Tutu: ashamed to be Anglican

Tutu: ashamed to be Anglican

Archbishop lashes out over gay stance
September 22, 2006 Edition 1

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the first authorised biography of the Nobel peace laureate, said he was ashamed of his Anglican Church’s conservative position that rejected gay priests.

In the book Rabble-rouser for Peace by his former press secretary, John Allen, Tutu also criticised the last apartheid president, F W de Klerk, for not accepting accountability for apartheid atrocities.

He said the failure caused him to regret having nominated De Klerk, along with Nelson Mandela, for their 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

Excerpts from the book were scheduled to appear in South Africa today and the biography was scheduled for release in time for Tutu’s 75th birthday on October 7.

The retired archbishop was critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, for having bowed on the gay priest issue to conservative elements, particularly African bishops, in the 77-million member Anglican Church that includes Episcopalians in the United States.

In a 1998 letter to Williams’s predecessor, Archbishop George Carey, Tutu wrote he was “ashamed to be Anglican”. It came after the Lambeth Conference of Bishops rejected the ordination of practising homosexuals, saying their sexual relations were “incompatible with scripture”. Tutu said he was deeply saddened at the furore caused by the appointment of openly gay V Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

As archbishop, Tutu criticised, but could not change, a policy in South Africa that said gay priests would be tolerated as long as they remained celibate. He did approve church blessings for gay and lesbian relationships, without calling them marriage. He also pushed for the ordination of women and, when it was approved, quickly appointed the Rev Wilma Jakobsen as his chaplain.

Tutu’s criticism of De Klerk stems from the time Tutu was chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which offered perpetrators of apartheid crimes amnesty if they told the truth about their activities.

Allen wrote that the process left Tutu disappointed with some political leaders, particularly De Klerk, who he believed had not accepted account- ability for apartheid atrocities. Though De Klerk was not directly implicated in state-sponsored violence, he had been aware of “mayhem” as a result of activity by the security forces.

In an interview with the author, De Klerk acknowledged he had failed to follow up suspicions that security forces were committing human rights abuses. In response to a request for his reaction to the book, De Klerk said Allen had tried to be fair in reporting on the tensions between him and Tutu.

The biography also traces Tutu’s life from a sickly child who was baptised a Methodist, and who dreamed of becoming a doctor, but worked as a teacher and then a priest. It tells how he won a Nobel Peace Prize having played a major role in guiding his homeland from racism to democracy.

He rose to fight racism in a deeply divided society. His own family home was demolished in the name of apartheid, and he suffered tear- gassings, police harassment and death threats.

A highlight for Tutu was getting to introduce Mandela to cheering crowds in 1994 as “our brand new state president”. – Sapa-AP