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Tutu says church
stand on gay priests made him ashamed to be Anglican

Tutu says church
stand on gay priests made him ashamed to be Anglican


Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the first authorized biography of the Nobel peace laureate, says he was ashamed of his Anglican church's conservative position that rejected gay priests.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in the first authorized 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 criticized 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 be appear in South Africa on Friday, and the biography was scheduled for release in time for Tutu's 75th birthday on October 7. The retired archbishop was critical of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for bowing on the gay priest issue to conservative elements, particularly African bishops, in the 77 million-member Anglican Church, which 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 practicing homosexuals, saying their sexual relations were "incompatible with scripture." Tutu also said he was deeply saddened at the furor caused by the appointment of openly gay V. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003. "He found it little short of outrageous that church leaders should be obsessed with issues of sexuality in the face of the challenges of AIDS and global poverty," wrote Allen. As archbishop, Tutu criticized 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 Reverend Wilma Jakobsen as his chaplain. Tutu's criticism of de Klerk stems from when 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. During the hearings, Tutu sometimes wept along with the victims of human rights abuses. Allen wrote that the process left Tutu disappointed with some political leaders, particularly de Klerk, who he believed had not accepted accountability for apartheid atrocities. De Klerk was not directly implicated in state-sponsored violence, Allen wrote, but had been aware of "mayhem" as a result of activity by the security forces. In an interview with the author, de Klerk acknowledged he failed to follow up suspicions that security forces were committing human rights abuses. "Where maybe I failed was not asking more questions, not going on a crusade about things...following up on slight uncomfortableness you feel here and there," said de Klerk. 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, recording the steps taken to address the violence and saying no evidence implicated the president in the violence. "Significantly, he [Allen] confirms the shocking suspicion that the TRC had an agenda to incriminate me," the former president said, noting the author wrote about the frustrations of failing to pin responsibility for the human rights abuses on de Klerk. He said relations between himself and Tutu soured because he refused to play that role. De Klerk said he regrets the antipathy that Tutu subsequently developed for him and that their relationship has mellowed with time. He said he had the greatest respect for Tutu and for the constructive role he often played. But he said the TRC imposed the "struggle" version of the truth on the other parties and seriously undermined prospects for reconciliation. The biography also traces Tutu's life from a sickly child who was baptized 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 playing 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." (Sahm Venter, AP)

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