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Friday, September 20, 2013

Of Conference, The Rich, the Poor, and the Purple.

The two defining characteristics of the state of the nation (South Africa) at the current moment are the continued racialisation of identities, and the growing socio-economic inequality created largely by the increasing wealth of those, black and white, at the upper end of the class heirarchy. Adam Habib in South Africa's Suspended Revolution (2013)

“I was at a meeting of the Superiors General in Europe. They talked only of changing the structures of society, organizing things in a different way. It all came to nothing. It did not do something for the poor, or preach Christ to those without religion, to those totally ignorant of God”  Mother Theresa


As I reflect on these two quotations, I can't help but think of our Conference, beginning on Thursday in Mthatha, and what its outcome may be. Our connexion, covering Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, has a multitude of dreadful problems, not least of all the scourge of preventable disease which kills thousands, particularly amongst the poor, daily. South Africa has the greatest gap between rich and poor in the world, having recently overtaken Brazil in this disgraceful statistic. Corruption is rife and many continue to live as if there is no God. Will Conference 2013 affect the great justice issues in our part of the world. Of course, whether Conference will make any difference is often largely determined before it even starts, because it is in fact the Synods of 2013 which had opportunity to place matters before Conference and of course it is the Methodist people who largely determine the Synod agenda. Be all this as it may, we can pray and hope that inequality and the poor feature in every discussion, as they feature in most mature discussions on South Africa's future.

This week's Revised Common Lectionary directs us to Luke 16 and reminds us that we cannot be slave to two masters. O for a prophetic word to our leaders in this regard. We need to choose between God and Mammon (money). Next week has us looking at the parable of the rich man with the beggar at his gate and addresses some of the issues mentioned above as it records a conversation across the divide between haves and have-nots, between the purple clad elites (in the KJV) and the masses.

It speaks of Abraham (and perhaps the descendants of Abraham, the church) being able to communicate with both sides and in this life, of bridging the gap (as a dentist I love that idea), closing the space, perhaps even laying ourselves down as the pontic.

I hope our Conference will help us, as it guides us, to work at closing the iniquitous gaps in the places God, in His grace, has called us to be Methodists.

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