Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Funeral arrangements for gospel legend, Vuyo Mokoena

Information on the arrangements related to the death of Vuyo Mokoena has been released. Praise and Worship will evidently be foremost as his life ministry as a worshipper, gospel singer has impact so many people.

According to Sowetan memorial service will be held tomorrow at the Grace Bible church in Pimville, Soweto, starting at 11am. A second memorial service will be held in the Duduza Multipurpose center, on Thursday also at 11am. His funeral will be held at the Springs Civic Center at 9am and the cortege will leave the Center at 1pm.

It would be an understatement to say that Gospel music is massive in Africa, it is gigantic. The death of Mokoena has sparked words of condolences from all quarters and indeed underlined African gospel as one of the forces in the healing of our continent. May the legacy of Vuyo Mokoena live on...

SACC relief efforts

SACC Relief: extra info
Benoni City Hall
They need baby clothes, baby products and baby food.
Contact: Ds Marius Strydom 0834493579

Germiston City Hall, President str.
We visited here on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. They urgently need volunteers to come and help sort out donations and food.
Contact: Mr Koom 0763135172

Global Relief: Ekurheleni Municipality
They urgently need doctors and nurses in the Ekurhuleni area (there have been threats of a union strike tomorrow (Tuesday) of local government health workers)
Please contact Philip 0795241485

Primrose Police Station
We visited the tented camp on Friday and Saturday. Systems are in place. Donations still welcome - extra donations are sent to other centers from there.
Contact coordinator: Stephanie 0762974121

Jeppe Police Station
We were here today. There are many people sleeping outside, although woman and children are in the hall/ tents. Food and donation systems are in place. Donations still needed.
Contact MES: 011 725 6531
Jonathan (resources) 0843723177
Douglas Torr 0844580595

Cleveland Police Station
We visited here today. They need volunteers that can help on an organizational level.
Please contact Douglas Torr 0844580595

Some suggestions:
Focus on donations of tinned food (no beans) and mieliemeel, rather than soup, since diarrhea seems to be a problem at some centers
In the case of large centers e.g. Primrose Police Station small amounts of food are difficult to distribute. They need at least 100 of anything.
Volunteers can also help with the children at all centres eg helping them to draw or play.
Teams to help cook and serve will be welcome almost everywhere.
Soon donation fatigue will set in, so please keep people informed of the situation that is still dependent on donations and volunteers.
Contact businesses and organizations that can help.
Refugees are getting irritated and disheartened as they see no solution or hope. Teams that can help listen to stories (even documenting it) and encourage people, can be very helpful.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mighty Men under the microscope

The Mighty Men is under the microscope of public media and theologians. This started possibly with the article by Dana Snyman, last week, where he critically looked at the Mighty Men's conference. This honest response however drew seemingly angry and bitter letters from Christians, possibly from the Mighty Men themselves.

Over the weekend, there was a follow-up on Dana's story under the title, Die magteloosheid van die 'Mighty Men' (The powerlessness of the Mighty Men) by academic and famous poet, Prof Lina Spies. According to her, there are no 'nugter' (sane?) voices in the emotional hype about the conference in Greytown. As 'liefhebber van die Bybel' (lover? of the Bible) and 'gelowige' (believer) she maintains that she cannot remain untouched by the Mighty Men and then she applauds Die Burger and Dana for their critical voices, even though, according to her experience, this is done at the risk of being ostracized in these circles. She seemingly experienced this pain herself of being excluded because of (possibly) raising a critical voice.

In her response, prof Spies, chides the NG Kerk, Hervormde Kerk and the 'Gereformeerde kerk (Reformed church), in particular, for not raising any rational response to the ministry of who she calls, 'Meneer' Angus Buchan. She then invokes Bishop John Shelby Spong as she denounce the patriarchy in the message and substantiate her argument that objective reason is missing in this movement, which is crucial 'to enhance human well-being'. Hence, she concludes that the Mighty Men will not add anything to building an ethical South Africa, in fact, she argues that since these mass meetings, South Africa has seen the eruption of xenophobic violence. What this movement signify is simply a shallow emotionalism devoid of any 'objective ethical value'.

