The Right Revd David Russell, a courageous veteran in the Church's struggle against apartheid and injustice, died in Cape Town today, aged 75.
Russell, the retired Anglican Bishop of Grahamstown, died of cancer.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town said in a statement:
"With David Russell's death, an era passes for the Church and its
prophetic and courageous ministry, especially to the poorest of the
"From the earliest days of his ministry as a priest, he was
radical in his identification with the poor and oppressed. Steve Biko,
with whom he worked closely, called him 'a friend, an equal... a
"In the Eastern Cape in the 1970s, he played an important role in
drawing attention to the plight of people who were forcibly removed from
their homes under apartheid and dumped to starve in areas, such as
Dimbaza, where they had no hope of making a living.
"Later, as a chaplain to migrant workers in Cape Town, he campaigned
against the cruel removals, in the middle of winter, of families who
defied the pass laws and came to Crossroads to live with their husbands
"When the apartheid government sent in bulldozers to destroy their
shacks, he was willing to put his life on the line - one admirer
recalled on Facebook this week: 'Will never forget the image of DR
lying, spreadeagled, in front of a bulldozer in Crossroads.'
"When the government imposed a banning order on him, he defied it,
breaking it in multiple ways to attend a meeting of the Church's
Provincial Synod and to motivate a resolution expressing the Church's
understanding of those who had resorted to armed struggle.
"After becoming Bishop of Grahamstown, he ordained the first woman
priest in Southern Africa and repeatedly challenged the Church on
theological grounds to reverse its opposition to blessing same-sex
unions. He also challenged the democratically-elected provincial
government of the Eastern Cape for its failures in areas such as health
"As one who served as Bishop David's suffragan bishop in Grahamstown and was mentored by him, I feel his loss keenly.
only the Church but the nation - which honoured him for his service
with the Order of the Baobab in Silver - mourns this son of the soil.
"On behalf of my family, the Diocese of Cape Town, the Synod of
Bishops and the broader church, we send our condolences and prayers to
his wife, Dorothea and to his sons, Sipho and Thabo.
"May this pastor, prophet, theologian and fierce fighter against injustice rest in peace until we meet again."