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South African discusses issues nations have in common

The former prison chaplain for Nelson Mandela who later helped the first leader of apartheid-free South Africa organize the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will speak at three events on Friday, June 3, in Spokane.

Peter Storey will speak for The Fig Tree’s 2005 Faith in Action Dialogue, “Through South African Eyes,” looking at media responsibility, the role of truth in healing, and issues of church-state relations.

Peter is the former president of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, past president of the South African Council of Churches and Methodist Bishop of the Johannesburg Soweto area for 13 years.

“Where in the World is the Media?” is his theme for the Deepening Our Roots Benefit Breakfast at 7:30 a.m., at Central United Methodist Church, 518 W. Third.  During the breakfast, he will give a short presentation, as part of setting the tone for raising funds for The Fig Tree.  At 8:30 a.m., he will expand his discussion of the topic.

For the lunch presentation, he will explore the story of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, using its motto as the theme:  “Without Truth, No Healing;  Without Forgiveness, No Future.”  The lunch will be held at noon at Highland Park United Methodist Church, 611 S. Garfield.

“From the Fringe of an Empire:  Issues of Church and State” is his evening theme, following a 6 p.m. dinner at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 24th and Grand.

Peter, who is in the United States as professor of the practice of Christian ministry at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C., has been reflecting on the issues of mainline churches’ relative silence in the American public life—after his years of involvement in the church struggle against the powers in Southern Africa.

A native South African, he worked 30 years in urban ministry, serving as director of a 24-hour crisis intervention service in Sydney, Australia, as senior minister of the inner-city Methodist Mission in Cape Town and of the Central Methodist Mission in Johannesburg.

In the 1960s, Peter founded a network of crisis intervention centers in South Africa, and was chaplain to Mandela and other political prisoners on Robben Island.

He has traveled to the United States regularly since 1966, seeking help in the struggle against apartheid and gaining the support of United Methodists.  America’s story of democracy and its civil rights movement inspired South Africans, he has written, noting that now “it may be our turn to speak a word of challenge.”

In the 1980s, Peter worked with then Bishop Desmond Tutu in the church struggle against apartheid.  He was co-leader of a 1984 ecumenical delegation to the United Nations, the U.S. Congress and European governments, urging them to pressure the apartheid regime.

Committed to non-violence and reconciliation, he founded the Methodist Order of Peacemakers and Gunfree South Africa, an anti-gun lobby.

In addition, he co-chaired the regional Peace Accord structures  to intervene in political violence before South Africa’s first democratic elections. 

After the election, President Mandela appointed him to help select the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

For nine years, Peter edited the South African Methodist newspaper, Dimension.  His publications include With the Crucible: Preaching Costly Discipleship (2002), And Are We Yet Alive? Revisioning our Wesleyan Heritage in Southern Africa (2004) and Listening at Golgotha (2004). 

In the 1990s, he was a columnist for South Africa’s Sunday Independent, a national newspaper.

He and his wife, Elizabeth, former personal assistant to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have four sons and four granddaughters.

His bachelor’s degree is from Rhodes University; his LLD, Albion College, and a doctor of divinity, Ohio Wesleyan University.

“In the developing world, we sense what it must have been like to live on the fringes of the Roman Empire, dominated by its power, controlled by its values, subjected to its wars, contributing to—but not sharing in—its prosperity,” he wrote in the November/December 2004 Circuit Rider. 

Copyright © May 2005
- The Fig Tree