Let's engage with Prof Spies as indication of how serious we take her argument, but also in respect of her as a person and evidently an academic of high standing. We've said it at a previous post Mighty Men's Conference gives hope to South Africa and Do we really need the Mighty Men that what is called for is to see the bigger picture in terms of the role that a renewal or revivalist movement like this could play. Even though Prof Spies invokes critical engagement and 'objectivity', she seems to leave that behind in her own assessment of this movement. She's simply responding as and in terms of outdated NG Kerk theology. This is sad because it would have been more creative to see how she, as a linguist, viewed for example the use of language in this movement.

What Prof Spies seem to miss in her argument, is the sensitivity to the kind of Christianity that is emerging, a Christianity that is qualitatively different from the modernist, enlightenment theology of yesteryear, which we might add, has failed the Western world. The theology that she espouse and call upon, the theology of the NG Kerk, Hervormde Kerk and Gereformeerde kerk has given birth to the brutal system of apartheid and also sustained it, even up to now as they maintain 'aparte' churches and are evidently theologically impotent in the face of the siege mentality of a substantial percentage of members of the Afrikaner community. The kind of Christianity on the horizon, seem to transcend racial and language barriers; it is varied, inclusive of emotion, spontaneous, practical, not being driven and controlled by arm-chair academics, but seemingly rooted in the real-life experiences of ordinary people, like 'meneer' Angus Buchan. In fact, her referring to him as 'meneer' and 'lekeprediker' is significant. It smacks arrogance. 'Menere' is not suppose to preach or share their faithstories to others; they are not suppose to discern and suggest in their ordinary farmerlanguage what God is telling them- this is the domain and privileged of white male theologians, the European based theology espoused by Nederlandse philosophers, the Swiss theologian Karl Barth, Spong and which is hidden in these, what she respectfully calls, 'gesaghebbende teologiese werke'. This negative sentiment, is also found in the article of Dana Snyman as he relates the ministry of Buchan to that of Brother Andrew of Open Doors. His angst for these 'menere' is heightened by the 'Hallelujahs' and 'Amens' that they 'shout'. Evidently the social and theological significance of the Pentecostal movemement in Africa and South Africa, in particular, in a week where the AFM is celebrating their centenary celebrations has passed them by.

Of course, there is always the danger of heresy, even in the Mighty Men's movement. But here lies the dilemma: with all the 'gesaghebbende teologiese werke' at their disposal, the churches she calls upon, has failed South Africa and Africa, for decades, with their heretic theology of apartheid. The current xenophobic violence, prof Spies, is not because of the Mighty Men and it is unfair to suggest that the event should have prevented what has build-up over many years, as prove of it's legitimacy. Sampie Terreblanche and Jan-Jan Joubert, on Saterday, 24 May 2008, again pointed out the fact that it was the theology of the three Afrikaanse sisterchurches she hold up as the norm, that conspired to create context for the takeover of the National Party, on 26 May 1948, on the basis of Afrikaner nationalism, that evil racist ideology which, some social commentators suggest, created the environment for the current hatred meted out against black Africans. That is history and for now, we need to respond to a new liberation that is taking place, a spiritual liberation if you like, giving birth to hope in the midst of these deep divisions.

What is therefore more tragic is the fact that the prof failed to see the ammount of goodwill and hope that this event engendered for dealing with the kind of challenges we face. Yes, of course, we will allways have differences in terms of the interpretation of Scripture and ironically she, working with texts, should have know these things. The critical challenge for us, as South Africans today seems to be to create spaces for dialogue across our differences over the language we use. The impression is that these men, only see themselves as 'mighty', by virtue of God's grace; that in telling their story, their experiences of what God is doing and how they see their role and they simply speak their non-theological, 'alledaagse' language- the language that the ordinary South African understands. In this language liberation, they are liberated from the shackles of the dominant theology. Their vocal rejection of 'theology' is not a rejection of sound biblically based reflections on God, Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit, it's a rejection of the type of academic, ivory tower speculation that has nothing to do with the day-to-day realities of ordinary 'menere'. It evidently rejects the speculations of Spong or of churches that has literally faded int oblivion in Western Europe. This liberation is scary for the old guard, because these selfmade guardians loose their stranglehold on the masses and on the way the Holy Spirit is suppose to operate. It expose their own vulnerabilities and spiritual needs.

