welcome to the warehouse!

The Warehouse was established in 2003 through the parish of St John's, and exists to serve the South African church network in its response to poverty, injustice and division. We work with local churches in all communities, helping them to implement sound, effective and practical acts and renewed attitudes, to see transformation in our communities.

  • Renew Our World

    Renew Our World is a global movement of Christians praying, living and campaigning to make the world fair and sustainable, bringing God’s kingdom closer, so that everyone, everywhere can enjoy fullness of life.

    Christian leaders from across the world are uniting to support the Renew Our World campaign and mobilise the global church to stand up for justice in a changing climate.

    Sign the petition here ....

    For more information, click here.

  • MySchool Sign Up Offer

    For only 20 days, from today, MySchool is treating us to a cash reward for every NEW MySchool supporter we sign up.

    From 9 to 28 October, they will give us R20 for every NEW sign up (*with a minimum of 20 new MySchool supporters to qualify)*.

    Please join us in signing up for a MySchool card and making The Warehouse Trust your beneficiary.

    Click here for more information.

  • A future not our own

    It helps, now and then, to step back
    and take the long view.
    The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
    it is beyond our vision.

    We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
    the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
    Nothing we do is complete,
    which is another way of saying
    that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

    No statement says all that could be said.
    No prayer fully expresses our faith.
    No confession brings perfection.
    No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
    No programme accomplishes the church’s mission.
    No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

    This is what we are about:
    We plant seeds that one day will grow.
    We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
    We lay foundations that will need further development.
    We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

    We cannot do everything
    and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
    This enables us to do something,
    and to do it very well.
    It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
    an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

    We may never see the end results,
    but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
    We are workers, not master builders,
    ministers, not messiahs.
    We are prophets of a future not our own.

    A reflection attributed to Archbishop Oscar Romero (archbishop in El Salvador; murdered in March 1980) but actually written by Ken Untener.

  • Children, Church and the Law Training

    In August The Warehouse hosted workshops on South Africa’s Children’s Act and its application to churches. As ‘organisations’ heavily involved in the care of children, it is vital that we, as the church, are aware of the laws around this, so that we do not unknowingly perpetuate some of the unhealthy dynamics that children, far too often, experience elsewhere.

    In this country, many children are exposed to things like abuse, neglect and exploitation. The reality of poverty has far-reaching and long-term implications for a large population of our children. The issue of fatherlessness wreaks havoc on families and the psyches of children, often contributing to low self-esteem, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and suicide (to name a few). High exposure to violence has long-lasting, damaging effects, upon children’s psychological states.

    The church is well-placed to come alongside children facing some of these difficulties, and offer support, care and a safe place. However, doing so without causing further problems, requires us to be clear about our role, our boundaries, and the guiding laws and regulations provided in part by the Children’s Act, otherwise we run the risk of contributing to the harm. Things like Sunday school, youth camps, holiday clubs, homework clubs and youth centres, can be wonderful, but they are all areas where children are potentially vulnerable or at risk, and yet this is not something that we often give a second thought to. We rarely screen volunteers before giving them the privileged position of looking after or teaching children.

    With the surfacing of far too many stories where the church is implicated in cases of the mistreatment of children, it is essential that we are intentional about thinking through these issues and creating suitable plans and procedures in line with the law’s requirements, so that at least when they are with us, children are in a safe place.

    The workshops were an informative and enriching time for all who participated. Surfacing out of it were some important questions that churches should be able to answer in the affirmative, but too often cannot. We have compiled a few of them that you might find it helpful to ask of your own church:

    Are you aware of who counts as a child according to the law?
    Are you aware of the laws that determine who is eligible to work with children within the church?
    Has everyone in your church that works with children, been through all the legally required screening procedures?
    Does your church have its own policies and procedures around the topic of children, and are these policies known by the relevant people?

    If your answer to any of these questions was ‘no’ and you would like to find out more about, and equip yourself and your church around, these (and other) topics, The Warehouse has a resource available called Children, Church, and the Law, which describes the principles and provisions of the Children’s Act and its relevance to churches in their work with children. If you would like to get hold of this, or require further information about it, please email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

    Let us together do our part in helping to create a society where children are safe and protected!

    Photo Credit: Tony Lawrence

     

  • Where love and anger meet

    Daily we are assaulted by reports and experiences of children murdered, women abused, leaders assassinated, homes destroyed, money squandered and people whose needs are not being met. What do we do with the anger we feel at these endless atrocities? What do we do with the helplessness when faced with abuse from those who are meant to love, and constant rebuttals from those who have the power to bring about change?  What do we do with the fury we feel towards the people who so blatantly benefit from the suffering of others, and who then either deny or celebrate it? There’s anger born of helplessness on the part of those who live in the midst of these challenges, and anger born of helplessness on the part of those who witness these things but have no idea how to help. And then there’s God. And here’s what helps:

    Throughout scripture we see a God who hates injustice, who expresses deep anger at unrighteousness, who warns those who oppress the poor or harm children of the wrath to come. We see Jesus venting his anger on the moneychangers at the temple, accusing them of turning his house of prayer into a “den of robbers” (Matt 21:12-13). By using that phrase Jesus likens them to the people at the time of Jeremiah, whom God chastises for coming to worship while involved in oppression, murder and idolatry (Jer7:1-10). Later Jesus goes on an absolute tirade in the well-known “woes” passage at the corruption of the religious leaders of his day, calling them snakes, vipers, unwashed graves. (Matthew 23:13-36; Luke 11:39-52)

    The Old Testament prophets express God’s anger well.

    “27See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar,
      ….. his lips are full of wrath,
      and his tongue is a consuming fire.
    28 His breath is like a rushing torrent,
      rising up to the neck.” (Isaiah 30:27,28)

    21“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
      your assemblies are a stench to me.
    22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
      I will not accept them…
    23 Away with the noise of your songs!
      I will not listen to the music of your harps.
    24 But let justice roll on like a river,
      righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:21-24)

    There is no doubt that God hates injustice, greed, idolatry and corruption. When we are seething with anger and pain at what we see happening around us, it’s comforting to know this. Yet – do such expressions of anger from God give us the right to be angry as well? Can our anger be likened to that of God?

