Diocese of Grahamstown

Ad Clerum July


25, 2008         No. 07/08                                                                                                        


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ


I am writing to you all while bishops from all over the Anglican Communion are gathered at the University of Kent for the historic Lambeth Conference, under the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Some 600+ bishops, plus their spouses, are spending two weeks in fellowship, worship, and discussion at what most would acknowledge is a fragile and difficult time in the life of the Anglican Communion. All the bishops of our Province (apart from two who are ill) are there, including the Bishop-elect of Grahamstown, Ebenezer Ntlali; and there are many others there in a supportive capacity, including our sub-dean, Canon Suzanne Peterson. Lambeth 2008 comes amid a difficult and divisive debate over the role of gays and lesbians in the life of the church. What is happening at Lambeth is being watched with interest and concern by many.


Some background information on Lambeth (the following 4 bullet points are drawn from an article by Daniel Burke, Religion News Services, 19th July 2008):


  • Lambeth Conference was first held in 1867, and since then has taken place about once every ten years. The Lambeth Conference is one of four "Instruments of Communion" for the world's 77 million Anglicans. The others are the yearly meetings of primates (the senior archbishops who typically lead national churches); the Anglican Consultative Council, an international assembly of lay and ordained Anglicans; and the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.


  • More than 800 bishops from throughout the Anglican Communion have been invited. Those not invited were the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, Gene Robinson of New Hampshire; and the missionary bishops appointed by overseas Anglicans to lead disaffected North American Anglicans, such as Bishop Martyn Minns of Virginia.


  • Lambeth does not have the power to issue laws that are binding on member churches. While Lambeth resolutions have important moral authority, each national church writes and executes its own laws.


  • Some bishops are boycotting Lambeth because they don't want to sit at the table with the men and women who agreed to consecrate Gene Robinson, or who allow same-sex blessings in their church. Others object to female bishops, such as the Presiding Bishop of TEC, Katherine Jefferts Schori. Still others say there's no point since resolutions passed at Lambeth are toothless.


Adding to the mix is the recent Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) held in Jerusalem at the end of June, and attended by 1148 lay and clergy delegates, including 291 Anglican Bishops and 5 Primates. Some who attended GAFCON are also at Lambeth; but there are those, largely from Africa [though not South Africa], who have chosen to boycott Lambeth. GAFCON issued the Jerusalem Statement, in which they claimed that the GAFCON movement had arisen because, they say, a “false gospel” is being promoted within the Anglican Communion, which denies the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and “promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right”. The GAFCON statement announced that GAFCON would be a continuing movement rather than a once-off event. Although GAFCON did not decide to create a formal schism in the Anglican Communion, it expressed plans to set up new ecclesiastical structures, particularly in the USA and Canada. It called for the formation of a new council of GAFCON Primates.


I do not want to second-guess what may emerge from Lambeth by the time it ends on 4th August. But I do want to offer some personal reflections.


Firstly, while the place and ministry of gays and lesbians in the life of the church is an area of disagreement, I do not believe that it is or should be a communion-breaking issue. Christians can agree to disagree on this one.


For me the key question is – what is the mission imperative in this or that particular context? The reality is that in some contexts same sex relationships are accepted and acknowledged as part of life. Those who elected Gene Robinson as bishop speak highly of his pastoral and evangelistic gifts; of his gifts as a pastor and priest and leader. For that diocese, he was the right person for the job.


At the same time, there are other contexts in which gays and lesbians are viewed with real suspicion, where the cultural context would make it impossible for a person to exercise a ministry if it were known that he was gay or in an active gay relationship. The tension comes when the action taken by the church in one part of the world impacts negatively on the mission and life of the church in another part of the world.


We do not as the Anglican Church in this province hold to the view that homosexuality as an orientation is a disease from which a person needs to be healed. Nor do we understand being gay as the result of some evil spirit from which one needs to be delivered. The church understands sexual orientation as something with which we are born, or which is formed in us in early years.


Having said that, we in this Province currently hold to what would be seen as the conservative, fairly traditional view – that marriage is between one man and one woman, for life; and that those who are not married, whether heterosexual or homosexual, are called to sexual celibacy.


It is an issue about which many on all sides feel passionately strongly. It is a matter of intense debate. Some of my most interesting and heartfelt discussions in recent months have been with Christians and interested observers around this issue.


We can go two ways on this.


We can say, as some do, that this is a matter of core doctrine, that we should not be even debating the matter because it is clear-cut in the scriptures and in the teaching of the church over the centuries – and that we are getting embroiled in a debate that is undermining our mission and life as a church. It is a matter of ethics and morals, and the authority of the scriptures to guide our life.


Or we can say, as some do, that there are more important things into which we should be putting our energies: that the hurting world needs the church to get on with the work of mission, to bring healing and hope – and that therefore we should not be concerning ourselves with lengthy debates about same-sex relationships. Allow such partnerships. This is not a matter of core doctrine about which the church should stand or fall. It is an ethical and moral issue of whether we love and are willing to embrace people regardless of their sexual orientation, and to recognise their giftedness and their contributions.


The matter is a stumbling block for many. On the one hand we have those who are outraged at the church going down the route of allowing for same-sex blessings and the ordination of people in same-sex relationships. It is seen as a denial of the faith and a rejection of the authority of the scriptures.


On the other hand, we have those who long for the church to be inclusive, who point to the two Great Commandments of love, who point to the shifts that the church has made in its understanding of slavery and on the ordination of women – and who are calling for the church to embrace and affirm and welcome those who are gay and lesbian.


Finally – and there is much more that can be said - the matter is a pastoral reality. We are talking about people, our neighbours, our friends, members of our family, members of our church, members of the community.


