David Patrick Russell (1938 - )
The Order of the Baobab in
Profile of David Patrick Russell
Having been born in the late 1930s, Bishop David Russell got immersed in the struggle against apartheid from an early age. He did his first degree at the University of Cape Town, and then studied for an MA at Oxford University. He did his training for the priesthood at the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield, England. He later obtained his PhD in Religious Studies (specialising in Christian Ethics) from the University of Cape Town.
While working as a chaplain to migrant workers in Cape Town, he was banned and house-arrested in 1977 for five years.
Bishop David Russell was the 12th Bishop of Grahamstown, having been ordained in 1965. He was a Suffragan Bishop in the Dio¬cese of St John’s from 1986 to 1987 and then Bishop of Grahamstown until 2004.
Religious leaders were among the foremost and vocal opponents of the repressive apartheid regime. Acting out of conscience and the banner of religion never shielded these men of the cloth from the wrath of the apartheid authorities. Many clergy often suffered the same fate as the persons whose cause they championed.
This was acutely the case with Bishop Russell as, after defying a banning order, he was sentenced to three-and-half years in prison, with two-and-half years being suspended on 28 February 1980 for defying a banning order.
Bishop Russell, attending an Anglican Church synod, had infringed his banning order. For this he was taken to Pollsmoor Prison and released on R500 bail, pending the outcome of an appeal lodged on his behalf by his lawyers.
The Bishop has served on the Bench of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa since 1986, the same year that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was elected to lead the province. While serving later with Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, he was chairperson of the Southern African Anglican Theological Commission and Dean of the province (Anglican Church of Southern Africa).
Since retiring as Bishop of Grahamstown in 2004, he has been working in Cape Town with Inclusive and Affirming Ministries (IAM), a Christian non-governmental organisation. He lives with his wife Dorothea and they have two sons.
The ministry of women in the church was affirmed when the first female priests in the Anglican Church in southern Africa were ordained by Bishop Russell in 1992. He is honoured for his role in opposing the apartheid system as a church leader and for taking a brave stand on many thorny issues to ensure that South Africa became a democratic society.
We are proud to honour Bishop David Patrick Russell with the Order of the Baobab in Silver for his outstanding contribution to the theological field.