SERVANT LEADERSHIP THAT GIVES SHAPE TO MISSION
Resolution on the work of God taken at the 46th Annual Synod of the Central District meeting at the St. Stithians College – Circuit 905 – on the 26th to 29 May 2016
We the people of the Central District with excitement and anticipation as Bishop Gary Rivas charged and led us in his first synod. It is a powerful thought that Synod is taking place at the same time across 6 countries as we as the people called Methodists assemble in one accord to the glory of His Kingdom. Our hearts were awakened as Rev Tlhakanye (District Vice-Chairperson) led devotions from Genesis 25 and reminded us that we are called to be faithful and committed to the gospel. He warned us of the danger of abdicating our gospel mandate and selling our birthright or exchanging the gospel truth for self-interest and favours.
The welcome from the Rector of St. Stithians College, Dr. Tim Nuttall, highlighted the need for partnership and cooperation in the quest of educating a nation and advancing society. Firmly founded in Methodist roots this school seeks to an agent of transformation within the country and region. Synod expressed its appreciation for the hospitality of the College.
On Thursday evening, we gathered in the chapel and worshiped our God passionately in spirit and in truth after which Bishop Gary Rivas challenged us on this upside down metaphor of servant leadership. He symbolically asked us to remember that young person who innocently sat in the pew before we moved into leadership positions. He passionately asked:
What happened between the pew and the pulpit?
What happened between the pew and position of leadership?
What happened along the aisle toward the front?
Is our focus on leadership or servant leadership as we emulate Jesus Christ?
Using powerful stories of Bishops Desmond Tutu and Trevor Huddleston, the Bishop claimed that servant leadership can be evaluated through four interconnected principles: humility, honesty, unselfishness, and generosity. The service concluded with sharing the sacrament of Holy Communion served by the Bishop and women Ministers.
On Friday morning, we were again blessed with spirit-filled worship and a Bible Study presented by Professor Smangaliso Kumalo – the current president of the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary. Reading from Matthew 20:20-28 he reminded Synod that servant leadership leads to transforming mission when it is underpinned by the Christian values of service, becoming radically inclusive, compassion, respect for all people and creation, humility and an attitude of dispensing power and authority rather than always wanting to be served. Drawing comparisons between contemporary bad leaders and recent African leaders of integrity he called Synod to be careful of the things polluting leadership and the mission of the church. He emphasized the need to reignite a Christ-focused mission in light of the Missio Dei and Missio Ecclesia, and never succumbing to the mission of people or individuals.
Our hearts were strangely warmed as we listened to the heartfelt testimonies of 4 ministerial and 3 candidates for ordination into the ministry of word and sacrament. We also celebrate the 9 probationers who advance to the next level towards ordination. Synod grieved as it touched the pain, sadness, disappointment of candidates into the Order of Evangelism who after much preparation were not informed of the age limit to candidature.
Synod extended its gratitude to Rev Philip Serwalo and congratulates Revs Siviwe Waqu, Lea Marumo, and Tshidisho Sibi on their appointment as District Supervisor of Studies, School of Vocation and Candidates Tutor and Secretary of the order of Evangelism respectively. What better way to complete Synod’s affirmation of these ministers in training than the apt rendition of Oceans by the St Stithians Girls acapella group:
“Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)”
You call me out upon the waters,
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand
And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine
Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now
So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine It was fitting for this
song to be sung after the candidates testimonies.
The election and affirmation of the Rev Ziphozihle Siwa were a great relief to the sounds of restlessness and stomachs rumbling with hunger after a long wait. The Central Synod congratulates Bishop Siwa as he continues to serve the people called Methodists across the six countries of our Connexion. The Bishop prayer of thanksgiving captured succinctly the mixture of celebration and tension that followed the announcement. We give thanks to God for Rev Tlhakanye, Mrs Lavender Brown and Mr Ricky Ngwenya for their leadership and service to the district and welcome with great joy the Rev Faith Whitby, Mrs Thuli Nkomonde and Mfundokazi Xhokomfu as they respectively assume the positions of Vice-Chair, Lay Leader and Statistical Secretary leadership within the district in the year we celebrate 40 years of women in ministry.
Important conversation on race, gender and economic inequality, the importance of lay leadership (as highlighted by Lavender Brown Ghana report), and challenges facing the district in the Eastern and Western parts of the district continue to call us to question the integrity of our life together as a district. The Mission congress agenda, mission, and statistical reports revealed further demographic challenges across the district and the disconcerting reality of the disproportionate ratio of 1006 members to 1 minister. This suggests that our ministers are overworked and sometimes struggle to effectively meet the expectations of our members. While generally noting the need for expanding our mission, evangelistic and church growth strategies, the district celebrates the overall growth in membership of 8% increase.
Early on Saturday morning were woken up by the sweet melodies of women ministers, “UnaBantu bakho Thixo ngamaxesha onke”. Our sisters standing in a circle of solidarity, not only invoking the presence of God but recounting the valleys, ups, and downs, the sadness and joys of being a woman in the ministry of the Methodist Church. Raising their eyes they cried, “I need thee every hour most gracious God” – expressed their ongoing dependence on God, because the road towards wholeness and gender equality in the church and society still seems long and meandering. As they told their stories from FEDSEM, John Wesley, Seth Mokitimi, itinerant, and non-itinerant, young and old, we mixed tears of joy and sadness. We heard how female ministers are patronized and spoken to in a derogatory way often referred to as male or child whilst they are obviously female and adult. We grieved, confessed and even celebrated their grace and fortitude.
Through reflection on Acts 16:11-15 and personal narratives we celebrated the magnificence and magnanimity of women ministry, as well as contemplated on the issues of power and privilege, inclusion and exclusion, the pervasive nature of patriarchy and all the institutional loops women ministers have to go through. It was encouraging how to hear synod express its regret and repentance by asking for forgiveness and committing to support and stand against oppression and abuse. Yes, a ray of sunshine shone through like a rainbow as the Bishop asked that every Circuit and society where there is a Woman Minister should set aside a Sunday to affirm, celebrate and shower them with gifts and money. All women ministers received a gift of appreciation, as well as an invitation to a banquet hosted by the Presiding Bishop.
Our District treasurer Mrs. Carin Cronje presented our financial reports and budget with competence as usual. Synod was distressed by the remaining challenges in financial accountability across many levels of our district. The district once again highlighted the need to create clear links between our finances and mission strategy and affirmed its commitment to care and advance mission to the vulnerable parts of the districts, especially those in the far west. The district continues to ask, pray and reflect on suitable leadership strategies for meeting the missional challenges that accelerate mission at every level of the district. This was evident in the lively debates around resolutions and general discussions about the health of the district.
In keeping with Methodist Synod tradition, the reading of stationing and the committing of God’s work and ministers family to God direction and wisdom is always a sacred moment. As the synod drew toward a close we paused to give thanks to God for the Revs, Tony van Breda, Moeketsi Tsosane and Bethuel Medupe for have been ordained for 25 years and Rev Michael Openshaw for 40 years. Synod also celebrated the Rev Nomsa Mabaso who superannuates at the end the year.
In our closing ceremonies, we paused to remember those who have passed since synod 2015 and committed to God all those who suffer across the length and breadth of our land and connexion. We indeed felt the presence of the Holy Spirit moving across the floor of Synod from the first to the last minute, even with the light moments of listening to clips from comedians like Trevor Noah. We return to our circuits and societies with a vision of servant leaders joining God shaping in shaping the mission of the Church. To God be the Glory!