SACC National Church Leaders Release Church COVID Readiness Guidelines

The SACC is an instrument and servant of its members.

Media Release

30 May 2020

Issued by the office of the SACC General Secretary, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana.

South African Council of Churches (SACC) President Zipho Siwa today released the final copy of the SACC Norms and Standards that serve as guidelines for member churches as they prepare for the COVID readiness of their congregations. He said that the document is a living one because the weekly COVID Watch meeting of the SACC National Church Leaders Forum, will review it constantly with feedback from the congregations.

The Church Leaders Forum established a Task Team to focus on the question: “What are the conditions under which we can encourage a return of the faithful to congregational worship, private prayer, counselling and feeding the hungry and other pastoral work such as weddings?” This as a measure to facilitate effectiveness of the SACC COVID Pastoral Plan.

 The Task Team, chaired by Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, included leaders of the various traditions of our member churches, including the Evangelicals and the African Independent Churches.  The Task Team developed a questionnaire to assist in collecting and collating submissions by member churches.  The same given question was posted on Twitter and Facebook. The responses were collated and put together and analysed.

A first draft was presented orally to the meeting of the National Church Leaders Forum.  Their inputs were incorporated into the draft document and this was sent to subcommittee for further input. The subcommittee then met with the revised document and made further suggestions.  The revised document was sent to the national church leaders and affiliates and some who had made individual submissions.  They were given two and half days to consult and to make comments and they submitted these.  A further national church leaders meeting was held and the Chair of the subcommittee presented the report. 

After robust discussion and input, the document was adopted.  The Chair and General Secretary were tasked to proof read and edit the document, insert further comments that the church leaders made. The leaders further suggested that, a succinct letter consisting of the summary of the report be urgently sent to the Government; and this was done on May 19.

The SACC leadership participated in the interfaith meeting convened by President Ramaphosa on May 20, where all faith leaders appealed for the opening of worship places at Alert Level 3. Following the President’s announcement of the place of worship in Alert Level 3 on Tuesday May 26, the SACC awaited the regulations to be gazetted before finalising the text of the Norms and Standards for member churches to work with according to their environments.

As he presents these Norms and Standards of the Church Leaders, SACC President Siwa emphasised the point made in the COVID preparedness section of the guidelines, that “the opening of public worship is not an invitation to go to church immediately”.  The SACC advises churches to take 4 to 12 weeks in preparation for COVID readiness, with the prospect that some churches could open by the end of June, “provided that all the requirements of COVID Compliance are met”, concluded Rev. Siwa, adding that the worship space is for the pastoral and spiritual edification of people in a time of much social distress.