Friday, August 27, 2010

Law and Heart

....if the problem is to be solved then in the final sense, hearts must be changed. Religion and education must play a great role in changing the heart. But we must go on to say that while it may be true that morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. It may be true that the law cannot change the heart but it can restrain the heartless. It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me and I think that is pretty important, also. So there is a need for executive orders. There is a need for judicial decrees. There is a need for civil rights legislation....
Martin Luther King

Sunday, August 22, 2010


I am in Vrygrond: this is an informal settlement in the sand dunes near Muizenberg. I am Superintendent minister of a Methodist church that meets in a iron shack. Today the junior Manyano (the junior youth) have arranged a cultural lunch. And I have been welcomed with joy and hospitality. In the midst of great poverty is great kindness and capacity for grace.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Meeting of Beliefs

I am sitting in a committee discussing belief. I am a member of the Doctrine, Ethics and Worship Committee - a standing committee of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa - charged with reflecting theologically on what it means to be Christian in our context. I am humbled to serve on this committee and aware that this is a position of sacred trust. One issue troubling our church at the moment is how to offer the love of Jesus to gay and lesbian people. We have divergent positions in our church, fuelled by deeply held convictions and passionate debate. My desire is to follow faithfully in the footsteps of Jesus. I want to do this with integrity and an unwavering commitment to the perspective of oppressed and marginalised people. Pray for me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Day in My Life

I began the day with a cross on my forehead. I am part of a group who mourn the dismissal of my colleague Ecclesia de Lange from my church denomination. This was because she entered into a lesbian marriage. So we prayed with her this morning, and used an ash cross as a sign of mourning – because she was dismissed on Ash Wednesday 2010.

I left this gay-friendly group to go and care for my gay-antagonistic congregation. Here I visited six homes of shut-in elderly people, where I prayed with them, and offered them encouragement. I am humbled by their fortitude and ability to find humour in what are very difficult circumstances of frailty and ill-health.

This was followed by a funeral of a granny who is not connected to any of my churches. I got to know her through a monthly service that I lead in one of the homes for the aged in my area. Her grandson told us how she used to care for the grandchildren while their parents were away on business – and how the grandchildren as teenagers would have raucous parties supervised by granny, who would then clean up and swear everyone to secrecy!

In the afternoon I attended an administration meeting where we discussed selling a church residence and buying another. This is part of completing the red-tape necessary to put in place an upgrading of accommodation for a colleague.

And in the evening I led a home fellowship meeting, where we reflected on a parable told by Jesus in Luke Chapter 12 vs 45-48. This is a story about a housekeeper who acts as if the Master of the home is no longer in charge, and assumes power in deeply abusive ways. We agreed that this can speak about Church leaders who live as if Jesus were no longer with us, and so leadership is exercised in ways that are abusive and damaging to the servants in the home.

This brings me back to my colleague of this morning. Ecclesia has been victimised by the stewards of the household of God, who have acted as if they are Jesus. But I do not believe that the service-ethic of Jesus would have acted in such high-handed and un-pastoral ways.

And it was for this reason that I prayed with her this morning.