Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Southern African synod to consider blessing same-sex civil unions

ACNS reports: Southern African synod to consider blessing same-sex civil unions:

The Anglican Church in Southern Africa is to consider blessing same-sex civil unions when its provincial synod meets next month. But the motion, proposed by the Diocese of Saldanha Bay, would not permit clergy to solemnise same-sex marriages. The motion says that clergy should be “especially prepared for a ministry of pastoral care for those identifying as LGBTI” but that “any cleric unwilling to engage in such envisioned pastoral care shall not be obliged to do so”…

The provincial website carries the same information here.

The full text of the proposed motion is copied below the fold.

The Province of Southern Africa encompasses: South Africa, Mozambique, the Republic of Namibia, the Kingdom of Lesotho, the Kingdom of Swaziland, Angola and the British Overseas Territories of St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

A MOTION on PASTORAL CARE in a CONTEXT OF DIVERSE HUMAN SEXUALITY

Presented to the PROVINCIAL SYNOD of ACSA in SEPTEMBER 2016

Whereas

The Anglican Communion has wrestled for many years to produce a comprehensive and mutually acceptable pastoral response to the issue of diversity in humansexuality, to homosexuality and to same sex unions.

And whereas

In 1998, Resolution 1.10 adopted by the Lambeth Conference called the Anglican Communion to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ, and called on the Communion to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation;

And whereas

Anglicans have historically chosen to use Scripture, Tradition and Reason and Experience when discerning God’s unfolding call to mission, knowing that these pillars provide a helpful space in which many voices can be heard and many insights shared, so that a loving pastoral response to those identifying as LGBT can be offered

And whereas

Provincial Synods of ACSA have asked the Bishops of our Province provide guidelines for ministry to those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex (LBGTI), but have been unable to complete these guidelines

And whereas

Lay and ordained Anglicans who identify as LGBTI, throughout the Communion and within our Province and Dioceses are in need of pastoral care and spiritual support and look to the church for help especially when wanting to enter into same-sex unions

Therefore, this Synod resolves

1. That a Bishop may:

1.1. provide for clergy to be especially prepared for a ministry of pastoral care for those identifying as LGBTI, accepting that any cleric unwilling to engage in such envisioned pastoral care shall not be obliged to do so;

1.2. provide for pastoral counselling of those identifying as LGBTI;

1.3. provide for the preparation for and the licensing of those in same sex unions to lay ministries on Parochial, Archidiaconal and Diocesan levels;

1.4. provide for prayers of blessing to be offered for those in same sex civil unions;

1.5. provide for the licensing for ministry of clergy who identify as LGBTI and are in legal same sex civil unions;

1.6. provide for the use of Liturgical Rites in regard to the above ministries.

2. That a Bishop may not

2.1. provide For the solemnization of same sex unions by clergy, in terms of the ACSA Canon on Marriage (Canon 34).

3. That the Archbishop be respectfully requested to establish an Archbishop’s Commission to:

3.1. Review, reflect on, research and share such theological, pastoral and prophetic principles emerging from this Motion;

3.2 Recommend further actions, both through Interim Reports, tabled at meetings of the Synod of Bishops, and through a final Recommendations Report which is to be tabled at the 2018 meeting of PSC, so that Recommendations, Measures and Motions can be put forward to the 2019 session of the Provincial Synod.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 5:10pm BST | TrackBack
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Comments

As a final position there would be issues to question but it positions itself as an interim policy and, in that context, it is a good step towards.

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 7:55pm BST

I'm going to be interested to see how they parse that, theologically.

Posted by: Daniel Berry, NYC on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 8:19pm BST

I was amazed that the Dutch Reformed Church has accepted gay marriage....once a very conservative Calvinist body.

Posted by: robert ian williams on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 9:43pm BST

I hope and pray that they manage to pull off what we in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have not YET managed.

Posted by: Edward Prebble on Wednesday, 17 August 2016 at 10:23pm BST

"I was amazed that the Dutch Reformed Church has accepted gay marriage"

To be on the wrong side of history once could be considered a misfortune, but twice starts to look like carelessness.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 12:03am BST

“It also accepts that any cleric unwilling to take part in providing pastoral care to people who identify as LGBTI shall not be obliged to do so.”
No, no, no don’t do that, every cleric should be willing to offer pastoral care to all God’s children. Where is the” Ubuntu” When cleric pick and choose who they can offer pastoral care to?

