Protest from the pulpit is as old as apartheid. One of the first clerics to speak out against the system was Trevor Huddleston, a white British clergyman who, while working in a black shantytown outside Johannesburg in the early 1950s, openly condemned the South African government's policies. Now an Anglican bishop in Britain, the 72-year-old priest remains active, heading a London-based antiapartheid movement. On the front lines, in the meantime, new faces have emerged to continue the struggle.
Appropriately, South Africa's best-known churchman today is a Huddleston protégé, Desmond Tutu. Impressed by Huddleston's work on behalf of the country's oppressed, Tutu abandoned a career as a schoolteacher to enter the Anglican church in 1958 and study for the priesthood. He worked in parishes in Britain and in 1978 was appointed a bishop in Lesotho. That same year he was named general secretary of the 13 million-member South African Council of Churches (SACC). In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his antiapartheid efforts, and this year he became the first black Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, the church's most important diocese in South Africa.
Prominence has made Tutu, 52, a ready-made focus of controversy. Some whites equate his advocacy of international economic sanctions against South Africa with treason; others view him as the only person capable of calming black anger. Most blacks respect Tutu's convictions and admire his courage. But while his appeals for an end to black-against-black violence have placated some young militants, others heed the African National Congress's calls for armed struggle.
Tutu's successor at SACC, a group deeply distrusted by the authorities, is the Rev. Christiaan Beyers Naudé. A well-known member of the Afrikaner establishment, Naudé turned his back on Afrikanerdom in 1960, following the killing of 69 blacks by police in the Sharpeville massacre. He helped found the multiracial Christian Institute of South Africa, which declared apartheid immoral. In 1977 the government "banned" both the institute and Naudé, condemning him to seven years of virtual house arrest. Yet Naudé, 70, shows no signs of yielding. Since he assumed his SACC post last February, he has urged the government to negotiate with the A.N.C., to permit exiled black nationalists to return, and to release Nelson Mandela, a long-imprisoned leader of the A.N.C.
The youngest member of the clerical vanguard is the Rev. Allan Boesak, 38, who achieved prominence in 1982, when he was elected president of the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which has 50 million members. The following year Boesak helped establish the United Democratic Front to protest the government's plans for a new constitution. An emotional orator, Boesak has called on Christians to pray for the downfall of a government that he says is run by "the spiritual children of Hitler." Boesak, a married man, was harassed by allegations, reportedly planted by security police, that he was having an affair with a white woman. His church cleared him of the charges. South African liberals predict that Boesak could be the first leading churchman to be silenced under the new emergency regulations.