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.

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