Posted by: Davis Mac-Iyalla on Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 3:01am BST

The ACSA in general (and the Diocese of Saldanha Bay in particular) have painted a giant target (or, um, CROSS-hairs) on themselves, and I admire their bravery.*

[* Recognizing the proposed motion's limitations, and that no one has a bigger target on themselves than LGBTI Africans already do.]

God bless and protect them in their efforts. God is Good!

Posted by: JCF on Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 9:54am BST

"No, no, no don’t do that, every cleric should be willing to offer pastoral care to all God’s children. Where is the” Ubuntu” When cleric pick and choose who they can offer pastoral care to?"

I know. Instead of automatically encountering discrimination it will be a lottery and, based on other countries, a surprising number of people on TA see that as satisfactory. It clearly can't be, however, as no vulnerable person (and many LGBTI people are vulnerable) should be subjected to such a lottery of discrimination particularly within a church. If clerics don't feel able to impartially minister to LGBTI people, then they should be dismissed.

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 10:38am BST

I think the motion and Archbishop's comments are awkwardly worded - my understanding is that the kind of pastoral care being discussed goes further than simply being welcoming and caring. The Synod of Bishops has already issued guidance on that (http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2016/02/23/Bishops-welcome-same-sex-couples).

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 1:54pm BST

Davis is right: clergy may NOT pick and choose to whom they offer pastoral care. Even Lambeth 1998 1.10 requires pastoral care to all (though there are certainly different interpretations as to what is appropriate pastoral care to LGBTI individuals).

I think what they meant to say is that any clergy may decline to officiate at any liturgical rites authorized under the measure, and I hope they would revise it to clarify that.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Thursday, 18 August 2016 at 3:36pm BST

Rites or pastoral care. What's the difference? Isn't that just semantics? Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 19 August 2016 at 5:05pm BST

I don't think so, Kate. Conscience is conscience is conscience.

I may want a gay person to be cared for and valued, as a human being, but should still have the right not to bless their gay marriage if in good conscience I cannot accept that rite.

Somebody else can bless it instead. I should not have to. My conscience matters too and right of conscience should be respected. At the same time I may have immense goodwill for the gay person. I just might not agree with the concept of two men marrying.

Of course... in reality... I totally endorse gay and lesbian marriage, and long for a church marriage myself, if any priest has the courage to take a stand and marry me and my girl. But I still defend a priest if they just don't agree with it.

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Friday, 19 August 2016 at 6:50pm BST

Indeed you do, Susannah. As a (hypothetical) cleric, you have the right to leave and find a church whose teaching accords with your conscience. I do not believe you have the right to remain within the church and discriminate in your ministry.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 19 August 2016 at 9:35pm BST

BTW unless we know that only "priests" (in your parlance) can marry or bless couples (rather than licensed lay readers too) in South Africa, we should avoid suggesting it is a rite restricted to ordained ministers.

Posted by: Kate on Friday, 19 August 2016 at 9:45pm BST

'optional pastoral care' ?

Beggars belief.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 19 August 2016 at 10:37pm BST

@ Kate, "Rites or pastoral care. What's the difference? Isn't that just semantics?"

Not exactly. One speaks of the ministry of word, sacraments, and pastoral care. However, sacraments are an important part of pastoral care. Anointing the Sick and Reconciliation are two examples.( Anglo-Catholics usually consider these sacraments).

Pastoral care of course also includes pastoral listening and pastoral counsel, which may take place either in tandem with the administration of sacraments or without a sacramental act.

Which raises the very thorny questions of, when and under what circumstances sacraments are to be denied to a baptized person. Under what circumstances is denial lacking in pastoral sensitivity or not, relative to an individual's existential predicament? (We used to deny marriage to divorced persons categorically).

Then there is the further question. a justice issue, of denying an entire classification of people access to a sacrament based on their sex (ordination) or their sexual orientation (marriage).

Conservatives seem to think that marriage is a reward that the church may bestow on heterosexual couples in appreciation of their "orthodoxy".

