Welcome to the College of Transfiguration, NPC - a provincial centre for the training of Anglican clergy.

DIOCESAN DEMOLITION OR SURVIVAL

Thursday, 28 April 2016 
 
 
To the steering committee, management and the Rector, thank you very much for involving us in the life of the College. To give us a sacred space so that we may discuss with you and look at those things that are affecting our lives. As future leaders of the church we need to share with one another what we have seen, what we have heard and what is confronting us even today in the life of our church. Diocesan demolition or survival. I did not know whether it's reconstruction demolition or it is the calling of Jeremiah to uproot, to destroy, to plant and to build.  
 
Anglicans are decreasing very fast in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The new Christian churches are getting bigger and bigger in numbers. What does that say to us as Anglicans? We are a church in an economic world, the finances in dioceses are decreasing and some of the dioceses are at the break where they are unable to pay stipends. We are a denomination amongst other denominations and you ask yourself, “What is our brand?... What do we sell?”. 
 
I think in our church each diocese is engaged in leadership, on how do we grow future priests of the twenty-first century in a democratic South Africa. And what sort of priests do we need today in Southern Africa in the challenges that we are facing as state and church in society. The vision is to grow the quality of assistant priests who will be future rectors, archdeacons, bishops and archbishops, whether they go to the army, in South African Defence Force or to chaplaincy work in school. In 1854, the first Bishop of Grahamstown had theological education and training as one of his priorities.  
 
We as the church we are trying to rediscover what sort of theology is needed in a democratic South Africa. We had a theology that removed apartheid and through God's grace, that theology, liberation theology and other theologies interpreted in our communities what God was saying about apartheid. Political parties and the church were surprised by the apartheid regime coming very quickly to say take your government. I think that the ANC thought they were the government in waiting. It didn't come in a gradual process, it was just a hand over now. It's like saying to you, we are making you a bishop tomorrow.  
 
Theological education is very important. I hope that in your studies you will reflect on what is happening in the democratic South Africa. What will be your guidance in these times of uncertainty and anxiousness in our community? The church was brought into being through the blood of Christ, his wounds, death on the cross, his ministry and resurrection. Sacrificially the church was brought into being. Jesus informed us of what the Father wants and the purpose of the Father. He informed us about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Look at the Coca cola company, if you are selling Coke, your cap has to be Coke, your t-shirt must be Coke, your jacket must be Coke, the vehicle that your are driving must be Coke. The brand of the Church is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom of God values and our Anglican identity, but we are losing our identity. Were are excited about vestments and forget that robing goes with prayers. What do you say when you put on your amice, your alb, your girdle, your stole and your chasuble. Let us get a brand out of you. We want a brand, so your cap must be Jesus, your jacket must be Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and the Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, and Sanctifier. Know that you are set apart, there is no compromise, if the land is holy live in the holy land.  
 
Anglicans are having difficulties in finding parishes that value their identity. It is very serious to know your brand. God is calling us into His life, it starts by hearing His Word, or whatever encounter one may have. The response to God takes one through the purification process. God puts a problem in front of you and then you are commissioned by ordination so that you can go and deal with the problem. Look at the calling of Moses, the dialogue of God and Isaiah, and also look at the calling of St. John the Baptist. John’s name came from God, the dress code or type of attire to wear, the third was the sort of drink and type of food to eat. These will assist you in coming closer to the branding, you are a disciple of God, of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul puts it nicely by saying you are an ambassador of God on earth. Dr Bill Domeris says, “good priests are like jewels” in the community. You are a visible sign of Christ.  
 
Each diocese has a vision, a mission statement and strategic roles. All of us tend to align ourselves with the vision of the diocese. The four notes of the church are how does vision relate to our unity because as Anglicans we believe in unity. Secondly, we believe in holiness. Thirdly, we are a catholic church, a universal church of Jesus Christ and then fourthly, we are an apostolic church, a church that is episcopally led. We operate within the legal premise, we have canons and each diocese has the acts that are not in conflict with the canons. With your calling and ministry you operate within that legal framework. It seems as if although we are shepherds we are also CEO's, whether you are a rector or priest in charge, you have oversight on the doing in the pastoralia, the action and the doing in the administration, the action and the doing in the governance (policies and legal framework). It is not just shepherding and I'm happy that the college has got programmes on leadership, administration and governance. Do not take that lightly, our parishioners are more qualified than us in the various fields. Do not say “I have been trained a COTT, I can't hear from you.” Create an environment in which you become a listener, engage and dialogue. Once a parish goes down financially, it speaks a lot about the rector or priest, whether he or she has time for himself or herself and time for parishioners especially in hospitals, old age homes, the overall sight of ones pastoral care. On behalf of the bishop, the archdeacon sees through it that the pastoral and administration and governance is done. 
 
In clergy challenges, we as bishops especially in my own diocese, we get letters from parishioners saying that your young clergy are involved in excessive drinking. They drink to fall, and be taken home on Saturday by parishioners and on the next morning they come and celebrate the Holy Eucharist. What does this say about our Anglican identity, and about the brand, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, when you can't conduct your life? The second challenge, comes from those who are married but they don't want to go with their spouses. Someone else is always in your car, your spouse and children become parishioners. Our witness is gone, and our proclamation of the Word is gone. Excessive drinking which goes with infidelity is destroying our church, demolishing our witness and our identities. These are the challenges that we are faced with. How is the diocese going to survive in such conditions and how do you construct and reconstruct in these challenges?  
 
It is very painful for a student who has been trained here, close to R600 000 invested on him/her, only to get a report that: "Bishop, take him/her away. He/She is not suitable". It is painful that when you have been trained for three years as a curate, and when we are about to place you, then the parishioners say: "No, We don't want him/her". Let us try to be stewards of the resources. Let the parishioners say it was good to pay that money for this curate. Although we are apostolic and catholic, it is better to learn also from the other churches. Sometimes it is better for parishioners to invite the priest themselves. The top-down approach that makes one say I'm being sent by the bishop is ending.  
 
Make your attitude your greatest asset, stop being negative and be positive. Accept the fact that you are set apart and at some stage you may get ordained and walk with God. Your programme is with God. We as Anglican we believe in the Benedictine spirituality, time for meditation, time for prayer and time for written word. Discerning what does God say when the scripture is read and proclaimed. Discerning what the Living word, Jesus - the fifth gospel, the gospel of the lamb, say to you everyday. The tension will always be there between the calling of God and the church's expectation, and you have to keep a balance on what God has asked you to do, carrying it and the church's expectation out.  
 
The diocese will be strong if it creates an environment where the talents and skills are used. If we have students from this college who are a brand then this Province has got a big future. From curacy, priest-in-charge, rector, archdeacon, bishop, archbishop throughout. You are not a priest of a parish but of an Anglican communion, if you go overseas you will get a schedule to celebrate and preach because they know that our worship is the same and you are acquainted with scripture, doctrine and with God's mission.  
 
We wish you all the best. 
 
 
Right Revd Ebenezer Ntlali
Bishop of Grahamstown


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