“A Conversation on the Lessons of Nehemiah’s Experience” by Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana

A Conversation on the Lessons of Nehemiah’s Experience

For the South African Church Today

Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, SACC General Secretary

KZNCC 2021 AGM KwaMaphumulo

August 30, 2021

AND THEY SAID, “LET US RISE UP AND BUILD”

Nehemiah 2:17-20

17 Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” 18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.

So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”

20 So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”

Nehemiah found them haggard and dispirited, beset with debilitating challenges of the situation; he showed them his faith, and gave them hope!  And they said, “Let us rise up and build!”

“Niyayibona inhlupheko esikuyona, lokhu iJerusalema lichithekile namasango alo eshiswe ngomlilo; wozani sivuse ugange lwaseJerusalema ukuba singabe sisaba yihlazo.”

“You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burnt. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.”

First, I must thank Bishop Myaka and the Executive of the KZNCC, and the leadership of churches in the province, recognising His Eminence Cardinal Napier, and Dr Dziva for inviting me to come and hlanganisa amehlo nabaholi bamabandla asekhweni lami. I am a mkhwenyana of this province. Ngaganwa eNdaleni eRichmond, kwaMbanjwa. Thank for the invitation. Although I tried to resist coming and wished to join virtually, I’m very glad to now have come and had the opportunity to be with you physically.

 

“Niyayibona inhlupheko esikuyona, lokhu iJerusalema lichithekile namasango alo eshiswe ngomlilo; wozani sivuse ugange lwaseJerusalema ukuba singabe sisaba yihlazo.”

 

“You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burnt. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.”

This is the theme that has been chosen to charge the church through this AGM, for the next year. I take it therefore, that this is the directive and launching platform of this Council’s witness for the next year or so.

Nehemiah said: “You see the distress that we are in… Come let us rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.”

I have identified a few lessons from Nehemiah, that I believe may be instructive for the church in South Africa today in its public ministry in God’s name. They can hopefully be applied in any planning and implementation process, not only by the Council of Churches, but also by denominations, single congregations and individual zealots for change, in the name of Christ. I propose to point them out as we progress with our conversation. I shall mainly be using the example of the SACC because it is the example with which I am most familiar. I trust that enough of it will make sense for the consideration of your specific contexts.

 

Just to remind you for background: Nehemiah was an officer in the court of King Artaxerxes, king of Persia, based at the city of Shusha, in the present-day Khuzestan Province of Iran. Nehemiah was struck to the core by what he heard about the situation in Jerusalem. The report said:

“Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”

After learning of this sorry situation, he wept, mourned and fasted for many days.  Seized with the vision and zeal for the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem, Nehemiah prayed:

“O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments;

let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Both I and my family have sinned…” (Neh. 1:5-6)

He approached the king for release and support for his undertaking; and he negotiated the appropriate protocols for passage through the various territories he was to pass along the way from Shusha to Jerusalem. In today’s mileage terms, it is about an 18-19 hours-travel; and that’s with today’s vehicles and highways. It’s like the distance between Durban and Cape Town. Imagine what it took those ancient days, and what dangers awaited the traveler. The king assigned a protection detail of cavalry – horse riding soldiers, to accompany him, along with the letters of authority for his task at Jerusalem.

The first three things we learn from Nehemiah at this point are: The zeal that is necessary to undertake something that is beyond ordinary human capacity. It is this zeal that helps to withstand the obstacles ahead.

  • His incredible and evident faith in God.
  • The prayer of humble access to God! Even when one thinks that what one is doing is of God, the humility is necessary because indeed no one person has the monopoly of divine messaging. To this, The Apostle writes to the Philippian Church:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4)

We try to follow this Nehemiah mindset, in that we do not absolve ourselves as the South African church, from the sins of South Africa. If the Christians are 80% of the population, and the country is a hive of crime, corruption, drug and human trafficking, rape and all manner of evil, that rot is in us, in our Christian homes, in our church pews, and in the communities in which we live and worship, and these evil practices are conducted by people known to our Christian sisters and brothers. In our theory of prophetic engagement at SACC, we have three models, and Nehemiah fits into our second one, that we call the Daniel Model of Prophetic Ministry. Daniel, the holy one of Israel, who could not be devoured by lions nor scotched by fire, goes on his knees and absorbs the sin of his people in his confession (Daniel 9). This is when we acknowledge our national sinfulness and confess it on behalf of all. This too is our duty. The other two models are:

 

  • The Elijah Model: Elijah engages King Ahab over the injustice against Naboth (1 Kings 21), or Nathan upon David’s sin against Uriah (2 Samuel 11). This is when we deliver uncomfortable messages to those in power – “Truth to Power”.
  • The Jeremiah Model: The third prophetic model is that of Jeremiah’s witness of hope in purchasing land in the despair of war (Jeremiah 32), with the country in junk status. This is when the churches initiate hope-engendering programs of ministry.

The Daniel prophetic model liberates Nehemiah even as he meets the quite evidently envious and obstructive men in Jerusalem, hell-bent on undermining and if possible, physically harming him to stop his project. The penitential surrender to God in his duty gave him a philosophical view of his detractors.

So, he arrives at Jerusalem; and takes the trouble to go round to assess the nature of the devastation – to assess the extent of what needs to be repaired. And he did this at night, with trusted people – maybe the guard detail he was given by the king. This is like what we do today in our social, political and economic analysis – in the SEE-JUDGE-ACT model.

