Open letter to the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town 

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By: Clyde Ramalaine & Carl Niehaus

Archbishop Thabo C. Makgoba 

Bishopscourt 

20 Bishopscourt Drive

Cape Town

7708

Dear Archbishop  Makgoba, 

Our greetings are conveyed in the name of Christ our Saviour and Eternal King.  We are obligated to write to you on the 18-year-old matter of the rape and complaint that the Reverend June Dolley-Major suffered and raised with the Anglican Church, and specifically with you as the Archbishop of Cape Town. As fellow brothers in Christ, and fellow South Africans, we are following this matter with an increasing sense of shock incredulity that threatens outrage. 

Surely you will agree that if there is any place that must be first and foremost a haven for any abused women, and rape victims it must be the church, which the Bible teaches us is the Body of Christ. After all, Christ declared in Luke 4: 18, The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives. And recovery of sight to the blind. To set free those who are oppressed”.

In the context of the recognised brokenness of our South African society where the demon of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) is tragically out of control, and the twins of patriarchy and sexism parades in arrogance like a wild raging fire devouring the very fabric of our communities. We need not remind you that the church must be the first to take an unequivocal stand with the victims of abuse, rape, and violence against women and children. 

Ours is a righteous God that rages against evil and stand up for the weak, exploited and oppressed.  This message of salvation and hope must respond to those who in our society has been subjected to the most abject and abusive violence, and where rape prances as a weapon of patriarchal male rage and the depravity against women. 

Dear Archbishop, you, as one of the most prominent church leaders in South Africa by the office you hold, can certainly not stand indifferent and aloof to the fact that daily young women are killed by men, and in most instances, they die after having been sexually abused and raped. They die terrible, violated deaths, having been turned into objects of male rage and perverse sexual desire, and the worst of depravity. You, living in this society, have certainly heard the desperate cries of women and those all those who work for the emancipation of women that this must end, and that everyone in South Africa – but especially we as men – must take an unequivocal stance in full support FOR the women and children who are abused, and AGAINST the very men who abuse them. 

You as a Christian, and Biblical scholar, should certainly understand that our faith is a faith of clear choices, and commitment. A choice for good and righteousness against evil. A stand for justice against injustice. A choice to stand with the oppressed against the oppressor. A choice to stand with the violated against the violator regardless who the perpetrator may be. 

The God we serve does not equivocate, and the Church that is the Body of Christ is not built on the drift-sand of neutral ground. Christ did not hedge His bets – He stood unequivocally with the poor, abused, and oppressed, and that is ultimately why He was crucified. The true test of the salvaging power of the blood of Christ is always found in times of crisis and gross injustice. Today we find ourselves squarely amid such a crisis time – a true Kairos moment. Similarly, to the Kairos moment in the 1980’s when the churches in South Africa during the apartheid era had to make a clear choice and declare apartheid a heresy.  

Such Kairos moments do not extend us the privilege as only confronted by so-called objective’ challenges that keep the hard coalface of life at a safe a distance from us at a personal level. The crisis ultimately always will – and must – become direct, real and personal to each one of us. A crisis that demands us to respond in line with the obligation of the pursuit and work of justice.

Bro. Makgoba, it is far too easy to denounce Gender-Based Violence from a distance, and to make general statements about the need for the church to be a healing presence in society”, as you have done. We have noted your recent statement that the churchs commitment to justice in society is a faith response and a direct reflection of its divine calling. It is justice that must be sought, and nobody must be allowed to suffer the consequences of injustice”. These are very laudable sentiments indeed, that no Christian can find fault with, but real life has a way of testing such pious words. Ours is a living faith, in the real world with real victims with abused bodies, and broken spirits that demands real responses when confronted with the truth. 

The real-life litmus test of the truth of your words came to you in the living person, and presence, of the Reverend June Major. Revd Dolley-Major is no different to the woman with the flowing of blood who encountered Jesus in a thronging crowd in the faith that, If I just touch his garment. I will be healed”. When Jesus asked, Who touched me” the woman fell to his feet and told him that it was her, and Jesus said to her, Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (Mark 5: 25-34). 

Sadly, unlike Jesus you did not hear the desperate cries for help and support from Revd Major, instead you chose to distance yourself from her, and barricaded yourself in behind references of procedure and the rule of law. When in desperation she came to your beautiful palatial house, number 20 Bishopscourt Drive, with its high cast-iron fence, she found the ornate gates firmly locked against her and her request. When in desperation she camped out there in front of those locked gates pleading for an audience with you, you laid a charge of trespassing against her, and called the South African Police Service to remove her.

Dear Archbishop, imagine if Jesus did what you have done, to that poor woman who in faith came to touch his mantle.  Because of her continual bleeding, the woman in Jewish law was regarded as a niddah, and thus ceremonially unclean. In terms of the law, Jesus could have insisted that she should have kept her distance and not touched him.

