Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lauded the decision by anti-apartheid icon and former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the Rev Allan Boesak to quit party politics and join "God's party".
"I cannot say how thrilled I am that Allan has followed his path and agreed to serve the people through God, rather than through political parties," said Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town in a recent statement.
Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, said he had been nagging Boesak since the 1990s to heed the call of God, not as a politician but as a pastor with outstanding gifts of oratory. In the 1980s Tutu and Boesak were two of the most prominent church leaders fighting apartheid with their rousing sermons against injustice.
"Some may say that Allan, as a member of the human race, is not perfect. But few would argue that he is not perfectly equipped to inspire a new generation of active and involved citizens - as he did once before. Welcome back to God's party," said Archbishop Tutu.
In December Boesak had joined the Congress of the People party, known as Cope, consisting mainly of breakaways from South Africa's ruling African National Congress. At the time, Boesak said Cope must be the new vision for South Africans, to build a new home for all.
On resigning from Cope this week Boesak said, however, that the party had been characterised by faction fighting, strife, pitched battles for political supremacy and duplicity. The youth wing of Cope in turn said Boesak rarely attended party meetings or the Western Cape legislature and he did not give seven per cent of his income to the party.
Boesak rose to prominence in the 1980s as a leader of the anti-apartheid United Democratic Front, which served as a front for the then banned ANC. He was for a time also the chairperson of the ANC in the Western Cape.
He served a jail term in 2000 after conviction for fraud and theft of donor funds, for which he maintains he was innocent and set up by the ANC. Boesak was readmitted to church ministry in 2005 after being pardoned by then president Thabo Mbeki.
"I had no desire to subject my family, myself or my calling to serve our people to these sorts of indignities and destructive politicking," Beosak said on 3 November.
Before joining Cope, Boesak had lambasted the ANC saying the hopes and dreams of people had not been answered and their yearning for justice had not been fulfilled.
"We still don't have a unified country. Our ideals have been replaced by disillusionment," he said.
There was speculation in the South African media after he left his position in the new party that he would return to the ANC and he was seeking a meeting with South African President Jacob Zuma.
In a statement on 5 November 2009 Boesak said, however, "The contribution I hope to make will be from outside any party political structures, including those of the African National Congress."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]