matter.

I can understand why! Because of our history in South Africa we are very sensitive about the relationship between the Church and the State. As you may recall 'apartheid' ideology in South Africa had a strong theological underpinning. A particular Christian Denomination supported, endorsed and informed the apartheid Nationalist government from the early 1900's until the collapse of apartheid in the mid 1990's. In fact the Dutch Reformed Church was scathingly known as the 'National Party at Prayer' - thankfully that Church had bravely acknowledged their error and is doing a great deal to work towards a free and just South African society.

However, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa seems to be falling into the same trap! Somehow it was easy to see how problematic such a tie between the Church and the State was when it was 'their Church' and 'their political regime'. Now, however, it is 'our Church' (and its members) that occupy positions of power in business and the state (they should be positions of service, but I seldom see such an attitude among the powerful). It is 'our political party' that is in power. Even though we can see that all is not well - the government is unjust, it is subverting justice and covering up wrongdoing and unethical behavior. The ANC is engrossed in party political agendas rather than working for the freedom of all. And... The Church is silent. We found it easy to speak prophetically to others, but far more difficult to speak truth to power now. Perhaps it is because we are the ones in power!

So, it was the memorial to this prominent colleague that has caused public debate. In the Church ANC banners and colors were displayed behind the pulpit. The Secretary General of the ANC sat on the stage, and was listed as a key speaker, alongside the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

This goes against our Church's polity (as presented in our 'Book of Order'), and so many of our members were unhappy and voiced their concern on a Facebook post.

Of course there were those who tried to silence the conversation - some saying how much good a partnership between the state and the church has done for the community. Others trying to say that such critique should be done in private and not on a public platform - it reminded me so much of the struggles we had with conservative white Christians during the apartheid struggle!

This morning in my devotions I read the following passage:

Ambrose of Milan (339 – 397): A provincial governor in fourth-century Italy, Ambrose was drafted to serve as bishop before he was even baptized. Reluctant to serve the church at first, he took the task seriously when he finally accepted the call. Ambrose gave away all of his possessions, took up a strict schedule of daily prayer, and committed himself to the study of Scripture. Called from the world of politics to serve the church, Ambrose was a leader who spoke truth to power and did not back down, insisting that “the emperor is in the church, not over it.”

(from 'Common Prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals, 7 December).

Indeed, we would do well to remember that the emperor is in the church, not over it.

Please pray for us. We need courage to speak loving truth to power, particularly when it is ourselves we must address.

By the way, the book that my friend Dr Wessel Bentley and I wrote called 'Between Capital and Cathedral: Essays on Church and State relationships' has a chapter in it written by the Rev Prof Peter Storey entitled 'Banning the flag in our Churches'. It is well worth reading in the context of this debate - please follow this link (copy and paste it into your browser) to get a copy of the book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B008YSKUG4/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1417935998&sr=8-1

Wednesday
Mar192014

Rev Vukile Mehana - Pastor, Politician or financial Profiteer? You decide.

I have been watching the rise in power of Rev Dr Vukile Mehana - the Chaplain General of the African National Congress (ANC) with some interest in recent years.  

It would seem that he holds powerful positions in three of the most significant sectors of South Africa society - party politics, religion and big business (see the reference to his interests in a media company considered to threaten media freedom in this article, and some broader information on some of his business interests in this Business Week article.)

Is he a Pastor, Politician or financial Profiteer?  What do you think?

Consider this in the light of a recent World Council of Churches document on the the 'Politicization of religion'.

Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the CCIA comments on this phenomenon, “The politicization of religion and use of religion in politics has often added to polarization, social divides and conflicts in traditionally tolerant communities around the globe".

I'd love to hear your perspective! Please post a comment below.

Thursday
Dec132012

The Church in South Africa calls for prayer and engages the African National Congress

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe (PHOTO: Martin Rhodes)Today GateWay News posted an article in which it quotes the African National Congress' (ANC) Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, who has 'warned' ministers and Church leaders 'to back off'

It is wonderful to see that our letter to the African National Congress has touched a nerve.  

We want those elected to serve the people to remember that we pray for them, but that we also hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.  As citizens of South Africa we have not only a right, but also a responsibility, to pray for elected officials and ensure that they discharge their responsibilities in a just and responsible manner for the sake of the people who they serve.

I was fortunate to be among the 33 leaders who met in Stellenbosch to draft this statement to the ANC ahead of its elective congress in Mangaung (I was representing Unashamedly Ethical and 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' at these meetings).  Our intention was absolutely clear and honourable - we seek just and selfless leadership for the good of our nation.  

You will see that the statement begins with our commitment to pray for and support just leaders.  It also acknowledges that we are not perfect and have failings of our own.  However, the statement also reminds the governing party that we are expecting them to govern justly and that we will not tolerate low morals, greed, abuse of power and the breakdown of the rule of law.

It is well worth reading the letter we wrote to the ANC (see the link in press release from Gateway News).  

The document is entitled 'The Church speaks for a time such as this' you can download a copy from here: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/63200140/The%20church%20speaks%20_Final%2026%2011%202012.pdf

In order to aid you in praying for the nation we have prepared prayer pointers and materials to guide you in your prayers.  You can download those prayer materials here.

Please join us in praying for our nation at this critical time. Please also remember to pray for those who are called to serve us in leadership.

Tuesday
Nov222011

Stop the Secrecy Bill in South Africa - Please act now

I got the following very helpful email from Avaaz.org which gives information on how you can stop the passing of the secrecy bill in South Africa.  This is a travesty of our democratic rights! Please join me in making a stand for freedom of the press in South Africa.

