God using ill Madiba as a ‘message for this moment’ — church leaders

PHOTO: Mail & Guardian

God has given the ailing Nelson Mandela to the nation as a “message for this moment” say South African Church leaders who met in Pretoria yesterday to consider the state of the Church and the nation.

Noting the prayers and good wishes for the former President from all sectors of society, the leaders say that God is “rekindling our spirit of national unity in the consciousness of what Madiba represents, to inspire our hope”.

“Our challenge is in the responsibility that comes with that consciousness,” say the leaders of the SA Council of Churches (SACC), the SA Christian Leaders Initiative (SACLI) and denominational leaders, in a statement. (See full statement)

Future generations will judge us who were privileged to have lived in the times of Mandela by how we used the opportunity to make our country and the world what it should be – and we dare say ‘to make the world what God wanted it to be’.

The statement acknowledges Mandela’s example of reconciliation and statemenship during his Presidency and recognises him as “the Father of Our Constitutional Democracy”.

“When we started as a new nation under Madiba in 1994 every one in the world applauded us. We looked like we were about to create heaven on earth!” the statement says.

First gift of reconciliation
But it says that many people have remarked that Mandela’s “first gift of reconciliation” did not unite South Africans but “made us tolerant of each other at best”.

However God is now using Madiba in his extended illness to challenge us to look at ourselves and ask if we are not beginning to wallow in greed and self interest. He is also using the time to challenge us to unite behind the noble values that Mandela represents, say the church leaders.

They say the churches are calling for united action to make the best of Madiba’s values our pattern of social conduct.

“In the months ahead we shall be unpacking under God, a range of action proposals with our churches, to look at how we each have contributed to the decline of the Mandela Promise, and seek to have us pick up the second Mandela Gift of unity in action for a better South Africa, and a better world,” the statement concludes.

Leaders at yesterday’s meeting were: Bishop Jo Seoka (President: SACC); Bishop Zipho Siwa (Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of SA); Dr Jerry Pillay (General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of SA); Bishop Malusi (Ethiopian Episcopal Church of SA); Rev Moss Ntlha (General Secretary of The Evangelical Alliance of SA and Chairperson of SACLI); Rev Hermy Damons (NEC member of The Evangelical Alliance of SA); Rinel Hugo (NEC member of SACC); Marcus Van Wyk (Coordinator: SACLI); Dr Prince Dibeela (General Secretary of the United Congregational Church of SA).

iafrica.com reports that the church leaders also led prayers in front of the Pretoria hospital where Mandela is soon to mark two months in care. They say that according to IOL, Seoka added that Mandela was conscious.


  1. Conerned about a conmment I heard form a Xhosa Aunt in SterkSpruit: she said : I am worried about the way the people are idolising Mandela.” 3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.

    4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”(Exodus 20)
    The human proclivity to creating idols cannot be emphasized.. . and the Creator God is against those fall make ‘clay’ pots their Creator Potter.

    • You are quite right. But we must distinguish between idolatory and thanking God for providing a good leader at a critical time.

      • Andre, dit is darem lankal duidelik dat die daaglikse polities-korrekte obsessie met “Madiba” op afgodery neerkom. Lees asb weer o.a. dr Peter Hammond se artikels hieroor.

  2. Yes ‘duidelik dat die daaglikse polities-korrekte obsessie met “Madiba” op afgodery neerkom. to try and make fine line betwee idolatry and gratitude is as in trying to draw a fine line between ancestor worship and ancestor reverence – a poor a concession to the former (idolatry, ancestor worship) and using the other as an excuse.

  3. Not all unities are good for the church…discernment people! A false unity is emerging and the church thinks it’s answer to prayer…

  4. Madiba cannot and must not be compared with Jesus Christ. We must worship and serve the triune God only. I’m sure Madiba will be the first to acknowledge that. There might also be those in our country and around the world, who possibly regard Madiba as an idol. However, not everyone who admires Madiba, should be accused of idolatry. The fruit of the Spirit such as love, joy , peace,kindness, compassion,justice , reconcilaition, self-lessness and more, that Madiba has consistantly displayed probably for most of his life, are to be admired and emulated. Madiba’s life-style,possibly more than most christians, reflects in many ways, the character of Christ. He is an exemplary leader, albeit imperfect like all of us. As an outsanding role model( Madiba),I will attempt to be an imitator of the many good virtues that Madiba demonstrated. That does not mean I worship Madiba or equate him with Christ.

  5. Valerie Reeves

    1 Cor 15:49 ‘And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.’ As Christians our aim or purpose is to become more and more like Christ. What is it in Madiba that people admire? It is his humility, his forgiveness, his wisdom, his understanding, his compassion, his sense of justice, his peace-loving nature, his love of children, his warmth – I could go on and on. Those attributes in Madiba that are Christlike are what people admire. We are not worshipping Madiba as an idol but recognising and responding to the goodness and righteousness of our God in him. How he has brought glory to God!