blog

Friday 04 September 2015

Nkosivumile Gola

What if we are leading people to a distorted view of God?

In many cases people who oppose Christian involvement in politics say that politics, in a way, fixes peoples’ eyes on ‘temporary things’ instead of on eternal things. My question is: what if the ‘temporary things’ lead to people having a different and distorted view of God? Many atheists are people who have their roots in Christianity, but our continuous neglect of all the possible injustices may have lead them into walking away from a God who does not care about the suffering of the world. They are like the prodigal son of the New Testament.

Every prodigal son is drawn back to the father’s bosom as they see the goodness of the father, as they see that there is no father’s servant or son that sleeps without food, as they see that there is no lack in my father’s house. As long as the church acts with the status quo the prodigals will never return to the house of the father for the father is malevolent. Anything that has the potential of painting God in a way other than who He really is sounds the bell for the Christian to speak up, act, change and transform. And so it is for politics. 

We have to be clear that there is no apolitical being; we are all involved in politics whether consciously or unconsciously. The most unfortunate part is that those who are unconsciously involved in politics are unconsciously part of the status quo. Therefore, if there is oppression in the system they are siding with those who oppress (often unaware of their complicity). Most of those who are consciously involved are against the status quo because they get to see that the ‘norm’ is unacceptable.

With all of the above said, we have the great commission which has been turned into a vision of many churches. My own church put it like this: “His last command is our first concern”. But the question is: have we truly seen what is entailed in that great commission? The great commission tells us that “as we go we disciple, as we go we teach and as we go we baptise” Matthew 28. This means that the evangelism of the nations is not an event for a Christian (like evangelism in Khayelitsha, for example), but it is a life of a believer. Therefore, how you spend your money is evangelism, how you treat your workers is evangelism, how you live your life is evangelism, how you treat the next person you see is evangelism. That is why Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

In the gospel of Matthew it is said “Let your light shine before all men, so that people may see your good works and give honour to your father in heaven”. This verse in simple terms says that in our daily social and public lives, we are to be the model of what God intended for people in the beginning. It is in them (the people who are seeing the good works) seeing what God had always intended for them that they will be transformed and come to know the Lord Jesus.

The mere point of politics has always been about the question of ownership. Now is the bible quiet about this? The question that is asked in politics is often related to who owns and runs the means of production? The church is called to model and proclaim who should own the means of production. Our proclamation is our speaking of the truth to power, and our modelling is found in the book of acts where it says of the church, “No one was lacking amongst them”. Why is it so easy for our church to speak against abortion, to speak against or stand for same-sex marriage but yet we fail to speak against policies that continue to side-line the majority of our people in South Afrika? Just as no one was lacking amongst them, so it is our church that will demonstrate that there is a possibility of no lack in our churches today (Acts 2). Politics is Zaccheus being reconciled with God and also reconciled with his own community through the act of restitution. The Church’s core mission is the ministry of reconciliation (Luke 19, 2 Corinthians 5) – politics, again.

In anything that concerns humanity, God is involved. Anything that concerns the “neighbour” is an area in which the Christian should be involved. May we stop side-lining God in His own affairs! The church is the opinion of God in all matters of life.

Saturday 27 February 2016

Luthando Tofu

The State of African Theology Address: Part1

Decentralising Theological Education

In its most basic form, theological education translates to the “equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” as the writer of the book of Ephesians indicates in chapter 4. This equipping was never meant to be reserved for certain individuals but rather the expectation is for all saints to be involved in the work of ministry. Now how we define the various aspects of the “work of ministry” is a topic for another day. Even Christ commissions his disciples in Matthew 28:19 to “teach all nations” all that He has taught them. This role of teaching was meant to be accessible, free and mobile in order for it to advance the purposes of God’s kingdom. Professionalising this function reflects more how the church has given into being influenced by the models of this age rather than the kingdom.

Traditional African educational and learning processes have historically been centred on community and family circles. This is not a strange concept either to the biblical narrative as Paul’s church planting strategy was predominately that which is called ‘house churches’. People learn more within circles of people they value the most. Theological formation is no exception because true discipleship happens mostly in relationship.

The great Xhosa Prophet Ntsikana, who is revered for his pioneering incarnational model to missions ran his church services around family kraals. Though missionaries came and built isolated church related facilities which were removed from the centrality of the home and that required people to dismantle their association between family and religion, Ntsikana maintained the ancestral legacy of the family kraal a sacred space for religious activity.

The Western concept of theological education has thus maintained the pattern of the university which is removed from the centrality of the church as a sacred space for discipleship. Though there is some value to a dedicated group of people who engage at the intellectual level of theologising, the true heart of the Gospel is and will always remain formation by and through the local church.

The Huffington Post just recently published an article by Dr. Philip Clayton called Rebooting Theological Education which looks at the current crisis of theological institutions and the need for a new approach. It raises such issues as financial affordability, the generational shifts taking place as well as the new approaches to doing church. All these have a direct impact on the format and relevance of traditional ways of approaching theological education. As the fundamental understanding of the role of the church in the 21st century broadens and as the world around us changes, we are compelled to bring training more to the ground rather than higher to the halls of elitist institutions particularly in Africa.

By returning theological education to the local church, we not only open access to the equipping of all believers for the work of ministry, but we are also enabling including those who would otherwise not afford to financially go to theological seminaries. We would also further reduce the high volume of ministers who are seemingly preaching non-truth because of what we perceive as lack of theological training.

Christ commissioned his disciples to teach the nations what he had taught them. This mandate still rings true today and cannot be achieved through an elitist approach to theological education.  The Church can no longer afford to outsource its mandate to multiply discipleship and raising leaders because theology needs to be done in context and in relationship.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Wendy Lewin

Tale of Two Kings

I have never really felt comfortable with the parable in Luke 19 – I think specifically because I was always taught that Jesus was speaking about Himself and, the more I got to know Jesus, the more and more certain I became that the king He was describing is in fact His complete opposite. I was relieved, therefore, to find that there is a growing number of arguments against the traditional teaching around this text. In November of last year, we (Warehouse staff team) read the Luke 19: 1-27 passage as part of a larger discernment process and some patterns fell very firmly into place for me. But, in case you have no idea of what I am talking about, or only vaguely: here is the passage in full. Do try, while reading it, to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal new things to you – whether you land on the same understanding of the text as I have is not as important to me as that we constantly allow the Holy Spirit to transform us through our engagement with the text.

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”
So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’ ”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’ But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’ The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’ His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’ Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me.’”

It is quite striking to me that these two stories are clearly told as a matching pair by Luke. “While they were listening to this”...while the crowd was still processing what Jesus had just said about Zacchaeus, while that news was spreading through the crowds…hot off the back of this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable ...

A story of a particularly vicious, ruthless, power-grabbing man who goes off and, despite his own subjects’ hatred for him and their plea for him not to be made king, comes home in power over them. He institutes his reign in such a way that those who work for him and with him gain more and more privilege, wealth and power (from coins to entire cities!), while those who point out the injustice of his governance (“you take out what you have not put in, and reap what you have not sown”) or who have nothing, get the very little that they have taken away from them. The worst is left for those who oppose him outright – he is very expedient in calling for them to be killed, with a desire to be a direct witness to the deaths. 

Jesus chooses to tell this story “while the crowds were listening to this…”. Straight after the crowds had heard Him say “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”  Straight after the crowds have heard Jesus talk about a chief tax collector, a servant of the occupying Roman Empire, who had cheated and stolen from the poorest of the poor, whose wealth and power had multiplied through the impoverishment of those around him; after they had seen Jesus push through the crowd to speak to Zacchaeus, invite Himself home with him and then declare that he had been sought after and saved, that salvation had come – Jesus chooses to tell this story.

We see, as readers with some deeper “post-fact” insight, in the story of Zacchaeus, a King who is so attractive that crowds press in to see Him, that men of great privilege and power abandon all dignity to run - and climb trees in order to see Him. A King who, being in very nature God, didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but poured Himself out, humbled Himself and became obedient even to death on the cross. We see this kindest of Kings address Zacchaeus by name, calling out his deeper identity: “pure and righteous one”, bestowing on him acceptance, grace and favour before he had even done anything to deserve it, demonstrating this to all around by inviting Himself to eat with Zacchaeus in his home. We see Zacchaeus responding to His invitation immediately and gladly. We see a man who has been corrupt and ostracised transformed through an encounter with this King – transformed to the point where he chooses to give half his wealth away and to pay back to anyone from whom he has stolen, four times the original amount. We see a public declaration by this kindest of Kings of salvation and restoration over Zacchaeus and his household.

A King who gives up power, who is attractive, who is intimate and loving, who invites others to give up their power and declares this to be a sign of salvation and sonship. Who we know laid down his life to save all that had been lost, “while we were yet sinners”, who offered salvation even to those who hated him, who pleaded forgiveness for those who killed him.

