Book Review – Inspires

Book Review – Inspires

Kelvin Holdsworth
Weblog of the Provost of St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow

Episcopal biographies are a very specialised form of literature. I remember during one of the many (over 50) interviews that formed a part of my selection for ministry being told that all that I needed to do was to read a few bishops’ biographies and all would be well. On looking around the clerical study in which this conversation took place I found myself staring at one bookcase after another laden with the biographies and the autobiographies of bishops. Pondering the meaning of this bibliographic collection, I henceforth eschewed the genre completely.

It was a treat therefore to be presented with a copy of Rabble-Rouser for Peace, John Allen’s authorised biography of Desmond Tutu. Mr Allen does the Anglican world a great service in presenting a biography of someone who believed that goodness was indeed stronger than evil. Tutu has been one of God’s lucky saints – who in seeing the evils of apartheid crumble has witnessed the goodness that came from the life and ministry that he himself shared with others who knew that justice is not an optional extra for Christians.

Amidst the stories of fighting for justice, there is some rather delicious high-powered Anglican gossip, including the information that Bishop Desmond was approached with regard to becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury at a time when the post eventually went to George Carey. Apparently the scheme foundered because as a South African, Bishop Desmond was unable to swear the necessary allegiances to the Crown. Has ever the established nature of our sister church south of the border done those of us in the rest of the Anglican world a greater disservice?

John Allen’s book is a lively and readable mix. That he was Desmond Tutu’s press secretary for a time must reassure us that he writes about a person whom he knows and about events that he witnessed. The story of the transition of the South African nation from racism to rainbow people must give us the hope that peaceful change is possible when good people stand up for righteousness. Desmond Tutu did just that and stood alongside many other saints in the struggle for change. Their monument is their people’s freedom.