Safe Church Statement on Cape Town Tribunal

Statement from the Safe and Inclusive Church Commission re the Tribunal of the Reverend Melvin Booysen – 12 August 2021

The above Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa was reconvened on the morning of the 11th of August 2021 at 09h00 as scheduled.

The Tribunal had been convened to hear charges brought by the church against Reverend Melvin Booysen. The Presenters (the party who brings the charges on behalf of the church), had already led the evidence of all their witnesses, including the chief witness and had also closed their case in terms of the evidence they were going to present. The cross-examination of the chief witness in the matter had also been completed.

The Defence had started presenting their evidence and the Tribunal was at the point where the cross examination of the accused was under way.

During the course of these proceedings, (shortly after 10h00) the Reverend June Major (the chief witness in this matter), advised that she had in the course of the weekend been in close contact with a family member who had just advised her that they had tested positive for COVID. The Tribunal was then adjourned to consult and follow the agreed upon protocols for these circumstances. Reverend June also advised that she needed to immediately place herself in isolation and suggested that the advice was that all the members of the Tribunal needed to do the same.

The Tribunal then sought advice from the Archbishop’s Covid-19 Advisory Team, especially one of its medical specialists. The following circumstances were presented to the Team:

  • The room in which the Tribunal is held is large enough for the members of the Tribunal to be seated at least two meters apart
  • The members of the Presenting and Defence teams were seated together as they chose but the teams are also two meters apart and the parties are also two meters from the Tribunal members.
  • Given this spatial distance and the fact that unless a person was talking, all members were required to wear a mask during proceedings. The request to remove their masks when speaking, was made at the beginning of the hearing in order to improve audibility.
  • All other COVID-19 protocols were followed as required, including regular ventilation and sanitisation of the venues.
  • Two members of the Presenters team had previously been diagnosed with COVID.

The Safe and Inclusive Church Commission, based on this information, satisfied itself that the chief witness had been given a fair opportunity to be heard and was also assured that the Presenters would be able to consult the witness as arrangements in this regard had been made. The advice from the COVID team would then be needed to arrive at an appropriate way forward.

The COVID Team recommended that the possible risk of infection was very low, and agreed with the proposal that the venues be sanitised and in addition all the areas be fogged as this would make parties more comfortable to proceed. All members were however urged to please monitor themselves for any symptoms and continue to take the necessary precautions. This course of action was also confirmed by another medical specialist of the COVID Advisory team. Furthermore, the option was also made available to any member of the Tribunal to continue virtually should they wish to.

Our secular courts have been conducting hearings virtually and if necessary, the Tribunal could continue virtually as well. The intention of the Tribunal, based on the advice of both the Presenting and Defence Teams, had confirmed that the leading of evidence would be completed on the day. This Tribunal was the outcome of an investigation and process that was followed by Safe and Inclusive Church (SIC). The SIC, as the body tasked with the responsibility with creating safe spaces for complainants to be heard, was satisfied that the Revd. Major has had the opportunity to state her case before a body of the church in her quest for justice. Also arrangements were in place for her to be consulted as needed and to observe COVID protocols.

The Church is committed to supporting all efforts to save lives and slow down the infection rate and the third wave, which was moving towards its peak in the Western Cape. In light of these circumstances, the Covid Team supported the continuance of the Tribunal with these protocols in place.

We pray that none of the parties to the Tribunal become ill and we pray especially for healing from illness for the Reverend June and her family.

We also continue to pray for all persons infected or affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as for those involved in the care and support of the fight against it.