Lament is vital for the hope that transforms, Ndungane tells EDS commencement

May 17, 2007

"Lament is the vital, fundamental, starting point for the hope that transforms," Archbishop Njongonkulu Winston Hugh Ndungane of Cape Town, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, told more than 300 guests at Episcopal Divinity School's commencement May 17 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In an address that drew on South African Anglican theologian Denise Ackerman and Teresa of Avila as well as the prophet Isaiah, Ndungane reminded the graduates and their friends that today's world too often demands instant solutions to its problems, "but God calls us to another way, the way of Emmanuel."

"Lament is about paying attention to the human predicament...about being honest with the realities of the world in which we live...about being prepared to listen to the stories of others," said Ndungane, who is known for his outspoken opposition to injustice and economic oppression in southern Africa and across the world.

"Lament is to stand in solidarity with others of God's children...to open ourselves to the pain of others.... When we lament with others for the pains they suffer, we will find we can also lament for ourselves, and the failings and injustices of the societies of which we are a part and in which we are complicit."

Ndungane's 18-minute address preceded the awarding of 21 degrees -- nine Master of Divinity, one Master of Arts in Theological Studies, seven Doctor of Ministry, and four Certificates of Advanced Theological Study -- and four honorary degrees, one of which went to him.

The ceremony at the First Church in Cambridge, a large Congregational Church directly behind the EDS campus where commencement ceremonies are traditionally held, began at precisely 2 p.m. when the EDS Drummers with a celebratory beat announced the arrival of the graduates. The awaiting crowd, roused by the sound, rose to their feet to watch a procession of cross, candles, bright banners, faculty trustees and the honorees and the graduates, each carrying a brand new scholar's hood over an arm.

In presenting Ndungane with his degree -- doctor of divinity, honoris causa -- the Rev. Karen Montagno, EDS' dean of Student and Community Life, said of him, "[He] has been one of, if not the, strongest voice among the primates in the Anglican Communion in defense of issues of justice, reconciliation and peace. He has often been the lone voice when others have been silent. He has also been a relentless champion for justice and a passionate leader in the efforts of the Anglican Communion and beyond to include women."

Ndungane was appointed Metropolitan of the then-named Church of the Province of Southern Africa in 1996. He has been a leader in the campaign to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa and has called for debt relief for impoverished nations. In the fall of 2004, he spoke at the United Nations to launch the Micah Challenge, an international Christian movement to cut world poverty in half by 2015. A fourth-generation Anglican priest, Ndungane decided to enter the ministry in the early 1960s while serving a three-year sentence as a political prisoner on the notorious Robben Island in Cape Town. He was ordained in 1974 in the Diocese of Cape Town and has a BDiv and MTh from King's College, London. Before his appointment as archbishop, he served as Bishop of Kimberley and Kuruman in South Africa.

The other honorary degrees awarded by the faculty also went to individuals with ministries in social justice: Canon Gregory Cameron, director of Ecumenical Studies and deputy secretary general in the Anglican Communion Office in London; Catherine Hoffman, director of the Cambridge Peace Commission, an organization dedicated to the concept of thinking globally and acting locally; and Bishop James Kelsey of the Diocese of Northern Michigan, an advocate for collaborative ministry, a non-hierarchal form of leadership.

In making the presentation of Cameron to the trustees, the Rev. Ian Douglas, EDS' Angus Dun professor of World Mission and Global Christianity, said, "You have given ecumenical relations in the Anglican Communion new focus and vitality."

The Rev. Canon Ed Rodman, EDS' professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry, presented Catherine Hoffman, calling her "the quintessential activist...the consummate group centered leader who stands in the best traditions of EDS as you strive for justice, peace and reconciliation."

Making the presentation of Kelsey, Dr. Fredrica Harris Thompsett, EDS' Mary Wolfe professor of Historical Theology, listed his many roles in initiating shared and collaborative ministry in the Diocese of Northern Michigan and elsewhere and said the faculty was recommending him "for his prophetic leadership in supporting the baptismal ministry of all Episcopalians and for the diocese's work in helping to transform congregations from being communities gathered around a minister to ministering communities."

EDS is a center of study and spiritual formation for lay and ordained leaders with a strong commitment to justice, compassion, and reconciliation. Formed in 1974 with the merger of Philadelphia Divinity School (founded in 1857) and Episcopal Theological School (founded in 1867), EDS offers doctor of ministry and master's degrees, as well as certificates in theological studies. The seminary is located on an eight-acre campus a few blocks from Harvard Yard and is a member of the Boston Theological Institute, a consortium of nine theological schools, seminaries and departments of religion.

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