And a king who grabs power, whose subjects hate him, who is ruthless, harsh and hard,  who reaps what he does not sow, who governs a system which multiplies the power and wealth of those who agree to be subject to him, who takes even the little that others have and leaves them with nothing and who puts to death anyone who opposes him. 

I believe Jesus, and then Luke in the telling, is showing us two opposing kingdoms – or a Kingdom and an Empire. I think His illustration pertains to the Empire of the day, yes – an Empire which occupied Israel at the time, which was cruel and ruthless, which rewarded those who “shook hands with it” (as Zacchaeus had done for years), robbed those who had very little to begin with, and put to death anyone who opposed it – but I think more than that, Jesus is illustrating for us the Empire of sin and darkness, ruled by satan, which had kept people and systems enslaved for millenia. That very Empire that Jesus came to overthrow – whose darkness He pushed back with every act, with every miracle and teaching; from whose clutches He had pulled the sick, the marginalised, the outcast, the lame, the demon-possessed, the lost, the shamed, the disowned and at least one chief tax collector; and to whose most manifest form He submitted when He chose to die on the cross – the most vicious and humiliating instrument of execution of the Roman Empire – in order that He might overthrow it for once and for all.

Jesus knew that opposing this Empire, as He had been doing, would result in death – He had been trying to warn His disciples of this for quite some time now, and especially as they approached Jerusalem – the centre of Roman power in Judea.

I understand that this might be quite a lot to digest, so I am going to leave it there. Except to say that I believe that we are faced daily with which of these kings we will choose – not just as “non-believers”, but as tried and tested Jesus-followers who live in a world which is still being redeemed: will we choose the Kingdom, or the Empire? Will we choose the King who calls us to lay down our power and our wealth, or will we serve the Empire which rewards our gain with multiplication of power, privilege and wealth? Will we spend ourselves on the poor, the downtrodden, the broken-hearted, or will we wipe our brows, say “Shew! But for the grace of god, there go I” and protect our own interests? Will we follow a King who preaches acceptance, grace, identity, invitation and restoration, or will we shake hands with an Empire that “otherises”, alienates, robs, kills and destroys. Daily, in our thoughts, words, deeds and in what we leave undone, we choose which of these K/kings we will follow.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Craig Stewart

What are the times?

[This blog post is one in a series of personal viewpoints of Warehouse Staff members on the Unite Against Corruption March]

The bible is filled with stories of God’s people engaging in the public square.  This happens in multiple ways: through private engagements with Kings and rulers, public acts of repentance and symbolic acts of prophetically imaginative confrontation to name a few.  At any time and place it is one of the tasks of those who follow Christ to be discerning what the time is and how would God have us act in response to that.

Is it a time when like Moses we are called to confront the empire’s Pharaoh publicly, or a time when like Samuel we meet privately with our friends in leadership confronting them with hard truths, a time where like Jesus we turn over the table in the temple, like Paul where we engage in public debate over a period of months or like Joseph and Daniel where we work courageously and without compromise within the systems of power to bring about change.  Since we are a body God probably has multiple roles for his people to play at any one time.

As I have considered this and reflected on my participation in the unite against corruption campaign I have come to the conclusion that it is a time for a public act that says I am committed to a different story for my country.  The corruption that has been in our land for centuries, the corruption has stolen and continues to steal land and livelihoods from all of us but mostly directly from the most vulnerable people, families and communities, this corruption needs to be confronted publicly. 


I will join the march committed to acting on the fact that confronting and resolving the corruption of Nkandla is dramatically simpler than confronting the corruption of our apartheid past and all the mansions, homesteads and swimming pools that were built off stolen money and land prior to 1994.  I will join the march as a public act of repentance and declaration.  Of repentance for the knowledge that my heart is corrupt, that I have gained unfairly and that I want to be wrestling and acting out what it means for me to “pay back the money”.  And of declaration which says to leaders in business, in government, in the church and civil society that I am not simply willing to allow us to be eaten away by the cancer of corruption and that we need to say enough. 


Other blogposts in this series:

If you March as the Church:

In this short and snappy post, Brian Koela reminds us about who we march as and what that looks like on the day.

An Opportunity for Whites to Confess, Repent and Change:

This confessional statement by Caroline Powell should be read by all white, Christian South Africans contemplating what God is calling us to in this time in South Africa. She will not answer your question as to whether to march or not, but she will point you in the ways of the Kingdom and engaging with repentance, whether you march or choose not to.

Where Justice, Love and Mercy meet:

Colleen Saunders believes that the march itself goes against what she and others have been hearing from God around His heart for our country at this time. In this rich piece, she shows us other ways for us to engage with government and other people and institutions of influence.

How Marching will Destroy the Church’s Integrity:

Nkosivumile Gola, our new intern at the Warehouse, weighs in the debate. He is strongly opposed to the march. In this piece, he calls the Church to be acting with integrity in the more important conversations he feels should be happening.

Why Personal Views?

On Wednesday, 30 September, marches will be taking place in at least Pretoria and Cape Town as part of the “Unite Against Corruption” Campaign. Since the public announcement of a march was made, the Warehouse staff have wrestled with God and each other around what opportunities and risks the march avails to the work of the Kingdom of God. We have friends of the Warehouse who are actively involved in mobilising churches for the march, and many people have asked us what the Warehouse’s stance on the march and messaging around it is.
 
Through some hard, and often painful, reflections and conversations, we have identified that we hold a variety of different views regarding how the church should be involved in addressing the insidious nature of corruption at all levels of society (from individual hearts, to family, church, civil, business and political structures). We have also recognised that we hold a variety of different, and sometimes opposite, views regarding whether churches should be involved in this particular moment of civil action or not. We have felt that the reasons for these views are of deep importance and value in helping us as individual Christians, churches and church structures to be reflective, repentant and active at this time. So, in answer to the question, “what is the Warehouse’s view on the march?”, we offer you a mosaic of different individual’s views as we make up the Warehouse, and hope this will be of help.
 
Where we are not necessarily in agreement around the march, we are certainly still in deep unity with each other – and particularly with regard to two important starting points on any discussion around corruption:
 
1. We believe it is critical that, when we as churches define 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 His heart, and turn from those thoughts, attitudes and actions.

2. We believe that it is critical that, when we as churches frame discussions on corruption in our country, that we acknowledge 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 350 years ago, and through the corrupt laws and action of the Apartheid state, 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.


To see more details on what the Church is being called to specifically by the march organisers, go to:  www.churchesagainstcorruption.co.za

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Brian Koela

If you March as the Church

[This blog post is one in a series of personal viewpoints of Warehouse Staff members on the Unite Against Corruption March]

If you do march, as a Christian you need to consider the following:

You are carrying the banner of Christ.
You are there as a peace keeper.
You pray for peace to prevail from the beginning of the march until its the end.
Marches can tend to get out of order. You want to be on the outskirts of the march staying alert and being the voice of calm and reason.
You want to be the one who forms a protective shield.


Other blogposts in this series:

An Opportunity for Whites to Confess, Repent and Change:

This confessional statement by Caroline Powell should be read by all white, Christian South Africans contemplating what God is calling us to in this time in South Africa. She will not answer your question as to whether to march or not, but she will point you in the ways of the Kingdom and engaging with repentance, whether you march or choose not to.

Where Justice, Love and Mercy meet:

Colleen Saunders believes that the march itself goes against what she and others have been hearing from God around His heart for our country at this time. In this rich piece, she shows us other ways for us to engage with government and other people and institutions of influence.

What are the Times?:

Craig Stewart writes that at any time and place it is one of the tasks of those who follow Christ to be discerning what the time is and how would God have me act in response to that?

How Marching will Destroy the Church’s Integrity:

Nkosivumile Gola, our new intern at the Warehouse, weighs in the debate. He is strongly opposed to the march. In this piece, he calls the Church to be acting with integrity in the more important conversations he feels should be happening.

Why Personal Views?

On Wednesday, 30 September, marches will be taking place in at least Pretoria and Cape Town as part of the “Unite Against Corruption” Campaign. Since the public announcement of a march was made, the Warehouse staff have wrestled with God and each other around what opportunities and risks the march avails to the work of the Kingdom of God. We have friends of the Warehouse who are actively involved in mobilising churches for the march, and many people have asked us what the Warehouse’s stance on the march and messaging around it is.

Through some hard, and often painful, reflections and conversations, we have identified that we hold a variety of different views regarding how the church should be involved in addressing the insidious nature of corruption at all levels of society (from individual hearts, to family, church, civil, business and political structures). We have also recognised that we hold a variety of different, and sometimes opposite, views regarding whether churches should be involved in this particular moment of civil action or not. We have felt that the reasons for these views are of deep importance and value in helping us as individual Christians, churches and church structures to be reflective, repentant and active at this time. So, in answer to the question, “what is the Warehouse’s view on the march?”, we offer you a mosaic of different individual’s views as we make up the Warehouse, and hope this will be of help.

