Anglican church shames us all by ignoring GBV

We do not take delight in having to take a dig at the church, but when we believe the institution strays and fails to act against internal matters of gender-based violence (GBV), we will not hesitate to take a stand against perpetrators of evil.

Today, we feel duty bound to raise our voice, and speak up in defence of the vulnerable: the many women in our society who day after day fall victim to the scourge of sexual abuse at the hands of sex pests of any description.

GBV, is a serious human affliction. The church should be in the forefront of the fight against it, preaching against its prevalence, and not defend perpetrators.

Women’s Month should serve as a reminder of our collective duty, including the church’s, to champion the cause of eliminating the prevalence of GBV.

During the past few weeks, this newspaper has exposed the rot of GBV taking place at the Anglican parish of Saint Boniface in Vosloorus.

A woman parishioner reported to the diocesan bishop, the Right Reverend Charles May, a case of sexual harassment against a parish priest.

When the woman realised May had chosen to sit on his hands, she escalated the matter to the head of the church, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

Sadly, even at the highest echelons of the church she received no relief.

Does the hierarchy of the church even care about the plight of this woman?

After several years, without interviewing or offering her counselling, the church’s structure, Safe Church, headed by the church’s lawyer, concluded there was no conclusive evidence to suggest sexual harassment took place.

 The church of Charles May and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, in its “wisdom”, exonerated the alleged sex pest.

What has gone wrong with the church of Desmond Tutu, the respected church cleric whose scorn for injustice, human rights abuses, inequality and unaccountability, is well documented?

Are the wheels of the church of God as a sanctuary for vulnerable women coming off? We must ask, what meaningful role is there for the church to play to instil virtues of justice and even-handedness?

The Anglican bishops are quick to condemn malfeasance and corruption elsewhere. We all need to be watchdogs and raise red flags when there’s even a whiff of wrongdoing in any sector of society.

The alleged errant priest, a friend of May, as we understand it, has escaped church censure. In fact he has been elevated in status – transferred to a more affluent church in a swanky and leafy suburbia parish, south of Johannesburg. He holds a big job of archdeacon despite his real or perceived impropriety.

The victim and unemployed woman remains in the dusty township of Vosloorus, with a heavy heart, knowing that the church cares nothing about her welfare.

In the final analysis, the church should not be allowed to walk away without facing its own demons. All women must stand up against such an injustice.

Hopefully, the Commission for Gender Equality will take up her case.

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