Maybe, then, it is crucial for us to keep the Mighty men under the microscope, so that the significance of what is happening here may spread, possibly beyond what 'Meneer' Angus Buchan and the other 'menere' thought. Not only in the big tent 'op die plaas' or the rugbystadiums, but also in the halls where the public and intellectual debates of our time rage. Maybe, just maybe, this 'living under the microscope' might also be leading to the redemption of these public spheres...what an idea !

Gospel legend Vuyo Mokoena will remain with us


Gospel legend, Vuyo Mokoena passed on this week and we want to express our condolences to the family and friends, but also express our thanks to God for raising up such a legend blessing the church. His collaborations, (in our biased view with Njalo as the best) with Rebekka Malope, Joyous Celebration has blessed not only the church but also the rest of our African community. Here, the Sowetan, brings tribute to a legend and we say Amen !

Bishop Paul Verryn, talking about being church, on an African beat


In a close-up interview with Bishop Paul Verryn, we hear the story of reality church, geared for African Day. This is not about a few African drums here and there, and singing 'Jabulani', dancing and clapping hands. This is missional church at the city centre of Johannesburg, a church led by a pastor, who has experienced the contradictions and loneliness of these words, we use so often, at no cost. The interview has been done by Hanlie Retief and is in Afrikaans. Read it here.

Friday, May 23, 2008

STATEMENT FROM RIVERLEA URC ON XENOPHOBIC VIOLENCE

We as the Church council of the Riverlea URC have taken note with serious concern of the sudden outburst of violence meted out against people of our various African neighbors. We have witnessed the vulnerability and loss of these people, ourselves here in Riverlea, where victims from an informal settlement close by were given shelter and food for short period.

We therefore state the following:
1) That we consider the persistent and orchestrated violence against people from various other African countries from whichever quarter, to be sin in the eyes of God, who, we believe, is in a special way the God of the poor and the needy.
2) That God calls us as his church, to stand with the victims of xenophobic attacks, in support and solidarity.
3) That our government should take full responsibility with civil society in protecting the innocent and vulnerable;
4) That pure and undefiled religion in the presence of God, is to stand with the orphan and widow in their oppression, and to remain undefiled in this world.

We therefore call
1) Members of our churches to refrain from xenophobic talk, actions and attacks;
2) That our churches and believers to make food, blankets, shelter, fresh water and food available to agencies giving shelter to foreigners.
7) That our law enforcement agencies are to leave no stone unturned to curb the violence, arrest the perpetrators and restore peace and safety to all affected communities.
8) That our Dept of Home Affairs should grant special refugee status to foreigners currently affected by these attacks and convene an urgent summit with all stakeholders to protect the human rights of refugees in South Africa.

We take this stand, aware of the complexity of our current socio-economic situation and the dire poverty, unemployment and disarray that are endemic in our communities. Hence, we re-affirm our position, as a church, who believe,
that God has revealed himself as the one who wishes to bring about justice
and true peace among people;
that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the
God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged
that God calls the church to follow him in this; for God brings justice to
the oppressed and gives bread to the hungry;
that God frees the prisoner and restores sight to the blind;
that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans
and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;
that for God pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and the
widows in their suffering;
that God wishes to teach the church to do what is good and to seek the
right;
that the church must therefore stand

Therefore, we call
1) for a review of our government’s current policies with regards to refugees , asylum seekers and immigrants;
2) for a review of our macro- economic policies, which seems to exclude the poorest of the poor from living a life in abundance;
3) that our government should speed up the delivery of social services, health, and education to all, to ensure justice and peace for all.

As a church council, we will endeavor to continue our efforts to support our sisters, brothers and children, in need from our various African countries and we call upon other churches to do so as well.

