Testimony taken in South African clergy rape case

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The Anglican Safe and Inclusive Church Commission in South Africa heard testimony today from the Rev. June Dolley Major, reviewing her allegation that she had been raped by another priest in 2002 when she was a student at the College of the Transfiguration — the church’s provincial seminary.  

Ms Major’s complaint was ignored by church leaders for several years. It was only after she staged a hunger strike outside the home of Archbishop Thabo Makgoba earlier this year, did the church launch an investigation, with a formal written complaint lodged with the commission on 8 July 2020.

Ms. Major reported her session with the Safer Church Commission on 5 Oct 2020 lasted for one and a half hours. Two “ladies represented the Commission and then I had someone sitting in for moral support. The session was done via Zoom,” she wrote on Facebook.

She noted the “representatives of the Safer Church Commision were kind and listened to me. I was deeply triggered in sharing the rape experience.  This very institution silenced me and now I am reporting to a division of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. It was painful.”

“Recalling that night in detail was very traumatizing for me and I broke down, I literally broke down,” she said.

Ms Major has also launched a civil lawsuit seeking R6 million for loss of income and damages. Speaking to Jacaranda FM, she spoke of her frustration with pursuing justice.   ““If you go to the [state labor relations board] and you report anything that happens within the church as a priest, I was told that I’m employed by God and you cannot sue God. This is what these priests hold on to, that you cannot sue God. They feel that the law of the church is above the law of the land. 

After the taking of testimony from the victim, the commission will prepare Articles of Presentation against the offending cleric, and the matter will go to a church tribunal for adjudication.

Ms. Major has been harshly criticized by church leaders for publicizing her rape, and have suggested she has an ulterior motive. Writing on social media in August after Ms Major’s hunger strike, the Rev Canon Barney Pityana, former rector of the College of the Transfiguration in Grahamstown from 2011 until 2014,  said her campaign was diabolical and satanic and the church should tell her to “go to hell”.