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Breakfast with Frost
On Sunday, 10 August 2003, Breakfast with Frost featured an interview with Archbishop Ndungane, Primate of South Africa

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

Archbishop Ndungane
Archbishop Ndungane

PETER SISSONS: Well I'm joined now live from South Africa by Archbishop Ndungane of Cape Town.

Welcome Archbishop. The Bishop of Sydney says it's about the authority of the Bible and he rattles off the texts, what is the issue for you?

ARCHBISHOP NDUNGANE: I think that the first thing that we've got to recognise is that the election of Gene Robinson has been in accordance with the procedures and roles governing election of bishops as laid out by the Episcopal Church in the United States, and as such, we need to respect the integrity of this process.

And we are self-governing provinces in the communion bound together by bonds of affection, I like to think that there are people of integrity in the leadership of the Episcopal Church in the United States, god-loving and god-fearing people, and therefore they have taken all those things into account.

And the process of election of bishops in the United States is, is very transparent and very democratic and I think that you need to respect that.

PETER SISSONS: The Bishop of Egypt, the Bishop of Egypt has said, and I quote, we cannot comprehend a decision to elect this bishop - Gene Robinson - a man who has forsaken his wife and the vows he made in order to live in a sexual relationship with another man outside the bonds of marriage. What do you say to that?

ARCHBISHOP NDUNGANE: Well the thing is, let's get this point clear, the people in the United States are intelligent, they're god-fearing, that has been taken into account in the public hearings that were heard at the convention, and I was privileged to be there, the daughter of Gene read a letter from her mother in which she was saying that they struggled with Gene in terms of maintaining the marriage until they had to break it up because they did recognise that he is gay.

The daughter said that. And the daughter said that they have a relationship, they have got a home which is warm and loving, and I think that you've got to respect that. respected it.

PETER SISSONS: But the issue - the issue of homosexuality apart, is it okay for a divorced man to be a bishop?

ARCHBISHOP NDUNGANE: Of course. The Church has moved in terms of recognising that there are marriages that are irrevocably broken and in that sense it allows people who are divorced to be members of the church and also to remarry when occasion arises.

So we have moved as a church in that direction and certainly in the church of province of Southern Africa we have moved in that direction.

PETER SISSONS: Well you may have moved but you are out of step with most other branches of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa.

ARCHBISHOP NDUNGANE: This is the - this is the point I am making. That we are autonomous provinces which lay out how we govern ourselves and therefore we've got to understand and accept the integrity of each province.

And I think that the other point you have got to recognise is that diversity and difference has been a characteristic of this church for some time. We have, for instance in recent times, ordination of women.

We don't agree on that. Some provinces have women who are ordained, like the Church of England, they will accept women as bishops, we do and other provinces too. We have learnt to live with otherness.

PETER SISSONS: So can the Archibishop of Canterbury hold things together?

ARCHBISHOP NDUNGANE: Well it depends on us. I think what is most important is not talking at each other, is listening to each other, listening with empathy and listening with the heart, so that there's dialogue, so they can find one another and listen to the other people and not assume that I have the absolute truth.

And when we have those kinds of positions it's difficult to dialogue. We need to sit down and talk to each other and listen to what the church in the United States is saying on this particular issue.

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