Where we are not necessarily in agreement around the march, we are certainly still in deep unity with each other – and particularly with regard to two important starting points on any discussion around corruption:

1. We believe it is critical that, when we as churches define 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 His heart, and turn from those thoughts, attitudes and actions.

2. We believe that it is critical that, when we as churches frame discussions on corruption in our country, that we acknowledge 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 350 years ago, and through the corrupt laws and action of the Apartheid state, 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.


To see more details on what the Church is being called to specifically by the march organisers, go to:  www.churchesagainstcorruption.co.za

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Nkosivumile Gola

How Marching will Destroy the Church’s Integrity

[This blog post is one in a series of personal viewpoints of Warehouse Staff members on the Unite Against Corruption March]

Reading through this “anti corruption” march website I’m seeing an anti-ANC march. The problem of South Afrika is bigger than the ANC: we are faced with colonial corruption. Our corruption is older than 1994. This march brings a very wrong idea and misleads the public when it limits corruption to the ANC, while we are still faced with the continuous degrading of the majority of South Afrika.

For me, this is just an example of white techniques to derail focus from the actual and real questions that are currently surfacing South Afrika as far as transformation is concerned. It is a way to brush off the race problem which is the mother of all problems we face as South Afrika. If the church is to include themselves on this march, they are about to lose their integrity on many levels. If the church is to engage on this march, it is to join the white narrative of ANC being the problem of South Afrika, that black people are unable to govern themselves - forgetting that the ANC is trying to fix problems that they themselves didn’t create. The church must also include its own corruption of separate development, where the church in Constantia is a million years apart from the church in Khayelitsha! An anti-corruption march must be an uncomfortable march against the comfortable lives of white people whose narrative of “corruption steals from the poor” detracts from the real narrative, which is “my comfortable life after apartheid is the direct cause for black poverty in South Afrika”.

I think the criticising of the ANC/black government must be left to black people. Reason for that being the subtle narrative behind white people’s critique: The view that everything was fine in South Afrika until Mbeki’s HIV/AIDS saga, everything was fine in South Afrika until Zuma came into the picture…this is a totally distorted view of South Afrika. Not even Tata Tutu has a right to criticize the ANC after they and their TRC fooled our people! The TRC itself was corruption!

The 1994 negotiations and all those who were involved in that were corrupt! And many white people will never utter those words and they will be on that march! Land in the hands of white people is continuous white acceptance of corruption and those corruption cases are not included on this march – why not? If white people, together with the church, are not willing to publicly declare that land in the hands of white people in South Afrika is corruption, then the church must not engage on this march! Only those who have that ability to talk about the corruption of land have the right to be part of this march. Only those who are able to say “all South Afrikan land is stolen property” have the right to say ANC is corrupt. And if we fully understand that the democratic ANC government’s foundation from 1990’s was built on lies/corruption where they failed to answer to the core issues of apartheid and colonialism, then why would this new, post-apartheid corruption of the ANC be that important? Let us not give further excuses to the whites in South Afrika to continue with their racist agendas!

Taking into account all the things that South Afrika has undergone since its transition into democracy, how many things has the church marched for? Why, all of a sudden, would the church even be interested in joining and marching? Is the church being reactionary? Is it out of fear that the church is joining in this march? If it is out of fear, what is it that they are fearing? Why would the church act out of fear? I think the church should only act out of justice, as the church is the justice of God on earth. It is then injustice to talk of one form of corruption and leave the other hanging. Land theft is the greatest crime that has ever been committed against South Afrika, and not to talk on this as corruption is crime. I love Xola Skosana when he says “the courage to stop the carnage in black society does not lie in moralizing people but lies in the courage to dismantle white power and preservation of white privilege whose direct consequence is black pain in all its dimensions and manifestations”. It may be courage to stop the carnage of black people to be part of this march, yet there is the bigger cause of this carnage, which is land!

What should the Church rather be doing?

1) Take care of the poor

The thing is that the church should not be ANC factions that are fighting the ANC, or even outside the ANC, but the church should be caring for the poor. It’s such a shame that the church that has never said a thing in all that has happened in South Afrika post-apartheid but now all of a sudden has something to say about Zuma. They have the audacity to say so-and-so is corrupt yet they (the church) have ignored so much of all that God required of them.

2) Lead the country by modelling restitution (the core to everything)

The Church must now just lead the country in the process of restitution. The white church together with the black church must start to engage on what restitution looks like at an institutional level and help lead the whole country on that, instead of fooling black people whose hopes will be high after this march!

3) Lead the country by modelling Reconciliation

Start modelling reconciliation. Reconciliation only happens between equals. The white church must be aware that true reconciliation will take from them and it will redistribute to the black church.

4) Leave ANC to the black and suffering voters of the ANC

Church, you have nothing to do with the ANC especially now that you have been very useless in our country, you have just been the main cause of every pain and suffering of black South Afrikans. You have been an Opium (as Karl Marx thinks of you) for them! Stop your campaigns against ANC! You saw the Oppenheimer and Rupert article that declared them as the two wealthiest men in South Afrika and you didn’t say a thing! You didn’t say that those two people are the epitome of the biggest problem of South Afrika and you won’t say that! If the church wants to speak truth to power, the right place to start is speaking truth to those who were enriched by apartheid and are continuing to inflict pain in South Afrika today.

The riches that are collectively shared amongst the church, the white church as a collective, could bring such relief to South Afrika. All the money we’re talking about is the money that came as a result of looting during the colonial and apartheid years. Lead the country by availing that money for development in our country!

Other blogposts in this series:

If you March as the Church:

In this short and snappy post, Brian Koela reminds us about who we march as and what that looks like on the day.

An Opportunity for Whites to Confess, Repent and Change:

This confessional statement by Caroline Powell should be read by all white, Christian South Africans contemplating what God is calling us to in this time in South Africa. She will not answer your question as to whether to march or not, but she will point you in the ways of the Kingdom and engaging with repentance, whether you march or choose not to.

Where Justice, Love and Mercy meet:

Colleen Saunders believes that the march itself goes against what she and others have been hearing from God around His heart for our country at this time. In this rich piece, she shows us other ways for us to engage with government and other people and institutions of influence.

What are the Times?:

Craig Stewart writes that at any time and place it is one of the tasks of those who follow Christ to be discerning what the time is and how would God have me act in response to that?

Why Personal Views?

On Wednesday, 30 September, marches will be taking place in at least Pretoria and Cape Town as part of the “Unite Against Corruption” Campaign. Since the public announcement of a march was made, the Warehouse staff have wrestled with God and each other around what opportunities and risks the march avails to the work of the Kingdom of God. We have friends of the Warehouse who are actively involved in mobilising churches for the march, and many people have asked us what the Warehouse’s stance on the march and messaging around it is.

Through some hard, and often painful, reflections and conversations, we have identified that we hold a variety of different views regarding how the church should be involved in addressing the insidious nature of corruption at all levels of society (from individual hearts, to family, church, civil, business and political structures). We have also recognised that we hold a variety of different, and sometimes opposite, views regarding whether churches should be involved in this particular moment of civil action or not. We have felt that the reasons for these views are of deep importance and value in helping us as individual Christians, churches and church structures to be reflective, repentant and active at this time. So, in answer to the question, “what is the Warehouse’s view on the march?”, we offer you a mosaic of different individual’s views as we make up the Warehouse, and hope this will be of help.

Where we are not necessarily in agreement around the march, we are certainly still in deep unity with each other – and particularly with regard to two important starting points on any discussion around corruption:

1. We believe it is critical that, when we as churches define 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 His heart, and turn from those thoughts, attitudes and actions.

2. We believe that it is critical that, when we as churches frame discussions on corruption in our country, that we acknowledge 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 350 years ago, and through the corrupt laws and action of the Apartheid state, 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.


To see more details on what the Church is being called to specifically by the march organisers, go to:  www.churchesagainstcorruption.co.za

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Caroline Powell

Unite against Corruption - An opportunity for White South Africans to Confess, Repent and Change

[This blog post is one in a series of personal viewpoints of Warehouse Staff members on the Unite Against Corruption March]

Colonialism and Apartheid were two of the most extreme forms of institutionalised corruption that the world has ever seen.

For the benefit of a small minority of people, corruption was entrenched into every department of the government and every sphere of civil society during Apartheid South Africa. There has not been any part of our society, identity, history or political life that has been free from the grip of colonial and Apartheid corruption for over 350 years.

Families, school, the military, the police force, hospitals, public spaces, businesses and places of worship were all corrupted by the laws that governed the country and the ideologies that fed them.

The law of Apartheid was finally dismantled in 1994, heralding the end of the colonial era for South Africa, but the spirit of social and economic Apartheid lives on.