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 20 August 2016 at 12:13am BST

Perhaps confusingly, there is an earlier, far longer, version of the motion online (http://www.stoswalds.org.za/innovaeditor/assets/2016%20-%20Prov%20Synod%20-%20Final%20Version%20Motion%20to%20Provincial%20Synod%20in%20the%20Context%20of%20Diverse%20Human%20Sexuality%20(1).pdf). This makes clear the background - of seeking to move forward on LGBTI inclusion while living with differences of theological opinion as on remarriage of divorced persons and admission of children to Holy Communion.

As the United Reformed Church and others have shown when agreeing to allow ministers and congregations to celebrate marriages of same-sex couples, it is possible to move forward without mass dismissals or expulsions. The historic decision this year was made largely because representatives not yet ready to conduct such weddings did not want to block those who felt conscience-bound to do so. As the blessings of opening the door become apparent, more will follow suit.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Saturday, 20 August 2016 at 1:52pm BST

Rod, it is all about semantics I think. There are three elements I suggest:

1 a civil contract between two adults for the purpose of inheritance, tax etc
2 prayers for the couple and their future
3 acknowledgement within the church that the couple is exclusive and nobody should attempt to seduce either of them

Put that way, avoiding the loaded terms blessing and marriage, everything I suggest seems much less contentious. The only element of pastoral care for a couple is prayer and I don't think that is a special rite. There might be special prayers for couples dedicating their lives to one another, but rite it is not. (The rite occurs in private in the marriage bed. It is one reason why historically that was witnessed. Residual Edwardian and Victorian prudery makes that seem horribly archaic, but in some sense the present difficulty with same sex marriage is because modern Christians have come to see marriage created by a "priest" in church, rather than by God in the marriage bed.)

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 22 August 2016 at 1:31pm BST

Reading back my last comment, I am reminded that Article XXV expressly states that marriage is not a sacrament. I think part of the problem is that the wording of marriage services has been corrupted over the years and gives an impression that the service is a sacrament. I think most couples think of a marriage service as a sacrament - I know I did until I stopped and read about the matter.

I wonder if we adopted purer wording - for all marriages - which simply asks people to make a public commitment to each other and then prays for them we might find something which everyone was happy with. One key would be to change the highly misleading "I now pronounce you man and wife" to something much clearer (if less pithy)

Celebrant:

"Under the law of the land, I now pronounce you legally married. The church, however, teaches that God, not a minister of religion, completes the sacrament of marriage and you should therefore consider yourself married when you consummate your love. In the meantime, I call upon the congregation to affirm that they recognise you have made an exclusive commitment to one another before the Lord. "

Congregation:
"We have witnessed A and B making vows to one another. We welcome them into our community and recognise that no man or woman should attempt to come between them. We have gathered here to pray for their future."

Posted by: Kate on Monday, 22 August 2016 at 6:18pm BST

So Kate, would you like to give us a definition of "consummation"? Presumably you've got a handy cut out and keep guide to sexual acts covering a wide range? Because otherwise, you're going to need to deal with people with physical disabilities, gay couples and everyone else for whom penis-in-vagina-resulting-in-ejaculation sex isn't on the agenda.

The law has fudged this issue. Divorce for non-consummation for same-sex couples is still on the books, but is extremely rare, and the same-sex legislation explicitly excludes it, for precisely these sorts of definitional reasons.

Posted by: Interested Observer on Monday, 22 August 2016 at 11:55pm BST

Article XXV of course says simply that the "commonly called Sacraments" are not "Sacraments of the Gospel" of "like nature" to those directly instituted by Christ. In typical Anglican fashion this is capable of several interpretations, so that Newman could write it "does not deny the five rites in question to be sacraments, but to be sacraments in the sense in which Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are sacraments". This understanding seems to be vindicated in the Canadian Book of Alternative Services, where the prayer over the gifts in the nuptial propers reads in part "You have made N and N one in the sacrament of marriage."

Posted by: Geoff McL. on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 at 3:32am BST

On Article XXV, it is worth quoting a section

"Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God."

That seems clear: irrespective of whether the state of being married is or is not a sacrament, the marriage ceremony is not regarded as a sacrament within Anglicanism. Again, I submit that the wording within marriage services has been corrected over the years and no longer reflects the Articles of Faith.

