Magazine article The Christian Century

Methodist-Shaped, Mandela Praised Roles of Religion

Magazine article The Christian Century

Methodist-Shaped, Mandela Praised Roles of Religion

Article excerpt

NELSON MANDELA, the widely mourned South African leader lauded by religious figures as a colossus of unimpeachable moral character and integrity, had a deep connection with faith institutions.

Mandela, who died at age 95, was educated first at Clarkebury and then at Healdtown, Methodist boarding schools that provided a Christian liberal arts education.

"Both were important influences on his life," said Presiding Bishop Zipho Siwa of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. "Indeed, after his time at Clarkebury, the young Mandela said his horizons had been broadened."

At the December 10 memorial service at the Soweto stadium where Mandela spoke to 80,000 after his 1990 release from prison, Bishop Ivan Abrahams, the top executive of the World Methodist Council, based in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, delivered the sermon.

"We have been endowed with the rare privilege to take his legacy further," said Abrahams, who grew up under South Africa's apartheid system. "His mantle has fallen into our hands."

Abrahams's sermon followed remarks by President Obama. Also attending were former U.S. presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton and various heads of states.

After the news of Mandela's death on December 5, retired Anglican archbishop Desmond Tutu said Mandela was mourned by South Africans, other Africans and the international community as a man admired widely in interreligious circles. …

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