Friday, April 29, 2011

The Royal Wedding

I do not believe in royalty.

Perhaps this has to do with my loyalty to my Scottish forebears. Perhaps because I never was offered the silver spoon to sup with. Perhaps because I am hyper allergic to the culture of celebrity watching. But I think royalty is an anachronism in the 21st Century.

Nobody should be born into privilege. Respect, status, wealth - these should be earned and not inherited.

Do not get me wrong: I wish the newest royal wedding well. I pray that Will and Kate have a happy and fulfilling marriage.

But nobody gets the right by a simple accident of birth to be a royal - or to label someone else a "commoner". We are all equal before God: equally mistaken, equally loved by God, and equally able to live life fully and richly.
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Faith and Understanding

John 20:9 "For they did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead."

But there was no scripture that the disciples could have used .... Nothing that said "Jesus must rise from the dead"! There is nothing in their religious teaching that they could have fallen back on. All they had was an experience that defied reason.

This is the essence of our Christian belief: that Easter is not reasonable. It is a mystery - something bigger than human reason. This is the time when we affirm that light conquers darkness ... that good overcomes evil ... that life defeats death.

This Easter I choose therefore to celebrate resurrection experiences that lead me to faith. For I too have found new life:

I have found God's call for me to be a Methodist Minister renewed through my involvement this year in the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary.

I have found my commitment to being a Christ-follower in South African renewed as I view life through the vigorous faith of the seminarians.

This Easter has been a moment of a renewed love for my wife Jenny.

As I worshipped with my family and friends in my former congregation in Plumstead, I discovered love and affection that renewed my faith.

And I am grateful.
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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Two Oceans Marathon

It all began in 1980.

I ran my first 56km Two Oceans Marathon at the tender age of 23. And have turned up on 28 Easter Saturdays since then to run this race.....

Well not quite.
I have run 21 of the 56km races, and today completed no 7 of the half-marathon race.

Why do I keep coming back? Simply because it is the most beautiful run in South Africa with the best spectator support anywhere!

And I am so privileged to be still running. I know that I am slower, and my knees are sore when they never used to be. And it is harder to get up in the morning to go running.

But I can still put one foot in front of another. And I am grateful.
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Voice of Beauty

Tonight I heard Sunnyboy Dladla sing. He is the principle tenor for the Messiah in the Cape Town City Hall this weekend. And I wept for the sheer beauty of his voice.

He very nearly didn't become an opera singer, having begun his adult life as a student nurse. When his finances ran out and he couldn't afford to complete his studies, he was brought to Cape Town by his former Mpumalanga classmate Pretty Yende. She persuaded Prof. Angelo Gobbato, then head of UCT Opera School, to listen to him. Seeing his potential the Professor arranged financial assistance for him to study at UCT.

Since then his career has taken off: Sunnyboy has sung in Verona, Italy, a world famous opera centre, and is in demand as one of South Africa's best lyric tenors.

And I count myself privileged to have heard him sing tonight.
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Friday, April 15, 2011

Where God has placed me ....

I am a member of the faculty of The Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS). This seminary was initiated by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in order to provide full time, residential seminary training for aspirant ministers as part of their journey to ordination. The seminary also admits into its programmes private students who wish to be formed for transformational leadership within a value-based, spiritual environment. Our purpose is to "form transforming leaders for church and nation by providing the spiritual formation, academic, vocational and practical training required to develop skilled leaders of integrity, faithfulness and excellence".[1]

Our faculty of lecturers hail from near and far: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Kenya, Rwanda, Jamaica and U.S.A. It is a privilege to be blessed by wisdom and insight from such a wide spectrum of colleagues.

L-R: Christel Robinson, Ross Olivier, Doug Roland, Peter Grassow, Eraste Nyirimana, Jenny Stanier, Sifiso Khuzwayo, Jon-Mark Olivier, Nhlanhla Gumede, Roger Scholtz, Lilian Siwila, Mike Stone, Anne Nixon, Kennedy Ondongwe, Adrian Roux, Cheri Roland, Delme Linscott, Sox Leleki, Kennedy Owino, Wilhelmina Hewitt, Rowanne Marie
Once again, Holy Week will see our seminarians spreading out across the expanse of Southern Africa. They have all been assigned to local church communities to share in proclamation and service under the auspices of local ministers. Please join me in prayer for their safe travel and return. After Easter they will enjoy a few days much-needed rest before tacking the second term of this semester.