On the 30 September, all South Africans are being called to “Unite Against Corruption” and take to the streets in a peaceful and decisive stand against all forms of corruption that threaten our land. As in the worst days of Apartheid, Christian South Africans and churches across the country have a choice in how to stand together with fellow South Africans of all races and creeds.

As I, a white, Christian member of South African society, consider the critical moment that we now face in our country’s history, and as I consider whether to join the “Unite Against Corruption” march and movement, I confess the following:

- I have material wealth,
- I have social capital,
- I have a wide range of access to job opportunities,
- I have freedom of choice,
- I have access to exclusive education,
- I have access to immediate healthcare,
- I have homes in neighbourhoods that receive proper sanitation, electricity, waste removal services, police and security responses
- I have leisure, rest and time away with my family and friends
- I have freedom of movement without being looked upon with suspicion

I have, while the majority of black South Africans in this country do not, because of the corruption of colonialism and Apartheid in South Africa.

I have enjoyed the freedom of conscience, friendship, acceptance and forgiveness that the dawning of the new South Africa afforded me and my family while failing to ask what words and actions of repentance and apology would contribute to healing the nation.

I have reveled in the national pride that came with being from a country that negotiated a peaceful resolution instead of a bloody revolution, while failing to support the new government in any tangible way.

I have rejoiced with the world for the life of Nelson Mandela while failing to turn from deeply held, racist attitudes towards the current government.

I have been relieved to see the oppressed set free from the binding laws of Apartheid but failed to recognise how those same laws dehumanised me, and hence have failed to be set free of the marred identity that Apartheid formed in me. I have also failed to recognise what I lost in the form of relationships and normal human connection with people of all colours while growing up during Apartheid, and thus have struggled to see this redeemed in my current social reality.

I have asked to be considered an African in my own right while failing to learn an African language, and while harbouring suspicion towards African customs.

I have failed to act in ways that put right and gave back what had been stolen during the years of colonial and Apartheid rule in South Africa.

I have lamented the policies of BBBEE and affirmative action and called them reverse racism, without asking what actions of material restitution were required of me and my family in the enormous task of nation building.

Add your own confession statements here:
(try to be as personal to your own life as possible: e.g if you are a business owner and know that your business was built on the corrupt laws of Apartheid, providing poor wages to people of colour etc then confess this; or if you are a church leader and your church has failed to publicly name Apartheid a sin and turn from its effects during congregational life, then confess this)

I therefore confess that, while I join with my fellow South Africans in speaking out against the corruption that threatens to derail the stability of our country, I do so with a commitment to rooting out the corruption of colonialism and Apartheid that remains in my own life by:

naming the policies of Apartheid as a sin before God and repenting of all past and ongoing choices in my life that perpetuate a state of social and economic Apartheid in South Africa

renouncing the deeply embedded attitudes of a colonial era lifestyle that manifest in living a life of careless ease towards the plight of the oppressed and materially poor while partaking in the     systems that maintain oppression and material poverty in order to secure my comfort and lifestyle

naming greed, the love of money and fear of the future as sins before God

seeking opportunities to speak out repentance for the wrongs of the past and present

listening to the hurt and hardship of South Africans that still live with the dehumanising effects of social and economic Apartheid, and racist attitudes and actions

seeking restitution like Zacchaeus did – practical acts of giving back that go beyond charity and move towards economic equality * (examples to be given at the end of this paper)

seeking genuine social connection and friendship across the spectrum of South African society

seeking church and worship life that reflects the diversity of South African society

getting rid of all forms of economic exploitation of others in all business and domestic employment that I am involved in

joining in advocacy and civil action with the materially poor and currently oppressed

searching my heart with God and others regarding racism and fear of others that I harbour


Add your own commitments here:
(again, try to be as personal and specific as you can be, making actual, measurable, time-bound commitments to change e.g. I commit to meeting with the board of directors of my organisation to do a full review of all remuneration policies for implementation of change in the 2016/17 tax year; I will gather a group of people in my church in the next month who have different historical and present experiences of Apartheid South Africa to listen to their stories, repent, ask for forgiveness and prayerfully initiate a truth, reconciliation and restitution process for the whole church by the end of 2015; I will meet with my accountant, investment banker and family lawyer to adjust my use of money, to initiate family-based restitution projects and to amend my will such as to include victims of injustice of Apartheid, past and present)

Please note: the October newsletter will focus on biblical restitution - including practical examples of what it entails and unpacking the difference between charity and restitution. We would love your contributions and comments towards this.


Other blogposts in this series:

If you March as the Church:

In this short and snappy post, Brian Koela reminds us about who we march as and what that looks like on the day.

Where Justice, Love and Mercy meet:

Colleen Saunders believes that the march itself goes against what she and others have been hearing from God around His heart for our country at this time. In this rich piece, she shows us other ways for us to engage with government and other people and institutions of influence.

What are the Times?:

Craig Stewart writes that at any time and place it is one of the tasks of those who follow Christ to be discerning what the time is and how would God have me act in response to that?

How Marching will Destroy the Church’s Integrity:

Nkosivumile Gola, our new intern at the Warehouse, weighs in the debate. He is strongly opposed to the march. In this piece, he calls the Church to be acting with integrity in the more important conversations he feels should be happening.

Why Personal Views?

On Wednesday, 30 September, marches will be taking place in at least Pretoria and Cape Town as part of the “Unite Against Corruption” Campaign. Since the public announcement of a march was made, the Warehouse staff have wrestled with God and each other around what opportunities and risks the march avails to the work of the Kingdom of God. We have friends of the Warehouse who are actively involved in mobilising churches for the march, and many people have asked us what the Warehouse’s stance on the march and messaging around it is.

Through some hard, and often painful, reflections and conversations, we have identified that we hold a variety of different views regarding how the church should be involved in addressing the insidious nature of corruption at all levels of society (from individual hearts, to family, church, civil, business and political structures). We have also recognised that we hold a variety of different, and sometimes opposite, views regarding whether churches should be involved in this particular moment of civil action or not. We have felt that the reasons for these views are of deep importance and value in helping us as individual Christians, churches and church structures to be reflective, repentant and active at this time. So, in answer to the question, “what is the Warehouse’s view on the march?”, we offer you a mosaic of different individual’s views as we make up the Warehouse, and hope this will be of help.

Where we are not necessarily in agreement around the march, we are certainly still in deep unity with each other – and particularly with regard to two important starting points on any discussion around corruption:

1. We believe it is critical that, when we as churches define 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 His heart, and turn from those thoughts, attitudes and actions.

2. We believe that it is critical that, when we as churches frame discussions on corruption in our country, that we acknowledge 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 350 years ago, and through the corrupt laws and action of the Apartheid state, 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.


To see more details on what the Church is being called to specifically by the march organisers, go to:  www.churchesagainstcorruption.co.za

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Colleen Saunders

Where Justice, Love and Mercy meet

[This blog post is one in a series of personal viewpoints of Warehouse Staff members on the Unite Against Corruption March]

How to respond?

There is a stirring all over South Africa that change is needed in our country, and that the church needs to be involved in bringing it about. Opinions on what form this involvement should take reflect the full range of religious, political and personal standpoints. There are calls to pray, calls to protest, calls to advocate on behalf of those who face injustice as well as calls to other prophetic actions. The question is, what is the right thing to do? What does involvement look like in our current context, and is there a “single call” for the church as a whole? As various sectors in South Africa embark on the “Unite against Corruption” Campaign, there’s the call for the church to join the march against corruption at the end of this month. How do we respond?

While it’s true that each of us should seek God’s will for our own involvement, I also believe that there are times when a more strategic approach for the church is needed. I’d therefore like to share what I feel God is saying in general, and around the march in particular. I concede that this is my understanding of what is best and that others may differ. In fact, I know that there are some who feel very specifically called to a different stance to mine, and I cannot argue with that. Yet at the same time I’d like you to consider what I’m proposing and to discern whether this might be something for the church as a whole to take on and pray into. Perhaps there is a space for both. Nevertheless, I’d like to share why I feel that taking part in the anti-corruption march is not the best route for the church right now.

Kingdom, mercy and mutual regard

Over the past two months I have attended several conferences, prophetic gatherings and prayer meetings where the current situation in South Africa and the role of the church has been discussed or at least alluded to. I have not gone with any agenda, except to hear what Christians are hearing from God for our country. What has been unanimous at these meetings, despite the disparity of focus, has been the need for prayer to increase, for seeking after God, for the church to repent of its failures and its self-focus, to seek unity, and to be role models in righteousness and justice, demonstrating a different way of being.

