History

ORIGINS

– Excerpt from a talk given by Brian Robertson at the first Western Cape WACSA Meeting 12 March 2011

Brian gave a brief account of how he and his wife, Francoise, arrived at the decision to send out an invitation letter in November 2010 to start We Are Church, South Africa.

“It was the culmination of a journey: As the demands of family and professional life lessened, Francoise and I gave more time to theological readings and meditation. Attending our first Alpha course at this time was a big impetus to our search for the truth in the revelations made by Jesus about God. Our search lead us to an increasingly strong faith in a living God whose compassion is radically inclusive: God makes his gift of life and love freely available to everyone. This, we believe, is our raison d’etre – to enjoy everything God has given us while ensuring that his gifts can be shared by everyone, without exception (God being inseparable from social justice). One can also define raison d’etre using other words, as quoted by Jesus himself: Love God with your whole heart, and love your neighbour as yourself.

Francoise and I are feeling increasing uncomfortable about the way the Catholic Church operates today – it seems to reflect less and less compassion, and more and more exclusivity. There is a preoccupation with rules and control rather than a relationship with God, attaining personal salvation through fulfilment of religious practices rather than social justice, and a focus on the final judgment and the hereafter rather than on creating a kingdom of love and joy here and now. How can we attract our children to enjoy a life of liberating love and radical inclusivity in the Church when they experience the opposite? When even healthy debate is stifled? They and many others are leaving this Church.

These feelings and our faith in a loving God have lead Francoise and I to the strong conviction that a change of heart is needed in the Church, as began at Vatican II. We know that two people alone cannot make much difference, so we started searching for likeminded people. We found no organised movement in South Africa, but we found the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC). I made contact with the IMWAC Coordinator in Portugal, Pedro Freitas, who put me in touch with Rosemary Gravenor from Durban, who had joined IMWAC previously with Dina McCormick. After some discussion with Rosemary, and further prayer and reflection, Francoise, Rosemary and I decided to start a South African movement which would be affiliated to IMWAC. We felt it would be important that this movement was relevant to Southern Africa, and not a replication of IMWAC. On 1 November 2010, we sent out invitation emails.

INVITATION LETTER

Dear Friends

We would like to establish a South African affiliation with the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC: www.we-are-church.org). In South Africa we hear a predominance of conservative voices in the Catholic Church, wanting a return to a defensive, pre-Vatican II stance. We are aware of many South African Catholics who would like to see the Church moving forward in the spirit of Vatican II, but they are often lone voices or their views are expressed behind closed doors. The life of the Church should reflect the viewpoints of all the faithful. We in South Africa need to take up our right to be heard.

There are scores of forward thinking Catholic movements around the world, and IMWAC serves as an umbrella body for many of them, without taking away their independence. IMWAC was founded in Rome in 1996, and aims at renewal in the Catholic Church on the basis of the Second Vatican Council. We feel that IMWAC’s resources and support could help like-minded Catholics in South Africa find our collective voice. In order to belong to IMWAC, we first need to form a group, and then apply to become affiliated to IMWAC. Once affiliated, our group would be entitled to two votes in the IMWAC Council, and to participate in their biennial meetings.

To join IMWAC, we must be willing to accept the five points of their “Manifesto of the People of God”, namely
– The building of a Church of brothers and sisters that recognizes the equality of all the baptized, including the inclusion of the People of God in the election of bishops in their local churches
– Equal rights for men and women, including the admission of women to all church ministries
– Free choice of either a celibate or married life for all those who dedicate themselves to the service of the church
– A positive attitude toward sexuality, and a recognition of personal conscience in decision-making
– A message of joy and not condemnation, including dialogue, freedom of speech and thought. No anathemas and no exclusion as a means of solving problems, especially as this applies to theologians

Let us know if you would be interested in being part of this group, or know of anyone else who might be. We would be grateful if you could forward this email to your appropriate contacts or websites

With best wishes

Brian and Francoise Robertson, Cape Town
Brian.r@mweb.co.za

Rosemary Gravenor, Durban
Rosemarymcs@iburst.co.za

November 2010

RESPONSE TO INVITATION LETTER

Dear Friends

We have been very moved by the overwhelming response to our initial letter. We have thus felt empowered to apply to IMWAC for affiliation under the name We Are Church, South Africa. We have had a positive response from Pedro Freitas, the Head of IMWAC and are awaiting the outcome of his discussions with the Council. A list of current members is attached. Please treat the names as confidential until members have indicated that they are willing for their names to be made public.

We propose that our first action as a group is to write a short open (public) letter to the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference along the lines that “ we are a group of South African Catholics who are deeply troubled by certain teachings and attitudes in the Church which we believe work against its mission…that we intend to work for a renewal in the Church in the spirit of Vatican II, including the following areas, viz… the five points of IMWAC’s manifesto, etc…”. The names of our members will be listed at the bottom of the letter. We would be grateful if you could give us an idea by return whether, in principle, you are happy to have your name and surname listed (We hope the majority will agree). We will send you the letter before we ask for your final consent.

You should all have received the minutes of the meetings of the Johannesburg group organised by the Sisters for Justice. They are having their next meeting on 21 November. We would like to indicate to them that they are welcome to join We Are Church, South Africa, and also have their names listed on our letter to the SACBC if they agree to the five points required. We could suggest that we make a joint submission to the 2011 Bishops Synod. If we don’t hear any strong reasons to the contrary from any of you, our members, we will assume that you support these suggestions.