    Perhaps only if we can also measure up in terms of our love.

    For Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. As a child I struggled with the idea of loving the children who teased and bullied me, and I took secret delight in the fact that such love “heaped burning coals on their heads” (Proverbs 25:22 and Romans 12:20). So I’d go, “Ok, I forgive them – Hehh hehh, Zap ‘em, Lord!” That was until I heard an interpretation of heaping burning coals as being a way of supplying people with the fire they needed for their household. Even if that may not necessarily be accurate, one has to concede that the passage is about kindness and being willing to meet the needs of our enemies, and that the images I had in mind were by no means kind. And this is where the difference lies between our anger and God’s; between our love and that of God.

    Despite the wraths and woes, throughout scripture we see a God whose love, mercy and forgiveness are relentless, who constantly calls his wayward children back to him; who loves so much that he gave his son to die even for those who most violently opposed everything that he stood for. All God’s expressions of anger reflected in the Bible, vehement though they are, are interspersed with expressions of love. In the midst of Isaiah’s rantings quoted above is the following:

    “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you (my emphasis);
      therefore he will rise up to show you compassion…
    … How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.”(Isaiah 30:18,19)

    Jesus’ “woes” are followed by similar longing:

    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Matt 23:37)

    Bruce Marchiano, the actor who played Jesus in The Visual Bible film series, describes Jesus’ anger as coming from “a heartbreak that screams in utter agony for the needless, pointless pain of people” (116). While preparing for the “woes” scene and expecting to approach it with righteous anger, Marchiano describes feeling a depth of anguish like “the desperate scream of a parent watching his own child step off a curb in front of a moving car” (117). He writes, “The Lord wasn’t spitting fire at these guys, he was loving them…. It was a rage born of a broken heart” (p163). So we see Jesus’ love and anger as being two-sided. There’s anger at the pain his beloved children are enduring at the hands of others, and anger at the pain his beloved children are inflicting on others.

    How does our love measure up? Too often our anger takes the form of mumbling and grumbling, blaming and complaining. We get stuck in the issue; get caught up in discussions on social media the likes of which are a disgrace to humanity, let alone to people following the way of Jesus. Worse is that these assaults are often directed at the person rather than the issue in question. Our posts and tweets include blatant condemnation and shameless mocking, even mocking of fellow believers whose opinions on a matter differ from our own. We value our posts more by the amount of likes we get from people who think like us and whose acclaim we value, than by the extent to which they reflect God’s heart and Kingdom values. While anger at atrocities is certainly justified, such expressions of it cannot be, for they fall far short of Jesus’ own example and his call to love one another. If our anger expresses itself in a desire for harm to others, then it is not of God. Our heart for the victims must translate into actions that seek to right the wrongs and undo the harm, but at the same time our heart for the perpetrators should be one that seeks to change their hearts and bring them to knowledge of the truth of Jesus’ love, salvation and restoration. Like Jesus, we should long to gather them under our wings.

    The key is to remember that the ultimate enemy is not the person who does evil, nor even “the system”, but Satan – whose aim is to steal, kill, destroy and devour (John 10 :10 and 1 Peter 5:8), whose strategy is deception, accusation, confusion and distraction from the way of God. The enemy thrives on retribution and retaliation, on ongoing hatred and ongoing pain. His aim is to hurt us as much as possible in order to get back at God, so he constantly turns us against each other, constantly creating “red herrings” that take us off the path we are meant to be on – that of fighting evil and building righteousness. If we keep on hurting each other, half Satan’s work is done. In addition, as long as we respond to evil in kind – hate with hate, harm with harm – we remain in enemy territory and continue to give power and legitimacy to Satan. And sadly, this too often tends to be our default tendency, despite all that we know to the contrary.

    We all know Ephesians 6, and its description of our struggle being not against flesh and blood, “but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians describes the weapons we have as being far superior to those of the world and of the enemy; that ours have “divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). The important thing is to realise that we are operating in two realms; that the spiritual is just as real as the natural, and that it’s in the spiritual realm that the power lies and from where our weapons operate. While my glee at heaping burning coals on the heads of my persecutors was wrong in its motive, it was right in its outcome. The power of our spiritual weapons is that they fly in the face of what the enemy expects. Love, forgiveness and coming in the opposite spirit disarm the power of evil that thrives on retribution. Our weapons include truth, repentance, forgiveness and humility, the greatest, of course, being love.

    So how do we respond when faced with the abuses around us? I’d like to suggest ten ways:

    1. Realise that while we are aware of and oppose state capture, the devil is about mind, heart, soul and world capture. Don’t be distracted.
    2. Be angry, but direct your anger at what is wrong rather than at the person through whom it comes.
    3. Let your anger energise you into prayer against the evil. Prayer is power. We have been given authority to put demons to flight.
    4. When sharing posts or posting news, keep to what is true. Check sources before posting and check opposing views on the issue so that truth is what is put forward, and love is what comes through.
    5. When planning action, ask God to lead you in the direction you should take. Find out as much as you can and act where you can, doing what you can in obedience to God’s leading.
    6. Ask God for courage to approach those who perpetrate evil, and for wisdom in how to do this, trusting God’s strategies, for he knows and sees what we don’t.
    7. And here too, pray that God would change the heart and mind of the person you’re confronting. Kings have relented and set people free because someone was praying. But do it in love, as God directs.
    8. But before you do any of this – and after, and all the time – ask God to show you any way in which you yourself, be it in thought, word or deed, are part of the problem; part of the perpetration of injustice. Check for attitudes such as guilt, saviour complex, fear, control, false responsibility, self-righteousness. And as God reveals, repent. For as long as we carry these inside ourselves, we have little power or authority over the evil we strive to bring down.
    9. Soak in God. Be filled with his spirit, his love, his power, his encouragement. Receive from him all that he has for you. God is love, and love is power.
    10. Finally, know and trust that God is more angry at the evil on this earth than we could ever be. But he is also more heartbroken. For we are all his dearly loved children, living lives far outside of his plans of abundance and peace. All his anger and all his tears and all his plans for us are built on the foundation of his love.