Prof John de Gruchy, speaking at the Kairos-30 conference held in Johannesburg in August, highlighted the difference between hope and optimism and the need for the church to be “people of hope, who live and act as if they believe that God’s kingdom is at hand”. Similarly, The Revd Helen Van Koevering speaking at the St John’s Parish staff retreat earlier this month said that to be “church” means “to be showing signs of the kingdom to people; showing what it means when God reigns”. De Gruchy further spoke of our need to seek the place “where justice, mercy and love manifest themselves”. Love and mercy also came out strongly at the most recent “4th Thursday Prayer Meeting” – a monthly gathering of prayer warriors who come together at The Warehouse to pray for the country. Here there was a strong sense that government are raising their defenses because they are acting out of fear and self-protection, and that any approach we make to government as church should be done in love and mercy, rather than anger and confrontation. “It’s tiring to have people not like you,” one young man explained, “and the response will always be out of fear and self-protection. We need to find out how to relate to them, asking God to open opportunities for us to meet people at a personal level. God’s kingdom is an upside-down kingdom, and the only way to achieve different results is to come in the opposite spirit.” This concept of the upside-down kingdom also came out very clearly in the study of Matthew 5 led by Helen Van Koevering that was done at the Parish Retreat: Our mandate is counter-culture, those who “show people how to co-operate instead of compete or fight” (v9 MSSG). It is the “uncool” who are blessed, and as image-bearers of God we need to “seek mutual regard at all times”.

An audience with kings

The Warehouse has been engaged in a study of the book of Daniel during the past month, and what God has been highlighting here has been very similar. Most evident has been Daniel’s humility and boldness when addressing the king. No matter how harsh the message he brought, he always spoke with honour and respect, yet with full confidence in himself and God. It is this attitude and posture of integrity and excellence that caused him and his companions to stand out and to be given positions of authority and trust from which they had the authority to speak and have an influence. Another aspect of Daniel’s character was his holiness – his refusal to compromise his faith or his character in any way.

For me, a major point coming out of Daniel is that he exhibited all of the attributes that have been highlighted so far – love, mercy, respect, coming in the opposite spirit. He addressed the king directly, on a personal level, and not in the form of a protest.  And this is what I believe the church is being called to today; to seek and pursue personal engagement with individual politicians and policy makers; to meet with and engage them in ways that show love, honour and mercy, but with boldness that clearly states the need for change and what those changes should include. I believe we should be praying for such opportunities and be ready to take them when they arise, as well as praying for the political leaders themselves to be open to hearing God.

There are other Biblical characters who acted against injustice in this way. Esther, faced with the imminent genocide of her people, sought an audience with the king and persuaded him to see things differently while her people prayed. Nehemiah, in the midst of building the wall, stopped to listen to the cry of those who were being oppressed (Chapter 5). He then called a meeting and spoke to the oppressors, charging them to act differently and committing himself to acting with integrity. Jesus too, was harsh in much that he said, but this was towards the spiritual leaders. To the “sinners and tax collectors” he showed mercy and compassion, Zacchaeus being a case in point. It was Jesus’ mercy, his choosing relationship and his calling out Zacchaeus’ true identity (the name Zacchaeus means “clean” and “pure”) that resulted in Zacchaeus’ change of heart and his acts of restitution. In all these examples the mutual regard was there – the recognition that the other person is a child of God, and the calling out of that identity in the approach used. Could we not be doing the same? Imagine if we set up meetings with politicians, asking God for some points of how His image is manifested in them, and appealing to their true nature as we discuss the issues? Imagine if we could ask God for his heart for every encounter, and what might be coming against his intentions, and then pray as we go, praying for God’s will and binding that which is not of him.

Prayer played an important role in the lives of Daniel, Nehemiah, Esther and Jesus. With Daniel and Nehemiah there was the willingness to repent on behalf of their people; Nehemiah prayed constantly, seeking guidance on every step; Esther called on the people to intercede as she approached the king, and Jesus spent much time in communion with the Father. Surely these are the strategies we should be using much more deliberately than strategies such as marches?

Shifting atmospheres

Another conference I attended this month was “Shifting atmospheres” run by the Bethel Church. The focus was on the power that we give to certain atmospheres through our “agreeing with” the spirit behind them, and that we have the power to defeat them by coming in the opposite spirit. For example, if we discern fear or hopelessness in a situation, we give it power if we ourselves become fearful and hopeless. But we can come against it by recognizing it, repenting of it in ourselves, and then praying in hope, joy, peace, trust, etc. Dawna da Silva, one of the speakers, said that we often give the right to particular sins even when we’re praying against them, when we carry that same attitude within ourselves. She said that “our actions must show what is right in an honouring way”.

My difficulty with marches is that while they are used to highlight issues and to voice protest, what actually happens is that they force action through confrontation. This happens because there is transference of power from that of the person “in power” to those who march, which is why the bigger the march, the higher the possibility of achieving your aim. Marches demean the humanity of the people they are aimed at through disempowering them. Forcing someone to take a decision through being faced by a threatening crowd is definitely not honouring, and is surely not the stance the church should be taking at this time. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. We have the spirit of Christ in us; we have his voice, and we should use our voice as we speak person-to-person, something we do still have the right to do.

I know that the campaign and the march are about highlighting corruption, and that this is not the same as marching against unjust laws or demanding an action such as service delivery. But it’s still mass action, and while it includes a recognition of corruption in ourselves, the march is still directed at Parliament.

Powerlessness, inequality, rage and shame

Another danger posed by marches is the potential for violence. Too many marches in South Africa, no matter how peaceful the initial intention, have ended in violence with the organisers being unable to control what happens. I agree that the presence of praying Christians in a march could and should shift the atmosphere and avert such violence, and I know several Christians who see their presence as important in this regard, but I still feel that for the particular time and place that our country is in at the moment, a march is not the best route to take.

I’d like to return to the earlier point from the 4th Thursday Prayer Meeting; that the government is acting out of self-protection and the church needs to come in the opposite spirit. In doing so, I would like to make reference to Prof James Garbarino, a specialist in the study of violence and its effects, who addressed a recent “Coffee Conversation” at The Warehouse. One thing Garbarino spoke about was the power of inequality in producing violence; that inequality “produces rage and shame”. Interestingly, da Silva at the “Shifting Atmospheres” conference made a similar point about powerlessness; that powerlessness “gives the right to rage”.

In a country like South Africa, with such high levels of inequality and powerlessness (even perceived powerlessness), rage and shame are bound to be high. We constantly see evidence of this in the violent confrontations between people and police, and in the way in which protests almost always turn to violence and are in turn met with violence. In this kind of atmosphere a march is unlikely to achieve the desired result, and where it does, it’s because of compulsion rather than political will on the part of government. Shame, according to Garbarino, is also caused by constant criticism, which our government is certainly receiving. They know that they are not doing well, and they know that there is gross corruption, and this knowledge causes shame, so they will be defensive. And if our response to them is confrontational, it will always put their backs up and change will not be sustainable. Confrontation and violence have become the norm, even the culture, in South Africa. Our people have forgotten how to speak and politicians and policy-makers have forgotten how to listen. The church needs to lead the way in choosing alternatives to confrontation and power. We need to show people the power that they do have, and demonstrate ways of using that power that do not demean and dishonour.

According to Garbarino, the opposite of shame is respect; “We build respect by treating people with respect”. He cited studies done among prisoners, where rage and shame are powerful driving forces, showing marked improvement in people who were regarded with respect. What I’m wanting to emphasise here is that our best response, as church towards government would be to counteract their shame, fear, denial and defensiveness with love, humility, mercy and honour.

A Kairos moment

Many have been referencing the point we are at in South Africa right as a Kairos moment – a moment of truth, a “right time”, a moment where a specific action is needed. Many have identified the “kairos” as being a time to pray very specifically for ourselves and our government. Several have highlighted the need to pray for mindset change. Others have highlighted this as a time for the church to repent of its complicity in what has gone wrong, and I know that the anti-corruption campaign does include this. But I would add that the Kairos moment holds a moment of readiness on the part of government to see, to hear and to try something new. And we need to take hold of this time and respond to their readiness in ways that we have perhaps not done before. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem, his cry was, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:42 ESV).

I think God is making the same appeal to us now. He is inviting us to meet anger with love, shame with respect, denial with bold truth, grandstanding with humility. He is inviting us to be the poor, the meek, the peacemakers; the upside-down people who live as if God’s kingdom is at hand. God is inviting us to speak to our brothers and sisters in government, to call out, speak into and appeal to their humanity; to always seek mutual regard and to be the place where justice, love and mercy manifest themselves.


Other blogposts in this series:

If you March as the Church:

In this short and snappy post, Brian Koela reminds us about who we march as and what that looks like on the day.

An Opportunity for Whites to Confess, Repent and Change:

This confessional statement by Caroline Powell should be read by all white, Christian South Africans contemplating what God is calling us to in this time in South Africa. She will not answer your question as to whether to march or not, but she will point you in the ways of the Kingdom and engaging with repentance, whether you march or choose not to.

Where Justice, Love and Mercy meet:

Colleen Saunders believes that the march itself goes against what she and others have been hearing from God around His heart for our country at this time. In this rich piece, she shows us other ways for us to engage with government and other people and institutions of influence.

