It is with sorrow and anger the we have learned of yet another instance of faith leaders denigrating women – in this case their colleagues.
The Management Committee of We Will speak Out SA shared the following open letter of solidarity with the leadership, particularly the women’s leadership, of the MCSA:
OPEN LETTER TO REV NOMPHITHIZELO SIBHIDLA AND ALL WOMEN CLERGY IN THE METHODIST CHURCH OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who called Mary Magdalene as the First Apostle to declare the good news of his resurrection and allowed a woman to anoint his feet with expensive perfume in recognition of his ministry.
It is with deep anger and sadness that we have heard the audacious remarks made by Rev Dr Mehana, and in particular, the unspeakable insults hurled at the office of all women clergy and Rev Sibhidla’s personal dignity as a highly respected minister called to serve God in the MCSA.
His remarks reveal multiple prejudices and misconceptions, linked not only to gender, but also race, tribal origins and cultural norms. There can surely be no place for such attitudes amongst those ordained to serve all God’s people in a fellowship of equals amongst the servants of God and called to minister the love and healing of Jesus Christ in a world wracked with suffering, violence and hatred.
As a coalition of faith leaders, congregational groups, faith organisations and individuals working together to end all forms of violence and prejudice based on gender, we strongly condemn this behaviour and pledge to stand in solidarity with you and all women clergy in your efforts to ensure that the MCSA authorities deal with this matter swiftly and without fear or favour.
We appreciate the Reverend’s apology and apparent repentance, but it rings hollow without him renouncing the underlying attitudes expressed or committing to any form of redress. Neither does he commit himself to serving alongside women clergy.
We also appreciate the strongly worded letter by the Presiding Bishop committing the church to urgent action. Indeed, we call on the leadership of the MCSA need to stand up and lead decisively. There can be no excuse for such behaviour, particularly from a man with powerful influence over others.
But this is not a Methodist matter and neither is it just a church matter. These attitudes contribute to the rampant rape culture in our society, which not only sends messages of entitlement to errant men, but also condones and even perpetuates the endemic culture of violence. This causes all women in this country, regardless of their background or social standing, to have to live in fear.
Moreover, it is probable that this is not an isolated case, but similar attitudes are likely to be prevalent among other male clergy – otherwise this reverend would not have expressed his views so openly. Hence, we call upon the leadership of MCSA to systematically address any underlying socio-cultural assumptions that may have crept into the church masquerading as ‘African’ or any other form of theology or related church statutes or practices.
And those of us church leaders who are not Methodist, would do well to do the same with some urgency.
We recall that we pledged our support to the Executive of your Women’s Manyano almost exactly a year ago, when it committed itself to taking action in response to sexual violence in the Pretoria Diocese.
And here we are again. We understand that your journey is long and challenging, and we pledge our support for the long haul. Together we are stronger.
As a coalition, our members collectively possess a variety of gifts that might be of use to you as you proceed with your ongoing actions to transform your church. Please do not hesitate to call upon our office with specific requests for support. We commit to walking alongside you as long as necessary while you address these challenges.
Yours in solidarity
We Will Speak Out Management Committee
Ms Lyn van Rooyen (Chair WWSOSA);
Rev Bafana Khumalo (Deputy Chair WWSOSA and Director, Strategic Partnerships, Sonke Gender Justice);
Rev Phumzile Mabizela (Mancom Member WWSOSA and CEO, INERELA+);
Ms Daniela Gennrich (Interim Coordinator WWSOSA and Lay Canon- Gender, Anglican Church of Southern Africa).
cc. Bishop Zipho Siwa, Presiding Bishop, Methodist Church of Southern Africa;
Secretary General, Rev Charmaine Morgan, Methodist Church of Southern Africa;