Then he gathers the people and says to them: “Niyayibona inhlupheko esikuyona, lokhu iJerusalema lichithekile namasango alo eshiswe ngomlilo; wozani sivuse ugange lwaseJerusalema ukuba singabe sisaba yihlazo.”

“You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burnt. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.”

It was his having taken the trouble to know enough about the situation and speak with confidence about its extent that he could be taken seriously. Next we learn that he enlisted a diversity of people to take care of various aspects of the work that needed to be done, and that is how the walls and the 10 gates that he built were completed, and in such quick time. In the whole of Chapter 3 the Chronicler tells of the various people and groups that built parts of the wall, such as for example:

The high priest Eliashib set to work with his fellow-priests and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set up its doors; they consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred and as far as the Tower of Hananel. And the men of Jericho built next to him. And next to them Zaccur son of Imri built. The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and set up its doors, its bolts, and its bars. Next to them Meremoth son of Uriah son of Hakkoz made repairs. (Neh. 3:1ff)

It is because of this mobilisation over this common cause that the hostility of the enemy was heightened, and they needed physical protection, as the following chapter points out.

“Wozani sivuse ugange lwaseJerusalema ukuba singabe sisaba yihlazo.” – “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.”

Our Jerusalem could be our country South Africa, or in the case of KZNCC, be identified as the Province of KwaZulu-Natal. The difference we have with Nehemiah is that he was to rebuild what had previously existed but was now in ruins. I will point out to you this morning, that our task is greater – for we are to build what has not existed and what has not been experienced, and therefore in a way, hard to imagine and demonstrate.

I represent such a difficult vision; it is the vision of the national heads of churches that says, South Africa has failed to achieve the promise of the post-apartheid South Africa – A just, reconciled, peaceful, equitable and sustainable society, free of racism, tribalism, xenophobia and gender prejudices; free of corruption and deprivation; with food and shelter for everyone, and where every child born can grow to its God-given potential. This is what we mean by the South Africa We Pray For (SAWP4). Maybe it is not so impossible a possibility! But we must together pray and work for it after the manner of Nehemiah. “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” Or should we rather change it to say “Come let us build…”? Let us look at what we shall seek to build:

  • A just society is about how people treat each other justly, fairly and with consideration, ubuntu. This is a greater aspect of justice – where people learn to leave justly with one another for a just society.
  • A reconciled society makes for a just and peaceful society – hence justice and peace cannot be separated.
  • Hence we say we must aim to be free of the societal challenges we have today, that make us as a nation, suffer the disgrace we are suffering – of ongoing expressions of racism, tribalism and xenophobia amongst ourselves; and of gender prejudices manifest in the toxic masculinity that plays out in sexual abuses, rape and violence against women, resulting in gruesome killings and the frightful statistics of a woman raped in this country every 36 seconds, with 40% of women – 4 out of 10, to be raped in their lifetime, and only 8.6% perpetrators convicted. Can the in our time be the source of hope? Yebo noma cha?? It is for this reason that the SACC champions the programme of women’s dignity – Botho jwa Basadi.
  • Corruption and maladministration results in deprivation and causes never-ending suffering for poor South Africans.
  • Food and shelter for all – this is the pressing question of poverty and the gross, and indeed obscene levels of economic inequality, where some 90% of the country’s asset value is in the hands of about 10% of mostly white male South Africans. Some 99% of South Africa’s poverty is between the “Coloureds” and “Africans”; and between them they make up 90% of the voting population (“Coloureds” are 8.8% and “Africans” are 80.7% of the total population.)

These two race groups are the core of what I refer to as the excluded majority; historically excluded; and remain on the outside. The sheer numbers of the currently poor and disadvantaged majority demand their immediate and systemic inclusion in the economy, for they are numerically too many to discount. The recent looting call demonstrated that. And those who designed the unrest knew that there is a ready population of hungry people who need no second call to loot. But even in that situation, there are heroic stories of people that stood up to prevent destruction and sustain hope.

In Soweto, one mall that survived is the Maponya Mall, and it survived because a young man Nhlanhla Lux, who was not known by many people as a community leader, emerged and mobilised the neighbourhood to rise and protect the mall – and they stood watch night and day; much like Nehemiah. And after everything had been destroyed in the looting frenzy, Maponya Mall survived and the Maponya family publicly thanked the volunteers. Imagine the impact for Christ if this redemption, that was to give post-looting hope, was led by a well recognised fellowship of Christian churches acting in united witness!

The poor and disadvantaged majority I refer to, comprises women, young people, and blacks in general, especially the so-called Coloureds and so-called Africans; and rural people, especially in the historical Bantustans and small dorpies of the hinterland with limited infrastructure, scanty economic livelihoods and poor social services. That I suggest is the reality of KZN outside of the big cities of Durban and Maritzburg; and even in the big cities, there are sprawling squatter camps with countless destitute people, whose bleak lives in gang-controlled locations, dull their ears and hearts to the gospel of moral values – ukuziphatha kahle akudliwa.

The story of the Bantustans and the perpetuation of poverty is a tragic one. The Bantustans such as KwaZulu, and all of them, Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Ciskei, Gazankulu, etc., were set on 13% of South Africa according to the 1936 Land Act. And poor people flee the social and economic confines of the present-day remains of the Bantustan, to escape poverty, but into urban squalor, with no prospect of an improved quality of life or a decent future.

“Niyayibona inhlupheko esikuyona, lokhu iJerusalema lichithekile namasango alo eshiswe ngomlilo; wozani sivuse ugange lwaseJerusalema ukuba singabe sisaba yihlazo.”

 You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burnt. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.

