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Michael Lapsley Receives Honorary Degree from Virginia Theological Seminary

28 May 2012
Michael Lapsley Receives Honorary Degree from Virginia Theological Seminary

Alexandria, VA ‐ During its 189th Commencement ceremony yesterday, Virginia Theological Seminary conferred a Doctor in Divinity, honoris causa, upon Fr. Michael Lapsley, SSM, South African Anglican priest and social justice activist. The degree was awarded by the Rt. Rev. James J. Shand, bishop of Virginia, and chairman of the Board of Trustees of Virginia Theological Seminary.

The Virginia Theological Seminary confers honorary degrees of Doctor of Divinity in recognition of faithful and notable service, creative and innovative leadership in parish ministry, overseas missions, academia, and ecumenical, social, diocesan and national church ministries.

The motto of the Society of the Sacred Mission, the Anglican religious order with which Lapsley became associated at the age of 17, is “To the glory of God in his will.” At the heart of this glory is the courageous witness Lapsley has had to the gospel’s transformative power in bringing healing and reconciliation in such places as South Africa, Great Britain, Ireland, and the United States, wherever the ravages of hatred and division have been found.  Lapsley has always sought the will of God for God’s people in the midst of tragedy and pain, and labored to bring them to a vision of God’s glory in their lives.

Born in Hastings, New Zealand, Lapsley trained for the Anglican priesthood in Australia. He came to South Africa in 1973 where the systemic evil of apartheid was well established and the courageous stand of such individuals as Bishop Trevor Huddleston gave hope to those who suffered greatly under it. Lapsley served as a university chaplain with Desmond Tutu as his bishop; his identification early on with the cause of the African National Congress won for him the enmity of the South African government. Like the apostle Paul who bore the marks of Christ in his body, Lapsley bears the marks of an attempted assassination on his.

In the wake of the official end of the policy of apartheid and the emergence of a new South Africa, in 1998 Lapsley was instrumental in the labors of the Trauma Center for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town as the Center assisted South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the slow process of bringing about the healing of his nation and its people. He founded the Institute for Healing of Memories which has expanded this work through its intensive workshops offered now throughout the world. Through these workshops people have been aided on emotional and spiritual levels to confront the very core of their sufferings. Men, women, and children living with AIDS, those who know the pain of domestic violence, veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and those who are refugees have all been ministered to as
a result of Lapsley’s efforts.

Respected for his courage, known for his ability to search deeply into the theological core of the human condition, beloved by many who know him affectionately as “Father Mike,” Lapsley is a faithful and courageous pastor and a living example of a life filled with a passion for justice and the power of unconditional love.

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women, representing more than 40 different dioceses and nine different countries, for service in the Church, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas.    



About Us

The Institute for the Healing of Memories seeks to contribute to the healing journey of individuals, communities and nations. Our work is grounded in the belief that we are all in need of healing, because of what we have done, what we have failed to do, and what has been done to us.

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  • Institute for Healing of Memories
    5 Eastry Road, Claremont,
    Cape Town, 7708, South Africa

  • +27 21 683 6231