Officially opening the 2020 academic year on 9 February, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA), Rev Purity Malinga urged SMMS students to be salt and light of the world.

Rev Malinga said, “You are at SMMS because of the calling. We have high hopes that out of this seminary will come ministers who are willing to open up to be formed and transformed by Christ so that their words can match their actions. My greatest hope is that out of this seminary will come followers of Christ who are salt and light; who will preach healing out of their lives, and not just out of their mouths who, through their lives, even before they open their mouths, will preach to the people.”

She said the call to ministry is not a right but a privilege with responsibility.

“No one is entitled to this calling, but we are given the privilege of following Jesus. God can change this world without us, but he has given us the privilege to work together with Him to shape tomorrow today. It is God who is shaping; He has only invited us to be part of the shaping. It, therefore, means to come with humility and know that we are given a privilege but this privilege has a responsibility,” Rev Malinga said.

The times in which we are living, she said, are times in which Christians are seeking to hear the Word of God.

“They receive all kinds of messages from all kinds of preachers and pastors, but the question people keep asking is: ‘Where are the ministers and preachers who live the gospel?’ because if the gospel is healing and transforming those preaching it should be healed and transformed. All the actions of darkness that happen in our world happen in our churches and it is sad when they are done by those who preach the gospel.

“Thus, I am craving for ministers who will come out of this place preaching Christ through their lives, who will be salt to influence young people out there so that communities and lives can change. I will be excited to see ministers who will wear and see a collar as something that reveals their identity and not a show-off for people to give them a space to sit,” the Presiding Bishop said.

Rev Malinga said seminarians need to learn from Jesus daily how to be Christ-like so that they can be light to the world.

She said, “If you do that, this will not just be an institution of higher learning but a place of formation where ministers are formed. There is a difference between the two: an institution of higher learning is about the head but a place of formation is about the heart.”

Bringing greetings and best wishes of all the people called Methodist, MCSA General Secretary, Rev Michel Hansrod said the seminarians are being trained at a time which is both exciting and very painful, which in the words of Mark Twain is ‘the best of times and the worst of times.’ He said the MCSA is experiencing exciting times as ‘the Pentecostal wind of change has blown through the church.’

“It was in May last year – 43 years after the decision of the 1976 conference to ordain women – that the collective synods of the MCSA rose to break the ceiling of 100 Presiding Bishops by electing its 101st as a woman. Indeed the winds blew at that very same time as two synods simultaneously, in different places elected two women to lead as bishops. And that is not the end, the Connexional executive meeting a month later went on to appoint a third. This week, for the first time in the history of the MCSA, we sat in a Bishop’s meeting in which they were more than one woman present. That can only be the work of God’s spirit,” Rev Hansrod said.

He said it is also exciting that three new synods have been inaugurated.

“This year is not only significant in opening up spaces that had long been held exclusively for only some, but also because it is fifty years since the last time that the MCSA had sought to multiply itself. Our Presiding Bishop now presides over fifteen synods. Most significantly, among these are Namibia and Molopo in Namibia and Botswana, which have for long been simply appendixes of synods in South Africa. We look forward during the course of this year as we engage in the elective processes of leadership for two new synods, namely in Mpumalanga, which incorporates Swaziland and Aliwal North in the eastern parts of Gauteng Province,” the General Secretary said.

Rev Hansrod said this is also the worst of times: “The effects of global warming are seen all around us. Economic meltdown is not only spoken about but experienced by especially the most vulnerable across the globe. We have seen the election and the continued leadership of despotic regimes across the globe. Sexual and gender-based violence and the abuse of children continue unabated.”

He ended by expressing the hope that the church has in the trainee ministers.

“You are our hope to fulfil God’s call to bring healing and transformation. You are the harbingers of our hope as you take residence in this repository of our hope for both church and all our nations. It is our prayer that you be open, perceptive and willing to engage in your formation for, who knows, among you may be risen leaders who will bring to fulfilment God’s vision of hope and transformation for Africa and the world,” he said.

Welcoming the Presiding Bishop and the General Secretary to the seminary, SMMS President, Dr Rowanne Marie said the day was a very significant one in the life of the seminary and added that the seminary community was blessed to have the newly appointed leadership of the MCSA at the Village.

She said, “Not only does it mark the official opening of the seminary, but it also marks the entry of the institution into a new decade. Last year we celebrated ten years of God’s faithfulness, grace and favour, and today as we worship together, we are mindful that this is a new decade in the life of the seminary.”

She said both Revs Malinga and Hansrod are no strangers to SMMS as they have both played hugely significant roles in the institution since its inception. She added that both are extremely passionate about theological education and ministerial formation.