The national justice and liberation that we all prayed, struggled and hoped for, and for which many died, was supposed to liberate the whole 100% of the country for all South Africans. But no, “Africans” and their rural leaders today, are claiming as of right, to be confined to the Bantustan territories where they hold total authority. And the rest of South Africa can only be accessed by those who have the means to buy property.

Poverty and inequality cannot be resolved by increasing employment opportunities within the current economic architecture; but by a total re-imagination, and as we say in the SACC driven Civil Society Manifesto: Economic transformation must deliberately and systematically enhance human dignity and the quality of life, by preserving not only the environmental sustainability of our planet, but also by enabling the participation in the productive economy, of poor citizens and the disadvantaged majority, with a process that progressively engenders wealth redistribution. This would involve the country’s commercial and development finance institutions and focus on knowledge resources and physical resources such as the land, the oceans and mineral resources; manufacturing, commercial and business opportunities, to reverse poverty, inequality and low growth through inclusivity.

The last point of the call of the South Africa We Pray For, that our church leaders have committed to, is for every child born to grow to its God-given potential. Is that too much for the churches to ask and work for? It is a theological demand – we are created in the image of God whose intellectual power is limitless. Each of us in God’s image, have a potential beyond imagination, and that is what we need to expand for the necessary creativity for us all to participate effectively in what is best for the common good. This requires education for intellectual development; and socialization for justice, respect for yourself, for others and what is theirs. And as we say in the SACC driven Civil Society Manifesto, the key value in education for all our children in urban and rural areas, and for all communities, is Comprehensive Quality Education that guarantees:

Access to high quality education for optimum enhancement of human potential from cradle to career and beyond, including preparation for informed and active citizenship.

This is possible if we invest in children’s early development. To this end the SACC proposes to offer two programmes: Early Childhood Development, which I know is a programme feature of this provincial council, and a Youth Investment Programme. The youth investments are designed to offer, among other things:

Strengthening young people’s ownership and appreciation of the asset value of their spiritual and cultural roots for identity and sense of “being as foundation to build on.

  • Inculcating a positive and inquisitive mindset for knowledge and capacity for critical thinking and problem-solving in social and economic entrepreneurship amongst young people.
  • Providing a safe and structured environment for self-awareness and personal growth towards a healthy confidence and positive life ambition towards life possibilities.

In Early Childhood Cognitive Education, we say that children should learn from a young age, and that this will give them a significant advantage in later years. Put differently: Children that have no opportunities to develop essential concepts from an early age will stay disadvantaged throughout their life. Educationalists believe that 80% of a person’s ability to learn has been formed by the age of nine. It is, therefore, during this period of life that children are most receptive to taking in new ideas, if we ensure the development of the seven critical developmental domains: gross motor, fine motor, language, cognitive, social and emotional, self-help and adaptive, spiritual and moral. How do poor families that struggle to put food on the table, have the “luxury” of the essential stimulation of children?  This is where the church of Christ comes in. The loss of children in the education system over the 12 years of schooling has a social and economic cost that shows up in the hopelessness and lawlessness of young people, with about 60% of them unemployed and with no livelihoods. Time will not allow me to unpack this.

“Niyayibona inhlupheko esikuyona, lokhu iJerusalema lichithekile namasango alo eshiswe ngomlilo; wozani sivuse ugange lwaseJerusalema ukuba singabe sisaba yihlazo.”

 You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burnt. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace.

I believe that, as we say in the theory of change for SAWP4, if member churches resolve to commit consistently to the ecumenical formation such as I see evident in this province; this would occasion the structured opportunity for churches to coordinate for coherence, their prayer and action for the values of God’s Kingdom in South Africa. This would result in prayerful togetherness in social analysis – reading “the signs of the times”, prayerful togetherness in action, from heads of churches, through synods and in congregational programming for the common good. The impact would be a visible and agile body of Christian witness and healing ministry for South Africa; a living symbol of hope in witness to Him who said: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me; because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed! (Luke 4:18-19). For: “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly!” (John 10:10)

We would be together as one body in following Nehemiah, inspecting the walls of our Jerusalem, and how they are destroyed. In this conversation I have simply been using the message of the SACC church leaders in their recognition that, as the nation of South Africa we have failed to achieve what was expected as a post-apartheid future. That is why we shall not change the gross poverty and inequality, why we shall not change the hopelessness of the majority of the people in our congregations — the congregations of the 80% of the population of this country that is Christian, without uniting in common prayer and action. That is why we believe that unless we pool all our energies to be the light and the salt that makes a difference, using each of the three prophetic models  – Elijah, Daniel and Jeremiah, we shall as the church in this country, fail to make the message of Christ come alive. In John he says:

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

I believe that what the churches want to do, and are trying to do in their various corners, is similar and can be identified as common cause. In that sense we mainly have a common view of what walls need to be built. But we all find it that much harder to do so as one body – Methodists do what they do very well; likewise the Apostolic faith Mission, the Salvation Army, the Catholics, Anglicans, Assemblies of God; and all of us do what we do diligently and with fervour, but it is hard to do so with our neighbouring Christian sisters and brothers.

So, not only is what we are yearning for without precedent — a truly united Christian witness; but also our instrumentation, and the vehicle of a united Christian witness is also without true precedent, and therefore hard to imagine and activate – oh for the spirit of Nehemiah for our country!

