Relationships Between Church Organisations
A letter from †Martin
15th June 2014
Recently a number of people in the Diocese have shared with me that they are worried about the unhealthy rivalry that is developing between some Church Organisations. This seems to have been made more intense by the arrival of organisations that are new to the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist. Here are some examples of organisations in the church:
Well Established Organisations
Recently Formed Organisations
New to the Diocese
Manche Masemole Pilgrimage
Voices of St Mark
(formerly Anglican Choirs’ Fellowship)
Bernard Mizeki Guild
(recently launched in this Diocese)
Guild of Mary Magdalene
Anglican Men’s Fellowship
I am told that there has been some aggressive recruiting of members among some of these organisations – together with speaking negatively about others. So, what should our attitude be towards the organisations we belong to and those we don’t?
Theological Principles and Implications
As a Practical Theologian, I always like to start by looking at the theological and biblical principles behind an issue. Then we can work out what they means for how we live.
1. Part of the Church
No church organisation exists on its own: it exists as part of the church which, in our case is the Diocese of St Mark the Evangelist, its parishes and chapelries. Paul, writing to the believers in Corinth, was strongly against those who put their loyalty to the group above loyalty to the whole church.
“Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)
As Christians, therefore, we all belong first to our local church, and only after that to our various organisations. The Canons of the church and Diocesan Rules, for example, make it clear that the finances of organisations should be disclosed to the Diocese, parish or chapelry. People should give money to the organisations they belong to only after they have given their tithes, offerings or pledges (whatever you call them!) to the church.
2. The Mission of the Church
The church exists to participate in God’s mission to the world. Jesus put it quite clearly:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour." (Luke 4:18-19)
“As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
So, every church organization exists to play its part in the mission of the church – to serve the larger church as it responds to this commission from Jesus himself. Each organisation must therefore be committed to the vision of the Diocese: to make disciples in vibrant, self-sufficient congregations established and linked to each other by sharing in resources; ministry & service; outreach & evangelism.
3. A Unique Contribution
One of the most exciting and liberating teachings of the Bible is about the body of Christ. We all have different personalities, gifts and passions. Each of us is like a different part of the body. Therefore each of us has a unique contribution to make. And the church is only really healthy and strong when each one it making that contribution and working in harmony with the others. Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
It is much the same with organisations – each one has unique gifts to offer and a special contribution to make. Actually, each is meant to be God’s gift to the others and to the whole church! The gifts that Paul mentions in Ephesians 4 and Romans 12 can apply to our organisations as much as to individuals. They are all important, from the most spectacular to the most “ordinary”.
Apostles, prophets, evangelists,
pastors & teachers.
Serving food, teaching, encouraging,
generous giving, leading,
caring for those in need.
Let us therefore appreciate what every church organisation and church group has to offer – showing them love and respect, while we offer our special contribution at the same time. We need each other!
4. Unity is Essential
Unity is not an “optional extra” in the church. Jesus said that all the commandments of God are summed up in these two, which cannot be separated: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbour as yourself’”(Matthew 22:38-39). And he gave a “new” commandment to his disciples: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). He was willing to sacrifice himself for us – we should be ready to do the same for each other.
Jesus emphasised this my making it the central subject of his great prayer the night before he died:
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. (John 17:20-23)
And Paul taught that we should “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)
So, God expects us to love one another, whether we like it or not! As Anglicans we pride ourselves in being a church that is united in diversity. This means that we must learn to rejoice in those who are different from us – be glad that there are organisations that are different from our own, and take every opportunity to celebrate our unity in Christ.
What Groups and Organisations Should Be Doing
In conclusion, here are some things that all our groups and organisations should be doing – whether they are a formal organisation recognised at Diocesan level, or a parish group meeting for fellowship.
1) Study the Bible together
Every time you meet, the Bible should have a special place – how else can we keep in mind what God want us to do, and how God wants us to live? I encourage you to follow a system to study God’s word together. Here are some examples:
- Read the lessons for the coming Sunday and share what you hear God saying through them;
- Read the lessons from the last Sunday and share what your heard through the sermon;
- Ask someone who has been trained in Rooted in Jesus to lead you.
2) Pray together
Having listened to God through his word, spend time in prayer together. Perhaps there are issues in the community or nation that the readings highlighted. Or perhaps some of the members have needs which you can pray about. Certainly you need to pray together about the plans and projects of your organisation. There are many different ways in which you can pray:
- Use “Morning Prayer” or “Evening Prayer” from the Anglican Prayer Book;
- Use some of the written prayers that are provided in the Prayer Book (pp 79-97);
- Pray using your own words, listening to one another and agreeing with each other’s prayers.
3) Care for one another
“Love one another” is expressed in practical care. Is one of your group sick, suffering or in need? Think of what you can do to support them:
- Visit someone in hospital;
- Take meals to a single mother who has just had a child;
- Offer friendship to someone who is lonely, or has recently lost a husband or wife.
4) Identify your special gifts and calling
As I mentioned above, each organisation and group has a special calling from God. See if you can write down your purpose or calling in a simple sentence. Then remind yourself what it is every time you meet. What is it that makes your organisation unique, and what can you offer to the whole church? Then you can work on specific projects:
- Set goals according to your purpose;
- Make sure that all your members, the leaders of your church, and the members of your church know what you are doing and why.
We need groups to work within the church. But we also need organisations that take a lead with our mission to the world. There are so many needs!
5) Work with others
Finally there are times when we will have common goals with other groups and organisations. Then we must work together! The Mothers’ Union and Anglican Women’s Fellowship have often set a good example with this.
So, my sisters and brothers, let us put God first and serve him – using our unique gifts and callings to glorify God, build up the church, and share in God’s mission to the world.
St Mark's Day and Mothers' Day Celebrations
In 2012, Diocesan Synod agreed that we should hold an annual St Mark's Day celebration early in May. The first St Mark's weekend is took place from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th May 2014. All events were at the Seshego Stadium or Ngoako Ramatlodi Indoor Sports Complex in Seshego. St Mark's celebrations were combined with celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mothers' Day.
A team of mainly women under the leadership of Rev Thembeka Gwija-Mothiba planned a series of events:
Friday 16th May at 18:00 - a night of Revival with worship, praise, testimonies, prayer, preaching...
Saturday 17th May from 07:00 to 15:00 - Family Fun Day with sport (fun walk, soccer, netball...) and traditional games
Saturday 17th at 18:00 - Gala Dinner, where our guest speaker was Thami Ngubeni, Chrstian businesswoman and presenter of various television and radio shows
Sunday 18th at 08:00 - Mothers' Day Celebration with Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland as preacher and Bishop Martin Breytenbach as Celebrant.