Herewith list of where all of us can make a difference
CENTRAL JHB

MES (Metro Evangelical Services)
Cnr Edith Cavelle& Kapteijn Streets, Hillbrow
Tel: 011 725 6531
Cell: Zerilda Nel: 083 947 8779
E-mail: zerildames.org.za
Involved at Jeppe Police Station

Meals to 2000 persons per night
Runs crèche for children
Trauma counseling by social workers
Ministering to displaced people
Non Perishable goods and food
Medical team involvement

Specific needs (desperately needed)

• Disposable nappies for babies
• Barrier Creams for babies
• Wet wipes
• Ready mix Purity Porridge
• Purity foods
• Volunteers to assist at the Police Station
MES can also be a drop off point for goods etc.
We will also coordinate volunteers and calls.

Contact person: Lauren Meyer
083 283 2199
Tel: 011 725 6531
E-mail: Lauren@mes.org.za

Natasha Felix for Volunteers
Cell 073 238 7739
E-mail: Natasha.felix@up.ac.za

JHB EAST- GERMISTON

Germiston Civic Centre, President street
Contact person: Mr Koom 0763135172

Currently there are 2300 males, 150 females, 120 children
Another extra 2000 people expected tonight!!

Needs:
antisepticals, cleaning goods, brooms
toiletries eg toothbrushes, soap, toiletpaper, towels
Kids: nappies, purity, milk powder
Women: sanitry pads
Food ie mieliepap, meatstew/sous, vegtables, fruit

Also urgently needed: Halls in the greater Germiston area for housing

Another contact person is Thabisile Msezani 0799230236
thabisilem@yahoo.com
They are cooking food in Benoni and then transporting it to the Germiston Civic Centre. Please contact her if you would like to coordinate cooked food or can help with transport of food.

JHB NORTH

Alexandria
Contact person: Rev Malapane (Lutheran)
0834535038

Distribution Point:
Fontainebleau Community Church
Corner of 4th Avenue & Rabie str, Fontainebleau
Contact person: Ronell Bezuidenhout
011 796 6800

Calvary Methodist Church
Corner of Harry Galaun Drive & 7th Avenue
Midrand
Tel: 011 805 3375
www.calvary.org.za

JHB SOUTH
Tsakane
Bishop Zitha: 0736506464
Catholic Church
mainly children
new group of refugees also expected at community hall


EKURHELENI
(see attached document)

POLICE STATIONS
(see attached document)

Thank-you very much!
Anriëtte de Ridder
083 490 0602

Financial donations:

Gauteng Council of Churches
Nedbank
Fox Street
Branch: 190342
Acc no: 1903392209

Tony Campolo speaking prophetically to our situation


I've always considered Tony Campolo to be a prophet of sorts. With the current xenophobic mayhem in our country he has been on the mark in a post that appeared on 11 March 2008 on the God's Politics blog by Jim Walles and friends. Campolo's post, A proposal for 'illegal aliens' I put here in its entirety:

The Hebrew Scriptures clearly call for the children of Israel to make room for the alien. The Israelites are reminded that they, too, were once aliens in a strange and distant land.

[For the Lord your God] …Who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.—Deuteronomy 10:18-19

The New Testament picked up this same admonition as Jesus explained to his disciples that they should treat the alien as they would treat him (Matthew 25:31-40).

St. Francis of Assisi taught his followers that Jesus is mystically present in the alien. They were told that when they look into the eyes of the stranger in their midst, they might see their Christ staring back at them.

Christians need to be reminded that in the only description that Jesus gave of judgment day, he specifically declares that God will inquire how we treated the alien. God will want to know, according to Matthew 25:35, whether or not we made room for "the stranger" to live among us.

Given such Biblical teachings, it is difficult to understand how so many Jews and Christians can call for harsh treatment of those 12 million illegal immigrants who presently reside within our national borders, and how they so often act as though U.S. citizens should not make them welcome.

There is little question that we need these men and women who have illegally entered our country. They are doing necessary work as farm laborers and in the manufacturing sectors of our economy. Elderly persons, like myself, should realize that millions of dollars taken out of these laborers' wages each week go into our depleting Social Security fund. The evidence is clear that overwhelming numbers of these undocumented workers are hardworking, decent neighbors who are contributing much to our nation's well-being.