In the footsteps of Nehemiah’s example therefore:

  1. We invite every church, regardless of their doctrine and affiliation, to assume the recognition that unless we, in the name of Christ, collectively pray and work for the South Africa We Pray For; in every space we can influence; the country will go down the path of disintegration and collapse. It is that collapse that drove Nehemiah to fasting and prayer, and to seeking the means to build the walls and gates of Jerusalem.
  2. After Nehemiah, we invite every church everywhere, to reflect with us on the nature of the brokenness of the walls, and the gates that need to be repaired in order that we may no longer suffer disgrace; singabe sisaba yihlazo. Different people see different forms of wall brokenness. In our reflection, we saw that there are core things which if not attended, there will be no progress. Indeed, many will, like Tobiah the Ammonite say,

“Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”

But regardless, for us the building of the walls is to pray and work for a just, reconciled, peaceful, equitable and sustainable society, free of racism, tribalism, xenophobia and gender prejudices; free of corruption and deprivation; with food and shelter for everyone, and where every child born can grow to its God-given potential. And this to be the common agenda for all of us in every part of the country.

  1. In the manner and tradition of Nehemiah, who appealed to a wide diversity of people in Jerusalem to come and build the common wall of the city and its gates fortified, we seek to make every effort to persuade all Christian churches of all traditions to set their differences aside, as each to make the input they can make in a common agenda for a common objective and goal.
  2. The central message of Nehemiah’s work and approach was to demonstrate that the real God is the Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as preached by Moses, the God of King David, and not that of the Samaritans that were in the opposing group. The Church of Jesus Christ is at a crossroads, to be or not to be! Shall we seek to preserve ourselves and the four walls of our churches, or shall we walk the path of both Nehemiah and of Christ Jesus our Saviour, of expending ourselves for the common good, as individuals, as local congregations, regions, districts, and denominations of churches? As Christ says, “who do people say that I am?” Shall we be known as the builders of the new walls of our naked Jerusalem; or shall we be identified with the mindset of Tobiah and Sanbalat, who sought to actively or passively prevent the building?
  3. Above all, the most instructive lesson from Nehemiah is his faith in God, and his dedication to prayer. As an ecumenical body – interdenominational, we do well to seek to pray together more. Ecumenism is not only a call to work together interdenominationally in public witness, but it is also a call to pray together and be a visible prayerful presence. I am convinced that the people that Nehemiah found in Jerusalem responded to him because they recognised the authenticity of his spirituality. It says: “And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to thisgood  And I suggest that they recognised his evident faith.

To live that in the localities in which we reside and worship, requires us to come together as churches in our neighbourhoods, in our different traditions, and submit ourselves to the same Lord whom we proclaim, to act so that in our neighbourhood, the love of Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is felt and experienced through our collective presence – for our physical, structured presence and action will have a practical impact of witness.

It is appropriate to say, in relation to Nehemiah for our time and context, that the distinctive feature of Christian communities is their faith prayer; absent this we are just a social club. Nehemiah’s mobilisation of people to rebuild is for us a call to prayer – collective prayer; to soak the country in prayer!

The prayer that will soak has to be plentiful and consistent. Prayer networks must be established in our localities. Any organized prayer groups will need to add their efforts to the basic prayer that all families can use and do use daily, the prayer that Jesus left us – The Lord’s Prayer. If we adopt for this country and its people, the prayer that Jesus gave to us, and recognize it as our national prayer, we shall unpack for ourselves its significance for our time. This, we suggest, will have every phrase inspire us and be a special communication of the children of God to a loving Parent whose righteous will for a just society is our wish and our joy, and in whom is the power and the glory of our limited achievements.

By way of example that we each can be led to unpack as our circumstances require, I offer my own application of the Lord’s Prayer for this moment in The South Africa We Pray4.

Our Father: Through this recognition of God as Our Father, we already acknowledge each other as co-siblings, not only with Christ, but with each other in the “our” of our togetherness as children of the household of God our Father. This very phrase convicts us to pray and work together. Our use of this phrase represents a submission to the parenthood of God; it is our acceptance of the invitation of Jesus to recognize God as our parent, in a far greater way than we have ever experienced. (Rom 8:15-17; 1 John 3:1-12). When we say Our Father in The South Africa We Pray4, just using the phrase, we are consciously and deliberately calling on God the Father of our Lord to adopt the people of our country, to father, protect, rebuke and guide us in his limitless love: Our Father!

  • Hallowed be your name: (Lev 19:12; Exod. 20:7) What children ought not to honour their parental name? When we say Our Father in The South Africa We Pray4, we pray a commitment to have God’s name be sanctified and honoured by our presence, our commitments and our acts; so that what we think, say and do in our public ministry will be to the honour and glory of God’s name: Hallowed be your name!
  • Your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as in heaven: Yes, for the parental reign of God over all things brings freedom, justice, peace, reconciliation and wellbeing for all. The South Africa We Pray4 is indeed the will of God for our society – a just, peaceful, reconciled, equitable and sustainable society, we commit to pray and work for this in the assurance that it is the loving will of Our Father that all may be well for our country and its people. So may God’s will for the least and the weakest of our people be fulfilled through our responsive care; and may we as God’s children, individually and collectively live the will of the Father, that we do it, and have ways of monitoring it in our society, and of monitoring ourselves, of guarding ourselves from straying: Father, let your rule be evident in my life and that of my family, my community and my country!
  • Give us today our daily bread: Firstly, this confirms the secure feeling of dependence of our loving and providential Father, where the children depend on the providing role of their parent. But more significantly, it points to the trust that we as children, are called to have in the parenthood of God, who provides for today, that the same God will provide tomorrow.