    It is this love that should drive us too.

    By Colleen Saunders

     

     

  • Rainbows Tattooed over Open Wounds

    I grew up with the smell of late afternoon thunderstorms marching across the South African Highveld, came of age to the rhythmic sound of feet toyi-toying across the streets of Cape Town, and traversed the world for the first time wrapped in the rainbow nation miracle banner. I was a proud member of a nation that personified a moment in history where we imagined humanity living free of the effects of colonialism, cold war conflicts and racial division. South Africa had dramatically averted racial conflict and civil war through negotiation and forgiveness, and with rainbows boldly tattooed over these scars, we told our story to a world desperate for this hope. But as the rainbows faded we discovered that the scars were still open wounds.

    As I’ve come to see these wounds, Doubting Thomas, the disciple who is famous for asking to see the wounds of Jesus, has captivated me. Thomas was Jesus’ friend. He knew that Jesus had been brutally killed by the authorities. He was in close proximity with this pain. Yet although his friends had been telling him stories of Jesus’ resurrection and appearances to them, Thomas says he wants to see and touch the wounds that killed Jesus if he is to believe in the resurrection.

    This is not the proof of resurrection I would naturally seek. I would ask to see the hidden birthmark on my friend’s buttock, or perhaps I would ask a question, the answer to which only he and I knew.

    I avoid pain and brokenness, most especially that which is my own and that which is caused by me. This has been carefully cultivated in my life and reflects my personality, but it also mirrors the culture within which I’ve been raised. Western evangelical Christian culture avoids lament and has an almost pathological focus on achievement, celebration, victory and healing. Doubting Thomas has been ushering me to confront wounds and realities that I have avoided. Wounds and realities that are in turn helping me understand what it means to be white in South Africa at this time and place. To understand what it might mean to confront the wounds and pain that exist in this context. To recognise that truly working and yearning for resurrection means being willing to embrace and experience this pain which, in my place and time, is primarily the pain of black people, most especially black women.

    Dare I believe that if I am willing to see, touch, and experience the deepest death creating wounds in my life, community, and society they might actually lead me to discover resurrection? Thomas guides me to the truth that we can know the experience of death-defying resurrection hope, primarily when we are willing to confront the death and the wounds that caused it. Thomas does this, not with faith-filled bravado, but with doubt and anxiety, mirroring my emotions when confronting them.

    In 1994 South Africans had an opportunity to place our hands into these wounds with the possibility of real sustained change after centuries of white domination and black pain, most tangibly embodied in the Apartheid laws. Culturally and theologically, western society avoids this path, and so we painted rainbows over the seeping wounds and sang “Shosholoza” together. The change we did see was remarkable and miraculous, but, in the end, we only dealt with the law of Apartheid and not the spirit that drove it. We missed that opportunity for repentance, renewal and healing, settling instead for a cheap rainbow tattoo sticker.

    Unconfronted, these wounds shape our world and lives. They end up defining how we see ourselves, other people, and the world around us. They raise up deceptive idols, false prophets and gods who promise us that the pain can be comforted, medicated and solved in a few easy steps. They define and form the deepest places of our individual and collective selves, shaping who we are when no one is looking, and perpetuating the false beliefs and thinking that originally drove us to Colonialism and Apartheid.

    Every time I find myself facing this, I am taunted by doubt and fear shouting out that only hurt, shame, and retribution are to be found there. Paradoxically, it is at these moments that Doubting Thomas encourages faith in me; a faith that believes that death has been confronted, that wounds can be healed and that beauty comes from ashes. It is a deep faith that believes that a resurrected life is there to be searched for and found. I am captured by the hope that this is possible in my city, country, and world. However, that hope will be mere cheap optimism if it doesn’t confront and embrace how deep the wounds are and how significant the challenge for resurrection is.

    How do we do this? Firstly, we must confront, experience, and sit in the wounds and lament of the place we live and the societies we are part of. We must do this intentionally, humbly, with a listening ear, and without being defensive or automatically trying to fix and medicate the pain. Secondly, we must learn to recognise the ways in which we are complicit in having caused these wounds and are still causing these wounds. We must see the ways in which the world around us is constructed in our image, to the detriment of others. We can then incarnate repentance and changed behavior, and work for transformed structures and communities.

    Discovering the reality of resurrection hope in these moments and places grows our capacity to be in other places where wounds and pain are prevalent. It grows our confidence in the hope that we articulate, empowering us to be able to sit in the pain, stretch ourselves across it and believe that resurrection life is possible. And so, with Paul, we will come to know the power of resurrection life that comes when we participate in the suffering, when our hands are placed in the wounds, and we walk in solidarity with those who are in pain.

    By Craig Stewart, The Warehouse

    *(This piece is adapted from a talk I gave at New Wine Ireland in July 2016)

  • Making a difference in education: Getting Practical

    When we consider the challenges in education in South Africa, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and to be left wondering “where do we start?” The feeling is quite normal actually but it’s what happens next that matters most. To avoid the common responses of disbelief, paralysis or anger, it’s important to recognise that in every difficult situation, regardless of how complex it may be, we always have a degree of agency. We have the ability to do something that will contribute toward the future we hope for. In this post, I hope to spark some ideas about how to get involved in the education space. 

    Here are a few ways to start getting practical:

    1. Educate yourself:
    One of the most important things we all can do before doing anything, is to learn more about the problems concerning schooling and education. Doing so will allow us to engage far more meaningfully in the education space. Indeed, it’s worth noting that often times even those with good intentions can contribute to reproducing the problems in education.