Having made these points, we must go on to acknowledge that there are good people who justly point out that these illegal entrants have broken the law, and that granting them amnesty will only invite others to do the same. Furthermore, there are concerns about the possibility that criminals, drug pushers, and even terrorists, may be among those undocumented and illegal immigrants who daily come through our porous borders. There are fears that such undesirable persons pose a threat to our nation's security and to the safety of our fellow citizens.

As I reflect on the pros and cons of dealing with amnesty for these undocumented brothers and sisters, I have to start by asking why so many of them choose to enter our country illegally. Could it be that the U.S. has made it too difficult and too expensive for them to come in any other way?

Back in 1910, when my father emigrated to this country, he came as an impoverished Italian peasant. He liked to tell me that when he came through Ellis Island, he came with a few dollars in his pocket and little more than "the shirt on his back." He would go on to declare, in his broken English, that this country was, for him, a land of opportunity, and that he soon had a job and a future filled with hope.

The bad news is that today impoverished immigrants do not have the same opportunity that my father had. Nowadays, "the poor and huddled masses" who come to the U.S. have a much harder time, and the barriers that keep them living in our country usually appear insurmountable. If my father wanted to settle in the U.S. and get a job, given present requirements, he would have to get a "green card," if he wanted to be legal. Getting a green card would take somewhere around two years or more, and would likely cost him a couple thousand dollars in legal fees. (The legal language in the forms is so complicated that often it takes a lawyer to help applicants fill out the forms, costing up to $2000 in fees.) Not having enough money to support himself during the time he was waiting for his green card to be granted, he probably would have his hopes dashed to pieces. Not having the means to hire a lawyer, he probably would have to face the reality that what is required to enter into the American Dream is beyond his reach. In today's U.S., there would be little room for a poor man like my father. I have a sense that his desire for the better life that the U.S. could offer him just might tempt him to become an illegal immigrant.

What I propose is that our country should have a "high wall and a wide gate" at our borders. By a high wall, I mean that our borders should be secure. America should protect itself against drug pushers, criminals and possible terrorists. There should be a background check on every person who crosses into our country so that such undesirables would be kept out.

On the other hand, I believe that the gate should be wide. We U.S. citizens should make it fiscally possible for poor people who want to come and live among us. Green cards should be made available quickly and without the need to go through the kind of legal hoops that require lawyers. It seems to me that people in faith communities should work to create these conditions.

When it comes to dealing with those who are already here, I agree with those who claim that amnesty is not a good idea. These illegal immigrants did break the law, and amnesty would likely invite others to do the same. Law breakers should be dealt with seriously. Allow me to suggest some solutions to this predicament. I propose that undocumented entrants be granted green cards as soon as possible, but that they be required to pay a hefty fine for having broken the law. Also, they should be required to pay back taxes on their past earnings. But, knowing that it would be unlikely for them to have the money to cover these expenses all at once, I suggest that they have as much as 10 percent of their income deducted in the years that follow until such time as these fines and back taxes are paid off. Those who earn the higher salaries would pay off what they owe sooner, while those with lower salaries would have to take longer to fulfill their obligations.

The reality is that so many of these undocumented brothers and sisters are now being paid less than the minimum wage. With green cards in hand, they would be entitled to legal wages, which likely would be more than they are presently earning. Given this consideration, many, if not most, would come out with more money on pay days, in spite of the 10 percent that would be deducted by the government to cover their fines and back taxes.
To people with faith commitments who take the Bible as their guide for living, it seems as though this proposal could go a long way to treating undocumented entrants with God-ordained love and justice. I think that what I am proposing could satisfy those who want law breakers to pay their debt to society while, at the same time, satisfying those who are committed to showing God's grace to those who, full of hope, come to live among us.