[1] This Seminary is registered with the Department of Education (South Africa) as a Private Higher Education Institution under the Higher Education Act (Act No. 101 of 1997) - Registration Certificate Number: 2010/HE08/002

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Christian Palestinians

This morning I was reminded that there are Christians who live in the land of Jesus – which is now known as Palestine!

Today the Seminary was visited by Theodosius (Atallah) Hanna, Archbishop of Sebaste. He is part of a movement called Kairos Palestine, which works to find the way of justice and equality in Palestine, believing that this is the only way that leads to genuine peace.

He originates from the Galilean village of Al Rameh, where he attended local primary and secondary schools before entering the Clerical Patriarchate School in Jerusalem. After graduating with honours at Thessalonica University in Greece in the Faculty of Theology, he went on to complete a master’s degree and doctorate.
In 1991 he was ordained as a deacon and priest in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

Archbishop Theodosius reminded us that there are Christian Palestinians who suffer as a consequence of Israel’s occupation of Palestine: “Everyone thinks that there is a conflict between Arabs and Israelis. It is not a conflict between Arabs and Israelis, but an occupation by Israel." There are two major Palestinian political groupings: that of Hamas, which is a Palestinian Islamist political party, and Fatah, which is a left-wing nationalist party. Christian Palistinians believe that the Christian faith offers hope for a future without violence and walls. Their Kairos Document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine.

They write:

“It is written at this time when we wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in this land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades. The suffering continues while the international community silently looks on at the occupying State, Israel. Our word is a cry of hope, with love, prayer and faith in God.”

You can read more at  /

Sunday, April 03, 2011


Jenny and I celebrate 29 years of marriage today.
We were married in the morning at the Prestbury Methodist Church by the Rev Ray Light, followed by a lunch in the Lutheran Church Hall at Hayfields.

We have been blessed with a good marriage. Jenny deserves a medal for putting up with my cranky ways and single-minded idiosyncrasies. I have made many mistakes, and still have so much to learn about life. I am grateful for her friendship and support.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Coffee in Wartburg

Go to Wartburg and drink coffee.

I fetched Jenny from King Shaka airport and took the road to Tongaat, and then north to Wartburg.

When you see this shop - stop!
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Friday, April 01, 2011

Fracking in the Karoo

This is a copy of a short speech made on Friday, 25 March, in Cape Town by Lewis Gordon Pugh OIG (a.k.a. the Human Polar Bear) about the proposed fracking for gas in the Karoo by Shell.He received a sustained standing ovation. Please read it and pass it on if it matters to you.

Ladies and gentlemen, thank for the opportunity to address you. My name is Lewis Pugh.

This evening, I want to take you back to the early 1990's in this country. You may remember them well.

Nelson Mandela had been released. There was euphoria in the air. However, there was also widespread violence and deep fear.
This country teetered on the brink of a civil war. But somehow, somehow, we averted it. It was a miracle!

And it happened because we had incredible leaders. Leaders who sought calm.
Leaders who had vision. So in spite of all the violence, they sat down and negotiated a New Constitution.

I will never forget holding the Constitution in my hands for the first time.

I was a young law student at the University of Cape Town. This was the cement that brought peace to our land. This was the document, which held our country together. The rights contained herein, made us one.

I remember thinking to myself - never again will the Rights of South Africans be trampled upon.

Now every one of us - every man and every women - black, white, coloured, Indian, believer and non believer - has the right to vote. We all have the Right to Life. And our children have the right to a basic education. These rights are enshrined in our Constitution.

These rights were the dreams of Oliver Tambo. These rights were the dreams of Nelson Mandela.
These rights were the dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, of Desmond Tutu and of Molly Blackburn. These rights were our dreams.

People fought ­ and died ­ so that we could enjoy these rights today.

Also enshrined in our Constitution, is the Right to a Healthy Environment and the Right to Water.
Our Constitution states that we have the Right to have our environment protected for the benefit
of our generation and for the benefit of future generations.