    A good starting place would be to read Prof. Pam Christie’s “The Right to Learn” and her more recent “Opening the Doors of Learning” which together provide a very good socio-historical analysis of past and present challenges in SA education.

    If you’re based in Cape Town, join the monthly meetings of “The Education Fishtank”, a popular education meetup which hosts both researchers and practitioners in the field as guest speakers, followed by robust Q&A sessions. 

    2. Volunteering
    Volunteering is a great way to assist a school. While many schools who need it the most often do not have the capacity to manage volunteers (there is logistical planning required in managing volunteers which is often not as straightforward as people assume), there are several local non-profit organisations like Outliers, Bottomup & LifeMatters that are able to facilitate this relationship in a manner that benefits the school and does not an additional load on teachers. Most people only think about literacy or numeracy when volunteering but so many people have professional skills that could be offered pro-bono. For example, are you a music teacher that can commit 2 hours a week for a full year? Are you a registered psychologist that could consider taking 1 or 2 pro-bono clients per year? Do own a transport company that could donate X amount of trips per year? Are you a professional photographer that would like to teach teenagers a short course in photography skills? All of these are very helpful ways to contribute to schools that extend beyond the typical focus on language and mathematics education.

    3. Advocacy
    If you’ve committed yourself to learning more about education, you’ve volunteered at an under-resourced school and seen first-hand some of the challenges faced and perhaps you’ve even started reading policy documents like the South African Schools Act, then you may be looking for ways to engage in education at the level of advocacy.

    If this is you, then it might be time to start having conversations with your local school SGB about transforming admissions policies and school fees. Perhaps your child’s own school needs to begin reviewing a code of conduct that treats some learners unfairly? Additionally, there a several ways that privileged schools can partner with under-resourced schools in ways that do not perpetuate dominant power structures in society. This is the micro-level.

    At a macro-level, it may be worthwhile looking at the work of Equal Education, Section 27 and other civil society organisations and joining some of the campaigns for justice in education.

    Part of this work will require many of us who are middle-class to reflect deeply on how our own actions and the schools we support with our economic and social capital are contributing to inequalities in the education system. Such reflection is most likely the harder work to do, to sit with the discomfort and allow God to speak to us through that discomfort.

    4. What about my local church or group of friends?

    There is so much more exciting work that can be done when people work together.

    One serious problem in most under-resourced schools it that fact that they are grossly understaffed. Post-provisioning policies mean that teachers are distributed “equally” (not equitably) across schools according to a set teacher-pupil ratio, regardless of school context and the cost of fees. This means that for school of 500 learners, they will both receive about 15 educators from government. One school might have annual school fees of R20 000 per pupil per year, enabling them to employ several additional educators and support staff, while the other may have school fees of only R400 per pupil per year, along with a low fee collection rate,  which will not allow them to hire even a single additional educator.

    Just think for a moment what it might be like if every church in South Africa decided to consider hiring a teacher/registered counsellor/social worker at a local school instead of hiring an additional church staff member? Given that there is often a higher number of churches to schools in many communities, churches could even consider clustering together to support schools in their educational district or circuit.

    One thing to remember, is that while all of the above ideas are helpful in some way, engagement in all of the ways described above is what will make the real difference. Churches could fund additional school teachers and it would help but that shouldn’t be done without also advocating for improvements or changes in post-provisioning policies - we should still be asking why it is that government is funding the same amount of educators in schools serving wealthy families, where parents are able to fund educators regardless of government contribution. We should also still be wondering why so many so many schools remain segregated by race and class, and what contemporary education and economic policies have to do with the perpetuation of such segregation. We should still be fighting the good fight, for the most resources to go to where they are needed the most. 

    By Ashley Visagie
    Executive Director of Bottomup, a non-profit providing education enrichment services to under-resourced schools on the Cape Flats.
    Visit their site: http://www.bottomup.org.za

     

  • What’s Theology got to do with it?

    September 30th, 2017

    What’s Theology got to do with it?

    The Divided City. Gentrification. Inherited Privilege. Unaffordable Housing. Unemployment. Greed. Inaccessible Education.

    Does theology shape how we live? Come and explore these questions and more with a growing group of activists, theologians, community developers, poets, dreamers, practitioners, thinkers, gardeners, workers—who live in the same city as you. All welcome! Meet at The Warehouse at 9am if you would like a lift or to drive together ...

    When: 9:30 for 10:00am to 12:00pm

    Where: Holy Cross Anglican Church, Hangana Street, Nyanga.

    We would love to share a meal together at 12. Please bring some food to share if you would like to stay.

    All welcome!

  • Child Protection and the Church

    The Warehouse has a resource available which describes the principles and provisions of the Children’s Act and its relevance to churches in their work with children. These are some of the topics that are covered:

     Background to the Children’s Act, its aim and purpose
     Biblical Principles
     General Principles for children
     Who can work with children
     What to do when you suspect a child being abused or neglected
     What to do if a child is injured or dies while in the care of the church

    In the midst of continuous atrocities against children in our communities, The Warehouse will be hosting three events on 9 August (Women’s Day) and Saturday 12 August, on the responsibility of the church towards children.

    9 August 9h00 - 15h30: Presentation on the Children’s Act and its application to churches

    12 August 09h30 - 12h30:  Gathering of church- and children’s ministry leaders to share experiences and thoughts around the responsibility of the church in addressing this scourge

    12 August 14h00 - 17h00 Repeat of the Children’s Act workshop, but in a shortened form.
    The book, Children, Church and the Law will be on sale at a cost of R300.

    There is no charge for the workshops themselves, but donations will be much appreciated, both towards the cost of refreshments, and towards the cost of the book so that we can subsidise churches who cannot afford it.

    Please make you booking for any of the events by phoning 021-7611168, emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or via Quicket.

  • What are you doing on the 10th August?

    There is a huge buzz in South Africa around the second week of August.

