Cape Town 18-05-16 - Anglican priest Reverend June Major has a press conference with Kissmea Charles. pic brenton.geach

Siyavuya Mzantsi

FORMER St Matthews Church reverend June Major alleges a bishop and a reverend were among Anglican Church of Southern Africa members to separately attempt to rape, sexually harass, abuse and discriminate against her.

She has named the priests, but the Cape Times is withholding their names at this stage.

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said a case was opened at the Bellville police station and transferred to the Grahamstown Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit for further investigation.

Among her allegations, Major said a Reverend X had tried to rape her.

She had also allegedly been discriminated against by her former employer at the church, Bishop of Table Bay Garth Counsell, by denying her a means of earning a living abroad when she resigned.

When the Cape Times contacted Counsell for comment, his PA referred the paper instead to the church’s lawyers.

Major went on a hunger strike, claiming the former employer had bad-mouthed her in a letter to a potential employer when she applied for a job in Australia last year.

She suspended her strike on Sunday after a meeting with Anglican Church Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

Major also said Counsell had allegedly told a reporter recently she was an embarrassment to the church because she stood with Muslims and supported Palestine, said Major.

She said Counsell’s alleged refusal to give her a letter of commendation and a licence to officiate, to allow her to apply for a post in Australia, robbed her of a basic human right to work.

She said she was forced to sell her furniture and had to sleep on the streets when she ran out of money after being denied work abroad.

At a media briefing yesterday, Major alleged individuals within the Anglican Church were acting contrary to the word of God. That was why she could not remain silent or be silenced.

“Today I speak out for all women of South Africa and worldwide who have been abused or raped, and women who have been silenced. Yes, I will be attacked for this. I decided to break the silence. People say that I am attacking the Anglican Church but this is so far from the truth,” she said.

Her hunger strike demonstrated how Muslims and Christians loved each other and worked together to uplift the community,

Major said.

Lawyers for the church and Major have met to seek a resolution.

The church’s lawyer, Lionel Egypt, said:

“We are aware of the charge and we will assist with the investigations in any way we can.

“The sexual harassment incident was not raised during our meeting.

“We have made a proposal to her on how we can assist, but she never accepted it. The ball is in her court.”

St George’s Cathedral Dean Michael Weeder said Major’s actions saddened him.

He said while they had been aware of the sexual harassment case, they had to wait for a guilty verdict before taking action. In a statement, Weeder said: “The truth is that the Anglican Church locally and globally has embraced and supported the struggle for Palestine.

“However, in this context, these symbols (of Palestinian flags hoisted at the site of her hunger strike) crowded out her voice.

“It was misleading and divisive as it created the false impression that she was the victim of a Zionist-biased Anglican Church.”

In a letter to Anglican churches on Tuesday, Makgoba said: “On Sunday, the dean and a few of us met with June for prayers and pastoral support.

“This was not an individual heroic intervention by the archbishop but a response on behalf of the diocese, Bishop Garth, chapter and broader diocesan family.

“It is our hope that the legal teams will define the issues and seek solutions to the matters at hand.

“Just to recap succinctly, June resigned from her last parish in the diocese and she is aggrieved, and seeks certain legal/canonical matters to be pursued.”

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