On Wednesday, 04 August 2021, at the SACBC Plenary Meeting, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, the South African Council of Churches Secretary General, gave a presentation to the Bishops on Ecumenism and inter-church collaboration, especially the concept of LEAN (Local Ecumenical Action Network).
Bishop Mpumlwana began by expressing his special joy that the SACBC is now a full member of the South African Council of Churches, having been just an observer member before. He said it makes a huge difference to have SACBC as a full member because of the quality of the contribution by members who represent the Conference both at the Church Leaders’ Forum and the national executive committee. He highlighted also the benefit gained from the work done by the Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office and Justice and Peace.
He said the work done in the Local Ecumenical Action Network is informed by how SACC defines itself together with all the blocks of the churches affiliated to it. Bishop Mpumlwana said SACC does not exist for propagation or advancement of doctrinal positions. He finds this position to be very important especially if one is bringing congregations together in one neighborhood where doctrinal issues would not become a hindrance but rather a commitment to social justice in the name of Christ. He said SACC seeks to achieve a visible, just, socio-economic and ecological impact enabled by churches in community for a reconciled South Africa. And It is in that context that SACC seeks as much as possible to work for a moral reconstruction.
He said the purpose of ecumenism should not be at national level but rather at community level where congregations meet together
Bishop Mpumlwana said if member churches resolve to commit to ecumenical foundation through the structures that they have created there will be a structured opportunity for churches to coordinate coherence through their prayers and actions for the values of the Kingdom of God. And that these will lead to a prayerful togetherness in their social analysis.
Going back to the concept of Local Ecumenical Action NetworkBishop Mpumlwana said is not something new. He said they used to have a programme called Place Based Network, which did not work out well. But the reality of Covid-19 helped the Local Ecumenical Action Network to really take off. Saying all that the SACC had to do was to have church leaders declare a pastoral plan. And that pastoral plan said, “in the covid environment you need to bring local churches to minister to their people and make sure that there is food when it is needed, the elderly and the sick are taken care of, and the families and frontline workers are ministered to.
Bishop Mpumlwana said many of these LEANS are not necessarily SACC created but SACC promoted. Stating that in Western Cape 113 LEANS came about because of the Covid-19 impact, with SACC bringing together a number of Christian Organisations that offered to assist. Many LEANs have to do with crisis relief.
Questions have been asked about weather the LEANs become simply social movements or are they evangelical too. Bishop Mpumlwana said he would like to suggest that they are an evangelical movement because he recognizes the diversity of the churches. He believes that each of the churches should continue to do their preaching and catechesis in the communities where they live. And for that they don’t need to come together, they stay apart and do what they do because there are certain things they can do effectively together. His hope is that in the LEANs projects there will be offerings of healing and reconciliation that deal with brokenness of communities, anchoring democracy where they deal with corruption. He believes LEANs can help the communities with the effective monitoring of elections on non-partisan and non-denominational basis.