Southern Baptist official resigns, cites ‘unfair’ critiques of decision to end inquiries

by Robert Downen | Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear speaks to the denomination’s executive committee Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. Just days after a newspaper investigation revealed hundreds of sexual abuse cases by Southern Baptist ministers and lay leaders over the past two decades, Greear spoke about plans to address the problem.

Alford’s resignation is the latest in a series of headline-grabbing events over the Southern Baptist Convention’s handling of sexual abuses. The newspapers found at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers had been accused or convicted of sex crimes or misconduct since 1998. (image: Mark Humphrey, STF / Associated Press)

A Southern Baptist Executive Committee official on Friday resigned, citing “controversy and angst” over his former committee’s recent decision to end inquiries into multiple churches over their handling of sexual abuse.

Ken Alford oversaw the bylaws committee that last Saturday announced it would end most of the 10 church investigations recommended by President J.D. Greear days earlier. Greear had made the recommendations after an investigation by the Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News that found more than 700 people had reported being sexually abused by Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers in the last two decades.

Six of those churches were in Texas, including three in Houston. The decision was met with swift backlash from survivors of sexual assault, many of whom said they were never contacted by SBC officials, as well as some prominent SBC pastors and figures.

In his resignation letter to the Executive Committee, which was obtained by the Chronicle, Alford wrote that “while condemning the report of our workgroup was unfair, I believe that it was understandable, especially coming from victims of sexual abuse and their advocates.”

“It was unfair in the sense that individuals accused us of ‘conducting a hasty investigation and quickly clearing six churches’ without interviewing victims, victim advocates, or other authorities,” he wrote.

But, he wrote, it was also unfair of Greear to ask the committee to do something that Alford said it was neither equipped nor intended to do.

“What should be obvious is that the task of conducting extensive investigations of churches is an assignment far beyond the capability of our small Bylaws Workgroup,” Alford wrote. “Beyond that fact, however, is the reality that neither the Bylaws Workgroup nor the Executive Committee has any investigative authority given to it by the SBC.”

The workgroup, he added, “conducted NO investigation, because we were not authorized to do so, and we did not ‘clear’ any churches, because that determination was not a part of our responsibility.

A spokesman for Greear declined comment Saturday night because Greear was about to lead services at his church in North Carolina.

Christa Brown, who for decades has called on the SBC to address sexual abuse, previously described the decision by Alford’s committee as a “Saturday night massacre of hope” for victims.

She said Alford’s resignation is further proof that the SBC should allow third parties to investigate sexual abuses.

“What’s ‘unfair’ is for any SBC insider group to presume to investigate the SBC’s own affiliated churches, ” she wrote in a text. “And that’s an unfairness that harms children, both now and in the future.”

Alford, who once resigned from a major SBC entity because of an affair he had, also said he understood why the incident – which he described Friday as a “moral failure” – raised questions about his ability to lead the group.

“Let me settle that question: I am NOT worthy!” Alford wrote. “I am not worthy of chairing that group, nor am I worthy of serving on the Executive Committee. Honestly, I am not worthy of serving as a pastor or of being married to the wonderful woman that I am.”

Alford’s resignation is the latest in a series of headline-grabbing events over the Southern Baptist Convention’s handling of sexual abuses. The newspapers found at least 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers had been accused or convicted of sex crimes or misconduct since 1998.

SBC leaders said they were outraged by the report’s findings, calling the acts “evil” and vowing to examine how the SBC can better handle the sexual abuses that victims and advocates have for years warned were at a crisis level.

One leading SBC figure has since apologized for his previous support of a church and popular religious leader at the center of a massive sex abuse scandal.

Alford’s resignation appears to be the first related to the series.

Days after the series concluded, Greear called for investigations into 10 SBC churches, including Houston’s Second Baptist Church, which the newspapers reported had been accused of mishandling multiple abuses by a youth group leader and contract worker, both of whom were later convicted.

Second Baptist has denied those allegations.

Unlike the Catholic Church, Greear does not have broad powers to implement any kind of sweeping reforms. The Southern Baptist Convention and its 47,000 member churches subscribe to the idea that each congregation is autonomous and self-governing, and thus don’t answer to any central figure or hierarchy.