    On Monday, 7 August, #Unitebehind has planned a march to call on the ANC to recall President Jacob Zuma. You can read about the march here and the greater #unitedbehind campaign here

    Whether you march or not, we would love to encourage you to join us in prayer and in acknowledging that, when we as Christ-followers frame discussions on corruption in our country, it is critical to understand that corruption has been overtly present in South African society, with devastating social consequences for the original people of the region since the advent of colonialism and through the time of apartheid, and that much work still has to be done to tear down strongholds of power and privilege in our country, and to repair, restitute and restore all that has been lost.

    On Tuesday, 8 August, another march is taking place, calling on Members of Parliament to vote with their consciences. You can read more about this here . That is the day on which Parliament will be debating the Vote of No Confidence in President Jacob Zuma. Whether you participate in the march or not, we would again love to encourage you to join us in prayer and in acknowledging that when we as Christ-followers address corruption, we do so with a theological and practical understanding that corruption starts in every human heart and therefore that the first act in fighting corruption is one of humility and repentance as we ask God to search our hearts and shine a light on anything which is not aligned to God’s heart, and turn from those thoughts, attitudes and actions.

    Wednesday, 9 August, is a public holiday. We would love you to join us for training in Children, Church and Law, or as it is Women’s Day, to spend some time reading and reflecting on our article on Gender, Violence and how our theology can shape our society.

    But most importantly: what are you doing on 10 August?

    Because come that day, regardless of who marched, who voted which way, whether Jacob Zuma is still our president or not, we still have the work of justice ahead of us. As Christians, our hope does not lie in a political solution or in the actions those in power, but in the Kingdom of God which, through the infilling of the Holy Spirit, we work to establish and expand on earth as it is in Heaven. Thursday, 10 August becomes the most important day of that week, and we would like to invite you to join with us, in your homes, your communities, workplaces and churches, as we re-imagine, intercede for and work towards a city and country which reflects the fullness of the Kingdom - where each person is able to flourish in the fullness of how God has created them to be, where relationships are whole, healed and just and where people live in true freedom with God and each other.

  • Let’s Talk about Gender Violence (and Jesus)

    A letter to the Church
    (10 - 15 minute read)

    When atrocities take place on a grand (or small!) scale - such as war and genocide, racism and racist systems, and the ongoing and pervasive gender violence we see, hear about and experience on a day-to-day basis - I believe it is the role of the Church to stand up against these systems, to call out the evil intrinsic in them and to offer another Way. We have something so beautiful to offer the world - the Good News of the Kingdom and all that it entails.

    But I also believe that, before we can be a voice of Hope and Love in the world, we need to examine ourselves carefully to see whether there is a need to prophesy to ourselves before raising our banner to society at large. Our constant prayer of “Search me, O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” needs to be one which we pray corporately, and with more urgency than ever before: “search us, O God…know our heart…see if there is any offensive way in us”. 

    I am writing this blogpost because I believe that we, as the Church, need to do some deep soul-searching, with honest and contrite hearts, around any offensive ways we have inside us - as a body - which might match, contribute to, or give licence to the ongoing gender violence in our society. I believe we need to do this before we can become a voice of integrity against gender violence in our broader social context. I have been wanting to write a post of this nature for a while now so, while I am certainly writing in the context of the stories which are coming more and more into the light as our sisters express their pain through social and other media, I also write from a more long-standing conviction that many of my sisters have been, and are, paying the highest price for a belief which not only spills into the Church from the patriarchy of the world, but has actually been upheld by many denominations in the belief that it is a responsible interpretation of scripture.

    But to clarify why I believe we have much to see and much to repent of, I would like to start by laying a foundation to these thoughts.

    Let’s talk about theology (and South Africa):
    Theology, very simply defined, is what we know or believe about God’s essential nature, activity and presence in the world. I want to start this line of thought at a place we all agree. Can I start with the assumption that we all agree that we can - or should be able to - trace a clear connection between our theology and both the content and quality of our individual lifestyles? And that this also affects the quality and nature of the wider social landscape in which our theologies intersect, merge, clash or blend?

    I think I can also assume that most South Africans would now acknowledge that the political systems of colonialism and Apartheid, with their accompanying social and economic plans, were rooted in an evil belief - a belief that allowed one group of people, by virtue of their specific DNA, to subjugate and rule over another group of people whose DNA differed.

    As I stated at the beginning of this blogpost, when such evils have managed to wreak the kind of destruction we have seen in our societies and world, it is necessary for us, as the Church, to examine carefully whether our theology played any part in it. Yes: We can all point to the fall, the departure of humankind from God’s original plan for us and the brokenness that this state perpetuates, but it is imperative that we examine whether we have, in any way, conformed to these systems and perpetuated them inside the Church.

    The devastating truth, as we now know, is that the Church during the colonial and Apartheid eras could hardly be differentiated from the rest of society - with the always notable exception of the few, to the greatest extent how we lived, how we gathered, how we worshipped, mirrored the exact divides and attitudes prevalent in the context in which we found ourselves. (Did you know there is a Slave Church in Cape Town’s city centre? How did those two words EVER come to stand next to each other? How was that ever acceptable?)

    As a whole, the Church not only did not speak up against these atrocities and live a life which set us apart from these evils, but rather, many denominations decided that these issues did not fall within the ambit of preaching the “Gospel” and so did not involve themselves in standing against these systems and structures.

    Alongside this group was another part of the Church which actually developed and taught theologies which drove and ratified these systems.

    It is a heart-breaking and, indeed, horrifying truth that only a small part of the Church saw one group of people violating the image of the Creator in another group of people as an issue central to the Gospel, named the theologies which propped these systems up as heresy, and actively fought against the deep injustices which were fruit of this heretical root.

