I first met Archbishop Desmond Tutu when I was a seminarian at Duke University in the 1980s, and I will never forget the question he asked us when he preached in the chapel that day: “Will you join God?” Bishop Tutu knew the power of God to bring justice in this world, but he also knew that we must choose to join God in that work. Neutrality in the face of evil, he always insisted, is a choice to stand against God’s love and justice.

During my first pastorate in Virginia, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison in South Africa, and Doug Wilder was elected as the first African American governor in Virginia, which still used the words “darkey,” “missa,” and “massa” in its state anthem. I remember watching Bishop Tutu dance with joy. When he began to lead the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, I remember how both sides criticized him because he sought to have officers who had killed people tell the truth in front of the mothers of the victims.

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