Media Release – 17th November 2011
Historic Church leaders’ meeting for South Africa
An historic meeting of Church leaders took place Tuesday, 15th November, at Bishopscourt in Cape Town. Its aim was to tackle divisions between historic and newer churches, where labels such as ‘ecumenical’ and ‘evangelical’ have undermined a broader shared Christian witness within society and nation. Leaders made a renewed commitment to enhance working together for the good of all South Africans.
Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, chair of National Church Leaders Consultation, hosted the meeting which brought together leaders from three major Christian groupings: Revd Mautji Pataki, General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC); Revd. Moss Ntlha, General Secretary of the Evangelical Alliance of South Africa (TEASA); and Mr Miles Giljam, CEO of African Enterprise (AE). Methodist Bishop Ivan Abrahams, out-going chair of the National Church Leaders’ Consultation also participated, and Dr. Renier Koegelenberg, Executive Director of Ecumenical Foundation of South Africa; and Dr Welile Mazamisa, EFSA board member, were also present. Archbishop Stephen Brislin of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town was invited but unable to attend. He indicated his support of the meeting.
The meeting followed the January 2010 National Church Leaders’ Consultation which expressed the need for organic unity amongst Christian groupings, and strongly recommended that SACC,TEASA and AE leaders meet and explore common concerns as a way forward.
“Now is a kairos moment, “said Miles Giljam after Tuesday’s meeting. “People want leadership and answers. We also need to instil hope in people.”
“The year 1994 was the end and the beginning of history in South Africa,” commented Dr Welile Mazamisa. “The churches stepped back and others have taken that space – we now need to reclaim it.”
“We need a space to reflect together and work on our commitment to one another and to the people of South Africa,’ said Moss Ntlha.
“In our current context, where the dream of our being a rainbow nation is not being realised in certain quarters, it is important that as Christians, regardless of our differences, we should meet and hold to the vision that a united country is possible,” Archbishop Makgoba added.
The Christian leaders shared individual perspectives and identified common priorities. They then considered the Overview of the National Development Programme 2030 and discussed the contribution Churches can make to the way forward.
Participants agreed on key issues in South African society needing urgent attention, including corruption, poor service delivery, and problematic health care and educational systems. They also affirmed the desire of the broader Christian community to be a partner in addressing the problems which are facing our people and our communities.
The meeting concluded with an enthusiastic commitment to continue meeting for reflection, dialogue and common action.