    Let’s Talk about Roots (and Fruit):

    ”...Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree produce good fruit. So you will recognise them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7: 16 - 20)

    When plants first begin to grow, it can be quite difficult to tell them apart. They first shoot up as a tiny bit of green, then they get to the “two-leaf stage” where many plants look exactly alike. One could be forgiven, at this stage, in thinking that a diseased or poisonous plant was a healthy one. Even when they grow to look like the plant they are meant to be, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether they will indeed bear good fruit (or even the fruit of the seed you thought you were planting!!). And even as they bear fruit and it seems offish, it takes some time to figure out whether it is the soil that the tree is planted in, or whether it is the tree itself which is producing bad fruit. But, once it is established that it is indeed the tree itself that has a diseased root or whose fruit is poisonous, there is absolutely no excuse to wait any longer before the whole tree is destroyed. 

    As a gardener and a parent, if I found out that I had planted a tree with poisonous fruit, I would waste no time in yanking the thing up by the root - and I would dig down as far as I possibly could to make sure that no tiny bit of the root remained which could start germinating this plant again. I would scour the ground around where the tree had stood and make sure no baby saplings started growing from seeds which had fallen from the tree. I would certainly not wait until the tree had finished blossoming and pick all the fruit off before my children could possibly get to it. Neither would I erect signs saying the rest of the tree seemed to be OK, but not to go near the fruit. No - the whole thing would be ripped out.

    Over the past 22 years (and longer than that for some), as the South African church has woken to the horror of this fruit and its heretical root, many churches have done the work of uprooting this theology entirely while others are beginning to get to the roots, recognising how far the disease has spread. Still others have a different response - scrambling to pick all the bad fruit off the tree as quickly as it reproduces. It is embarrassing that the fruit keeps coming back: shameful that we are still governed by the divides which give one group of people, by virtue of their DNA, more power in the room, more access to privilege and more opportunity for human flourishing than another group of people. So we try and pick the fruit as quickly as it appears, claiming that the good fruit will come SOON, as long as we rid the tree of its bad fruit. Sometimes I get that feeling that we even hang fake fruit on the tree and try to convince ourselves and others that this truly IS now a good tree, bearing good fruit.

    We rearrange what people can see above the surface of the ground, but the tree still produces bad fruit because we are not fixing the disease, we are not destroying the root. That will take a whole lot of digging, a whole lot of getting down into the dirt, a good lot of hard work and a new planting…something a little too threatening to those who have not only tended the trees, but have set up dwelling places in its shade. 

    Part of the problem, I think, is that it seems to be difficult for us to distinguish between the trunk of the tree which seems to be healthy and strong, the lovely green foliage which gives shade to those under it and the fruit that the tree eventually bears. I don’t doubt that many people who promoted slavery and Apartheid with what they thought was a biblical backing (Paul told slaves to obey their masters, remember? It was quite clear…*sarcasm font*) thought they were doing the right thing and thought they were treating “their” slaves or servants or those of other colours or classes “kindly”. I am sure many were horrified at other people for treating their slaves violently, or decried the actions of Apartheid police when they viciously beat up, tortured and killed people of colour. And I am sure that people met in their one-colour-only churches and prayed against the violence of Apartheid. And yet now we can look back and see quite clearly that even the “best” slave master had believed a demonic lie - one that allowed one group of people, by virtue of their DNA, to subjugate and rule over another group of people.   

    And so,

    Let’s talk about sex (and Jesus):
    But I don’t actually want to talk about sex. Sex is a biological distinction based on which sex organs are visible at birth. I would rather like to talk about gender. Gender is the social meaning, significance and value which is placed on the sex you are identified as at birth. Whereas sex is a biological label (and, most often, binary), gender is a social construct. [Much like skin-colour is a result of a specific DNA combination, but race is a social construct]. This means that the understanding and expectations we have of someone, or a group of people, based on their sex organs, differs across time, culture and place and is shaped by many factors: including people’s belief systems and theology.

    When Jesus began His ministry in human form, those who were women were hardly even considered to be human - pious Jewish men would pray and thank God that they were not a gentile, a slave or a woman. One can only imagine what this reflected about a woman’s place in society. A care-filled reading of scripture shows us that, through His life, ministry, works and words Jesus broke down every stereotype which dehumanised women (indeed, not just women, but any and every group of people who had been marginalised and subjugated by the religious and political powers of the day). In a way, His death and resurrection were the official inauguration of the Kingdom - one in which all people were recognised as bearing the image of the Creator and were thus beloved, holy and One with God and each other. This Kingdom restored the VERY GOODness of creation before the fall, when male and female were given the task of caring for the earth together, side-by-side, with none ruling over the other. 

    This new way of being was once again confirmed at Pentecost (the birth of the Church) when Peter proclaimed the realisation of Joel’s prophecies: the pouring out of the Holy Spirit onto people of all ages, genders and classes. Paul again confirms this (and adds “ethnicity” or “race” into the list) in the “baptismal manifesto” in Galatians 3:28 when he declares, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female*, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    I cannot express to you how radical this teaching of the early church was - it is difficult for us to recognise it now because its very radical nature has transformed the world over the last 2000 years in such profound ways that we can no longer imagine the context in which those words were said, written, received and read. But it is important for us to try, otherwise we miss the very richness of what Jesus lived and taught. That now, because the Kingdom of God is amongst us, no group of people can, by virtue of their DNA, birth circumstances or living conditions, lay claim to authority or leadership over another group of people different to them. Instead we are invited into the beautiful Trinitarian dance of mutual service and submission - each of us submitting to each other out of reverence for Christ. Just imagine how wonderful and beautiful this Kingdom could be as it is established wider and deeper amongst us - no wonder people were attracted to the early church and no wonder it grew in huge numbers daily. What Good News to so many people!

    I can go on about this, but there are people who have already done a good lot of work explaining the full and beautiful trajectory of God’s story in the bible, as well as dealing with “the tricky verses” which seem to go against this.

    So, what I would really like to do is come back to the original point of this blogpost.

    Let’s talk about Gender Violence (and the Church)
    When atrocities take place on a grand (or small!) scale - such as war and genocide, racism and racist systems, and the ongoing and pervasive gender violence we see, hear about and experience on a day-to-day basis - I believe it is the role of the Church to stand up against these systems, to call out the evil intrinsic in them and to offer another Way…but only after we have examined ourselves and repented of anything within ourselves (including theologies and structures) which have matched, contributed to or given licence to these evils.

