Saturday, November 8, 2008

Recent Events

It's Saturday night (November 09) and the last three days in Cape Town have been very full for President Sinkford and his companions on this pilgrimage. In the previous blogpost you'll find information about President Sinkford meeting Archbishop Tutu. On Friday we also visited the "Slave Lodge" musuem in Cape Town which serves as a witness to slavery in South Africa from the 17th - 19th centuries. We'll be posting more about that experience shortly. Later in the day we attended a lecture entitled "Democracy, Freedom and Faith" by the current Archbishop of Cape Town (a successor to Archbishop Tutu), the Most Reverend Thabo Makgoba.

Rev. Makgoba framed his lecture with what he described as a well-known but controversial piece of scripture (Romans 13:1): "Every person must be subject to the governing authorities, for no authority exists except by God's permission. The existing authorities have been established by God." He asked that people apply the lens from Liberation Theology to this verse in order to provide it with context. The particular lens he offered was "critical solidarity" between church and state. And, he suggested that in South Africa this has often meant "too much solidarity and too little criticism".

He remained confident that solidarity was called for and necessary between the church and the South African Constitution which he believes can be "God's servant for Good." But, that it is essential to criticize policies and decisions which are in conflict with the Constitutional Vision.

In a very interesting way, the Archbishop described how religious understandings of "Covenant" can be usefully applied to "Critical Solidarity", and particularly how a "covenantal" view differs from a "contractual" view in regard to civil society. Quoting the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, he described how moving from Contract to Covenant means moving from:
  • Interest to Identity
  • Transactions to Relationship
  • Benefits to Transformation
  • Competition to Cooperation
He pressed the point that Constitutional Democracy should be more like a covenant than a contract, and that when it does so it can serve as a vehicle of Redemption. He boldly suggested that world leaders move in this direction, especially in the context of international economics - and that he had mentioned these ideas in a recent congratulatory letter to President-elect Obama.

Needless to say, we were all deeply touched by the Archbishop's ideas. And, we spoke with each other and Reverend Gordon Oliver (the former minister of the Unitarian Church of Cape Town and the former Mayor of Cape Town during the struggle to end apartheid) long into the night. The path of our pilgrimage is being deeply shaped by each of Friday's events.