That idea, called local church autonomy, has allowed sexual predators to sometimes move from church to church, the newspapers found.

Benjamin Cole, who runs the Baptist Blogger website, said Saturday that Alford’s resignation  “does not begin to address the systemic failure” of the SBC’s responses to the ongoing and public sexual abuse crisis it has faced since the investigation published.

“The convention does not merely need a change in leadership, it needs a change of culture,” Cole wrote in a text message.

Robert Downen covers general assignment and breaking news stories for the Houston Chronicle’s metro desk. Prior to that, he worked as a business reporter in Albany, New York, and as the managing editor of a group of six newspapers in Illinois. He is a 2014 graduate of Eastern Illinois University. You can reach Robert via @RobDownenChron

Perfect Peace: What is Required and Received by Those Who Truly Wait for Their Lord

by Tom Stewart | “Thou wilt keep him in Perfect Peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3).

The LORD Jesus promised us tribulation, while we were in this world. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). However, not only have we been promised deliverance from the Tribulation Week, i.e., “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape ALL these things that shall come to pass [via the Pre-Tribulational Rapture], and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:36), but we have been promised His peace while we endure these short testings in the meantime.

Perfect Peace is given only to those whose mind and heart recline upon the LORD, i.e., “whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3). Our peace is perfect because it comes from God. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). Further, this peace is not oblivious to the world, but is confident that God is completely in control of our circumstances. “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

How are we to attain and maintain Perfect Peace?

  • First of all, peace is evidence that we are walking in the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).
  • Second, peace comes from abiding in the Word of God. “Great peace have they which love Thy Law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165).
  • Finally, the peace that the LORD Jesus Christ gives, flows from a life that abides in prayer. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

What is Peace?
God’s peace was granted to us when we came to Jesus in faith. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace is a product of righteousness, or the “fruit of righteousness” (James 3:18), which righteousness is the “righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13). “And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17). Again, Spiritual uprightness is evidenced by the presence of peace in our lives. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psalm 37:37). Therefore, peace is not simply the lack of conflict with Christ, but the positive presence of the LORD Jesus– Who “is our peace” (Ephesians 3:14)– abiding in us by our continual and active confidence in Him. “For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end” (Hebrews 3:14).

Peace and the Spirit Filled Walk
A demonstration of our lack of walking in the Spirit is evidenced by a lack of peace about our circumstances, i.e., “Will the LORD soon Rapture us Home or not?” “To be Spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Sinful turmoil and peace cannot dwell together. “Either he will hate the one, and love the Other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the Other” (Matthew 6:24). Likewise, it is impossible to walk in the Spirit, while full of sinful turmoil. “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Nothing stumbles us when we are full of God’s peace. “Great peace have they which love Thy Law: and nothing shall offend them” (Psalm 119:165). Not that we cannot be startled or surprised, but that we cannot stumble into sinning against God by losing our confidence and peace in Him. “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). By God’s grace, we are simply to refuse to be troubled or frightened in our circumstances– which would cost us our peace– in obedience to the LORD Jesus’ command to not be troubled. “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:16).

God’s Perfect Peace is a cooperative effort between God and ourselves. He furnishes us with the peace, if we will only trust Him for it. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (John 5:17). Though our faith and obedience to the Truth are necessary to receive God’s Perfect Peace, we only obey the Truth to the extent that the Spirit of God works in us. “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the Truth through the Spirit” (1Peter 1:22).

To be full of the Spirit is as uncomplicated as obeying a command. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Obedience to God is the primary evidence of being filled with the Spirit. “And we are His witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him” (Acts 5:32). All the Spiritual gifts are important to the Body, but simple obedience is more important than the sacrifice of ministering any particular Spiritual gift. “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1Samuel 15:22).

The New Testament literally means the New Covenant, which is the giving of the Holy Spirit to God’s people to secure their obedience to God, i.e., the significance of the Acts 2 Pentecost. “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah… But this shall be the Covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put My Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My People. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:31,33-34).