Regarding the way forward for We Are Church, South Africa, we propose that we have meetings for those members who can meet, early in 2011. We can also use the electronic media to make and discuss suggestions about how we communicate, how we obtain and share news and information, what issues we want to prioritise, what activities we want to undertake, and how we support one another etc. Please familiarise yourself with IMWAC’s resources, for instance you can register to receive a daily digest of news/members’ comments on current events in the Church. We look forward to receiving any ideas and suggestions you may have about the way forward.

Please respond to us by 17 November, if possible, about having your names on the letter to the Bishops, and about our suggestions regarding the Johannesburg group. Respond to the other points at your leisure.

With best wishes

Brian and Francoise Robertson

FIRST LETTER TO SOUTHERN AFRICAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE

WE ARE CHURCH, SOUTH AFRICA
(Established November 2010)
Affiliated to the International Movement We Are Church (IMWAC)

18 November 2010

The Archbishops and Bishops
Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
399 Kanya House
Paul Kruger Street
PO Box 941
Pretoria 0001

Dear Archbishops and Bishops

As a courtesy and in acknowledgment of your position in the Church in Southern Africa, we would like you to be informed, before it becomes public knowledge, about the recent establishment of a South African branch of the International Movement We Are Church (www.we-are-church.org). The members of We Are Church, South Africa are a growing number of South African Catholics who are troubled by certain teachings and attitudes of the magisterium, in particular that of the Holy See, which we believe work against the mission of the Church in today’s world. After prayerfully applying our minds, and examining our consciences, we find no alternative but to set ourselves to work for a renewal of the Church in the spirit of Vatican II in realizing the following goals:

– the building of a Church of brothers and sisters that recognizes the equal dignity and responsibility of all the baptized by including the laity in the election of bishops in their local Churches
– free choice of either a celibate or a married life for all those who dedicate themselves to the service of the church
– the admission of women to all church ministries
– a review of the Church’s position on sexuality and sexual morality, involving lay people of diverse sexual orientations and states of life as well as scientists and theologians
– an ethos on the part of those in authority in the Church that is characterized by a proper humility in their service of the Church, that seeks to promote freedom of speech and thought and dialogue, especially with those critical of them, both within the Church and outside it. Anathemas and exclusions would never be seen as a way of dealing with these, especially in the case of theologians

In pursuing these goals, we align ourselves with thousands of fellow Catholics around the world who are part of the International Movement We Are Church

Yours sincerely in Christ

We Are Church, South Africa

Signatories: Brian and Francoise Robertson, Rosemary Gravenor, Augustine Shutte, Roger Hickley, Anne and Pete Templeton, Bernie Mullen, Biddy and John Greene, Brian Jacoby, Catherine Simonic, Celia Kourie, Colleen and Douglas Irvine, David Brokensha, Det and Stella Prozesky, Diane Clarke, Dorothea Russell, Gerald and Lou Shaw, Janet Perrott, Jayde Barry, Kevin Reynolds, Marion Jordaan, Melanie O’Connor, Michael Clark, Michele and Anthony Sellmeyer, Miranda Forshaw, Patrick Giddy, Tony Meehan

REPORT IN THE SOUTHERN CROSS OF WAACSA’S INAUGURAL MEETING ON 12 MARCH 2011

Church needs a “change of heart” says professor

Professor Brian Robertson, national coordinator of We are Church South Africa (WACSA) said at the inaugural meeting on March 12 that he believed a change of heart was needed in the Church, as initiated at the Second Vatican Council in 1961.

A group of 23 Cape Town lay people – academics, housewives, professionals, businessmen, social workers — as well as two priests and a nun – met in Cape Town on March 12 at the inaugural meeting of the Western Cape branch of “We are Church South Africa”. (WACSA)

Professsor Robertson, a leading South African psychiatrist, said that the organisation’s name was not intended as an arrogant or exclusive manifesto. It reflected, rather, the teaching of the Council which defined the Church inclusively as “the people of God” and not consisting only of hierarchy and clergy, or Catholic Christians only.

This international movement , which is now established in 44 countries, is a movement of reform inside the Catholic Church, seeking to bring about change on the basis of the decrees and theological spirit of the Council, Professor Robertson said .

The Church is this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of the summoning of the Council by blessed Pope John XXIII , who said he wanted the Church to engage in the modern world and all the hopes, joys, fears and anxieties of all its peoples.

The meeting discussed a wide range of topics. There was consensus that many people were greatly troubled by the malaise in the Church and saw a need for urgent, far-reaching reform. Such people were potentially members or supporters of WACSA and would be once they were told of its aims and objects.

Professor Robertson said he feared many young people and others not so young were leaving the Church as debate was stifled. Efforts were needed to attract the youth “to enjoy a life of liberating love and radical inclusivity in the Catholic Church.”

SECOND LETTER TO THE SACBC

WE ARE ALL CHURCH (SOUTH AFRICA)

21 November 2011

The Archbishops and Bishops
Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference
399 Kanya House
Paul Kruger Street
P O Box 941
Pretoria 0001

Dear Archbishops and Bishops
Further to our letter of 18 November 2010, we wish to communicate to you that we have now defined our particular mission in Southern Africa (see attached Mission Statement), and changed our name to “We Are All Church” (WAACSA). We believe that our mission accords with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, and we hope to be recognized as a group of Catholics in good standing who wish to promote the implementation and furthering of the renewal of the Church that was begun there fifty years ago.
We are convinced that, without significant renewal and metanoia, a serious rift in the Church is inevitable. We therefore stand for dialogue and openness to new ideas and challenges, and a more loving and inclusive approach within the Church.
We look forward to entering into dialogue with you in this time of kairos

Yours sincerely in Christ

Brian and Francoise Robertson – National Coordinators
Douglas Irvine, Peter Sadie, Rosemary Gravenor, Janet Perrott, Miranda Forshaw – Regional Coordinators