    I believe we need to begin with an interrogation of gender divides or hierarchies - and specifically the belief that men have been created to lead - before we can examine whether we have had a role to play in gender violence.

    When it comes to gender hierarchies, the Church has once again had different responses. Many Churches have recognised that the belief that men are created to lead (and therefore that women are created to be under men’s authority) has direct roots in the same thinking that gave rise to colonialism, slavery and Apartheid: that which allows one group of people, by virtue of their DNA, to subjugate and rule over another group of people with different DNA. These churches see this as an integral issue to the Gospel of the Kingdom, and have done the hard work of pulling up the roots of this system and are beginning to see good fruit from their newly planted and beautifully tended trees.

    Others still consider this issue not to be central to the Gospel and so either ignore it as an issue or gather on Sundays to pray and preach against gender violence, without fully interrogating the root of this violence.

    And still others form theologies which drive and ratify gender hierarchy**.

    And, much as those people who treated “their” slaves well and kindly - allowing them to build lovely churches for themselves - would have been appalled to think that they had anything to do with the violence meted out to enslaved people, many Christians cannot see the connection between the theology that males are created to rule over females and the gender violence which is so pervasive in society. (Indeed, many call us back to these hierarchical roles as a way of curing this societal disease!)

    Because, let’s face it: at the first stages of growth, this belief can even look beautiful: man is made to protect, provide for and lead woman - what could be so wrong with that? The trunk looks strong and the wonderful green foliage gives shade to many. But, higher up the tree, some fruit begins to form: if a man is made to lead a woman, then men are made to lead women. Women as a whole cannot lead men as a whole - this would be unbiblical. Or women can be part of a pastoral team, but under the covering of an all-male eldership. A little further out on the branches, males stand up and walk out of a church gathering en masse when a female missionary begins her report back of her time in the field - believing this is the Godly thing to do. Higher up still, men discipline their wives when they need to be brought back into line for disobedience to their husbands. Pastors counsel women who have been abused (or “disciplined” as some call it) that they should submit to their husbands and God will reward them for their obedience….do you see where this is going?

    Perhaps it is difficult to see the connection between even these full-grown fruits and the gender violence that has flooded our newsfeeds in the last few weeks. It would be a relief to believe that the more “benign” fruit of this church tree has fallen into diseased social soil and has born saplings in the outside world, and that it is the fruit on these saplings which has turned poisonous. And I do believe that the context in which this theology takes root can have an influence on just how poisonous the fruit is. But the question we need to ask ourselves is whether the Church has stood out as a peculiar group of people who are strangely different to the context in which they find themselves - a people within whom there is no trace of violence?

    Here it is vital (quite literally) to note that even a cursory overview of the literature available shows that, as opposed to the Church standing out as an incontrovertible beacon of hope in a world battered by stories of domestic abuse and gender violence, the rate of domestic abuse is as high, if not higher, in homes where beliefs of gender hierarchies are adhered to than it is in broader society. On top of this, studies show that the belief of male headship and female subordination leads many church leaders to counsel women not only to stay in abusive situations, but to imply that the abuse they suffer is as a result of their insubordination and that submission will lead to different results***. As one part of the Church works towards the emancipation of women from these horrific personal and social conditions as a core outliving of the Gospel of the Kingdom, a large part of the Church still mirrors the very injustices which we are trying to eradicate.

    In conclusion, while I do believe that we have particularly fertile soil for violence in our society (particularly because this root of inequality has changed so much of our soil), and that many a good and right thing can be adopted by those outside of the church and warped and used for destruction, I do not believe gender hierarchy is one of those good and right things that has merely been warped by society. I believe it goes against the original “very good”ness intended by the Creator, against the life and ministry of Jesus, against the mission of the Holy Spirit and against the call to the Church to be one body. I believe it is part of the same heretical root which produced slavery, colonialism and Apartheid… and I believe we are continuing to know it by its fruits. 

    An Epilogue

    I know many wonderful Christian men reading this would never DREAM of raising a hand to their wife or any woman. I also know this can feel really, really difficult to read without feeling defensive. But I also believe that our sisters are paying the highest price for this belief system and so, in the balance of things, I am OK with risking some discomfort in my brothers.
     
    I will end on this note. I love and honour the impulse in men who have responded to the stories of violence against girls and women with a call to all men to stand up and protect women. I would like to suggest that this is a good start: all Christ-followers are called to protect the vulnerable, the weak and the marginalised. But our greater call is to join Christ in tearing down the dividing walls of hostility between all people and work towards a society in which each person is honoured as an image-bearer of the Creator. For now, I will humbly accept your offers of protection, and am grateful for them because we, as women, are indeed vulnerable. But please can I ask, rather than enforcing the power dynamics which are already at play by confusing your current role as protector with being in perpetual authority over us, that you join us, side-by-side, in tearing down the systems which keep us vulnerable and in need of protection - including those systems that dwell within the Church. 

    By Wendy Lewin

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
    Footnotes:
    * Just to distinguish again between sex and gender: When Paul said this, he was obviously not meaning that there would be no more distinction between our mostly-binary biological sexes - only that your biological sex, like what position you were born into, or what race of people you came from, would give you no more or no less standing in the Kingdom. That, just as gentiles were recognised as being able to receive the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit and all the spiritual gifts and Kingdom citizenship that came with it, so too were women, as were those who had been enslaved or shut out of Jewish worship by virtue of their different race.

    ** I use the term “gender hierarchy” intentionally. Many people use the term “complementarianism” to talk about men and women being equal in our salvation, but holding different roles in church and family life. The word “complementary” would be a good description if it referred to a system where women could occupy positions of authority in the church or home which men could not, while the reverse was true for other roles. However, men are not blocked from performing any role in church (save, perhaps, soprano?), while women are certainly barred from being pastors, teachers, or elders - depending on which church one is talking about. Men are also believed to be the natural leader at home - set in authority over their wife by virtue of their maleness alone. This, then, is not a complementary system, but rather a hierarchical one.