The reason why the Church has had so many problems with the lack of Perfect Peace, is that the Church has made mundane and meaningless the magnificent indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit in His people. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1Corinthians 6:19). Terms such as New Testament do not make the modern Church think of an actual New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) whereby God has promised and already given His Spirit to ensure an obedient and spotless Bride. “Ye are the temple of the Living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2Corinthians 6:16). We are already living in the time of the fulfillment of Ezekiel 36– 2Corinthians 6:16’s parallel– however, our ignorance of the terms of the New Covenant have caused us to minimize the significance and capabilities of its design. “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My Statutes, and ye shall keep My Judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Great Peace Comes from the Word of God
If we are right with God, the wisdom and understanding that yields Perfect Peace will come from the Word of God. “O LORD: give me understanding according to Thy Word” (Psalms 119:169). If we are not right with God, we will not be able to get peace from God’s Word. “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21). Wisdom yields peace. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). The most certain way to prevent fear and doubt is to dwell in peace. Perfect Love and Perfect Peace both come from the God of Love and Peace. “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (2Corinthians 13:11). Accordingly, Perfect Love and Perfect Peace cast out fear and doubt. “There is no fear in love; but Perfect Love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1John 4:18).

God’s peace is increased in us according to the knowledge the LORD gives to us from His Word. “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our LORD” (2Peter 1:2). God’s promises have the designed tendency to produce in us Perfect Peace. “According as His Divine Power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and Godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us Exceeding Great And Precious Promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

Scripture and prayer are so interwoven that emphasis on one will beget emphasis on the other. “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the LORD may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you” (2 Thessalonians 3:1). Paul spoke of the “free course” of the Word of the LORD as of the running of a runner on a race course. The unencumbered movement of God’s Word in our lives fills us “with all joy and peace in believing, that [we] may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans 15:13).

If we would look at God’s Word as a means of grace by which we receive Perfect Peace, then the required time, effort, and concentration would be gladly given. “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9). At times, we do not seek out God’s Word to find Perfect Peace, because we are too satisfied with our present circumstances to trouble ourselves with all that seeking. The LORD Jesus compared that level of self-satisfied non-seeking with the difficulty of a rich man entering into the kingdom of God, i.e., the rich man enters not because he truly attempts not. “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Perfect Peace only comes to those motivated to seek it.

As we are those who believe that the Bible is the very breath of God as He utters His Word– “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16)– then we would joyfully allow as much of It as possible to enter into us to give us His Perfect Peace. “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (1Thessalonians 2:13). The God of Peace (Romans 16:20) truly desires to impart to us His Perfect Peace because He loves us. “I create the fruit of the lips; Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is near, saith the LORD; and I will heal him” (Isaiah 57:19). Keep searching the Scriptures to attain and maintain that peace.

The Peace of God Comes and Abides Through Prayer
The simple act of closing your eyes, shuts out the light of the world. But, more importantly, our spiritual eyes ought to be opened to the reality of a Prayer Hearing God. “O Thou That Hearest Prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come” (Psalm 65:2). Immediately, our attention is turned to our “Covenant of Peace” (Ezekiel 34:25) that our LORD maintains with us through the process of prayer. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). If we may ask about everything, then we should “be careful for nothing” (4:6). Though we may comprehend the nature of our prayer request, we cannot comprehend the “peace of God” (4:7) that flows from His assurance that all is under His control.

It may seem overly simple, but when we do not have Perfect Peace, we generally have not asked God for that peace. “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in My Name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24). Childlike faith is so important because children have not been prejudiced by the failures of faith that adults so often carry. “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Adults condescend to their little children that their little children would not be so peaceful about their present circumstances if they really understood what was transpiring. Yet, if we come to the LORD Jesus and “doubt not”, we will receive our petition. “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done” (Matthew 21:21).

If Perfect Peace is so great a need and desire, “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them” (Mark 11:24). If God has already answered us with enough to meet our needs for today, be at peace. It is His job– and not ours– to take care of tomorrow. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:34). As we struggle in unbelief with “what is to become of me?”, we divorce ourselves from His Perfect Peace. Instead, petition Him for our needs, then confidently rest and work with the assurance that Jehovah Jireh (Genesis 22:14) will provide. Our peace will come and flow like a river. “For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees” (Isaiah 66:12).