Moreover, picking up IO's point, there is no visible signs of marriage so the church cannot be certain whether any couple is married in the Biblical sense since one of the couple might have had pre-marital sex with someone else and be ontologically joined with that person not their civil spouse. So the ontological change (and therefore the issue of whether a same sex couple can marry in terms of Scripture) is moot for the church since it is incapable of assessment. All the church can do is offer a structure for the exchange of vows, witness those vows, pray for the couple and offer them support and guidance. The church is not actually in the marriage business: nor can it discern whether any couple is or is not married other than in the civil sense.

There are grounds for suggesting that the 39 Articles should be reviewed. But the point is this, and it is a big one. Conservatives appeal to tradition to oppose same sex marriage but, when one considers Article XXV, their reasoning fails. It is time those arguments were made.

But the traditionalists are right saying we need to revise our understanding of marriage because I agree with them that church teaching has strayed from Scripture. Just not in the way they think it has.

As to whether any couple is married in the Biblical sense, or whether sane sex couples can marry, when one unpicks the issues carefully, that is between each couple and the Lord.

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 at 11:19am BST

What BTW is the status of the 39 Articles? My guess is that for each national church it is down to them to decide but that they remain authoritative for the Instruments of Communion unless formally changed?

Posted by: Kate on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 at 11:31am BST

Kate -- I don't know why you would assume that the XXIX articles are authoritative for the "Instruments of Communion". They never applied in Scotland or the US, and have been gently removed from any standing at all in almost every national church except the CofE and possibly the Church in Wales. They certainly have no standing in the Anglican Church of Canada except as an interesting statement of what the CofE (of which we are not a part) once believed a long time ago.

I cannot imagine a situation in which, say, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal church would accept a decision in the Primates' meeting simply because it was based on one of the articles which his church has never accepted. Any attempt to base a decision at a Lambeth Conference (if there ever is another) simply on one of the articles would almost certainly be laughed off the order paper.

Posted by: John Holding on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 at 5:03am BST

John
Are you certain the 39 Articles were never applied in the US because Biblehub claims they did form part of the early constitution (and doesn't indicate they have since been removed)?

http://biblehub.com/library/various/creeds_of_christendom_with_a_history_and_critical_notes/_82_american_revision_of.htm

It is not history I have ever studied but it does seem plausible that the English bishops would tie apostolic succession (ie consecration of the first American bishops) to agreement to the articles. As to the Instruments of Communion, it at least started with the 39 Articles applying:

http://www.anglicancommunion.org/resources/document-library/lambeth-conference/1867/resolution-8.aspx

Unless it has been revoked, Resolution 8 of 1867 incorporated the standards of faith. Each church is allowed to change services but not the standards of faith in the book of common prayer ie the 39 articles. Unless someone knows differently, I think the articles (possibly modified?) are part of the constitution for the Instruments of Communion even if scant regard is given to them. So far as I can tell, the Lambeth Council was established as the synod above synods and does have authority to change its constitution including the articles.

My best guess is that achieving consensus on a charge of the articles has always been so difficult as to be elusive and that a custom allowing a national margin of appreciation has arisen and might itself now be part of the constitution. It's all very unclear - which is why I asked my question.

(I would regard the website of the Anglican Communion as a primary source on the issue and Biblehub a reliable, but secondary source. Being American, you might know of a primary source which disagrees.)

Posted by: Kate on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 at 2:17pm BST

Kate, I would disagree with you on several points. In the American church, Matrimony and the other rites are identified as "sacramental" - that is, they can be outward signs of inward grace; but not "Dominical" as being (1)instituted by Christ, and (2) commanded of all the faithful (and so not "sacraments of the Gospel"). Indeed, there is an outward sign, and it is the couple themselves. So, in any sacramental event there is the "matter" of the sacrament, the created subject in which God acts: water; or bread and wine; or, in matrimony (as, incidentally, in ordination) the person(s) involved.

I am always troubled at the assertion that the church teaches "ontological change" in the sacraments. Water in baptism remains water, however God uses it; and bread and wine remain bread and wine. We learned our sacramental theology from Luther, who stated Christ present "in, with, and under" the elements, while rejecting the Aristotelian physics that were expressed in transubstantiation. Things are changed, but not so as to cease to be one thing and become another. So, there is not ontological change in baptism - once human, and now something other - or in ordination. There is an "indelible mark," identification that God knows that does not fade, but not a change of "ontos," being. So it is with matrimony. Things are definitely changed, but not so that the participants are something other than human.

