You will be aware, I am sure, that Chapter Nine of the South African constitution established several independent bodies such as the Office of the Public Protector, the Independent Electoral Commission and the Auditor-General (so-called chapter nine institutions). Also a member of that group is the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (abbreviated to the CRL – a prize to anyone who memorises the full name!).
The CRL has been in the public eye recently as it has held a number of hearings investigating churches and other religious communities and organisations. The investigations flow out of some scandalous behaviour by questionable pastors (you'll remember the stories about one church's congregants being required to drink petrol). It seems though that the CRL's investigations are much broader than these isolated incidents and church leaders from the major denominational groups have also been summonsed to appear before the CRL, including the Presiding Bishop of the MCSA, Rev Zipho Siwa.
The spirit in which the hearings have been held has dismayed the leaders of faith groups and Bishop Siwa has released a statement on the church website (www.methodist.org.za) dealing with the CRL and some of the sensationalist reporting of accusations made against the Methodist Church and during the hearings. It is a reminder that the days of the church being a revered and protected institution in civil society are behind us!
While we may be upset by the manner in which the CRL is operating, sometimes our fiercest critics offer us the gift of honest feedback that our friends are too fearful to give. These hearings will certainly also provide an opportunity for introspection about life within our church. And, on a lighter note, I'm looking forward to the CRL engaging with SA's Chief Rabbi, Warren Goldstein, who has a doctorate in law :)
What are the questions you might ask of our church if you were the CRL commissioner?
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