Concerning our certainty about the fulfillment of prophecy and the future, we cannot have Perfect Peace without specific petition for the fulfillment of those future events. “Thus saith the LORD GOD; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezekiel 36:37). What more assurance can we have than God’s assurance that He will bring to pass the prophetic event? Because it is possible to misinterpret both Scripture and modern prophecy, we need to pray much about correctly interpreting the prophecies, as well as petitioning that it would be brought to pass. “Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and His Maker, Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons, and concerning the work of My Hands command ye Me (Isaiah 45:11). We ought not fret about our nothingness to pray about the fulfillment of such momentous events as the Pre-Tibulational Rapture or the Second Coming of the LORD Jesus Christ, for Jehovah Himself has authorized us to “command” Him concerning these “things to come” (John 16:13). With encouragement like that, we “ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

Perfect Peace is that rare commodity that God gives to those who trust Him for it, i.e., “because he trusteth in Thee” (Isaiah 26:3). Though it is not oblivious to the conditions around it, Perfect Peace looks “unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2), i.e., “whose mind is stayed on Thee” (Isaiah 26:3). Perfect Peace rests calmly in the assurance that our God does “all things well” (Mark 7:37). Perfect Peace never wearies of waiting upon the LORD. “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

We share in common with the farmer and the prophet of old, the need of patient waiting. We calmly, patiently, and peacefully ought to be waiting for the Coming of the LORD Jesus Christ for us, i.e., at the Pre-Tribulational Rapture. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the LORD. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the LORD draweth nigh. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the Judge standeth before the door. Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the LORD, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure” (James 5:7-11).

May we endure in Perfect Peace. Amen, and Amen.

Hope Restored to a Community!

by Rev Henry Bello, Pastor ECWA, MD USA, District Heights, Maryland | Communities in the Asso, Fadan Kagoma in Nigeria are delighted that they can receive life-saving medicines that make them self-reliant.

A dream that started around October 2017 materialized today in the scenic village of Asso in Fadan Kagoma.  A dream that got its inspiration from the suffering,  neglect and man’s hatred to another because of religious differences,  gave birth to the most sincerest imaginable to those that have almost given up on hope.

Mr. Seth Thomas in the scenic village of Asso in Fadan Kagoma, Nigeria

Mr. Seth Thomas in the scenic village of Asso in Fadan Kagoma, Nigeria

The Kpok Gwong, amidst dancing and jubilation turbaned Mr. Seth as theh gwong - meaning helper of Kagoma.

The Kpok Gwong, amidst dancing and jubilation turbaned Mr. Seth as theh gwong – meaning helper of Kagoma.

Mr. Seth Thomas,  then 17 years only, accompanied his father, Mr. Mervyn Thomas, the  CEO, CSW UK and Rev. Yunusa Nmadu,  CEO,  CSWN to Asso after the deadly Fulani attack on the village that took the lives of 12 young people.

Mr. Seth saw a young boy walking around with a bullet still lodged in his legs and the wound badly infected.  He asked why and was told that the nearest hospital is dozens of kilometers away.  That 17yr old asked the cost of a standard clinic with doctors quarters and was told it’s 50,000  pounds. He went back to England and decided to raise the money.  He wrote letters,  spoke to people,  pleaded and a lot more, and through the grace of God and encouragement from Luke 18;27 he persevered and was able to raise the money.

Today,  that standard clinic with doctors quarters was dedicated and handed over to Rev Nmadu of CSWN who handed it to the ECWA president,  who in turn handed the clinic to the community of Asso, Nigeria.

A clinic with doctors quarters was dedicated and handed over to Rev Nmadu of CSWN who handed it to the ECWA president.

A clinic with doctors quarters was dedicated and handed over to Rev Nmadu of CSWN who handed it to the ECWA president.

