Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said homophobia is, to him, as “totally unacceptable and unjust as Apartheid ever was.”
And the former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, in a sermon at Southwark Cathedral in London, fired what amounts to an ecclesiastical torpedo into the school of the Anglican Church that insists homosexuality is wrong.
“The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority,” he said. “I myself could not have opposed the injustice of penalizing people for something about which they could do nothing – their race – and then have kept quiet as women were being penalized for something they could do nothing about – their gender, and hence my support inter alia, for the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate.
“And equally, I could not myself keep quiet whilst people were being penalized for something about which they could do nothing, their sexuality.
“For it is so improbable that any sane, normal person would deliberately choose a lifestyle exposing him or her to so much vilification, opprobrium and physical abuse, even death.
“To discriminate against our sisters and brothers who are lesbian or gay on grounds of their sexual orientation for me is as totally unacceptable and unjust as Apartheid ever was.”
He also saluted openly gay, but celibate, Canon Jeffrey John, Chancellor and Canon Theologian of Southwark, who last year was appointed Bishop of Reading in the UK, only to stand-down less than a month after the announcement.
“I hope so very much that you have got over the anguish of last summer and may I salute Canon Jeffrey John who acted with so much dignity and selfless generosity,” the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Tutu is perhaps the most respected living Anglican. A theologian of distinction, he was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and holds many honorary doctorates at universities in USA, Great Britain and Germany.
And what he said in Southwark Cathedral this week gives support for gays and lesbians throughout the world as they struggle for acceptance by the church, and the their politicians.
His remarks from the pulpit at Southwark were perhaps as encouraging to gays and lesbians as his remarks were to two young Americans who interviewed the Archbishop in 1995.
“There is no one who is a nobody. … Everybody is a VSP – a very special person,” he said. And the Archbishop concluded: “Dream! Dream. And then go for it! … (If) this world can become a better place – go for it!”
Archbishop Tutu had an equally poignant ending for his Southwark sermon.
“How incredibly, wonderfully, it is that God says to you, to me: ‘There is nothing you can do to make me love you less. I take you, I take you very seriously, I take you – you – body and soul, you the visible and the invisible of you, I love you, I love you, I love you.’”