Bishop Steve’s Pastoral Letter regarding the incident at St. John’s School

Monday 31 August 2017


 Dear Saints

The past three days have been some of the most painful in my experience as your Bishop in the Diocese of Johannesburg. Together with others, I have struggled with the challenges presented by the upheaval caused by racist comments made by a teacher at St John’s College. This issue highlighted once again the scourge of racism and its many bedfellows that are a blight on our society in our beautiful country.

On Friday, 28 July, I was present all day, from before dawn until sunset, at meetings at St John’s College with all of those involved in this ghastly incident. These included meetings with the College Council, the Gauteng MEC for Education, the teacher involved in the incident, and others. An incident such as this is never an open and shut case. In this instance, there were legal and labour issues to consider and resolve. Naturally the importance of addressing the terrible occurrence and consequence of racism in one of our most respected schools was paramount.

In the end, the result of our deliberations was to secure the resignation of the teacher who was found guilty of racist comments, and he dutifully resigned. For a full explanation of this, please see the attached statement issued on that Friday by me, the Chairperson of the College Council, Jon Patricios, and the Executive Headmaster, Paul Edey, and take particular note of the unequivocal apology issued by St John’s College.

I will be visiting the school today, 31 August to pray with the boys and staff of St John’s as we start to move forward from this cathartic moment, and to be present as both chief pastor and Bishop of the Diocese. As a Church, we can never allow such incidents to occur. Renewed efforts must be made to ensure that they don’t. This applies not only to St John’s but to all our schools. It applies also to you, as part of our Diocese, as you participate in the various activities of your Parish and other organisations of which you might be part.

It is your responsibility, therefore, not to say anything, or act in any way, that smacks of racism, no matter where you may be, or what you may be doing. It is alarming that racism has become so rife in our country, not least as a result of the robust debate around issues in which political players are the main actors, such as graft and corruption, but also in loose talk. It creates a climate of hate.

Hate has no place in the Christian life. It was hatred and bombastic bigotry that resulted in the death of our Saviour on the Cross. As a Christian in South Africa, you cannot be part of it.

Please hold all of us involved in the ministry at St John’s in your prayers as we go forward. I shall be taking part in their Chapel service on their last day of school this coming Friday, 4 August.

Grace and peace