Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
Disciple of Jesus Christ, and Statesman
The Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands joins with the countless persons and institutions that have been offering tributes on the death of the late prelate and world leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu and in extending condolences to his family and the people of South Africa.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the formidable leader who was able to galvanise and unite people in the struggle of South Africans against the evils of Apartheid; and also to confront powerful foreign nations who offered their support in propping up this illegal and unjust regime.
Not surprisingly, those who controlled the reins of power saw him as a political figure and sought to align him with communism and extremist leftist movements. But, Archbishop Tutu was, first, a disciple of Jesus Christ and a Priest and Bishop to his people. He understood that there is no sphere of life which the Christian faith does not engage in order to bring dignity, freedom and wholeness to the life of people. It is out of this understanding of himself and his mission and vocation as an Anglican prelate that he developed the passion and love for his people and stood by them in the national struggle for freedom, even as he soothed their hurts and their wounds along the journey.
Speaking Truth to Power
The pastoral perspective which he brought to the world of politics did not involve blind loyalty and partisan support of leaders who strayed from the path of justice. Although a supporter of non-violence, he was an ally of the African National Congress (ANC) in its resistance to the regime. However, he was extremely critical in speaking the truth to power when he perceived that the ANC had lost its way and become corrupt.
His own journey to the leadership position he ultimately occupied was not an easy one. As a black man in racist South Africa he faced opposition from both state and church. At the Elective Assembly to fill the vacancy for Archbishop of Cape Town, he could not secure the necessary votes because of opposition from the white majority interests. In a process that had to revert to Bishops to make a selection, he was unanimously named as the Archbishop of Cape Town.
This meant living in a community that was reserved for whites and in which he was not welcome. Likewise, his leadership of the church initially involved opposition from some residual racist elements.
As an astute reconciler and negotiator who could bring people together, he was able to gain the support not just of blacks, and coloureds, but a segment of the white population who supported the need for transformation of the nation. It is no surprise then, that he played a significant role in the days prior to the release of Nelson Mandela from incarceration, and subsequently, in leading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during which he broke down in tears when some of the horrors inflicted on his people were recounted.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s engaging personality also endeared him to the young people, like those in Soweto, who decided that the elders had been too patient in the struggle for freedom, and who, therefore, moved to the forefront and energised the final push for the overthrow of Apartheid.
We in Jamaica had our opportunity to experience Archbishop Tutu as he was guest of the Government in 1986, having been invited here by the late Prime Minister, Edward Seaga. He preached in the Kingston Parish Church and shared in several civic functions.
Within the Anglican Communion which he served as a member of one of the highest deliberative bodies, the Primates Meeting, we give thanks for his contribution to our consultations and support for the work of the Communion in its global reach.
In keeping with the faith he believed, practiced and preached, we now commend him to God’s gracious care and keeping, and pray that in the communion of saints he will continue to pray for us and those who face the same struggles for justice, freedom, dignity and equity in this world to which he directed his life’s work and ministry.
Rest in peace.
The Most Rev. Howard Gregory
Archbishop of the West Indies, Primate & Metropolitan
And Bishop of Jamaica & The Cayman Islands