What are the Times?:

Craig Stewart writes that at any time and place it is one of the tasks of those who follow Christ to be discerning what the time is and how would God have me act in response to that?

How Marching will Destroy the Church’s Integrity:

Nkosivumile Gola, our new intern at the Warehouse, weighs in the debate. He is strongly opposed to the march. In this piece, he calls the Church to be acting with integrity in the more important conversations he feels should be happening.

Why Personal Views?

On Wednesday, 30 September, marches will be taking place in at least Pretoria and Cape Town as part of the “Unite Against Corruption” Campaign. Since the public announcement of a march was made, the Warehouse staff have wrestled with God and each other around what opportunities and risks the march avails to the work of the Kingdom of God. We have friends of the Warehouse who are actively involved in mobilising churches for the march, and many people have asked us what the Warehouse’s stance on the march and messaging around it is.

Through some hard, and often painful, reflections and conversations, we have identified that we hold a variety of different views regarding how the church should be involved in addressing the insidious nature of corruption at all levels of society (from individual hearts, to family, church, civil, business and political structures). We have also recognised that we hold a variety of different, and sometimes opposite, views regarding whether churches should be involved in this particular moment of civil action or not. We have felt that the reasons for these views are of deep importance and value in helping us as individual Christians, churches and church structures to be reflective, repentant and active at this time. So, in answer to the question, “what is the Warehouse’s view on the march?”, we offer you a mosaic of different individual’s views as we make up the Warehouse, and hope this will be of help.

Where we are not necessarily in agreement around the march, we are certainly still in deep unity with each other – and particularly with regard to two important starting points on any discussion around corruption:

1. We believe it is critical that, when we as churches define 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 His heart, and turn from those thoughts, attitudes and actions.

2. We believe that it is critical that, when we as churches frame discussions on corruption in our country, that we acknowledge 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 350 years ago, and through the corrupt laws and action of the Apartheid state, 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.


To see more details on what the Church is being called to specifically by the march organisers, go to:  www.churchesagainstcorruption.co.za

Tuesday 04 August 2015

Luthando Tofu

Ukungalingani eMzantsi Afrika - Inequality in South Africa

Iingcali zophando zisixelela uba uMzantsi Afrika lo ukuluhlu lamazwe aphambili ekungalinanini kwabantu. Okukungalingani ke kusingise phakathi kwabasokolayo nabatyebileyo; kwabanemivuzo emikhulu nabanemivuzo emincinci. Abo bebefudula bephethe ubutyebi belilizwe basabuphethe nanamhlanje ntoleyo ikhombisa uba akukhange kubekho mahluko wenzekile emveni koba sifudukele kwiDemocracy.

Ukungalingani kwelilizwe kweza ngoba kwahlaliwa phantsi, ngamadoda ombuso wengcinezelo, kwahlela uba iStructure sesisizwe kumelwe simiswe ngendlela ezawubangela uba abanye bangalingani kunabanye. Ngelishwa kwasetyenziswa iBhaybhile ukwakhiwa ukukhohlakala nengcinezelo yabantu ababamnyama. 

Okukusetyenziswa ngoku khohlakala kweZwi lika Thixo azange ibeyinto ethintela uba kwa IZwi eli lingasetyenziswa ekuchitheni kwa lowo mbuso. Ukutsho oko, Ekubeni umntu omnyama athe wazibhaqela ngokwakha iinyaniso zeLizwi lika Thixo, waphinda wasebenzisa lona ukuzikhulula. Nakubeni ekhululekile ngokwe politiki kodwa kuye kwabonakala uba akukabikho nkululeko ngokweziqoqosho.

Umhlaba, imali, ubutyebi, izimbiwa nokunye kusesezandleni zabamhlophe. Lento ke isibonisa uba ibandla lidinga ukubuye eLizwini ukusabela uba inkululeko kwezoqoqosho ingaze ifike njani kumntu wonke ongummi welilizwe. Ibandla lehlika labuyela kwizinto zobucawa emveni koba sifumene iDemocracy, kodwa ngoku ikhwelo liphumile ukuba kudingeka abaprofeti belixesha ukuthetha intliziyo kaThixo esizweni.

Ibandla elimhlophe lidinga uba ibelilo elivakala kakhulu ekuthini thethwe ngembuyiselo ngoba lilo eliyaziyo into yokutyeba kwisizukulwana sendlala. Ibandla elimnyama nalo kumelwe lingathuli hleze leyantlukwano ithathwe ngathi iqhelekile kwaye yamkelekile. Kodwa ke ngaphezu koko, xa linomanyana ibandla ngobubanzi balo, lithetha into enye ukuchitha okukungalingani, ifuthe lingavakala esizweni siphela. Kwincwadi yeZenzo 4:32, sibona ibandla lisenza into eyahlukileyo kunoko kwakusenzeka kwindawo ebabekuyo. Bambi bathengisa ngemihlaba ababenayo “kwaze akwabikho nomnye owayeswele phakathi kwabo.” Abo babenezinto, bancama ukuze banikele kwabo babengenanto. Yinto leyo eyabangela uba libonwe ibandla baze abaninzi bafune ukubayinxalenye yalo ngoba babona intliziyo kaThixo ivezwa libandla.

Kumelwe silibandla sizibuze uba lentlalo yeZenzo ithini kuthi namhlanje? Xa sizijonga kwisipili esiliLizwi likaThixo kutsho kuvele iimpendulo zezinto ezininzi ezidla umzi.

Thursday 30 July 2015

Nkosivumile Gola

Money and the Church

The biggest building in Khayelitsha is a church. I am pondering the damage that is caused simply by ignorance. First of all, the amount of money wasted in beautifying the building, electrifying the property and all that goes with it. These are all problems, to me.

Apparently, in the USA over 10 billion US dollars is spent on church buildings alone. Ridiculous salaries paid to the church leaders and in some churches, even the worship team get paid. There is $230 billion of real estate owned by the institutional church. If this is anything to go by the “church” is breeding poverty within the church and this is hopelessness to the world! I concur with Reverend Makhalima who once said that “just as the church in the book of Acts had enough that no one was lacking amongst them, so today’s church has enough such that no one should be lacking amongst us”.

What if this money was to be used and spent on the immediate and essential needs of the church community rather than buildings! What difference would that make to our ministry? I am also wondering how much money is circulating in the South Afrikan church today? How much money is circulating in the black communities in Cape Town, Western Cape, or even in South Afrika? How do we hold the disparity of the wealthy church and under-resourced church in our cities? I was once told by a friend who attended a meeting of both black and white pastors that one pastor complained that he was only paid R30 000, whilst many in the room received no salary from their church at all?

I think I am losing interest in the institutional church. I am slowly drifting in my heart. Pastor Xola Skosana says every Sunday we dress up to go bury God’s righteousness: our churches have become graves of righteousness! I want to concur with my Pastor - the church has become a home for de-politicisation, pacification and tranquilisation of the people. It so sad that in many Pentecostal churches we find a message that is inspired mostly by western televangelists! How do we help the church become the salt and light that Jesus called us to be around issues of money, power and mission? In spite of all the disappointment in the church and how it handles money, Jesus Christ is still the Lord!

I so wish that the “church” would become the Church. May God make me the church!

Friday 15 May 2015

Colleen Saunders

Far less than was lost

When heads have been battered
And lives have been shattered,
Families scattered
As if nothing mattered,
Do you still wonder that streets are blood-spattered,
That weapons are clashing,
Assegais flashing,
Pangas gashing,
Bricks and bombs crashing?

How can you knock now, when you broke down the door;
Tell us to make peace when you started the war?
The weapons we laid down and handed to you,
You pass to our brothers so they’ll kill us too
You banned us, imprisoned us, slandered our name.
Then, when forced to release us, you get the acclaim
And the world pats your back, shakes you by the hand,
With your passport you’re welcome in every land.
You can fly on the Concorde, eat a Big Mac,
Join the Olympics, run on the world track.
The whole world is now smiling and welcoming you,
You who had all the pie now get the cake too…
... and the cherry on top.

But our hearts have been battered
Our livelihood shattered
Our nationhood scattered,
Oh, we never mattered.
It’ll be years before bones that you’ve broken can heal,
Years before nerves you’ve cocained can feel,
Before trees desiccated can blossom again,
And a land desecrated be washed of its pain –
Its layers and layers and layers of pain.
Oh ja, sure, we have much now we’ve not had before,
(Thank you)
But far less than was lost when you broke down that door,
Far less than was lost when you started the war.