Dear friends across South Africa,

Sorry for the urgent note, but we literally only have hours now to stop the Secrecy Bill -- the National Assembly is called to vote on it this afternoon.

We stopped it last time -- after over 35,000 of us sent messages to the Chief Whips and thousands of us took to the street, they postponed the vote. Now, the unchanged bill is being pushed back to the floor after a sham public consultation this weekend that was only announced on Friday evening, and the ANC majority could force it through!

The same Chief Whips have the final word on the vote today -- if we call on them and Deputy President Motlanthe, the one outspoken ANC MP, we could block this shockingly regressive bill.

We only have hours left! Call the Chief Whips' and Motlanthe's offices now to halt the vote and protect our democracy -- it'll only take 5 minutes. Let's give them the public consultation that they have ignored:

Call Chief Whip Dr. Motshekga's office: 021 403 3860

Call Deputy President Mr. Motlanthe's office: 021 403 2353

The other Chief Whips:

Call Chief Whip Mr. Magwanishe's offices:
Cape Town -- 021 403 2211 // Constituency -- 011 873 7753

Call Chief Whip Ms. Ntwanambi's offices:
Cape Town -- 021 403 2429 // Constituency -- 021 785 4610

Call Chief Whip Mr. Davidson's office: 083 302 2199

Suggestions for your call:

  • Say that you want the ANC to halt the vote and throw out this draconian bill that puts a shroud over government and undermines South Africa's hard won freedoms.
  • Say that the public consultations were a sham with practically no one there and you expect the process to be revised and a real public consultation to take place as promised by the Chief Whips in September.
  • Say you specifically object to a Secrecy Law that: gives up to 25 year jail sentences for anyone holding classified information; removes any protection for whistleblowers; has no public interest clause; and has no independent appeals mechanism.
  • Say this vote could not come at a more worrying time, as more and more outrageous stories are coming out about government cronyism and corruption.
  • Appeal to Deputy President Motlanthe to use his powers to halt the vote until a public interest defense clause is included as he announced earlier this month.
  • Ask Chief Whip Davidson to bring the citizens messages to the floor of the debate.
  • If you get a busy signal, don't stop calling. That means we're jamming their phone lines and the pressure on them is rising! Call now and help spread the word!
  • After calling, post a message about how the call went -- to help Avaaz count the number of calls made, and demonstrate the wave of national protest to this bill being tabled -- we will give the numbers to the media.


http://www.avaaz.org/en/stop_the_secrecy_bill_emergency_calls/?vl

This is our last chance to stop the NA vote on this bill and standup against this fatal pillage of South Africa's democracy.

With hope and determination,

Alice, David, Sam, Pascal, Ricken, Rewan and the whole Avaaz team

SOURCES:

Secrecy Bill returns unchanged (Mail & Guardian)
http://mg.co.za/article/2011-11-18-secrecy-bill-returns-unchanged

S.Africa poised to pass heated state secrets law (Reuters)
http://af.reuters.com/article/topNews/idAFJOE7AK08W20111121

S.Africa's Gordimer warns on 'apartheid' secrecy bill (AFP)
http://news.yahoo.com/africas-gordimer-warns-apartheid-secrecy-bill-103541450.html

 

In order to be a good citizen of our nation we need to take responsibility for our rights.  Please join me in this.

Wednesday
Mar172010

Please pray for Mvume Dandala - vote of no confidence in Jacob Zuma

This evening I received a text message from my friend and former Bishop, Mvume Dandala, as I'm sure many others did.  In the text message he indicated that he would be proposing a vote of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma in parliament tomorrow.

I would request your prayers for Mvume and for our nation.  What is certain is that South Africa is at a particularly low moral ebb at the moment.  I couldn't believe it when I read in News 24 this week that Mr Zuma had spoken out in defence of the ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema.

Mr Zuma has been under the spotlight numerous times for various moral and ethical issues relating to sex scandals (which include rape, as well as fathering children outside of marriage, not to mention the fact that he has multiple wives), corruption, and helping known criminals.  I worry that where there is smoke there may be fire.  How is it possible that such a person could be elected as the President of South Africa?

Mr Zuma, the ANC and our nation are a cause of frequent prayer.

So, I would ask you, regardless of your political affiliation, please pray that South Africa will have the moral courage to seek a higher calibre of leadership, not only for the sake of our current dispensation, but also for the sake of future dispensations.

Here are some words that may guide you as you pray:

God, we praise You for Your goodness to our nation, South Africa, giving us blessings far beyond what we deserve.

We know that amidst the blessings there are challenges.

We ask that a profound moral and spiritual renewal will come upon our nation so that our children may grow up in safety, so that our mothers may live without fear, so that our fathers may be men of integrity and that our leaders may be true servants of those whom they are leading.

In times like these, help us to turn to You in repentance and faith.

Set our feet on the path of Your righteousness and peace.

We pray today that our nation's leaders may rise up in greatness of spirit to set the example to our children, that our nation's leaders, and all who gather in the dignified Houses of Parliament and our courts of Justice may become the moral bastion of all that we wish to see happen on our streets, in our homes, in our neighbourhoods, and in our nation.

Give Parliament and our courts the wisdom to know what is right, and the courage to do it.

Lord, may our great House of Parliament conduct its affairs with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are doing; to bind up this nation's wounds and to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among all who live in this land.

 
Clothe our leaders with righteousness; Let Your people sing with joy.
Give peace, O Lord, as a precious gift to the far corners of our land; May safety and security spread across our country like a warm blanket May poverty be forever banished from our shores May our children live till a ripe old age

O God we implore you to show us Your mercy, and to grant us your salvation.

Thank you!