Tony Campolo is founder of the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education (EAPE) and professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Violence spreads in Riverlea as well, prayer and support is called for

As church leaders and civic leaders urgently meet and try to stem the tide of xenophobic violence, it seems to spread in various townships, including smaller informal settlements close to Riverlea. The Zamaphilo settlement, today has been hit by this cancer and is also burning, with victims being housed temporarily in the Riverlea community hall. Representatives from our church is on the scene, but it seems as if a lot of prayer, and a lot of support is going to be needed. We will meet tonight to asses the situation, but it seems as if victims will have to be supported in the form of food, blankets and fresh water and fluids. We will keep you posted after the meeting tonight.

Responding to the need in China and Myanmar/Burma

The magnitude of the crisis in China and Myanmar/Burma is almost unimaginable. Is it enough simply to pray and hope for God to 'do something'? In any event, what can we do to substantially contribute to those people in need. Of course there are many organisations to contact and here we only suggest Giving Children Hope. They report:
"More of our efforts are now focussed on helping shocked and devastated survivors with food, water and shelter. Also, prevention of disease is becoming very important. Some ten million dead livestock – sheep, cattle, horses, chickens – are lying around rotting away. They pollute water and spread disease. Sanitation and clean drinking water are now top priorities. Already there are increasing numbers of cases of stomach trouble and dehydration through diarrhoea.

Another issue is the continuing danger from aftershocks. Since Monday we have had 145 major aftershocks and the latest one last night measured 6.1. The government warns of more heavy shocks to come. An emerging problem is the damage these shocks do to dams at hydro-electric plants. If a dam breaks it may cause major flooding, causing more devastation. Yesterday a large number of refugees from Beichuan had to be brought further away to Mianyang in a hurry because a dam in the vicinity was in danger of breaking.

We are becoming tired and sometimes despair at the scale of the devastation surrounding us. The official statistics as of last night are: 29,000 dead, 199,000 injured, about 4,5 million people displaced.”

In the meantime, we still need to struggle with the deeper questions. The questions of where is God in all of this incredible pain and suffering, the question of our own complicity in the kind of weather phenomena that the world is experiencing more and more, the role of governments in responding to human disasters, the role of our science and technology. How do our levels of consumption and 'carbon footprints' link with these strange climate phenomena on the other side of the globe? On a basic human level, our hearts goes out to those that have lost family, those still searching, those left destitude. And then the haunting words....
'I was hungy and you gave me something to eat, thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger (foreigner) and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me....

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dr Dobson vs Petition 2493, the latest and more Christian hoaxes

We've received this on a comment on a previous post and it give more links in some more Christian hoaxes, we receive daily on email.
The fellow blogger states:
Please continue to inform other Christians that the Petition 2493 email which continues to circualate is indeed a hoax. I recently got the latest version of the email again and Christians need to be informed enough to know the difference between a hoax and a real crisis deserving of our attention.

Focus on the Family statement on Petition 2493: A fictional petition to stop all religious broadcasting is still going strong, with Dr. Dobson as a main player


National Religious Broadcasters statement on Petition 2493


U.S. Congressman Jerry F. Costello (12th District of Illinois) states THE FCC IS NOT BANNING RELIGIOUS PROGRAMMING


Federal Communications Commission Consumer Facts: Religious Broadcast Rumor Denied


Dobson vs. the FCC: Proving that it probably has the most staying power of any e-mail rumor in history, the 'save religious broadcasting' chain letter petition keeps circulating, thanks to minor facelifts that help it look current, despite its total lack of validity
Break the chain
http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/fcc.asp
http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_petition_2493.htm

So please let's keep our eyes open.

Open Pastoral letter to the Churces in Zimbabwe, Allan Boesak

DEAR brothers and sisters in Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation who consoles us in all our affliction so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God."

So writes Paul to the Corinthians, and this is why I dare to put pen to paper, in the hope that my words may mean something to you in these times of trial and tribulation.

Since I was privileged to be in Zimbabwe some weeks ago and see with my own eyes the situation in which you find yourselves, Zimbabwe has refused to let go of me. The images remain stark and deeply-disturbing. At the same time, though, even as you spoke of these terrible and terrifying things, you opened your hearts for us to see the hope that refuses to die.

I have left your country feeling shaken to the core and with a sense of the righteous anger that I felt - during apartheid and more recently at the betrayal of our own poor.