L C Saunders

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Colleen Saunders

Big Trees Falling

Several passages in the Bible record the story of the destruction of Jerusalem and the capture of its citizens. Both Psalmists and prophets record the despair that this brought, Jeremiah being key among them as he pours out Judah’s anguish in the book of Lamentations. Scripture tells us that after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile it took over 40 years before the city was rebuilt, despite there being a remnant who remained there and various groups that returned. This shows the effect that such events have on people. For the Jews it was not only that their city was destroyed and they were taken captive; it was the absolute disregard and total destruction of their entire social fabric and all that they valued. They saw their civic and military leaders killed or taken away; their priests taken or killed, their temple and all its treasures desecrated and destroyed, and the gates and walls of the city, their source of protection, removed as well. Their desolation is aptly expressed in the words of Isaiah “… and all that we treasured lies in ruins” (Isaiah 64:11).

It is this sense of things that are treasured being lost or ruined that is causing a deep unsettlement throughout the world. We see increasing instability in all areas of life – weather patterns, world markets, the price of oil. We are seeing mass murders, increasingly blatant terror attacks; cities that were deemed “safe” becoming increasingly unsafe. People in authority in all spheres of influence can no longer expect or demand respect simply because of their positions or status. There is a general disregard for expectations, practices and formalities that in former years were very much taken for granted. One example of this is our own parliament. Many would say that Julius Malema’s questions are valid, but that he has shown disregard for proper process. Perhaps “proper process” is what’s being challenged over and over as such incidents occur more frequently in Parliament. Perhaps the very institution of Parliament is on shaky ground. If so, South Africa is not alone in this.

It is this uncertainty and breaking down of what we are used to that is causing consternation throughout the world, and for many, desolation. We see all that we treasured – all that was stable and strong and sure and in which we felt secure – going to ruin. And the question for us as Christians is, what should our stance be?

Ezekiel 31 describes a huge tree that was beautiful and majestic; that provided shade to many. The birds nested in its branches, animals lived in its shade. But the tree became so high and so proud that it was brought down and came crashing to the ground. We are living in a time when the big trees are falling - not only in South Africa, but all over the world. The people, nations, institutions that we trusted in and depended on are all crashing down. Paul, in his letter to the Romans speaks of all creation straining to see the children of God revealed (Romans 8:19). But how do we reveal ourselves as children of God? Is it not to stand and show the world that we have something different; that our trust is not in man or institutions or the weather, but in Almighty God himself?

As Paul says in his letter to the Hebrews, “we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved” (Heb 10:39). So we should not be joining the weeping and despair. We should not be among those who accuse, complain or blame, or even those who simply laugh. Instead, we should stand as those who hold out the words of life at a time when all is uncertain, because we have the certainty of life. Philippians 2 calls on us to “become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation. Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” The difference between us and “the world” – in our attitudes, actions, choices, conversations… should be as clear as the difference between the stars and the darkness. For us this is not a time of despair, but a time to be looking out for every opportunity to shine, to bring new life, new hope and to show in all that we are and do, that God is real and his kingdom is here.

 

Thursday 28 August 2014

Linda

Christians must deal with the poison of racism

#‎Blackface, a 21st birthday celebration where two University of Pretoria students dressed up like domestic workers and painted their faces and arms black is not the first racism case to come from a formally Afrikaans university. The South African Human Rights Commission reports that out of the 500 reports of racism it received in the last year, most of them were from universities.

In 2012 a student in North West University died because of a racist practice. Two Students of the University of Free State are currently facing a court case for allegedly assaulting and driving over a black student.

University students are supposed to be our brightest people and the ones who will one day lead the country. What happens in universities will eventually be the culture of businesses and other influential spheres of society.

These young people are not growing up in apartheid South Africa. Where then does their racism come from?

What children do is often what they see at home. Parents ignorantly or purposefully feed their children the lies from the old apartheid system. The trouble is that the children live under a new system now. The two worlds clash. So the children carry around old system mentality in a new world. The offender and the offended are both victims.

Racism is ultimately the demonisation of another human being. Hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger and racism are like poison. You can drink it and lie about it however signs of death will eventually show. Was it not Mandela who said that resentment is stupid because it is like drinking poison and hoping that someone else will die?

He was talking about our country that drinks the poison of racism at home, breastfeeding it to her children and hoping that someone else’s children will die. But it is the children of this country who are in courtrooms over racist actions or facing disciplinary action in universities.

If parents have failed, whose role is it to stop the poison that will destroy us if we do nothing about it?

When these incidents happen, the student political parties are always the first to respond, which is commendable. While the role that politicians play is important, they cannot fix people’s hearts. Where are the Christian student organisations? How are they responding to the situation. What is their role?

If Christians believe in the work of Jesus Christ, they should have hearts that are full of love for others. This love should break down the barriers between the different groups in our society and heal divisions. But if divisions are allowed to fester even within the church our nation will not heal. Healing needs to start from a spiritual place.

Mandela Day attracts quite a lot of activity for everyone in the country to do good works. It is a healthy practice that teaches a nation that is always demanding, to give for a change. The church can similarly adopt a day such as Freedom Day to come together in public spaces annually to engage the greater South African population on the meaning of freedom beyond the political definition. The church has a role to teach people to live as free people who love and honour one another regardless of race, gender or culture.

Racism is largely a social issue. Universities clearly need assistance to teach students the value of all human beings. The church has a role to play in helping universities to respond to racism. Court cases and expelling students cannot be the only solution. Such punitive measures do not address the core of the issue. Let Christians not wait for another racist act to happen before we act.

These future leaders must be rescued from the poison they may have drunk from the older generation. Let them drink from the cup of freedom.

Siki Dlanga is the SACLI Youth and Freedom Mantle coordinator. http://www.sacli.org.za click on the Freedom Mantle page.

Thursday 28 August 2014

Deon Snyman

Is saying sorry enough?

I would like to start by asking a further question. What is it that we want to achieve by saying sorry? Do we want to achieve healing, closure, forgiveness and reconciliation for ourselves? Or do we want healing, closure, forgiveness and reconciliation to happen in the lives of those who have been harmed?

I think the focus on justice in the process of saying sorry is crucial in answering these questions. Without justice, which includes some form of restitution, saying sorry has only the interest of the perpetrators at heart. If we add justice to the framework of saying sorry we consider the interests of the victim.

The omission of justice in the process of saying sorry has much to do with a distorted theological understanding of forgiveness shared by many South African Christians. This understanding assumes that saying sorry is enough to be forgiven. This theological approach is probably based on a very literal understanding of the Bible: Jesus has forgiven my sins and now you have to forgive my sins as well. A literal understanding of the Old Testament reading in Psalm 103: 12 also comes to mind: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”. This type of theological understanding is probably one of the reasons why many South African Christians say sorry, and then continue to walk past ongoing injustice.  They rush with speed towards the future without addressing the behaviour and consequences that caused the pain.  Fr Michael Lapsley often tells the story of a bicycle.  One day a man apologises to his neighbour for stealing a bicycle years ago.  The neighbour accepts the apology, but turns to him and says “where is my bicycle?  Can I have it back?”.

Not long ago I attended an event in a small town and heard a Dutch Reformed Church member pray: God help the black people to forgive us, help them not to focus so much on the past, help them to forgive us so that they can be healed. This prayer was followed by the prayer of the secretary of the local ANC women’s league: Yes God, let us stop looking back at the past, let us forgive now, let us forget the past and love each other. Let us forgive. Needless to say the white church member lives in a beautiful house, has a black domestic worker and drives a good car. The ANC women lives in a shack, makes use of public transport and work as a domestic worker. The distorted theological understanding of forgiveness is thus not limited to the Christian perpetrators of abuse. Survivors of abuse are many times sharing the same simplistic understanding but also perhaps fearing God’s wrath if they do not forgive,

I was recently invited to deliver a presentation at a conference of National Church Leaders on the theme promoting restitution as a vehicle to convey sincere remorse. In the plenary discussion after my presentation white respondents assertively spoke that Jesus has forgiven white South African Christians and therefore other Christians have to follow suit. During the tea break one of the black participants came to me and said “you know, my head and my heart do not want to listen to each other today. My head knows that God wants me to forgive when people say they are sorry … but you know in my heart I wish Malema can become president so that all the things taken from black people can be given returned to them. I do not like this saying sorry without justice”.

During the last years of the 1990’s I arranged for some of my Zulu-speaking congregation members to attend a weekend reconciliation workshop with some members of the Dutch Reformed Church. Opportunities were created to listen to each other’s stories, empathise with each other and even to ask each other’s forgiveness. After the workshop I gave an Afrikaans speaking guy and a Zulu-speaking guy a lift back to their respective homes. I first dropped the Afrikaans man at his nice house in a nice suburb with beautiful manicured lawns. When driving the Zulu-speaking man to his shack without water and electricity in the township I asked him what he thought about the workshop. He was very honest when he said to me that he was angrier towards white people than ever before. At the workshop he got to know the white guy that I dropped first and realised that they had more or less the same intellectual capacity. “When I saw the house this guy was living in I just realised his saying sorry does not mean anything to me. Look how much better is his life from mine. If he is really sorry something needs to happen to address inequality in South Africa”.