In appreciation,  the Kpok Gwong, amidst dancing and jubilation turbaned Mr. Seth as theh gwong – meaning helper of Kagoma.
A dream materialized in the scenic village of Asso in Fadan Kagoma, Nigeria

A dream materialized in the scenic village of Asso in Fadan Kagoma, Nigeria

Nelson Mandela: The Human Side of the Icon

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (image: courtesy of Nelson Mandela Foundation, ANC leadership © Louise Gubb).

Living the Legacy, Explore the Life of Nelson Mandela

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. In 1930, when he was 12 years old, his father died and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni1.

Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age. Now, after a lifetime of taking pen to paper to record thoughts and events, hardships and victories, he has opened his personal archive, which offers an unprecedented insight into his remarkable life through his new book Conversations with Myself.

Conversations With Myself gives readers access to the private man behind the public figure: from letters written in the darkest hours of Mandela’s twenty-seven years of imprisonment to the draft of an unfinished sequel to Long Walk to Freedom. Here he is making notes and even doodling during meetings, or recording troubled dreams on the desk calendar of his cell on Robben Island; writing journals while on the run during the anti-apartheid struggles in the early 1960s, or conversing with friends in almost seventy hours of recorded conversations. In these pages he is neither an icon nor a saint; here he is like you and me.

An intimate journey from the first stirrings of his political conscience to his galvanizing role on the world stage, Conversations With Myself is a rare chance to spend time with Nelson Mandela the man, in his own voice: direct, clear, private. Introduced with a foreword by US President Barack Obama, Conversations with Myself allows for the first time unhindered insight into the human side of the icon.

Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom of giving all schoolchildren “Christian” names.

He completed his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and went on to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school of some repute, where he matriculated.

Mandela began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree there as he was expelled for joining in a student protest.

On his return to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni the King was furious and said if he didn’t return to Fort Hare he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. They ran away to Johannesburg instead, arriving there in 1941. There he worked as a mine security officer and after meeting Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, he was introduced to Lazer Sidelsky. He then did his articles through a firm of attorneys – Witkin, Eidelman and Sidelsky.

He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

Nelson Mandela (top row, second from left) on the steps of Wits University. (Image- © Wits University Archives)

Nelson Mandela (top row, second from left) on the steps of Wits University. (Image- © Wits University Archives)

Meanwhile, he began studying for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. By his own admission he was a poor student and left the university in 1952 without graduating. He only started studying again through the University of London after his imprisonment in 1962 but also did not complete that degree.

In 1989, while in the last months of his imprisonment, he obtained an LLB through the University of South Africa. He graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.

Entering politics

Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

In 1944 he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin, Evelyn Mase, a nurse. They had two sons, Madiba Thembekile “Thembi” and Makgatho, and two daughters both called Makaziwe, the first of whom died in infancy. He and his wife divorced in 1958.

Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its efforts, the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action, in 1949.

Nelson Mandela on the roof of Kholvad House in 1953. (Image- © Herbert Shore, courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation)

Nelson Mandela on the roof of Kholvad House in 1953. (Image- © Herbert Shore, courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation)

In 1952 he was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Maulvi Cachalia as his deputy. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws was a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months of hard labour, suspended for two years.

A two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Mandela to practise law, and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo.

At the end of 1952 he was banned for the first time. As a restricted person he was only permitted to watch in secret as the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

The Treason Trial

Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1955, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on 8 April. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.

During the trial Mandela married a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, on 14 June 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.

Days before the end of the Treason Trial, Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a national convention on a non-racial constitution, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic. After he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial, Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March.

In the face of massive mobilisation of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), which launched on 16 December 1961 with a series of explosions.

Madiba travelled with his Ethiopian passport. (Image: © National Archives of South Africa)

Madiba travelled with his Ethiopian passport. (Image: © National Archives of South Africa)

On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg, used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous “Speech from the Dock” on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Speech from the Dock quote by Nelson Mandela on 20 April 1964

On 11 June 1964 Mandela and seven other accused, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni, were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island.