Your words and what I have seen have shown just how wrong our president was when he spoke of Zimbabwe as if there is no crisis, as if the world's concern for Zimbabwe is only because of the plight of the white farmers. That might be true for a part of the world.

But there is another world where people actually matter, where dying children have a face, where abused women have a body and a soul; where hunger and illness are not statistics but a cry to heaven.

This is a world where we know that people die because decisions are being made, where people can be held responsible for these decisions. That world cares for the people of Zimbabwe.

This world has heard your voice and is now responding to your cries.

We heard you when you told us of kidnappings, torture, political killings and the destruction of whole communities because they have campaigned and voted, you said, "for the wrong political party".

You gave evidence of how the interim period towards an engineered run-off in the elections is purposefully being filled with terror.

This is what you said: "We warn the world that if nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hotspots in Africa and elsewhere." Thank you for your courageous witness.

We have heard this and that must be the main reason why the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) have written their recent report. They too sound the bell of urgency, not just to the Zimbabwean government, but also to Zimbabwean churches.

"The Zimbabwe church has now seriously to consider the best approach to the impasse ... there is a growing need for the church to speak and be heard, and to give leadership." The report laments that the churches "have not spoken out with one voice".

While I was in Zimbabwe, I asked about this prophetic witness of the church. I was shocked to hear of the fear in which pastors live. So, reading this report, I can imagine some of you reacting: "Is Geneva or Cape Town not altogether too safe a place to even utter the word 'prophetic'?" Please let me share my personal thoughts on this.

The WCC and the AACC have decided that your cry is the voice of the downcast and powerless in Zimbabwe. They speak with integrity and historic authenticity.

When, 30 years or more ago the people of Zimbabwe sent out a cry to the world in their struggle for liberation, it was the WCC which heard and acted. The world council was then reviled throughout the Western world. But the WCC persisted; it learnt what it meant to make difficult choices and to stand on the side of the oppressed.

Now, ironically, that same Zanu-PF leadership that was so grateful then has denied accreditation to the WCC/AACC team which wished to monitor the elections.

Why? Because they have, as they did 30 years ago, made fundamental choices: against the oppressor and for the oppressed.

It is not the churches that have changed, it is Zanu-PF. The churches are saying it is not white colonialists, outside oppressors or neo-imperialists causing the havoc in Zimbabwe: it is Zimbabweans.

Zanu-PF, it seems, has caved in before that greatest of revolutionary temptations: to place The Cause before and above and, indeed, in place of the people. Though they deny it, they have made themselves into gods. But Jeremiah reminds us: these gods are "no more than scarecrows in a cucumber field".

That is why the church has chosen to stand alongside the poor and oppressed, the hunted and terrorised in Zimbabwe. It may well be that Zanu-PF and others like them (including those in my own country) do not like this stand and find that the church should have remained with its choice of 30 years ago. But for the church it does not matter who is in power. It is what they do while in power that matters. Whether they contribute to the humanising of the world and whether they are worthy of the trust the people have placed in them.

During the 1980s the churches in South Africa were also confronted with realities for which we had had no experience or preparation. We too felt the chains of oppression.

The choices we had to make then not only brought the wrath of a cruel regime upon us, but also split the churches down the middle. As you grapple with the situation in your country, the church continues to be challenged to speak and act prophetically, courageously, boldly, on behalf of the people in the name of Christ. I cannot and will not dare to tell you how to do it.

In a situation like Zimbabwe's, people in government often speak as though they were God. We too have heard this, and then we had to say to the government in the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: "Mr Minister, you are not God. You are merely a man. And one day your name will only be a faint scribble on the pages of history while the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord of the church, lives forever."

I was part of a South African Council of Churches delegation which a few days ago had a two-hour meeting with President Thabo Mbeki and his mediation team on Zimbabwe. My political experience and instincts allow me some understanding of the position Mbeki is in. He represents his own government as well as the SADC. They must perforce deal with protocol and such matters sensitively.

The situation of the churches, however, is different. Our mandate does not come from the SADC, it comes from God. We must speak for those who have been deprived of the right to speak, even if it goes against "protocol".

