A number of Anglican priests have compared the Anglican diocese of Highveld to a living hell. Speaking anonymously to Sunday World for fear of reprisals, they assert that the diocese has been under siege ever since Bishop Charles May became its head in 2016.
A priest who spoke to us on condition of anonymity said: “Our bishop has a tendency of ignoring some of us who are not his ‘yes men’, as if we were dead, never giving you a call, and never answering or acknowledging letters or notes given to him for his attention.”
The man said: “We are ostracised, and the bishop’s chapter, which is a group of advisers, is scared to speak out for us because everyone in the chapter knows that standing up for suffering priests could result in negative outcomes, like having their licences revoked or being removed from parishes they manage.”
A senior church leader in the the Diocese of Highveld described a young priest in the diocesan who has been exhibiting signs of depression as being in a concerning state of health.
“This young clergyman has endured years of being dictated to. The bishop has now instructed him to locate a position in another diocese. He explained further: “The young priest is depressed and feels totally rejected.
He questions his capacity to accomplish anything and is practically losing confidence.
“We were shocked to learn that the bishop had requested that our young priest seek employment in other dioceses.Another priest echoed his sentiments.
“May lacks empathy to believe that people are worthy of dignity and respect,” said the priest, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals.
May did not reply to questions e-mailed to him several weeks ago.
Highveld diocesan registrar and legal adviser Jonathan Cornelius of JM Cornelius Attorneys accused Sunday World of being biased against May.
“As indicated, we have chosen not to engage with your publications [sic] because of your selective reporting and biased inquiry,” stated Cornelius.
“The tone of your reaction indicates that you have already decided whether your accusations are true. We remain steadfast in our offerings. We have policies to safeguard against and prevent victimisation, even though we acknowledge that fear is a common emotion.”
Cornelius explained further: “We need facts presented before us, we can’t react to gossip.
“We recognise that you may have spoken with specific people, but until we are provided with the information supporting these claims, we are unable to refute their accuracy.
“A minority group is making efforts to cause disturbances inside the diocese of the Highveld.
“Our efforts to maintain the church’s existence won’t be impeded.”
But the unhappy church leader said a letter had been written to the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba to complain about various things that are not going right in the church and the diocese.
“We even requested Makgoba to investigate why the bishop failed to investigate sexual harassment issues, and also cancelled legitimate elections in favour of his own people,” he said.
“The idea that priests are not harassed is not true. Many priest are idling with no work, we appeal to Makgoba to investigate.”