    *** “To quantify clergy beliefs about domestic violence and divorce, a questionnaire was sent to more than five thousand Protestant ministers in the United States. A full 27 percent of the clergy who responded said that, if a wife would begin to submit to her abusive husband, God would honor her obedience and the abuse would stop (or God would give her the grace to endure the beatings).” Study quoted in https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/clergy-responses-domestic-violence

    Some recommended readings:
    (There are so many. These are the main ones I kept going back to in writing this, as well as some others which I read afterwards and which convinced me I wasn’t mad to be taking this on!)

    “How I changed my mind about Women in Leadership” - published by Zondervan and Edited by Alan F. Johnson. I would highly recommend the whole book, but particularly - when it comes to the greater conversation around self-arrogated leadership of one group over another, a chapter by Gilbert Bilezikian entitled “Renouncing the Love of Power for the Power of Love”.

    “Beyond Sex Roles - What the Bible says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family” - Authored by Gilbert Bilezikian and published by BakerAcademic. This provides a wonderful overview on leadership itself and God’s intention around that, as well as being a key biblical exposition of particular themes and passages around women in the church and society.

    The website for Christians for Biblical Equality (http://www.cbeinternational.org) has a wealth of seriously helpful resources. I was particularly encouraged by this publication (https://www.cbeinternational.org/sites/default/files/Ideas-Have-Consequences-reprint-web.pdf) in general, and both Mimi Haddad (beginning pg 9) and Alan Myatt’s (beginning pg 21) articles specifically.

     

  • Children are a heritage from God

    A day does not pass without us reading about a child being abused, neglected, exploited, abandoned, raped and/or murdered. More than 33 children have gone missing and killed in the Western Cape since January 2017 and these are only some of the reported cases. It is said that more than 800 children have been harmed, maimed or murdered in South Africa in the last six months.

    My heart cries out for these innocent victims. The perpetual trauma, pain and physical and emotional damage these young ones have to endure at the hands of adults – the very ones they trust and look to for care, protection and love. Look around – where is their protection from violence, cruelty, danger, hunger, exploitation and disrespect? Psalm 127:3 clearly says: ”Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.”

    Children across all spectrums are caught up in situations that affect their very being, and have long term consequences for living a full and fruitful life – a life that God intended for them to live. It is not only the atrocities of violence, rape and murder that have a devastating effect on children. They are exposed to situations that can negatively impact and influence their life on so many levels. Let us consider a few of these:

    • Socio-economic situations forces children to join gangs, indulge in substance abuse, promiscuous behaviour leading to teenage pregnancy and early school dropouts.

    • South Africa is listed as one of the top five countries with the highest divorce rates in the world. Children are caught up in the furore between mother and father, they feel they are to blame, and can often be used as a pawn to ease the conscience of the parent.

    • Children who grow up without their fathers may experience problems in their school performance and behaviour. Low morals, low self-esteem, low self-love can all lead to bigger emotional and psychosocial adjustments and behaviours. Stephan Baskerville from Howard University says: “Violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide – all correlate more strongly to “fatherlessness” than to any other single factor.”

    “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” [Mal. 4:6].

    • Unemployment further exacerbates the family finances and children are deprived of food, shelter, education and just the basic living commodities. Hunger and poverty can drive children to desperate measures by dabbling in things for extra cash that can lead to detrimental consequences. In some cases where parents do have jobs, it is the older siblings that have to take care of the younger ones. This means no schooling, and goes against the Children’s Act in terms of child labour.

    • Let us not forget that any disaster, like the recent floods and fires, which results in families losing their homes or where the death of family members happen can further increase the level of vulnerability that children experience.

    • Domestic violence and conflict in communities also deprives children from having any psychological, social, economic or spiritual support.

    In Matthew 19:13-15 Jesus says: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” In the preceding chapter the disciples question Jesus about who the greatest is in the kingdom of heaven. [Matt. 18:1-6]. He uses a little child to illustrate His point, that unless we become like a vulnerable little child, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. We learn from these two passages that children are treasures and not commodities for exploitation in His kingdom. They must be welcomed, protected and blessed.

    So, what is the role of the church in ensuring that children are safe and protected? The church has always been involved in caring for, protecting and advocating for children. Sunday School, community camps, holiday clubs, homework clubs, child-and-youth-care centres, are some areas where children are vulnerable and in the care of the church premises. Both the children and the church are at risk. Those involved in working with children need to have an understanding of the Children’s Act and its related laws and how this is relevant for the church.

    The Warehouse has a resource available which describes the principles and provisions of the Children’s Act and its relevance to churches in their work with children. These are some of the topics that are covered:

     Background to the Children’s Act, its aim and purpose
     Biblical Principles
     General Principles for children
     Who can work with children
     What to do when you suspect a child being abused or neglected
     What to do if a child is injured or dies while in the care of the church

    In the midst of continuous atrocities against children in our communities, The Warehouse will be hosting three events on 9 August (Women’s Day) and Saturday 12 August, on the responsibility of the church towards children.

    9 August 9h00 - 15h30: Presentation on the Children’s Act and its application to churches

    12 August 09h30 - 12h30:  Gathering of church- and children’s ministry leaders to share experiences and thoughts around the responsibility of the church in addressing this scourge

    12 August 14h00 - 17h00 Repeat of the Children’s Act workshop, but in a shortened form.
    The book, Children, Church and the Law will be on sale at a cost of R300.

    There is no charge for the workshops themselves, but donations will be much appreciated, both towards the cost of refreshments, and towards the cost of the book so that we can subsidise churches who cannot afford it.

    Please make you booking for any of the events by phoning 021-7611168, emailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or via Quicket:

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“Logically and sustainably, we cannot just keep expanding, growing, and consuming. We must return to lives of humility, simplicity, and limits (“justice for all”) which is what the Gospel said all along. ”

Richard Rohr

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