The 39 Articles are not constitutional for the Episcopal Church. They certainly helped shape us; and we also reshaped them for application in this church. I have never been required as a priest to subscribe them, or even affirm them. The first bishop for the American church was ordained by bishops of the dissenting Episcopal Church of Scotland, and not the Church of England; and so that the Church of England might participate in ordaining the next two, Parliament removed the strictures that apply still for ordination in the Church of England.

Finally, there is no constitution for the Instruments of Communion. Even Lambeth from the beginning saw its actions as commendatory and not juridical. Part of the existence of the Anglican Communion as a family of national and regional churches, rather than as a single Church, is the latitude for differences even in matters some may see as constitutional or foundational.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 at 7:53pm BST

We don't have the 39 Articles in Scotland. They were introduced into the Scottish Episcopal Church after the Synod of Laurencekirk in 1804 but dropped by a later General Synod in 1977. They play no part in the life of the church today at all.

Posted by: Kelvin Holdsworth on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 at 11:23pm BST

Some interesting context - both troubling and encouraging to see the Lord working in the hearts of his loves :--

http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/hate-pastor-south-africa/#gs.WKl2wd8

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Friday, 26 August 2016 at 6:02pm BST

Surely, nowadays, in the real life of most practising Anglicans, the once-seminal '39 Articles' have become what amounts to - in our days of enlightened ecumenical and pastoral sensitivity - the '39 Artifacts', to which candidates for ordination, in many Anglican Churches, are no longer required to assent.

One must also, in this and many other matters of governance, realise that the Provinces of the Anglican Communion are only bound to Church of England polity by filial ties of affinity and mutual respect - not constitutional allegiance.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 27 August 2016 at 3:07am BST

It's easy to dismiss the articles as anachronisms.

But I think we should pause. Anglicanism was born in England as a middle course between Catholicism and Calvinism. The articles solidified the consensus as to the nature of that middle course. Historically there are grounds for viewing the articles as important as something like the Council of Nicea.

I thoroughly agree that they should be reviewed. Everything other than Scripture itself should be subject to periodic review. Doubtless aspects of the articles would change if reviewed. But the intellectual and theological investment within the articles is very considerable and I believe we should make revisions only upon very careful reflection.

Anglicanism is much more than the articles but the articles perhaps represent our best record as to the key values of Anglicanism in its formative years. We believe that we should ensure that any changes are improvements for the long-term and not just changes to reflect our own moment in history.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 28 August 2016 at 12:36am BST

"That seems clear: irrespective of whether the state of being married is or is not a sacrament, the marriage ceremony is not regarded as a sacrament within Anglicanism."

The word missing here is "dominical".

Posted by: Geoffrey McLarney on Monday, 29 August 2016 at 1:30am BST

t's easy to dismiss the articles as anachronisms.

But I think we should pause. Anglicanism was born in England as a middle course between Catholicism and Calvinism. The articles solidified the consensus as to the nature of that middle course. Historically there are grounds for viewing the articles as important as something like the Council of Nicea.

I thoroughly agree that they should be reviewed. Everything other than Scripture itself should be subject to periodic review. Doubtless aspects of the articles would change if reviewed. But the intellectual and theological investment within the articles is very considerable and I believe we should make revisions only upon very careful reflection.

Anglicanism is much more than the articles but the articles perhaps represent our best record as to the key values of Anglicanism in its formative years. We believe that we should ensure that any changes are improvements for the long-term and not just changes to reflect our own moment in history. - Kate

That consideration has already occurred, in different times and in different parts of the Anglican world. And (as far as I know) without exception, the most positive view of the XXIX is that they are a historical document, describing theology as it was 400 years ago, and nothing more, of no more than academic interest or relevance to the church today.

This horse left the stable 50-60 years ago in some places, more recently in others. But there's no-one in the stable now except some parts of the CofE who seem to think that they constitute all of the CofE and all of the Anglican communion in the rest of the wrold.

Posted by: john holding on Wednesday, 31 August 2016 at 3:08am BST
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