Mission into the world
Bishop Bethlehem welcomed all the members and invited guests to this 21st session of synod.
iindaba produces some extracts from Bishop Bethlehem’s Charge to synod:
You are with us this Evening for ‘the same Lord and same Faith’ we share, for the same purpose of “Mission into the World”. This is our Theme for this Synod. We cherish your presence among us. Together with us, you are all called to mission, and carry the same Mandate of Jesus Christ who commanded us: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (Matt 28:19-20). This mandate is obligatory. Mission and evangelism are the nature and character of the Church.
We believe in proclamation - mission is corporate. This is the duty of the whole Body. It is beyond denominational and traditional boundaries of our faith. It is not for Anglicans only. It is for all of us. The world must be redeemed. God so loved the world that he ‘gave’, and did so sacrificially in the person of Jesus Christ. It is true that without loving the world and praying for it, God cannot use us effectively to redeem it. (John 3:16). The Church exists as a beneficiary to those outside it (Judge Mervyn King). We are calling upon all Christians to rise in all love and witness, and engage vigorously in meeting the mandate of our Lord ‘to go and make disciples’. This is the programme of every cleric we ordain, and every believer we commission by the laying on of hands. Our programme aims at Growing the Church by the preaching of the Word and the equipping of the saints.
It is our duty to cherish and affirm ministries, acts of love and mercy done out the generosity of the heart and out of the love for Jesus. The giving by the faithful of their tithes, talents, time and service, especially the lay members of our diocese, lifts our spirit in this ministry. As we see in the churchwardens’ meetings on the first Saturday of March each year, it is important to be vigorously involved in the management of these resources, and we shall continue to employ the skills God has given us in you. The Church is wonderfully blessed by your presence. We appreciate your contribution to the welfare of the Kingdom of God. Keep it up!
The Bishop affirmed the diocesan staff, the legal fraternity and the clergy:
- You continue to shepherd the flock of Christ with integrity and honesty, always on the side of the “good” and not the “bad”, bringing solution to the problems and not adding more. How can you not be appreciated in your engagements in Mission and Evangelism, in community building programmes and ecumenical ventures? We salute you! May the Lord increase your resources and add his blessing on you. A cleric who loves Jesus has good fellowship with the Bishop and with all the faithful. I affirm you for a job well done!
… And others:
- Canon Mcebisi, Jean Lerotholi, Mazoe Nopece, and Nelson Nongauza for election to the organisations;
- Sipambo Ludidi and Linda Ncaca on work for HIV/AIDS;
- the ministry of Siyafundisa and Vana Vetu managed by Pinkie Libala and Babalwa Kani;
- the Bishop’s Consultative Council;
- in the political arena we wish to congratulate the new President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma and his cabinet;
- Abp Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu’s continued unwavering prophecy with truthful, disturbing utterances to the erring;
- Thabo, the Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the ACSA;
- our new Bishops: Ebenezer Ntlali, Bishop of Grahamstown; Adam Taaso, Bishop of Lesotho; David Bannerman, Bishop of Highveld.
The story of ‘God with us’ is better understood when we go through the pages of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The story of the Lectio Divina (the Bible) is not just another reading, desensitized to the sacred, but the savouring of the text lingering leisurely in the divine revelation. (Thomas Keating: Intimacy with God). Liberal theology tends to forget this.
The Bible is not just a primary source of Christian theology; it is the Word of God – Lectio Divina, as we have said. As this literal historical message of Scripture challenges us to a level of good morality, then we are taken to new levels of our faith beyond the moral sense, into the allegorical sense of the Holy Writ. As we grow in the grace of God in our spiritual life, a character of godly life is built in us ‘to make us a kingdom of priests’ who stand and serve before our God. (APB: canticle 15/ Rev 5). It is at this higher spiritual interaction with God that we begin not only ‘to hear, read, mark, learn but inwardly digest them’, to allow ourselves to be wholly immersed in them. They are no longer historical documents anymore, but stories of a closer walk with God in obedience and trust in our spiritual journey since the day we first believed and were baptised. Once this takes place, the unitive level of our experience of Scripture takes place. This is called anagogical. The Word wells up from us as a continuing revelation to influence others and our life situation.
This is how we look at scripture. Whatever kind of behaviour or thinking we encounter, we test it against the moral demands of the Holy Writ (Article XX). In our diocese therefore, we align ourselves with all Bible-believing Christians in informing our theological thinking. Reason cannot just be for its sake, since we are all fallen human beings, and have come short of the glory of God (Rom.3:23). Together with the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FOCA), we uphold the authority of Scripture as an integral part of our fellowship with all the children of God. We affirm the reality of Incarnation and the mighty glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ as true, essential occurrences forming an integral part of our faith, and never just a “myth”. The historical Jesus remains “unique” from the ages past into the unknown future. He is with us ‘always, even to the end of the age.’ (see Nazir-Ali: The Unique and Universal Christ).
Thus far God continues to journey with us in the diocese. However, we are showing very little growth numerically, especially in acts of Communion over Easter and Christmas services since last Synod. In both English and Afrikaans speaking churches, noticeable is the exchange of new members from other churches. The same may be the case in the isiXhosa speaking churches. However there is a degree of un-churched people being brought to the Lord through revival meetings and door-to-door evangelism. Motherwell, Kragga Kamma and Kwa- Nobuhle are areas of growth at the moment.
In terms of the quality of faith, in other words, commitment to Christ, confessing him as Lord and Saviour; Anglican Identity and articulating and defending the faith using Biblical Revelation, there is still a lot of in-depth teaching that needs to be done by the Bishop, through Archdeacons, Rectors, Youth Leaders, Sunday School Teachers and the rest of parish leadership. We will be vigorously pursuing through Training for Ministries programmes that seek to equip the people of God.
Pic: A trinity of bishops - +Michael Coleman (Roman Catholic), +Bethlehem and +David Vika (Ethiopian Charismatic Church)
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