archbishop desmond tutu

Desmond Tutu on Gay Rights, the Middle East and Pope Francis

Desmond Tutu at Clowes Hall, Butler University. Photo via RNS/Butler University

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his fight against apartheid in South Africa, continues to speak around the globe on justice and peace. Butler University and neighboring Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis announced Thursday that they would name a center for the 81-year-old icon.

Just before the announcement of the new center, Tutu spoke with Religion News Service about faith and justice, Israel and Palestine and Pope Francis’ recent selfie and lifestyle choices. Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

South Africans Visit D.C.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Thorne/Washington Diocese

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, John Thorne/Washington Diocese

Engaging in international travel to participate in political justice — especially anti-apartheid issues in the Mid East and Africa — is a bit like playing big league baseball.  The “player” must submit to an excellent coach, pick a good team, learn the essential rules about foreswearing violence, not getting caught stealing by the opposition, and arrive home safely with limited physical or psychic injury. 

One of the “hall of fame” coaches still is Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu who wisely said, “if we had taken up arms when things appeared hopeless in our struggle against apartheid in South Africa we would all be dead and apartheid would still exist.”   

The Archbishop was in town last week for a CBS webcast interview along with American Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori on the “Mission of the Church.” He reinforced that “mission is about receiving the love of God in Jesus and then going to the world to make love incarnate” rather than trying to resolve the world’s terrible conflicts with military interventions.   

Pro-Tutu Petitions Flood Gonzaga

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the World Economic Forum in January. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

After nearly 700 people tried to push Gonzaga University to rescind its commencement speaker's invitation to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, supporters of the anti-apartheid hero responded with 11,000 signatures of their own.

Opponents claim the Jesuit school had lost sight of its Catholic values by inviting the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, to speak at next month's commencement and receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.Now a second petition is circulating, this one protesting the anti-Tutu petition.

Now a second petition is circulating, this one protesting the anti-Tutu petition.

The Impossibility of Being Known

Eye photo, Greg Soybelman/Shutterstock.com

Eye photo, Greg Soybelman/Shutterstock.com

I've been navel gazing again and wondering how we come to know ourselves. I wonder what that right balance is between our inner-barometer of self-knowing and that external one that people reflect back to us. "Ubuntu," (I am because of who we are) or all the various "I am..." statements: "I think therefore I am" (Descartes) or "I am what I am and that's all that I am" (Popeye)...What statements might we add to this list? Bishop Desmond Tutu expands the notion of Ubuntu thusly: 

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

I'm trying to wrap my mind about how we construct the self. Judith Butler, Catherine Bell (ritualization) and others inhabit my mind lately. Ritual, tradition, story, identity... the list goes on and on ...

Alumni Don’t Want Desmond Tutu to Speak at Gonzaga

VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the World Economic Forum in January. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is slated to deliver the commencement address next month to Gonzaga University’s graduating class. A group of alumni, however, are saying he isn’t welcome and are urging administrators to withdraw the invitation.

Patrick Kirby, a 1993 Gonzaga graduate, said Tutu is pro-abortion rights, has made offensive statements toward Jews and supports contraception and the ordination of gay clergy and shouldn’t be honored by a Catholic institution.

The university plans to give Tutu an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at commencement. Kirby, a local attorney, said Tutu’s visit violates the U.S. bishop’s 2004 policy, "Catholics in Political Life." The policy states that Catholic institutions should not honor those “who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.”

Historic Meeting Held in Cape Town – Kairos SA & ANC

Key members of the SA Kairos Committee with two senior ANC representatives. (Pho

Key members of the SA Kairos Committee with senior ANC representatives. (Photo courtesy Tom Getman)

In 1985 the South African writers of the Kairos Document declared the Dutch Reformed Church’s “state church” theology to be heretical because of its justification of apartheid. In the months following, Desmond Tutu and many other anti-apartheid leaders risked their lives for change.

On the 2012 Centenary Celebrations of the African National Congress, 21 years after Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, the Kairos Southern Africa theologians have released, “A Word to the ANC in These Times.” The document boldly calls attention to the “certain contradictions [that] continue to militate against … fully achieving the dream that the injustice … meted out to black South Africans by the colonizers would come to an end.”

The document raised other critical issues, such as diminishing diversity, party factionalism and inappropriate security measures. The authors clearly declared, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew12:25)

The Kairos steering committee met with the ANC executive in a closed meeting February 8. The discussion focused on poor standards of education, unsustainability of an “opulent ‘American dream’ lifestyle, respecting the Constitution of the Republic, and closing the gap between the richest and poorest.

The "Atonement-Only" Gospel

If justice is only an implication, it can easily become optional and, especially in privileged churches, non-existent. In the New Testament, conversion happens in two movements: Repentance and following. Belief and obedience. Salvation and justice. Faith and discipleship.

Atonement-only theology and its churches are in most serious jeopardy of missing the vision of justice at the heart of the kingdom of God. The atonement-only gospel is simply too small, too narrow, too bifurcated, and ultimately too private.

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