Mmegi Blogs :: Bishop Urban Murphy (2) - Game Changer
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Monday 22 January 2018, 00:00 am.
Bishop Urban Murphy (2) - Game Changer

Wherever there were people, regardless of religious affinity, Murphy made it his job to be there. He was a regular at football matches and in the wards of Princess Marina Hospital. This was Murphy, the common manís Bishop, who knew an extraordinary number of people by name.
By Sandy Grant Wed 23 Nov 2016, 16:58 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: Bishop Urban Murphy (2) - Game Changer

There was however, yet another Bishop Murphy who I was to know particularly well and to whom I will always be immensely grateful. This was the Murphy who came to recognise the need for inter-church cooperation.

Murphy had seen no gain in the Catholic Church joining the Botswana Christian Council when it was established in 1963 or the new Trinity Church initiative in Gaborone. But in 1970 Bishop Murphy attended an ecumenical church and development conference in Malawi which greatly influenced his thinking. On his return, he agreed to join the new Christian Service sub-committee of the Christian council of which he immediately became Chairman.

Murphy’s newfound involvement was remarkable in its own right but also because it helped to stave off the hostility and resentment of the BCC’s Protestant leaders, my employers, towards me!  In 197I I organised a three-day comprehensive ‘development’ Conference for the BCC’s foreign partner agencies.  At its conclusion, a meeting was held at Bishop Murphy’s residence which turned out to be the most significant, dramatic and contentious meeting that I ever attended in my many years here. Those present were Bishop Murphy, the BCC chairperson CAR Motsepe, the theologian, Rev. Gabriel Setiloane, the church aid representatives from the USA, Germany and Denmark, the Mennonite representative in Botswana and a number of others. 

The three church aid visitors summarised what they had learnt and their proposals for the future, on which they had agreed, the upgrading of the


BCC’s development office with a local assistant and a secretary, changes which they were prepared to back. Motsepe, backed by Setiloane was concerned that these changes would mean that the BBC’s tail would be wagging the BCC dog. The discussion became increasingly acrimonious with both Setiloane and Motsepe walking out.

That meeting turned everything on its head. It was held in the premises of a church leader who was not even a member of the BCC. It dramatically illustrated that whilst I, as the BCC’s Development Organiser, had the support of the Catholic Bishop Murphy and of all the international church aid agencies, I was virtual anathema for my employers.

The charge against me, as it was later spelt out, was that I had used international church aid resources to support the development needs of the government and country rather than those of the church. In the next three years, the BCC, despite itself, thanks not least to Bishop Murphy’s support, achieved a very great deal. But when I left at the end of my contract in 1974, the BCC was undoubtedly thankful that it could in future increase its support for the churches and decrease its involvement with government priority areas.

I received generous letters of thanks from a number of key government people and from Bishop Murphy. But not a word of thanks from my employer.

The long drawn out issue came down to priorities, people or church?


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