Recently Archbishop Tutu caused a huge stir with his call for a wealth tax on white people. Later at UCT he explained his call. When you say sorry you also have to demonstrate that you really mean it and you do that by showing that you really care. He also indicated that the outcry about his statement within the white community was an indication of how guilty they still felt about the past. Their just saying sorry did not assist them to forgive themselves.

Saying sorry without doing sorry is not being truly sorry. The lack of demonstrating true-sorryness when rendering an apology can even damage the relationship further.

Our general theological understanding of forgiveness in South Africa needs to be deepened. It should be preceded by a theology of restitution based on a text like the Zacchaeus narrative (Luke 19:1-10) where Zacchaeus returned three times the tax that he had taken. A theology of restitution is a significant tool to address the residual ills of discrimination as well as other causes of inequity in our communities.  Restitution involves seeking to set right the generational ills of inequality by engaging those who have benefited from the system, directly or indirectly, in transferring wealth and social capital and reinvesting in communities that are still suffering.

I understand this not to be purely a black-white issue, although I believe addressing the apartheid past is a responsibility that heavily rests on the shoulders of the beneficiaries of Apartheid.

There also rests a restitution responsibility on the shoulders of those who benefitted generously since the democratization of the country to share their gains to address the huge inequality in our society.

A theology of forgiveness should make provision for the fact that forgiveness and justice are twins and that forgiveness can and should never be forced upon anyone. Forgiveness is a natural response. In a way it is to be compared with love – an emotion that comes naturally. You cannot pretend forgiveness. It is a journey that each individual will travel in their own way and on their own time.  And it is a journey that will differ from day to day – some days it will be easier to forgive than other days.

High expectations within societies, such as South Africa, affected by prolonged periods of systemic violence often lead to a hope for swift closure and reconciliation and healing which will enable a return to a relative normal way of living.

In reflecting on the feasibility of reconciliation in the early phases of transition processes Weinstein (2011:1-10) argues that 150 years after the end of the American Civil War and more than seventy years after the Spanish Civil War both Americans and Spaniards still have not achieved full reconciliation. It is therefore unrealistic to expect reconciliation to happen in communities who only recently embarked on the peace journey.

Instead of focusing on on achieving closure and reconciliation Weinstein (2011:8) advocates for communities to rather focus on possible ways to co-exist through the promotion of sustainable peace which in turn may create opportunities for . future reconciliation in. Doing sorry and taking restitution seriously are important foundations for sustainable peace within communities.

Friday 27 June 2014

Linda

On Safety and Security

Within the Steering Committee of the Anabaptist Network in South Africa (ANiSA) we have come to value the opportunity of having a space for ongoing reflection regarding our common desire of being faithful disciples of Jesus in the South African context. We share with you some of our thoughts and reflections that are being provoked by our context. Do these reflections resonate with you? We welcome your thoughts and reflections as we journey together.

The president’s home gets upgraded for close to R250 million. The group of ministers gathering around to protect the decision to upgrade the president’s home is called the “security cluster”, and the main problem with the public protector insisting on reporting on this upgrade is that her actions constitute a security risk.

A young white female volunteer from North America is connected with a local NGO and a family in a predominantly black neighbourhood. She will be working at the NGO and living with this family for the coming year. However, a white pastor involved with the NGO refuses, even after being told of the ways in which such volunteers are orientated to their new context and the ways in which they are supported, to allow such irresponsible behaviour: the security of the volunteer would be at risk by staying in such an area.

South Africa is a society obsessed with security. With a police force of 150000 officers, 1 for every 300 South Africans, and another 400000 security guards, more than the police and army combined, security is obviously seen as a priority.

On the surface we try to make it seem as though we are concerned with crime rather than security. But there is something deeper taking place in our constant quest to be “safe and secure.” We can justify anything, from excessive state spending to our latent racism, by drawing on our rich repertoire of talk on safety and security. No, government upgrades are not lavish, they are needed for security. No, we are not racist by refusing to allow a white woman to stay with a black family, we are concerned about her safety.

In church we have other words for speaking about safety and security. We speak about being safe, or even saved. We speak about being liberated from that which threatens to take away our lives. We speak about life—life in abundance. We speak about salvation. And salvation and security is not that far apart. And this highlights the point – are we not allowing the security cluster and security industry to determine our soteriology? Put another way, are we upholding the security industry as that which truly saves us? I lift my eyes up to the mountains and wonder from where will my help will come? The way we have structured society and the way we think a safe and secure society must be shaped continues to assume that help, even salvation, comes from the security experts who build walls between people, who keep people apart so that I can be safe.

What we perceive to threaten security further illustrates this. What has become of society when the public protector is charged with threatening the security of the country? What is this thing we call democracy when an insistence on transparency is labelled a risk? And where are we heading when the choice of a 19 year old volunteer to immerse herself into a context which is different from her own, to learn from others and to insist that reconciliation is possible, is labelled a risk?

We have to wonder whether we really care about people when we try to stop their “risky behaviour.” What tends to happen is that we project our fears on to those who are in fact courageous enough to live as though the walls that have been constructed, which are meant to divide, are no longer present. Such actions then, instead of being a risk to themselves, becomes a risk to security; it is a risk to the security of a white community (or any community of privilege) which continues to believe that their salvation will be found in segregated communities, using walls, whether real or perceived, to continue a life in the saved white space if needed.

You see, the risk is that she might live her life in this predominantly black community. She might build relations, learn to navigate the public transport, have a good time, and find meaning in this new community. She might just enjoy herself, and witness to being transformed. And where would that leave those who insist that such actions are irresponsible? Would it not be one more voice challenging the way in which we continue to use security to justify our segregated existence?

But we are a people who confess that our help comes from the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth. This is not to be naïve, rejecting any advice about our actions or the context. But this does mean that we know that salvation is only salvation if it is salvation for all. Putting our trust in God means that we know that being saved is inherently tied up with staring into the eyes of those who are different from ourselves. The only responsible action in this country is to reject the continuing segregation of black and white South Africans, to reject the way in which we make scapegoats of foreign citizens living among us, and to reject the way in which we continue to build a society defined by the security around mansions and the appalling living conditions of the poor. To believe in God is to resist this ongoing pursuit towards safety and security; and this resistance brings hope!

In listening to the debates about Nkandla, we have to wonder whether there is really that big a difference between Nkandla and the many gated communities – some still racially based, but others increasingly built on class – arising from the ashes of apartheid. Is this not just different manifestations of how we can justify our actions which continue to solidify a society based on power and inequality by drawing on our common language on the primary importance of safety and security?

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Linda

A place of worship –old with the new

In the second day of The Warehouse’s second CLAD (Community Listening and Discernment) we visited places of worship in the city bowl and I was struck by the diversity of the churches in the city. We first talked and prayed for Common Ground Inner city church. A colleague gave us the brief history of this young church plant (5 years old). The question this church seeks to address: “how does the place of worship become a space of inclusion and serving the marginalized in the city?”

Then, a few miles away from this church plant, we found another church housing a Welfare and Development program. Because it was Ascension Day, all the other staff had a day off, but the caretaker was on duty. I conversed with him about the joys and challenges he is facing at his work/worship place. He mentioned long hours and a sense of not being appreciated for what he does. This led me to ask myself the question: “what things are present in our places of worship which are not appreciated?”

So the journey led me to reflect about the resources the congregation have that they are taking for granted. It seems both ignorance and zeal cause people to “miss” or not to appreciate what they have. This makes them unable to act from a place of contentment and gratitude.

The conversation with the caretaker was informative and even though it was not the reason we went to that particular church, it did become the chief reflection for me. Our agenda was to go and listen to the organisation and pray for them. The caretaker reflected briefly about how a change of management in the institution/organisation can bring good things and one must be able to adapt to the new changes and be able to blend the old with the new.

Next we went to St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, a beautiful building which was built in 1828. It has stained glass windows and is dedicated to different people who have served the church. My colleague picked up a pew leaflet to see the current membership and leadership of church and to read about the diversity of the church. My suspicion was that the church has become a community for foreign nationals (mainly from other parts of Africa) who have made this church their home. This building reflected the idea of the old with the new.

The question of how to serve the marginalised was depicted by St Andrew’s willingness to have offices space for Straatwerk. Straatwerk is an organization that has evolved from Friday nights reaching out to people living on the streets to becoming a training ground for the marginalised in the city. The partnership of Straatwerk as the new organization with the old congregation like St Andrew’s helps to prove the wisdom of the caretaker. I was stunned by the simplicity of the caretaker and yet his profound wisdom.

How is it possible to blend the old with the new, for example, the caretaker being the property manager? A caretaker is usually thought of as someone who is the security for the building, and the one who opens and locks the building. He also is someone who cares for the property’s garden.

Have we (the community of faith) thought of how we can up skill caretakers to be property managers?

By Mawethu Ncaca
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