ANGLICAN LEADERS GATHER IN CITY
Incumbent bishop flays handling of the controversy
THAT the courts had to step in and solve a matter to bring peace between former Anglican Diocese of Pretoria head Bishop Jo Seoka and members of the clergy is a sad indictment on the church, says incumbent Bishop Alan Kannemeyer .
The courts succeeded in convincing Seoka and members of his cathedral to apologise to each other after years of conflict – but that was the duty of the church, said Kannemeyer said yesterday.
Opening the region’s 85th session of Synod, he said: “We as the church should have done this. All this goes a long way to do away with the distractions which have compromised our focus on mission and ministry over the last six years.”
The three-day Synod is the highest decision-making body of the Anglican church.
Addressing bishops, ecumenical partners, members of Cathedral Church of St Alban the Martyr diocesan order, academics and others, Kannemeyer spoke of the recent court case involving Seoka and five members of his church, who had spent a week-and-a half in court battling out a R600 000 case.
The former bishop had instituted the claim against the group for defamation after they accused him of misappropriating church funds four years ago in a disagreement which brought up unpleasant issues of an untenable relationship between clergy and church members.
Efforts by the Southern African region of the church to diffuse the unhappiness over the years had failed and the cathedral had suffered.
Kannemeyer, the former dean of St Alban’s Cathedral, took over the reigns of running the diocese last year, after Seoka retired.
He paid tribute to Seoka and others who had preceded him, saying: “I am fully aware that I stand on his, and the shoulders of his predecessors.”
His charge, as the opening address is called, set the tone for discussions to be held by the Pretoria diocese, which look into issues of politics and economics, and the social standing of the Church and country.
In his audience sat theologian Barney Pityana, the bishops of other Pretoria churches and visiting bishops of neighbouring regions. Kannemeyer spoke to priests, laymen and those who assisted them about sticking to the ideals of the church.
He said: “The life of the Anglican church is so structured that if you have a priest at ease with his or her vocation in Christ, and whose formation and training was done properly, then the rest would follow.”
Kannemeyer condemned the fact that the work of church had seen the need for the formation of the Cultural Religious and Linguistic Rights Commission, which was to regulate churches and the appointment of clergy.
This, he said, was due to the abuses of “some pseudo, self-styled prophets and pastors who own churches, and have a following”.
It was sad because religion was being abused by its own leaders, leaders who had strayed from the basic teachings, Kannemeyer added.
He warned against the abuse of gathered congregants by clergy who used their pulpits to raise funds and to discuss parish issues which could be discussed elsewhere.
He mentioned, among issues to be deliberated, homosexuality and burying the dead. He said homosexuality was an issue that would be discussed “until we were all at peace with this uncomfortable subject”.
Anglican Diocese of Pretoria head Bishop Alan Kannemeyer addresses the 85th session of the synod at the Cathedral Church of St Alban the Martyr.