MCSA Statement on the Death Of Nelson Mandela

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa learns with profound sadness of the death of former President Nelson Mandela. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Graça, his family, and our entire nation on the loss of the man whose inspirational leadership took South Africa from the depths of despair during the dark days of apartheid into a new era of hope, peace and freedom.

Although we are sad and mourn the passing of a father, an icon and world leader we cannot help but celebrate his life as well.

As a Church, we have been privileged to be associated with Madiba since the early days of his life when he was educated, first at Clarkebury and then at Healdtown, Methodist educational institutions in the Eastern Cape, both of which were important influences on his life. Indeed, after his time at Clarkebury, the young Mandela said his horizons had been broadened.

During the long and difficult years of imprisonment on Robben Island, our Methodist clergy, under the leadership of a former President of the Methodist Church, the late Rev Abel Hendricks and others, were honoured to provide him and his family with pastoral care, visiting him there when allowed to do so.Another former Presiding Bishop, Rev Dr Stanley Mogoba, was part of an ecumenical team that administered the sacrament of Holy Communion to him during his time at Pollsmoor Prison.

In his later years, as the first black and democratically elected President, the Church was delighted that its Presiding Bishop then, Rev Dr Mvume Dandala, was invited to conduct the marriage service between Madiba and Graça Machel.

Madiba remained a committed Methodist throughout his life. The thousands of accolades from every walk of life that he received included the World Methodist Peace Award, the highest honour that can be bestowed by the worldwide Methodist family.

The Church was also privileged to have Madiba's attend its annual Conference in Mthatha in 1994, which he later described as a "spiritual homecoming", saying that he could not over emphasise the role that the Methodist Church had played in his life. On this occasion, he also praised the role of the Methodist Church's great institutions of learning, adding that they had shaped the characters of generations of people, including the present leaders of the country. Madiba went on to participate in the subsequent Conferences of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in Durban in 1998 and Port Elizabeth in 2001.

As a Church, we hail the qualities that confirmed him as a true son of Methodism: a life of faith in God lived in service to others. Madiba's life demonstrated the finest characteristics of the Methodist faith: integrity tempered with graciousness; a strong ethic of industriousness; and honesty with reconciliation. It was this philosophy of reconciliation, such a dominant characteristic of his life that was demonstrated during his first public appearance on the Grand Parade in Cape Town after his release from prison and later at Bishopscourt, which remained a guiding principle during his entire Presidency and beyond. It was also very evident during a summit meeting in June 1993 brokered by the Methodist and Anglican Churches between himself and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi in Kempton Park. This took place during a time of huge tension and violence between supporters of the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party, and resulted in the two leaders setting up a hotline to communicate with each other in an effort to reduce the violence.

Madiba was a true statesman who enabled his people to possess the full range of political freedoms enjoyed today.

As we mourn the passing of our beloved Madiba, we are comforted by our Christian faith and the words of Christ: "I am the resurrection, and I am the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die."

Madiba will also live on in the life of South Africa and the world forever.

May uTata rest in peace as his iconic legacy continues to guide us in the transformative years ahead.

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