Mandela’s mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

On 31 March 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 after prostate surgery, Mandela was held alone. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee visited him in hospital. Later Mandela initiated talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

A picture captured during a rare visit from his comrades at Victor Verster Prison. (Image- © National Archives of South Africa)

A picture captured during a rare visit from his comrades at Victor Verster Prison. (Image- © National Archives of South Africa)

Release from prison

On 12 August 1988 he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on 7 December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment. He was released from its gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of his remaining Rivonia comrades. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

Mandela immersed himself in official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend, Oliver Tambo. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on 27 April 1994 he voted for the first time in his life.


On 10 May 1994 he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On his 80th birthday in 1998 he married Graça Machel, his third wife.

True to his promise, Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

In April 2007 his grandson, Mandla Mandela, was installed as head of the Mvezo Traditional Council at a ceremony at the Mvezo Great Place.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

He died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

1. Nelson Mandela’s father died in 1930 when Mandela was 12 and his mother died in 1968 when he was in prison. While the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom says his father died when he was nine, historical evidence shows it must have been later, most likely 1930. In fact, the original Long Walk to Freedom manuscript (written on Robben Island) states the year as 1930, when he was 12.

The Mercy of Intolerance

by Regis Nicoll | Thankfully, the love of Jesus was not the poison of tolerance, but the medicine of intolerance. (Images: Detail from a painting by Pedro Berruguete of Saint Dominic presiding over an auto-da-fé, c.1495).

Some years ago, I told a friend that I had visited a local evangelical church. Unhesitatingly, he remarked, “Oh, you mean that homophobic church!”

While such remarks reveal a lack of understanding about Church teachings, I can see why some people make them. It’s because of something I call “selective tolerance.”

While Christians are known for their high regard for Scripture, their acceptance of certain behaviors at odds with that standard has not gone unnoticed. As Anglican cleric Robert Hart has noted, “[Christians] have become more and more accepting of sexual relations that fall far below Christian belief in chastity, to the point where many churches accept unmarried couples, as long as they are not homosexual.”

Sadly, selective tolerance encompasses much more than acquiescence toward heterosexual immorality. Moral silence on various forms of self-indulgence, pride, gluttony and other “socially acceptable” sins has allowed Christians to remain in a spiritual orbit overlapping that of their secular neighbors, while the moral voice of the Church has dampened to a murmur.

How did it come to this?

The Supreme Virtue
One factor is the desire to measure ourselves by looking around rather than up. We believe that a loving God would not condemn a majority of mankind to eternal destruction; so, we set our sights on the righteous midpoint—or maybe just a smidgeon above it.

Instead of looking to Jesus to become holy as he is holy, we look to our neighbor. If our sins are not too different than his, we can chill. If they are, we can either work ourselves up to the moral mean or assuage ourselves by what is legally permissible. In fact, civil law has been an effective tool in “defining deviancy down.”

Within a generation after Roe v. Wade, the number of abortions increased 30 percent. During the same timeframe, “no-fault” legislation helped skyrocket the divorce rate by a factor of two, affecting nearly half of all marriages. The de-criminalization of homosexual sodomy and the legalization of same-sex “marriage” and assisted suicide continue the tradition of normalizing what were once considered deviant behaviors.

Another factor is cynicism. As noted by George Barna and others, belief in unchanging moral truth is held by a waning number of Christians. I’ve had Christians tell me that Jesus lovingly accepted everyone and wasn’t too particular about moral absolutes. It is a strange argument regarding someone who claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life.

However, the rejection of absolutes is never absolute. As the acid of cynicism dissolves the obelisk of objective truth into relativistic rubble, one spire remains: tolerance—the supreme virtue in a “live and let live” world that keeps seven billion “sovereigns” from mutual destruction.

An Insidious Ruse
Tolerance means that any biblical passage can be trumped by sincerity and goodness. As long as a person is sincere and lives an otherwise upright life, his lifestyle choices should be free from criticism or correction. Through this moral lens, even “loving neighbor as self” takes on a twisted shape.

Since I would be uncomfortable—yeah, offended—if someone pointed out my faults, I’ll not point out those of my neighbor. By relieving myself of that rather unpleasant task, I avoid mutual awkwardness and discomfort, and I fulfill half of the great commandment to boot! It is a deception more beguiling than the one that charmed Eve.