I add my voice to those who say we must stay together as a church and as the Anglican Communion. We need one another. We are impoverished when part of the body moves off on its own.


I conclude these reflections by asking that we pray for Lambeth and for all who are there; that we continue faithfully in the body of Christ, seeking to do what is right; that we rekindle our passion for evangelism & mission; and that we ask ourselves careful questions about what it means, in the life of our church, to be inclusive and ethical and moral and holy.


Change of Date for the Weekend Clergy Retreat

Please note that due to the selection of Saturday 20th September 2008 for the Consecration and Installation date of our Bishop Elect, Archdeacon Ebenezer Ntlali, the Clergy and Spouses’ Weekend Retreat scheduled for that weekend has been re-scheduled for the weekend Friday 31st October to Sunday 2nd November 2008.


Details of the Weekend Clergy and Spouses’ Retreat are as follows:

Celtic Retreat conducted by Brother Andrew OHC

Venue: Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery: Hillandale Guesthouse

Date & Time: Friday 31st October 2008 at 16h00 to Sunday 2nd November 2008, ending at lunchtime (departure after lunch)

Cost: R560.00 per person, inclusive of all meals (parishes will normally pay for the annual retreat costs for their licensed clergy)

Bookings to be made through the Guestmaster, PO Box 6013, Grahamstown 6141; email guesthouse@umaria.co.za; phone 0466228111; fax 0466226424


Please also remember the earlier Weekday Retreat for Clergy and Spouses. Same venue as above. Date: Tuesday 9th September 2008 12noon to Friday 12th September 2008 finishing after lunch. Retreat led by the Very Revd Fred Pitout, Dean of Pietermaritzburg (and Dean-designate of George). Cost: R840.00 per person including all meals (parishes will normally pay for the annual retreat costs for their licensed clergy). Booking details as above.

Appointment of Archbishop’s Chaplain

Congratulations to Fr Barry Wood for being appointed Archbishop’s Chaplain.  Please see the attached letter from the Archbishop for more information regarding this appointment.

Acting Archdeacon of King William’s Town

In consultation with the Bishop-elect, I have appointed Fr Charles Lagan as acting Archdeacon of King Williams Town. We are grateful to Fr Charles for being willing to take on this responsibility and ministry.

Congratulations, news, joys and sorrows

Click here for the July ‘Ad Laos’ from Archbishop Thabo for your information.


Archbishop Thabo and a South African Human Rights Delegation visited Israel-Palestine to support those working daily by non-violent means to bring an end to human rights abuses and breaches of international law and to move towards peaceful relations and a just settlement. Please continue to keep the situation in the Middle East in your prayers.


We continue to pray for the full recovery of Bishop Nathaniel Nakwatumbah of Namibia who underwent surgery at the Windhoek State Hospital on the 3rd July 2008. Kindly uphold his wife Vistorina in your prayers as well.


Bishop Rubin Phillip and Bishop Paddy Glover underwent surgery on the 24th June and 21st July 2008 respectively. We continue to pray for their full recovery.


Sadly we have just learned that:

Bishop Daniel de Pina Cabral, a former Bishop of Lebombo died.  Please pray for his wife Anita;

The Reverend Howard Skomolo died. Uphold his wife Tandi and family in your prayers;

The Reverend Kholiwe Sunners died in the early hours of Sunday 20th July.  Pray for her husband, Peter and her son, Mark.


Anglican House of Studies is hoping to appoint a Director of Studies. An Advert is attached herewith for your ease of reference.

Children’s / Youth Pastor

St Cuthbert’s Anglican Church in Port Elizabeth has the abovementioned vacancy. For more information, please refer to the attached advert.


Mothers’ Union Development Worker:

Please see the attached document for requirements needed for this post.


Parishes with vacancies

Please continue to pray for clergy to be found for the following parishes, and for those who are leading the search processes:

Good Shepherd, East London South (Archdeacons Peter Lenkoe & Mark Spyker)

Holy Cross, Mdantsane (Archdeacon Wilson Ntlola & Peter Lenkoe)

St Alban’s, East London (Archdeacon Peter Lenkoe)

St Barnabas, Sada (Archdeacon Reg Morgan)

St Peter’s, Ezibeleni (Archdeacon Reg Morgan)

St Nicholas Beacon Bay, our Ecumenical Parish, needs to appoint a self-supporting Anglican assistant priest with effect from March 2009, with an initial contract of 2 years renewable annually. Interested candidates to send CV to the Diocese. For further details please contact Archdeacon George van der Merwe.


Service of consecration and enthronement of Fr Ebenezer Ntlali

This is to take place on Saturday 20th September 2008, at 10 a.m., at the Cathedral. More information will be sent to the diocese in due course. Here are some preliminary details:

The liturgical colour is red. Could clergy please robe with alb/chalb and red stole; members of Chapter: chalb/alb, red stole, cope.

We have hired the town hall and are investigating the possibility of a large tent next to the Cathedral, to cope with overflow seating (we would hope to arrange a video link).

The Cathedral holds a maximum of 600 people, including the use of chairs which would be brought in. We may therefore need to issue a certain number of tickets to each parish, and with entrance to the cathedral by ticket only. Unfortunately it is simply not possible to accommodate the entire diocese, much as we would like to. We shall all get another opportunity to celebrate with our new bishop at the big combined Diocesan Family Day on Wednesday 24th September 2008, at Queenstown.


Robert Selby Taylor Trust Application Forms

This Trust assists in education of the clergy children. Should you wish to apply, kindly fill in the forms and return them to the Vicar General for endorsement as soon as possible. Please note that they should be in Cape Town by the 31st August 2008.


Yours in the love and service of our Lord


The Very Reverend Andrew Hunter

Dean of Grahamstown and Vicar General


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