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Archbishop of Cape Town speaks out about HIV/AIDS, war, poverty and abuse

Posted on: August 7, 2003 12:54 PM
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[ACNS source: Anglican Diocese of Cape Town] The Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, opened the Diocese of Cape Town’s 60th session of Synod by calling on the church to "make a difference to the lives of those we meet in our everyday life".

Saying that the church is called to be the sign of God’s presence in the world, he challenged the synod, in a charge entitled ‘Agents of the Reign of God’, to make a real difference by tackling the issues of war and peace, interfaith relations, poverty, HIV/AIDS and domestic abuse and gender violence.

Just a day after making strong criticisms of government policy, by calling the HIV/AIDS situation in South Africa, "a world disgrace as serious as apartheid", he now turned to his own church charging them to work together with other Anglicans in Cape Town and South Africa, as well as with other church denominations and faith groups, to respond to "this enormous health crisis affecting us all."

The Archbishop spoke of his encouragement with regards to the church’s ‘Isiseko Sokomeleza’ project, and the many HIV/AIDS projects being run by parishes, but warned that it is essential that the church continue to fight the sin of stigmatisation, "which prevents people from early testing and decimates families".

According to the Archbishop, poverty, alongside unemployment is one of the greatest challenges facing South Africa and he spoke about how, "for those on the streets, in the informal settlements and in the rural areas, ten years of democracy have not had the desired or promised effect". He called on synod to support the church’s social development work and also to lobby government for basic poverty alleviation policies such as the Basic Income Grant.

The Archbishop went on to say that the money for the arms deal could have been used for other needs and that he believed that, "there is such a strong moral imperative against this deal that an appeal to the international courts for cancellation would be sympathetically received."

The Archbishop also addressed internal church issues such as the use of different ministry models, being open to the Holy Spirit to discern truth, communicating the gospel to the next generation, prayer, being confident in our Christian faith, and looking beyond the differences in the church to seek a Christ-centred identity.

The Archbishop finally spoke of his role as Archbishop and ways in which the diocesan structure could be changed in order to allow him to fulfil his ministry more effectively.

Diocesan synod is the highest decision-making body of the Anglican Church in and around Cape Town (the Diocese of Cape Town). The opening of synod was attended by Anglican clergy and lay-representatives as well as ecumenical partners representing the African Spiritual Churches, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of England in South Africa, the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Moravian Church, the Congregational Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Western Cape Province Council of Churches.

A greeting was brought on behalf of all these ecumenical partners by Methodist Bishop Andrew Hefkie, who challenged all the churches to be a prophetic voice to government.

Topics to be covered during the three days of synod include the possible division of the Diocese of Cape Town, guidelines for interfaith relations, violence against women, youth sexuality and HIV/AIDS. Any additional motions or highlights will be announced by press release.