When Eve took the fruit, it wasn’t because she rationalized that, in some contrived way, she was fulfilling God’s command; she violated it because she rationalized that God’s command was unreasonable. In the modern ruse, you can do what Eve couldn’t: reject God’s commands and fulfill his moral standard at the same time. All ya need is love; and that’s spelled:

T-O-L-E-R-A-N-C-E. But the truth is another matter.

Tolerating the sin of a brother for fear that a disapproving word might offend, is like the physician who neglects to correct a 300-lb. patient about his lifestyle—it may look like compassion, but it is selfish indifference, if not outright cowardice. What’s more—it’s hazardous. As Robert Hart warned, “Replacing the mercy of disapproval with tolerance is replacing medicine with poison.”

Thankfully, the love of Jesus was not the poison of tolerance, but the medicine of intolerance.

An Intolerant Messiah
The popular felt-board depiction of Jesus as a soft-spoken story-teller—bordering on the effeminate—with a wide grin and open arms, welcoming all into his inner circle with nary a discouraging word couldn’t be further off the mark.

Jesus began his public ministry with the call to “Repent!” From there he launched into a lengthy exposition of attitudes and behaviors identified with kingdom living: he exhorted an adulterous woman to leave her life of sin; he disqualified a rich, young man for his self-sufficiency; he instructed his disciples to rebuke sinful brothers; he nearly started a riot in a violent outburst at the temple; and he was even boorish enough to criticize the religious beliefs of a woman who was merely trying to draw a jug of water.

To those who had supplanted the word of God with the traditions of men (like today’s prophets of tolerance), his words were stinging, even hurtful. In one discourse, Jesus delivered seven scathing shock treatments, each beginning with “Woe!” and followed by a moral indictment.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus never skirted wrong-headed beliefs or behaviors. He addressed them head on to the point of rudeness according to our modern sensibilities. But his corrections were never meant to crush or condemn; they were intended to awaken his audience to the truth that gives life.

Even Jesus’s rebuke of the Pharisees was driven not by anger, but anguish over their spiritual condition. At the end of his sevenfold indictment, he grieves, “How often have I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

To generate introspection, Jesus often told parables. One concerned a wedding feast.

The Wrong Attire
A king threw a banquet in celebration of his son’s wedding. It was staged as a gala event, complete with clothes provided by the king to all attendees. Astonishingly, all of the invited guests refused to come. So the royal invitation was given out in the streets and alleys. Once the banquet hall was filled and the festivities set to begin, the king noticed something out of place: a man dressed in his own garb. Incensed over the man’s disregard for the graciously provided attire, the king had the man removed from the royal premises. The story has haunting similarities to the Genesis narrative.

Adam and Eve were guests in the royal residence of Eden. Everything needed for the good life was generously given them, including beautifully adorned bodies, fearfully and wonderfully made. Then they ate the fruit.

Hoping to conceal their guilt, Adam and Eve hurriedly covered themselves with fig leaves. But their plan unraveled as their newly sewn garments didn’t match the setting. They were in deep trouble. They had violated a decree punishable by death, they were found out with no credible defense, and were face-to-face with their Judge.

The King had three choices: he could execute the sentence immediately, demonstrating his justice; he could commute the sentence and demonstrate his mercy; or he could grant a temporary stay and demonstrate merciful justice. He chose the latter.

Fig Leaf Religion
After expelling Adam and Eve from the garden, God removed their hand-made attire and covered them with the skins of animals. Their coverings would be a constant reminder of the blood shed for them. More significantly, it prefigured the sacrificial system that reached its culmination and fulfillment at the Cross.

Fig leaves, on the other hand, came to represent man-made constructions to cover up faults and defects—like the “fig leaf” of tolerance.

Masked behind an ever-affirming face that looks like love, tolerance is neither compassion nor charity but, as Dorothy Sayers put it, “a sin which believes nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for.”

The thread of Scripture is clear: It was not the apathy of tolerance, but the mercy of intolerance that led to the ultimate revelation of divine love—the Incarnation. Like our Lord and Savior, let us courageously and lovingly impart a correcting word to those who are being marginalized by poor choices and wrong-headed thinking.

Regis NicollRegis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. His new book is titled Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.