The idea of our common sibling-hood under the parentage of God reminds us that the parent involves the whole family in striving for the livelihood of the home – all of us have our share of work in the cornfields, preventing the animals from destroying the family crops, etc.; therefore we all in God’s household, have a role to play in the economic sphere, and the political structures that determine who gets what in the country.  We have a prophetic duty to prevent the selfish plundering of our natural resources by those who have the power to squander and destroy.  We also have a duty to guard the environment and ecology from both ignorant abuse and deliberate carelessness. Give us this day is not just about a consumer mindset for God to provide, but it is also an acknowledgement in The South Africa We Pray4, of our role in the economy of God’s provision for all God’s people and our responsibility to curb corruption and greed in favour of equitable access to the Father’s provisioning.

  • Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us: Our recognition of our common sibling-hood is also a recognition of our common togetherness in the presence of God our Father – a place of love, reconciliation, mutual affirmation and interdependence. Can that happen without a commitment to this clause of the Lord’s Prayer? The South Africa We Pray4 should be mounted on the fundamental platform of healing and reconciliation – a position that requires us to search ourselves for our part in the lack of reconciliation in our country – our selfishness, our being absorbed in ourselves and undermine the worth and dignity of the other; our sustaining an economic order that survives through the necessary impoverishment and denying the other. We are reminded of the interdependence between our being forgiven and our readiness to forgive the other: Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
  • Save us from time of trial: Yes, even when we fail the trials of life, we come back home to recover our being. Christ teaches us to continuously pray for the grace to be spared by the all-powerful Parent, of the worst of trials and temptations (Luke 21:36). Jesus himself was led to the wilderness and faced the temptations of quick fixes – turn these stones into bread; the temptation of making his human self, equal to or above the Divine – “if you bow to me (the Devil says) I shall give you power over all!” (Philippians 2: 1-11); the temptation to dare God’s love – “Throw yourself down and God will send angels to protect you! In The South Africa We Pray4, we seek no quick fixes, but faithful dedication to God’s will for a just, peaceful, reconciled, equitable and sustainable society; we seek no power, glory or political authority; and we seek no special protection from the cost of our discipleship – The South Africa We Pray4 offers no cheap grace!
  • Deliver us from evil: God is both our parent and the origin of our origins, as some would say, God is the original ancestor of all our ancestors – uMvelinqangi. Our Father is the Omniscient One who knows all there was, all there is, and all there shall be. The Almighty God has power and authority over all evil, as Jesus says: “All authority is given unto me in heaven and on earth…” (Matthew 28: 18). Those who cast out evil spirits in exorcism often name evils and their sources in the process of exorcising them (Mark 5:1-20).  Thus, our duty when we pray is to name the evils that each one of us experiences.  Naming it is a step in the course of exercising authority and defeating the evil. In The South Africa We Pray4, we name the evils we seek to exorcise in the healing and reconciliation of our society – the dehumanization in the practice of how people relate to and treat each other – of racism, ethnicism, xenophobia and gender denigration; to exorcise the evil of poverty and inequality, of economic deprivation, of family brokenness, of corruption and maladministration: Our Father, deliver us from evil!
  • For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours for ever: It is this clause, more than any other, that calls us to surrender and to submit ourselves, our power (financial, political, talent and skill) to the glory of God. It is here that our conversation about giving of ourselves begins. Of sharing with others for immediate needs in the three steps of eliminating neighbourhood poverty one family a time, one ward a time; of giving of our time, our energy, our hopes, joys, and even our pain and suffering, all these are placed at the altar of God’s power in humility in our prayerful surrender to God our Father in The South Africa We Pray4.
  • Amen: May it be so! Bayede makube njalo! Pula ho be joalo! With this affirmative acclamation we acknowledge that the declarations, the petitions, the doxologies take on a new meaning for a prayer that is recited by young and old in every dingy corner and every lofty hill of the Republic of South Africa, in distress and in joy, in the pain of any bondage and the celebration of every liberty!
  • Thus, in The South Africa We Pray4, the “Lord’s Prayer”, the most common and widely prayed in every language takes on a new meaning; and fuels the vision of a reconciled – “forgive us our sins as we forgive others”; equitable – “give us this day our daily bread”; and just society – “Your (just) Kingdom come, your will be done!”

For the Kingdom, the power and the glory are yours (in The South Africa We Pray4,) now and forever! Amen! Amen!!

“Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work.

Bathi: “Masisuke sakhe,” beqinisela izandla zabo lowo mse

 