Our responsibility is to constantly remind politicians that politics is not just about safe positions, strategies or national interests; it is primarily about people.

So let us keep praying and working together, do not let despair and fear rob you of your courage, of your hope and the freedom which is yours in Jesus Christ.

Allan Aubrey Boesak

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Church leader's visit to Alex


The situation is Alex is indeed more than what we see and hear over the media. The visit by repressentatives from various churches yesterday, opened our eyes to the realities that fuel the cancerious xenophobic violence that is spreading in black townships.

The archbishop rightly challenged the people of Alex to show hospitality to the stranger, to view them as part of the community and, what I would add as children of God. The visit to Alexandra police station again opened to eyes that the issue is not simply a polictical matter of government lack in service delivery, it was also a human rights issue...deeply a spiritual matter. It relates to how we view our sisters and brothers fleeing political persecution in their own countries, it's about how we share, whatever bread we have, its about 'doing it unto the least of these'.

The persecuted are now staying in tents, located at the Alex and Bramley police stations, living in squalor, fear and uncertainty. The prayers and ears, as well as blankets and food parcels maye help for now, but what they need is sustainable sources of income, but more so justice and peace here and back home. It is here that we need to put pressure on politcal processes and the restoration of vulnerable economies in Africa. The role of church and civil society in keeping this vision, this hope alive is critical.

In the mean time, we cannot condone violence against God's people, we cannot sit back and not support the poorest of the poor wherever and in what colour they presents themselves.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

TEASA leader calls for more regulation amongst pastors, amidst Kenneth Copeland's dark secrets

Moss Ntlha, leader of The Evangelical Alliance in South Africa (TEASA) spoke out against rogue pastors and churches fleecing the flock. He called for self-regulation instead of government intervention in dealing with this scourge, whilst in the meantime, Kenneth Copeland, in many ways, with Kenneth Hagin considered to be the father or epitome of the Word of Faith teaching, are fighing against disclosure.

The obscene materialism, but also the reality of abuse in churches of course, not only affects charismatics or even Christian faith communities. In some quarters it is proposed that Governments should intervene and regulate this 'sector'; new churches and pastors should register with government and possibly submit financial records and reports for scrutity. The recent case of Sen Chuch Grassley, from the US, requesting accoutability and transparancy from ministries is a case in point. Apparantly, the highly influential (at least in Africa) Kenneth Copeland Ministries and Creflo Dollar Ministries, out of the Word of Faith stable, refuse to comply with the request. Their laywers are working on the case. Of course, this cast a shadow over these ministries, but then also, it cast a shadow over their teachings and integrity.

We have advocated here at ACC, that the issue should not be government intervention and regulation, like Ntlha indicated. Indeed, there should be a seperation between state and church. Government are however still called to uphold the values of justice, truth and the dignity of all people. Where there is crime or corruption, it should be accounted for and the guilty be dealt with appropriately by the law. In this sense, there is indeed regulation ( which include churches and pastors !) and, if need be, there is intervention, and so it should be. What we don't want and should not have, is a situation, like in communist countries, where pastors and churches should be registered and where the content of the preaching be regulated. This is potentially oppressive and indeed an infringement on the right to religious freedom. Here we will not even deal with the situation in the so-called closed countries, where government's adherance to a particular religious ideology, leads to the government sponsored persecution of religious minorities. These US based, wealthy empires cannot be compared to what minority poor Christians experience in the context of closed countries. It's outragious to compare these and they cannot claim religious persecution.

It is at this level then, where self-regulation becomes crucial and where ecumenical bodies like TEASA, the SACC, etc becomes critical, but also the internal 'peer review mechanisms' within churches. Accountability and transparancy has reached the buzzword status, yet, churches merely pay lipservice to these. One of the ways of putting pressure on churches to continue the quest for integrity and upholding corporate ethics is a greater role of media and watchdogs like Ministrywatch. In this respect the awkward questions need to be asked and the difficult answers need to be presented in the public domain, in the light, so to speak. This put the actions of Kenneth Copeland's ministry in perspective, but they must be reminded that there will be no place to hide from the wrath of the truth.

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