Fellow South Africans, let us not dishonour these rights.
Let us not dishonour those men and women who fought and died for these rights.
Let us not allow corporate greed to disrespect our Constitution and desecrate our environment.

Never, ever did I think that there would be a debate in this arid country about which was more important ­ gas or water. We can survive without gas.... We cannot live without water.

If we damage our limited water supply ­ and fracking will do just that we will have conflict again here in South Africa.
Look around the world. Wherever you damage the environment you have conflict.

Fellow South Africans, we have had enough conflict in this land ­ now is the time for peace.

A few months ago I gave a speech with former President of Costa Rica.
Afterwards I asked him "Mr President, how do you balance the demands of development against the need to protect the environment?"

He looked at me and said :
"It is not a balancing act. It is a simple business decision.
If we cut down our forests in Costa Rica to satisfy a timber company, what will be left for our future?"

But he pointed out : "It is also a moral decision. It would be morally wrong to chop down our forests and leave nothing for my children and my grandchildren."

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what is at stake here today: Our children's future. And that of our children s children.

There may be gas beneath our ground in the Karoo.
But are we prepared to destroy our environment for 5 to 10 years worth of fossil fuel and further damage our climate?

Yes, people will be employed ­ but for a short while. And when the drilling is over, and Shell have packed their bags and disappeared, then what? Who will be there to clean up? And what jobs will our children be able to eke out?

Now Shell will tell you that their intentions are honourable. That fracking in the Karoo will not damage our environment. That they will not contaminate our precious water. That they will bring jobs to South Africa.

That gas is clean and green. And that they will help secure our energy supplies.

When I hear this ­ I have one burning question. Why should we trust them? Africa is to Shell what the Gulf of Mexico is to BP.

Shell, you have a shocking record here in Africa. Just look at your operations in Nigeria.
You have spilt more than 9 million barrels of crude oil into the Niger Delta.
That's twice the amount of oil that BP spilt into the Gulf of Mexico.

You were found guilty of bribing Nigerian officials ­ and to make the case go away in America
- you paid an admission of guilt fine of US$48 million.

And to top it all, you stand accused of being complicit in the execution of Nigeria's leading environmental campaigner
­ Ken Saro-Wira and 8 other activists.

If you were innocent, why did you pay US$15.5 million to the widows and children to settle the case out of Court?

Shell, the path you want us to take us down is not sustainable.
I have visited the Arctic for 7 summers in a row. I have seen the tundra thawing.

I have seen the retreating glaciers. And I have seen the melting sea ice.
And I have seen the impact of global warming from the Himalayas all the way down to the low-lying Maldive Islands.
Wherever I go ­ I see it.

Now is the time for change. We cannot drill our way out of the energy crisis. The era of fossil fuels is over.
We must invest in renewable energy. And we must not delay!

Shell, we look to the north of our continent and we see how people got tired of political tyranny. We have watched as despots, who have ruled ruthlessly year after year, have been toppled in a matter of weeks.

We too are tired. Tired of corporate tyranny. Tired of your short term, unsustainable practices.

We watched as Dr Ian Player, a game ranger from Natal, and his friends, took on Rio Tinto (one of the biggest mining companies in the world) and won.

And we watched as young activists from across Europe, brought you down to your knees,
when you tried to dump an enormous oil rig into the North Sea.

Shell, we do not want our Karoo to become another Niger Delta.

Do not underestimate us. Goliath can be brought down.
We are proud of what we have achieved in this young democracy ­ and we are not about to let your company come in and destroy it.

So let this be a Call to Arms to everyone across South Africa, who is sitting in the shadow of Goliath:
Stand up and demand these fundamental human rights promised to you by our Constitution.
Use your voices - tweet, blog, petition, rally the weight of your neighbours and of people in power.

Let us speak out from every hilltop. Let us not go quietly into this bleak future.

Let me end off by saying this -
You have lit a fire in our bellies, which no man or woman can extinguish.
And if we need to, we will take this fight all the way from your petrol pumps to the very highest Court in this land.
We will take this fight from the farms and towns of the Karoo to the streets of London and Amsterdam.
And we will take this fight to every one of your shareholders.
And I have no doubt, that in the end, good will triumph over evil.