KZN Leaders call for calm and a look inwards

  • As we come to the end of two weeks of political and civic unrest which has wrecked inordinate amounts of damage on our people, our economy, our livelihoods and our sense-of-self as a people where do we find ourselves. How do we make sense of the destruction we see around us?
  • Where do we locate ourselves and where do we locate blame? In this moment it is so easy to point figures – and it is true, our government and particularly the ruling party does have a lot to answer for in this moment. Letting in-party factionalism play out in the streets of KZN is unacceptable.
  • Mr President, Minister of police and Mr Zuma, you have a lot to answer for and we’re looking to you for accountability. What you allowed to happen in our streets has cost us all dearly. None if us in the province has got through the last two weeks unscathed. All of us are sitting with and still trying to work through the pain that you and your party allowed to happen.
  • However, none of that withstanding, what is our role moving forward – as ordinary people in the province?
  • On all sides we’re seeing people moving into their ‘camps’. Race, ethnic, class and political lines that were hidden bellow the surface of our every day life are now laid bare, with the cracks threatening to deepen into unbreachable caverns. In this moment the pull towards violence is great – be this the violence of our actions or the violence of our words. Especially when we are still all dealing with fear, frustration, anger, betrayal and so on.
  • Are we able to instead choose a different path? To choose a path of peace and a path of collective ownership for where we find ourselves today?
  • We are reminded of Matthew 7:5 where Jesus, in one of his most profound teachings on Christian morality tells us “First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”
  • And so we are reminded that in this moment, while we have a call to hold people accountable, we also have a call to own what has happened. To not say this was “them” and “their” story but to really own it – this is our story… my story. And as we pause to look inwards we need to ask ourselves what role have I… we… “my people” played in allowing this to happen on our watch
  • In many of our Church liturgies we pray a version of this prayer: “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.”
  • In our personal and collective lives let us create space for this spirit of reflection, ownership and repentance. For what we have done, and importantly for what we have left undone.
  • Moving towards justice and reconciliation from this place allows us to enter the conversation with arms down and a common commitment to rebuilding.
  • To be clear, we are not calling for a rebuilding or a unity which sweeps things under the carpet. That kind of unity is built on a commitment to not see and address injustice and it is what we have all been guilty of for too many years. Instead we are calling for a common commitment to building something new. Something where we can see, name, and address the cracks and divisions in our society and the injustices which flow along those cracks.
  • To the Clergy and other community leaders, all of us are people with individual identities, opinions, politics and theologies. In this moment where the cracks and divisions threaten to break us, we urge you to be promoters of peace and to create spaces where different people can come together to listen and talk. Spaces where the hard conversations can be had.
  • Let us own what has happened in our province these last two weeks, and steadfastly commit to building a new way of being a people together.

Theological rationale for the Church’s role in addressing the current crisis of violence in South Africa

Theological Reflection July 2021 Unrest

Discussion Paper:
This paper has been initiated by the KZN Christian Council and produced by the theological advisory group
which has been advising and supporting the KZN Church Leaders Group through the successive crisis
moments of the last 18 months. This group worked in collaboration with three other theologians from other
provinces for this, the first paper in our series around the July 2021 unrest. It is humbly intended for the use
and engagement of the broader Church in South Africa. As this paper is the first in a series of discussion
papers, we encourage you to join the discussion and engage with it through comments and contributions.
Please engage in the discussion by emailing Professor Kumalo (kumalor@ukzn.ac.za)

Theology of Money: Good News to the Poor and Marginalised

Discussions facilitated and collated by Dr Mogashudi Lucas Ngoetjana. Deputy CEO: KwaZulu Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) and Provincial Programmes Director.

Dr. M L Ngoetjana 2018

Introduction

This paper presents a theology of money as a philosophy of the role and nature of money in contemporary society from the perspective of the poor and marginalised. It considers socio-economic factors as a phenomenon that determines who must be kept poor and who to keep rich by powers that be. It continues to look at the land question from the Hebraic perspective of the Old Testament – the people of Yahweh and the Greek perspective of the New Testament – the Jesus movement. In this paper there is the identification of the poor. One may say, essentially, the poor are those who have no money – the oppressed and the marginalised by capitalist institutions. It professes that God in the situation of deliberate monetary oppression and exclusion is on the side of the poor and the oppressed. Lastly it addresses the fallacy of the gospel of prosperity. It argues that the manufacturing of poverty is structural.

Click this link for more info:- Theology of Money interaction with Luke

KZN Covid-19: Churches Respond: Letter to His excellency, President C. Ramaphosa

11 April 2020
The Presidency President Cyril Ramaphosa Union Buildings Government Avenue Pretoria Email: presidentrsa@presidency.gov.za Copied: Honourable KZN Premier, Sihle Zikalala

Dear Sir, Your Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa

KZN Covid-19: Churches Respond – Affirming your Leadership and Pledging Our Support
We are a broad and inclusive coalition of Churches, Christian Associations, Ecumenical Networks and Ministers’ Fraternals committed to using our extensive footprint across the KwaZulu Natal Province to respond more effectively to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lockdown and their respective impact.
Your Excellency, today, we wish to applaud and affirm your leadership and that of the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize in this time of disaster. We further express our appreciation for the work of the KZN Premier, Honourable Sihle Zikalala as well as the MEC for Health, Honourable Nomagugu Simelani-Zulu for meeting and updating Church Leaders on the way forward. We express our full support for your government’s efforts to save lives and in the process “flatten the curve”. We do this even as we stand in solidarity and mourning with the millions around KZN and the country whose very lives are threatened by both the Coronavirus and the extended lockdown.
In particular we affirm the generous and commendable example set by you, your Cabinet and the Premiers, of pledging a third of your salary to the Solidarity Fund. This is a powerful gesture of inestimable symbolic value. We gladly notify you that the Churches across the KwaZulu Natal province, are pledging R1 million to the relief emergency in our province.

As a Church united against the pandemic, we are putting together Emergency Relief that will roll-out cash vouchers to 1000 vulnerable families in each of the 11 Districts over the next three months through our Church-based fundraising efforts.

Other elements of our provincial plan include; (i) Communications, Education and Awareness, (ii) Pastoral care and Support, (iii) Advocacy and support around social and economic vulnerability. All of this is undergirded by an inter-denominal space for prayer and theological reflection. Full details are available on our website www.covid19response.co.za.

As Church Leaders, we continue calling on all churches, Christian Associations and ecumenical organisations and networks in KZN to come on board with specific and practical support for the coordinated work taking place at Ward level through the various Church structures we are setting up.

We further support your call for those who have resources to make a similar contribution urgently. Now is the time for sacrifice, for self-sacrificing generosity, and most importantly for Corporate responsibility, care and solidarity.

