[ACNS, by Bellah Zulu] This year’s Anglicans Ablaze held in Cape Town, South Africa, was an opportunity to explore and discuss various spiritual and social issues pertaining to the Anglican Church and the country as a whole including inequality and poverty. But it was the themes of education and leadership that formed a constant thread throughout the four days conference. The conference itself took place at a time of growing unrest and protests for free university education in some of South Africa’s notable universities which has prompted several institutions to temporarily close, just when students are preparing for end-of-term exams.
Christians have the answer
“Twelve million children are in state schools here in South Africa and nine million of them are in need of support,” revealed Mike Darby, an education activist from South Africa. “Anglicans have always been known to provide integral support to human beings, and with unemployment rate at 55 per cent in South Africa, the Church and the civil society organisations need to step up.”
He added: “Black people here in South Africa don’t have equal opportunities as their white counterparts and like in many other places around the world, white privilege does exist here in South Africa, and as Christians we need to help come to place where people are treated the same.”
Mr Darby explained the unique position that Christians have and the difference they can make in the country. “We’re in touch with the creator of the universe and it’s up to us to make a difference through prayer and action and only then can we help build a solid foundation for our children,” he said.
When your faith is under fire
South Africa’s public protector, Advocate Thuli Mandonsela, whose office is mandated to strengthen constitutional democracy by investigating and redressing improper and prejudicial conduct, maladministration and abuse of power in state affairs, gave a talk at the conference and reflected on her job as how she has been able to exercise her “faith under fire.”
She was thrust into the limelight when she won her petition asking the court to cite President Jacob Zuma in violation of the constitution for misusing up to $16 million USD (approximately £12.9 million GBP) of public money to renovate his private home, something that even brought about threats on her life.
“The time to think that politics is for people with no jobs is long gone,” said Mrs Mandonsela during a question and answer session with the youth. “Find out what your purpose in life is and do something you are passionate about. Be the light of the world and never think that you’re too small to make a difference.”
Earlier she reflected on why she chose to remain in office and not resign despite the threats she had received on her life. “People who are elected to public office should be trustworthy, competent and should never allow their self-interest come against what they have to do. I was appointed to lead a team which ensures that government conduct is constitutionally and legally compliant,” she said.
South Africa’s public protector, Advocate Thuli Mandosela, addresses the Anglicans Ablaze conference.
Photo: Bellah Zulu / ACNS
Unlocking way for mission and ministry
“Good leadership is about having a vision, being self-driven and working towards a goal often far greater than yourself, but often we mistake good managers as being good leaders,” said the Rector of the College of the Transfiguration, the Revd Dr Vicentia Kgabe. “A good leader should be able to move the hearts of the followers and not their mind.”
Dr Kgabe added that the church is in need of leaders whose life mission is all about making disciples and multiplying ministries. “Leadership is about multiplying disciples and good leaders should also seek the help of the Holy Spirit,” she said.
Another speaker, Jeremy Koeries reflected on the concept of leadership as being about passing of the key to someone else. He spoke of how in his own culture a further gives a young person a symbolic key as an indication of trusting them with their own life and of other people around them.
“There is need to understand the concept of community in order to understand Godly leadership and what it’s meant to do,” he said. “It’s hard to raise a generation of Godly leaders if you’re not connected to God who is the source of life, and his people.”
Sex and drugs a challenge for young people
The conference had specific sessions that dealt with issues of sex and drug and substance abuse among young people. “We’ve a societal norm who says that drug addicts are morally weak people but we need to change that perception,” said the director of the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre, Ashley Potts. “In this country we don’t know that such people also need medical help.”
But it was the candid session on sex among youth conducted by a Christian married couple, Peter and Janine Cornelius, which captivated the young minds. “Remember that the word of God says that you’re his temple and something sacred resides in you,” Janine Cornelius reminded the youth. “We do what we do because we have desires which we allow to be driven by the wrong messages leading to undesired action.”
Peter Cornelius explained that the current culture is rooted on the invasion nature of sexuality. He explained the value of sex when done within the confines of marriage but also the pain it can bring when done outside marriage. “Most of us have made monumental mistakes in our lives but remember the Bible reminds us that we cannot out do the grace of God,” he said.
This year’s Anglicans Ablaze was, according to the organisers, something different. “The audience and Anglicans Ablaze itself is maturing,” said the director of Growing the Church, the Revd Trevor Pearce. “But it’s important to note that we’re simply God’s people bound by a common love for God, each other, for the church and for the world.”