Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) has been elected the new President of the South African Council of Churches (SACC) at the just ended Triennial Conference which ran from the 25-26 February at the Willow Park Lodge, under the theme “God of Life: Renew, Restore and Transform us for the service of Your Kingdom.”
Dr Frank Chikane was elected Senior Vice President and Father Michael Lapsley (Centre for the Healing of Memories) as Vice President. A new National Executive Committee (NEC) was also elected.
“It is a great honour to be given this opportunity to serve the church and nation at this level. I am fully aware of the challenges that the ecumenical movement faces at this time but the church is called upon to remain faithful to her calling of being a sign of God’s presence in the world; offering pastoral care and prophetic witness. It is this that I am saying yes to. All of us leaders elected today will need the prayerful support of the whole church,’ said Siwa when commenting on his election.
The SACC celebrated the 20 year mile stone reached by the nation and all that has been achieved within those years. They, however, expressed their concern that much still needs to be done in the areas of education, health and social transformation. They decried the lost opportunity in the State of the Nation Address by President Jacob Zuma to unfold a vision and action plan to address these issues including the scourge of ever increasing corruption, general unrest and the violent, destructive service delivery protests.
The Conference applauded the increased number of registered voters an urged everyone to exercise their democratic voice.
“We call on all political leaders and parties to refrain from acts of violence and not to create ‘no go areas’ for other political parties. Indeed, we call upon all churches to pray for, and participate in the electoral process to ensure that the elections are peaceful, free and fair.”
The conference, after an introspective session to determine its role and relevance in a 20 year old democratic South Africa, brainstormed on practical ways of renewing, and re-positioning the organisation to be a dynamic ecumenical movement.
“United Christian witness is vital at this time in our nation and continent. I am, on one hand , accepting this call to lead this ecumenical movement with much trepidation and on the other, I steadfastly trust in the grace of God and the promised support of all church leaders through their ownership of the SACC,” said Siwa speaking from his office in Bedfordview.
Bishop Siwa takes over from Rt. Rev Jo Seoka in the leadership of the SACC.
Congratulatory messages have started pouring in and the Archbishop of Capetown, the Most Reverend Dr Thabo Makgoba had this to say:
“I am elated at his election. He is a deeply spiritual and loving person, who will bring these spirituality and theological gifts to our ecumenical witness and unity. Having worked with Presiding Bishop Siwa over the last couple of years in ecumenical affairs, I have no doubt that he will serve the Council well and with distinction. My dream is that he will also make faith and order matters central in his tenure and ensure that these shape the council’s mission and praxis.
I pledge to support and work with him especially in his role as the ecumenical bishop for education as he merges this into the SACC programmes. Congratulations Bishop Siwa.”
The Arch also congratulated Rev Dr Chikane saying “I pray that he will use the experience of the transition from the Council to party politics and then back to the Council for the development and benefit of the ecumenical growth, unity and witness in our country and in the global agenda.”