We are grateful for the third dimension of your latest strategy to address COVID-19, the programme of increased social support to protect poor and vulnerable households. We need to express our anxiety and concern for the poorest and most vulnerable at this time. May we urge you to expedite that relief through the Solidarity Fund as soon as possible.

We are receiving daily calls from across all 11 Districts from desperate individuals and communities, including some who don’t know where their next meal or rental payment is going to come from; from survivors who remain in abusive homes because they are afraid of starvation; from car guards, refugees and casual workers do not have any income. We endorse your call to support these, the most vulnerable urgently.

As we commemorate the death and celebrate the resurrection of Christ this weekend, we move from grief and lamentation to hope and new life for all humanity. This Crisis reminds us that we hold in tension the fear of death on the cross and the hope of the resurrection to a new life of Christ. At this time, we pray most ardently that he creates for us a new, more just dispensation for all South Africans.

Christ is risen! He is alive! The Resurrection is real!

+ Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, OFM, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Church Leaders Group and Chairperson of the KZN Inter Religious Council.

Dean Nkosinathi Myaka, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Natal Christian Council

Bishop KE Khomo, President Interdenominational African Ministers Association in South Africa (IDAMASA)

Bishop B Mchunu, President Church Leaders Council of South Africa (CLCSA)

Bishop Nathi Zondi, Truevine Family of Churches

Rev Sipho Sokhela, National General Secretary South Africa YMCA.

Daniela Gennrich, Coordinator We Will Speak Out South Africa

Rev Gregory Matthei, Baptist Union of Southern Africa

Rev Janice Nomvuyo Mpuqa, Chairperson of the Thukela, Amajuba & Mzinyathi Christian Council

Bishop BM Buthelezi, Chairperson of the KwaZulu Region Christian Council

Archbishop Sthembiso BB Ngcamu, Chairperson of the Southern KwaZulu Natal Christian Council

Dependence, Independence and the Interdependence of the Members of the Body of Christ for Social Justice

Dependence, Independence and the Interdependence of the Members of the Body of Christ for Social Justice

Key Note Address presented at the Celebration of the independence of Thukela-Amajuba-Mzinyathi Christian Council (TAMCC) 30 May 2012 also presented at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Southern KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (SKZNCC) on the 6th December 2018

Text: John 10: 30 – “I and my Father are one” 

Introduction

The topic we are tackling in this key note address at the celebration of the independence of Thukela-Amajuba-Mzinyathi Christian Council (TAMCC) is: Dependence, Independence and the Interdependence of the Members of the Body of Christ for Social Justice. The state of independence we are celebrating is intermediate. This means that we have just departed from the state of dependence and are maturing towards the state of interdependence.

“Hence, international co-operation and solidarity and the relentless search for consensus become an absolute imperative. They are the only possible alternative for all nations, whose interdependence is being  made increasingly manifest by the rapid development of production technology, of transport and communication, as well a by the overhanging threat of deterioration of the environment and exhaustion of natural resources. And what is one to say of the frightful accumulation of means of destruction in a world facing the no less frightful problems of hunger, disease and ignorance” (Wikipedia/ Interdependence)

Our existence as part of the ecumenical family was realised around a common course of making a contribution to socio-economic and socio-ecological challenges as well as expressing our Christian faith in the world ravaged with multifold injustices, inequities and inequalities.  We read from surveys that the church is one of the institutions which is trusted by the majority of the people for its uprightness and integrity.  In recent times we know that the church has lost its edge as a prophetic movement. We can then take advantage of the ecological degradation and lack of quality service delivery and the corruption in the upper echelons of our present political dispensation to emerge as a force to reckon with as far as issues of social transformation and justice for all are concerned.

In a nutshell the text we have read where Jesus says “I and the Father are one” means that the Son is coeternal with the Father, is co-substantial with the Father is co-existent with the Father and that the Son is not subordinate to the Father but is of the very essence and Aseity with the Father and that in them there is interdependence and inter-dwellingness, collaboration coordination and as the union of the Homosione.  The God is that of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. God has been understood as Father, Son and Holy Spirit though in modalism the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father. The Father is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Father and the Son is not the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is not the Son. And the Father is of the Son and the Holy Spirit and the Son is the Father and the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is of the Father and the Son of the inseparable Godhead.

In the same manner KZNCC is of TAMCC is of KRCC is of Midlands Christian Council (MCC) is of Southern KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (SKZNCC) is of SACC, of AACC of WCC all seeking to fulfill the ecumenical vision on earth.   Shall we turn to the topic of the day proper?

What is Dependence?

Dependence is the State of relying on or needing someone or something for aid, support, or the like. This state of affairs is not sustainable. In the order of human life children grow to a point of seeking de-parenting, and continue to be supported to adulthood and consequently the inevitability of independence is realised.

Dependence is s state of being conditional or contingent on something, as through a natural or logical sequence: the dependence of an effect on a cause. In our regard KZNCC caused TAMCC and this relationship of contingency has to mature or else if perpetuated becomes an undesirable scenario where:  In medicine, dependence as a state of being psychologically or physiologically dependent on a drug after a prolonged period of use is not good. The independence process was a panacea of helping TAMCC from a serious addiction with KZNCC medically speaking. Dependence is a state of relying on or being controlled by someone or something; a state of being subordinate to something.

 

Dependence is a state of reliance on someone’s judgment – an allusion to children hanging on their parents’ sleeves. TAMCC should not be like in computer science where dependency is called Coupling, a state in which one object uses a functionality of another object. It must not be the case that TAMCC must be paralysed and made dysfunctional because KZNCC for some reason cannot function.