What would you have done Archbishop if you were in Jesus’ place? From your treatment of Reverent Major, we cannot come to any other conclusion but that you would have invoked the law. 

We note your July 6, 2020, official letter to Revd. Major. You inform her that you as the Anglican Church leadership “have already committed ourselves to start the internal disciplinary process, as a matter of urgency”. Archbishop the question we must ask, why did it have to take Revd Major to go on two hung strikes the last in front of your homestead before it became urgent for you? Does it mean had she not taken this drastic step to put you directly in the media spotlight she like many others still have been in a state of being ignored despite her pleas?

You see our dear Brother in Christ that is exactly what you have done with Reverent Major when you told her to go the legal route and insisted, she must engage the legal team of the alleged rapist. We gather that you blamed her for having brought legal charges against the alleged rapist. Something which she did in desperation after having for years demanded that the Anglican Church should investigate her charge that she had been raped by a fellow priest, and you and your fellow clergy in authority did nothing. 

When you finally reluctantly descended to the gates of your palatial residence to meet with Reverent Major it was not as a brother in Christ, but as a stiff patriarchal Archbishop that patronizingly talked down to her. You member and colleague [Revd Major] experienced you as cold and callous, demeaning and accusatory. We saw on television your stiff demeanour, your hard expressionless face, and we heard the cold legalistic words that you spoke. You were utterly devoid of compassion. 

One could not come to any other conclusion that you were treating the Revd Major as a nuisance’ who was indeed trespassing into your personal luxurious privileged space. This was not the demeanour of a sympathetic, and humble, servant of God. It was the demeanour of a patriarchal regent full off yourself, and the self-importance of your official status as the Archbishop of Cape Town. 

We certainly could not help to be struck by how callously you treated this woman who had been crying out for years for a sympathetic ear and help from her very own church and her own Bishop. According to Paul a Bishop must hold the fullness of the ministerial priesthood, be an overseer’ to teach and to sanctify the Body of Christ (Acts 20: 17, 28; Titus 1: 5, 7). What we saw of you there in front of the firmly closed gates of your palatial residence was certainly not the behaviour of an “overseer of the sanctity of the Body of Christ”.

This was indeed in stark contrast with the strident stance that you have taken against those whom you regard as being guilty of corruption’ and state capture. Need we remind you how you came to the defence and rescue of a powerful politician in the form of former minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan? You offered private prayer session in defence of him when you failed to pray for the entire cabinet, in particular, the then President Jacob Zuma. You dared to choose sides devoid any court ruling but sentiment. Why could you be that sensitive to defend Gordhan and neglect one of the Anglican Church a colleague?

 

Sir, you chose the holiest moment of the Christian Calendar, the Christmas service to instruct incoming President Ramaphosa how he must deal with the corrupt ones. Only six months ago in your annual New Year’s Eve sermon, you dared to call for 2020to be the year of orange overalls” a colloquial reference to prison gear for the guilty. You called for those whom you consider having been corrupt, and state capturers’ to be arrested charged and imprisoned. You expressed a colossal self-righteous impatient urge to see them in prison garb as soon as possible.

Yet, somehow, the same sense of urgency, abhorrence and impatience to see that justice will prevail for one of your very own woman priests who was raped is absent. The fact is more than four years after she had brought the serious charge that a colleague and pastor had raped her, you had done hardly anything. Only after she had so awfully inconvenienced and irritated you by having presented her raped and abused broken soma at the front gate of your residence, did you finally get so far as to announce in vague and convoluted legalistic language that an internal’ investigation will now take place.

We cannot reach any other conclusion that what we witnessed in this your conduct is the most extraordinary Pharisaic hypocrisy, best understood in comparison what Jesus described in Matthews 23: 27, How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside, but are of bones and decaying corpses on the inside” (Good News Translation).  

All of us are sinners, all of us can if we humble ourselves and confess our sins and the errors of our ways, find forgiveness and salvation. We plead with you to see the presence of Revd June Major in your life, as a divine challenge, to heal yourself from the patriarchal arrogance that has befallen you and the Organisation you are privileged to lead. , We plead with you to resist the temptation of the conceit of fleeting worldly powers Archbishop, and to once again humble yourself as a servant of God, and a true overseer of the sanctity of the Body of Christ.

 

It has to be your responsibility to seek repentance like all of us when we fail to live up the calling, we stand less by our power or gifts but privileged. We know that injustice anywhere remains a threat to justice everywhere as Martin Luther King Junior told us.

We pray that our letter reaches you in the spirit of an obligated pursuit of justice in which hypocrisy is abhorred and called it for what it is.

Yours in Christ our Saviour