Reverend Canon Ted Karpf – Provincial Canon Missioner, Office of HIV/AIDS Community Ministries and Mission, Anglican Church of the Province of Southern Africa
I co-ordinated the Church of the Province of South Africa’s HIV/AIDS Ministries strategic planning process and worked as part of the facilitation team that ran the planning workshops.
The strategic planning process we intended to take the Anglican Church
through follows five steps. These are:
Step 1: Situational analysis
Step 2: Identifying issues, solutions and options
Step 3: Making strategic choices
Step 4: Developing objectives and activities
Step 5: Monitoring and evaluation
This planning process, however, became an integral part of everything we did. The All Africa Anglican Conference on HIV/AIDS, for instance, followed these steps very closely. We did a situational analysis in which the Anglican Church identified issues; made strategic choices; developed objectives and monitored what we were doing by constantly updating our activities and reflecting on what we had done at the end of each day. Our original plan was simply to train the trainers and expose people to a strategic planning process, but we went a step beyond that by writing the manual, Planning our Response to HIV/AIDS – A Step by Step Guide to HIV/AIDS Planning for the Anglican Communion (PDF Document 4.3MB).
What emerged at the conference during the situational analysis is that we did not have a common cultural language with which to speak about HIV/AIDS. If a faith-based organisation wants to undergo a similar process, it has to struggle with its language and culture. Until we can agree on what we mean by x, y and z, it’s impossible to move forward. So the All Africa Anglican Conference became, inadvertently, as much a test of language as it was an implementation of a concept. It really was a test of whether or not we could conceptualise together. What we learned is that we can if we lay claim to our language, to our tradition, to our reason and to our experience.
What we also learned is that religious tradition had a lot more to say about HIV/AIDS than we gave it credit for. If you had told me two weeks before that I was going to “do” theology at the conference I would have said, “No way!” I just thought we were going to talk about HIV/AIDS. I think churches and faith-based organisations need to remember where they come from. Had we been NGOs we would have approached this task differently, but the whole thing was constantly framed with prayer, meditation, preaching and worship.
The fact that we ended up doing theology should have been a foregone conclusion and, in fact, what we were really struggling with, over and over again, was theology.
What, for instance, is the church’s best word on prevention? What we came up with is, “The church’s commitment to prevention recognises that all life is sacred. Because we love our children, we speak and act to protect them from infection. Sex is a gift from God. We are accountable to God and one another for our sexual behaviour. Christian communities have a special responsibility and capacity for encouraging and supporting loving, just, honest relationships.”
This is about relationships, mutual trust and respect. This is about the love of God. In that framework, asking people to be responsible for their behaviour and protect their partner against the risk of death is not an untoward or unnatural act. Nor does it necessarily stipulate that condoms are the only way. Given the vision statement, I would argue that condoms are probably the last way. The fact is that it is how we – as the Anglican Church – reclaimed our self-understanding. Having tested that now in all of the dioceses, people read the statement as though you are preaching to them and they love it. They go, “Our church said this?” and it’s hard to believe that the church was both thorough and forthright in what it said.
The other thing the All Africa Anglican Conference did was give us a template of six focus areas – leadership, care, prevention, counselling, pastoral care, and death and dying – which we called the church’s agenda. These are the six areas in which you will find the church engaged in ministry in the pandemic in an intentional way. That was an amazing process. In some ways it liberated people to lay claim to those things they were already doing and include them under the banner of the church.
Formulating a statement has given people pegs on which to hang their work. So, when we went to the Council of Anglican Provinces (CAPA) at the one-year anniversary of the conference what was very exciting was that everybody could report on what they had done through the six focus areas. They could say, “Under prevention we’ve done x,” or, “Under counselling we’ve done y.”
There were things we left out. When we started, for instance, there were issues of women, children, stigma and population over tactics for ministry. We had terrific linguistic problems and I kept thinking, “If I can’t understand this in English, how are we going to translate it into 15 different African languages?” We didn’t. We got simple, quickly.