In Economics a dependent is a person who relies on another as a primary source of income. And in economics the dependency theory is an economic worldview which states that resources flow from the poor states to wealthy states.  In other words this theory says the wealthy, not that KZNCC is, take from the production of the producers/ the workers. The state of independence makes it possible that the workers begin to own the means of production and have sovereignty and final decision making on where and how those resources must be utilized to benefit the majority of the people.

What is Independence?

“Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory politically speaking (additions mine)” (Wikipedia)

Independence means not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc. It means thinking or acting for oneself; not subject to another authority or jurisdiction; not influenced by the thought or action of others; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc; and not relying on another or others for aid or support (ibid)

 

In politics, a person who votes in accordance with his or her own judgment and without regard to the endorsement of, or the position taken by, any party is independent; is free from control in action and judgment and does not depend on anything else to function and validity.

Economically an independent person is the one providing a large sum towards one’s support; having independent income and independent means.

What is Interdependence?

“Interdependence is a relationship in which each member is mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a dependence relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not. In an interdependence relationship, participants may be emotionally, economically, ecologically and or morally reliant on and responsible to each other.” Seemingly in an interdependent relationship, all the parties feel and are weak and vulnerable without the other or feel and are stronger, complimentary, better of, and confident working together is unity, cordiality, transparency, equality, and sharing co-responsibility.

“An interdependence relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g., – co-op).” A state of interdependence is a common ground between the participants who share common goals and aspirations.

 

“Karl Marx first used the term interdependence in the Communist Manifesto (1848) in describing the universal interdependence of nations in comparison to the old local and national seclusions of independence and self-sufficiency”. Fundamentalism and nationalism must be superseded by internationalism and interdependence if the world should survive in years to come.

 

In business and commerce “there is a view that computer technology has allowed greater communication, interaction and interdependence. It is thought that this has massively helped the introduction and start up of new ideas and enterprises”. It is in networking and relationship building that the collective impact on the enhancement of social justice and further social transformation of communities can potentially happen.  Interdependence makes it possible for gestalt synergies to have a greater impact than not.  Interdependence is one of the principles of the age of networked intelligence, and of progress in knowledge and innovation.  This can be harvested to cause a greater change by the interdependent ecumenical body of Christ in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Covey maintains that we function best as innovators when we recognize, and work towards, the role of interdependence (ibid)

“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of [humanity] as self-sufficiency. [Humans] are social beings. Without interrelation with society he (sic) cannot realise his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His (sic) social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality” (Mahatma Gandhi, Young India, March 21, 1929, p. 93)

About interdependence, Martin Luther King Jr. once said in his lecture from Birmingham prison: “Moreover, I am cognizant of the interconnectedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects us directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds” (Martin Luther King Jr., Lecture from Birmingham Jail, April 6, 1963)

 

And Stephen Covey writes in his famous book on ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ (1989): “Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won’t be good leaders or team players. They are not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in marriage, family, or organizational reality” (Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 1989)

In closure, the answer of our common survival and progress can be found in our quest to supersede independence and yearn to be interdependent if we were to achieve social justice and radical social transformation.

Dr Lucas Mogashudi Ngoetjana

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KZN Church AIDS Network

AIDSThe KZNCAN, which was jointly initiated by church leaders and the KZNCC in 2004, encourages churches and Christian organisations to respond effectively to the HIV and AIDS pandemic. It networks and partners with interfaith organisations and civil society. Its most significant projects are “Men and Gender”, the Male Caregivers’ Programme, and “Sisters of Faith in Action and Advocacy” (SOFIA).

Men and Gender aims to transform men and institutions in the context of HIV and AIDS and poverty. It mobilises and supports men in church leadership positions to influence their peers to change their attitudes and behaviour, in the struggle against HIV and AIDS. The Male Caregivers’ Programme challenges men to become caregivers for people affected by or infected by HIV and AIDS. SOFIA organises women to reflect on and advocate for gender justice and development.

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Emphases of KZNCAN:

  • Promoting cooperation, resource-sharing and innovation among churches and ecumenical structures working on HIV and AIDS;
  • Facilitating liaison between churches, NGOs and government;
  • Equipping churches with skills to initiate HIV and AIDS programmes and/or to integrate these into their overall work;
  • Devising prevention campaigns and strategies, also for TB and Sexually Transmitted Infections;
  • On the basis or research, designing appropriate interventions to support child-headed households;
  • Mentoring church-based organisations catering for orphans and vulnerable children;
  • Continuing to develop and promote a theology of a caring community;

Emphases of Men and Gender:         

  • Encouraging and training men to give practical care and psychosocial support;
  • Collaborating with health institutions in giving such care;
  • Discussing with men how they are socialised into particular forms of masculinity;
  • Lobbying government and other institutions about issues affecting this Programme;
  • Extending the Programme to additional areas of the Province;
  • Supporting Men’s Forums to increase the impact of the Programme;
  • Developing materials on gender justice suited to the KZN context.

Emphases of SOFIA:         

  • Mobilising women throughout discussions about how male children are socialised into a particular kind of masculinity;
  • Together with tertiary institutions and seminaries, compiling and analysing stories about how women are impeded from effectively contributing to development and leadership in society;
  • Creating spaces for dialogue, networking and partnerships;
  • Running workshops and theological reflections on the experiences of women as presented in the scriptures of various faith groups.

Whenever possible and appropriate, the KZNCC encourages participants in SOFIA and Men and Gender to discuss issues of mutual concern.